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.
3.03 Faith, Hope, and Trick
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 9 counts
Dead boys: 3
Dead girls: 0
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: Faith, a new Slayer, arrives in town. Kakistos, a big bad vampire, trails her. In the meantime, Buffy decides to date again.
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? Yes.
If Faith were taken out of this episode, would events occur in much the same fashion? No
- Decisive Buffy: Buffy's main contribution to the external plot is in helping Faith face her fears. Her primary purpose, however, is in the secondary plot wherein she gets over her fears and decides to date Scott Hope.
- Decisive Faith: Faith's first decision was coming to Sunnydale after her Watcher's death. This brings Kakistos along after her and jump-starts the entire plot.
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, Joyce, and Faith)
1. Willow has an awkward moment in the teaser when talking about Scott Hope:
Willow: (notices a boy) Ooo, Scott Hope at eleven o'clock. (Buffy looks) (to Buffy) He likes you. He wanted to ask you out last year, but you weren't ready then. But I think you're ready now, or at least in the state of pre-readiness to make conversation, or-or to do that thing with your mouth that boys like.
Buffy snaps her head around at Willow and gives her a shocked look.
Willow: (realizes her slip-up) Oh! I didn't mean the *bad* thing with your mouth, I meant that little half-smile thing that you... (glares at Oz) You're supposed to stop me when I do that.
Obviously, Willow flubs what she's saying so as to make it sound like she's referring to a blowjob. Interestingly enough, she tries to clarify by noting that she didn't mean the "bad" thing with the mouth. Blowjobs, sexuality in general, are being ascribed a negative status.
2. Still in the teaser, when the Scoobies are talking about Buffy getting back to normal stuff, she tries to emphasize that she's not too terribly interested in dating.
Buffy: (sighs) Look, I'm not trying to snare Scott Hope. I just want to get my life back, you know, do normal stuff.
Willow: Like date?
Xander: Oh, you wanna date. I saw that half-smile, you little slut. (chuckles)
Buffy punches him on the arm, and none too lightly.
Xander: (smiles and chuckles) Ow. (winces and holds his arm)
Buffy: All right, yes, date and shop and hang out and go to school and save the world from unspeakable demons. You know, I wanna do girlie stuff!
The constant insistence on dating from her friends speaks to the importance we place on romance for teens in high school and on young girls, in specific.
What's more, Xander jockingly teases Buffy for wanting to date: "I saw that half-smile, you little slut." While Willow and everybody else is actively encouraging Buffy to date, she's also playfully threatened with some slut-shaming should she show an interest in doing so. The humor speaks to the no-win situation girls and women are placed in.
Finally, Buffy ends with an admission of all the normal, "girlie", stuff she wants to do: date, shop, hang out, go to school, and save the world. This is another oft-made reference to the liminal status of the Slayer inasmuch as she occupies a place in between the masculine and feminine. Buffy's solution is to redefine the masculine (the slaying) as feminine and take power from it.
3. After Buffy gets re-admitted back to school, Willow uses some oddly gendered language: "It's so great that you're a schoolgirl again."
"Schoolgirl" as opposed to "student".
4. At the Bronze, Cordelia and Xander meet up with Willow, Oz, and Buffy. Cordelia comments on Faith dancing with a vampire: "Check out Slut-O-Rama and her Disco Dave."
Before we even know who she is, we're getting some slut-shaming of Faith, presumably on the basis of what's she wearing and how she's dancing.
5. In Act Two, after the "hungry and horny" exchange, we get this:
A look of sudden revelation washes across Cordelia's face, and she smiles.
Cordelia: I get it.
Faith gives her a confused look.
Cordelia: Not the horny thing. Yuck! But the two Slayer thing. There was one, and then Buffy died for, like, two minutes, so then Kendra was called, and then when she died, Faith was called.
It's notable that when Cordelia clarifies that she's not talking about the horny thing, she adds a "Yuck!". Much like Willow's blowjob faux pas, anything hinting at sexuality is regarded as negative.
6. In the same scene, Xander prompts Faith for more stories. She begins to tell one about an alligator when Xander interrupts: "So was this, um, ahem, also naked?"
Xander, obviously aroused by Faith's earlier tall tale involving nudity, is overtly asking for more. He appears to have no qualms about doing so. Cordelia, for her part, calls him on it: "Xander? Find a new theme."
7. Cordelia takes a quick dislike to Faith. At one point, in an effort to convey said dislike, she comments: "Does anyone believe that is her actual hair color?"
For some reason, insulting a woman's hair color is an easy way to dismiss them.
8. At the end of Act 3, while beating on a vampire, Faith yells: "My dead mother hits harder than that!"
While this undoubtedly gives us a minor snippet of Faith's background, it's also notable that you'd never hear this phrase with "father" in the place of "mother". Mothers are supposed to be nurturing and, well, weak physically. The idea that they could hit hard is ludicrous. The further idea that they could hit their children is, for some reason, also ludicrous.
- The Rest (Snyder, Scott, the hotel manager)
1. In the first act, when Snyder is laying out the terms of Buffy's re-entry to school, he refers to her as "Missy".
2. When Scott approaches Buffy about the Buster Keaton festival, he notes: "Think of this as my last-ditch effort. I realize that one more is gonna qualify as stalking."
It's a refreshing sign of awareness about how the romantic comedy trope of "persistence gets the girl" actually falls along the line of stalking.
3. While arguing with Faith about rent, the manager laments about how he won't own the place if he "listens to broads like" Faith. "Broads" being a derogatory term for women.
IV. Objectification Watch
- We are given a shot of Scott Hope from Buffy and Willow's viewpoint in the teaser.
- In a rare moment, we do have the scene where Faith meets Giles in which Buffy is wearing a low-cut top. The camera's framing of her is rather obvious in keeping her cleavage in shot, as well.
- We're given a couple shots of Faith from Buffy's viewpoint as she watches her eat.
- Of course, at the end of this episode, we are given some eye-candy for the female viewers as a naked and sweaty Angel appears.
V. Points to Consider
- Faith's introduction allows us to examine another example of a masculinized female. Faith, especially, brings with her an interesting angle with regards to class issues and feminism. Let's get broad with the analysis and think about how Faith's class, her gender, and her Slayer status all interact throughout her act. Especially compare this with Buffy's middle-class status.
- How does Faith's comment about slaying making her "hungry and horny" connect to masculinity? What about the contrast with Buffy craving "nonfat yogurt" instead?
- From the beginning, Faith puts on an overt display of sexuality. The characters call her a slut before we even know her name. Instead of following vampires into alleys, Faith dances with them before going out back. She seduces them as they think they're seducing her. She flirts with both Scott Hope and Giles.
What do we make of Faith's overt sexuality?
Trick: What I'm saying is, (grins) we stay local--where the humans are jumpin' and the cotton is high--but we live global. I mean, you know, you get the hankering for the blood of a fifteen-year-old Filipina, and I'm on the 'Net and she's here the next day, express air. (smiles widely)
Trick's business plan has some resemblance to actual human trafficking, especially with its racialized aspect (the "fifteen-year-old Filipina").
This entry was originally posted at http://gabrielleabelle.dreamwidth.org/372719.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.