Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Big Damn Buffy Rewatch s01e01, "Welcome To The Hellmouth" or

Starting over with a new blog is kind of like moving to a new town full of scary vampires. Sure, you get to bring all your stuff, but you leave other stuff behind. You're afraid you'll lose touch with the friends you had at your old blog. You're afraid you might go from being May Queen (whatever the fuck that is, it must be a California thing) to just hanging out in a library with a hot, bespectacled librarian and a bunch of Medieval weaponry.

Wait, is that really a bad change?




I forgot where I was going with this, but the point is, there's no time like the present to start my Big Damn Buffy Rewatch. I was going to make season by season posts, taking notes as I watched each episode, and highlighting some important points I wanted to discuss, but them my list got super long, so it's just going to work better to break it down episode by episode, like my 50 Shades recaps. However, it's not going to suck nearly as much for me. There are going to be some themes I'm looking at in each episode:
  1. Sex is the real villain of the Buffy The Vampire Slayer universe.
  2. Giles is totally in love with Buffy.
  3. Joyce is a fucking terrible parent.
  4. Willow's magic is utterly useless (this one won't be an issue until season 2, when she gets a chance to become a witch)
  5. Xander is a textbook Nice Guy.
  6. The show isn't as feminist as people claim.
  7. All the monsters look like wieners.
  8. If ambivalence to possible danger were an Olympic sport, Team Sunnydale would take the gold.
And because there are other things I'll want to discuss, I'll maybe throw in a random 9-10. Because I like round numbers.

So, let's start with episode 1 of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, "Welcome to The Hellmouth."

The episode opens with some pictures of a graveyard and ominous narration about how in every generation, a slayer is born. She is the chosen one, she'll stand alone against the vampires, blah blah, stuff Donald Sutherland covered in the movie. Then we cut to a guy and a girl breaking into Sunnydale high. The guy says he's a former student (even though he looks younger than most of the extras cast as students in season one), and he wants to romance his gal on the roof of the gym. But she's afraid, in an suspenseful, I-heard-a-noise-and-I'm-pretty-sure-we're-not-main-characters kind of way. Ex-student guy teases her and makes a show of checking to see if anyone is there, and when the coast is proved clear, BAM! The girl he was wanting to bone turns into a vampire and devours him. Not only is it a pretty cool twist on the helpless female horror movie victim trope, it is also, in the very first scene of the series, setting up one of the most problematic and common themes in this show: my number 1, "sex is the real villain." This guy was just trying to get laid, and the punishment for acting on his libidinous intent is death.

Isn't this a little harsh? Couldn't he just get gonorrhea instead?

Our introduction to our titular (heh heh) heroine comes as she's having some really fucking grim dreams, featuring shots from episodes to come. This prophetic dream device will be used multiple times in the series, but it kind of peters out around the fourth season. The first time I saw this episode the scene didn't strike me as odd, but now it seems kind of awkwardly long. Buffy's mom wakes her with the warning that she'll be late for her first day of school, and we see that Buffy's room is full of packing crates, indicating that they've recently moved.

Cut to Sunnydale High. Buffy's mom drops her off in front of the school with a cheerful pep talk that includes a reminder to not get kicked out. While in terms of storytelling this is just a way to clue in the audience that Buffy has been kicked out of school before (presumably because of what she did back when she was Kristy Swanson), that's not really the bar for behavior you should be setting with your teen, Joyce (3).

"As long as you're out of the house between eight AM and three PM, I'm happy. I need that time to set my hot rollers."

A teenage boy on a skateboard careens down the sidewalk, carelessly mowing down bystanders, until he sees Buffy and, blinded by sexual longing, crashes into a railing. This will be my favorite thing he does in the entire series, because upon rewatch, I fucking hate him.

Eat railing, d-bag. This is a downpayment for all the ways you're going to annoy me this season.

A wild ginger appears! She seems to be wearing a school uniform when no one else is, and she stops to talk to Gravity McGee about math, giving us our introduction to Xander and Willow, the characters who will eventually become Buffy's best friends. Upon entering the school, they are joined by Jessie, the third member of their group, and Xander and Jessie immediately start talking about Buffy as though she is an object to jerk off to/onto. Ah, high school.

