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The Feminist Filter: Reptile Boy

will57
So, I'd hoped to have my Riley meta ready today, but it's gonna take me some more time to get that finished and presentable (Riley, why so difficult?). So instead, let's do up some feminist discussion on Reptile Boy. :)


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.



2.05 Reptile Boy

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 7 counts

  2. Deaths:
    Dead boys: 0
    Dead girls: 0


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: A local fraternity readies their sacrifice to a demon to ensure their financial success. The sacrifice being, of course, three high school girls.

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 Callie were taken out of this episode, would events occur in much the same fashion? Yes.



  • Decisive Buffy: Buffy's key decision is to go to the frat party. Unfortunately, this effectively puts her in the "damsel" role, which isn't saying much for her agency. Her real agency is best shown when she fights back in the basement and ends up defeating the frat boys and Machida.
  • Decisive Cordelia: Like Buffy, she makes the decision to go to the party, which places her in the damsel role. Unlike Buffy, Cordelia doesn't do anything to break out of this role.


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, and Angel)

    1. In Act One, Cordelia is passing along what she's learned from "Dr. Debi": "See? Dr. Debi says when a man is speaking you make serious eye contact, and you really, really listen, and you laugh at everything he says."

    The laughing imperative reminds me of a study I saw wherein it was shown that both men and women value a "sense of humor" in their partners. For women, this meant they valued a person who was funny. For guys, though, they meant that they valued someone who would laugh at their jokes. This is reflected in Cordelia's comment where men are positioned as the active partner: telling the jokes, having interesting things to say, etc. By contrast, women are the passive partner: they listen, they react appropriately.

    2. I like this exchange between Buffy and Giles.

    Giles: Buffy, you think I don't know what it's like to be sixteen?

    Buffy: No. I think you *don't* know what it's like to be sixteen. And a girl. And the Slayer.


    Buffy specifies that Giles doesn't only know what it's like to be sixteen and the Slayer, but he doesn't know what it's like to be a girl.

    3. While watching Tom and Buffy talking to each other, Xander says: "Huh-huh-huh, right. Like she's gonna fall for that."

    It was discussed in the outline for Inca Mummy Girl how this type of comment is a subtle form of slut-shaming in that it preemptively admonishes Buffy for "falling for" some supposed seduction technique. This takes away Buffy's own agency and unilaterally labels Buffy's own desire as negative.

    4. Near the end of Act One, Cordelia approaches Buffy to ask her to go along to the frat party. She opens with: "Buffy! Did you lose weight? And your hair..."

    She's trying to ingratiate herself to Buffy by complimenting her on the highly valued aspects of being a girl: weight and hair. Later in her plea for Buffy to accompany her, Cordelia highlights the importance of a man being rich: "Well, you see why I have to go. Buffy, these men are rich."

    5. The excuse Buffy uses to get out of Slaying is interesting. She says: "I've got a mountain of homework to do, and, um...my mom's not really feeling well, and she could probably use my help, and, um, to be truthful I'm not really feeling all that well myself."

    Her lie of having to stay home to take care of her sick mother is substituting an appropriate feminine activity (nurturing and caretaking) in place of an inappropriate feminine activity (partying).

    6. In chastising Buffy for going to the party, Willow brings up the evils of sex to warn her away: "...you'd rather go to a frat party where there's gonna be drinking and older guys and probably an orgy."

    Sex, of course, being something undesirable for the female gender as opposed to the male gender. This is highlighted by Xander's next line: "Since when do they have orgies and why aren't I on the mailing list?"

    7. As Cordelia gives Buffy the run-down in what to do at the party, Xander engages in some slut-shaming: "So, Cor, you printing up business cards with your pager number and hours of operation or just going with a halter top tonight?"

    8. We get a quick run-down of the societal expectations for men when Xander tells Willow that he's going to the party to keep an eye on Buffy.

    Willow: You wanna protect her?

    Xander: Mm-hm.

    Willow: And prove that you're just as good as those rich, snotty guys?

    Xander: Mm-hm.

    Willow: Maybe catch an orgy?

    Xander: If it's on early.


    Protecting women/girls, being rich (or as good as), and sex.

    9. After the fight is over, Cordelia turns to Angel: "You did it! You saved us!"

    This ignoring the fact that Buffy did the rescuing as Angel had just arrived.

    The tendency for society to give males credit for women's achievements is usually more subtle. People tend to have a perceptual bias that favors men: men take up more of the conversation (and are perceived to be taking up less), they're given more attention when they do speak, they're credited more with success in retrospect. Part of the reason for the latter is because competency is coded masculine.

