Ponderance

(May 2003 - March 2007.) Tama's thoughts on the blogosphere, podcasting, popular culture, digital media and citizen journalism posted from a laptop computer somewhere in Perth's isolated, miniature, urban jungle ...

Tuesday, June 03, 2003
Girl Power 101: A Reply to Patrick "but Spike did it" Wynne

(Chock full of Buffy spoilery goodness, all the way to 'Chosen'!)

Patrick Wynne in "Buffy Finale Has Little Girl Power" (Science Fiction News, Issue #319, Letters) suggested that 'Chosen' lacks girl power because Spike was fundamental to saving the world (and destroying the Sunnydale Hellmouth). Yes, Spike used the amulet, was a champion, and that the amulet was delivered by Angel, so two men helped save the world. (I certainly wouldn't be childish enough to point out it was given to Angel by Lilah--a woman.) So what if Spike was one of those who fought to help save the world? So did all the new Slayers--some of whom died (at least, I'm sure, Amanda did)--, so did Faith, so did Dawn, so did Willow (in a very pretty, spectacular and satisfying counterpoint to last season's finale, I might add), and so did Giles, Andrew, Xander and principal (of a bloody great hole in the ground) Wood.

Yes, Spike's death/sacrifice/act-of-championess was very touching, and pretty and a bit sad. And it felt a bit familiar ... because it was very, very similar to a sacrifice Buffy made at the end of season five! And why does that matter? Because the finale (and most of season 7) was a conversation about subverting both traditional gender expectations, and the narratological expectations of the show itself. We've seen Buffy die to save the world before, so this time Spike dies (being somewhat less heroic, I might add, since he didn't know it was going to happen when he agreed to wield the amulet). We've seen the Watcher's council as the patriarchal center of knowledge for the entire show subverted: (a) by most of them dying, (b) by Buffy explaining to Giles there's nothing he's got left to teach her and (c) by Buffy completely re-shaping the power of the Slayer(s) by ignoring the "traditional" way and symbolically enacting the show's feminist message in its most literal form. (We also see Giles accept Buffy as leader and admire her tactics and intelligence, not just her fighting skills). We also see Joss Whedon wave goodbye to the 'Chosen One' idea per se, and wave goodbye to the show in an enjoyably self-referential dig at the show's original prologue. We see Angel and Spike being the emotionally "bitchy" characters in terms of jealousy. We see Xander become the emotional heart of the group, the empathic character (and slightly less successfully try and build a bond with Andrew "get used to the feeling, Betazoid"); we see Dawn creeping into a Watcher-like role (Watcher Junior!); we see the darkest magics (evil willow) juxtaposed with the most brilliant ("oh, my goddess!"). And, of course, we see Anya finally taking on those damn bunnies. Now, there could be a lot more to this rant, but my point is, the show finally and utterly destroys (within the show, at least) the idea that any role or act is gender specific and, in a similar vein, the idea that any heroic act can be an individual act: everyone helped fight the First and the ubervamps; sure, Spike died, but so did Anya (and Amanda ... and other Potentials before that). It wasn't the Chosen One who did anything, but the power of the whole Scoobie Gang, and more, which saved the world. And Buffy's symbolic gaze down the open road ahead in the last scene, and her telling smile when asked about tomorrow, reminds us that it's the future that matters ... a future full of empowered (but not all powerful) women who are (at least) equal to men in every sense. So at the end of the show Spike is dead (for a while, at least) and Buffy, Faith and a host of Potentials (and, yes, that symbolically includes all women) are empowered. Forgive my ignorance, but that certainly seems like "girl power" to me.


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