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Women, Connecting

willow/tara 5
Um. Hey. Anybody up for something completely different? Yes? Good. Let's have it.

I've been pondering a lot on Buffy, and, specifically, on why I do feel it was such a positive thing for women on TV. It's not because of the attempt at a feminist allegory or anything like that. No, it's more structural, which is something that's difficult to explain.

...well, difficult to explain in words. I can illustrate with a picture, though!

Also, check out the follow up post with redone graphics and male equivalents for comparison!





Consider this a graphical representation of the social web among the female characters of the show. The lines vary in width depending on the intensity of the relationship (which can be positive, negative, or both).

As you can see, it's a mish-mash. Connecting lines everywhere. Women having incredible relationships with each other in a genre show.

This is odd.

For comparison, I felt the need to do the same with the show I grew up on: Star Trek: The Next Generation. This is my show, guys. I was raised on it. I love it. And the equivalent graphic for it looks like this:



Yeah...

But, okay. TNG wasn't a character-driven show, so it's possibly understandable that there wasn't a whole lot of connections there. Let me take another awesome show from my younger days, Babylon 5. I love this show, and it's very character-intensive.

It looks like this:



Uh huh.

Disclaimer for both TNG and B5: It's been a while since I've seen either of these shows, so I'm working from memory. I don't doubt I may have missed a character or relationship. I also don't doubt that one missing character/connection wouldn't change the overall emptiness of the graphic.

This is the heart of Buffy's appeal for me. It's one of the core reasons I still see it as a boon for women on TV. Because genre shows don't typically have social webs like that for the female characters.

I read an article a long time ago (Very very long. I don't remember where I read it). It pointed out that having awesome women in shows wasn't enough. We needed to go a step further and allow those women to interact with each other in meaningful ways. In some ways, this distinction is at the heart of the Bechdel Test (which Buffy consistently passes).

And it's, perhaps, a bit depressing that we're still working on this step. But we are, and so Buffy continues to stand apart for me in allowing its female characters to have fascinating, complicated interactions and relationships. It's why I find the series so compelling even when TV, in general, fails to keep my interest.

Just for the record, the other show I have a love affair with is Xena. As you can see by the graphic below, it's quite similar to Buffy in this respect. :)



*♥'s Buffy*

Edit: jaymi_leaf is awesome and did a graphic for AtS in comments. Go see!

Comments

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angearia
Sep. 23rd, 2010 02:00 am (UTC)
I love this post. I wish to marry this post. Or at least have a very significant relationship with this post. And you. And everybody.

Also, I saw the title for this post and for a second thought you were talking about fandom. And yeah, this is how I feel about all the connection on my flist. Women being awesome and connected in complex ways.

Anecdote: I had to do a project on the Middle East in 8th grade where we were given a list of terms like Gaze Strip and Abraham and make them all connect, drawing lines and putting them on a poster. Then we had to explain how it was all connected. You only had to connect each term to one other term, but me? I connected them in like a dozen different ways, as many as possible, until my poster looked like a cracked out spider web. Yeah. The teacher used the poster as an example for the students doing the project the year after that and a friend told me it was ridiculous. Overachiever.

Edited at 2010-09-23 02:03 am (UTC)
angearia
Sep. 23rd, 2010 02:04 am (UTC)
Also, would you mind if I linked this to Whedonesque? 'Cause I love it that much and I think it makes a great point. Plus, snazzy visuals!
(no subject) - gabrielleabelle - Sep. 23rd, 2010 02:06 am (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - martinemonster - Sep. 23rd, 2010 05:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
gryfndor_godess
Sep. 23rd, 2010 02:01 am (UTC)
That is a fabulous new (to me) perspective on BtVS! And as someone who also grew up on TNG and whose first TV crush was Captain Picard, I doubly love your graphs. :)
gabrielleabelle
Sep. 23rd, 2010 02:07 am (UTC)
It's something I always appreciated about BtVS, but I have trouble explaining it. I finally had some Ambien-induced inspiration a few nights ago. :)

Captain Picard is a fine-looking man. I approve of your crush. I had a thing for Dr. Crusher, personally.
(Deleted comment)
gabrielleabelle
Sep. 23rd, 2010 02:08 am (UTC)
Seriously, these graphics are fun to do. And interesting to look at. I encourage anybody to make one up for their shows. :)
(no subject) - lyra500 - Sep. 23rd, 2010 11:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
penny_lane_42
Sep. 23rd, 2010 02:07 am (UTC)
YES. JUST...YES. I love every single thing about this post.

