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Guys, this is a really, really interesting episode! I'm so excited to hear what your thoughts on it are. :)

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.


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.

2.19 I Only Have Eyes For You

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 2 counts.

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

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: The ghost of a young boy who killed his lover, his teacher, haunts the school. This forces Buffy to face her own feelings of guilt for Angel losing his soul.

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? No.
If Cordelia were taken out of this episode, would events occur in much the same fashion? Yes.
If Ms. Frank were taken out of this episode, would events occur in much the same fashion? Yes.
If Grace were taken out of this episode, would events occur in much the same fashion? No.
If Drusilla were taken out of this episode, would events occur in much the same fashion? Yes.

  • Decisive Buffy: As usual, Buffy is the first one to catch on that something weird's going on. When Giles is preoccupied with the Jenny explanation, Buffy takes the lead in figuring out what's going on. Willow swiftly joins in to help.

  • Decisive Willow: After the snake attack on the school, Willow decides to scrap the earlier plan of communicating with James' spirit and she comes up with the plan to exorcise him.

  • Decisive Grace: She plays the central role, of course, in being the object of James' guilt. Her choice to forgive James after death is what ends the haunting.

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, and Cordelia)

    1. In Act One, Xander handwaves away Buffy's concerns about the recent events:

    Xander: I don't wanna poo-poo your wiggins, but a domestic dispute, a little case of chalkboard Tourette's?

    The "domestic dispute" that Xander refers to is actually a case of attempted murder (Putting aside the fact that it's a result of the haunting, which the gang isn't quite aware of yet). Yet because it involves a couple, this instance of violence against a woman gets categorized, and trivialized, as a "domestic dispute".

    This type of trivialization is common. Rape is often dismissed as a "miscommunication" between a couple. When one partner rapes the other, it's called a "date rape" (or the more loathsome "gray rape"). Assault against women are "domestic disputes". All these cute terms have the effect of minimalizing and downplaying the seriousness of the crimes. As such, a case wherein a guy pulls a gun on his girlfriend while yelling at her that she's a "bitch", is seen as a simple "domestic dispute".

    2. After Xander gets roughed up by a random locker monster, Willow comments upon seeing him:

    Willow: Xander, what happened? Did Cordelia win another round in the broom closet?

    Our culture implicitly links sex and violence all the time. "Fuck you" and its variations are used to connote a violent insult. Sexual intercourse is "pounding", "hammering", "screwing", etc.

    Willow's joke conflating a make-out session in the broom closet with a physical alternation plays in line with the larger cultural standard for sex as violence as well as the idea of sex being a competitive act with winners and losers. Of course, the secondary joke is that Xander, the male, loses.

    Xander: Your dreams are getting wicked accurate, Buff. You wouldn't happen to see me coming across some big cash? Or possibly knowing the love of a woman? In a full body sense?

    As usual, Xander breaks out the sexual comments, though this time he's not sexualizing Willow or Buffy.

    4. When discussing what James did, Buffy is vehemently against forgiving him:

    Buffy: No, he should be doing sixty years in a prison, breaking rocks and making special friends with Roscoe the Weightlifter.

    She makes a casual reference to prison rape. Prison rape jokes are still considered acceptable humor even though they trivialize and normalize an actual brutal crime. Indeed, sometimes it goes beyond humor into wishes for revenge. Declarations that anybody deserves rape as punishment are disturbing.

    5. In Act Two, Cordelia takes a decidedly anti-feminist stance in regards to the Sadie Hawkins Dance:

    Cordelia: I hope you guys aren't going to the Sadie Hawkins Dance tonight, (sits) 'cause I'm organizing a boycott. Do you realize that the girls have to ask the guys? And pay and everything? I mean, whose genius idea was that?

    Xander: Obviously, some hairy-legged feminist.

    Cordelia: Really! Well, we need to nip this thing in the bud. I mean, otherwise, things are going to get really scary.

    Willow: But it can't ever happen! It always ends the same, which means Buffy just went in there to get shot, Giles.

