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The Feminist Filter: Some Assembly Required

will57
Let's get our feminist on! Some Assembly Required actually provides a lot of interesting material to analyze from a feminist perspective. This one is a long one, so let's fix up some tea and hunker down for some awesome discussion. :)

Mission Statement:

This series is intended to outline the feminist text of each episode so as to provoke and encourage open discussion. It's not so much about making value judgments about events and/or characters but about analyzing the series from a feminist framework so as to see what patterns and themes emerge.

Rules:

1. If you do not consider yourself a feminist or do not see the point of dissecting a TV show from a feminist perspective, this is not the meta series for you. I don't mean this in a hostile way, however the intended audience of this series is feminists who want to turn a critical eye to the show.

2. This meta series is written well beyond a 101 level of feminism. If you are new to feminism, I ask that you please take a look at this blog for an introduction to concepts that will be discussed heavily here.

3. If you begin to feel yourself getting defensive on behalf of a character (or the show), take a break from commenting. The outlines as posted are not meant to condemn either the characters or the show, but to contextualize the dialogue and events within the patriarchal cultural in which they reside.

4. BtVS is a constructed media. The characters are not actual people but are written, dressed, and directed by a team of outsiders. Criticizing a character for, say, having sex could be a sexist insult or it could be a legitimate criticism of the writers who chose to go that route with the storyline. There are nuances here when discussing a television show, and I ask that everybody be careful about exactly what's being discussed. A couple helpful terms are Watsonian and Doylist. "Watsonian" indicates that the discussion is taking place within the Buffy universe as if the characters are real people. "Doylist" indicates that the discussion is focused on the construction of the narrative and, as such, deals with the decisions of the writers and/or producers.

5. The key goal here is open discussion. I'm not presenting you guys with any brilliant insights; I'm just laying out what's in the episode. Feel free to discuss or disagree with me and others. Also feel free to answer other commenter's questions. The comment section is an open floor.



2.02 Some Assembly Required

I. The Tallies

Criteria for Bechdel Check: The episode must have a) two women in it b) who talk to each other c) about something besides a man.


  1. Bechdel Check: PASS on 5 counts

  2. Deaths:
    Dead boys: 1
    Dead girls: 3


II. Agency

Criteria for Agency: Do the female characters a) exert power or influence over the plot b) through decisions based on their own characterization? Agency means more than providing information or support that helps the (usually male) characters resolve the conflict.

The Plot: After resurrecting his dead brother, Chris attempts to Frankenstein together a girl to be his companion.

The Big Question:
If Buffy were taken out of this episode, would events occur in much the same fashion? No.
If Willow were taken out of this episode, would events occur in much the same fashion? Yes.
If Cordelia were taken out of this episode, would events occur in much the same fashion? No.
If Jenny were taken out of this episode, would events occur in much the same fashion? Yes.
If Mrs. Epps were taken out of this episode, would events occur in much the same fashion? Yes.


  • Decisive Buffy: Buffy's discovery of the snatched body prompts the subsequent Scooby investigation. She's the one that sets out the plan to check out the other girls in the accident. As the episode goes on, she continues to drive the investigation.
  • Decisive Cordelia: Cordelia plays the passive victim in this episode. She damsels several times, and her main decisions involve cheerleading. Her relevance to the plot is in how it affects her, not how she affects it.


III. The Feminist Fine-Toothed Comb

Criteria: Do any of the characters engage in sexist dialogue or action, whether overt or subtle? Does it receive an explicit rebuke or does it pass uncommented on? Further, what can be deduced from the various gendered comments that are made by the characters?


  • Protagonists (Buffy, Xander, Willow, Giles, Cordelia, Angel, and Jenny)

    1. In the teaser, Angel gets cranky about Buffy's dance with Xander in the previous episode. He says: "'Danced with' is a pretty loose term. 'Mated with' might be a little closer."

    Looking back at it, it wasn't an egregiously provocative dance. However, women (and girls) are the sex class and so anything they do - from smiling to bending over to scratching their arm - becomes sexualized in the perspective of society. Buffy's little sexy dance suddenly becomes full-on intercourse in this case.

    Buffy does call him on it: "Don't you think you're being a little unfair? It was one little dance, which I only did to make you crazy, by the way. Behold my success."

    Of course, this rebuke plays into another gender stereotype in which girls play head games with guys, going out of their way to manipulate and make them jealous. This is seen as the sexual power that women have (that supposedly gives them a leg up in society). In reality, it's a passive power that some women utilize at it's one of the few avenues of control open to them.

    2. During Act One, the Scoobies are ribbing Giles about his attempts to woo Jenny. Buffy attempts to explain how the dating thing works: "Mexican. Food. You take her for food, for which you then pay."

    Traditional dating falls along traditional gender ideologies, of course. The man is expected to display his financial success to attract the woman.

    3. A few lines later, Xander explains how he knew Giles was planning on asking Jenny out: "Simple deduction. Ms. Calendar is reasonably dollsome, especially for someone in your age bracket. She already knows that you're a school librarian, so you don't have to worry about how to break that embarrassing news to her."

