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Girls Who Kick Ass: Why They Matter #1 - Buffy Summers


For reasons that should be obviously obvious, I chose to kick off this series by talking about the main character of the greatest TV show of all time.

Why does Buffy (the character) matter in-universe? Why does Buffy (the character) matter in real life? Why did Buffy (the show) matter? Why is Buffy (the show & the character) still relevant, more than ten years after the Grand Finale? Why is the Slayer always a girl?

Well, those are some great questions! I'm not sure if I'm completely up to the task of providing exhaustive answers to all of them - I'm going to art school for a reason, and that reason is: I despise reading Academic Papers, and I really despise trying to write them - but I've been giving them a lot of thought since yesterday (also: since I started watching the show when I was fourteen), and to the complete surprise of absolutely no one I've found that I do actually have quite a bit to say about "why" Buffy matters.

1. Buffy reminds us that good things take time.
You probably already knew that Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a wonderfully cheesy movie in 1992, and you might have heard that it's quite far removed from Joss Whedon's original vision. (Did you know that, when Marti Noxon was hired between seasons one & two, Joss ordered her never to watch it, and she never did?)

Anyway. In 1992, Joss was able to bring everybody a creative, though forgettable, slightly special B-movie . . . called Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Five years later, the same guy was able to bring people the greatest TV show of all time . . . called Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

All I'm saying is, no one could have possibly predicted the difference that five years would make.

Really casts your NaNoWriMo Writer's Block This is Not a Drill Just Leave Me Here to Die in a slightly different light, doesn't it?

2. Buffy paved the way.
For some reason, no one expected a TV show based on a disappointingly disappointing movie to do, you know, well. When the show got picked up, it was a mid-season replacement. After filming the entire first season before the pilot aired, no one who worked on the show anticipated that they would ever come back for a second season. They did, of course; by the time season two was half over, the show was basically the entire reason anybody ever even pretended to pay attention to The WB (which, eventually, gave us Gilmore Girls).

Buffy may not have been the very first TV show that revolved around a Girl Who Kicks Ass, but it was clearly something special. Without it, would we ever have gotten to know Veronica Mars? Sookie Stackhouse? Joan of Arcadia? George Lass? Lorelai & Rory Gilmore? The Charmed Ones?* Would we ever have gotten so comfortable with serious dramas that are also genuinely funny? Would we ever have learned to demand stories that really mess with our emotions?

Maybe. But, goodness, Buffy sure did make it easier.

______
*Charmed is actually one of my most hated TV shows of all time. But that's another story.

3. Buffy fights her own battles.
Does she ever whine about how much it sucks to be the Chosen One a little more often than her friends would like? Sure thing. Does she occasionally insist that, even though she's the only one who destiny picked, she can't or won't keep fighting the fight without her friends? Absolutely.

But.

Does she ever whine so much that she actually permanently quits being a hero? Not once.

And.

Does she ever NOT drop everything to do whatever she has to do to save her friends (and, more often than not, the entire world)? Never.

In short: Buffy gets stuff done.

4. Buffy never gives up.
This attitude is perhaps best summed up in the second season finale, when Angelus taunts her, "So that's everything, huh? No weapons . . . no friends . . . no hope. Take all that away, and what's left?"

And then three things happen in swift succession:

  • He tries to stab her with a sword.

  • She stops it with her bare hands and says, "Me."

  • She kicks his ass.

'Nuff said, girl. 'Nuff said.

5. Buffy taught me everything I know about family.
There are approximately 157,000 moments that illustrate this point, but Joss said it best:

"Family are the people who treat you like family. Period."

(If you're curious, he was talking about the sixth episode of season five, which is called . . . "Family.")

6. Buffy taught me to start thinking about magic and why it's important because it's a metaphor.
Do I even need to explain this one?

7. Buffy makes her own rules.
When the Watchers Council stand in the way of her doing the right thing, she tells them to leave her alone and wait for the next Slayer to show up (which wasn't a difficult decision, but it was surely much easier since they had recently fired her father figure for trying to save her life). When the Watchers Council comes back a year and a half later for a "performance review" to decide if she deserves to know what they know about the Big Bad, she reminds them that, actually, they've come back to beg her to let them work for her.