    Giles: Yes. But the school's deserted. There's no way for James to... to play his part. There's, there's no man inside for him to possess.

    It's interesting how, even knowing that Buffy identifies with James, the Scoobies go on the assumption that Buffy would play Grace's part because of their shared gender. The thought that Buffy could play the man's part never crosses their minds. This points to how rigid our views of gender are.

  • The Rest (Grace, James, Snyder, Ben)

    Ben: So, I was wondering, you know the dance tomorrow night? Are you going?

    Buffy: You mean the Sadie Hawkins thing? The deal where the girls ask the boys?

    Ben: Yeah.

    Ben: And I thought maybe, you know, if you're free, you might ask me.

    Perhaps unsurprisingly, we get a warping of the intent of the Sadie Hawkins dance. Even though girls are supposed to ask the boys to it, a boy - Ben in this instance - ends up asking the girl anyway.

    Men and boys are still assumed to be the ones who need to show the initiative when it comes to dating.

    2. James' oft-repeated phrase: "DON'T WALK AWAY FROM ME, BITCH!" contains a sexist slur.

    3. While chewing Buffy out in his office, Snyder refers to her as "missy", a very diminuative form of address.

IV. Objectification Watch

  1. At the beginning, we get a shot of Buffy on the balcony from Willow's viewpoint.

V. Points to Consider

  1. The episode revolves around the Sadie Hawkins dance. What's to be made of the gender dynamics involved in this tradition? And how does it tie into the episode, as a whole?

  2. What's to be made of the partner violence in this episode?

    The theme is of forgiveness, and the final revelation that the gun went off accidentally seems intended to absolve James of some of his guilt. After all, Grace – or her spirit, at least – forgives him.

    But this boy purposely took a gun to a confrontation with his lover, yelled at her when she wanted to end the relationship, and pulled the gun on her. This is all violence. What are we supposed to think with the sympathetic message towards James?

    Buffy: But-but I killed you.

    Angelus: It was an accident. It wasn't your fault.

    Buffy: Oh, it *is* my fault. How could I...

    Angelus: Shhh. I'm the one who should be sorry, James. You thought I stopped loving you. But I never did. I loved you with my last breath.

    It's not only sympathetic, we get the victim of the violence – Grace – apologizing to her murderer for trying to leave him.

    Murder-suicides are a particularly gendered crime, often carried out by men against their intimate partners. How do we reconcile this with the parallel to a relationship between a young girl and her older boyfriend wherein having sex with him essentially "kills" him? Is there an adequate parallel? Does the episode problematize this?

  3. And what about the parallels to the Buffy/Angel sex?

    In the James/Grace scenario, we do have a teacher having a relationship with her student. We're not given James' age, but the power dynamics between a high school teacher and a student make the affair questionable. How does the episode present James insofar as he's the partner with less power?

    We've discussed before (in Teacher's Pet) about how underage boys having sex with older women are seen as being exceedingly lucky because they're being ushered into manhood early. In contrast, underage girls who have sex with older men are seen as having something taken away from them (innocence). Does this episode provide any contrasting comentary on this point between James and Buffy?

This entry was originally posted at http://gabrielleabelle.dreamwidth.org/362898.html. There are comment count unavailable comments on the DW side. Comments are welcome on either side. Due to massive SPAM issues on LJ, anon comments are only on the DW side.


( 50 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 16th, 2012 05:09 am (UTC)
I think some of my problems in this episode stem with how forgiveness is portrayed...and just forgiveness in general.

In our society, and as this episode portrays it, we see forgiveness as a one time act that someone does. Yet people who study forgiveness have found that it isn't a one time deal, it's a long process of the hurt person learning to trust the partner who did the hurting, and the partner who did the hurting doing stuff to regain the hurt partner's trust.

Yet we have it stuck in our brains that forgiveness=instant act. It absolves the person who hurt others of the crimes, and the hurt person is just supposed to get over it. Which they can't, and it causes guilt that they can't.