    This is meant in a humorous fashion, but it speaks to the heavy emphasis placed on a woman's looks that the first thing Xander mentions is that Jenny is "reasonably dollsome". It's not that she's intelligent, capable, interesting, or witty. In fact, nothing that he lists speaks to her actual personality.

    Buffy follows up: "And she's the only woman we've actually ever seen speak to you. Add it all up and it all spells 'duh'."

    Again, humorous. Again, indicative of what society values in women. It reminds me of this post at The Good Men Project about the sexualization of young girls. Let me actually pull an excerpt from there:

    This sexiness has very little to do with sex, and everything to do with the craving for validation and attention. While all children want affirmation, princess culture teaches little girls to get that approval through their looks. Little girls learn quickly what “works” to elicit adoration from mom and dad, as well as from teachers, uncles, aunts, and other adults. Soon—much too soon—they notice that older girls and women get validation for a particular kind of dress, a particular kind of behavior. They watch their fathers’ eyes, they follow their uncles’ gaze. They listen to what these men they love say when they see “hot” young women on television or on the street. And they learn how to be from what they hear and see.

    This doesn’t mean that good dads shouldn’t let their daughters dress up as princesses. It doesn’t mean that good dads, good big brothers, and good uncles should never, ever tell a little girl that she looks “cute” or “beautiful.” It does mean that those good grown men need to make sure that they’re also giving her plenty of compliments that focus on her other qualities, like her intelligence, her kindness, or her athleticism. But something else matters just as much: how we look at and talk about other girls and women.


    Obviously, this is discussing a different topic from the one at hand, but it touches on the effect that this narrow emphasis on appearance has on girls. This emphasis is something we see repeatedly in how people evaluate women like Jenny. Even going back to Teacher's Pet, Natalie was foremost regarded for her looks rather than her sizeable knowledge.

    4. Willow's about to do some computer research in Act One. She says: "This shouldn't take long. I'm probably the only girl in school who has the coroner's office bookmarked as a favorite place."

    It's an interesting (and ultimately ambiguous) use of the gendered pronoun. The only "girl" in school as opposed to the only "person"?

    5. I also find this comment by Buffy interesting: "So, we should see if the other girls from the accident are AWOL, too. Maybe we can figure out what this creep has in mind if we know whether or not he's dealing in volume."

    The show often defaults to the male when discussing the villain, even before said villain is identified. In this case, though, the gendered nature of Buffy's assumption is interesting given the central plot involving the objectification (and dead bodies of) teen girls.

    6. An interesting bit of gender reversal shows up when the Scoobies go grave-digging.

    Buffy: I couldn't believe Angel. He was acting all jealous, and he wouldn't even admit it.

    Willow: Jealous of what?

    Buffy: Of Xander.

    Willow: Because you did that sexy dance with him?

    Buffy: Am I ever gonna live that down?

    Willow: No. (munches a doughnut)

    Buffy: Anyway, he was being totally irrational.

    Willow: Love makes you do the wacky.


    "Irrational" is a coded gendered word used against women to dismiss them for being "hysterical" or "over-emotional". Buffy turns this around and uses it to describe Angel's jealous reaction to Xander.

    7. Later in the scene, Xander and Giles complain about doing all the work. Buffy comments: "Sorry, but I'm an old-fashioned gal. I was raised to believe that men dig up the corpses and the women have the babies."

    This is a play on the gender stereotype of separate spheres. Buffy pays light-hearted reference to it, backed by the fact that she and Willow aren't helping dig up corpses.

    8. Perhaps in an inversion of the earlier emphasis on girls' looks, we get this exchange between Buffy and Willow:

    Willow: Daryl Epps. Chris' older brother. He was a big football star. All-State two years ago. He was a running... He was a running... Uh, someone who runs and catches.

    Buffy: Was he a studly?

    Willow: Big time. All of the girls were crazy for him.


    Willow does introduce Daryl as being skilled at his sport, but Buffy's first question is on his attractiveness.

    9. Cordelia is leaving cheerleading practice when she senses she's being followed to her car. She panics and says: "Xander Harris, if this is some kind of joke..."

    Couple things going on here. First, we have the rape culture aspect of Cordelia being hyper-aware for her safety while walking to the car, and her absolute panic upon noticing that someone's following her. Then we have her latching onto the idea that Xander might be playing a joke, illustrating the reality that boys/men often don't understand this hypervigilance that women feel. It's something to be played with or made fun of, even though they often help perpetuate the need for it.

    Finally, we get the reveal that it's Angel who was following her, not concerned to let her know that it's him to ease her concerns (even to the point where she jumps into a dumpster to evade him).

    10. In Act Two, Cordelia's feeling yucky because of the whole "dumpster with body parts" thing. She wants to go home and bathe. She says to Angel: "I don't wanna go alone. I'm still fragile. Can you take me?"

    We're getting Cordelia, as usual, playing up to gender stereotypes of the helpless, fragile female who can't make it home by herself. It's interesting in thinking back to the scene earlier where Angel was following her and she was terrified. Now he's the protector.

