Kinda disappointed in all the anti-womanness I’m noticing in Buffy this time around. Especially for such a show that likes to present itself as feminist.
Just in the episodes I’ve watched today (which may or may not be an absurd amount SSHHHH don’t judge me):
1) Buffy telling Wesley she’ll call him if she needs someone to scream like a woman. This implies women are a monolithic entity and a weak/fearful one at that.
2) Female vampire (Sunday?) telling Buffy she fights like a girl. Again, treating women as weak and monolithic. It’s also important to note these are two people considered women but who have supernatural powers that make them superhuman. Treating non-powered women in this manner presents them as the pinnacle of human physical weakness. I think both of these phrases are suppose to be, like, ironic, since they’re coming from women, but ironic sexism is still sexism and women can still uphold anti-woman attitudes.
3) Xander telling Anya he’s ‘literally turning into a woman right now’ by telling her sex should come with emotional attachment? Or something? Just, ugh, gross perpetuation of the stereotypes of sex attitudes of the sexes. Obviously, some women like sex without emotional attachment (like Faith, whose promiscuity can be seen as a representation of her overall morality and, in her case, sanity. This is a common trope used with TV characters and replicated in values we place on women who enjoy sex in real life.) And, duh, men can enjoy sex without emotional attachment, which is seen as the norm (such as Xander losing his virginity to Faith and not giving it a second thought), but we devalue men who want sex to have emotional attachment. Like, in this episode Buffy has sex with someone she’s dating, which is a big deal to her because it’s the first guy she’s dated since Angel and the only other guy she’s had sex with besides him. But we learn he was essentially just using her to get laid, and while we hate him for hurting Buffy we are supposed to accept his behavior as generally standard for a college male and leave it at that.
I’ve also sort of always noticed the sex-negativeness of Buffy. Horrible things often come from sex. Angel turns evil. Buffy and Riley’s lust conjures ancient spirits that threaten everyone’s safety. Her sexual relationship with Spike is seen as sort of reckless and self-destructive, considering it begins out of anger and self-loathing and, oh yeah, HE TRIES TO RAPE HER.
Weirdly, her friends seem to be able to have healthy sex lives, which sort of begs the question for me- is Buffy’s inability to have a healthy, satisfying relationship some sort of punishment for daring to be greater than she (women) was meant to be?
Anya and Xander eventually enjoy a healthy sex life. But Anya’s enjoyment of sex can again be seen as a leftover aspect of her personality as a 10,000-year-old demon who has trouble adjusting to the life she’s expected to have as a mortal woman and is often presented comically. And Xander is just always supposed to enjoy sex cause, duh, ~he’s a dude~.
From what I remember, Willow might have the healthiest sex life of all of them. She tries to lose her virginity with Oz out of a sort of repentance for hurting him, which he refuses to do in that situation (Good Guy Oz). When they finally do have sex, they both enjoy it and it’s implied to be a fun and healthy and yay.
I think the most sex positive scenes I recall out of the whole series are Willow and Tara from Once More With Feeling, and Willow and Kennedy in one of the last episodes. Though, considering outside of those scenes, Willow shows very little affection to her girlfriend, I’m still wary of these scenes as fetishism of her lesbianism for the male gaze.
Granted, it’s been awhile since I’ve watched the series, and I’m only in the beginning of the fourth season right now, so I could be forgetting some scenes or remembering them incorrectly. That honestly wouldn’t even surprise me. Still, these are things I’d noticed from past viewings.
But, that’s not to say I am not enjoying the show despite these things. The dialogue is totally brilliant, and I don’t think I ever really appreciated how well the typical high school tropes are integrated into supernatural problems and her saving the world. I mean, she fights the Master (and dies) in her prom dress! She studies for the SATs while waiting for vampires to rise! She is kidnapped and hunted Most Dangerous Game-style on her homecoming night! Her graduation is hijacked by a giant phallic demon! Somehow the poetry of these things was lost on me before.
And these particular episodes with Buffy going to college and having a difficult time adjusting, socially and romantically, are hitting particularly close to home right now.
So, yeah, I’m still enjoying it, I would just enjoy it more if I didn’t have to succumb to cringing or eye rolling or ‘ugh wtf’-ing every once in awhile.