In the principal's office, Principal Flutie rips up Buffy's transcript and pronounces her slate clean. Until he notices the part where she burned down the gym at her old school. Buffy tries to explain, as Flutie attempts to tape her records back together, that the gym she burned down was full of vampires. But of course, she can't say vampires, because being the slayer is a secret and no one would believe her, anyway. So she settles on the gym being full of asbestos.

Wait, so how did it burn down if it was full of asbestos? You're bad at lying, Buffy.

After meeting with the principal, Buffy fails to yield to oncoming foot traffic and her bag is spilled by one of the forty-year-old background students. Seeing his opening, Xander rushes to her rescue. Not because she needs help, but because this is a good opportunity to approach her and flirt with her. His opening line to her is, "Can I have you?" a Freudian slip when he meant to say, "Can I help you?" This, and his previous objectification of her, establishes that throughout the series, Xander will be textbook Nice Guy (5), but we're expected to sympathize with his plight, because he's goofy and also Joss Whedon's avatar. Buffy drops her wooden stake, giving Xander the first clue that there's something not quite right about her.

In her first class of the day, Buffy (blonde, dressed in light colors) meets Cordelia (brunette, dressed in dark colors), a girl who appears friendly and welcoming when she shares her textbook. Cordelia suggests Buffy get a textbook from the library, and shows her the way. As they walk, Cordelia expresses a fondness for shoes and the importance of knowing which nail polish, actor, and Starbucks drinks are the coolest. She then mocks poor Willow's clothing and lectures Buffy on weeding out losers. So, she's our mean girl, a walking stereotype of teenage girldom obsessed with everything that is superficial and shallow. While this character does eventually arc and become pretty damn interesting, it's disappointing that it was set up so obviously, with the girl-on-girl hate and the dark vs. light/good-girl vs. bad-girl vibe. I'm slotting this scene under my number 6.

Subtle!

In the library, Buffy meets Mr. Giles, the librarian, whose enthusiasm about vampires and whose habit of leaving suspicious newspaper articles laying around scares her right off.

In fairness to Giles, this is actually just one of the Sunnydale High textbooks.

Then we cut to the locker room, and one of the best jokes of the entire series: a girl mocking Buffy's "weird" name walks past another girl, who says, "Hey, Aphrodisia." So, the girl making fun of Buffy's name has a "weird" name herself.

You know how a joke isn't funny if it has to be explained? Yeah, well, fuck off, because that one is brilliant and it took me about a hundred times watching this episode to catch it.

The two obnoxious valley girls give us some exposition about Buffy's past before they find the corpse of the guy who died before the credits. He was stuffed into a locker. This will be only one of many corpses found stuffed in places over the course of the series. It seems almost quaint now.

Screaming? What, are you new here?

Buffy approaches Willow in the courtyard, and after an awkward discussion of social rules at Sunnydale, Buffy asks Willow if she can help her with schoolwork. Willow suggests they hang out in the library, because she's obviously got a crush on the "cool" new librarian. Or maybe she has a crush on all the old books he brought with him. It's hard to tell with season one Willow. She fills Buffy in on the Giles situation. He's a former curator for "a British museum," possibly the British museum. Why is no one but Buffy questioning his sudden career change from museum curator to high school librarian? Given the fact that she knows he has a passion for vampires, and he just suddenly started working there, Buffy is suspicious.

Jessie and Xander show up to make Buffy feel uncomfortable as the object of their attraction (5) despite her clear verbal and nonverbal signals of disinterest.

Memo to Nice Guys: This is not the expression we use when we're interested in you sexually.

Cordelia also drops by the bench to inform Buffy (around constant, unwanted, sexually-tilted remarks from Jessie) that a dead body was found in the locker room, so gym is cancelled. Hopefully the sexual harassment seminar is still on, because if ever a school needed one...

Buffy asks if there were any marks on the corpse, then takes off to play CSI: Hellmouth in the locker room. The scene neatly sets up Buffy's super strength (she breaks a locked door to get inside), but one has to wonder why an apparent murder victim would be left unattended in a high school. Sure, the door was locked, but where are the police? The crime scene tape? Someone just threw a blanket over the body and took a lunch break, I guess, because Buffy is able to get in and get a good look at the clear vampire teeth impression in the dead dude's neck.

I guess we can rule out suicide?