    10. Also after the fight, Buffy and Giles have this exchange:

    Buffy: I told one lie, I had one drink.

    Giles: Yes, and you were very nearly devoured by a giant demon snake. The words 'let that be a lesson' are a tad redundant at this juncture.


    Buffy receives punishment for inappropriately feminine behavior (drinking). Given the fact that she'd almost been sexually assaulted, the "lesson" part of Giles' statement is somewhat disturbing. More on this in the Points to Consider section.

    11. In the final scene, Willow relays to Buffy the story of Angel's protectiveness of her: "When he got so mad about you being in danger, and changed into a grr, it was the most amazing thing I ever saw."

    Despite the fact that Angel didn't actually do much to rescue her, Willow is caught up in the traditional gender ideology of a man as the romantic protector.

  • Antagonists (Richard, Tom, and the other frat guys)

    1. Upon meeting Buffy, Richard immediately brings on the patronizing nicknames: "Hi, sweetheart. I'm Richard. And you are?"

    When Buffy responds with: "So not interested" and tries to walk away, Richard asks Cordelia: "What, she likes to play hard to get?"

    "Playing hard to get", of course, being a stereotypical head game that women are supposedly prone to. In reality, it often serves as an excuse for guys to harass and assault women.

    Tom provides a rebuke: "No, Richard. I think you're playing easy to resist."

    Putting aside Tom's own antagonist status, his response centers the problem on Richard's behavior rather than on Buffy.

    2. At the end of Act One, Richard teases Callie, who's chained up in the frat basement. As he's leaving her, he comments: "God, I love high school girls. Mm!"

    Condescending and objectifying.

    3. At the party, we see two girls being catcalled by two fraternity brothers.

    Two girls come in through the door and walk through the room. A couple of fraternity brothers watch them walk by.

    Tackle: Beaucoup babes!

    Linebacker: Ooo, yeah!


    4. At the party, Buffy is targeted by a drunken football player who commands that she dance.

    Tackle: New girl!

    He grabs the Young Man for balance and pulls him away before he even gets his drink to his lips.

    Young Man: Easy, man!

    Tackle: Dance!

    Buffy looks up from putting her drink back down and stares at him in wide-eyed surprise when she sees him coming for her.

    Tackle: (laughs and staggers over to her) C'mon, sweetheart, ha, ha, yeah!


    Lot of things to take away, here. For one, the idea of women as public property who are amenable to submitting to the command of men at any time. For another, the fact that no one does anything. Young Man protests when Tackle grabs him for balance, but he doesn't say anything about Tackle's overt harassment of Buffy. Finally, his command that Buffy "dance" alludes to the women as entertainment stereotype wherein women are objectified for the benefit of men.

    In a twist, Tom rescues her, but he does so by also asking her to dance, albeit more politely: "Can I have this dance?"

    5. Upon discovering Xander as a crasher, the frat boys haze him as a pledge. We'd seen a pledge earlier at the party dressed in a woman's corset. Xander is given make-up along with a skirt, a bra, and a wig. He's then commanded to dance. This is symbolic femininity as punishment. Xander is then subjected to degrading remarks often handed out to women:

    Tackle: Keep it movin'! (laughs) C'mon! Shake it, don't break it! Wrap it up and I'll take it!

    Xander: (nervous) Okay, big fun guys. Uhhh, who's next?

    Tackle puts a blonde wig on his head.

    Tackle: You are, doll face! Keep on dancin'! Ah, alright!

    [...]

    Tackle: Oh! Keep it up! Yes! C'mon! Keep it goin'! Ah, ha!


    It's telling that the most humiliating thing the frat can do to their pledges is to treat them like they treat women.

    6. When Buffy is drugged and passes out on the bed, Richard begins to sexually assault her. Tom stops him.

    Tom: Get away from her!

    Richard: I wasn't doing anything!

    Tom: I saw what you were doing.

    Richard: I was just having a little fun.


    "Just having a little fun" seems like a good parallel to "boys will be boys". Sexual assault dressed up as "a little fun" isn't uncommon in rape culture.

    7. During the ritual sacrifice to Machida, Buffy calls out to get Machida's attention. Tom reprimands her: "No woman speaks to him!"

    Yay! Explicit misogyny!

    Later in the act, as the fight progresses, Tom pulls out the slurs against Buffy: "You bitch! I'll serve you to him in pieces!"



