Buffy and the After-School Special

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CitySquirrel:
You are confused.

I was basically agreeing with your point there.

Soylent Dave:
The writers didn't explicitly show Willow and Tara 'being gay'; in place of the physical affection you'd normally see in a teenage relationship (even in an American TV show), they tended to perform magic spells together.

Did we watch the same show? Did you watch some heavily censored version? Sure, they never had on screen sex (though it was implied), but no one else was on a WB network show either. And yeah... they didn't have the crazy make outs that some of the other characters did and if you want to talk about the double standard in society with what is acceptable for gays / acceptable for straight people, then I would be happy to do that. But they did kiss on screen, [snip] share a bed [snip]

They did those things eventually. The characters initially didn't display any physical affection, and even as the writers (directors?) got more comfortable with showing physicality within the relationship, it was still a bit neutered.

If you watch the start of their relationship - and for quite a long way into it - you can see where they've used magic as a euphemism for their getting closer physically and emotionally.

It's quite a long time before we see Willow and Tara share a bed - and when we do it's understood that this isn't their first time doing so; the characters are relaxed. There've been some 'closed door' scenes in earlier episodes, and so forth.

I wouldn't expect - or want - to see anything explicit, but they are clearly tiptoeing around scenes they were comfortable showing when it's a heterosexual relationship.

I'll re-emphasise - the use of magic as a replacement for these 'intimacy building' scenes is something they only do early on in their relationship. The writers then change (revert, actually, as others have pointed out with reference to Giles and Ethan being corrupted by magic) to their concept of Magic as Drugs.

The problem as I see it comes because they used both metaphors, within a relatively short space of time, with the same characters - so it comes across as a bit clumsy.

Although it's quite clumsily done anyway, as I said, having your gay character become otherwise evil or degenerate (in this case drug addiction and murder) is an appeal to morality - especially when other gay characters in the series are similarly degenerate (Vampire Willow, later Andrew (sort of)) or at best victims (Tara in most episodes where she had an actual role).

(there are other bits of the series where it turns into an old-fashioned morality play - Buffy gets punished for having extra-marital sex (or perhaps just for losing her virginity), for example - but the magic = drugs bit is probably the clumsiest one)

Soylent Dave:
snip

See when you say "I wouldn't expect - or want - to see anything explicit, but they are clearly tiptoeing around scenes they were comfortable showing when it's a heterosexual relationship." I will totally agree to this. And, once again, talk about double standards. If you read up on the history of lesbianism on tv, you might see why the networks had to be real cautious there. Although, looking back on it it seems like very few characters started their relation ships with lots of physical affection...Xander and Ayna are the exception, and the whole point of that was how unconventional she was.

But your argument doesn't make sense, especially if you have ever heard Joss Whedon talk about what he was trying to do. He was trying to subvert tropes, not play them up. Also, again I don't agree that even early in their relationship the magic was used in place of their intimacy. And even if it was, in order for your pattern to hold Willow should have given up lesbianism after she had her magic rehab and gone back to men. But she didn't.

I also want to address your interpretation of the situation with Angel. You could look at it as a punishment for having sex. Or you could look at it as "sex changes the relationship" or "people can change after sex" or "sex can have negative consequences"... the last being less a morality play than an after school special. In fact, the creator specifically stated he was going for something like that (I believe). We do all bring our own context into a text, and obviously this includes me, but I think there is a strong argument for Buffy subverting many traditional archetypes, not reinforcing them.

The point of this show was that they were young characters most of them getting into relationships for the first time, they understandably introduced the physical elements slowly.

With Willow/Tera they knew they had a gay couple they'd built up a relationshop for, now they had to decide how to show that without being exploitative, and they did it wonderfully, with some of the most natural interactions I've seen on any show.

I think the magic was never a metaphor for their relationship it was a pre=text for Tera to spend time with Willow, as she was never confident relying on her own charm alone.

Hell, even the Spike Buffy relationship, which was mostly about sex, they tap-danced around their feelings for aggggeeeessss.

CitySquirrel:
once again, talk about double standards

Yeah, the double standard is part of the problem.

But, while Joss (& co) may have wanted to subvert some stereotypes - and they definitely did - they did reinforce some others. I think the fact that they had previous avoided and subverted a few tropes is what is so disappointing (for me) when they play the "gays are broken" one straight.

For want of a better phrase.

It's an untidy metaphor because it's two metaphors - in the first place magic is a metaphor for their relationship (and it doesn't matter that it's magic; in older media (with heterosexual teens) it would have been sport, or reading or something). In the second instance magic is used as a metaphor for drug addiction.

