Monday, April 16, 2012

Metaphorical Slant within Buffy?

On my hunt to find a topic to find to write my next blog post about I came across a very interesting article entitled, “The Buffy Effect” written by Rachel Fudge and published within the 10th issue of Bitch Media in 1999. This article brings forth all questions of Buffy’s femininity vs. her slayer side. It is quite a lengthy article and looks into the entire Buffy Series and delves into analysis from Buffy’s wardrobe to the comparison of the villains and certain situations that occurred within the show to issues that are prevalent within any average teenagers life. It compares the failure of the first Buffy Movie to the success of the television show. In general, it is a very good article and I suggest all of you take some time to at least skim through it. I, however, took some of my favorite excerpts from this article and am going to post them here so you all can get an analysis of Buffy published in a magazine that believes in strong women empowerment.
 In this following excerpt, the author of this article is posing the suggestion that Joss Whedon created certain scenes or characters to make a metaphor between the show and issues within a teenager’s life:
True, Buffy’s enemies are more often demons than date rapists, vampires than patriarchal politicians. Buffy’s not a riot grrl renegade out slaying frat-boy harassers or destroying all vestiges of sexism—at least not literally. But evil in Sunnydale often takes a nicely metaphoric slant.
Critics writing about the show have been quick to pinpoint the parallels between Buffy’s demonology and real-life high school horrors, focusing heavily on the high-school-as-hell metaphor: Demons are the gangs; the transformation of gullible kids, victimized and “turned” by demons, represents the effects of drugs; the helplessness of grown-ups in the face of all this, well, that’s just life (according to Psychology Today). Then there are the parallels to real teenage life—as opposed to parents’ fears about drugs and gangs. You can’t bring your boyfriend home to meet your parents ’cause they just won’t understand (or, well, he’s a recovering vampire); the boy you lose your virginity to turns mean and nasty the morning after (vampires, even recovering ones, don’t respond well to human bliss.”

I found this excerpt to parallel really well with what we have recently been talking about in class and once I read these comparisons I truly did see them and when watching the shows for next class, it’s hard not to see these metaphors everywhere within the show. Joss Whedon created a show that could possibly tackle many teenage issues without ever actually tackling them head on, but still getting the message across. However, I am skeptical as whether the normal teenager watching this show in the 1990s truly understood this parallel or they completely missed this message. And this article only speculates to these metaphorical slants, however, I think they are present within the show. What do you think? Did Joss Whedon do this purposely? Are there metaphors? Or do these critics merely take the analysis of this show too far? 


  1. Totally, Inez. I think you're absolutely right. I mean, this IS almost EXACTLY what we talked about in class. Today.

    After discussing at length in class the amount of TLC Whedon puts into his writings in the form of metaphors and allegories, I think it's fair to say that he is clearly a genius writer. And since there are SO many GOOD metaphors, I can't help but think he does this almost effortlessly. "The Whedon Effect" might be a more fit title, giving credit where credit is due.

    Due to the broad topics subtly addressed in Buffy, combined with the fact that it has seven seasons, Whedon virtually created a friend/therapist in the form of television for the masses of young people watching and growing up with this series. It basically helped them all through some of the most trying and formative times of their lives. It's no small wonder that so many diehard Buffy fans exist. It's the work of a benevolent genius.

  2. I definitely agree with you that Joss Whedon is immersing the audience into teenage life, and more importantly the perils of adolescence and how they combat them. I think that this contributed to its long lasting reign of seven seasons. Many of its audiences, primarily teenagers, may find themselves relating to the characters in both real life high school. The series shows the highs and lows of adolescence. Additionally, along with the banalities of everyday life, teens are also exposed to the excitements of Buffy's life, from slaying vampires and other supernatural creatures to falling in love with one. This shows the instabilities of teen life.

  3. I think it is very likely that Joss Whedon was aware of these metaphors and chose to portray them the way he did. Even if it was not something done on purpose, the fact that many people interpret it this way shows that it is an appropriate, or at least relevant, reading. This is the way that many viewers watch the show, thus it will have that effect on them. Especially with a target audience of teenagers, the metaphors related to high school are relevant and significant. Even subconsciously, these metaphors could have affected the audience in the 90s when the show was first aired and made it more relatable.

  4. I would say that Joss Whedon knew what he was doing, and knew exactly what metaphors were shown and where. He parallels real life high school drama with that of Buffy's crazy demon antics so well, that it's hard to miss it. I would have to say that most teens in the 90s would have surely interpreted them the same as we do. Most likely even better because of some of the cultural references we might miss being of a slightly younger audience. Whedon definitely plays up the high school is hell metaphor constantly. Even at the end of Graduation Part 2, it's hard to miss Oz's line:
    "Guys, take a moment to deal with this. We survived."
    Buffy: "It was a hell of a battle."
    Oz: "Not the battle. High School."
    I think a lot of credit is due to Joss Whedon, and his crafty exposition of the terrors of high school.

  5. There are lots of details high school kids will miss when watching Buffy. The primary reason most high school kids would was Buffy is to be entertained, not to learn about feminism. However, I'm pretty sure that even if high school kids were not paying full attention to the metaphors, they still picked up the messages that Whedon had put in the show. The reason being that the show more-or-less is a metaphorical mirror of there own lives. Sometimes, I feel, girls would want to drive a stake into a date-rapist heart, but then that would be illegal. Still, I feel that Buffy resonated with young girls because she represents what they want to be; a female hellbent on overturning centuries of patriarchy. Whedon just did it in such a way that the idea of feminism is more accessible and universal that just selling it directly, as the article mentions. Had Buffy just slayed guys who come on to her too strongly, she would be portrayed as crazy. With her slaying vampire, it is not only a reversal of years where the blonde is the victim, it's also pretty cool to watch.

  6. This is actually spot on. It's great that the show can introduce an interesting story line about something we literally could not relate to (vampires) but still present it in a way that makes it completely relatable to us. It literally shows us that the demons in our lives can be defeated by first accepting the existence of them, and then getting through them with the support of close friends.


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