IV. Objectification Watch


  1. We are presented a male-gazey shot of Buffy talking to Xander and Willow as the frat boys watch.

  2. We're given another view of Xander in his underwear after he strips off the costume the frat boys had forced him into. The scene is short, though, and fairly modestly shot. It is notable, though, in that it's the second instance of a character in their undies in the show...and it's, again, Xander.


V. Points to Consider


  1. The themes in this episode are quite explicit: rich and powerful men attaining power due to the exploitation of women. How effective is the show in depicting this metaphor?

  2. The "punishment" aspect of Buffy almost being sacrificed is uncomfortable given the rape culture context. How are we to separate the different threads of Buffy being underaged and lying to authority figures from her being a girl? Does the fact that this falls along traditional gender ideology in punishing women for getting out of line (by partying and drinking) obscure the other narrative reasons for the punishment? Are these reasons legitimate?

  3. Relationships between older men and young girls are depicted in this episode in a predatory light. Do we take away Buffy's agency by censuring such relationships? Is it paternalistic to criticize older men for "taking advantage of" young girls? At what point is highlighting predatory behavior on the part of older men legitimate and when does it tip over to the point of infantilizing women? How do we apply this to the Buffy/Angel relationship as it continues through the season?

  4. We get another instance of attempted sexual assault against Buffy in this episode, this time after she is roofied. Given the later "punishment" aspect of what happens, what can we take away from this assault? How is it portrayed? What about the fact that Tom, who is later revealed to be the true evil, is the one who rescues her?





Comments

norwie2010
Sep. 4th, 2011 10:11 am (UTC)
Oh, what a rich episode!

Sometimes a have this feeling that the early episodes are very, very radical (politically speaking) - but also very careful to disguise that fact (as if the authors don't want to get caught by their bosses).

Like this episode: The easy surface reading lends itself to what you all discussed above, Buffy is being "punished" for overstepping her "female boundaries".

There are several motives and themes in this episode:

Cordelia's reasons for going to the party, Buffy's reasons for going to the party, Xander's reasons for going to the party, Giles's and Angel's reasons for the rescue mission, Willow's narration of the rescue...

They all have complicated motivations for their actions/words but at the end of the day, Buffy does something, gets in a tight spot, gets out of the tight spot and in doing so helps Cordelia, unnamed girl and future unnamed girls while also destroying a creepy capitalist circle of misogynist men (and slaughtering the fetish Marx speaks of when describing the inner psychological workings of the capitals mind).

I think the "one lie, one drink" - "let that be a lesson" lines are really funny: Obviously one lie and one drink are not the problem, obviously Buffy don't need to be rescued (nor was she actually rescued).

>b>Obviously</b> Xander, Angel and Giles are also followers of patriarchal ideology, albeit the difference between the "bad sexists" and the "good sexists" is twofold: a) intent and b) capitalist ideology.

The bad guys openly link capitalist ideology with misogyny - and that's what i always say: Capitalism needs oppression of women to function, while patriarchy can obviously work without capitalism (Angel, Giles, Xander).

There is so much more here: Cordelia and here motives for going to that party (and her "lessons" afterwards): Cordelia has a patriarchal and capitalist ideology, too. Under that premise she will always be the victim she is in this episode, she will always be exploited, her narrative usurped by men: She plays into the hands of men destroying women but is unable to see why because she buys into the premise in the first place. In a way, she's an enabler (but of course also a victim!), a mens' rights activist offering herself (unwittingly) for the slaughter.

While Buffy gets drugged and kidnapped, Cordelia willingly goes with the (her) executioner of her narrative, the rich man she is willing to give herself up for. (Of course, Cordelia doesn't think of it this way: She thinks that's her own narrative, her own agency when it is anything but). In the end, Cordelia gets drugged, too and is threatened to get fed to the capitalist fetish (Machida - see also Golden Calf of the Old Testament).

Even women willing to support patriarchy and capitalism get devoured (and not rewarded!) by it's agents and mechanisms.

While Buffy is totally oblivious to these mechanisms and thinks their agents are nice guys, too - once she's in a "situation" she intuitively knows what to do and what is going on. And she fights: She could have escaped without destroying Machida, without freeing her gender comrades, without laying open the circle of agents.

But that's what Buffy does: She destroys capitalist, misogynist constructs and fights against their agents (see also: "Anne").

It is unfortunate for Buffy (and Cordelia, and Willow, and...) that her circle of male friends/father/lovers are MPCs, too. Their redeeming quality comes from the fact that they "fight the system", too and their sexism is unconscious (Willow comments on this with her swooning over Angel being all monsterly manly). But, these men don't exploit Buffy for economic gains/reasons.

