Sunday, April 15, 2012

Buffy Both Defies and Plays into Female Gender Roles

After watching more episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer than necessary, I have come to love this show. Not just because of the happy 90s flashbacks, or the kickass heroine, but because of how Joss Whedon created a character with more depth than I thought possible. To me Buffy is very complex, she is portrayed as the blonde and popular cheerleader, the dark and twisted loner, the rebellious trouble maker, the sweetheart, as well as the hero all at once. Whereas on the surface she seems just like a girl fulfilling her duty, wishing she could have a normal life, she is also faced with trials of love, friendship, morality, and a typical high school experience of trying to fit in. Her ability to morph into these different characters astounds me. She can be the popular girl, but chooses the friends she thinks will be lifelong and meaningful. Even so, she ends of being friends with Cordelia as well. 

While watching the episodes "What's My Line" part 1 and 2, Buffy comes across a second slayer Kendra, and the juxtaposition of this other girl who was sent to her watcher at a young age to be trained, who has no life outside of slaying, shows how extraordinary Buffy really is. She balances her whole world in miraculous fashion, and even though it obviously comes at a high price, with many mishaps and conflicts, she still does it. 

This is why I feel she both defies and plays into stereotypical female gender roles. On the one hand she is a blonde cheerleader, who battles boy drama and fitting in at school. She also occasionally plays the damsel in distress, but even so it's rare. On the other hand, she defies many of the stereotypes for both females and female heroines. She fights with boys, and plays dirty at it as well. She fights with weapons, hand to hand combat, and basically beats up on these huge male characters with little mercy. 

The complexity of Buffy's character is what draws me to this show so much. I feel she is an awesome superheroine, and does a good job of empowering females. 


  1. I think you might enjoy this website:

    Its scholarly articles on Buffy and Whedonverse :)

    I wrote my senior thesis in undergrad about Buffy and her navigation of third wave feminism. She totes embodies it.

  2. I agree with many of the points you make about Buffy’s character. I think that one reason she has become so popular with viewers is that she maintains a balance in her life and in relation to gender stereotypes. Instead of allowing feminine traits to hinder her, she uses them to her advantage and they become empowering. She proves that a girl with boy troubles and who likes fashion can still fight demons and essentially save the world. It makes her a great role model for the teenage girls who the show is directed towards.

  3. I absolutely love the two pictures that you chose for your post! They show the stark contrast between the two parts of Buffy that contradict each other so much but seem to flow seamlessly into one character. However, I would say that Buffy defies gender stereotypes more than she promotes them. There are definitely moments in the show where she plays into gender stereotypes (I think this can be seen really clearly in her relationship with Angel and her emotional response to losing her virginity to him). However, overall I think the show defies gender stereotypes by having a beautiful cheerleader be the “one girl in all the world” that can save humanity from vampires—showing that girls in the most stereotypical sense can actually have a tremendous amount of power and strength.

  4. I, too, have to agree with Emily that the intense contrast between the two images you chose truly show the different sides of Buffy. I feel that Buffy became a major character because she played into the typical 90's character of a blonde, pretty girl, dealing with more or less all the troubles and tribulations of managing high school, but with one huge twist thrown in there---she is a Vampire Slayer. I do believe that Whedon created a character who both occasionally plays into the gender stereotype, but also manages to defy them and break those stereotypes. She can still have it all, she cans still be the normal high school student and she can still save the world, it creates a very strong sentiment about her character.


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