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The Feminist Filter: Ted

will57
I wanted to post this on Weds or Thurs, but LJ was going wonky. Now it's not. So here! :)

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.



2.11 Ted

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 4 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: Ted is a homicidal robot who has set his eyes on Joyce as his new wife.

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? Yes.
If Joyce 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


  • Decisive Buffy: Buffy, as usual, takes the lead in this episode. She takes it upon herself to investigate Ted from the start.

  • Decisive Joyce: Joyce's main decision is dating Ted, though this ends up putting her in a Stepford Wife state as she's drugged by him. Not very much with the agency.



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, Joyce, Jenny, and Angel)

    1. In the teaser, Willow comments to Buffy in regards to taking care of Angel: “And you're loving playing nursemaid?”

    At Buffy's affirmative response, Xander adds his own two cents: “So, is it better than playing naughty stewardess?”

    Xander has a habit of getting bits of throwaway dialogue that sexualizes Buffy. This is one such example.

    2. During the miniature golf outing, Joyce comments: "You know how rare it is to find a man that cooks?"

    This is in reference to gender stereotypes wherein women tend to be responsible for cooking. Ted is, oddly enough, atypical in that respect.


  • Antagonists (Ted)

    1. While playing miniature golf, Ted says to Buffy: "So, Buffy, I bet the boys are lined up around the block tryin' to get a date with you."

    This is commonly used as a compliment for women and girls. In specific, it's highlighting the high value that is placed on dateability for girls. In saying as such, Ted is basically telling Buffy that she's attractive to guys.

    2. Ted often refers to Buffy as "little lady", which carries a condescending connotation.

    3. When Ted reads Buffy's diary, he threatens to tell her mother about her “delusions”:

    Ted: So, from now on, you'll do what I say, when I say, or I show this (holds up her diary) to your mother, and you'll spend your best dating years behind the wall of a mental institution.


    It's interesting that he specifies “best dating years”, as if that would be the most important thing for Buffy. It rings as a gendered assumption, especially given the time period Ted comes from.

    4. When Ted returns in the final act and goes to Joyce, he tells her she doesn't have to worry about anything.

    Ted: Daddy's here.


    Besides being rather creepy, referring to himself as “daddy” reveals the patriarchal mindset that Ted is programmed with. As such, his controlling and abusive behavior can be seen in light of the traditional gender roles that place men as the king of the household.

    Later, when Ted is starting to blow his circuits, he asks Joyce, “Don't I always tell you what to do?” and then later: “I think you might wanna stop telling me what to do! I don't take orders from women! I'm not wired that way!”

    See more in the Points to Consider section.




IV. Objectification Watch


  1. Midway through the episode, Buffy's wearing a rather low-cut top, and the camera doesn't shy away from displaying her cleavage.



V. Points to Consider


  1. Ted is a robot from the 50s, a period with notably distinct gender roles. What can we take away from Ted's behavior in light of this context? As noted in the Feminist Fine-Toothed Comb, Ted comes from a time when family dynamics revolved around a patriarchal assumption, literally a “rule of the fathers”.

    This puts a gendered light on the fact that Ted, a throwback to traditional gender ideology, is a salesman (a guy who doesn't quit) who repeatedly murders women in trying to establish the family ideal. He does so, specifically, because the human Ted was dying of illness and his wife dumped him. In creating the robot Ted, human Ted continues to terrorize his wife – and other women – beyond his death.

    He's controlling, not just with Buffy but with Joyce, and he doesn't brook any challenge to his authority – the reason he doesn't get along with Buffy.

    There's an appropriateness to the fact that Buffy, the girl who challenges traditional gender roles, is the one who immediately senses something off with Ted. Also appropriate is Buffy vanquishing Ted with a cast-iron skillet, at once his own tool of control and the symbolic representation of the woman's domestic role.

    While Buffy beats Ted, she declares: “This house is mine!”

    This statement challenges the patriarchal assumption in granting ownership of the house to the young girl, not the father figure.

  2. What about the family dynamics going on here from a more contemporary viewpoint? The single mother finding a new boyfriend and the unhappy teenage girl. Add onto this Ted's drugging of Joyce – as well as Buffy's friends. What type of commentary can we take away from this?

  3. At one point, we have Joyce noting:

    Buffy: You love him?

    Joyce: (puts down the juice carton) I-I don't know. (exhales) That just
    slipped out. (takes the juice back to the fridge) But I guess, I mean,
    it's not exactly like men beat down the door when you're a single...

    Buffy: When you're a single parent.


    Joyce is commenting on the difficulty of an older woman – specifically an older woman with a kid – in finding a partner. This limited range of options appears to exacerbate the abuse by Ted in which he drugs her into submission. Is this episode giving us some social commentary in that respect?




Comments

norwie2010
Nov. 13th, 2011 01:15 am (UTC)
Ted is a robot from the 50s, a period with notably distinct gender roles. What can we take away from Ted's behavior in light of this context? As noted in the Feminist Fine-Toothed Comb, Ted comes from a time when family dynamics revolved around a patriarchal assumption, literally a “rule of the fathers”.

Ted "from the fifties" is very successful economically, as well as socially (so to speak) in the nineties. In fact, people admire and love him (or are jealous of him): his work colleagues, Joyce, the Scoobies, etcpp.

I think that says a lot about how not very different our times are from the fifties on the gender front. I think the whole "from the fifties" metaphor is a cover, it makes it easier to tell this story and brings some "creep" factor in as well for good fun. At the end of the day, the ideology Ted represents is very much alive now. (Otherwise Buffy wouldn't challenge it day in, day out.)

I think that's clever, because it let's the audience say "haha, we're so much better today!" but then you turn around and think "why did Ted fit so well into today?".
gabrielleabelle
Nov. 13th, 2011 01:22 am (UTC)
Fantastic point, yes!

I think there's an added subversion in that Joyce and the Scoobies loved Ted specifically because he drugged them. The drugs, in this case, being symbolic of cultural misogyny.
doublemeat
Nov. 13th, 2011 07:40 am (UTC)
The drugs also emphasize that Ted is wholly fake. The Ted of this episode, having been constructed by long-dead and unseen human Ted, is pure artifice. As a robot, he doesn't even have agency of his own; all he does is carry out programmed instructions corresponding to desires he can never understand or fulfill, and manipulate others to do the same by removing their agency. That's a pretty obvious metaphor for the constraints imposed by socially inherited ideas (specifically patriarchal culture).
gabrielleabelle
Nov. 13th, 2011 03:23 pm (UTC)
Very good point. *nods*
beer_good_foamy
Nov. 13th, 2011 09:07 am (UTC)
I love this point.

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will57
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The One Who Isn't Chosen

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