Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Guest Post: Buffy Virgin Watches Season 2

Our guest contributor, Elizabeth Kobayashi has just finished watching Season Two of Buffy, and is here to report on what she saw. You can read her reaction to Season One here. She is in love with Giles.

Thoughts on the Slayer Gang, Round Two

Due to my borderline obsession with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and my laziness when it comes to writing articles (also know as, actively working on a novel that eats my writing brain), I am halfway through Season 3. That makes it a touch difficult to comment on Season 2 without being influenced by the massive character development that has occurred since that fateful season finale…but I shall do my best. 

Overall, Buffy continues to present us with strong female leads and a couple male leads who all fall nicely outside the lines of action gender stereotypes.

Let’s take a look. Ladies first:

Buffy: Season 2 began with an angsty Buffy who hadn’t processed her more-than-near-death encounter with the Master. She’s still the self-sufficient Slayer who kinda needs her friends watching her back, like all heroes do. But she’s the Slayer and it’s her job to save the day. I like that, but I’m also a fan of heroines who aren’t so independent they seem to be compensating for insecurity. Buffy has her, “I must do this alone moments,” which of course often turn out badly, as they always do in young adult fiction, but she’s generally decently balanced. 

I liked seeing her emotional side come into play when she’s unable to kill Angel after he loses his soul. This seems like a weakness—and indeed, they all pay for it dearly (I seriously hated Angel’s guts through the second half of this season)—but I respected the realness of her love for him. And more importantly, she came through when she had to. When the fate of the world hung in the balance, she killed Angel…that was the most heart-wrenching moment of the whole show so far. He got his soul back, and she once again had the man she loved, and he remembered nothing, and she killed him. 

She came through. She suffered. She’s the Slayer.

Willow: Willow grew up a lot in this season. She started off with her same techy skills, and progressed to substitute-teaching for the computer class and pulling off the difficult gypsy curse that restored Angel’s soul. She really started to come into her own. Her relationship with Oz got her over her fancy for Xander (which I came to realize was really good, because she deserves someone way more mature than Xander). 

And despite her total inability to lie and her adorable awkwardness, she’s pretty darn confident and can really kick butt when she needs to (though usually not in the physical sense, given she doesn’t have Slayer powers to make up for her small stature and book-worthy athleticism).

Cordelia: During Season 1, I didn’t think I’d be writing about Cordelia. Ever. But turns out, she’s pretty funny. 

If you’re going to write an oblivious, self-centered ditz, this is the way to do it. Because I actually really like her now. I don’t consider her a strong female character, but she’s funny and endearing and really perfect with Xander, so I approve. We also got to see her as a real person with real feelings as we discover that she’s actually really in love with Xander.

Jenny Calendar: This poor woman. She was such a great addition to the team—once she recovered from the whole demon-possession ordeal, she bounced back as Giles’ love interest and a valuable sorcery resource. Then the whole nasty thing with Angel happened and she was cut out of the group again. She suffered the mistrust of the man she loved and was so close to restoring Angel’s soul and making up for the lies she told everyone, and then she died. 

I was really horrified. 

I honestly couldn’t believe that she’d really died. I felt awful. Especially since Buffy had been mean to her and Giles hadn’t fully made up with her yet. I hated Angel. Deeply. I thought Miss Calendar was cool. She was smart and daring and good for Giles. She will be missed.

Now for the guys:

Giles: Still my favorite. Turns out, this guy’s got a dark secret past. We got to see Giles’ scary side, and it was scary. He also got to kick butt a bit more in this season, but he still figured predominantly as the resource of all knowledge, rejoicing at the thought of an afternoon with his books and drinking tea (except for the one time he was drinking not tea because of that demon from his young rebellious days). 

I liked seeing him do a bit of slayage, though, and I was so angry with Angel that I didn’t even mind Giles’ revenge flaming-bat-beating deal (I’m usually not into revenge). 

He is also, may I mention, very mature and reasonable (except for one episode when the grief of losing Jenny was too fresh for him to think clearly), which is a breath of fresh air when you’ve got teenagers and only passably mature moms everywhere else. Giles is pretty much just made of pure awesome and I will always love him.

Ed. Oh you'll love him. Just wait.
Xander: He’s considerably more useful than he was in Season 1, but he’s still immature and largely comic relief. I wouldn’t say I fell in love with him during Season 2, but I would say my fondness of him became more genuine. 

He has the qualities of being brave, honest, loyal, and witty, which usually outweigh his flaws of brashness, flippancy, and jealousy-biased opinions. Also, Cordy thought he was hot in a Speedo, which is points for him. That was a funny episode, by the way.

Oz: Oz is probably the most mature of the high schoolers. He is older, which probably plays into it a bit, but he’s just got a calm and collected demeanor at all times. His brains and maturity make him worthy of Willow, in my opinion. I don’t have a ton to say about him except that I like him and (since I’m already partway through Season 3) I love having him part of the gang.

Angel: Oh, I was so very fond of him. He aids and protects Buffy without undermining her role as Slayer. They really make a great team. And I liked them as a pairing. I hated him fiercely when he killed Miss Calendar, but I was totally heartbroken when he came back just to be killed. 

He’s so angsty and brooding, but he’s reasonable and competent and never tries to prove himself (which, as I’ve mentioned before, is where many of the problems come from in unbalanced gender portrayals). 

I learned from him and Buffy that you should never ever sleep with your boyfriend, because he might lose his soul and destroy the world. There ya go, lessons on abstinence from your local Slayer. Oh-kay, shutting up now…

When all is said and done (2/7 done, anyway), I am deeply fond of almost all the characters. I love that Buffy is the one who has to save the world. I love the challenges she faces in that—the pressure, the loneliness, the near-death situations. And I love that she has superpowers and real-life emotions to go with them. Having a female lead like Buffy makes me like being a girl a little bit more and it makes it a little bit easier to play superhero, which are both things I think girls ought to have.

When it comes to the guys, I love Giles and Oz above the others. They are both the least-typical of an action- or thriller-style hero, being rather quiet and mellow most of the time. But there are these moments where you can see the passion and fortitude inside of them, and they know their strengths and operate out of them effectively. They navigate the tricky world of Sunnydale with the most maturity of the whole lot, and that makes them both admirable and indispensable.

Giles continues to be an excellent father figure for Buffy, providing strength and wisdom when Buffy needs it and supporting her as she does the fighting.

I am totally in love with this show. And I already have a rant about Season 3, but I’m going to actually finish the season first and then contain my rant because it’s mostly grounded in emotional over-identification. But that’s a sign of good characters. Well done, Whedon, as usual.

Ed. No love for Spike and Dru? She has no idea what's in store for her. Mwahahaha!
 Elizabeth Kobayashi is recent film school grad working in online learning by day and writing by night. You can watch her video blog here, or read her non-Buffy article for this site here. If we all clap hard enough and believe in fairies, maybe she'll finish Season 3 faster.

1 comment:

  1. "I learned from him and Buffy that you should never ever sleep with your boyfriend"

    BtVS (particularly in these early seasons) was meant to be a direct allegory for the awkward, tumultuous period all teens go through.

    "My teacher is such a monster!"/"I feel like I'm invisible!" Oh wait, we mean that literally. "I slept with my boyfriend and he totally changed.. he's acting like a jerk!" Dial that up to 11.

    Maybe give those themes a closer look during season 3? Character summaries are great for people who have never seen the show, but a lot of us already know and love these characters :)

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