Monday, December 05, 2011

I Just Finished Watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer

So if you'll indulge me by pretending it's 10ish years ago and I'm not in an alternate Buffy-less, Tivo-less dimension having babies and watching Blues Clues we can discuss Buffy as if I were actually there at your finale party wearing chunky shoes, Spuffy T-shrit,  and a really long denim skirt. SPOILERS.

First of all it really must be said that it's got to be hard to pull off a TV series. You don't know how long you have--2 seasons or 8? You have to think a lot about episodes and arcs in addition to the whole big picture, and you have (if you're lucky) crazy fans with lots of expectations.  I recognize that some of the things that bother me about the Buffy series are par for the course when running a TV show (and by bother I just mean I like to talk about them, not that I don't like the show because I do).

I think Joss Whedon is great and awesome, and I would love to hang out and talk to him. I like how he steals from X-Files, Lord of the Rings, Marvel, Dragon Ball Z, Harry Potter, etc. etc. He's cool. But you can't lift your apocalyptic vision of uber-vamps directly from The Two Towers' orcs without inviting comparison.  I feel that the end of Sunnydale lacks the gravitas of a Return of the King and it's not just because Whedon is an atheist and Tolkien and I are Christians, though that's part of it. The Christian myth resonates with me because I believe in it but it resonates with lots of nonbelievers too. But the battle between good and evil suggests some kind of morality and Buffy is definitely fighting for the good.  I don't think you have to be a Christian to be moral. But I think Joss Whedon shirks. I think as an atheist he wants to say, "this is not the good vs. evil story you are expecting. Or if it is, I will turn it on it's ear and say it's about power and empowerment and control or something else contemporary and meta like feminism." And that is fine. Like I said, I think he's great. I think feminism is great. But I think there is just a little bit of inconsistency in the last two seasons and it bothered me because I was all in.  By the time I'd gotten through the first 5 seasons I understood that it was contemporary and meta. I didn't need to see a weird dark Buffy treating Spike like crap just to show me that she stands apart like Batman, especially because she's all baby-gooey whenever she sees Angel so it made her responses to Spike--even in the last episode--seem like cold rejection. I didn't get it. It was almost like Buffy was using Spike right up to the end. But he did the right thing anyway, which was great. From interviews it seems like James Marsters is kind of obnoxious and unlikable. Maybe Sarah Michelle Gellar just couldn't get past that.  I think Whedon wrote a great part for Spike and I like what he said and did and even what Buffy said but it was Gellar's acting that confused me. Even in the end it seems like she doesn't like Spike that much. And maybe she doesn't. Because he tried to rape her! That should never have happened and I'll tell you why: You don't come back from that--you shouldn't come back from that. Spike spent season after season slowly redeeming himself by protecting Dawn and fighting with the Scoobies. He was already earning redemption. That scene took a huge clumsy step backwards.  It felt gratuitous and there just wasn't enough time to work it all out.

I know Whedon was leery of turning BTVS into the Spike show and did not want to repeat the "Buffy loves an ensouled vampire" story, but what he essentially did was waste all of James Marster's great acting and the great writing of season 5 on the bad boyfriend idea of season 6. I hated it.  I think Sarah Michelle Gellar was unsure how to play it. I don't know. I found it unsatisfying and confusing. I think it's because Whedon wanted to leave it open for Angel and Buffy for all the Angel fans and also give some closure to the Spuffy shippers like myself. But it bugged me because leaving it open gave me nothing. The cookie-dough speech Buffy gives Angel was a feminist nod that I appreciated but the I'm-not-a-complete-woman-yet-so-I-don't-want-a-man-yet resolution feels more like just a solution to the problem of Buffy fans being split on who she should like best rather than the "real" story.  From interviews I get the feeling Whedon likes Spike better. So I'm unsatisfied with this resolution which leaves it open--even while being fully aware Whedon was laying groundwork for future comics and spinoffs.

Anyway, I'm more interested in true partnerships than self-actualization. I think we can go beyond hear me roar feminism into partnerships and what makes great marriages. That is part of what I loved about Harry Potter. It's not just about a loner superhero or an emasculated Hobbit.  And it's not just an awesome strong female lead but in Harry Potter men and women work together and fall in love and have mutual respect and create a legacy of standing up against evil. I love Ginny and Harry. I love that Ron and Hermione get married. I love those teams and I want to hear more about that. I really like Aragorn and Arwen, too. Spike and Buffy could be like that.

