Forgive me if I fail to respond to comments. Discuss among yourselves and be awesome (as usual).
My hiatus goes back in effect roundabouts...nowish.
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.
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 12 counts
Dead boys: 2
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: Buffy and Cordelia compete over the title of Homecoming Queen while Trick sets up a contest to kill the Slayers.
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? No
If Faith were taken out of this episode, would events occur in much the same fashion? Yes
- Decisive Buffy: As both one of the Homecoming Queen competitors and the target of Trick's Slayer game, Buffy is one of the central motivators of the plot.
- Decisive Cordelia: Cordelia fills an antagonistic role at first by competing with Buffy for Homecoming Queen. When she gets mistaken for Faith, though, she becomes proactive in the secondary 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, Angel, and Faith)
1. The opening scene has Cordelia asking if Scott has asked Buffy to the Homecoming Dance yet. Societal expectations place the responsibility of "asking out" on the male. Hence, while Buffy is clearly nervous about not having an official date to the dance (well, on top of being preoccupied with Angel's return), she's waiting for Scott to ask her rather than bringing it up herself.
Interestingly enough, after they mutually decide to go to the dance together in this scene, Scott offers: "Do you want me to get you another drink?"
Immediately after Scott's failure to live up to the expectations of men in the dating scene, he compensates by offering up some chivalry in the form of fetching (and presumably paying for) a drink for Buffy, another activity that's often gendered.
Perhaps even more interesting is that the very next scene has Buffy showing up at Angel's mansion with blood she purchased for him.
2. While assessing her "competition" in Act One, Cordelia says: "Michelle Blake: open to all mankind, especially those with a letterman's jacket and a car."
Cordelia starts off by engaging in some slut-shaming of one of the other girls running for Homecoming Queen. She also specifies the girl as being attracted to masculine status symbols.
Willow: Where's Buffy? (Oz looks around) She's gonna miss the yearbook pictures.
Xander: Buffy and Faith are in the library getting all *sweaty*.
Cordelia: (corrects him) They're training.
Xander: (gives her a look) I stand by my phrase.
As Xander often does, he jokingly sexualizes Buffy (and Faith). No matter what women do, whether having sleepovers or working out together, people can find a way to make it sexual.
4. While Buffy is talking to Ms. Moran, trying to get a written recommendation, she mentions the class Ms. Moran taught: "Contemporary American Heroes from Amelia Earhart to Maya Angelou". It is interesting that both the people mentioned in the title of the course are women.
5. Near the end of Act One, Buffy laments her current status (or lack thereof):
Buffy: At Hemery, I was Prom Princess, I was Fiesta Queen, I was on the cheerleading squad. And the yearbook was, like, a story of me. Now it's senior year, and I'm going to be one crappy picture on one-eighth of one crappy page.
Prom Princess, Fiesta Queen, cheerleading squad, all of these are feminine-coded activities. This highlights the nature of Buffy's pre-Slayer life. Now that she's immersed in the masculine and crossed those boundaries, she doesn't have the popularity in the feminine (or in general) that she used to enjoy.
6. Near the end of Act Two, in the midst of Buffy and Cordelia's fight, Buffy calls Cordelia a "vapid whore".
7. In the following scene, Xander refers to the spat as a "chick fight", a term that carries a derogatory and comical connotation.
8. Upon viewing the SlayerFest '98 video, Cordelia protests: "How stupid are you people? She's a Slayer. I'm a Homecoming Queen!"
There's the implicit gendered aspect to this phrase, with the Homecoming Queen title falling firmly in the feminine whereas being the Slayer is a masculine pursuit.
9. In the final act, Cordelia tears into Lyle Gorch:
Cordelia: I hear you, you redneck moron. You got a dress that goes with that hat?
The implicit insult, of course, is calling Lyle a woman.
Cordelia: Rip out my innards, play with my eyeballs, boil my brain and eat it for brunch? Listen up, needle-brain. Buffy and I have taken out four of your cronies, not to mention your girlfriend.
Cordelia: Whatever. The point is, I haven't even broken a sweat. See, in the end, Buffy's just the runner-up. *I'm* the Queen. You get me mad, (gets in his face and glares at him) what do you think I'm gonna do to you?
Cordelia manages to scare Lyle off by proclaiming Slayer status with a feminine twist. She declares herself "Queen".
- Antagonists (Trick, the Boss, the Mayor, Jungle Bob, the Gruenstahler brothers)
1. In the teaser,
Boss: Is that her?
Trick: (steps into view) In the nubile flesh, my friend.
"Nubile" is a particularly gendered and sexualizing adjective.
IV. Objectification Watch
- There is a shot of Buffy both through binoculars and on a TV feed as the Boss watches her.
- We're given a couple shots of Holly and Michelle from Cordelia and Xander's point of view.
- While Xander is getting his suit on, Willow tries on a variety of dresses. She changes behind a room divider, which allows us to see her silhouette undressing.
V. Points to Consider
- While Homecoming competitions include Kings as well as Queens, it's still largely coded as a feminine activity, much like a beauty queen or pageant winner. How does the show present this competition in light of its ascribed feminine status? Particularly, what are the girls having to do to win? On what is being a Queen based?
- This episode in part revolves around the competition between Cordelia and Buffy. In doing so, it could be said to skirt the line of the "catty girls" trope wherein girls inevitably can't get along. What sort of commentary does the episode make on this stereotype and how does it resolve it?
- In contrast to the competition between the girls for Homecoming Queen, Trick's competition is largely masculine. There is one female participant, though she is there as the wife of the primary competitor.
How do these two competitions - one masculine and one feminine - contrast and parallel? What is involved in each of them and how do they distinguish their gendered natures?
Faith: Come on. We'll find a couple studs, we'll use 'em and... discard 'em. That's always fun. (nods and takes a swig of her own drink)
Buffy: Okay, I'm in. Not the stud-using part, though. (smirks and rolls her eyes) Or... probably not.
In an episode that plays with feminine stereotypes, Faith is presented as breaking said stereotype. "Stud-using" is a brash, sexual activity that would more stereotypically be associated with guys (though for them it would be "slut-using").
Xander: How do I put this? (buttons the vest) Are we on first, second, or, uh... ye gods?
Willow: That's none of your business, Alexander Harris.
Her shadow on the screen shows her adjusting the shoulder straps of the dress she's putting on.
Xander: (smiles) Ooo, rounding second. (reaches for his jacket)
Willow: (huffs) You don't know that. What about you and Cordelia?
Xander: (pulls on the tuxedo jacket) Oh, a gentleman never talks about his conquests.
This exchange shows a boy and a girl talking about their sex lives with their respective partners. What gender differences can we distinguish between the two?
- At the party, Faith notices Scott there with a girl. She exclaims, "Sleazebag!" and later carries out a ploy wherein she makes it appear that he has an STD in front of his date.
Is this analogous to slut-shaming were the genders reversed?
- In light of the usual devaluation of things considered feminine, we have this exchange between Cordelia and Buffy near the end of the episode:
Cordelia: After all that we've been through tonight, this whole who-gets-to-be-queen capade seems pretty...
Buffy: Damn important.
Cordelia: Oh, yeah.
This exchange appears to elevate the feminine alongside the masculine (Slaying) in importance.
This entry was originally posted at http://gabrielleabelle.dreamwidth.org/373313.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.