In this case, you have the hitch that James and Grace are dead. Part of the real forgiveness process is the person who did the hurting doing things to regain trust. You can't do that if you're dead.

The problem with instant forgiveness, is it puts all of the responsibility on the person who was hurt to forgive, and absolves the person who hurt of responsibility. So in this case, James was absolved without doing anything to prove he was worthy of being forgiven. And even though Grace lost her life as a result of her actions, it was somehow her duty and portrayed as a good thing that she did.

With the forgiveness as a process model, James would have actually had to show he was willing to make changes...rather than just wallow in anguish.

In this case, you also have the parallels with Buffy learning to forgive herself. She took on responsibility for what happened to Angel (though I think of the two, he carried more blame). And I think that what is disturbing as the show progresses is you never get the give and take with Angel doing things to earn forgiveness and Buffy learning to trust again (or may be it's there and I just zoned out). It gets brushed away as an accident and, "oh, it's ok now, he has a soul." (And interestingly, the Buffy\Spike relationship in S7 actually did a better job of showing this give and take, so...not sure what they're trying to say with the message on forgiveness).

Edited at 2012-02-16 06:09 am (UTC)
Feb. 16th, 2012 09:16 am (UTC)
I quote everything above. The parallels between the dead couple and Bangel are actually appropriate because, in my eyes, bangel is very idealized.
In Buffy/Angel relationship there's a huge gap between fantasy and reality and all the issues are resolved with a great "IZ TRUE LOVE".
The thing that really works is Giles' line about forgiveness: I believe that it's really a human need, not only about justice, but also about closure and peace.
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Feb. 16th, 2012 11:29 am (UTC)
Not as such a feminist post but...
First of all, thanks for starting these BtVS discussions. Much more "meat" on than for example mark watches.

When I read through yours post, thought came to my mind another character named Grace and its theme is also about forgiveness, from the film Dogville. Where a woman on the run from gangsters hides in a little village. The community grants her asylum, she as thank, tries to make their lives a better place, but as the community feels that they have all the power, and she need them to stay alive. Their missuses of their power over her becomes horrific.

Spoilers for the ending.

The Village in the end, sells her out to the gangster, which they were likely to think, that the gangsters would kill her.
A discussion of forgivingness and arrogances
Grace fall, an deeply ambivalent ending( warning strong violent images

Feb. 16th, 2012 02:23 pm (UTC)
Re: Not as such a feminist post but...

Thanks for the links. I just woke up so I'll give them a look-see later. I think I'd heard of the film before.

I would like to keep the comments here gender-related, though, so a note for the future. :)
Feb. 16th, 2012 02:27 pm (UTC)
*spoilers for the season finale*

It just hit me that the dialogue you quote in your second Point to Consider foreshadows Buffy killing Angel in Season 2 and her resulting guilt in Season 3. This makes me wonder who's really supposed to be forgiving whom, and whether that forgiveness is ever really achieved. Does Angel ending the relationship mean he's forgiven Buffy for killing him? Does Buffy ever really forgive Angel for what he did without his soul, or for putting her in the position to help him lose it?
Feb. 16th, 2012 06:27 pm (UTC)
Interesting questions. Huh. I would like to keep the comments focused on the gender issues, though. :)
Feb. 16th, 2012 03:01 pm (UTC)
It's interesting how, even knowing that Buffy identifies with James, the Scoobies go on the assumption that Buffy would play Grace's part because of their shared gender. The thought that Buffy could play the man's part never crosses their minds. This points to how rigid our views of gender are.