Many more thoughts but - i have to work now. :-(
eowyn_315
Sep. 4th, 2011 04:59 pm (UTC)
I think the "one lie, one drink" - "let that be a lesson" lines are really funny: Obviously one lie and one drink are not the problem, obviously Buffy don't need to be rescued (nor was she actually rescued).

I agree that I've always found it funny, because it's so obviously ridiculous - I mean, being devoured by a giant demon-snake is TOTALLY the expected consequence for underage drinking and lying, right? - but I'm not sure if that's the way it's meant to be funny.

I like the subversive read, that the very ridiculousness of it challenges Giles' patriarchal view. And it fits nicely with Gabs' "Innocence" parallel - Angel losing his soul is something Buffy could've anticipated about as much as she could've anticipated that evil frat boys would sacrifice her to a demon. Both sets of consequences are so far outside the realm of normal behavior that NO ONE would have expected them, so it's absurd to say that Buffy should've known better.

But even if we shouldn't take Giles' comment at face value, Buffy obviously does, because she looks ashamed and apologizes to him. And then in "Innocence," she immediately blames herself without Giles even saying anything. And that kinda bugs me, particularly given that Buffy has a tendency to be punished for having sex.
norwie2010
Sep. 4th, 2011 05:45 pm (UTC)
I don't think my read is subversive - the very premise of the whole show is the tiny blonde "damsel/victim" kicking ass.

Buffy is the anti-victim, and in this episode all her (male) friends see her as victim, riding to the rescue - doing nothing in the end. That's just so funny. :)

And then Cordy swooning in Angel's arms - i cannot stop grinning whenever i see that! :)

And then Buffy's mentor goes on to lecture her - priceless. :D She doesn't need a lecture - she's kicking ass left and right! Traditionally, the blonde is the victim/damsel who either gets eaten by Machida or rescued by the manly men (thus transferring "the lecture" to the audience, cautionary tale style).

But this isn't a cautionary tale - 'cause Buffy kicks behind (well, i think it is somewhat a cautionary tale; Cordelia's story here is that tale: Throw in your lot with the system - get devoured!).

If Angel had had to rescue Buffy then yes, i would see this as a cautionary tale and Giles' little speech would be the straight up "moral" of the play. But Buffy rescued innocents, kicked the bad guys to the curb, all by herself - thus fulfilling the premise of the show. One lie, one drink be damned. :)
eowyn_315
Sep. 4th, 2011 06:06 pm (UTC)
I don't think my read is subversive - the very premise of the whole show is the tiny blonde "damsel/victim" kicking ass.

Well... yes. In that sense, the entire show is subversive - subverting the trope of the tiny blonde being the damsel/victim. As you note, this episode in particular subverts that by having Buffy's friends come to her rescue, only to watch her save herself.

The subversive reading I was referring to is seeing Giles' lecture as sexist and patriarchal, rather than taking it at face value that Buffy did a bad thing and got punished for it. Rather than playing into the trope of the cautionary tale with a moral at the end, this reading subverts it because the "cautionary tale" isn't a cautionary tale at all, and the supposed moral - have one drink, tell one lie, and you'll get eaten by a demon - is incredibly OTT.

I'm just not sure if this subversion is intentional or not.
angearia
Sep. 5th, 2011 04:19 pm (UTC)
If it is subversion, it's the sort that requires A LOT of work on the reader's part to get there. I think it's murky. And I agree that ultimately Buffy does feel shamed by her drinking behavior -- when in reality the only risk I can see from her having one drink was that she accepted it from someone she didn't know and couldn't trust.

Also, LOL at Giles graciously refraining from passing judgment on Buffy for telling one lie and having one drink when he makes a profession out of not telling her the whole truth (knowledge is power) and he's a the drinker on the show.

Sidebar: I find it interesting how in Season 4 Giles drinks a lot. It reminds me that drinking is the socially acceptable behavior for men who are depressed. Better to be a drunk than depressed? :-/
eowyn_315
Sep. 5th, 2011 06:12 pm (UTC)
And I agree that ultimately Buffy does feel shamed by her drinking behavior -- when in reality the only risk I can see from her having one drink was that she accepted it from someone she didn't know and couldn't trust.

Yeah, it's interesting that Buffy seems to have internalized this BS* to the point that even she can't see that she's feeling ashamed for something she couldn't possibly have controlled.