Back at the library, Buffy angrily confronts Giles to tell him that while he clearly expected vampires, she didn't, and she doesn't want anything to do with them. Buffy knows that this guy is obviously the new Donald Sutherland sent to watch over her. Their argument sets up some basic rules for the series: to become a vampire, you have to exchange blood with a vampire. Into every generation, a slayer is born. Buffy can't get out of her duties, going so far as to suggest Giles take over her slaying, since she wants to retire. But Giles argues that a watcher doesn't fight vampires with the slayer, he just "prepares her." To which Buffy responds:
"Prepares me for what? For getting kicked out of school? For losing all of my friends? For having to spend all of my time fighting for my life and never getting to tell anyone because I might endanger them? Go ahead. Prepare me."
And then Giles looks like this:

The exact moment Rupert Giles realizes he should have just stayed in England with the lady from the coffee commercials.

So, basically, Buffy's new watcher has come into this whole thing expecting that his slayer is going to be totally psyched and committed to the job, and whoops, she's all, "Go fuck yourself."

Oh ho! But who doth lurk behind the bookshelves like some kind of creepy eavesdropper?


I'm going to give Xander this one, though. Because if I had just accidentally overheard an intense argument about vampires and secrets that endanger people, I wouldn't be psyched to broadcast my newfound knowledge of said dangerous secrets, either.

Giles follows Buffy into the crowded school hallway, where he tells her that stuff in Sunnydale is getting worse, and something horrible is going to happen. Buffy should really get used to this kind of thing from him, because as I'm rewatching this series, I'm noticing that Giles never has good news. But this isn't what concerns me most right now. What concerns me is this:


Hey, other Sunnydale students in the hall? Other Sunnydale teachers? Here's a male faculty member standing way too close to a female student, using creepily intense body language and having an urgent and hushed conversation. Does, uh... does anybody want to check that out? Remember, no one in the school (except Xander, now) knows that Buffy is the slayer and Giles is her watcher. So imagine this scene from an outsider perspective. Shouldn't this raise a few red flags? No, because this is Sunnydale, a town that is super good at ignoring the fact that it's populated mostly by things that like to eat people. See my #8, because this town ignores regular danger as well as supernatural danger.

The whole "evil is going to rise" story doesn't wash with Buffy, because this is her first time on a Hellmouth. She asks:
"Oh come on. This is Sunnydale. How bad an evil can there be here?"
Answer:

Oh my god, is that Mick Fleetwood? THE HORROR!

So, here we have the Hellmouth. I know it looks like an R.E.M. video set, but this is really the best it's going to be for the entire series. Just wait until season seven, when the Uruk-Hai move in. Anyway, there's a lot of activity with torches and stuff, and a big pool of blood with a vampire in front of it. He's praying, saying "The sleeper will wake," and "the world will bleed," and he caps it off with an enthusiastic "Amen!" while Mick Fleetwood mills around in the background.

We cut to Buffy standing in front of her mirror, trying to decide between a black dress and something floral that I'm pretty sure my mom bought me to wear for Easter one year. Spoiler alert, she got it at Sears. Anyway, Buffy talks to herself while holding up the two dresses, saying:
"Hi! I'm an enormous slut. Hello. Would you like a copy of The Watchtower?"
Because those are the only options. She can either be a total slut, or an uptight religious person. So not down with the slut reference, Buff. You're better than that. (6)

Joyce comes in and asks Buffy if she's going out, and advises her to be careful. Then she starts in with some nervous mom blather about the parenting books she's read, how her positive energy is flowing and she's going to get the gallery started, and how they're going to make living in this new town work. And then she subtly blames Buffy for the upheaval in their lives by saying:
"You're a good girl, Buffy. You just fell in with the wrong crowd. But that is all behind us now."
So, you know. You're the reason I'm a divorcee living in Sunnydale, but I trust that you're not going to screw things up again. That's a positive message, Joyce. (3)

Buffy heads out into a strange town full of dark alleys (parenting books not cover that, Joyce?) where she meets a twelve-year-old who sounds oddly like David Boreanaz:

That awkward moment when your vampire male lead looks younger than he will in any of the flashbacks to two hundred years ago that he'll ever have in the series.

