Saturday, April 23, 2011

In Sheep's Clothing

Something that has always intrigued me about the depiction of women as agents of violence precisely because it has never been standardized, and the motivations for perpetuating the violence have never been quite the same as opposed to depictions of men as heroes and agents of violence which are much more mundane, never straying too far away from the cookie cutter tried and true archetypes. One can go back all the way to ancient dramas where Euripides created an angry and vengeful and jealous Medea who murders Jason’s new wife Glauce as well as her children to voice her rage. Yet another instance Beatrix Kiddo, who we’re all undoubtedly familiar with from our study of Kill Bill. Her motivation to destroy all who stand in her way is also rooted in revenge and a hatred for those who unsympathetically curtailed her attempt to provide a normal childhood for her daughter by ambushing her wedding and taking her daughter away from her.

Perhaps one of the new innovations and twists as of late really is something that should’ve really been addressed long ago. In contrast to the motivations of revenge used to contextualize the need for women to commit violence in the past, more modern interpretations depict powerful women committing violence for the simply reason that they can and they should, because it is a conscious choice. Buffy puts stakes through hearts and spin kicks demons and vampires precisely because she wants to and has to because she is saving the world from descending into hell. Veronica Mars also came to mind as another example. Mars is seemingly in complete control of her able to sneak around and extract information about sketchy suspects. Once again, the need to justify violence isn’t because of familial issues or because of retribution, it’s the fact that might does make right, and these female heroes can exact violence because they are portrayed to be powerful, so much so that even men succumb to their power. Despite this, these figures have appearances that belie their power. They’re petite and attractive, and i find it a little strange. We spent so much time admiring big and tall men as agents capable of great power and violence, but the opposite seems to be true for women. It’s not as if any of these characters are playing the femme fatale stereotype, so the heightened sexuality in their appearance is at once confusing and ambiguous.

1 comment:

  1. It's interesting that you draw the connection from Buffy to Veronica Mars. Joss Whedon apparently loved the series, and went as far as to call it the "Best. Show. Ever. Seriously, I've never gotten more wrapped up in a show I wasn't making, and maybe even more than those [...] These guys know what they're doing on a level that intimidates me. It's the Harry Potter of shows." A big difference between the two heroines is that Mars is the victim of sexual violence. That rape case is the heart of the Veronica Mars series, whereas Buffy never gives up her sexual agency. The two petite blonde characters have very different agendas and modes of operation, which reinforces your point that the depictions of women as perpetrators of violence isn't standardized.


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