    11. The Scoobies have some downtime to ponder the motivations of the baddies. We get this exchange:

    Buffy: Why would anybody wanna make a girl?

    Xander: You mean when there's so many pre-made ones just laying around? The things we do for love.

    Buffy: Love has nothing to do with this.

    Xander: Maybe not, but I'll tell you this: people don't fall in love with what's right in front of them.


    Xander talks about the appeal of constructing a girl from dead bodies parts because of the supposed lack of "pre-made ones". Xander talks of "falling in love", but, as Buffy says, that's not what this is about. Reanimating a mish-mash of female body parts doesn't make a girl. That makes an empty body in the shape of a girl (forgive the Bjork quoteage). It think it's interesting that Xander speaks of a desire to attain this type of girl as if he sympathizes with Eric and Chris.

    We get Willow jumping in to contribute: "And for Eric the unattainable would include everyone. That's alive."

    We're hedging on the Nice Guy phenomenon of male entitlement to female companionship. So much to the point that a boy can create-a-girl out of body parts (not that Willow is advocating this, but her comment gives reference to this mindset).

    12. Jenny plays on gender stereotypes in her conversation with Giles: "Oh, no, please call me Jenny. Ms. Calendar's my father."

    13. We get another example of the emphasis on physical attractiveness when the Scoobies learn that three heads were found in the dumpster, apparently rejected by Eric and Chris. Xander says: "Heads must be no good. Huh. I found 'em attractive enough."

    He does receive a look from Willow and Buffy, and replies: "Well, obviously I'm not as sick as Chris and Eric."

    14. The final scene between Buffy and Angel presents some interesting material. Buffy starts out by sympathizing with Chris:

    Buffy: God, the whole thing was so creepy. Well, at the same time, I mean... he did do it all for his brother.

    Angel: Sounds like he took it a little over the edge.

    Buffy: Love makes you do the wacky.


    Even though Chris was doing something heinous, Buffy is wont to make excuses for him. Chris' crime against girls becomes halfway justified because he was doing it on behalf of a boy. This tendency to trivialize violence against women is a product of larger rape culture, as is the tendency to want to prioritize a man's desires or "needs" over the well-being of women.

    More on this scene in the Points to Consider section.

  • Antagonists (Eric, Chris, Daryl)

    1. When Eric is introduced in Act One, he's snapping pictures of girls. After taking one of Willow, he gets sidetracked: "Oh, look at those legs!"

    Perfect example of objectification of women, actually. "Those legs" are attached to a girl, presumably, but all Eric sees (or cares about) is the disconnected body parts that appeal to him. The girl, herself, doesn't matter.

    We get the danger of this as the episode progresses and shows this objectification associated with the literal death of these girls. Suddenly, I'm thinking of Killing Us Softly by Jean Kilbourne (link goes to an excellent YouTube video).

    2. Later in the scene, Eric takes a picture of Cordelia.

    Eric flashes a picture of Cordelia.

    Cordelia: Stop it! What are you doing? (Eric takes another picture) We are under florescent light, for God's sake.

    Eric: The camera loves you!

    Cordelia: I didn't think yearbook nerds came out of hibernation till spring.

    Eric: (snaps another picture) It's for my private collection. (winks)


    Cordelia, the designated gender enforcer, protests not to having her picture taken but to it being taken under less-than-ideal conditions (under florescent light). She ostensibly doesn't mind the objectification. Eric comes across as even more creepy by mentioning that it's for his "private collection". This likens it to porn with the implication that it's gonna be used for masturbation material. Eric apparently feels that it's appropriate to openly say this to the girls he's photographing.

    Chris does rebuke him: "Eric! Will you quit it?"

    How much of that is because of the misogyny and how much of it is because he's worried that Eric might give away the actual purpose behind the pictures?

    Perhaps we get something of an answer by Eric and Chris' closing exchange.

    Eric: Cordelia's so fine. Y'know, she'd be just perfect for us.

    Chris: Don't be an idiot. She's alive.


    Again, Eric's showing an evaluation that places high importance on Cordelia's appearance. The personality doesn't matter. Chris doesn't mind this objectification so much. He's annoyed that Eric's thinking in the wrong direction for their project: he should be thinking of dead girls.

    Of course, that's what objectification metaphorically is. By viewing Cordelia solely as an attractive body, the boys are essentially killing her. This becomes literal later in the episode.

    3. Near the end of Act Two, Chris worries about atrophy and such. Eric stresses the importance of getting a head now, but Chris doesn't want to, you know, kill a girl. Eric responds: "The crash with the girls was lucky. But we can't just keep waiting around for another lucky accident to drop a head in our laps. You know what we have to do. Hell, it's just one lousy girl."

    Explicit misogynistic statement? Check.

    4. Continuing Eric's creepiness, Act Four has Daryl sneaking a peek at the body about to be reanimated. Eric furthers the gender theme by telling him: "No! It's bad luck for the groom to see the bride before the wedding."

    Not only are we dealing with gender roles and the objectification (and subsequent metaphorical killing) of women, we're tying it into how marriage has enforced and perpetuated these roles.