And so on & so forth. There are more than a few examples (I'm saying that a lot, huh?), the best of which is probably this one, from the very last episode:

"So here's the part where you make a choice: What if you could have that power . . . now? In every generation, one Slayer is born . . . because a bunch of men who died thousands of years ago made up that rule. They were powerful men. This woman [Willow, Buffy's BFF & the most powerful witch in the world] is more powerful than all of them combined. So I say we change the rule. I say my power . . . should be our power. Tomorrow, Willow will use the essence of the Scythe to change our destiny. From now on, every girl in the world who might be a Slayer will be a slayer. Every girl who could have the power will have the power . . . can stand up, will stand up. Slayers, every one of us. Make your choice. Are you ready to be strong?"

NOTE: This series was started after I read this article: http://mattforney.com/2013/09/16/the-case-against-female-self-esteem/. Yes, I will be linking to it in every subsequent entry. We can only hope that my writing will get better as I do more of it, because this is fucking important to me.

Wednesday, November 13

livejournal

2013-11-14 01:41 am (UTC) (Link)

User oni_9 referenced to your post from Wednesday, November 13 saying: [...] Girls Who Kick Ass: Why They Matter #1 - Buffy Summers [...]

Re: Wednesday, November 13

wickedbish

2013-11-14 04:04 am (UTC) (Link)

Um. Thank you. Is that a good thing? The only entries of that user's that I can see were all posted nearly a year before this one.

Re: Wednesday, November 13

wickedbish

2013-11-14 06:18 am (UTC) (Link)

EDIT: I get it now. And, yes, I'd say it's a good thing.

red_satin_doll

2013-11-14 06:13 am (UTC) (Link)

Here from Su_herald - I started to read the article you linked to at the bottom and, WHAT THE CREEPING BLUE FUCK? Is that even real? I can't believe that's not a joke - and I know that isn't.

And in the same week that Joss informs us silly gurlz that he hates the word feminist. *sigh* This shit is why feminism - and Buffy - are more relevant than ever.

BTW - much love for the Buffy-love here. She's my all time favorite fictional character and my BDH - and I discovered her for the first time almost two years ago as a 40-something woman. I think I appreciate her now more than I would have back in the day.

Keep up this series!

wickedbish

2013-11-14 06:25 am (UTC) (Link)

I know, right? The article pissed me off so much that I was tempted to stop by the time I was 1/3 of the way through it, but I kept telling myself to keep going because surely people would rip him a new asshole in the comments. And then the first comment was: "Well said."

So I spent the rest of the day being ANGRY about that, then I wrote this.

Wait, what? Joss hates the word feminist? I haven't heard anything about that, but I'd guess it's probably because he thinks it's a waste of time to devote so much discussion to the question of what a feminist is or isn't, because it really should be so natural to anyone human that we just don't even need to talk about it anymore, ever . . . or something like that?

And thank you! Buffy the character isn't quite my favorite of all time (actually, when I first started watching the show in 2002, she annoyed me quite a bit, compared to Willow and Xander and Giles - obviously, she has grown on me!), but I do love her very, very, VERY much. I do want to continue the series (with a link to that asshole's article at the end of every entry), but #2 is taking a while because a) it's been a tough week and b) I'm having a tough time choosing one.

Oh, and it makes me really happy that people are still getting to know Buffy today, so you rock for that.

red_satin_doll

2013-11-14 09:04 pm (UTC) (Link)

Hon I couldn't even get through the article I was so horrified so kudos to you for managing to plow through it. But then I turned Joss' speech off at the 2.30 minute mark. Not because i was horrified but just bored and I knew exactly where he was going.

but I'd guess it's probably because he thinks it's a waste of time to devote so much discussion to the question of what a feminist is or isn't, because it really should be so natural to anyone human that we just don't even need to talk about it anymore, ever . . . or something like that?