Also, if you want a show that has a very complex network of lines? The Vampire Diaries. Women all over the place! Having relationships with each other! Good and bad! Also, unfortunately, dying. But still! It's excellent!
gabrielleabelle
Sep. 23rd, 2010 02:09 am (UTC)
Oooh! I will check it out! I'm always looking for more female-connected genre shows, as you know. :)
(no subject) - penny_lane_42 - Sep. 23rd, 2010 02:11 am (UTC) - Expand
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enigmaticblues
Sep. 23rd, 2010 02:10 am (UTC)
Oh, I ♥ Babylon 5, but you're right. It doesn't even come close to passing the Bechdel Test. Woe.

OTOH, Ivanova is so freaking awesome and badass, I can't help but love it beyond the telling of it.
gabrielleabelle
Sep. 23rd, 2010 02:12 am (UTC)
I had such a crush on Ivanova. Okay, I still have a crush on Ivanova. I was devastated when she left the show.

And I still love and adore B5. I need to do a rewatch sometime...
(no subject) - enigmaticblues - Sep. 23rd, 2010 02:28 am (UTC) - Expand
me_llamo_nic
Sep. 23rd, 2010 02:19 am (UTC)
Nicely illustrated (pun intended).

It'd be interesting to see the graphics for men on the empty shows (and the full shows, actually).

This is definitely a loveable trait about Buffy.
gabrielleabelle
Sep. 23rd, 2010 02:30 am (UTC)
I thought about doing the same with the men for comparison. Maybe for another time. Just off the top of my head, B5 has some epic male/male conflicts. Sheridan/Garibaldi. Londo/G'Kar. Franklin and Marcus have a lot of bonding. Also, Sinclair and Garibaldi. Oh, and Londo and Garibaldi. Along with G'Kar and Garibaldi (okay, so Garibaldi has relationships with everybody).

TNG may be more sparse because, as noted, it's not a character-driven show.

Edit cause I don't know why it switched to that icon...

Edited at 2010-09-23 02:31 am (UTC)
(no subject) - empty_tea - Sep. 24th, 2010 01:22 am (UTC) - Expand
bluemage55
Sep. 23rd, 2010 02:22 am (UTC)
What's even more fun is that the central main character, Xander, is effectively one of the girls, and has lines to a lot of the girls too. *g*
gabrielleabelle
Sep. 23rd, 2010 02:32 am (UTC)
He would. He, obviously, doesn't count as a girl, though...
ithiliana
Sep. 23rd, 2010 02:29 am (UTC)
Brilliant and fascinating example--I want to steal and have my students map shows in this way.

I never could get into this show (I heard all the raves and tried), but kept stopping me was the high school setting and the age of the characters (I know it's not really about high school, but it sure seemed that way the times I tried to watch it). I loathed high school when I was in it, and I can rarely watch anything set in high school for multiple reasons -- and thinking about the graphs above highlights the extent to which there is even a greater gap in media portrayals of women who are older (Golden Girls!), and by that I mean in their fifties (likeme!).

Brilliant graphic work.
gabrielleabelle
Sep. 23rd, 2010 02:38 am (UTC)
Steal if you wish. I doubt I'm the first to do such a graphic. :)

I'm typically averse to high school settings, myself, but BtVS managed to win me over despite that. It's not for everybody, though.

Older women are much missing from the media. That was very, very obvious to me when making these.
alexeia_drae
Sep. 23rd, 2010 02:37 am (UTC)
OK, the TNG one with Dr. Polaski out there all by herself is unintentionally funny. Poor Dr. Polaski, no one liked her. And you forgot Tasha Yar;-)

I do wonder if non-sci-fi/fantasy shows have more interaction between female characters. I sometimes get the impression they do, but I'm not really interested in watching them. I also think having a female character as the star of the show helps because events then revolve around her (both Buffy and Xena starred women, the other shows didn't). So...we need more sci-fi shows starring female characters!
gabrielleabelle
Sep. 23rd, 2010 02:41 am (UTC)
Crap! And I thought about Tasha when I was mulling this over the other day, too. I just forgot her when I was actually putting it together.

Ah well. She wouldn't connect with...anyone.

I also think having a female character as the star of the show helps because events then revolve around her (both Buffy and Xena starred women, the other shows didn't). So...we need more sci-fi shows starring female characters!