Buffy and Angel's meet-cute is that she takes him down while he's following her through a shady part of town. He's been looking for the slayer, and tells her he wants the same thing she wants, to kill all the vampires in the world. When she argues that she doesn't want any part of being a slayer, he tells her she's "standing at the mouth of hell" and warns that she can't ignore what's coming. Specifically, he mentions "The Harvest," which is the title of episode two, so Angel has Netflix, too. I feel a kinship with him.

Angel gives Buffy a silver cross necklace (she dreamt about that at the very beginning of the episode) and tells her that he's "a friend." But not necessarily her friend. His characterization in this scene is weirdly reminiscent of his characterization as Angelus in season two.

But I'm getting ahead of myself, because it's time to go to The Bronze!


Throughout the series, this shady-looking warehouse nightclub is host to all the kids in Sunnydale. I'm curious as to how this place legally exists. They clearly serve alcohol, but kids under the age of eighteen are all over the place in there. I realize this is a very real-world concern about a fictional place in a town that has vampires and demons and stuff, but getting mundane details correct is super important to suspension of disbelief and audience investment.

A long-haired band on stage reminds us all why music will never be as good as it was in the 90's, and Buffy finds Willow, who is waiting alone at the bar in the hopes that Xander will show up. She explains that they're not together, though it's clear that she would like to be, as she counts their brief boyfriend/girlfriend relationship in kindergarten as dating. Buffy encourages Willow to be less shy around guys, and Willow thinks this is some great advice.

Willow trusts Buffy's relationship advice, because Willow hasn't seen season 6 yet.

Can I just say that if anyone on this show should have been playing a vampire, it should have been Alyson Hannigan? In fact, I'm not sure that she isn't a vampire in real life. She has looked exactly the same since My Stepmother Is An Alien.

Buffy notices Giles wandering aimlessly up on the catwalk-style second floor and excuses herself from her conversation with Willow. Which is really probably the best thing that could happen to Willow, because, as we will see, Buffy really has no idea what she's doing when it comes to dating, either. But Willow doesn't know this, so she repeats Buffy's advice to "seize the moment."

Upstairs, Buffy and Giles have a slayer/watcher tiff, the first of many, in which Buffy feels Giles is cramping her style by being too uptight about this whole vampire slaying deal, and Giles finds everything about people under the age of thirty confusing and obnoxious. Buffy tells him about the tall, dark and annoying guy she met, who warned her about the Harvest. She also says she "really didn't like him," which pretty much cements him as the romantic lead, in case you were wondering.

The thing that pisses me off the most about this scene is that Buffy is portrayed as shallowly fixating on the messenger, rather than the message. She doesn't care about any ominous supernatural goings on, she's most concerned with the guy who told her about them. And this episode is absolutely filled with men telling Buffy ominous things she reacts to flippantly. I understand that it's part of her denying her destiny, but since she ultimately accepts her role as slayer, albeit reluctantly, it's almost like the message here is, "Do as you're told, little girl. The menfolk know best."

Oh, hi there, inappropriate teacher/student proximity, it's been a few scenes since we saw you last:
Hey you two, leave some room for the Holy Spirit.

Giles mentions Buffy's prophetic nightmares - which she hasn't told him about - and we cut to Cordelia, bitching about how her mom's Epstein-Barr diagnosis isn't cool enough. I love this moment with Cordelia, because it sets up immediately what she's all about. Say what you must about Cordelia Chase, but she is one open book, friends.

Jessie shows up, and Cordelia refers to him as her "stalker." Since Jessie is supposed to be a sympathetic character, when he gets way too close to Cordelia and asks her to dance, we're supposed to be on his side and think, "What a total bitch this girl is, she won't even dance with him." But he's already come on to her once already that day and been rebuffed. Chances are, he's been relentless in his pursuit of her, based on her "stalker" comment. So, I'm really not digging on Jessie here.

"Uh, hey, I was wondering, uh, would you, uh, like some unwanted advances for the second time today?"

Giles gives Buffy a speech about how a slayer should be tuned into the presence of vampires, no matter what is going on, and Buffy immediately points one out. The guy's clothing is out of fashion, she reasons, so he's stuck in a vampire time warp situation. Giles isn't keen on this method of vamp detection, but I like it a lot better than the menstrual cramp alert Buffy had in the movie.

Unfortunately, Willow picks the vampire as the guy to try out the whole "seize the moment" thing on, and Buffy hurries to her rescue when she sees Willow leaving the club with him. In a darkened backstage area, Buffy almost accidentally stakes Cordelia.