Yes! I once wrote about this episode, and I kept mixing up who the possession dialogue belonged to. It's one of the rare times I feel like commenting on the acting, too -- SMG's portrayal of James, along with Willow's portrayal of Warren in S7, are really memorable to me for their gender-bendy emotional coherence.
Feb. 16th, 2012 06:29 pm (UTC)
It's especially so interesting that it's considered a 'twist' to have a woman act out a male spirit (and vice versa).
Feb. 16th, 2012 03:03 pm (UTC)
re #1 under "The Rest", I kind of liked that. I can see it the way you do, but I also see it as "hey, for this thing it is usually b asks a, but this is so outdated that I'm not going to bother with that formula." As a girl who has asked out guys/initiated most of my relationships, I found this to be just a cute and charming way to break the ice.
Feb. 16th, 2012 06:30 pm (UTC)
Oh, those points aren't really value judgments. The feminist filter post don't indicate my likes and dislikes with any particular episode. It's all analytical. :)
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Feb. 16th, 2012 04:03 pm (UTC)

1. Sadie Hawkins dance: I think it's there to remind us of the highly gendered 50s culture, and how some things haven't changed as much as we think. It's also a setup for the sex reversal in the climax.

2-3. Partner violence, forgiveness, Angel parallels, etc.: I go back and forth on this one, a bit. On the one hand, Grace is such a stereotypically feminine wet noodle, with her "oh, James, I never stopped loving you" prattle. I would be pretty angry if somebody pointed a gun at me, never mind the gendered insult.

But, her behavior is also not Scooby-typical. The Buffy gang forgives each other for some pretty extreme stuff (sorry for trying to kill you all... sorry for trying to end the world...) but they're not so noodly about it. So, in part, are we seeing behavior differences resulting from a change in gendered behavior norms? Grace takes a weak emotional position because of her social and historical context, and part of the point here is the contrast with the modern-day female characters?

Also... she's the adult in the relationship. She's the one who should have known better right from the start, and chose not to. This is the strongest parallel with Angel. Angel lived with the curse for a hundred years. There's no way Buffy could have known what would happen, but Angel -- if he displayed more curiosity and less wallow, he might have researched the magic and known their romance was dangerous.

Also, Grace's apology could be seen as less "sorry for trying to leave you," but more, "sorry for lying to you."

(There could also be an aspect of "you know, we've been trapped as ghosts for forty years now, I have a sense for how to end this thing and I'm going to do it." But that might be too extra-textual.)

Feb. 16th, 2012 06:34 pm (UTC)
Yeah, it's hard to balance the violence of James's with the age disparity in the relationship and all. Obviously, Grace was in the wrong there, but that doesn't merit her death. The fact that the reenacted scene strongly resembles an abusive relationship just makes it more complicated.

I like the extra-textual explanation, though. :)
Feb. 16th, 2012 09:59 pm (UTC)
I think it's perfectly in character for Buffy to relate to James the way that she does, but it is problematic from a feminist perspective. Buffy is not in any way responsible for Angel losing his soul. She is responsible for the fact that she is going to kill him, but she has to kill him in order to protect people.

It seems like having impulsive sex is being equated to threatening someone with a gun, and I don't like the comparison. They are arguably both reckless things to do, but one of them has a victim, and one doesn't. You end up with the implication that Buffy is more to blame than Angel for what happened, and that Grace is partially to blame for what happened to her.
Feb. 16th, 2012 11:18 pm (UTC)
Returning in the feminist debate: I believe that, in this case, no matter how Buffy's objectively not guilty, she still feels like that and she can't wipe away the feeling of being used like James. In this works the comparison between the characters: they both have sex and be rejected by their partners. And, yes, I strongly believe that James is a murderer, while Buffy is a real victim, but they both feels kinda in the same way. In the end, James can't change his behaviour because is dead.
Also, I find interesting Angelus' reaction post-big romantic drama.
Angelus is a very aggressive male and I think that, deeply, he hates women or, at least, have issues about them (I don't buy the explanation "was only about art" in "Billy") What really capture my attention is his disguisted reaction towards Buffy's affection at the point that he washes himself and he thinks that the feelings for her makes him weak.
There's a possible connection: Buffy (and women in general) represent for him empathy and all the emotional stuff he can't deal with, because is a sociopath.
So he become aggressive and kills all the feelings (and kills also the women)
Don't know if any of this makes sense, it's late and I'm tired.
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Feb. 16th, 2012 10:30 pm (UTC)
As such, a case wherein a guy pulls a gun on his girlfriend while yelling at her that she's a "bitch", is seen as a simple "domestic dispute".