    5. Later in the scene, Eric assures Cordelia: "But don't worry. When you wake up, you'll have the body of a seventeen-year-old. In fact, you'll have the body of several."

    Putting aside the last sentence, he is telling Cordelia, who's probably supposed to be 16 or 17 here, that she will have the body of a 17 year old. I'm honestly not sure what to make of that.

    6. At the very end, when the constructed body of the girl is burning, Daryl reinforces the objectification theme by running after her:

    Daryl: She's mine!

    Chris: Daryl!

    Buffy gets up and stops Chris from running into the flames after Daryl.

    Chris: Daryl!

    Jenny watches, stunned as Giles comes back into the room behind her and looks on as well.

    Daryl: No. We'll be together always. No! Mine!


    By declaring her as "his", he furthers the objectification metaphor in showing his view of the would-be girl as a possession.


IV. Objectification Watch


  1. We get the inevitable through-the-camera shot of Cordelia when Eric's photographing girls at the beginning. She does put her hand up to block the view, though, cutting off the male gaze.

  2. We get a view of the patched-together-woman drawing in Chris' locker. As objectification of women is central to the plot, it's not surprising that it would be depicted at various points.

  3. Near the climax of the episode, Daryl watches Cordelia cheer from under the bleachers. We're treated to several shots of her from his viewpoint.


IV. Points to Consider


  1. As noted, this episode deals a lot with objectification of women. How well does it handle this theme? What do we make of the Nice Guy vibe incorporated throughout and the entitlement Daryl feels to have a girlfriend. What about the portrayal of Chris as sympathetic despite the fact that he's actively objectifying girls for the sake of his brother? Is it useful to have such "creeper-decent dude" dichotomies such that we see here with Eric and Chris?

    And how do we connect all this with Daryl's zombie-fied state? What statement is this making that Daryl feels compelled to make a girl like him because he's ashamed to go out in his condition?

  2. Jenny takes the initiative not only in asking Giles out on their first date but in setting up their second one. She's establishing herself as a progressive character who doesn't feel bound by traditional gender roles.

  3. The crux of the plot is that Chris and Eric must construct a girl for Daryl because a normal one would not stay with him. From the climax:

    Daryl: And when you're finished you won't go out. You won't run away. But we can hide together.


    What does this say about traditional expectations for women to, in essence, trap them in a relationship? Does it reflect on the institution of marriage in anyway? And how about the fact that Daryl is, likewise, trapped? Does this enhance the metaphor or detract from it?

    Taking this further, but the final scene between Buffy and Angel applies this resonance with Buffy/Angel:

    Buffy: I don't love Xander.

    Angel: Yeah, but he's in your life. He gets to be there when I can't. Take your classes, eat your meals, hear your jokes and complaints. He gets to see you in the sunlight.

    Buffy: I don't look that good in direct light.

    Angel: It'll be morning soon.

    Buffy: I should probably go. I could walk you home.


    Angel, like Daryl, is confined to the shadows due to who he is. Unlike Daryl, he's not to the point of killing girls to have one stay with him, however, Buffy volunteers to confine herself to be with Angel. "I don't look that good in direct light." Not only do we get a reference to her own appearance and attractiveness, Buffy shows herself as a self-sacrificing girl who is willing to, in essence, be that patchwork girl to her own Daryl.




Comments

( 23 comments — Leave a comment )
ceciliaj
Aug. 13th, 2011 06:24 pm (UTC)
Not only do we get a reference to her own appearance and attractiveness, Buffy shows herself as a self-sacrificing girl who is willing to, in essence, be that patchwork girl to her own Daryl.

Oooh, this whole final point to consider is so interesting. Because, especially in adolescence, when there are so many social reasons that one can't necessarily express one's full self in the light of day, I think that the romantic appeal of someone from a different context makes a lot of sense. Angel is subscribing to Xander's entitlement issues, basically saying "well, female companionship is fundamental to male happiness/social success, and so it would make the most sense for you to offer it to the person best positioned to receive its benefits." Whereas Buffy is saying (maybe) that she feels too constrained by this daylight model of love where she has to serve the whims of a fellow teenager, and she would rather direct her romantic curiosity and drive toward an element of herself that is unknown, that is the slayer/darkness stuff. So, while we know that the relationship with Angel will go very wrong, at least it will do so in a way that's different from what would happen with Xander, which would just be the crystallization of teenage girlhood according to teenage male fantasy. Because Angel is cagier about what his fantasy for Buffy is, it doesn't feel like such obvious objectification/entitlement.

What a creepy episode.
gabrielleabelle
Aug. 13th, 2011 07:23 pm (UTC)
I don't know. I have a different read. From what I can suss, Buffy is positioning herself not as a rebel to the status quo, but as part of the status quo, itself. Instead of fully expressing herself and experiencing life in the open, she's limiting herself to be with Angel because that's the expectation. Women will be half-formed dolls made to appeal to men. Buffy's statement sounds radical cause, "Oooo...vampire romance!" but it's really more of the same, just like Daryl and his would-be girlfriend.

ceciliaj
Aug. 13th, 2011 10:35 pm (UTC)
Haha, perhaps I am falling prey to the Dr. Clark fallacy on Buffy's behalf.

