I'm celebrating by having a beer and slapping up the feminist filter post for Dead Man's Party. What? My way of celebrating is UNIQUE!
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.
3.02 Dead Man's Party
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.
- Bechdel Check: PASS on 14 counts
Dead boys: 3
Dead girls: 1
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: As Buffy adjusts to being home, a mask in Joyce's bedroom starts to raise the dead.
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 Pat were taken out of this episode, would events occur in much the same fashion? Yes
- Decisive Buffy: Buffy is the central figure of conflict in this episode, as things largely revolve around how the other characters react to her. The zombie plotline is almost an afterthought.
- Decisive Joyce: Joyce plays a large role in the primary plot in instigating the fight at the party when she discovers Buffy packing again. She also brings the Nigerian mask home and hangs it up, releasing the zombies.
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, Oz, and Joyce)
1. In the second act, Joyce is looking at private schools for Buffy. Buffy's response:
Buffy: A girls' school? (goes to the island to read the slip of paper) So now it's jackets, kilts, and no boys? (looks back at her mom) Care to throw in a little foot-binding?
It's interesting that Buffy compares attending a girls' school to foot-binding, a misogynistic Chinese tradition. Buffy's no doubt referencing the restrictiveness of the environment, but the analogy doesn't work very well.
2. As the Scooby gang sans Buffy are discussing the upcoming hootenanny, Xander comments: "And what'll we talk about at a gathering anyway? 'So, Buffy, did you meet any nice pimps on your travels?'"
A reference to Buffy possibly being a prostitute while away.
3. During the big confrontation at the party, Xander says:
Xander: Look. I'm sorry that your honey was a demon, but most girls don't hop a Greyhound over boy troubles.
There's a bunch of condescension in this statement. He refers to Angel as Buffy's "honey" and then calls what happened in S2 "boy troubles". It's a strange way to describe a vampire losing his soul and killing people while emotionally torturing Buffy and trying to end the world. See more in Points to Consider.
Cordelia does speak up against Xander:
Cordelia: Time out, Xander. Put yourself in Buffy's shoes for just a minute. Okay? I'm Buffy, freak of nature, right? Naturally I pick a freak for a boyfriend, and then he turns into Mr. Killing Spree, which is pretty much my fault--
In doing so, though, she explicitly lays the blame for Angelus on Buffy. This goes back to discussions had in S2 as to whether Buffy is blamed for the act of having sex.
4. In the final scene between Willow and Buffy, the two have a playful insult fight with each other. Included are a couple of gendered insults: "Harpy", "Tramp", and "Witch".
- The Rest (Pat, Snyder)
1. In Act One, Joyce argues with Principal Snyder about Buffy's continued expulsion.
Joyce: (with controlled anger in her voice) I don't see how you can be so cavalier about a young girl's entire future!
Snyder: I'm quite sure that a girl with the talents and abilities of Buffy will land on her feet. In fact, (leans toward Buffy) I noticed as I came in this morning that Hot Dog on a Stick is hiring. (Buffy gives him an angry stare) You will look so cute in that hat.
His final sentence comments on Buffy's physical attractiveness, a highly valued trait for girls. What's more it's being used to patronize Buffy.
IV. Objectification Watch
- We are treated to a couple shots of Oz playing guitar while Willow and Buffy watch.
V. Points to Consider
Cordelia: (to Xander) Except you were kinda turning me on with that whole Boy Slayer look.
Xander: Was I now?
The Slayer is a gendered concept in the Buffyverse. Cordelia expresses her attraction to the "Boy Slayer" look. Earlier in the episode, Cordelia mentions that the outfits for slaying suck: "This whole Rambo thing is so over."
- The plot of the episode revolves around a Nigerian mask that Joyce got from her gallery. Joyce refers to it as "primitive art". African art is often used to convey a savage evil, in this case, zombies. While we later learn that it is an ancient artifact, it's notable that it falls into a particularly racist trope with regards to anything from the African continent.
- From Xander's comment referring to what Buffy went through in S2 as "boy troubles", what exactly is happening with the trivialization of Buffy's duty? What happened with Angel is as much about being a Slayer as it is about her dating life. Yet Xander dismisses it all as if it were nothing more than Angel not calling her after sex.
This entry was originally posted at http://gabrielleabelle.dreamwidth.org/372134.html. There are 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.