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The negative space *around* Marti Noxon

will45
There's a fascinating post on Feministe that's been discussed lately: How Come It's Never Joss' Fault? The Scapegoating of Female Creators in Pop Culture.

It's primarily about Marti Noxon and the bile that gets directed at her for her part in S6. This article got posted on Whedonesque, and a read-through of the comments reveals a general lack of understanding of the problem. Understandable, because I think the situation is more nuanced than the initial post lets on.

There's a lot of explanations that Noxon gets criticized because of the execution problems in S6, that it's not because she's a woman, and that any exec producer would have been criticized for it.

I think it's true that any executive producer at the time would have come under such criticism, but there are more layers to the problem than just that.



For one, a lot of the criticism directed at Noxon is specifically sexist in nature.

Perhaps the best example of this are the criticisms of Noxon's affinity for naked!Spike. These criticisms are usually made in a derogatory, shaming fashion. That Marti 'just' liked seeing JM shirtless/naked.

Folks, this goes back to the idea that women aren't supposed to display their sexuality. Exec producers who are men litter their shows with naked women because they 'just' like to see women naked. They're rarely shamed for it (At least outside of feminist circles - which are still less about 'shaming' and more about pointing out the imbalance). But when a woman is actually in charge and she displays her own desired eye candy on screen, she's insulted and belittled for it.

That's a problem.

Additionally, there are criticisms that Noxon was drawing from personal experience in some of the decisions in S6. I've never understood these particular criticisms, and I can't recall ever hearing a male showrunner held to the same standard. A woman writing about her own issues, relating to the characters she's portraying, working through her own experiences, is something to be criticized? Okay. I can't help but speculate that there's an aversion to having anything linked to "women's issues" in our TV viewing.

However, there's more to the problem than just the nature of some of the criticisms. This problem has two steps:

1. In the first step, Noxon's gender is largely irrelevant. This would likely happen even if it were a man in her place.

Fact is, there's a pretty strict dichotomy at work when discussing the show. Aspects that we like are credited to Joss. Aspects we don't are blamed on Noxon. Even in S6.

This is something I'm guilty of, as well. When I squee about, say, Dead Things or Buffy's depression arc or the tone of S6, I inevitably praise Whedon. Noxon? Never gets praise. She only receives criticism and hate.

This is a problem. It means that everything negative about the season, even things that Whedon may be partially responsible for, are laid to rest on Noxon's shoulders. Alternately, it means that everything positive about the season, even things that Noxon may be primarily responsible for, are credited to Whedon.

This suggests that 'Noxon as a failure' is such a given, fandom can't fathom that she deserves any of the credit for the good in S6. So it's handed to Whedon, instead. This locks Noxon into a rigid symbolic representation of Failure in fandom.

2. There's an effect to this, though, and this is where the criticism of Noxon becomes problematic from a feminist perspective.

There are few to no female writers in the business. There are even fewer female executive producers and showrunners. And it's incredibly problematic that, when we finally get one, she's designated the Fandom Scapegoat for All That's Bad in BtVS.

Yes, it may have happened even if Noxon were a man. But male showrunners are a dime a dozen, and one more being criticized as a failure is nothing. When a woman is unjustifiably criticized in such a fashion, though, it heightens the hurdle of future female showrunners to be successful.

It's like...well, it's like when there's a group of superheroes with one token chick in it. Sure Superhero Bob may be hated by the fans for questionable reasons, but it's okay, because there's Superhero John, Tom, and Bill to cover. However, when Superhero Token Chick trips once (while saving the day), and fandom criticizes her as being the reason the entire mission failed, then she's it. She's representing for all women.

It's unfair. I know it's unfair. It's unfair that I cringed when that female pro golfer attempted to play with the men and lost. That makes it harder for the next female pro golfer that wants to give it a try. And that’s a problem with the system.

So, yes, it's a problem in this case. Because of the strict dichotomy explained in #1, Noxon is often unfairly criticized and almost never praised. This is the key point. It's that the criticism is one-sided and not reflective of the good that Noxon brought to the season. When her talents are overlooked to focus on her failures, when those moments of brilliance are credited to a man, when she's one of the only female showrunners, you have a grand example of fandom inadvertently contributing to a sexist culture.

Let me address some questions that I'm sure will get brought up.

So you're saying we're not allowed to criticize Noxon?

Absolutely not! Criticize her where criticism is deserved.

Like the superheroes. Criticize Superhero Token Chick when she trips. However, also praise her when she saves the day. Don't hand her kudos over to Superhero Tom, instead.

But we'd do that with a male showrunner, too. Isn't this giving women special treatment?