Ugh, so gross.

Prison rape jokes are still considered acceptable humor even though they trivialize and normalize an actual brutal crime. Indeed, sometimes it goes beyond humor into wishes for revenge. Declarations that anybody deserves rape as punishment are disturbing.


1. Might be connected to the gender reversal of Buffy's identification thing? She identifies with the male abuser, not the female victim. IDK how the two things add up so much, but that's what caught me.

2. JESUS. I think you just pinned down here why I've never managed to care about this episode. The analogies drawn re: the two situations are just… NO.

3. Well, both Buffy and James certainly did have less power in their respective doomed relationships. It seems like the episode is equating James's loss of emotional power (being ~abandoned by his lover) as impotence? Like, pulling out the gun - an attempt to make up for lost manhood? (He was ~ushered into manhood early and then he lost that manhood.) I have no idea how this is supposed to contrast with Buffy's situation though. Maybe it's just that both characters suffer from the shame of "losing" something (in a sexual dignity sense). IDEK.
Feb. 17th, 2012 12:01 am (UTC)
3. Hmmmm...interesting. Will have to ponder. :)
Feb. 17th, 2012 03:53 am (UTC)
This is all violence. What are we supposed to think with the sympathetic message towards James?

That his feelings are the only ones that matter, because he's the man? That if he got violent and homocidal, it's only because she made him that way by rejecting him and so she MUST forgive him her murder (it would be murder 1st, I think, because he brought the weapon with him and not an 'accident') in order to give him the peace he so needs? Never mind that she was ALSO trapped in that cycle of hate (vague Xena reference) along with him for forty odd years?

I think Buffy taking on James' spirit was a brilliant subversion of the audience's assumptions and the preceding 'couples' who acted out the spirits' drama, but I also think the rest of the message contained in the forgiveness scene was typical for gender roles - the man gets hurts and lashes out, and the woman is the one who must forgive and apologize. At least when you look at Grace and James.
Feb. 17th, 2012 03:29 pm (UTC)

The Grace/James part of it is really skeevy when you step back. As you say, it works well for Buffy's story and the guilt she's feeling. Taking the saga of Grace & James as it's own thing, though, it is a textbook case of violence against women (and the requisite necessary forgiveness).
Feb. 17th, 2012 05:16 am (UTC)
The "domestic dispute" that Xander refers to is actually a case of attempted murder (Putting aside the fact that it's a result of the haunting, which the gang isn't quite aware of yet). Yet because it involves a couple, this instance of violence against a woman gets categorized, and trivialized, as a "domestic dispute".

Really well-put. I think the way it's part of the haunting is vividly true to life, even - the number of violent criminals who're cut loose as long as they're violent to female family members, and then go on to broaden the scope to the general population is one of the few dramatic conveniences even SVU under-represents.

She makes a casual reference to prison rape. Prison rape jokes are still considered acceptable humor even though they trivialize and normalize an actual brutal crime. Indeed, sometimes it goes beyond humor into wishes for revenge. Declarations that anybody deserves rape as punishment are disturbing.

This line bothers me so much.

2. I wish I could remember where, but I've read a few excellent posts and articles about community pressure of VAW victims to "forgive" their attackers - how it gets treated not as something that is part of the private healing process for some victims, but something they are expected to do publicly for everyone else's comfort. And it is really easy to cloak in gender expectations (put everyone else's emotional needs first) and condescension (WE know what YOU need to do to heal). As much as I enjoy this episode for a lot of reasons, the forgiveness talk is pretty disturbing on that level.
Feb. 17th, 2012 03:31 pm (UTC)
2. I recall reading through a number of such articles. Did you follow along with the Hugo Schwyzer mess in the feminist blogosphere? That brought along with it a lot of good material about community pressure to forgive (and forget) transgressions.
Feb. 18th, 2012 01:08 am (UTC)
One of my favorite episodes.