*Heh, I meant benevolent sexism, but... the other definition works, too. :-P

I find it interesting how in Season 4 Giles drinks a lot. It reminds me that drinking is the socially acceptable behavior for men who are depressed. Better to be a drunk than depressed? :-/

Huh. True. Ditto for Spike, actually. Although, Buffy gets drunk with Spike in S6, Willow drinks after Oz leaves, Joyce drinks when she's upset about Buffy... so, basically, drinking is the solution to everything in Sunnydale.
angearia
Sep. 5th, 2011 06:24 pm (UTC)
Yeah, internalizing the BS (both definitions!) is so easy, I think. I know I did at her age and it took a lot of self-reflection and education to break out of that. Heck, I'm still fighting my way out of it.

Huh. True. Ditto for Spike, actually. Although, Buffy gets drunk with Spike in S6, Willow drinks after Oz leaves, Joyce drinks when she's upset about Buffy... so, basically, drinking is the solution to everything in Sunnydale.

I'm not much of a drinker, but I can kinda appreciate wanting to escape from it all for a night. It's interesting to me, though, how with Buffy and Willow it's very short-term, where as it's more chronic behavior with the men: Giles, Spike, Xander's father (and Joyce, I suppose, though we don't see it much except for in early Season 3).

I wonder if that's partially due to resolution through talking out your problems (talk about your ~feelings~) being more accepted and even openly encouraged for women. So there's this greater opportunity for emotional catharsis as opposed to trying to obliterate the pain via chemicals. Hmm.
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norwie2010
Sep. 4th, 2011 05:56 pm (UTC)
Re: "Innocence".

I think Innocence is a whole different beast altogether. Buffy blaming herself is - i suppose - done to make her more relatable, who of us hasn't blamed herself for a "bad breakup"?

On top of that, in Innocence we've left the territory of "satire" and entered (high school) "tragedy", and personal drama of Buffy the character (and not Buffy the anti-cliché).

And while i agree that Buffy + sex could be read as Buffy being punished for sex, i don't think that's the only possible read: Overall, she gets "punished" for sex with Angel - in a totally over-the-top manner (as you aid: completely unforseeable). Parker? Just something that happens. Riley? Good sex and cosplay! Spike? Even wilder sex - and self-loathing for a whole host of reasons, not really "punishment for sex" (unless you want to read the AR that way - which i don't. Spike fucks up horribly in that scene, which has nothing to do with Buffy's sexuality).
eowyn_315
Sep. 4th, 2011 06:17 pm (UTC)
Gabs has already addressed this one better than I could, so I'll just recommend you read her Buffy's Bad Sex Life meta.
norwie2010
Sep. 4th, 2011 06:31 pm (UTC)
I've read that (how could i not? It's written by Gabs!).

But, my interpretation of "Buffy + sex" is a different one:

For one, i don't link Parker to "sex is bad". Nobody knows how the sex was and let's be honest here - Parker would have dumped her one way or the other: Either she sleeps with him and he dumps her, or she doesn't sleep with him and he dumps her. Sex or no sex - Parker is just an asshole (yay! for "Beer bad""!).

Secondly, i really, really cannot support the read that Buffy's "rough sex" with Spike leads to the AR. Spike doesn't accept a "No!" and that's the reason why the situation escalates. To put any (any at all!) blame on Buffy and her "rough sex" behavior is a bit disturbing to me. The AR situation is wholly of Spike's making.

Thirdly, yes, i agree that Buffy by season 7 is not sexually empowered (which is a shame).

This is what i wrote elsewhere to the complex of Buffy and sex (and Spike) in season 7:

Wonderfully laid out. I agree that Buffy's story didn't came around at the end of season 7, which is a shame, since the whole thing is her story to begin with.

Like you, i have some difficulties with the way it "fizzled". But then I remember, that we're dealing with contemporary pop culture, and despite all the positive storytelling capabilities Whedon might have - pop culture is a buisiness first, art second. As such, pop culture has to adhere to the laws of economics first, the freedom of art second. It is thus that pop culture always has a huge possibility of breaking the story /art (the secondary aspect of itself) in favor of the first aspect. As a business model, pop culture follows fashion trends and opinion, whereas art doesn't. More "Tea Party", or "Yes We Can!" than Cubism or Supremalism.

And, that is no coincidence. Pop culture moved to the top of the cultural food chain, so to speak, substituting art as a means of expression after the Shoah (writing lyrics after the Holocaust is barabrism, as Theodor Adorno stated in "Kulturkritik und Gesellschaft", 1949).