In a way, I suppose. However, it's more accurate to see it as recognizing the context surrounding the show and the media wherein women are generally disempowered and underrepresented and asking for appropriate sensitivity to it.

Think of it like the VAWA (Violence Against Women Act). Sure, it seems like "special treatment" on the surface. But that's assuming everything's equal in society; that women who are victims of domestic violence are given adequate attention by the justice system. Frankly, they're not. In order to rectify this imbalance, a special act for women is required.

Likewise with female executive producers. Asking fandom to take into account the cultural context in which Noxon did her thing may seem like special treatment. However, it's just taking into account the sexist society that surrounds her.

Besides, it's kinda a shitty thing to do to someone, man or women.

But this doesn’t mean the criticism of Noxon is necessarily sexist.

True, but not the point.

As noted (at length) in the post, some criticism of Noxon is absolutely sexist. Some is not. However, it exists in a sexist context, which is why it's a feminist issue. It's also why it's especially disheartening to see it happening in a fandom for an ostensibly feminist show.

The point is less to label individual fans as "sexist" and more to create an awareness of the larger problem and how the Noxon example exacerbates said problem.

Okay, have at it, guys. One rule, though: No bashing of any real life person! Noxon, Whedon, Fury, anyone. Criticism =/= bashing. Don't cross the line.


Comments

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penny_lane_42
Jun. 16th, 2010 09:22 pm (UTC)
For one, a lot of the criticism directed at Noxon is specifically sexist in nature.

THANK YOU. Did you see me repeat this multiple times before people understood what I was saying?

This post is brilliant. I want to cuddle up with it. This is the stuff it's impossible to talk about over there because people just. Don't. Get it. I wish I could link this there.

Also, if I ever meet Marti Noxon, I'm going to thank her for her contribution to Buffy's arc in S6. And also for the parking ticket song.
gabrielleabelle
Jun. 16th, 2010 09:28 pm (UTC)
I would not be opposed to somebody sending this post to Whedonesque. :)

I didn't read all the comments. Just the first handful, which seemed to repeat the same objections without giving any extra thought to it. I do think it's simplistic to say simply that Marti gets bashed because she's a women. However, there's a lot more going on with the Marti-bashing that I felt needed to be pointed out.

Plus, a lot of the criticism is just straight-up sexist, which is problematic on its own.

Also, if I ever meet Marti Noxon, I'm going to thank her for her contribution to Buffy's arc in S6. And also for the parking ticket song.

*g* Yep. I'm gonna attempt to be better at crediting her when it's due. I also fall into the "Praise Joss" pattern when discussing S6 (though I don't bash Marti or really criticize her at all, I still fail to give her due props).
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deird1
Jun. 16th, 2010 09:46 pm (UTC)
*fangirls you wildly*
gabrielleabelle
Jun. 16th, 2010 09:59 pm (UTC)
(Deleted comment)
gabrielleabelle
Jun. 16th, 2010 10:01 pm (UTC)
Yep. I think the main point is not that Marti gets criticized, but that she gets criticized to the exclusion of anything else. Plus, a lot of that criticism is grossly unfair and sexist.

I think Marti mishandled a few things in S6, but she's written some absolutely fantastic episodes and is responsible for setting the deliciously melancholy tone of S6 (which I'm a fan of). There need to be more recognition of the good.
bluemage55
Jun. 16th, 2010 09:50 pm (UTC)
Criticize Superhero Token Chick when she trips. However, also praise her when she saves the day. Don't hand her kudos over to Superhero Tom, instead.

This stuck out in my mind as a major aspect of the negative space around female creators issue. It doesn't get mentioned nearly as often what Noxon did do well, ranging from the casting of Amber Benson as Tara or the fact that she wrote a number of excellent episodes including "The Wish". My respect for Whedon went up a bit when I read his response to some criticism of Noxon: "Dis not th' Nox."

On a related aside, Jane Espenson doesn't seem to get enough credit for bringing the funnies to Buffy. A lot of the time the response is "Whedon's a comedic genius!" when in fact a lot of credit is due to her as the writer of many of the humorous episodes.

To me, part of the reason why S8 seems to be missing of some of its Buffyverse charm is the absence of key Mutant Enemy staff, including Marti Noxon. Notably, Espenson is the only female member of the male-dominated S8 staff, and that appears to have shifted the comcis' focus accordingly for the worst.
deird1
Jun. 16th, 2010 10:03 pm (UTC)
My respect for Whedon went up a bit when I read his response to some criticism of Noxon: "Dis not th' Nox."