I love the gender flip and it makes sense because it's not about what Buffy is guilty/responsible for, rationally and objectively speaking. All that matters is how she feels about it deep inside. And there are things that make her relate to James and vice versa that go beyond "feeling you've destroyed the person you love the most".

I think that it's impossible to really analyze this episode while just focusing on gender, while ignoring the elephant in the room, the ages of the participants. There's a lot of complex stuff going on there, related to gender, age, and power dynamics. It's not just a story about a man killing a woman he used to be involved with - if they wanted that story, they could have had an adult man committing a crime of passion. But it is, obviously on purpose, a story about a teenage boy killing his teacher who he used to be been involved with. There's the aspect that the story explicitly acknowledges: James/Grace and Buffy/Angel were both 'forbidden', transgressive relationships that were inappropriate in the eyes of the world, between a teenager and a much older person, in the former case she was his teacher, and in the latter, a vampire. But there's also something that the characters on the show ignore, and that's the fact it’s not just the society in the 1950s that would have had a problem with their relationship; nowadays a teacher like Grace would also lose her job at best, if not, depending on what James’s age was, go to prison for statutory rape. Buffy never thinks in those terms, and how could she, when she also doesn’t see herself as a kid and doesn’t think that Angel did anything wrong by being in a relationship with her (the one time she called him a cradle-snatcher, it was a joke). Giles and the other Scoobies don’t see the James/Grace relationship in these terms, but neither did they see the Buffy/Angel relationship like that; the only one who had a problem with it because of the age difference was Joyce (who, ironically, had no idea just how big that age difference is).

One aspect in which the power dynamic of James/Grace is different from Buffy/Angel is that Angel has no authority over Buffy; on the contrary, she has authority over him, as a Slayer. James/Grace is in that aspect more unbalanced and would more closely parallel Giles getting involved with Buffy (if Giles was Wesley's age - since the age difference between James and Grace is not as big as between Buffy and Giles).

Most people don't react too negatively to B/A because it doesn't seem like a typical May/December romance: Angel both looks and acts like a perpetual 20-something, while Buffy is a strong young woman with a lot of responsibility on her shoulders. (She's the one with the job and with friends and family; he has none of that and his life is revolving around her.) But on the other hand, the age difference between Angel and Buffy was still emphasized lots of times, especially the times when he would assume the role of a „wise experienced older men“ and patronize Buffy (Reptile Boy, Lie to Me, The Prom). In that context, it’s fitting that the last words James says to Grace before he shoots her – and that Buffy gets to replay – were „Don’t do that! Don’t talk to me like I’m some stupid...“ The missing word was obviously „kid“. James/Grace really feels like a stronger parallel with Buffy/souled Angel than with his soulless behavior - the scene they are replaying has lots of foreshadowing for The Prom. "I just want you to have some normal life" etc. And Angel never sounded more condescending to Buffy than in The Prom, doing the classic "you're understand it when you grow up" thing that adults do in conversations with children and adolescents and that feels so infuriating when you're the one being condescended. Buffy may still have been a teenager lacking the adult perspective, but if Angel saw her as a teenager not emotionally mature enough, he shouldn't have gotten involved with her in the first place.