You know what the key is? If Dr. Clark doesn't understand your experiment he gives you higher marks so it looks like he understands your experiment. (reads Willow's entry) 'The Effects of Sub-Violet Light Spectrum Deprivation on the Development of Fruit Flies'? (smirks) That should do the trick.
local_max
Aug. 13th, 2011 08:54 pm (UTC)
I like this. I think that this does have to be read in context right after When She Was Bad, in which Buffy did (and could) push her friends away, but she couldn't push Angel away, with her dark. He kept following her. On the one hand, this is creepy; on the other, he also makes it clear that he is not going to let her supposed inhumanity get to him. Buffy does feel that a part of herself can be expressed with Angel.

Generally I think that the balance of power tips in Angel's favour by a big margin because of the manipulation and withholding of information and also, the whole, you know, eventually going (explicitly) evil, and attacking her worst spots etc. But I think there is something interesting about the idea that Buffy has/chooses a partner who *can't* see her in the daytime, who (specifically) is barred from participating in her life. It makes me wonder if there is a part of her who not only dislikes aspects of her daytime self ("I don't look that good in direct light" -- surely a reference to Buffy's nascent metaphorical connection with vampires, in addition to the surface "girls are taught to be hyperaware of how they look" thing that connects back with Cordelia's fluorescent light bit), but who wants to keep it hidden away from Angel. She chooses a boyfriend who *cannot* follow her into the light, so while she risks being cloistered and kept away in the dark, as Drusilla is, she also somewhat deliberately has constructed two largely non-intersecting spheres of social life (the school, Xander & Willow, daytime life and the Angel & slaying nighttime life) in which to be her fullest 'human girl' and 'slayer demon-conjugate' selves. And of course it fails, and once Angel turns evil, he specifically attacks all the people from her daytime life, and the daytime people try to kill him in response.

I'm not so sure that Angel is actually talking about the "female companionship is fundamental to male happiness/social success" thing at all though. I mean, is it wrong for Angel to suggest, "It makes sense for people to date people who actually know them and can see them"? I mean that it would be better *for Buffy* to be with someone who actually, you know, knows who she is most of the time? A major problem Buffy/Angel has is that they don't actually know each other at all, except a (subconscious, mostly) recognition of a partner in near-unique soul/demon combination, and I think Angel is more (accurately, I think) tapping into that. Of course, it is also gendered, that Angel isn't concerned that Willow gets to see Buffy all the time.

It makes me think about how important it is in a relationship to "know" the other person. Keeping aspects of oneself hidden from romantic partners is a form of maintaining power, so certainly total disclosure shouldn't be expected. Angel frequently in his chauvinistic way demands that Buffy give more information about herself than he gives of himself (or stalks her to find it out!). But with the caveat that it's difficult to find an egalitarian way of sharing one's identity, even as one's identity is at its most fluid in high school, I think the point that it's not much of a relationship if he can't know who she is during the day is well taken.
eowyn_315
Aug. 13th, 2011 08:59 pm (UTC)
Whereas Buffy is saying (maybe) that she feels too constrained by this daylight model of love where she has to serve the whims of a fellow teenager, and she would rather direct her romantic curiosity and drive toward an element of herself that is unknown, that is the slayer/darkness stuff.

As Gabs says, I think this is more of a limit that Buffy is placing on herself. She's giving up all of the traditional benefits of romance - kids, growing old together, a guy who can go out in daylight - for Angel.

But I do think it's interesting that, for Buffy, it's always presented as an either/or choice. She can have the daylight guy (Riley), but he'll never fully understand her darkness. Or she can have the vampire (Angel/Spike) but limit herself to the shadows.

Either way, she defines herself by the guy she's with, accepts his limitations on her life. And I think the feminist take-away here is that she should do what's best for HER, fit the guy into her life instead of trying to fit herself into his. Which is the eventual conclusion she comes to with her cookie analogy in "Chosen."
(Deleted comment)
gabrielleabelle
Aug. 13th, 2011 07:26 pm (UTC)
7. Later in the scene, Xander and Giles complain about doing all the work. Buffy comments: "Sorry, but I'm an old-fashioned gal. I was raised to believe that men dig up the corpses and the women have the babies." - I never really understood why this was there, maybe just for humor? I am really hoping this discussion will shed some light on this bit of dialogue for me. It seems contradictory to the whole message of the show, even if it is just for kicks. It just irks me.

I think it really is just an instance of Buffy poking fun at things. I could see an argument being made that it's an example of Buffy jumping to gender stereotypes simply out of convenience to get out of doing some work (digging up corpses), but that doesn't really have much resonance with the rest of the episode.

Maybe I am oversimplifying this, but I always read it as a reference to plastic surgery. Like it was his way of saying “This is what women want too. ” as in, in his mind, all women want to be beautiful forever.