*nods*

That was rather excellent.
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missmuffet
Jun. 16th, 2010 09:53 pm (UTC)
Thanks for this - I do see your point.
gabrielleabelle
Jun. 16th, 2010 10:05 pm (UTC)
Ooooh...Sayid....
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ahigheroctave
Jun. 16th, 2010 09:53 pm (UTC)
Additionally, there are criticisms that Noxon was drawing from personal experience in some of the decisions in S6. I've never understood these particular criticisms, and I can't recall ever hearing a male showrunner held to the same standard. A woman writing about her own issues, relating to the characters she's portraying, working through her own experiences, is something to be criticized? Okay. I can't help but speculate that there's an aversion to having anything linked to "women's issues" in our TV viewing.

So much agreement there. People attribute her experiences to "everything bad about Buffy from Season 6 came from Marti's experiences." Really though, Buffy wasn't the only problem. There was the whole Magic is addictive thing which was never, ever mentioned before, as well as ALL THE OTHER CHARACTERS ignoring the fact that Buffy was acting totally OOC. Except, y'know, Marti imparted her experiences for Seeing Red so Season 6 must be her fault. GRRR.
gabrielleabelle
Jun. 16th, 2010 10:07 pm (UTC)
I don't think Buffy was acting OOC during S6. I think the depths of Buffy's characterization is actually a tribute to Noxon's writing.

The "magic as addictive" was bolloxed up and could absolutely have been executed better. As far as I know, though, that's not the storyline Noxon was personally relating to.
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rebcake
Jun. 16th, 2010 10:08 pm (UTC)
I can't post on Whedonesque, so you're it. Sorry.

I love Marti Noxon. I think she did an amazing job. Season 6 is one of my favorites, and I lay that partly (if not largely) on her doorstep. When I hear her talk about the show, I get warm fuzzies. I'm pleased that she's gone on to success in other shows, though none of them appeal to me in quite the same way as BtVS.

I get excited by the multi-gender make-up of the writers' room on Buffy, and I think it made the show great...greater than it would have been otherwise. Although Jane Espenson is my favorite BtVS writer — something I arrived at by checking the writers credits on my "list of favorites" — I can see Ms. Noxon's fingerprints all over the later seasons, and it is good. One thing that is specific to me is that she and I went the same school (different times), so whenever there is a reference to our alma mater I get to say, "Good one, Marti."

Plus, I am all for the eye candy, and although I know it all began with JM baring his abs to Joss, I love the way she ran with it. Fair is fair, boyos. Also, I love that JM said, even after he'd been "exploited as a sex symbol" by her, that she's the one he probably pick to hang out with on a desert island. To me, that says she's smart, capable, and funny.

She's not perfect, as none of us are. However, my only real criticism is that her name is too close to that of voice over artist Marni Nixon, which I find confusing.
angearia
Jun. 16th, 2010 10:19 pm (UTC)
although I know it all began with JM baring his abs to Joss

Haha, this totally sounds like RPF!
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lusciousxander
Jun. 16th, 2010 10:09 pm (UTC)
Great post. At first when I read the title I was like, "When was the last time this person been in fandom? I see Joss-bashing almost every day!"

But as you said, it's not sexiest like with Marti, though I do recall pretty of fans criticizing Joss for having a thing for sweet girls (like high school Willow and Fred.)
angearia
Jun. 16th, 2010 10:22 pm (UTC)
Is that sexist to criticize Joss for having a thing for sweet girls whose smiles cure all ills? I rather thought that was pointing out that Joss is oversimplifying women's roles, making women personality avatars. Just as there's the crazy, waifish brunette women whose allure hides a dangerous instability and violence within (River, Dru, Fred in Pylea, Bennett in Dollhouse).

It seems to me such criticism is more about criticizing an oversimplification of women that can arguably be termed sexist. The criticism is then of sexist tropes perpetuated by Joss, not sexist bashing like what we're talking about with Marti.
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grav_ity
Jun. 16th, 2010 10:23 pm (UTC)
My problems with Marti Noxon are mostly Riley related.
gabrielleabelle
Jun. 16th, 2010 10:37 pm (UTC)
Okay.
snickfic
Jun. 16th, 2010 10:25 pm (UTC)
Noxon wrote "I Only Have Eyes for You" and "The Wish," which are both in my top ten list. Just sayin'.
gabrielleabelle
Jun. 16th, 2010 10:38 pm (UTC)
Word.