Indeed. Obviously, the relationships all gravitate towards Buffy (and Willow) in the BtVS graphic, and Gabby and Xena in the Xena one. Having a starring role is a big help in getting those juicy relationships going.
concinnity
Sep. 23rd, 2010 02:45 am (UTC)
CHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARTS! <3

I mean.
Dear Gabs,
Sometimes a picture *is* worth a thousand words.
hearts hearts hearts
C
gabrielleabelle
Sep. 23rd, 2010 02:49 am (UTC)
Dear C,
You'll be thrilled to know that I'm very, very close to having the S4 stats for Whose Show Is It Anyway? finished. MOAR CHARTS!!!!
:)
-gabs
(Deleted comment)
gabrielleabelle
Sep. 23rd, 2010 02:50 am (UTC)
Hee! Emmie did it! :)
ceciliaj
Sep. 23rd, 2010 02:50 am (UTC)
This is awesome!
gabrielleabelle
Sep. 23rd, 2010 03:13 am (UTC)
Yay! :)
angearia
Sep. 23rd, 2010 03:03 am (UTC)
WHOA, I just realized that you did bigger and bolder lines to show a stronger connection and tiny little ones to show more tenuous relationships. AWESOME. You win at LIFE.
gabrielleabelle
Sep. 23rd, 2010 03:15 am (UTC)
Yep. I think I mentioned that.

It's pretty important, especially when looking at the TNG graph. The show does have some level of relationship between the women. However, the Beverly/Troi friendship is very sparse, and the connection between Guinan and Troi is even more casual. I needed some way to indicate that, while the show does show the woman having friendships, they're not incredibly strong or notable. Certainly not anything on the level of the Geordi-Data friendship, which is a focal point of many episodes.
(no subject) - angearia - Sep. 23rd, 2010 03:22 am (UTC) - Expand
waddis
Sep. 23rd, 2010 03:15 am (UTC)
I also laughed at Pulaski all by her lonesome. But, you know, she was all bigoted at Data. Every time she opened her mouth around him, I wanted to kick her in the head.

I actually had a discussion with a friend in one of my (engineering) classes about strong women in video games. They're kind of done wrong. There's this trend where developers substitute strong with "tough." That is, masculine depictions of tough. F-bombs and dual guns and responding to every single male-shaped entity with zealously feministic disdain.

And I can't help but feel that that's kind of missing the point. Buffy, for instance, never sacrificed her femininity for strength, yet the majority of "strong" female characters in video games do so as often as they breathe.

Moreover, female relationships in video games typically fall into the romantic or sexual category, which is something else that boggles my mind. Not because I have a problem with lesbianism, but I'm fairly certain that there's more to the spectrum of female friendships than that.

Unless there's just a memo I've missed out on. People don't tell me things.
gabrielleabelle
Sep. 23rd, 2010 04:11 am (UTC)
I once wrote a parody featuring Pulaski as a villain. I'd link to it, but I wrote it under my real name so...

Re: games. I think there's room for "masculine" women, of course. But that's not the only way to be strong, so yeah, it is disappointing that there's not more variety. I'm not at all a gamer, so I can't say I'm too knowledgeable about what's going on there.

Not because I have a problem with lesbianism, but I'm fairly certain that there's more to the spectrum of female friendships than that.

Not really. I fuck all my homegirls.
(no subject) - waddis - Sep. 23rd, 2010 04:17 am (UTC) - Expand
eowyn_315
Sep. 23rd, 2010 03:18 am (UTC)
...now I want to do this for every show I watch.

This may take me a while.
gabrielleabelle
Sep. 23rd, 2010 04:12 am (UTC)
It's fun!
(no subject) - eowyn_315 - Sep. 23rd, 2010 02:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - gabrielleabelle - Sep. 23rd, 2010 02:52 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Anonymous)
Sep. 23rd, 2010 03:26 am (UTC)
BtVs
Thank u for that. That was very cool. I'm a huge Buffy fan. I never watched Zena, but the graph gives it appeal. I always need my Buffy fix!
gabrielleabelle
Sep. 23rd, 2010 04:12 am (UTC)
Re: BtVs
Glad you enjoyed! :)
local_max
Sep. 23rd, 2010 03:49 am (UTC)
Drusilla killed Kendra by making Kendra "be in her." That totally deserves a line between them!

And word to the point about missing Tasha Yar!

You could always put on the Duras Sisters, and then they would have a bold line between them.

IN OTHER WORDS I LOVE THIS VERY MUCH and I want to make one for every show ever now.
local_max
Sep. 23rd, 2010 03:53 am (UTC)
Also Anya looks so lonely there. POOR ANYA. Maybe Halfrek should have been included to keep Anya company in her Xanderless, Gilesless diagram.
(no subject) - gabrielleabelle - Sep. 23rd, 2010 04:14 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - angearia - Sep. 23rd, 2010 04:24 am (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - angearia - Sep. 23rd, 2010 04:47 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - gabrielleabelle - Sep. 23rd, 2010 06:22 am (UTC) - Expand
gingerwall
Sep. 23rd, 2010 03:52 am (UTC)
Any post that hits my graph fetish and BtVS at the same time automatically gets my ♥

Edited at 2010-09-23 03:53 am (UTC)
gabrielleabelle
Sep. 23rd, 2010 04:14 am (UTC)
I'm happy to oblige. :)
snickfic
Sep. 23rd, 2010 03:53 am (UTC)
A) Fab charts, Gabs. Yay visual aids!

