Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Feminism and feminity in Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Ok, this is a very large theme I cannot develop in just one post. I plan to write my thesis on this theme next year. As many of you know, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is considered by some to be rather silly, because it's focusing on a short blonde girl who slays vampires and other creatures of darkness because it is her destiny. However, as I came to notice over the last years, many professors and fans around the world have written articles on the Internet, or philosophy books about this show (check out: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Philosophy, by James B. South, or the website "all things philosophical on BTVS").

Many of these scholars insist on the message of strong feminity vehiculed by the series. It reverses all clich├ęs established by horror movies: the creator's idea was to go against the scene where the blonde girl screams for ten minutes before being murdered by the killer. Here the blonde girl cracks a joke and kicks the vampire's butt! Buffy's physical strength is merely a metaphor for the potential that all girls carry within themselves. On the other hand, vampires symbolize (among other things) destructive masculinity: they have fangs (phallic symbols!) that penetrate the body of the unwilling victim (rape, anyone?).

Just a remark: the show certainly doesn't hate men. On the contrary, they are a huge asset to female empowerment. It is through a benevolent paternal figure embodied by Giles that Buffy can actualize her potential, and thanks to the men she loves, she gets stronger, because they accept her power. I won't insist on that since it was the subject of my last post.

Anyway, Buffy and her friends, among them a lot of strong females as Willow, a powerful witch who saves the world, carry a message of strength and solidarity. Their group is constituted by "thick" members as we saw in one article: every member of the group is an "outcast" from normal society (which turns out to not actually exist in their world). But in the end, they're the one saving the world when everyone else thought they were crazy.

I think everyone in our class should acknowledge the positive message the series sends to its audience: every one of us have power, the question is to use it wisely. I believe being in Dr J's class is an excellent start.

Yesterday was Women's day. We should make every single day of the year count.

Someone made a very funny video on Youtube criticizing Twilight for its sexist views and praising Buffy's feminist message: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZwM3GvaTRM&feature=related You should watch that!

Have a great Spring Break !


  1. You should probably try to contact Professor Shade if you are interested in writing on Buffy, I know he is an advocate for the philosophical contribution the show makes. Also, you note that most people find the show ridiculous, I'm not sure if it is the vampires either, but maybe just because the "hero" of the series is a female, which complicates matter even further. Also, never thought of the fangs as that way, but it makes sense.

  2. Thanks Cal for the tip. I will contact Professor Shade, even if I will be back in France next year.

    Also, could you explain why having a hero as a female complicates the matter?
    I think what some people don't like is the fact that Buffy reverses gender roles in some ways: she is a warrior and protects men as much as females. However, she is also very feminine (I hate to say that, because it emphasizes stereotypes), but I mean that she wears skirts (no armors), make-up and acts as a typical teenage girl, especially when she's still in the first season, wondering about her popularity and worrying about being considered "a freak" because of her strength.

    More food for thought: do you find it difficult to reconcile "preaching" feminism and behaving sometimes "like a girl"? Is it contradictory?

  3. Wow! I always liked BTVS. I watched the movie and thought it was awesome. I love how the hero is a strong independent female, but at the same time, she isn't seen as butch or masculine because of her strength. It is rare to see a show that has strong women without bashing men, and i think BTVS does a great job with showing the good and bad of both men and women. Your example of Giles was perfect.


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