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The Feminist Filter: Season Two

I wanted to post this last week, but the whole "studying for the GRE" thing got in the way. So let's post it now!

This is an overview of S2 for the Feminist Filter. There's some final numbers, some big-picture stuff, and a recap of some of the interesting discussions that were had through the season.

We'll start S3 approximately whenever-I-post-it. :)

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.

Season Two Wrap-Up

I. Season 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: All episodes passed the test with an average of 5.6 counts per episode (that is, 5.6 conversations that pass the Bechdel Test).

  2. Season Deaths:
    Dead Boys: 23
    Dead Girls: 16

II. Women of Color

This season, we have two recurring characters – Jenny Calendar and Kendra – who are of color. Jenny is Roma while Kendra is black. Both are dead by the end of the season.

We additionally get one episode that features a woman of color, Inca Mummy Girl. The mummy is Latina, specifically Incan. She dies by the end of the episode.

We also get a fairly substantial guest role for a black woman in Killed By Death. Buffy's doctor is black.

Finally, there are three other women of color throughout the season. In School Hard, the girl that Buffy rescues behind the Bronze is black. One of the Cordettes in Inca Mummy Girl (seen only in the teaser) is Asian. And the detective who questions Giles in The Dark Age is black.

So that totals seven women of color, three of whom die (notably, two of which are major characters).

III. Bodily Violations

  • Some Assembly Required presents girls being mutilated after their death to serve the whims of teen boys. Cordelia is also threatened with mutilation.

  • Inca Mummy Girl features a girl whose body deforms and deteriorates unless she steals the life force of other people.

  • The Dark Age involves Jenny being possessed and her body transformed. Buffy is also forcibly tattooed.

  • Bad Eggs features the Bezoar physically attaching itself to a person's nervous system. All characters except Buffy and Xander after affected.

  • Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered shows Amy turning Buffy into a rat.

  • Go Fish features four boys who are transformed into fish monsters.

IV. 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.

While Buffy continues to show the most agency in this season, we also get other female characters showing some independent agency finally. Joyce's rescue of Buffy in School Hard as well as Willow's decision to do the souling spell in Becoming 2 are examples of this.

Also, we get a couple episodes where Buffy is uncharacteristically passive, most notably in What's My Line? Pt 1

V. Discussions

Criteria: Highlighting certain comments or comment threads that were enlightening/interesting to me.

VI. Objectification Watch

A good deal of the time, the male gaze is utilized intentionally as a critique, as in Some Assembly Required and Passion. While there is some minor female nudity in Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered, most of the nudity focuses on the male characters (Angel, Oz, and Xander).

VII. Points to Consider

  1. How have the roles of the male characters progressed through the season? Xander's character, especially, provides an interesting vehicle through which to explore masculinity.

  2. What about the female characters (besides Buffy)? Willow and Cordelia both develop through the season. Is Willow becoming more empowered and autonomous? And is Cordelia breaking away from her role as the gender enforcer?

  3. While S1 situated Buffy as a hero, this season drags her through a great deal of doubt and anguish. How has the show handled this female hero? What about the use of sex as a plot point? Does this show critique or subvert this in any way?

  4. What about the deaths of the two main women of color? What purpose did they serve?

This entry was originally posted at http://gabrielleabelle.dreamwidth.org/370183.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.


Apr. 20th, 2012 07:28 pm (UTC)
Thinky thoughts good. :)
Apr. 20th, 2012 08:51 pm (UTC)


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