There's really no coming back from this.

Not actually murdering Cordelia is going to be a mistake Buffy regrets for the rest of high school, because this is the moment that cements her as a total social outcast. As Cordelia begins immediately spreading the rumor about her near impalement, Giles congratulates Buffy on making such quick work of the vampire. Except, Buffy hasn't found the vampire yet, and Willow is still in danger. Though Giles insists he should tag along, Buffy tells him she can handle one vampire on her own. Meanwhile, Jessie, fresh off his rejection by Cordelia, is talking with an adorable blonde, and... wait... isn't that the adorable blonde who turned out to be a vampire before the opening credits? Yup, it's Darla, and she's easily charming Jessie.

Every season of Buffy has one big villain. In season one, it's this guy, who makes his entrance via badly scaled green screen:

"Hey, does this pool of blood make me look oddly tiny?"

This is The Master, easily the scariest looking, if not the scariest overall, Buffy "Big Bad." He's been raised from the dead by his vampire followers, who will stage "The Harvest" to give him strength and help free him from his Hellmouth prison. His vampire minion tells him that they've sent out for food. Since they're vampires, it's a safe bet they're not getting Chinese take-out. Cut to Willow and the vampire she left with, taking a shortcut through one of Sunnydale's many scenic cemeteries.

Buffy is still outside The Bronze looking for Willow and hoping that the only friend she's made in her new town hasn't just been eaten, when she finds Xander. She tells him Willow left with a guy, and Xander's response is, "Talking about Willow, right?" Because Willow is so super undesirable. Which, you know, Xander, you're not doing so hot with the dating, yourself. He tells Buffy that he knows that she thinks she's a slayer - but he doesn't really believe her until she tells him that Willow is about to be totally dead.

Back at the cemetery, Willow is starting to suspect that something is up with this dude, and they're not really going to get ice cream, when he goads her into going into a crypt with him. When she tries to run, her way is blocked by Darla, who has a badly bleeding Jessie trailing along behind her. Willow stands up to Darla, who reveals her vampire face, but Buffy gets there before she can do any real eating. Because on this show, vampires will talk about eating more than they ever actually do it. Like they're all heroines in a chicklit novel or something.

Buffy puts the beat down on the vampires. She stakes the male one, who bursts into a cloud of ash, which will become the series staple with a few notable exceptions. Then she takes on Darla, who can't fathom how a human is handing her gift-wrapped ass to her. But then this guy shows up:


Buffy The Vampire Slayer recycles minor character actors like Doctor Who does. This guy shows up a couple times in season 2, and every time, I'm like, "Hey! It's This Guy!" Anyway, This Guy is pretty rad. He's the vampire who was praying to raise The Master, and he is not having any of the slayer's shenanigans. He tells Darla to get lost, and starts beating the fuck out of Buffy. He's pretty proud of himself, for a big dude beating up a little girl. Willow and Xander try to carry Jessie out of the cemetery, but they're surrounded by vampires. Back at the library, Giles has finally figured out what The Harvest is, while This Guy neatly narrates it for us as he continues to wail on Buffy. Basically, if The Harvest happens, it will be very bad for people, and very good for vampires. So, conflict! And things look very bad for Buffy, who is now in a sepulcher with a vampire on top of her when the "To Be Continued" card pops up on the screen.

As far as story telling goes, this show didn't really misstep here. It starts with believable personal conflict, introduces the characters competently (even if the introduction of Cordelia was trite and anti-feminist), and gives the heroine a call to action, before ending on a hook that makes the audience excited for the next installment. If you're looking for a masterclass in first chapter construction, this is really a good example.

79 comments:

  1. I'm psyched because I only just started watching the show for the first time within the past couple of months. My first thought was "this show isn't as feminist as people claim".

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    1. As someone said on twitter, you have to compare it to its contemporaries to see why it was thought of as being an example of feminist programming back then, but yeah, it's not holding up now.

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    2. Might have been me. Sadly being able to write women as characters period is apparently still a rare skill. Think of how rare it is in movie and tv to get a woman star outside of "chick flick" bullshit genre and in something intended for wide audience appeal. It has serious shortcomings but is still a mile stone

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  2. It's ironic that Cordy will wind up being a better feminist character than Buffy

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    1. And they didn't do the best job with her, in terms of how they wrapped her up.