Also, Consequences, which I feel is way more effective than Bad Girls. Noxon has a knack for characterization and for character drama. She knows how to make scenes that resonate. Hell, look at Forever, which makes me cry just as much as The Body.
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aycheb
Jun. 16th, 2010 10:45 pm (UTC)
This reminds me of an excellent defense of Marti written by selenak just before Chosen aired:

http://selenak.livejournal.com/5462.html?thread=14678#t14678

The comments also contain a salutary reminder of just how fucked up the Marti hate used to get - we're talking death threats.

Another aspect that always used to bug me is that while Joss's critics tend to phrase things in terms of him deliberately trying to mess with fans by giving them what they need and not what they want. He's evil but smart whereas, according to the Marti-bashers, she does what she does unthinkingly being driven entirely by hormonal lusts or the need to work through her emotional issues.
gabrielleabelle
Jun. 16th, 2010 10:55 pm (UTC)
Link! Got it tabbed up to read! :)

And excellent point. Though I think now, with the comics, you see a lot of "Joss as silly geeky fanboy" criticisms going around. But traditional criticisms of Joss do very much have the gist of him as an evil genius torturing fans.

Marti, though, is overly-emotional and hormonal. I suppose she came up with the AR while we was on the rag.
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shipperx
Jun. 17th, 2010 12:19 am (UTC)
Additionally, there are criticisms that Noxon was drawing from personal experience in some of the decisions in S6. I've never understood these particular criticisms, and I can't recall ever hearing a male showrunner held to the same standard. A woman writing about her own issues, relating to the characters she's portraying, working through her own experiences, is something to be criticized?

Do we know Joss's or Fury's sexual history? Have they told us about it? In the absence of these things how is it possible to draw parallels of comparisons?

If we knew that Joss put scene X in because he had the exact same situation in his life, then we'd be comparing apples to apples, but that isn't really the case here.

{edited and deleted because now I'm tired of talking about this and feel that at this point it's best that I take a break from this as it feels like this may be an offshoot of our previous conversation and, frankly, I'm wondering whether I should feel offended. So... breathing space}

Peace.

Edited at 2010-06-17 12:49 am (UTC)
gabrielleabelle
Jun. 17th, 2010 12:51 am (UTC)
Edit: Aw, crap. You edited while I was responding. Shoot.

I'm sorry to have upset you. I kinda cringed after I initially responded to your comment in the other entry because I realized after the fact that the timing of this post was kinda...bad. Honestly, this was in the works before that discussion even started, so this was not in the least directed at you specifically.

Take a breather as needed. I'm happy to discuss it further, but I don't want it to be a trial for you to do so.

Edited at 2010-06-17 12:55 am (UTC)
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goldenusagi
Jun. 17th, 2010 02:03 am (UTC)
I don't blame Marti for S6. Whatever impact she (or anyone else) had on it, Joss still signed off on it. Joss didn't totally hand *everything* over to her. If he didn't like something or the direction it went it, he could have changed it.

But I really don't like S6, so I sort of think they all lost their minds. But that's neither here nor there.
gabrielleabelle
Jun. 17th, 2010 02:16 am (UTC)
lol! Yeah, there's no imperative to like S6. It's certainly not for everybody. :)
probablecylon
Jun. 17th, 2010 02:37 am (UTC)
I came in during the last season of BtVS & I was baffled at the nastiness about Marti - but it reminds me of Joanna Russ' 1983 "How to Suppress Women's Writing" (the cover alone is worth the price of the book).

And as far as fave Marti eps go, I have to add "Living Conditions" :) and "New Moon Rising" (tho she also did "Bring on the Night" :( . . .)



gabrielleabelle
Jun. 17th, 2010 02:47 am (UTC)
Yeah. I was taken aback by it, too. I have Russ' book on my Amazon wish list! Along with a gazillion other things. *sigh* Note to self: stop being broke.

And as far as fave Marti eps go, I have to add "Living Conditions" :) and "New Moon Rising" (tho she also did "Bring on the Night" :( . . .)

lol! Well, even Espenson gave us Doublemeat Palace. They can't all be awesome. :)
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bookishwench
Jun. 17th, 2010 02:49 am (UTC)
But if it's the case Marti Noxon is being scapegoated at least in part because she's female, then why is Jane Espenson, who was co-executive producer, beloved by pretty much everyone?

For me, I did have some issues with Noxon's take on the show for very specific reasons. One of them involved that fact that, in various interviews, she kept screwing up the canon of the show, and not small things but things like the idea Buffy had DIED in season 1. I can't find the link, but I remember my jaw dropping open because it was obvious from the quote that she had not watched most if not all of season 1, and this was in season 6. That's a pretty huge canon blunder.