Hmmmm...interesting point. I just get caught up in the logic mess of...she already is a 17 year old girl, so...what's the big deal if she's gonna wake up with the body of a 17 year old? It doesn't make sense.
snickfic
Aug. 15th, 2011 04:21 pm (UTC)
I agree with pippind; I read the line the same way. Eric's not thinking in terms of Cordelia at all; she is abstract woman, and he jokingly claims to be giving her what abstract woman wants. It's irrelevant how this youth/beauty relates to her personally or whether she wants it; functionality and personal desires are not the point. The wit of the line is in the fact that she is ~17, and so this kind of generalization is clearly ludicrous.

Er. Which is what pippind said, but in more words.
pippind
Aug. 13th, 2011 07:43 pm (UTC)
7. Later in the scene, Xander and Giles complain about doing all the work. Buffy comments: "Sorry, but I'm an old-fashioned gal. I was raised to believe that men dig up the corpses and the women have the babies."

- I never really understood why this was there, maybe just for humor? I am really hoping this discussion will shed some light on this bit of dialogue for me. It seems contradictory to the whole message of the show, even if it is just for kicks. It just irks me.

5. Later in the scene, Eric assures Cordelia: "But don't worry. When you wake up, you'll have the body of a seventeen-year-old. In fact, you'll have the body of several." Putting aside the last sentence, he is telling Cordelia, who's probably supposed to be 16 or 17 here, that she will have the body of a 17 year old. I'm honestly not sure what to make of that.

- Maybe I am oversimplifying this, but I always read it as a reference to plastic surgery. Like it was his way of saying “This is what women want too. ” as in, in his mind, all women want to be beautiful forever.

-And this episode just continues to solidify my dislike of Xander. His reaction to all that is going on gives me the major wigs.
eowyn_315
Aug. 13th, 2011 08:45 pm (UTC)
This is seen as the sexual power that women have (that supposedly gives them a leg up in society). In reality, it's a passive power that some women utilize at it's one of the few avenues of control open to them.

Even Buffy - who has more power than most people, due to her superpowers - resorts to sexual power at times. She's not immune to the gender socialization.

It also kind of dovetails with the discussion from WSWB about Buffy retreating to traditional femininity after trauma from the Slayer (masculine) side. Buffy tends to rely on passive, feminine sexual power when she's suffering the consequences of being the Slayer - here after her death at the hands of the Master, and then later with Spike in S6.

Finally, we get the reveal that it's Angel who was following her, not concerned to let her know that it's him to ease her concerns (even to the point where she jumps into a dumpster to evade him).

SERIOUSLY DUDE WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?

Xander: Maybe not, but I'll tell you this: people don't fall in love with what's right in front of them.

That line has always struck me as incredibly passive-aggressive. We're not that far removed from Buffy's rejection of Xander in "Prophecy Girl" (which she so kindly reminded him of in WSWB). If that's the way it was intended, it's rather icky that he's using GUYS WHO CUT UP DEAD GIRLS to make a dig at Buffy not wanting to date him. It's like, "See what happens when you reject a guy? They gotta go off and make their own girlfriend."

What about the portrayal of Chris as sympathetic despite the fact that he's actively objectifying girls for the sake of his brother? Is it useful to have such "creeper-decent dude" dichotomies such that we see here with Eric and Chris?

Hmmm, on a purely storytelling level, I think you need Chris to be more sympathetic. Eric comes across as almost cartoonishly creepy and misogynistic, so in order to take them seriously, there has to be a more grounded character. Misogyny isn't just for OTT villains. "Normal" guys exhibit those tendencies, too.

I do think the show goes a little too far in having Xander, Willow, and Buffy all sympathize with Chris, though. It's weird to me that, although everyone comments on the create-a-girl plan, no one actually mentions how creepy it is that Chris zombified his brother in the first place! (Though the resurrection by science is an interesting contrast to Buffy's resurrection by magic.)
local_max
Aug. 13th, 2011 09:02 pm (UTC)
I do think the show goes a little too far in having Xander, Willow, and Buffy all sympathize with Chris, though. It's weird to me that, although everyone comments on the create-a-girl plan, no one actually mentions how creepy it is that Chris zombified his brother in the first place! (Though the resurrection by science is an interesting contrast to Buffy's resurrection by magic.)

Haha, yep. Though the resurrection is much, much more sympathetic (and less gendered) than the, you know, agreeing to kill girls to animate pieces of them.
eowyn_315
Aug. 13th, 2011 09:28 pm (UTC)
Heh. This is true. Those thoughts were perhaps not all that related. :-P It's the emphasis on "but Chris did it for his brother!" that's a little too much sympathy toward killing girls to animate pieces of them. Not wanting to let his brother go is sympathetic, but the whole playing God thing is still morally questionable.

