wJun 3, 2008

Wiscon 32 Panel Report: The Slayer's Legacy

89 The Slayer's Legacy: Ten Years of the Buffyverse

Reading,Viewing, & Critiquing Science Fiction and Fantasy ♦ Saturday, 4:00-5:15 P.M. ♦ Capitol B

Ten years ago, the television series Buffy The Vampire Slayer debuted, headed by Joss Whedon, a self-proclaimed feminist. The show created spinoffs, academic disciplines, and a fiercely loyal fan community, and embraced ideals of cooperation, alternative sexualities, smart heroines, and the mix between monster and human. Buffy fans embrace all types, from academics in linguistics and gender theory, theologians, writers, ceremonial magicians, artists, bloggers and more. Buffy is still a viable site for discourse and inspiration ten years later and it came in with feminist ideals—there are even Buffy discussion groups at feminist bookstores today. How does this change the landscape of science fiction today—what is the Slayer's legacy? We'll look at how feminist ideals of cooperation have spread to the support of the WGA strike, and how Buffy has created a new kind of fan, actor, writer, and artist. We'll look at the links between fan culture, feminism, academia and how the Buffyverse has shared feminism and feminist ideals with the world.

M: Olivia Luna, Candra Gill, Jody Wurl, Ariel Franklin-Hudson

I wasn't really looking for great theoretical value in this panel, so please forgive me for just posting the squee.

J is a teen librarian. O has taught a class on Buffy. Candra is a huge sci-fi TV fan (among other things), and wrote an essay on Buffy called "Girls Who Bite Back."

The first thing that was noted was that the panel description deserves some analysis. Buffy did bring a new brand of feminism to TV,but there were activist feminist writers before Joss Whedon.

O pointed out that Whedon caters very much to the mainstream crowd; he isn't a radical. For example, while the man claims to be a champion of gay rights, the show missteps.

G noted that Buffy is a very normalized woman who happens to have power. Also, she has an awesome origin story.

What's a good successor to Buffy? Candra suggested Veronica Mars, and multiple panelists agreed. It takes a class genre (noir) and combines it with high school life. It is a show created by a white man that takes a blonde, petite female with a single parent, and places her as the lead. It was noted that the first season of VM deals with race and class in a way that Buffy never did, but the show sadly didn't keep this up for the next two seasons.

Battlestar Galactica has complex female characters. Smallville was also thrown out.

Someone suggested Angel, which almost made me scream, "No!" But people luckily pointed out that Angel is a study of masculinity that doesn't subvert anything.

I learned something! The original purpose of the community was because people were certain that Principal Wood was going to get killed off because he was a person of color on Buffy.
The season 2 episode about the mummy and the Thanksgiving episode were brought up as cringe-worthy episodes where white guilt is treated as a joke.

Someone said that last Monday (from when the panel was held; not from when this post was made) on NPR, a reporter in Baghdad talked about how she watched Buffy to get her through her time reporting in Iraq, which I thought was pretty cool.

People discussed Spike's attempted rape of Buffy as an insult to fans because they were told to like him by the writers of the show, and then told by the text that it was not okay.....until it was again.

Not much time was spent on Faith, but Cabell brought up the fact that not only does she represent class issues, but her female interest in pursuing sex is used as a mark of evil, which is true.

Lastly, the episode was referred to in which it's posed as a question to the audience whether or not Buffy's life is real, or whether she's living in a mental institution. I liked this episode a lot because I like pondering questions like that, but a friend privately pointed out to me that every single female character of Joss Whedon's (with the possible exceptions of Inara and Kaylee on Firefly, although I'm sure he would have gotten to them as well) are put in the crazy house. I find this troubling, although I must admit that I love mental issues and realities of trauma and relationships in fiction, so I am not as appalled as I possibly should be.

Overall, this was a fun panel to sit in on, having just finished watching all 7 seasons of Buffy for the first time. I am open to suggestions of further Buffy readings, if anyone has them. By "Buffy readings," I refer to comics (have already read most of Season 8, Fray, and Tales of the Vampires), novels (are any of them any good?), or criticism (online or in book-form).

If anyone else attended the panel and has information that I forgot, or different opinions about how the panel went, please express them!

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scribbled mystickeeper at 10:14 PM

How did BUFFY misstep when it came to gay rights? Are you referring to Tara's death in late Season 6? If Willow had still been with Oz around that time, he would have been dead, instead of Tara. It wasn't about killing off the lesbian lover. It was about Willow losing a loved one to a violent death and her inability to deal with it.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:49 AM, June 06, 2008  

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