As for the idea of her expressing her sexuality via the show, I had very few problems with plenty of shirtless Spike, though even I had to admit that it was getting excessive in a way the show had never done before. What really bothered me though was the idea that the exact same sexuality was always immediately linked to massive shame and wrongness. The public anal sex scene on the Bronze catwalk? About three steps beyond good taste.

I can't help thinking this probably related to the fact Noxon stated repeatedly in interviews (I swear, half of what happened with the fan opinion of her was based on the idea that she has a tendency to put her foot in her mouth) that she was using Buffy as a stand-in for herself and Spike as a stand-in for a college boyfriend who was apparently a bad guy. Using one's background to inform characters is absolutely fine, of course. Any good writer writes from experience. The problem is there was little to no blend I could see between the Buffy and Spike of seasons 5 and 6. Maybe key moments were cut out, but it did feel to me as though someone in the writing staff (maybe it wasn't even Noxon, but somebody) was saying, "No, audience, you just don't get how hard it was for me! And how evil he was! And you will pity Buffy and hate Spike because I need you to pity me her and hate my lousy college boyfriend him!" I never was sold that the characters I knew would behave the way they behaved in season 6. They acted like other people entirely, and while factors could have caused that to happen, the change was so huge I couldn't accept it.

As for loving the guys instead, I do love "Once More with Feeling," which was nearly all Joss, so yeah, he gets some love that season for that reason. I do, however, blame Joss for not putting the brakes on some of the stuff that went desperately wrong in season 6 because it was still his show, and the buck does ultimately stop with him. Oh, and for the record, David Fury's infamous statements about women who want to marry serial killers being equivalent to fans who liked Spike pretty much blacklisted him from a lot of fans' books as much as anything Noxon did, so Noxon's reception is not unique.

I'm not sure that it's really the fault of either one of them. What the show tried to do in season 6 needed a truly deft hand, a very focused one, someone who knew the characters inside out and was willing to write them, not try to squeeze them into other people entirely, and very carefully change them. Frankly, I don't know if anyone could have done what they were trying. But for a lot of people, it just did not work, and Marti got the blame.

And this got really long. Sorry!
gabrielleabelle
Jun. 17th, 2010 03:09 am (UTC)
But if it's the case Marti Noxon is being scapegoated at least in part because she's female, then why is Jane Espenson, who was co-executive producer, beloved by pretty much everyone?

Espenson wasn't full exec producer and de facto showrunner for a season.

As for the idea of her expressing her sexuality via the show, I had very few problems with plenty of shirtless Spike, though even I had to admit that it was getting excessive in a way the show had never done before. What really bothered me though was the idea that the exact same sexuality was always immediately linked to massive shame and wrongness. The public anal sex scene on the Bronze catwalk? About three steps beyond good taste.

There's one thing to criticize sex on the show. It's another to shame Noxon for "just wanting to see JM with his shirt off". There's a distinction in criticisms there.

The problem is there was little to no blend I could see between the Buffy and Spike of seasons 5 and 6.

I disagree. I think it was an incredibly natural progression and very well-done (I think the Buffy/Spike relationship of S6 is one of the best parts of the season). However, back to what I said above: you can criticize Noxon for going off-course on characterization if that's what you think happened. It's another thing to criticize her for using her experiences, which is neither here nor there. If you think it's a bad story, then think it's a bad story. There's no need to shame women for putting their own life into their works. Instead, criticize them when they fuck up in how they do it.

Oh, and for the record, David Fury's infamous statements about women who want to marry serial killers being equivalent to fans who liked Spike pretty much blacklisted him from a lot of fans' books as much as anything Noxon did, so Noxon's reception is not unique.

I never said it was. In fact, I went on at length about how it plays differently due to different cultural contexts. There was a whole superhero example.
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parallactic
Jun. 17th, 2010 03:11 am (UTC)
I have execution issues with S6 and I used to think it was Marti, but I now actually think it's a combination of other factors. Also, Joss is the one who has issues with longterm arc plotting, ambitious subversions that he can't always pull off, writing into a corner and wildly improvising to get out of it, and is known for favoring Willow. I am not sure whether it's Marti, Joss, or both's fault that S6 and S7 had pacing issues.

I'd criticize Marti for her tendency towards melodrama, her conventional use of sf/f tropes instead of giving it a BtVS twist, the lack of rocket launcher type stuff (external conflicty goodness), and not being as good at humor as others (JW and JE). I also hold ItW and AYW Riley against her. Her break up eps also leave me cold.

