Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Funny Thing About "Girl Power"

This article by Rachel Fudge, titled "The Buffy Effect," was published in Bitch Magazine back in 1999, when the Buffy TV series was only about halfway complete. It covers a lot of important aspects of Buffy, such as how "Buffy was explicitly conceived as a feminist reimagining of the horror genre," how "Buffy could be the poster girl for an entire decade of girl-oriented mass media/culture" (what with her ability to flip, fight, and defeat demons while keeping her hair and makeup impeccable), and how Buffy lives "many a girl/woman’s dream: to be able to walk down any street of any town at any hour of the day or night, knowing she can defeat any monster who crosses her path." Alright, the last one may be a bit cheesy and outdated, but no one can deny that having some Slayer skills will considerably improve one's self-confidence.

Although much of the article praises how Buffy's strength and sass wins points for the feminist movement, I was most drawn toward one of the article's main points that "While girl power and the accompanying mania for girl culture has certainly helped spread pro-feminist, pro-female messages throughout the land, it also threatens to turn empowerment into yet another product." After all, hasn't this been the case for almost every book, show, or trend that at least somewhat promotes the "girls kick ass" idea? It's impossible to name a superheroine that hasn't appeared on or influenced at least a million shirts, novelty gifts, beverages, or cereals, whether they are cartoon characters (say, The Powerpuff Girls) or more tangible ones like Buffy. The trademark phrases, actions, or appearances from our favorite heroines that are widely talked about are also eventually mass-marketed (Halloween costumes are an example).

The article says it perfectly with "Herein lie the limitations inherent in the Buffy phenom: “Girl power” as articulated in the mass media (and mass marketing) is often misrepresented as de facto feminism, when in fact it’s a diluted imitation of female empowerment." Isn't that equivalent to the disempowerment of female role models, then, as they are placed in the same category as a trendy toy or gadget?


  1. I think our society in general has a tendency to mass-market products after any successful TV series/comic/movie. Not only have superheroines been subject to this, but the superhero franchise has been huge. Rather, I think it's good that these superheroines are getting marketed, as it gives children another choice when it comes time to choose their toys. Girls are given the choice to fight evil with a Powerpuff Girls toy instead of always playing house with Barbie.

  2. I agree with Winnie, I think it is a good thing that these super heroines are being commercialized into products. It is almost exciting that they are mass-market products just like G.I. Joe and Superman toys that little kids play with. Wouldn't it be cool if little girls were playing with Buffy the super strong vampire slayer dolls instead of super skinny done-up Barbie dolls?


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