This creates an unfortunate association - the same activity is deliberately connected as two separate metaphors, one of which is very dark; does that mean the intent is for both activities to be dark? Probably not - but the connection is there. It's clumsy - that's pretty much my point, there (I'm not trying to ram my point home and sticking my fingers in my ears (la la la), I just wasn't sure I'd made it clearly enough - I think that's as clear as I'm going to get now, though...)

If you don't agree that at one point magic was metaphorical lesbianism (and I can see why you & several other people don't), then you're obviously not going to see anything of the sort.

(As a side point, there's no way they could have had Willow go back to men; the writers would have been lynched..!)

I also want to address your interpretation of the situation with Angel. You could look at it as a punishment for having sex. Or you could look at it as "sex changes the relationship" or "people can change after sex" or "sex can have negative consequences"... the last being less a morality play than an after school special.

You can definitely make a case for all of those - and they can even co-exist. It's the severity of Buffy's 'punishment' which makes me think most of the 'virgins prosper' horror trope.

As you said, it's one interpretation amongst many.

I think there is a strong argument for Buffy subverting many traditional archetypes, not reinforcing them.

In a lot of cases (most obvious being the title character), across the whole series, very much so.

I'll also add that I don't necessarily think clichés always need to be subverted - they generally exist because they're useful storytelling tools. It's just some of the old fashioned stereotypey ones that are best forgotten about or replaced.

xdom125x:

kotorfan04:
Finally since Willow had two big relationships through-out the course of the show (Lets ignore Kennedy) wouldn't it be more accurate to say she was bisexual, not gay?

This is one of those things that people have mixed reactions for. I think that she was bisexual because she had attraction to 2 people of different sexes, while others think she was 'in the closet' while with Oz, while another group think she "turned gay" after Oz left. I think she just tried to avoid showing attraction to guys because she was still a little bitter at guys because of Oz.

I guess I just like thinking she is bisexual so I can pretend I have a shot with a non-existant character... Don't judge me.

OT: Also I think Season 6 of Buffy is when Joss Whedon completely snapped and decided to just start making fanboys cry. I am going to have a tough time plowing through that season knowing all the horrible things that happen in it.

kotorfan04:

xdom125x:

kotorfan04:
Finally since Willow had two big relationships through-out the course of the show (Lets ignore Kennedy) wouldn't it be more accurate to say she was bisexual, not gay?

This is one of those things that people have mixed reactions for. I think that she was bisexual because she had attraction to 2 people of different sexes, while others think she was 'in the closet' while with Oz, while another group think she "turned gay" after Oz left. I think she just tried to avoid showing attraction to guys because she was still a little bitter at guys because of Oz.

I guess I just like thinking she is bisexual so I can pretend I have a shot with a non-existant character... Don't judge me.

OT: Also I think Season 6 of Buffy is when Joss Whedon completely snapped and decided to just start making fanboys cry. I am going to have a tough time plowing through that season knowing all the horrible things that happen in it.

Hey, I agree with you on both points.

I can't help but feel that you may be reading more into it than the show intended.

I think if they meant to put across life lessons, as it were, they would have done a better job of it. Often any kind of serious social/emotional issue (like in your examples) that were brought to light were simply to add flavour and almost never had any real resolution beyond a bandaid 'now lets get on with the more important thing - stopping evil! fix.

This isn't a bad thing, I think, unless you see BtVS as a show aimed at giving these lessons, and failing. I don't. To me it was a 7pm-slot entertainment with sprinkles of relevant issues and not much else. (Those daytime soaps, on the other hand...)

Although I do agree, the bit with Willow and her magic addiction was well done simply because it was taken so slowly. Of course, unless the core characters suffered the problems of abusive boyfriend/suicide/etc then those issues raised in other episodes have no choice but to be rushed and somewhat pat.

Thank you escape forum addicts, I have now purchased the complete box set of the buffy series.

Great article too read it originally last week.

Some times when episodic writers get a bit lucky things happen that turn in to a foreshadowing moment that one can look back on and say that's where it was introduced. Some writers do this on purpose, for others it's accidental.

That being said series have and should have a story arc, Babylon 5 I shall excuse because it's epic, and if that arc leaves writers scope for a further arc or three then that's great something good to watch on TV next season (Ghost Whisperer where are you?).

I'm looking forward to watching the Buffy series from ep1 to final episode and hope the journey is as good as I remember it being, although I haven't seen them all.

I wonder when I can get B5 box set? Second job required anyone hiring?

Edit (B5 complete set is actually cheaper than Buffy)

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