Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Halloween and New Identities

Even if you aren’t marathoning Buffy, I highly highly highly recommend watching Season 2 Episode 6, Not only it is a fantastic episode, but it also has some interesting commentary on feminine personalities and power.
The plot is that it’s Halloween (the title kind of gave that one away) and Buffy finds an old drawing of Darla, Angel’s old girlfriend. Buffy wants to be like that and dresses up as a beautiful princess for Halloween. Willow gets brave and dresses like a hooker (or something), but chickens out and gets a ghost costume. Xander dresses as an army guy. The fun starts when the characters begin to turn into their costumes.

I like the contrast Joss Whedon gives to the female leads. Firstly, Buffy becomes helpless as she tries to become ultra feminine in seeking a man. She needs to be protected and gets very close to being killed. Buffy loses all of the strength she possessed as the Slayer. She cannot act as a rational and calm woman. She gains every weakness typically associated with women. In being the princess, she can no longer take care of herself and becomes dependent on the rest of the Scoobies. This is the danger of repressing the strong side for the ultimate girly girl.

Willow is the opposite in this episode. She is the shy, nerdy girl who for a moment works up the courage to be a badass chick. Willow covers up her Halloween look, but when she becomes a ghost everyone can see it. She takes control of the situation in the same way she takes control of her sexual identity in that outfit. The female character that expresses herself in a powerful manner like that is the strong one able to keep the rest safe. Cordelia also dresses in a slutty cat costume (but doesn’t turn into a cat). The difference is that Cordelia dressed in that manner with the sole purpose to look good for boys. Willow just wants to be different. Because it is not for the attention of males, it is Willow embracing another part of herself. In realizing her potential in that manner, Joss Whedon and the writers make her the hero of the day.

Finally, on an interesting side note, this is the first episode to see Xander as a manly, and I think attractive, character. We see the weak female because of her femininity, a strong female because of her sexuality. Yet we also see Xander becoming strong only when he takes on a male stereotype of power. It seems a little contradictory. Or is Xander already a strong character who is challenges gender norms who finally gets an episode as the stereotype?


  1. I think Xander is an interesting character in the Scoobies. Mostly, he is the source of comic relief during times of tension and seriousness. He also forms complex relationship with Buffy, Willow, and Cordelia. Yet, after watching the end season 3, I do not think that his character has shown as much growth as the other characters. We see Willow evolve into a morally strong female character as a loyal friend to Buffy, helping her every step of the way. She also comes to love Oz, and forms a genuine mature relationship. This contrasts with Xander, in that he often does like someone but she often turns out to be some form of creature such as a former demon or a mummy. Additionally, Xander often displays his masculinity (taking on the male stereotype) and even competes with Angel sometimes. This may show his insecurities of his masculinity.

  2. I think Xander's lack of growth as a character is directly related to his struggle with his masculinity, which is the reason for his many failed love interests. Xander becomes a comic relief for the audience due to the fact that he is often found stating the obvious. Although it is usually the obvious to us, Buffy and the gang do not always have a clear perspective on the current events, therefore, his unwitting insight is of value to them. In my opinion, this episode showcases some of Xander's insecurities. We see Xander responding poorly to Larry's threats by pushing him into the soda machine. I think by choosing to dress up as an army man Xander demonstrates his desire to be more of a man.

  3. I think Xander is a representation of real guys out there who do struggle with masculinity, and is defying the stereotypes of the ultra masculine guy who always saves the damsel (or damsels) in distress. I agree with Alexandra that he does demonstrate the desire to be more of a man, which is normal I think. I think Joss Whedon switched the gender roles specifically between Buffy and Xander, having Buffy be the one who constantly saves Xander.

  4. I completely agree with Madelynn on her point. Most guys are more like Xander then James Bond or some other classic masculine character. No offense to any of the guys that you're not James Bond, but Prince Charming characters place unrealistic standards on guys just like the gender roles placed on females. The guys I am friends with are not perfect, have their awkward moments, and my not always be rocking a classy suit. I think Xander appeals to that. He is still one of my favorite characters, and shows strong and reliable qualities that normal guys can have. He can make the audience appreciate a guy for his more subtle actions than always being the action hero.

  5. To what extent is this show actually changing gender roles? While Buffy may have power in the relationship between her and Xander, she is still extremely feminine. Cheerleading, blonde, stylish and emotional, Buffy fits the stereotype of femininity. She may be able to kick some ass, but to what extent does that destroy gender norms? The audience sees Buffy as a typical female character- regardless of how strong she may be, little girls dressing up on Halloween to be Buffy are still conforming to the stereotypical image of women. In terms of Xander's gender differences, he feels emasculated constantly, comparing himself to Buffy and wishing he could contribute in the manner that she does to the world. His struggle with power only proves that manliness exists as power, and that men typically assume the role of power. While he may be sensitive, and may embody how men should be, the role of power and masculinity are still present in the plot, and suggest that power should belong to men.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.