Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Names of Buffy

When researching for my Buffy the Vampire Slayer paper, I came across a website that gives “AKA’s” to all of the characters of the show. It documents every name that the character has ever been called either by themselves or others and the episodes in which it happened. This is a pretty remarkable resource for studying the characters in Buffy, as it provides a general idea of how they view themselves and are viewed by others in the show.
For example, Willow has positive vibes coming from her AKA article as she is mainly called names like “a bad ass Wiccan,” “goddess,” and “a bookworm.”  Buffy, on the other hand, definitely has a dark list of names about her. Not only does she call herself some pretty nasty things, but she is also hated and ridiculed by many characters on the show who are not necessarily the supernatural enemies that she fights. Some examples of these colorful names are: “the manic depressive chick,” “a stuck up tight ass with no sense of fun,” and “a psycho bitch.” I find it interesting that she is so easily criticized; you would think that as a main character, a superheroine nonetheless, she would be loved and appreciated by the hundreds of people she has saved, right?
The more I thought about it, however, the more I realized this is almost always the case. People hold those in authority, those with power, and those in the media to a higher standard automatically. Everyone goes berserk when a government official or celebrity has some kind of scandal, but barely reacts when it is their neighbor committing the same crime because “of course they would make that mistake, they’re only human.”
Should we hold those with the ability to be influences to the rest of society to a higher standard than those who don’t? Buffy, an example and role model to many people (her sister Dawn for example), is shown as a very real character with both rational and irrational characteristics. She is obviously flawed, like all humans, but is still set to hold these near perfect standards by herself and her friends. Do you think it is right that she is so targeted for her failures because others will follow suit? Or do you think she should be allowed the same amount of slack as everyone else?


  1. Does it list which characters call her which names? It would be interesting to know how many of the bad ones were courtesy of Spike.
    As for the main question on the higher obligation of "important" people, I'm not quite sure where I stand. I know last year at a debate tournament, this was a topic. Do superheroes have the obligation to help those so called "normal" people.
    The show analyzes this too. Think of the episode we watched, "Bad Girls". Faith doesn't believe she has to help the helpless, but it seems to be Buffy and the Scooby Gang's mission to do good.

    As for politicians, I think they have to be more careful than most people. They are elected to represent and make the rules for the rest of the country. People want to be represented well. Also, society doesn't want corrupt officials making the rules for everyone else. I don't think we can expect them to be perfect, but if they chose this lifestyle, they are expected to be more presentable and morally sound.

  2. Good points, MaggieH. The population doesn't want their worst attributes represented by these officials; they want their politicians to be collections of the best traits possible. Though I believe we sometimes need to step back and remember that our DNA is something like 90% identical, and that politicians are fallible human individuals as well, I agree that someone in that business should take extra care to keep their Freudian desires in check.

    As far as obligation goes... wouldn't you consider it immoral if someone with the ability to help another refused? Wouldn't it immediately make that person less moral? (Don't we do that every day we DON'T donate our money to charity?) So perhaps it's selfish to abstain from aiding others, but if someone is exceptionally moral already, they have some leeway with their saved-up positive karma, and can shirk their "responsibility" more often without going into moral debt, so to speak. They may conserve some resources (time, energy, money) by not helping others, but ultimately I see it as their decision whether that bit of moral karma is worth the brief vacation.

  3. Though I do agree that those in power are often times put at higher standards, I don't think that the differences in the names people call Buffy and Willow are the different standards people put them to. I think at many times, Willow and Buffy can be seen as equally powerful. Instead, I think naturally as a superheroine you will have more enemies than your sidekick. Most of the negative names Buffy has are said by, in some form, an enemy.

    I do, however, agree that Buffy's harshest critic is herself. When she fails, she isn't criticized by her friends, but is frustrated by herself. I think this stems from her knowing that it is her destiny to be the one girl in all the world, which is a lot of pressure for an adolescent girl. Politicians, on the other hand, choose to live a public life in service to the community. I think because of this they should at times be put on a higher standard.

  4. I think this also relates to gender dynamics in relationship to power. When men assert their authority, we almost never question their ability to make decisions, and we almost never consider their authority unwarranted. For women however, authority is translated to being a "bitch", which creates a negative relationship between women and power, and undermines women's ability to maintain power because it is seen as illegitimate. Women are more often than not criticized for asserting their dominance and power in situations, whereas men are often expected to take control over situations "naturally". I think the different names that Buffy is referred to reflects the notion that men are uncomfortable with women in a position of power, and tend to delegitimize them by calling them derogatory terms that undermine their authority, such as bitch.

  5. If you have the ability to influence thousands of people, than you will be held to a higher standard. It what people like to do and have been doing for years. Take Tiger Woods, for example. When ordinary men cheat on their wives, it's not good, but they don't get constantly hounded by the media telling them what a bad person you are. Not to mention losing sponsors and millions of dollars.
    Buffy is expected to be a great person because she has to defend the earth from vampires. Any faults that she has could compromise her job and the whole world with her.

  6. So it seems that everyone has come up with a similar conclusion: People in power should be held at a higher standard, (which I also agree with.) Nonetheless, we must keep in mind that they are human and people make mistakes. Okay, there was the toss-up summed up.
    As for derogatory name-calling, I agree with Alex: It seems when a woman is in a lot of power, men AND women tend to easily call her names to maybe bring her down a notch. I feel people are more comfortable with the idea of a man being of higher authority, but when it is a woman in charge, they want to be on equal levels. I don't know for certain if it has to do with being embarrassed, (like its a shot to someone's ego) that a woman has more command over you, but this seems to be the case.
    However, I would like to point out that if I had a tough male boss and he was abusing his power or being extra rude, I would probably be thinking "What a dick/douche!" So I don't believe that we only name-call women in power. Men get name-called as well, just maybe not as often.


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