So, in a way I forgive Whedon the cop out. While BtVS is the very best in pop culture I have ever had the joy to experience - at the end of the day, the story is secondary. So we make our own narrative, replacing product with art in our minds (if we are capable of that) to complete the story, to transcending economics into life, to grasp at the invisible beauty of it.

In a way, I think that's what Whedon tries to "say" with his fade-to-black scene in 7.21: 'Make your own narrative, make art where I'm not able to do so.'
gabrielleabelle
Sep. 4th, 2011 06:40 pm (UTC)
Secondly, i really, really cannot support the read that Buffy's "rough sex" with Spike leads to the AR. Spike doesn't accept a "No!" and that's the reason why the situation escalates. To put any (any at all!) blame on Buffy and her "rough sex" behavior is a bit disturbing to me. The AR situation is wholly of Spike's making.

Agreed in a real life context. But BtVS is a fictional show so it's necessary to look at it in the context of the narrative. S6 shows a fairly clear theme of fudged lines of consent and "No means yes" and whatnot. The narrative practically begs the audience to draw the conclusion that since Buffy was "okay" with Spike disregarding her "no" previously, she shouldn't have been surprised when he did so in the AR. Evidenced by the fact that...well...many fans do blame Buffy for it.

So in looking at the larger arc of Buffy's sexuality and the show's narrative reaction to it, the AR is an example of her receiving a so-called "natural consequence" of the blurred sexual boundaries she'd been playing with before. I don't say this with joy cause, you know, I find it icky. But it's there.
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eowyn_315
Sep. 4th, 2011 07:21 pm (UTC)
For one, i don't link Parker to "sex is bad".

Well, Parker is certainly just an asshole, but Buffy herself links them when she asks if this always happens, you sleep with a guy and he turns evil. It's deliberately meant to echo her experience with Angel.

But then I remember, that we're dealing with contemporary pop culture, and despite all the positive storytelling capabilities Whedon might have - pop culture is a buisiness first, art second. As such, pop culture has to adhere to the laws of economics first, the freedom of art second.

That is true. But this is the Feminist Filter, so I don't think it's inappropriate to critique the anti-feminist message, regardless of the behind-the-scenes forces that may have caused it. Even if it makes sense in context, a heroine who consistently has something bad happen to her as a result of having sex is pretty problematic from a feminist perspective.
(no subject) - norwie2010 - Sep. 4th, 2011 07:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - norwie2010 - Sep. 4th, 2011 08:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
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boot_the_grime
Sep. 6th, 2011 01:26 am (UTC)
I agree that I've always found it funny, because it's so obviously ridiculous - I mean, being devoured by a giant demon-snake is TOTALLY the expected consequence for underage drinking and lying, right? - but I'm not sure if that's the way it's meant to be funny.

The whole devoured by demon-snake (what a subtle phallic imagery, LOL) thing is a pretty obvious metaphor of being raped by older frat boys at a party you went to because you thought it would make you more adult and you hated your parents' rules. So, in that context, "one lie, one drink" makes perfect sense.

And it's not that simple as "she totally had the right to go to the party and her father figure is being paternalistic and sexist", because lying to their parents, going to a frat boy party and having one drink can and does lead to teenage girls getting raped. Of course it would be wrong to blame the victim, but it's not unreasonable to tell someone to take precautions so something like that wouldn't happen.

I'm reminded of Sheila from School Hard - on one hand, I always feel a little uncomfortable because it seems like we have a case of Bad Girl (i.e. sexually promiscuous girl) getting punished. But on the other hand, following a complete stranger somewhere in the night might not be the greatest idea, and he might just turn out to be a serial killer. Not a high probability he will, but there is a risk. So, it's not really an issue of Sheila's sexual 'morality' but of her acting thoughtless and careless.
gabrielleabelle
Sep. 6th, 2011 01:33 am (UTC)
because lying to their parents, going to a frat boy party and having one drink can and does lead to teenage girls getting raped.

Actually, guys raping them leads to teenage girls getting raped. Let's not humor rape culture by imposing restrictions on women's behavior.
boot_the_grime
Sep. 6th, 2011 01:58 am (UTC)
That sounds really nice, but in reality I'm not sure that, if I were a parent, I'd be doing a best job by saying "Yes, you're free and empowered! You should go to every party you feel like going! Take drinks offered by people you don't know! Just do it!" rather than warning about possible dangers beforehand. If that's humoring rape culture, I suspect that most people would much prefer it to actual rape.

