Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Action-Babe Flicks: Seven Mistakes Superheroines Make

As more and more comic books are being turned into superhero heroes on the big screen, there has been the birth of a new genre of movies, "action-babe flicks." In this article "Seven Mistakes Superheroines Make," ( Christina Larson analyzes the key factors that determine the success of an action-babe flick. Due to the early successes of certain action-babe flicks, Larson noted that Hollywood began to use "a formula that pandered to all of the wrong instincts: Trot out hot bodies in tight costumes, choreograph some fight scenes, and wait for the profits to roll in." Yet simply over sexualizing these superheroines surprisingly did not lead to instant box-office success. Larson states that the failure of many of these flicks is due to seven mistakes...

1. Do fight demons. Don't fight only inner demons.

2. Do play well with others. Don't shun human society.

3. Do exhibit self-control. Don't exhibit mental disorders.

4. Do wear trendy clothes. Don't wear fetish clothes.

5. Do embrace girl power. Don't cling to man hatred.

6. Do help hapless men. Don't try to kill your boyfriend.

7. Do toss off witty remarks. Don't look perpetually sullen.

Larson applauds Tomb Raider as well as Buffy the Vampire Slayer for being the "first crop of warrior women won a following because they were strong, smart, and successful in addition to being sexy." As #4 states, superheroines should be well dressed, but not to an extent where they are overly sexualized. This is one major rule that flops Elektra and Batwoman made, with both superheroines donning Victoria-Secret inspired lingerie as their crime-fighitng costume. Larson is particularly critical of Elektra, stating that "she's a gloomy assassin who suffers from nightmares, insomnia, and OCD. Plus she hates her job but can't--or won't--figure out what else to do with her life." The main issue with Elektra according to Larson is that Elektra is far too consumed with her own problems that she becomes trapped in the identity of a normal girl and never rises to the rank of superheroine. She states that "the woman-searching-for-herself trope might work in other genres, but it's a bad fit with superheroes. For female fans, the superheroine saga is a fantasy about being in control. Successful heroines defy everyday restraints."

I personally agree that a superheroine needs to show an image of a successful and confident woman, with or without her super powers, but to criticize certain superheroines for having too much "real-life problems" is something I disagree with. Superheroines are made as role models for women, fantasized versions of themselves that everyday women wish they could be. When superheroines are forced to deal with their own problems in addition to their saving-the-world duties, the women audience can further identity and relate to the superheroine's struggles, wanting to root for the superheroines even more. Buffy, for example, is a successful superheroine financially, but also dealt with a lot of personal problems throughout the series. Rather, I feel like Elektra's failure is due to the fact that it never shows the heroine actively fighting her own inner struggles. I personally find it better to relate to a damaged superheroine that faces her own personal issues with bravery than an ideal superheroine who is perfect already. What do you all think makes a better superheroine? Is it better to have these superheroines be similar to goddesses or to have them be more similar to everyday women with their struggles?

Buffy: Not the Only Girl in All the World

While I always thought that Buffy the Vampire Slayer had many strong female characters, an article that I read made me think more about this idea. The title of this article is "Why Buffy the Vampire Slayer is not a feminist show." Basically the author of this work argues that while Buffy is a strong, independent female character, all of the other female characters are weak and become victims of vampire attacks. I disagree with this argument because while there are many women who play victims in this show, men are equally represented as victims.

Throughout the many seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, there are men and female vampires, heroes, and victims. While Willow plays a victim in season 1, she is the strongest character in season 6. The first episode starts with a female vampire killing a man which sets the stage for strong female characters. Drusilla is also a powerful character, along with Anya and Faith. I don't see how someone could say that the only strong female character is Buffy because there are so many counter-examples.

The author of this article also argues that they do not show Tara and Willow having sex like they show heterosexual couples having sex. I do agree that their homosexual relationship is not as open as other couples in the show but this is not really an issue of feminism as much is it is an issue of homosexuality. I think this show does a very good job of portraying strong female characters and doing as much as it could with homosexuality.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Everything is Life or Death

In reading, I came across some pretty intriguing posts. Although the site was misleading as far as the essay, it had some good aspects in its own right. I found one of Daniel Erenberg's articles, entitled "Finally There is Clarity," particularly interesting. This post discussed love as it is portrayed in Buffy the Vampire Slayer: a matter of life and death. Which figuratively it is - or at least that's how it feels.

From the very first season we see this theme, especially in Xander's quest for Buffy's affections. When he finally asks her out and she turns him down, it is the end of the world for him. However, it is coincidentally also actually the end of the world. As Erenberg writes, "There was even a scripted scene (never filmed) in which Xander quietly walked around campus as the sky rained stones on him. A sign of the apocalypse. Just as Buffy turning him down, was a sign of a personal apocalypse for Xander Harris."

The life-and-death nature of love shows up again and again throughout the series. In season 2, Buffy loses her virginity to Angel and he turns evil, breaking her heart. Spike constantly falls prey to the enormity of emotion and pain love can elicit, becoming "love's bitch." Anya and Xander experience this as well, from their engagement on the eve of the apocalypse to Xander leaving Anya at the altar, causing her to become a vengeance demon once again.

