Buffy, and the Feminist in Me.

As I was home alone and bored the other day, I decided to mooch my roommate’s Netflix streaming while I ate dinner. After browsing for a few moments, I settled on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season One. I figured, why not? I used to watch the later seasons in my early high school years, and I was unfamiliar with the first couple of seasons. And, I needed some Joss Whedon in my life.

Along with many other fans, I believe Firefly is Whedon’s magnum opus. I recently rewatched the entire series and loved it even more than I did upon my first watch. This time, I was more educated as to how a good television show works (the result both of my analytical education and spending waaaayyy to much time watching science-fiction television.) After watching Firefly, I found myself thinking about Joss Whedon and how I would love to bear his children. I found a wonderful speech on YouTube where he discussed his thoughts on feminism (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYaczoJMRhs) and I wanted to produce his offspring even more fervently.

In my “African-American Women Writers” class, I learned about modern feminism. The early days of feminism were characterized by women’s need to be separate and equal. Women had to have a loud voice in order to be heard, and, in many ways, had to become like a “man” to do so. Now that women are, in many ways, equal to men, women may now seek to retain their femininity and still remain strong and empowered in the “male” sense of the word.

I really understood the concept of modern femininity when I heard Kate Mulgrew speak at Dragon-Con last year. Mulgrew plays the most prominent female captain in the Star Trek universe, Captain (or Admiral, depending on your timeline) Kathryn Janeway. As she answered the audience members’ questions, she continually had to explain what it was like to be a “female captain.” Her answers were variants of the same concept each time. She was not playing a “female captain” in Star Trek: Voyager. She was playing a captain. That was it. In Mulgrew’s mind, gender is, and should be, a non-issue. She said that we are all equal already.

Mulgrew’s statements provoked me into questioning what it is to be an audience member. Am I like all others? If I myself had the courage to ask her a question, would I too have asked what it was like to be the prominent female captain in a primarily male universe? No, I said to myself. I’m a modern feminist too. I understand where she’s coming from.

As I watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer the other day, however, I checked my thoughts. I was considering how dreamy Angel is and how he just may show up to rescue Buffy…but then I remembered that this was created by Joss Whedon. Like Mulgrew, he believes in equality of the sexes. It occurred to me that one of the reasons Buffy exists is to prove that she can kick ass and doesn’t need a man to help her. At the end of one episode, a vampire gets the better of her and knocks her into an open coffin. I wondered how she was going to get out without being killed, and thought that Angel would probably show up to save her. In the next episode, Buffy’s cross necklace (given to her by Angel) burns the vampire’s skin, giving her just enough of an opening to strike back. In each episode, Buffy takes on the vampires by herself and doesn’t usually need too much help. Why, as an audience member, was I expecting a man to come to her rescue? For as much as I claim to be enlightened, I was missing the point Joss Whedon was trying to make. We can have a strong female lead not tethered by her femininity. Buffy likes shoes, and clothes, and wants to go on dates with boys. Buffy recognized a vampire in a club one time simply because his clothing was out of style. By expecting Angel to come to Buffy’s rescue, I was subscribing to the so-often proponed inequality that saturates our culture. And I was doing this unconsciously.

I’m sure there is an episode where Angel comes to Buffy’s rescue. The romantic in me will love to see it. I would love to have a man (perhaps one as beautiful as David Boreanaz) come to my rescue every once in awhile. But, now that I’ve considered my position as an audience member, I will think next time before I expect the man to do all the work for the woman.

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