YOU GOT IT IN ONE:
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/12/feminism-does-not-need-makeover-rebranded
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pDmzlKHuuoI

Equality is the "natural order of things" (except human history demonstrates the opposite to be true); he doesn't like the sound of the word (the "-ist" part is too hard, too germanic. Yes he said that.) And he admits to never having read any "feminist theory". Well, the S8 comics and Dollhouse make that pretty clearr. None of which explains why rape and violence against women are still epidemics. blah blah bitty blah.

It's stuff like that that and the post you linked to that remind me that I need to reclaim the word "FEMINIST". Just as I do, "lesbian". Loudly and often as necessary.


wickedbish

2013-11-15 01:18 am (UTC) (Link)

I mean, I did read the whole article, but it made me see red for the rest of that day.

Hmm. You know, I appreciate the links, and I love the way Joss's mind works (obvs), but . . . I really don't feel any need to listen to him talk about what feminism is or isn't. The man is physically incapable of sitting still, and he's equally incapable of ever writing any kind of story without either writing the whole thing around a girl who kicks ass or taking a character who happens to be a girl and letting her kick ass in at least one scene that turns out to be crucial to the overall plot.

If that's not feminism, I don't know what is.

I guess what I'm saying is, while I can intellectually understand why people on both sides of the debate view feminism as a debate, I wish it was more something we just do, and not something we talk about. Because, really, it's like Margaret Cho says: No one who's human should ever not be a feminist, because we don't grow out of the ground. Not that being thankful for being born is the only reason to be a feminist, but DAMN, it's a good one.

(Speaking of pointless debates that other people insist on having, I always laugh my ass off when people discuss the ins and outs of Willow's sexuality and what that means about whether or not she ever really loved Oz. Really, shut up.)

Edited at 2013-11-15 01:18 am (UTC)

red_satin_doll

2013-11-15 02:12 am (UTC) (Link)

If that's not feminism, I don't know what is.

Agree to disagree, but I don't know what "kicking ass" has to do with feminism in and of itself? Do we need more female heros? Hell yes - we need more realistic, relatable, well-rounded female protagonists, full-stop. Buffy's not a hero to me because she kicks ass and looks good doing it. She's not a hero to me because she never gave up - in fact, she did give up, more than once (Anne, the gift) but she picked herself back up again and kept going. "Kicking ass" isn't the point IMO.

Feminism, in my understanding, is being aware of the fact that women hold 2% of the world's total wealth, that women are disproportionately raped and abused around the world, that women are constantly objectified. That access to birth control methods are still under attack in the US and unavailable to women around the world. That women are constantly objectified. That within my lifetime women were not allowed to purchase a home, a car, get a bank loan etc without their husband's signature. That there are still women around the world who don't have the right to vote or even to drive a car, that there are places where educating women is a crime punishable by death. Awareness comes first; then action, first on a local and then global scale.

wish it was more something we just do, and not something we talk about.

Total agreement there. It's something I do, something I live and LIVE WITH every day, It's who I am. Changing the word "feminist" because a privileged man isn't comfy-cozy with it isn't going to make things better; isn't going to magic equality into existence.

I would like very much if we didn't need to think about racism, sexism, homophobia, ethnic cleansing, injustice and so forth. Blogs like the ones you linked to and Joss' silly comments remind me why I have to think about them. It's like the times when I've just about convinced myself I don't need to refer to myself as a lesbian - just because I've been with another woman for half my life, because who needs labels they're so uncool, right? And then I read about yet another teenager who committed suicide after being harassed because of their sexual orientation or expression; I read about anti-gay statutes being passed in yet another state; or my partner has to worry if the staff at a hospital is going to bar her from seeing me because she's not "biological family". Then I remember why it's important for me to be out, and to speak out. Just as it's important for me to be out as a feminist - even if people view feminists as shrill, angry, masculine women who don't shave their legs. (Which, as it happens, is also the stereotype of a "lesbian"? )

Speaking of pointless debates that other people insist on having, I always laugh my ass off when people discuss the ins and outs of Willow's sexuality and what that means about whether or not she ever really loved Oz. Really, shut up.