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    2. Yeah, I ended up following Angel and becoming a really big Cordelia fan - I thought she really evolved in interesting ways as a character. Then Apocalypse Nowish happened....

      I turned off the TV and never went back. I still love Joss Whedon, but a little bit of the trust is gone.

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  3. also yes Xander is really annoying and creepy in season 1.

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    1. He actually in looks and voice and creepiness reminds me of this vlog guy called Spoony. The resemblance is disturbing

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  4. That was great Jenny, I will re-watch Buffy too now.

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    1. That's awesome! That's one of my personal mottos, ABWB. Always Be Watching Buffy.

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  5. I'm also really relieved to read your interpretation of Giles' inappropriate personal space invasion. That made me really uncomfortable to watch and I felt like I was being crazy for feeling that way!

    Also, I just now learned that this had been a film before a show. Had no idea!

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    1. No, it's kind of weirdly obvious that this isn't a normal librarian/student relationship and no one noticed. They don't know about slayers, so why does no one figure, "This might be a bad situation with these two?"

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    2. This is a high school that tracks mortality statistics and mentions them on Prom night, the new British librarian being a little odd isn't really going to raise eyebrows in my opinion.

      /shrug

      Sunnydale is odd. The whole town seems to be complicit in not saying anything and pretending things are just normal as normal can be.

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    3. Maybe Pennywise is lurking around

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  6. Hey, I'm doing the 30 Days of Buffy meme over at my blog and I would love to see you answers to some of the questions, you should check it out.

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    1. Awesome! Do you have a link, or can I just find it in your profile?

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    2. It's www.thefemi-yinzmystique.blogspot.com. I'm going to post my massive bitter diatribe about Xander on Friday!

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  7. Eep I'm scared. Buffy is a show that has had my unconditional love since I was 14 and while I acknowledge its faults and age I'm a little afraid looking at it from these angles is going to change that into something less unconditional. But to boldly explore with Jenny what I haven't dared before! Is what I'm going to do.
    I'm currently rewatching the show too, on season 4 at the moment so it's all in fresh memory. Can't wait for more (especially what you will make of The Pack!) and will definitely be bringing cents in by commenting!

    Jessie is a creeper though. I understand scoobies forgetting about him after episode 2 and never mentioning him again.

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    1. I am a ruiner, though, LOL. I ruin everything.

      Yeah, I was going to mention that, that after Jessie dies it's like, "What lifelong friend we had?" LOL.

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    2. Yes well, at least you seem to have a knack for ruining things in an entertaining and thought out fashion!

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    3. Xander does bring up Jessie in the first season 9 graphic novel (I think the only mention of Jessie post S.1 episode 2), and he does talk--well, mention--the the impact killing Jessie had on him, but yes, big fail on the remembering Jessie front. The potency is lost because of the poor handling of Jessie's death in season 1.

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  8. Ooo, great timing. Husband and I have recently started our own Buffy rewatch. We're only in season 2 so everything is still pretty fresh.

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    1. Rock on! I'm going to try to get at least one in a week. :D

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    2. Exactly the same boat, except he's rewatching and I'm occasionally going "Oooooh I saw this one!"

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  9. I'm rewatching the modern Doctor Who with the BF and got very nerd-excited when I realized Giles is in one of the series 2 episodes. He's the principle in the creepy high school in the episode Sarah Jane reappears in. The aliens are very vampire like, so it was all a nice compliment to his Buffy character.

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    1. YES! I always forget he's in that one, though, because ZOMGSARAHJANEMUPPETFLAIL!

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  10. I never really got the vibe that Giles was in love with Buffy aside from in a paternal kind of way so I'm interested to see what your take on it is.

    Also, yeah Xander can be really assy. I never really forgave him for what he did to Anya.

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    1. Yeah, the "Giles is in love with Buffy" thing didn't actually occur to me until season 4, but once I saw it, I was like, "How did no one else see this subtext? It's like how Faith and Buffy are totally into each other."

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  11. I'm okay with the idea that Giles was in love with Buffy, but only because he never tried anything. Otherwise I would have to barf because of the underage implications and the father/daughter vibe.