But despite the literal apocalypse appearing in these situations, we viewers are always able to relate to the characters. Even Erenberg discusses how Buffy helped him through the experience of his girlfriend cheating on him. Even in the context of vampires, demons, and apocalypses, (as Riley once said, I find myself needing to know the plural of apocalypse...) we can see ourselves in these characters, and in the Scooby Gang's end of the world we can see our own daily apocalypses.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Once More with Feeling: Tell me how you really feel

In this episode, everyone reveals something about themselves that causes harm to other people. For example, Xander and Anya sing to each other regarding their doubts about their marriage, Buffy sings and admits that she thinks Willow took her from heaven, and Willow sings to Tara happy that they had made up after their argument over Willow’s excessive use of magic (which Willow erased from Tara’s memory…by using magic).

I think this episode is not only creative on the director’s part, but is also important because it gives us the true insights to what the characters’ are feeling, but wouldn’t have admitted had they not been cursed with song. I found it truly interesting that despite it being the only musical episode, the characters were able to maintain their true personas while singing and dancing.

A True Hero

“The Gift” was supposed to be the series finale, until it was picked up by another network for an additional two seasons (Wikipedia). Because it was meant to be the last episode ever, it sums up a lot of the ongoing issues faced in the previous seasons. The two scenes that I found to be most important in this episode was the first scene when Buffy fought off a vampire, and the last scenes when Giles explains why Buffy is a hero, and when Buffy sacrifices herself.

In the first scene after Buffy fights off the vampire, she is asked, “how’d you do that?” to which Buffy responds, “It’s what I do.” (Season 5, Episode 22). He then tells her “you’re just a girl,” and Buffy responds, “that’s what I keep saying” (Season 5, Episode 22). This scene is crucial because it shows Buffy’s attitude towards her role as the slayer. At first I thought this comment was meant to be an attack against Buffy, meaning that as a woman she couldn’t handle fighting and protecting others. However, when I thought about it further, I realized that the boy was praising Buffy for what she had done to protect him: Buffy, a skinny and short young woman fought off and killed a large and demonic creature without any help.

The last few scenes of this episode show why Buffy is a true hero. After she beats down Glory, she leaves Ben (the body in which Glory emerges) alive instead of killing him. Giles comes along after Buffy and explains to Ben why Buffy is a hero: she couldn’t take a human life (Season 5, Episode 22). Giles proceeds to kill Ben, ensuring that Glory would be unable to reemerge. Most importantly, when Buffy realizes that she is able to stop the destruction with either her or Dawn’s death, she throws herself into the portal, sacrificing her life to save the world. Buffy is a true hero, and gives the ultimate gift of sacrifice for the good of the world.

Take a Walk on the Wild Side

The theme of sexuality was used greatly in “Enemies.” From the beginning, we see the struggle that Buffy fears Angel is dealing with (not being able to be intimate). We learn that Angel is happy enough without being intimate with Buffy, and he truly does love her. We see Cordelia’s new obsession with the new watcher, as she uses her sexuality to get him to take her on a date. I thought it was interesting that we see Faith try to lure Angel in with her sexuality, but ultimately fails and must use magic to convert him (which is actually a hoax).

We have discussed the theme of sexuality in class before, and noted that usually super heroines are over sexualized, especially in comics. We haven’t really seen the super heroines (Buffy and now Faith) over sexualized in the Buffy series, but this is the first episode where Faith most definitely is. She is used as bait by the Mayor to lure Angel in and change him back into a soulless demon. Although Faith is over sexualized, Buffy is not. We feel great sympathy for Buffy in this episode because of Faith’s betrayal and her fear that Angel no longer loves her.

Good Slayer/Bad Slayer

“Bad Girls” is the first episode where we meet Faith, the second slayer. She is the opposite of Buffy; she loves to slay, she dresses in dark and bold clothing, she lives on her own, and she focuses only on her job as a slayer. I think the fact that they are opposites is important because it shows two extremes of super heroines. They fight incredibly well as a team and help each other when in need. Throughout the episode we see Faith corrupt Buffy and turn her into a “bad girl” (hence the title of the episode). She skips her chemistry test, hurts Willow’s feelings, dances provocatively with men at Bronze, steals weapons, and ultimately crashes a police car after having been arrested.

It is in this episode that we see Buffy, the strong, good-willed slayer, turn into a risqué bad ass. However, the ending scene really showed the true difference between Buffy and Faith: their morals. When Faith accidentally kills a man, mistaking him for a vampire, she feels no remorse and tells Buffy she does not care that she killed a human. Buffy on the other hand, feels terribly and continues to confront Faith about the killing.

We see Buffy transform throughout this episode, but she shows her true colors in the end when she feels guilt for the death of a human.

Angel: the one distraction in all the world (at this point in the series..)

“Innocence” is the first episode where we see Buffy in a situation where she is not in power. After Buffy sleeps with Angel, he turns back into Angelus the demon, and joins Drusilla and Spike again. Buffy constantly worries about where Angel is, and is under his control in the sense that she is waiting for him to contact her.

She gets her control back in the end when she uses the military weapons to blow up the judge. She fights Angel even though she loves him, because she knows that he is Angelus the demon, not the Angel she knows and loves. Even though in the beginning of the episode Buffy loses the power she has, she gains it back in the end of the episode and continues to be the strong, in control super heroine we know her as.