I have to wonder - if Daryl had been satisfied with one whole dead girl, instead of one made up of different pieces, would that have been sympathetic? Would Buffy have been like, "Oh, okay, carry on" or would she still try to stop them?
local_max
Aug. 13th, 2011 09:39 pm (UTC)
I think it's an interesting point -- because have these characters (the teens more so than Giles or Jenny or Angel) gotten to the point of being certain that resurrection/playing God is automatically morally bad? We can be reasonably sure based on future events Willow hasn't (I'm referring more so to her willingness to consider bringing back Joyce than Buffy here, though they're related, since Willow does hang onto the 'mystical death' escape clause). And if they haven't, then is it necessarily bad to resurrect a woman who died in a bus crash? I mean, she would not be resurrected because anyone wants her to live *for herself* but to give companionship to Daryl, who already has a very unfulfilling post-life. So arguably even if the morality of resurrection is neutral, it'd be wrong to bring someone into a post-life where they can't see their family and friends and where they are, from the available single data point, probably going to be miserable. But I'm not sure if Buffy would stop them, because they are creepy and objectifying and crossing big existential lines, but they are bringing life, if an awful form, rather than killing. Obviously she has to intervene once pre-death human lives are threatened.
pippind
Aug. 14th, 2011 02:26 am (UTC)
For the most part i have to agree. But i also think that the teens, willow included, would be squicked by the situation. It seems that while willow progresses towards a more 'gray area' moral outlook, in the beginning of the show it seems fairly safe to say (at least in my opinion) that she would have some pretty strong feelings against resurrection. The situation with joyce also had a personal effect that some random guy cutting up dead girls does not.

All that being said, I agree with you that unless the "bride of frankenstein" turned out to be a danger, i don't think it would be the type of thing buffy would feel obligated to intervene in.
hello_spikey
Aug. 16th, 2011 04:43 pm (UTC)
But does the "bride of frankenstein" not get a choice? What if they just kidnapped a girl rather than resurrecting one? Would the protagonists really limit their morality to the pre-dead?

gabrielleabelle
Aug. 13th, 2011 09:57 pm (UTC)
Even Buffy - who has more power than most people, due to her superpowers - resorts to sexual power at times. She's not immune to the gender socialization.

*nods*

If that's the way it was intended, it's rather icky that he's using GUYS WHO CUT UP DEAD GIRLS to make a dig at Buffy not wanting to date him. It's like, "See what happens when you reject a guy? They gotta go off and make their own girlfriend."

Heh. Yeah. Xander has some residual creepiness in this ep.

It's weird to me that, although everyone comments on the create-a-girl plan, no one actually mentions how creepy it is that Chris zombified his brother in the first place! (Though the resurrection by science is an interesting contrast to Buffy's resurrection by magic.)

Yeah, I mean...yeah...
frelling_tralk
Aug. 14th, 2011 04:01 pm (UTC)
Hmmm, on a purely storytelling level, I think you need Chris to be more sympathetic. Eric comes across as almost cartoonishly creepy and misogynistic, so in order to take them seriously, there has to be a more grounded character. Misogyny isn't just for OTT villains. "Normal" guys exhibit those tendencies, too.

I do think the show goes a little too far in having Xander, Willow, and Buffy all sympathize with Chris, though.



I agree with this, it would have been too simplistic if both of the villians of the episode had been cartoon bad guys so I liked that they gave Chris tortured reasons for doing what he was doing

But yes, I felt like the episode was a little too sympathetic to him and afraid to call him out as being just as creepy and messed-up, like he's somehow the good guy because he doesn't want to kill living girls for his little project. Never mind that he brought his brother back to live a half-existence in a basement just because HE was feeling lonely (and his brother apparently told Chris that he shouldn't have brought him back when he first woke as a zombie), and is desecrating corpses in order to create a similar creature as a companion.

It would have helped if the show had Buffy perhaps call Chris out on what a sick and deeply wrong world he had trapped himself in, instead of all of the scoobies having such sympathetic responses to Chris's loneliness. I feel like Buffy would typicially have been the first to call Chris out on yeah you're lonely, guess what that doesn't justify any of this,
local_max
Aug. 13th, 2011 09:20 pm (UTC)
Yay! This was a big one.

I forget sometimes how creepy Xander is in these early eps. Though in the case of 13 in particular, I think his statement that he found the heads attractive enough -- while obviously creepy that he talks in those terms -- at least has context, since the only criterion Eric and Chris seem to have for their body parts is attractiveness, so 'attractive' heads having been dumped is a clue of sorts.

The line Buffy says about Daryl's studliness gets at something real here, I think. Men are not objectified to the same extent as women, but there exists objectification of men, and Daryl's entire identity is reduced to his identity as a hot football star. It is performative in a different way than the cheerleading team, but the audience looks on on both of them. I wonder if we can/should view part of the episode's metaphor as relating to high school football stars who, because of the disproportionate emphasis on their sporting ability early on, never overcame the disappointment and loss that this must end as they get older, their bodies fail them, and high school ends with the majority of them not playing professionally. So this is partly about the way the designated 'popular' and 'attractive' people become trapped in the images people have of them in high school: Daryl's mother just sits replaying old tapes, Daryl identifies *himself* as a number (often a metaphor for objectification), and even Jenny seems to be talking about the football game in this ep in a kind of sexualized manner. Daryl decides that it makes sense for cheerleaders to be his mate now because they were (under social expectations) supposed to be his mate before; and that they are as doomed as he is to a life of quiet mediocrity that essentially ended at high school. Which is not to discount the deep misogyny in that (and the idea that, as you point out very well, he is trapped and so he is entitled to a woman who is just as trapped as him). It's noteworthy that Cordelia struggles against the loss of status that comes from the end of high school for quite some time, and Harmony is a nearly-explicit metaphor of a popular person who feels forever stuck in her high school role (who dies when high school ends), at least initially.