What I don't think Marti gets praise for even when she gets praise: balancing the ensemble and giving everyone a character arc, developing Tara, Willow/Tara having better chemistry, putting metaphors in service of characterization unlike Joss who mixes them up or uses them as shorthand for plot, portrayal of messy motivations, and the strongest season opener of the series. I also think the Buffy/Spike gender dynamic others see was deliberately done by Marti. It usually turns out the more unconventionally sexual stuff originated from Marti.
penny_lane_42
Jun. 17th, 2010 03:28 am (UTC)
putting metaphors in service of characterization unlike Joss who mixes them up or uses them as shorthand for plot

Huh. I hadn't thought about it like this, but I'm so glad you pointed it out. I'm definitely going to think about this! Cheers!
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ubi4soft
Jun. 17th, 2010 03:42 am (UTC)
Noxon made the list on TV tropes Writer on Board http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/WriterOnBoard
Pretty much the entire sixth season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer had the characters (particularly Buffy and Spike) changing opinions, morality and emotions depending on whether or not Marti Noxon was writing the episode that week. For example, one week Buffy is shown to be trapping lovelorn Spike in an abusive relationship. Then next, he's preying on an emotionally damaged Buffy.
and Scapegoat Creator http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ScapegoatCreator
A large portion of Buffy The Vampire Slayer fandom, long after the series' conclusion in 2003, can still be guaranteed to meltdown at the name of Marti Noxon, who they believe personally ensured that Season Six sucked. David Fury and Steven DeKnight sometimes also get this, although in their cases it's more down to off-screen interactions with fans that went bad.

* And some fans squarely place the blame on Joss Whedon for dissatisfaction with the UPN years. Or anything else.


I hate the AR. I finally understood that it was a necessary step for Spike to get him on his own on the road to choose the soul for himself, but I hate how the AR divides the fandom depending on which character you're most attached to.
gabrielleabelle
Jun. 17th, 2010 03:50 am (UTC)
I have a lot of different issues with the AR. It shouldn't have been done. Big Fuck Up there. *sigh*
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scarfman
Jun. 17th, 2010 04:10 am (UTC)

For whatever it's worth, I thought season six was a pretty good story when it aired, and I didn't see anything on its recently concluded rerun on cable tv to change my mind. (I did skip the one when Xander's wedding didn't go through and the one right after that; but that was partially if not wholly because they showed up on the DVR after I'd already watched the next one or two, and I didn't feel like backtracking.)

gabrielleabelle
Jun. 17th, 2010 04:19 am (UTC)
S6 certainly has its issues with pacing and some ham-fisted execution. When it sucked, it sucked. When it didn't, though, it was brilliant. That said, it's a travesty that Dead Things didn't make it on Logo's marathon. That episode encapsulates all the delicious darkness of the season.

It deserves more kudos than it gets. But I'm a bit biased as it's my second favorite season. :)
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darkphoenixrisn
Jun. 17th, 2010 04:59 am (UTC)
I liked S6. In some ways, it was the best season.
gabrielleabelle
Jun. 17th, 2010 03:48 pm (UTC)
Agreed. :)
selenak
Jun. 17th, 2010 05:25 am (UTC)
I see someone already linked you to my old Marti defense post, so I'll just add a link to a comment by Joss himself on the Marti Noxon bashing, posted at Whedonesque, here:

How sick am I of Noxon-bashing? Enough to break my rule of silence, certainly. I've had so many people rag on her for aspects of the show I developed, or praise me for things she came up with. She's been a vital part of everything people love about Buffy since she overhauled the halloween script in season two. She's as good a story-breaker as I've ever worked with. And she's a leader.

Everyone's entitled to their opinion, Vmars. You are uninformed and rude. That's mine.
gabrielleabelle
Jun. 17th, 2010 03:49 pm (UTC)
I ♥ Marti. And I ♥ Joss. Joss&Marti FTW!
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mediumajaxwench
Jun. 17th, 2010 05:44 am (UTC)
One thing that frustrates me immensely about tv fandom is that when something goes horribly wrong with the story it's extremely difficult to know who to blame. When things got wacky with Harry Potter, there was clearly exactly one person who was responsible for most of the problems. But the huge number of people involved in the production of a single television episode makes it tricky to properly assign blame. To my knowledge we don't have comprehensive accounts of who made which decision in the writers room (and this discussion seems to have highlighted some instances in which writers and actors may have been valuing appearances over veracity when giving interviews that do discuss these issues), and that makes it terribly easy for people to guess and get it wrong, and to apportion blame according to who gives the most obnoxious interviews.

I would be terrified to attempt to write a history paper discussing exactly who decided what regarding season six of Buffy because I'm skeptical of the sources that we have - interviews and commentaries. This makes me hesitant to assign blame to particular people involved in the creative process, as opposed to saying "this aspect of the text didn't work." We can give kudos to people for writing particular episodes, but when we turn to the larger creative process I'd like a lot more evidence about who contributed what before I went around blaming people in a serious way.