    Also I wanted to share an interesting blog I read that talks about consent issues around sex in the show:

    http://funnyfeminist.com/category/buffy-the-vampire-slayer/

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  12. I've never really understood what people mean when they call something "feminist." Isn't something "feminist" something that is just not bigoted against women? It doesn't really seem like it should be an affirmative thing to me.

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    1. It's short-hand for "encourages feminist-leaning tropes," I think. Not necessarily that it's a feminist, itself.

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  13. "If you're looking for a masterclass in first chapter construction, this is really a good example."

    It makes me happy that you say this, because one of the things I admire the most about Joss Whedon is his masterful gift for economy of storytelling. I think he's got a real talent for achieving big chunks of storytelling and character development in short, quick strokes. I've always wondered if it springs from his lifelong passion for comic books, where important story elements and character development are communicated in a few panels (and sometimes even in just one).

    For instance, in the movie Serenity, in which he establishes Kaylee's crush on Simon in one single line/moment, where she awkwardly and blushingly tells him, "Not that *you* spit." Their relationship dynamic is immediately apparent to the viewer with one fell swoop.

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    1. There is a lot of really good story telling. Some weird plot holes, but you have to watch the show a lot to pick up on them.

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  14. "If you're looking for a masterclass in first chapter construction, this is really a good example."

    It makes me happy that you say this, because one of the things I admire the most about Joss Whedon is his masterful gift for economy of storytelling. I think he's got a real talent for achieving big chunks of storytelling and character development in short, quick strokes. I've always wondered if it springs from his lifelong passion for comic books, where important story elements and character development are communicated in a few panels (and sometimes even in just one).

    For instance, in the movie Serenity, in which he establishes Kaylee's crush on Simon in one single line/moment, where she awkwardly and blushingly tells him, "Not that *you* spit." Their relationship dynamic is immediately apparent to the viewer with one fell swoop.

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  15. 9. Buffy never wears her pants the right length. Ever. I really don't remember too-short pants being in style in the late 90s, and I was there, man. I was there.

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    1. Dude, I once wore jeans that showed the bottom part of my tennis shoes, everyone was like, "Where's the flood, neeeeerrrrrrrrd." I dressed quite a bit like Willow in high school.

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    2. She also never wears a bra!! Add that one!

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  16. I'm so glad you're recapping episode by episode! I love your insights -- lots of stuff I hadn't realized. And your brilliantly chosen and captioned screen shots -- Hee!

    "Sex is the real villain."

    I can't wait to see how you follow through with this. Until now, I perceived the message more as "sex is really tricky, especially for teen-agers, because of Feelings and the fact that there are so many predators out there who see teens as objects. But when sex works, it can be awesome. Except when you happen to see your parent having it, in which case it's eyeball-gouging time."

    "Joyce is a fucking terrible parent."

    Speaking as a non-parent, and as the adult child of overprotective parents, I find that Joyce is actually my ideal parent, in that she's mostly not around. She's pretty gullible, and when she tries to ground Buffy, she can easily be ditched. Although I cringe every time she interacts with Giles.

    "Willow's magic is utterly useless (this one won't be an issue until season 2, when she gets a chance to become a witch)"

    It did help a *couple* of times. Mostly I hated Whedon's portrayal of magic and wicca. My take on this is that TPTB couldn't let Willow be as effective as Buffy or she'd have threatened Buffy's unique Slayer status.

    "The show isn't as feminist as people claim."

    An angle I definitely hadn't thought about. You make very interesting points. I'm wondering if this is a case where the *show* isn't anti-feminist, but rather the world the show is *about* is anti-feminist, which reflects reality. Definitely there are anti-feminist elements, though.

    Like the portrayal of Cordelia. I hate Cordelia, partly because her character is so one-note. I hate her so much that I still hate her later when she arguably gains more notes. I also hate Jessie, because he's just an asshole. Standard teen-aged boy, no redeeming qualities.

    "Specifically, he mentions "The Harvest," which is the title of episode two, so Angel has Netflix, too. I feel a kinship with him."

    LOL!

    "Because on this show, vampires will talk about eating more than they ever actually do it. Like they're all heroines in a chicklit novel or something."

    Frustrating, isn't it...

    Good old Brian Thompson. Every time he shows up as the bad guy, I'm like, "Resolving this is going to take awhile." He's pretty one-note himself, but he does make a menacing villain.