I also wonder if Buffy's question about Daryl's attractiveness was a subtle window into Buffy's view on Cordelia -- i.e. that Buffy figured Cordelia would only be upset over a boyfriend dying if he was attractive. Since Buffy used to *be* Cordelia (in the metaphor), maybe it's her view of her (past) self.

The way the gang blatantly ignore Cordelia's pain is somewhat gendered, I think. Mostly it's because they don't like her or take her seriously, and also because she's clearly trying to draw attention to herself. But the explicit quasi-shallow displays of dismay seem to be Cordelia's only outlet for her pain. Right now no one sees her.

The end of the episode has Cordelia nearly offering to date Xander in exchange for saving her life, which is kind of creepy. Xander rejects it out of hand, or possibly doesn't even notice it.
local_max
Aug. 13th, 2011 09:44 pm (UTC)
Two more thoughts:

1) The Cordelia/Daryl parallel is strengthened by the fact that Buffy feels more at home with Angel as a result of her own death and resurrection.

2) The episode obviously references Bride of Frankenstein. Anyway, one of the major reads of the whole of Frankenstein literature/films is that part of the disaster is not just of playing God, but of the specific gender issues wrought by *men* trying to bring life. In Bride of Frankenstein in particular, Frankenstein and Dr. Pretorius are a little bit coded as a gay couple as they create their offspring as a mate for Frankenstein's lonely monster. The setup is similar, by the way: Frankenstein is, like Chris, sympathetic; Pretorius is, like Eric, sort of a sociopath. I haven't read too deeply into these myself but there is a lot of discussion of them in these terms, which I think is interesting. That Buffy mentions childbearing as woman's work indicates that this theme might be on the writers' minds. But I don't really know where to go from here.
gabrielleabelle
Aug. 13th, 2011 10:03 pm (UTC)
2. Huh. I don't know where to take that, either, as I'm not familiar with Bride of Frankenstein. I'm gonna sit and wait for someone more knowledgeable than me to pontificate.

*waits*
gabrielleabelle
Aug. 13th, 2011 10:01 pm (UTC)
Very very interesting thoughts. I have nothing to add, actually. :)

The end of the episode has Cordelia nearly offering to date Xander in exchange for saving her life, which is kind of creepy. Xander rejects it out of hand, or possibly doesn't even notice it.

*nods* I probably should have put that in the notes, as Cordelia does kinda sound like she's "offering herself up" in return for Xander rescuing her (which echoes Buffy's line in WSWB about "thanking" him for resuscitating her). I thought Cordelia sounded less suggestive and more, "You scratched my back, I'm gonna help you someday" non-sexualized in her offer. But that's down to interpretation, obviously.
farmgirl62
Aug. 14th, 2011 03:35 pm (UTC)
Hmmmm.. I thought the blatant ignoring of Cordelia's thankyou played on a couple of levels:

1) Xander is ignoring what's in front of him (Cordelia)
2) It seems to me that Xander never expected Cordelia to be "grateful" sexually for the save -- just like he didn't actually imply Buffy would offer a sexual reward as gratitude in WSWB. Instead Buffy punishes him with the dance. This is, of course, in direct contrast to his fantasy a year earlier in Teacher's Pet where he clearly expected "reward" for "heroism". SO, does this mean Xander no longer thinks that heroism=sexual favor? Was that a side effect of the WSWB dance or did he realize it after he she had rejected him for the Spring Dance?


On another topic: Xander couldn't get the restraints off so he "rides" the gurney on top of Cordelia through the fire. Do you think that was symbolic or just a setup for their later sexually-fueled relationship?
frelling_tralk
Aug. 14th, 2011 03:48 pm (UTC)
I saw the difference there was that in his Teacher's Pet fantasy Xander was this very suave guy who saved the day in a more obvious fashion, and thus fantasied about women throwing themselves at him for it. Whereas PG was more quiet heroism of bringing Buffy back to life so that she could go be the "real hero", and Some Assembly Required was more hapless rescue. Not to downplay Xander's role there, just that's how I feel that he saw it if he wasn't the one actually wielding the stake and being more obviously bad-ass. I feel like he was dismissive of his own role as sidekick if you like, and didn't feel it was manly enough to make him come across as a stud in the way he would have liked during the Teacher's Pet fantasy
pingback_bot
Aug. 14th, 2011 07:54 am (UTC)
Saturday 13 August 2011
User froxyn referenced to your post from Saturday 13 August 2011 saying: [...] x. wants a discussion on Some Assemby Required from a feminist perspective [...]
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