Sunday, January 06, 2008

Sexual Politics, Feminist Themes in the Buffydom

Okay, I'm thinking one of the benefits of having a blog (other than providing me with lots of time to procrastinate from the actual writing I'm supposed to be doing for money and fame and fortune, et al), and a blog that most likely nobody will read, is that I can rant all I want about totally useless geeky things that nobody in their right mind would publish elsewhere.

This will be one of those times, as my inner geek has been surfacing more than usual lately.

As you probably know, I'm working on a sci-fi script (or as none of you know, I am indeed working on a sci-fi screenplay and a graphic novel, based on my own story and "universe" -- let's call it the bluesyverse... and in doing such a thing, I am practicing the age old art of research (aka procrastination).

Research for me right now means watching lots of sci-fi stuff and lots of hero stuff and anything that could fit in the whole Joseph Campbell journey of myth milieu. I've gone through the whole Spiderman series (of which let's face it, Spiderman two is not only the best of the three movies, no doubt because Alvin Sargeant wrote it and he is a god of the screenplay as far as I'm concerned... and I know this because Lew Hunter, my mentor, former teacher at UCLA and the greatest screenwriting teacher ever told, er to tell... oh Lew's the best, we all know that... reaffirmed my love of Spidey 2... because in addition to structure, Spidey 2 has character.. it has heart... and I don't know about you but I LOVE a good superhero with heart.... noble and being a champion is good too... nice arm and shoulder muscles, even better... I'm not into skinny superheroes, which would probably be an oxymoron anyway... but I digress... a lot)

So in addition to all the Spidey, Superman, Batman and Matrix movies and the Star Wars Movies... I've been watching and rewatching the first 3 seasons of Buffy, and all the Angel tv dvd's... because in my opinion, it's a major shortcut to watching all these types of sci-fi hero movies/tv shows... it's like watching every star Trek and outer Limits episodes, some Hong Kong cinema (which I love), lots of John Woo and the aforementioned Matrix series... and then some, put together... you can see the homages and the subliminal plotlines and turns from all these things... some intentional, some not... I figure the writers and I were weaned on the same diet of TV and film growing up and it's gotta give you the same kind of warped mindset to really appreciate the in jokes...

More digressing... the point is, as I'm watching the "Becoming" episodes of Buffy, where Angel, or rather Angelus, the bad evil angel who used to be good until he slept with Buffy and now he's soulless has his soul reinstated only to be sent to hell by his former girlfriend. A great piece of storytelling if ever there was on so many levels... never mind that they kinda pillaged off of it in the Angel series when he once again became "bad" not because of sex, but because of trying to get info that only the soulless version would know about (a logic that's a bit too hokey for me, but I can appreciate that they had to get him bad again for SOME reason and sometimes, you gotta go for the stretch instead of say, some nice hypnosis and an alka selzer)... besides, watching David B. do his Anthony Hopkins imitation behind those prison bars is worth it enough to forgive them for how he got there.

What's bugging me though, and what's prompted me to write this rant... is that I've always thought of Joss Whedon's stuff as being rather feministic, not only because he's said so a million times, but because I do appreciate that he's got a super strong lead female character (characters) that are way stronger than all the guys and she knocks them flat on their butts many times over with some very cool Judo or Karate or whatever you call that stuff... and she does it without baring cleaveage and a lot of make-up... I mean, you gotta give the creator kudos for that... at least I gottta.

But, but... there's some things that just don't add up in terms of his message, his theme, his Lajos Egri inspired raison d'etre. Especially in this key episode, addition to the Buffyverse. How can you have a feministic and chauvinistic message at the same time????

Let's start with the framing device. Episode opens with Darla turning the naive "Liam" into a vampire. She tells him of the wonders of her world and tells him to close his eyes. Then she sends him to mortal hell, aka makes him a vampire.

And Episode 2 of the same Saga has Buffy doing what... telling him to close his eyes right before sending him to actual hell.

So thematically, what's the message? If you listen and trust women, they will trick you, tell you they love you, make you close your eyes and then send you to hell. Not exactly huge leaps of deduction going on, I realize.

But I gotta wonder, how does the guy who is giving us feminist heroes also telling us that women are a guy's damnation.

I'm confused... I'm disturbed... I'm wondering was it really worth sacrificing such a large thematic point to pull off a smarty, pithy setup. Say it ain't so Joss... women can be strong, smart and not the cause of man's eternal damnation.

Just because you're being an equal opportunity gender basher doesn't mean you totally should get off the hook (to clarify: having Buffy's first sexual experience make the guy turn into a monster and then taunt her with the old "He was so nice until I broke down and had SEX with him" message can be excused and even admired/laughed at BECAUSE you're at least making fun of the whole thing and not taking it seriously is why the whole series works, after all... and besides, it is good TV)...

But the whole Angel going to hell thing is really NOT played for laughs... both of these episodes play it way more straight than most of the episodes in the buffydom/ or angeldom or whatever you want to call it.

Not that I have an answer. I don't know how you can really get away with both being smart and not saying women are conduits to evil and man's downfall... but just personally, being a woman and all... I think in this case I would've had myself a private moment of "Gee, I could do that and wouldn't it be cool"... but not repeated the scene with the two women and frame it like this... it just adds way too much power to the theory. I wouldn't have opened with the voice-over at all and skipped the whole Darla/Angel/ how angel became a vampire scene in this and instead used it only in that Angel episode (by the way, I do wonder if they redid the scene 2 years later, or just used footage from the first time... I can't recall now if they did but something tells me they re shot it because I do not remember Darla saying "Close your eyes" when I watched it in the Angel season two episode (I think it was season 2 but I will not check... there are levels to my geekdom, after all... though I DO remember she tears at her bosom and uses that to make him become a vampire... a little tit for tat when it comes to equating sex with downfall... and come to think of it, not very feministic either).

Not that there's anyone out there who wants to pick a fight with me on this, but actually I'd be welcome to hear your opinions on this... if you're either feeling bored or pissed off by my ravings. Feel free to reply, I'll post all valid replies. I would like to know if others have felt this way... or not.

Oh, I'm adding a new feature because... well why not. Music I've been listening to today (maybe it's what's affecting my moods... then again, it could be something in the water):
Tom Waits (about 5 different cds, old and new), Aimee Mann (Magnolia), Bowie (assorted), Etta James (Loves been rough on me), Annie Lennox (her latest cd.. played 3 times in a row)... that's it so far but the night is young.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled program (in other words, playtime's over, back to the coal mines).


(PS... I broke down and watched "The Namesake" last night... I was right the first time, big mistake... nowhere NEAR as impactful as the book... might not even have worked at all if I didn't know all the backstory by reading the book and loving it so... very disappointed in Mira Nair, who I normally love, especially her work on Monsoon Wedding... maybe if they had Jumpa Lahira write the screenplay it would've had something of the magic the novel had... then again, maybe not... now I'm even more terrified to see what they've done with "The Kite Runner."