YAY FOR TOTAL AGREEMENT! I saw a website that dictated that people MUST refer to Willow as "bisexual". Excuse me? Most lesbian women I know over the age of 50 were with men first, because that's what society dictated; many lesbians have been married, many had children in those unions. Whatever.

wickedbish

2013-11-15 02:29 am (UTC) (Link)

Oooh, yeah, I suppose I could stand to be less ambiguous, but "kicking ass" (to me, anyway) doesn't just refer to having a lot of fight scenes. I'm thinking about #2 in this series, and it's going to be about a) a witch who got killed, b) two shapeshifters, or c) Harriet the Spy. Some of my other favorite Girls Who Kick Ass include Lorelai Gilmore, Veronica Mars, Liz Lemon, Melinda Sordino, Kate Malone, Dimple Lala, etc.

I do use the phrase "that kicks ass" an awful lot, though.

Okay, I hadn't really thought about all of the real-world reasons to be a feminist (because I was so busy trying to figure out what Joss might mean without actually listening to what he had to say - smart). I've always been very comfortable calling myself a feminist, but that really makes me want to be even moreso.

YAY FOR TOTAL AGREEMENT! I saw a website that dictated that people MUST refer to Willow as "bisexual". Excuse me? Most lesbian women I know over the age of 50 were with men first, because that's what society dictated; many lesbians have been married, many had children in those unions. Whatever.

Obviously, I totally agree with you - but also, I don't know, I get so exasperated when people (even people who identify themselves anywhere in the vast spectrum of LGBTQ) try to shove other people into boxes. It's like, if Willow (who, by the way, is hands-down my favorite character) was ever asked to comment on it herself, I think she'd say something like, "Well, I never even realized that girls were an option that appealed to me . . . until I met Tara, and she made it obvious that girls were the only option for me. I did - I do - still have intense feelings for and about Oz, because I'm human, and humans are complex even if they're not witches, but yes, I've identified as a lesbian ever since I started calling Tara my girlfriend, and I'm gay to be happy, I mean, happy to be gay. Now, can we maybe focus on saving the world, since it's never not in danger?"

In conclusion, I'm glad you found me 'cause I really love being able to talk about these issues and these characters! Heh.

red_satin_doll

2013-11-15 07:11 pm (UTC) (Link)

First off - I've noticed you post about depression a lot and all I can say is: thank you and, me too.

Backtracking, I do agree with your comment re: feminism as something we need to do rather than talk about. My own life is an example of ideal and reality not being entirely congruent. I don't want to toss the ideal out the window and just give up though. I'm going to keep calling myself a feminist; changing the word is maybe like calling french fries pomme frites so you can charge $10 a plate instead of $2. It's still french fries.

I think a lot of my feelings about Joss's speech do revolve around his position as a privileged outsider who admits to not having educated himself on the subject, has no interest in doing so but still presents himself as an authority. It would be like me saying "I read The autobiography of Malcolm X, ergo that proves I'm not racist! And I understand the black experience in America and therefore this is how black people should think and feel....." Or, "I have a gay cousin (or a gay friend of a friend) ergo I understand what it's like." Um. no. Really not.

Also the silliness of it. does he also hate "pianist"? *LMAO* Actually maybe laughter is the best response, and not giving it any headspace. But we also have to be aware. like that blog you linked to.Or someone like Fred "Gays should be castrated with barbed wire" Phelps. These people have followings, they represent the opinions of other people. Pretending it isn't so and la-di-dah it's all "hugs and puppies" isn't going to make them go away.

YES! to Harriet the Spy! I support this project.

I do use the phrase "that kicks ass" an awful lot

Maybe the use of that term is a generational thing?

I've always been very comfortable calling myself a feminist, but that really makes me want to be even moreso.

I started calling myself a feminist when I was a girl it was an intuitive thing for me. And not something my mother used, the word wasn't bantered around the house even though she was a "strong woman".

people (even people who identify themselves anywhere in the vast spectrum of LGBTQ) try to shove other people into boxes.