Also, saying that "guys raping teenage girls leads to teenage girls getting raped" focuses solely on the perpetrators and means that the victims were always powerless to do anything. I get that you're trying to avoid victim-blaming, but it's exaggerated to the point that victim is made to never have any agency. In the self-defense courses I attend, they talk about ways to try to avoid danger in addition to defending yourself once you're in it. It's not a matter of 'guilt' or 'blame' but simple pragmatic advice.
gabrielleabelle
Sep. 6th, 2011 02:19 am (UTC)
If that's humoring rape culture, I suspect that most people would much prefer it to actual rape.

Parental advice =/= feminist discourse. This is the latter.

Also, saying that "guys raping teenage girls leads to teenage girls getting raped" focuses solely on the perpetrators and means that the victims were always powerless to do anything.

No, it puts the onus on the rapists. Teenage girls are certainly empowered to kick a guy's ass if they have the ability to, and I'm very much in favor of self-defense courses. However, failing that, whatever activities girls may have engaged in beforehand do not "lead to" rape.
gabrielleabelle
Sep. 6th, 2011 02:41 am (UTC)
And before hopping to bed, I feel I should clarify that I'm not arguing the content of your comment. I am solely concerned with the statement, "because lying to their parents, going to a frat boy party and having one drink can and does lead to teenage girls getting raped" which, aside from being logically untrue, is a victim-blaming statement, regardless of disclaimers to the contrary, and as such is not appropriate for a feminist meta post.
shuukuchi
Sep. 6th, 2011 03:33 am (UTC)
(TW for rape, just in case)

The other thing about the "guys raping teenage girls leads to teenage girls getting raped" does that telling people to take precautions doesn't is that it acknowledges that the rapists will go after the easiest targets. If you manage to avoid being raped, it could still happen to some other girl in your place, because removing yourself from the situation doesn't stop rapists from raping, it just stops them from raping you.

Which actually goes along with this episode well, since if Buffy had avoided her one lie and one drink, the sacrifices wouldn't have stopped, it just wouldn't have involved her.
eowyn_315
Sep. 6th, 2011 04:48 am (UTC)
Gabs already covered the most problematic bit, so I'll just add this:

The whole devoured by demon-snake (what a subtle phallic imagery, LOL) thing is a pretty obvious metaphor of being raped by older frat boys at a party you went to

That... actually makes it a whole lot worse. If we strip away the metaphor, Giles' response becomes, "Yes, and you were almost raped. I think the words 'Let that be a lesson to you' are a tad redundant at this juncture." OMFG how callous and horrible is that to say to a person?

Of course it would be wrong to blame the victim, but it's not unreasonable to tell someone to take precautions so something like that wouldn't happen.

Teaching girls to take precautions to avoid this sort of situation may be good parenting advice, but let us note that Giles gave Buffy no advice whatsoever. This isn't an issue of Buffy disregarding Giles' advice and doing something stupid. This is about Giles passing judgment on Buffy's actions after the fact and implicitly blaming her for almost getting eaten - rather than blaming the frat boys who drugged her and fed her to the demon - which, yes, is paternalistic and sexist and victim-blaming.

It's particularly appalling given that Buffy just saved herself and two other people and slayed a demon, without anyone's help. I don't think she needed a lecture on protecting herself. She's fully capable of doing that already.
gabrielleabelle
Sep. 7th, 2011 12:38 am (UTC)
I often think context gets lost in these discussions of "victim-blaming vs personal responsibility". There was a fab article about it in one of my linkspams once, but I'm too sleepy and lazy to dig it up right now.

The basic gist is that, of course, if we're speaking of a hypothetical, future event, it's in everyone's best interest to take precautions for all types of catastrophes. Whether this be assigning a Designated Driver or going out with a group downtown to avoid being out late at night or whatever. That's all fine and good (within reason, which I'll expand on in a bit).

However, when discussing an event in the past tense - something that's already happened, what the hell is the use of bringing up the specter of personal responsibility and/or empowerment except to blame/shame the victim? Because while precautions are lovely, if something does happen, it's because of the sole decision of one (or more) persons - the perpetrators. Admonishing the victim (or almost victim) for his/her actions after the fact only serves to tighten rape culture.

Also, I think it's valuable to look at what gets picked out to criticize in these narratives. There are many things that people do that could make them, statistically, more vulnerable to be raped. Staying at home with a trusted friend, for instance. Most rapes occur at home and are perpetrated by someone known to the victim.

