Emmie (angearia) wrote,

A Missed Opportunity

Buffyfest conducted an interview with Jane Espenson about Season 8.  I... have a lot to say about it.  And yes, I still feel positive and hopeful for the conclusion of Season 8.  I'm still enjoying Season 8.  But this?  Yeah, there's still wankery going on that's making my feminism light up like a radioactive Christmas tree.

*waves to Bitsy*  C'mon, y'all.  You had to know you were misrepresenting here.  I've talked with you about this before, Bitsy.  C'mon.

Buffyfest: Buffy Season 8 has taken some criticism from fans who say that Buffy has lost her feminist message by way of her bank robbing, rogue slayers abusing their powers and the recent Twilight arc. How do you feel about Season 8 so far from a feminist perspective?

Jane Espenson: I hadn't heard that. I think if we try to make women characters better than we really are, then we're holding doors open for them. Let 'em be as disarmingly fallible as men. No one's better than anyone else—that's the important thing.

Jane is eloquent as always and I agree with what she says about portraying women as infallible as men. Equality is the name of the game.

However, I feel the question she was asked completely misses the nuance of the concerns about Twilight and also focuses on areas that are not being criticized for how they affect the feminist message of the series.  Since when has the topic of rogue Slayers doing naughty ever been brought up as feminist critique? Or Buffy's bankrobbing? Buffy's bankrobbing is constantly brought up by many fans as out of character, not a strike against the feminist message.  Unless maybe someone was criticizing Season 8 for these reasons and nonsensically categorized it as feminist critique?  And then I must say how reassuring to know that the legitimate feminist critique is being interpreted as nonsense.  :-/

A far better question would've addressed the way dubious consent is constantly used as a plot device while rarely treated with the requisite care and sensitivity (e.g. the Slayer spell in Chosen). Furthermore, the question regarding what Buffy does in Twilight doesn't even fit well with Jane's answer as Buffy is acting under the influence of an outside force, so Buffy is in fact "better than [she] really [is]" in this instance.

I realize I'm being a bit negative here, but I'd have loved to hear Jane really delve into the feminism of the story and instead I feel the way the story deals with feminism was improperly conveyed and as a result, Jane's answer didn't address the feminist critique of Season 8. It didn't even come close.

Okay, I'll list off some of the feminist critique:

+ No Future For You: Faith and Gigi bond in a bubble bath together. This is how women bond. This is how one shows women becoming intimate and trusting each other. Yeah, right. Which leads into the next concern...

+ The comics seem to have swapped the gaze of the TV show from the female gaze to the male gaze: women are always baring their cleavage and showing a tantalizing midriff while the men look like they're afraid any bared skin will give them a cold. Women's skin is sexy and glimpses of their nudity are used to show how sexy they are, men's nudity is used only for when they're having sex or need to show off the Twilight symbol on their chest.  Compare this to the eye candy of Spike and Angel throughout the seven years of BtVS and you'll see where I'm going here.

+ The feminist critique of Buffy's actions in Twilight is about how the story frames it: Angel, the love of her life, spends the entire season lying to her, manipulating her, even battering her, all to "push" her into transforming and physically becoming something else, to make her his match and his mate, to make her worthy. And when he pulls off the mask (that might as well be metaphorically labeled Abusive Boyfriend), Buffy takes his word for it that it was done for her own good (because of an outside influence that amps up her love for Angel and overrides her indignation of his betrayal). The question then becomes that not only does Buffy become the forgiver of her abuser without him offering any genuine remorse or regret (he justifies it--Baby, I had to hit you for your own good 'cause I know better), but she's in part led to forgive him because of forces that warp and twist her own will. Again, dubious consent. Dubious consent occurs when there's any compromise of a person's autonomy.

That's the feminist concern. And the story isn't done yet so I'm waiting for Buffy to come to her senses and resent what was done to her (because it's in character for Buffy to cherish her free will, to have respect for her autonomy) just as she did in The Long Way Home: "We're being played, Xander. I'm not liking it." But the story still hasn't satisfactorily addressed this feminist concern of Buffy's self-respect. This isn't like Season 6 where she was depressed and very aware of what she was doing and hated herself for it: she had self-awareness of what was going on. That same self-awareness of herself and Angel is currently lacking. I hope it's addressed in the finale. The story is already addressing what Angel did and showing it in a negative light, but I'm waiting for the personal outrage from Buffy over how she was violated.

Color me deeply disappointed at how the feminist critique of the season was misrepresented in this question. As I would've dearly loved to hear Jane's response, I consider this a missed opportunity.
Tags: cast interview, comics, feminism, jane espenson, meta, season 8

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