Emmie (angearia) wrote,

Buffy is a Role Model

The context of feeling protective of Buffy's image and Sarah Michelle Gellar's feelings on her character have been brought up in discussion. A recent post by stormwreath notes that in one interview with Conan O'Brien she mentions looking up internet porn that had photoshopped her head onto other bodies. Somehow her feeling comfortable enough to announced this on Conan makes it relevant to predicting her feelings on #34.  I believe this is a limited portrayal of the context. 

Wanna know what's even better ammunition? Sarah Michelle Gellar played A PORN STAR in Southland Tales. She's filmed graphic sex scenes in movies like Harvard Man.

And yes, I already knew all this stuff. It wasn't a revelation to me to read the transcript of her interview on Conan O'Brien where she laughed at imagining her friend being discovered by the hotel employees as having looking up all this porn. I've been a fan of Smidge for over a decade and have watched hours upon hours of Youtube interviews of her, have read all her interviews and scoured forums looking for discussion about her.

Sarah Michelle Gellar has watched porn. Sarah Michelle Gellar has portrayed a porn star. STOP THE PRESSES.

And it still doesn't matter. Because the context for bringing up her viewpoint has centered around how Sarah Michelle Gellar has expressed pride in Buffy being a role model for young girls. I've watched a behind-the-scenes interview where a young fan can't stop crying at getting to meet her, at getting to meet "Buffy" and SMG expresses how important this is to her portrayal of Buffy.  (I wish I could find this and link it.  It's incredibly moving.)

Sarah doesn't hold back from playing controversial roles. But she also doesn't confuse these roles as being role models. When Sarah does wish to be a role model, she does this Vaseline ad or visits Central America and South Africa for CARE.

Buffy is a role model for young girls.

Buffy is about sending a message empowering women. And Sarah cares about this message.

She expresses this desire in her trip to Tanzania:

And her trip to Guatemala:

There's a difference between the Vaseline ad and this Saturday Night Live nude parody:

There's a difference between Sarah devoting herself to CARE to help women in third world countries and portraying a porn star in Southland Tales.

In Star magazine, October 2000, Sarah said:

"I hate the word feminist— it brings up such horrible connotations and makes me think of women who don’t shave their legs—but being called that is an honour. When I was growing up, I wish there had been a character like Buffy for me to look up to. She’s not the prettiest girl in school, she’s not the most popular, she’s not the smartest, but she’s okay with who she is. The horrible thing about high school is that it’s about conformity, you do what the most popular person does. It never stresses individuality, which is unfortunate because it’s the time when you really should be developing who you are as an individual."

Sarah doesn't like the word feminist, yet she paradoxically prides herself on the fact that Buffy is a character young girls can "look up to" and that women view Sarah as depicting a strong feminist icon. That Buffy is a role model. The porn star Krysta in Southland Tales isn't a character Sarah says she's happy young girls have to look up to. No, Sarah says that about Buffy. When Sarah does wish to be a role model, she volunteers for CARE so that young girls can become educated and join the workforce. She does Vaseline ads that promote healthy body images. Buffy has always been more about being a role model than being a porn star.

That is the legacy of her character and that's what Sarah to this day still prides herself on. She again used the phrase (which I've heard in innumerable interviews) at the Buffy Reunion in 2008 that Buffy's "not the prettiest girl, she's not the most popular, she's not the smartest, but she's okay with who she is." Even a decade later, Sarah continues to sing her message of pride that Buffy is a role model for young girls, a role model that she herself wished she had growing up.

So while clearly SMG is perfectly comfortable with porn, that she isn't a self-proclaimed feminist, that she's perfectly content with even portraying a porn star and appearing nude for parody, that she's comfortable being nude on SNL and in commercial ads, she remains protective of Buffy's legacy as a role model for young girls. That specifically Buffy is a positive role model for girls to look up to.

#34 is antithema to Buffy's status as a positive role model. There are layers upon layers of offensive messages in this issue for women. And those who are offended by this (the consent issues, the rape metaphor, the misogynistic overtones) have argued this ad nauseum.

The point isn't that SMG has watched porn, has found porn about herself amusing, has played a porn star. The point is that Buffy is a role model. That's why I wonder what SMG would think about this turn in the comics story. Because I was that young girl who looked up to Buffy. I'm the girl that SMG was talking about. I'm the girl who looked to Buffy as a role model. And #34 made me feel physically sick and depressed at what was done to my childhood role model. And I mention SMG because she GOT IT. She understood what Buffy meant to young girls and expressed how important this was for young girls, so I feel she'd be upset to learn that those who looked to Buffy as a role model now feel robbed of her.

Buffy in #34 is not a role model for young girls. The issue has a mature content rating. Its image depictions are relatable to softcore porn (link is Not Safe For Work). It is NOT content for young girls who need strong female role models. And if anyone went to a middle school and handed out #34, I suspect they'd get arrested for corrupting a minor. If 10-year-old girls can't read this issue because of its mature content (besides the horrifying nature of rape metaphor and consent issues), then they have effectively been robbed of their role model.

Sarah felt like she was starting to lose the hero during Season 6. I never did. Because Buffy was giving me one of the most honest and real portrayals of depression I'd ever seen right around the time I was suffering from clinical depression. Buffy gave me validation during a time when I felt like I too came back wrong. Buffy the hero was still there for me because she overcame her depression, that she struggled and triumphed. She chose to heal. Specifically, she chose to embrace life again and that's the only "cure" for depression. You have to decide to help yourself. She was my hero then. It's just another reason I strongly identify with Buffy.

I never felt like I'd lost the hero until now. Until #34. And it's controversial depiction has made me look back and realize that Season 8 seems more and more about tearing down Buffy as a role model, about depicting a feminist nightmare. That this is deliberate. And you wanna know why I'm not happy? Because Joss is great at tearing people down, but he fails at building them back up. He tore down the Scooby dynamic in Season 6 and it never recovered the magic.

So no, I'm not jumping for joy that Buffy's status as a role model is being torn down and deconstructed for The Almighty Story. I feel that The Almighty Story is more interested in breaking Buffy than in rebuilding her. Season 8 is deconstructing the hero. Tearing down the house. And I don't have faith the house will be rebuilt because let's face it, Joss sucks at worldbuilding.
Tags: meta, my love is for buffy always and forever, sarah michelle gellar
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