Spike's speech to Buffy the night before she gets the scythe is beautiful and right. But it ended with, "You're one helluva woman," which is exactly what Riley said which suggests that Spike is just another guy that Buffy doesn't really love back. Also, when she tells him she loves him right before he dies it is underscored by him saying, "No you don't. But thanks for saying that."  I cried when Buffy ended because Buffy didn't love Spike enough. And it's probably because he tried to rape her and I totally blame Whedon for that because he wanted to show that no one is completely good or evil and heroes are complicated and all that but, again, after 7 seasons--I'm ready to let Spike be a champion and get the girl. At the very least I wanted to see Buffy be sweet to Spike. There were plenty of great moments with Spike being sweet to Buffy but never a fully sweet moment for her. She always had a glazed, reserved look in her eye.  Be a strong feminist and also be sweet to Spike.That's where we need to go with feminism right now which is why Up All Night is one of my favorite new shows. But I'll talk about that another time. I guess Buffy really loves Angel best, which is lame and less interesting. I mean, I might as well be watching Twilight.

Other thoughts: It's great that Anya dies. I always hated her and was bugged considerably by her "acting," which seems to consist of holding her fingers and nodding with wide eyes while saying stupid, rude things. I love Andrew (Tucker's brother). He's the voice of nerdy Buffy fans who gets to comment right there on the show instead of waiting to go into a chat room later that night after it airs. I felt the cast got really unwieldy before Tara died so I was glad to see her go. I thought the attitude toward Willow and magic was inconsistent. She gets addicted and they want her to stop but then they think she's selfish because she won't wield her power to help toward the end. And Buffy gives a speech about how she's better than Willow because she is willing to use her power. That's one of the inconsistencies. She also gives a speech to rally Spike about how she needs him to be a killer instead of having a conscience and it's really confusing. I also thought it  was inconsistent for Giles to turn on Spike and lie to Buffy after a 5-second conversation with Principal Wood who he had just met. I like Giles being all-knowing and fatherly. Whedon didn't have to throw in his fallibility there at the end just for good measure. I guess it makes the point that Buffy had finally grown up and had the best judgement? But she learned all about ethics from Giles. So that was weird.

I loved Xander's speech to Dawn about how she isn't special, "She's extraordinary." That was good. See, I don't want Whedon to shy away from moralizing. I've heard him say that not believing in an afterlife makes our actions here and now the only thing that matters. Actually, I think Angel says that but Whedon thinks it and that's a great and interesting message. Nathan Fillion is awesome as Caleb--a real scene stealer. I'm looking forward to watching him in Firefly. The whole show is really compelling and I liked it a lot. I'm behind on my Angel episodes but I do know Spike gets resurrected. I'll be closing this blog down and focusing on my Spuffy artwork here. Just kidding! I'm totally over how Joss Whedon made Buffy not love Spike as completely as she should have! I mean, it was ten years ago. Don't you think they make a great couple though? (Season 6 bathroom floor debacle notwithstanding.)


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  2. Ugh, can we just start a new Buffy sideblog where we can rehash the whole series? Because I have unresolved issues with and attachments to that show.

    I loved Andrew!

  3. Yes! More about successful partnerships! I'm so excited to talk to you about this in person. It makes me want to watch it all over again. The first time I watched it I was living in England and I had nothing else. To say I was "a little into it" just doesn't capture my meaning.

  4. You make me want to go watch the whole thing and not the few tidbits I encountered 10 plus years ago. You seriously need to start writing that script movie or tele. You are way too talented and perceptive for normal bloggery.

    P.S. I love your blog- don't quit!

  5. So this is what I get to do when my little ones get a big bigger - finally watch all of Buffy?


    I look forward to seeing what you think of Firefly. That was Whedon's true masterpiece. (Tragically cut short, mangled by its network, but fantastic.)

  6. I liked Buffy. I LUUUURVED Firefly!

  7. Anonymous12:45 PM

    Now I want you to read all of Anne Perry's William Monk series, which is a completely different genre (COMPLETELY different--it's a somewhat slow-paced Victorian mystery series) but which has issues of independence vs. companionship which you could compare and contrast. I haven't finished the series yet, but so far it's been satisfying without being facile.

  8. What about Faith? Her redemption was weak.

  9. I can't wait to hear what you think of Star Trek: The Next Generation!

  10. haven't watched Firefly? Stop now and watch all of it!!!

  11. There is a whole other discussion on how Marti Noxon ruined Buffy because of the rape arc. People HATES Marti Noxon, yo. I think that it needed to get a little darker, because the apocalypse is dark. But yes. It has been ten years and I still want to talk about this every day.

    And Tara is the WORST.

  12. As a Joss fan... have you watched Dr. Horrible's sing a long blog yet? I don't think you have commented on it yet... although I could be wrong!

    I cannot wipe the smile off my face when I watch it!

    I can't make it through Buffy (but I cringe at most nineties TV) but I adore Firefly! To me it does not even compare!

    Love your blog! Keep it coming :)

  13. One season (season 7) was not enough time to tie the story arcs back together into a nice pretty bow. Spike quickly "forgiven" and Willow entering into another relationship less than 1 year after Tara's death are 2 parts of the story that are rushed. There really needed to be a season 7&8.


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