But no, it's never that women are warned away from staying in with a boyfriend or for any other benign activity (well, beforehand, anyway. After a rape occurs, people will go to great lengths to pick out anything they can to blame the victim). Women are chastised for the behaviors that people don't want them engaging in anyway: drinking, going to a party, wearing skanky clothes, etc. The activities that get highlighted to warn women away from rape are used as a form of social control to keep women from partaking in those activities that are seen as unwholesome, unladylike, or immoral (mainly when women do it).

And I've done my sleepy ramble enough. *iz done*
eowyn_315
Sep. 7th, 2011 01:03 am (UTC)
However, when discussing an event in the past tense - something that's already happened, what the hell is the use of bringing up the specter of personal responsibility and/or empowerment except to blame/shame the victim?

That's what I was getting at, yep. :)

The activities that get highlighted to warn women away from rape are used as a form of social control to keep women from partaking in those activities that are seen as unwholesome, unladylike, or immoral (mainly when women do it).

Word. You're kinda smart when you're sleepy.
gabrielleabelle
Sep. 4th, 2011 06:26 pm (UTC)
Oh, I like your thoughts. I look forward to the more when you're done submitting yourself to "the man". :)

Myself, I just woke up, so I'm in a "read and absorb" state of mind right now. :)
norwie2010
Sep. 4th, 2011 09:05 pm (UTC)
Meh, I'm still working (nearing midnight here) - but not full force. Discussion here is way too great for that. :)
angearia
Sep. 5th, 2011 04:13 pm (UTC)
It is unfortunate for Buffy (and Cordelia, and Willow, and...) that her circle of male friends/father/lovers are MPCs, too. Their redeeming quality comes from the fact that they "fight the system", too and their sexism is unconscious (Willow comments on this with her swooning over Angel being all monsterly manly). But, these men don't exploit Buffy for economic gains/reasons.

Don't Giles and Angel exploit Buffy, though, for their own gains? I'm thinking again of how they both withhold knowledge from her while they decide what's the best way to proceed.

(Sidebar: It makes Giles' last gift to Buffy even more meaningful -- he's finally giving her all the knowledge he's withheld.)
norwie2010
Sep. 5th, 2011 08:22 pm (UTC)
Yes, of course they do - but not to gain materialistic/economic gains (and that's what i am referring to above).

The motivation of Angel and Giles is more layered and complicated than purely exploiting Buffy, even if they end up doing that.

Giles first:

He tries to control Buffy for an ideological goal, this goal is to protect mankind and everything and everyone is secondary to that. He believes that to reach his goal a strict hierarchy has to be maintained and Buffy is the unfortunate person caught up in that. He certainly feels superior to Buffy but he himself is also caught up in the rules - which he accepts. I see this more as "middle ages patriarchy" (as opposed to bourgeois patriarchy which we all deal with on a daily basis and which the frat boys tap into). Giles is interested to maintain the social fabric of society, while the frat boys want to maintain the economical fabric of society.

It is further complicated by the facts that Giles subordinates himself to that social fabric, that he really tries to help other people and that he himself puts his own well being and life on the line, too.

That's what i mean by "redeemable qualities": Giles doesn't do this for purely selfish reasons, he believes that this fabric is necessary for the world to ensure it's further existence.

In a way, it is the moral patriarchy, an ideology which believes that the world will come unhinged if women ever gain power and knowledge (and why does this remind me of season 8 as a whole?!).

Angel on the other hand, has even further differentiated motives. He tries to manipulate Buffy because that's his only way of interacting with other people, the only way he is able to express himself in this world. He doesn't know how to interact with human beings in a respectful manner and on equal footing.

So, he exploits Buffy for psychological reasons, because that's the way he works and, i assume, because he feels more worthwhile if Buffy loves him - if The Slayer loves him, then he is not worth nothing, but worth something. And, in his strange way, he loves Buffy, too. Opposed to Giles he doesn't want/accepts Buffy to die in the line of duty, he truly tries to protect her (albeit as much for his own gain than hers).

So, while the villains of this piece have a rather straightforward agenda, Giles and Angel are much more complicated.

Maybe one can compare those two brands of misogyny/patriarchy to familial oppression of women and societal/economical oppression of women.

Tangent: Societal oppression of women is rather easily dealt with: Change the (economical) system! Familial oppression is a long and hard road to travel via education and institution. No revolution will ever change that overnight.

Even more tangential: Our own society tries to overcome familial patriarchy, while necessarily failing at overcoming societal/economic patriarchy.

Of course the dichotomy isn't as clear cut as it seems by what i wrote above: Societal, economical and familial oppression are intertwined and work hand in hand, as seen with Tara's family (who oppress women to maintain a power structure as much as they want to exploit their female members as working slaves).

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