TV makes me get very, very postmodernist about authorial intent.
gabrielleabelle
Jun. 17th, 2010 03:53 pm (UTC)
Excellent point. I've heard so many conflicting accounts of "what REALLY happened" behind the scenes of S6, I'm just at the point where I shrug and decide it doesn't matter.

It's also why I've decided that considering authorial intent when analyzing the canon is a futile effort.

In S6, the situation as I understand it was even more muddled than usual. Noxon had the helm, but Joss also had general oversight, even though he was busy with Firefly. So how do you apportion "blame" in that case for any specific element? It's pretty much impossible given what little we know. Most people content themselves to deflect any potential criticism of Joss by targeting Marti, which is nonsensical and unfair.
elisi
Jun. 17th, 2010 06:13 am (UTC)
When it comes to Marti Noxon, I always find myself thinking back to selenak's The Educated Fangirl's Guide To The Spike Wars, because of this:

II. a) Redemptionista Appassionata - Spike's redemption is the best storyline ME ever came up with, and they had to be dragged to the truth kicking and screaming. The RA of course knew it all along. At the very latest when Spike brought flowers to Joyce's funeral. (Who wrote that episode again? Can it be…?) The toughest period for the RA was the AR, which led to much cursing of ME in general and Marti Noxon in particular. Since Marti is not involved in the production of AtS in any official capacity, one wonders who the new target will be as soon as Spike does something remotely questionable.

II. b) Evilista Furiosa - the only acceptable Spike is the second season BTVS version. [...] Look out for Marti Noxon voodoo dolls among the EF s; she is blamed for Spike going soft. (Do not bother to reconcile this with the RA attitude; opposite camps, remember?) Also, the AR briefly returned hope to the EF camp only for ME to cruelly crush it by giving Spike a soul.


And this was written by someone on the sidelines of fandom, exceedingly uninterested in shipping etc. - someone just observing.

Which is my roundabout way of saying that your post is brilliant. It's just that I'm not very awake.
gabrielleabelle
Jun. 17th, 2010 03:54 pm (UTC)
lol!

At the very latest when Spike brought flowers to Joyce's funeral. (Who wrote that episode again? Can it be…?)

This made me giggle like nothing else. :)
jgracio
Jun. 17th, 2010 08:54 am (UTC)
I've never understood the "Joss is God" attitude.

BtVS was a collective effort. So much so that I find it troubling to analyse the show trying to get to the vision "beneath", since there's no single vision, there's a whole bunch of them.

However, Whedon was the general. The leader. The dude who okayed stuff. As such, that's where my praise and recrimination goes, generally speaking.

Now, S6 and S7 are my less liked seasons, but I don't blame Noxon. As far as I know she did what Whedon wanted her to do. I'm not going to praise Whedon for Once More With Feeling and say everything else about the season is Noxon's responsibility.

But apparently there seems to be an aura around Whedon, one of doing everything right, with blame for problems falling on other people, be they TV executives, other writers, unappreciative audience, at least for some people.

And while I think any writer would've taken flak in Marti's position, it was probably worse because she's a woman. At least I've seen venomous, sexist speech directed at her, and very rarely have I seen sexist speech directed at Whedon.
gabrielleabelle
Jun. 17th, 2010 03:55 pm (UTC)
However, Whedon was the general. The leader. The dude who okayed stuff. As such, that's where my praise and recrimination goes, generally speaking.

Yep. I tend to default to referring to Joss, alone, when criticizing/praising the show.
local_max
Jun. 17th, 2010 01:47 pm (UTC)
Marti-bashing makes me sad.

Since I think season six is the show's bravest year, and think that Joss and Marti (and the rest of the staff) are both personal heroes for being willing to make an entire year centred around depression (not just the oft-discussed Buffy's, but also Willow's and at the end of the season Xander's, though they obviously manifest a *lot* differently), even if I were a sexist bashing basher Marti is probably not who I would target. I'm probably a bigger fan of hers than most--I even think really like Into the Woods, for crying out loud. But I have my share of criticisms for her too (mostly Wrecked-centred).

I think the issue of Marti's gender is really important when talking about her. It's not the only thing. I think shipperx makes a good point above that Marti, by speaking of her personal experiences, opens herself up to criticism in a way that the other writers haven't. I do think that there are times when speculating about an artist's personal life has a place in criticism, both positive and negative: I believe, for example, that Marti really went through hardcore depression because season six reads that way to me. Trying to find the line at which the speculation becomes personal attacks is maybe not always easy.