Feb. 18th, 2012 01:16 am (UTC)
The thing about teenagers - at least from my experience of being one - is that they may be incredibly intellectually mature, but they have volatile, intense emotions, a lot of insecurity about oneself, an uncompromising attitude and lots of illusions that haven't been shattered yet; everything is the end of the world, and when you fall in love, you think love is forever and should overcome every obstacle, nothing else matters more than love. The song "I Only Have Eyes For You" is about a powerful romantic obsession that makes one blind to reality, and that's what it often is like for an adolescent who falls in love for the first time. Grace and Angel were older and more mature people who were aware that their relationship with a teenager was inappropriate, and they should have known better, but they were still weak and couldn't help it. And then they have regrets and decide to end the relationship because it's wrong and it's bad for James/Buffy. But that is really hard on James/Buffy (Buffy was far more responsible and stable and better person than James and dealt with it better). Grace lied to James that she didn't love him because she didn't know how else to convince him it was the end - since James couldn't understand why society's view of their relationship would matter more than their love for each other. That's where the age discrepancy and emotional maturity comes into play. The violence was an expression of powerlessness/impotence as someone said upthread, but not just impotence and rage of a man at a woman he can't understand, but also impotence and rage of an adolescent at the adult world he can't understand.

When it comes to gender in this episode, I think that all those blatantly traditionally gendered moments are there mostly to be subverted. The Sadie Hawkins dance is a traditional event that's about gender reversal, which foreshadows the twist. But everyone is following the gender preconceptions - the boy tries to invite Buffy to the dance by asking her to invite him, missing the whole point of the event; Cordelia and Xander are there to say the wrong things - Cordelia is still a spokesperson for anti-feminist views, shocked that there is an event where women have to ask men out and pay for everything), and Xander goes along saying that the event must have been invented by some „hairy-legged feminist“, which is ironic since the origin of the Sadie Hawkins dance has nothing to do with feminism. It’s poking fun at the stereotypes, while being a reminder that, while the show and its creator may be feminist, many of the main characters aren’t, especially at this point. The replayed scenes seem so gendered that the Scoobies make assumptions that James must possess a man and that he can't possess a woman.

And the slur "bitch" is most gloriously subverted when we get to see SMG as Buffy-playing-James yelling "(Don't walk away from me,) BITCH!" to David as Angel-playing-Grace.

Edited at 2012-02-18 01:16 am (UTC)
Re: cont. - gabrielleabelle - Feb. 20th, 2012 02:14 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - local_max - Feb. 18th, 2012 06:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - boot_the_grime - Feb. 18th, 2012 06:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - local_max - Feb. 18th, 2012 06:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 18th, 2012 06:48 am (UTC)
Thursday & Friday, February 16th & 17th
User audela referenced to your post from Thursday & Friday, February 16th & 17th saying: [...] looks at "I Only Have Eyes For You" [...]
Feb. 18th, 2012 06:12 pm (UTC)
The episode is also very much about power relationships generally. As has been pointed out by others, there is a power differential in most of the couples at play: the teacher and the janitor, for example, is a case in which the teacher, playing the Grace role, has authority over the janitor, playing the James role. Obviously, there are huge age issues as well. Giles ignores the Scoobies' suggestions that it's probably not Jenny in a condescending, I'm-the-adult-I-know-best way, and Spike is like a child complaining about his parents moving (as well as being a dependent on Angel and Dru, being in a wheelchair).

Willow taking care of Giles emotionally is sweet but also plays into a certain gendered idea -- the (female) child is responsible for caring emotionally for the (male) adult, who fails her most of the episode until he does save her at the end (phew).

So, I agree that it is a harsh message to send that victims should forgive their abusers (or killers!), but I think that Giles' speech, and the gang's surprise at Buffy's attitude, is in particular reaction to the tone with which Buffy takes. The idea that James should be prison-raped rather than dead is especially disturbing when you consider that James is whom Buffy identifies: I think Buffy even *does* think that she deserves to be punished in a violent/sexual manner, which is obviously really terrible and sad and tragic. Giles thinks it's worrying that Buffy doesn't think James should ever be forgiven because the idea of suffering for eternity, *past* death, from guilt, is something I sympathize with Giles on, and I don't think Giles is specifically saying that Grace should forgive James.
Feb. 20th, 2012 02:16 am (UTC)
Good point about the power dynamics, in general. :)

and I don't think Giles is specifically saying that Grace should forgive James.

Well, no, but it does have unfortunate implications when they use an instance of partner violence and murder as an example in this case.
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