So much WORD: some lesbians accuse bisexual women of being "fence-sitters" and "traitors"; some gay people don't "get" transgendered people; Dan Savage sort of looks down on the idea of people who self-identify as assexual (he was interviewed in a documentary about assexuals and I LOVE his column, love him in general, how smart he is, what he does but - dude, really?) And to me, it's just - I was/am oppressed. My sexual identity was denied me. Laws deny me full citizenship. The fact of my orientation, and the gender of the person I live with and love, changes the way some people view me. Facts. So passing that on to someone else and denying them full personhood and respect? NOT COOL.

But people have done this throughout history. And people in power exploit that. Keep people at each's other's throats and ignore the real problems at the source of things, forget about what we have in common. (The middle east, anyone?)

Now, can we maybe focus on saving the world, since it's never not in danger?

PERFECT WILLOW-VOICE. she's not my favorite, but I get stuck in this weird place of Willow-lovers think I hate her and and Willow-haters thinking I'm an apologist. I just take a middle road, like I do with most of the characters on the show. Cheer when she goes after Glory even if she doesn't have the power yet; cringe when she mindwipes Tara. It's complicated. Just like I see the problems of the Slayer spell while my inner you-go-girl responds emotionally to it. (TRAILER PARK GIRL STOPPING HER ABUSER!) What it says about me that I identified more with Willow in the early seasons when her self-esteem was lowest but with Buffy from S5 on when her self-esteem has eroded is probably not such a good thing.

I'm enjoying the conversation here; you are quite the gracious host.

wickedbish

2013-11-15 10:28 pm (UTC) (Link)

Aw, thank you! I don't "normally" post about depression quite this much (well: not on here, anyway; anyone foolish enough to follow me on Twitter is perhaps weary of hearing me explain that Honesty + Kindness + Laughter + Generosity + Loyalty = MAGIC > Depression), but last week was a rough week, and so was the first half of this one.

You know, my favorite "ism" word is "optimism." Which is a tough thing for me to feel sometimes (depression, duh), but when I do, it's kind of unstoppable. Which may have something to do with why I'm slightly less inclined to focus on how unfair things still are in the here & now, and slightly less inclined to hope things will be better in the future and then MAKE THEM better in the future by talking about how obvious it is. I . . . hope that made sense.

I've tried to give it some thought, and I think "kicking ass" can be as simple as being yourself & being awesome because you're you.

Dan Savage, Dan Savage. I know I know who he is, somewhere in the back of my mind, but nothing you just said made me want to Google him to remind myself.

Oh, and Harriet will definitely get her own entry eventually. But I'm gonna have to re-read her book first, which I've already done two or three times this year, so maybe I'll take is s-l-o-w this time.

As for the whole trans respect thing: Regardless of your gender or orientation, I personally get so BORED listening to one human try to impose a way of believing or acting or whatever on another human. I know BORED makes me sound callous, but that's not it at all. I've just had to deal with that sort of fuckery so often that my first, last, and only response to it these days is: Either you can grow up and apologize and try to act like an actual human being with some degree of empathy for other human beings, or you can GET OUT OF MY FACE AND LIVE IN THE PAST FOREVER. (Again, I hope this makes sense.)

red_satin_doll

2013-11-16 01:50 am (UTC) (Link)

Either you can grow up and apologize and try to act like an actual human being with some degree of empathy for other human beings, or you can GET OUT OF MY FACE AND LIVE IN THE PAST FOREVER. (Again, I hope this makes sense.)

YES, YES and HELL YES to this entire paragraph. (And "Bored" doesn't sound callous in this context at all, at least to me. In fact, "Bored, now" seems like an entirely appropriate response. That and "get the fuck over yourself."

wickedbish

2013-11-16 02:04 am (UTC) (Link)

Oh my GOD. I didn't even make the "Bored now" connection until I saw that icon, but boring people are SERIOUSLY my worst enemies: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6vLRN7Fdec

(Note: The video is fourteen minutes of me talking to a camera. Though I do go into the whole "boring people, ugh" thing a bit, watching all fourteen minutes is in no way necessary.)

P.S. So do you read comic books? Because Kitty Pryde was a direct inspiration for Buffy, and I love that about both of them.

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