B) Awww, Dr. Polaski. I gather she was not everyone's favorite, but she was hands-down my favorite female character on the show (at least for the three and a half or so seasons I watched). She was so much less cheesy than everyone else, and unlike most of them, when she said her silly lines I actually believed her.
gabrielleabelle
Sep. 23rd, 2010 04:16 am (UTC)
*g* I like to poke fun at Polaski, but I actually don't have many strong feelings about her. I was a Dr. Crusher fan, so it's inevitable I'd not like her random temporary replacement.

Oh, speaking of Dr. Crusher, I could've added Nurse Ogawa on there. She had a larger role later on.
ubi4soft
Sep. 23rd, 2010 03:53 am (UTC)
Lovely spider-web.

Ah, you put Drusilla and she's so lonely! Where's Darla, she had some connection lines with Dru, Joyce and Buffy.
gabrielleabelle
Sep. 23rd, 2010 04:17 am (UTC)
I thought about adding Darla, but I wasn't sure she had a large enough part in BtVS to justify it. On the other hand, she did feature in several episodes.

Toss up, I suppose...

But it was getting hard to get all the lines on there, so I kinda shudder to think of adding anyone else...
(no subject) - angearia - Sep. 23rd, 2010 04:21 am (UTC) - Expand
mediumajaxwench
Sep. 23rd, 2010 04:07 am (UTC)
I'm with you on the love for the female characters with the female relationships. But much more importantly, this graph has informed me that I probably saw Shiri Applebaum on Xena before I saw her on Roswell. Hmmmm, I wonder if they have Xena on Netlflix....
gabrielleabelle
Sep. 23rd, 2010 04:18 am (UTC)
Xena's definitely on Netflix! It's well worth the watch, too! :)
(no subject) - gigi_tastic - Sep. 23rd, 2010 05:11 am (UTC) - Expand
pocochina
Sep. 23rd, 2010 04:08 am (UTC)
Squee! <3
gabrielleabelle
Sep. 23rd, 2010 04:19 am (UTC)
Graphs! :)
speakr2customrs
Sep. 23rd, 2010 04:23 am (UTC)
There should be a connecting line between Kendra and Drusilla.
gabrielleabelle
Sep. 23rd, 2010 04:27 am (UTC)
I kinda thought saying a few words to her before killing her set a low standard for a "relationship".
(no subject) - speakr2customrs - Sep. 23rd, 2010 08:31 am (UTC) - Expand
gigi_tastic
Sep. 23rd, 2010 05:00 am (UTC)
random comment is random. love this post. am confused about who the girl is beneath dru and above maggie. shes only connected to willow and buffy. and then the girl by anya who again is only connected to buffy and willow. is one of them amy? i think the girl under dru is .

oh and heres the random. i'm having a xena rewatch and i couldnt stop squeeing over your little awesome poster. i got all sad when i didnt see meg, diana, or leha. but i can get how confusing that would be. also i have to ask as one xena lover to another whoes crazy do you love more dru or callisto?
gabrielleabelle
Sep. 23rd, 2010 06:24 am (UTC)
am confused about who the girl is beneath dru and above maggie.

That's Jenny Calendar! Looks a little funny in that pic, I know.

and then the girl by anya who again is only connected to buffy and willow.

That is Amy. :)

also i have to ask as one xena lover to another whoes crazy do you love more dru or callisto?

I'm all about Callisto, dude. Dru's kinda a mystical, lyrical crazy. Callisto? She's running swords through people for the hell of it crazy. Plus, screaming. Oh, and feeling Xena up when she dies. No contest.
(no subject) - gigi_tastic - Sep. 23rd, 2010 04:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jenny Calender - (Anonymous) - Sep. 28th, 2010 08:34 am (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - gigi_tastic - Sep. 23rd, 2010 04:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
eilowyn
Sep. 23rd, 2010 05:14 am (UTC)
Shit. Another awesome post about which I totally missed out on the majority of the conversation. I think I'm starting to hate my work/school schedule. Or I need a smartphone, so I can be one of those assholes who's always on their blackberry when someone's talking to them. But I'll be checking my LJ, so you guys won't think I'm an asshole, right?

Anyway, actual thoughts on this post:

Excellent. And again I insist you watch Battlestar Galactica, because you could make a big-ass map of interconnectedness with all major and minor female characters and have it look like Buffy and Xena's. And there's even subtextual femmeslash, brought to you by Jane Espenson! Get on that!

Edited at 2010-09-23 05:17 am (UTC)
gabrielleabelle
Sep. 23rd, 2010 06:25 am (UTC)
I've missed a whole bunch of conversations lately. No worries!

Ah, BSG...y'all are just piling things onto my plate!
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