ALL THAT SAID, I've certainly seen people attacking all the women on the writing staff for being in love with JM's abs. I think that there's enough genuinely sexist MN-discussion that we can still talk about this as an overall phenomenon.

Personal attacks aren't unique to women in fandom, at any rate; recently I was reading verrrry old AtS discussion boards and people were accusing Tim Minear basically having a hard-on for Julie Benz and/or Amy Acker and writing Darla and Fred badly as a result of this. I hate it there, too; and I agree that it's much more widespread in the case of Marti.

As an aside: As far as the oft-cited example of how much people love Espenson: from what little I've seen of BSG fandom, Espenson sometimes seems to be bashed a lot there, though I haven't seen enough to be able to tell whether there's any sexism in the comments I've seen; the BSG fandom often seem to be an angry bunch but they might be fair.

Oh, and has anyone mentioned Villains for Reasons We Love Marti? Because as great as New Moon Rising, The Wish, Consequences, I Only Have Eyes For You, Forever, and Bargaining Part 1 are, I think Villains might be my favourite. *sighs wistfully at the pretty darkness*
aycheb
Jun. 17th, 2010 03:36 pm (UTC)
I think I agree with you about Villians. It has an incredible narrative drive coming after Seeing Red, which blew everything apart. It just grabs all the separate strands and single-mindedly pulls them together to that inevitable conclusion. I can never take my eyes off the screen when it's playing.


I think shipperx makes a good point above that Marti, by speaking of her personal experiences, opens herself up to criticism in a way that the other writers haven't.

Joss has been very open about how The Body was inspired by his mother's death but nobody castigates him for using S5 to work through his bereavement issues. I also think implying Marti brought it on herself (which is beginning to sound like an AR apologisms) by speaking about her experiences is doubly dodgy given that Steve DeKnight not Marti made that particular bit of information public. Marti has spoken about the 'relationship with the wrong person' that B/S was based on but has clearly used both Buffy and Spike draw on her role in it. It was never as simple as "Spike = Bad Boyfriend" when she described it in interviews, in earlier ones she even talked about how their relationship brought out better things in Spike than in Buffy.

I think the problem was quite simply that the writers (including Joss and Marti) had a very different interpretation of Spike's character to that of many fans and the bastards went and wrote the character they saw. For the Spike I was watching the AR was as logical consequence of everything he brought to the relationship as Buffy beating him in the alley was of her contribution. Both were ugly acts but removing either would have made the story feel incomplete.
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ever_neutral
Jun. 17th, 2010 05:37 pm (UTC)
However, when Superhero Token Chick trips once (while saving the day), and fandom criticizes her as being the reason the entire mission failed, then she's it. She's representing for all women.

Word. And I word the rest of your post.

You know what? I've never understood (or seen in canon) this idea that Marti wanted us to hate Spike 'cause he was the Bad Boyfriend in S6. I just don't see it. And the AR is a failure of execution, but at risk of being piled on, I really don't think that was a bad *idea* either. Knowing nothing of what was going on behind the scenes, I thought it made complete sense within the narrative. (I just wish it was handled better.)

And might I add the Willow/First Evil scenes in Conversations to the list of Marti achievements? Those scenes are both devastating and creepy as fuck.
gabrielleabelle
Jun. 17th, 2010 09:16 pm (UTC)
You know what? I've never understood (or seen in canon) this idea that Marti wanted us to hate Spike 'cause he was the Bad Boyfriend in S6. I just don't see it.

I think just taking canon on its own, that's not at all apparent. However, for people who read interviews and who followed along with the show while it aired, there was apparently a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff going on that muddled the message.

And the AR is a failure of execution, but at risk of being piled on, I really don't think that was a bad *idea* either. Knowing nothing of what was going on behind the scenes, I thought it made complete sense within the narrative. (I just wish it was handled better.)

I think it made sense within the narrative. I think the reason it's a bad idea is largely because of the existing rape culture it was created in, and how it inadvertently plays into a lot of those harmful tropes. I don't know that it would have been possible to execute in in a way that didn't present a harmful portrayal of an attempted rape.

I also agree with Lirazel's criticism (At least, I think she's the one who's said this) in that, from a narrative perspective, it works well to forward Spike's story, but it's at the expense of Buffy because it necessarily forces her into a victimized role, which is...icky. That makes me uneasy.

I just wish they hadn't gone there at all.

And might I add the Willow/First Evil scenes in Conversations to the list of Marti achievements? Those scenes are both devastating and creepy as fuck.

Definitely!
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