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The Feminist Perspective Of Buffy The Vampire Slayer

5142 words - 21 pages

The Feminist Perspective of Buffy the Vampire Slayer

In her feminist critique of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Anne Millard Daughtey described Buffy as a show which "obviously promotes female strength and power" (159). Buffy herself is a "symbol of female empowerment" (149); as feminists we can all take comfort in the fact that Buffy "kicks butt and so can we all" (164). Sherryl Vint agrees that Buffy is a "positive role model for young women, one which feminism should celebrate" (para. 3). I find this understanding of Buffy, both the character and the series, to be very problematic, and with this paper I aim to undertake a revised feminist critique of the show, and expose the Buffyverse as ...view middle of the document...

Before Buffy and her friends discover this, Dawn has a number of unnerving experiences, in which people walk up to her staring, saying "There's nothing there, you're not real, there's nothing there". Truly, in the Buffyverse, there is "no such thing as woman".

Prior to embarking upon my own analysis of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it this pertinent to consider Joss Whedon's envisioning of his series, and in particular, his heroine, Buffy. In interviews he has often explained his desire to create an alternative ending for the horror movie:

It was pretty much the blond girl in the alley in the horror movie who keeps getting killed ... I felt bad for her, but she was always much more interesting to me than the other women. She was fun, she had sex, she was vivacious. But then she would get punished for it. Literally, I just had that image, that scene, in my mind, like the trailer for a movie what if the girl goes into that dark alley. And the monster follows her. And she destroys him. (Quoted in Vint, para. 6)

Whilst we see here that Whedon's intention is to subvert the conventional horror movie/slasher genre, I'm not sure that he is successful. He is running the considerable risk of merely replacing the fetishised female victim with a fetishised female hero; she is still a pretty blond girl, she is still fun, she is still sexual, she is still "Barbie with a kung fu grip". Although Whedon's comments imply the potential of a positivist feminist fashioning of the horror/slasher film pattern the girl destroys the monster he compromises the possibility of this with his problematic representation of female power. Despite the fact that the Slayer is always the victor, one of the most disturbing elements of the series is the sustained violence against women, especially Buffy. She is repeatedly pummeled, kicked, and thrown in her nightly battles with the undead.

On one hand, this can be seen as empowering; it combats the image of feminine fragility. Buffy can look after herself, and her strength allows her to meet her male foes on a plane of equality, thereby commending a feminist reading. However, this seems to me too superficial a reading, and subverting the adventure story in the way that Whedon does is not that simple. Problematically, he is creating a space in which violence against women is legitimized. Buffy has super strength and super healing capabilities, she can wisecrack whilst staking, her stylish hair, make up and clothes keeps her looking good in the heat of battle; all these assets added to the fact that as the 'hero' she will always triumph combine to make violence against her acceptable in the series. However, this contextualisation is not justification for violence against women. Indeed, it can be seen as a variation on the pornographers excuse that women participate in pornography because they want to; Buffy attacks and is attacked because she wants to in her role as Slayer. But as outspoken feminist Andrea Dworkin points...

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