    All in all, fabulous recap!

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    1. I think the anti-feminist themes or whatever are in the show because they're *supposed* to be in the show, in terms of how all modern story telling is structured. Audiences are looking for some of these tropes, not thinking, "Oh, the story wouldn't be missing anything if there wasn't girl on girl sniping," and stuff like that, it's just what we're conditioned to look for.

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    2. I agree that a lot of the anti-feminist themes (at least in this particular recap) are there because they're standard teen show/movie tropes. There's always the "alpha bitch" (as she is named by TV Tropes), for example. I think Cordelia's character actually skillfully grows out of the alpha bitch archetype as the series goes on, however, and especially when she moves to AtS. When you think about it, these tropes are still present in teen shows airing now. Some of them, like The Vampire Diaries and Teen Wolf, try to put an unexpected twist on them, but this was back in 1997 when most of the time they were played completely straight. And still are sometimes, e.g. Glee.

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  17. I didn't start watching Buddy until the third or fourth season and one thing that impressed me when I went back was how much better an actor SM Gellar became as the series went along. In the first season she was, um, not very good. I'd say terrible but I don't want anyone to kill me. ;)

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    1. No, she really did develop. Charisma Carpenter, too. She had some lines in the first episode where I was like, "Oh... oh honey." But she gets so good!

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  18. I didn't start watching Buddy until the third or fourth season and one thing that impressed me when I went back was how much better an actor SM Gellar became as the series went along. In the first season she was, um, not very good. I'd say terrible but I don't want anyone to kill me. ;)

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  19. I knew through your fifty shades recaps and your other blog posts that you and I would get along Ms. Trout, but then doing recaps of my favorite tv show of all time?!? Thank you for brightening my day! I am an unapologetic lover of Buffy but, like others, know the show has its faults. I'm excited to talk about it here!

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  20. I knew through your fifty shades recaps and your other blog posts that you and I would get along Ms. Trout, but then doing recaps of my favorite tv show of all time?!? Thank you for brightening my day! I am an unapologetic lover of Buffy but, like others, know the show has its faults. I'm excited to talk about it here!

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  21. "This will be only one of many corpses found stuffed in places over the course of the series."

    That's what she said!!!! HEYYO!!!!

    On a serious note, I hate how many times Willow's witchcraft is a thinly veiled reference to lesbianism. The homophobia of some of those eps or scenes really irk me.

    That said, I LOVE BUFFY!!!! So much!

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  22. Zomg, tell me Buffy/Giles shipping is called Giffy. Tell me it's so.

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    Replies
    1. It's either that or Biles.

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  23. You know how I know that this is going to be the BEST THING EVER (besides the fact that it's BUFFY, so it has to be)? As I read your themes, my thoughts were:

    1. Yes
    2. Ehh ok
    3. YESSSS THANK YOU YESSSS
    4. Yup!
    5. Yup!
    6. .... yeah :(
    7. Really? Well, I'm already planning on rewatching along with recaps, so I'll find out!
    8. FUCK YESSSS.

    Can themes 9 and 10 be "Spike is sexy" and "Spike is fucking sexy"?

    Can't wait! :D

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  24. I'm torn. I love this series so so much and while I'm completely aware of its flaws, I sort of prefer to not think too much about those flaws in case I stop loving it. But I also love analysing stuff. And I love your analyses particularly! To read or not to read?

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  25. I see Joyce as a fairly realistic example of how a woman may act while going through a divorce and having to uproot her whole life and move towns just to find a school who will take her erratic daughter. Parents do blame their kids for stuff, they do make those snarky comments. I think she would be more off key as a 'perfect' parent.

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  26. I loved Giles so much. I find it really hard listening to even the suggestion he was in love with Buffy because to me they are the perfect father-daughter relationship. His song in Once More, With Feeling kills me every time.

    I think that picture of what girl's expression does not look like when she is interested in you sexually should be mandatory study for all teens. :)

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  27. I think Joyce kind of checked out once her kid got old enough to feed and dress herself. But wouldn't whatever mysterious forces there are at play totally cause the slayer to be born to someone like that? It'd never work if they had a parent who let the idea of their kid burning down the school gym concern them.

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  28. I'm so glad that people are starting to call out Xander on his Nice Guy crap. He's just the worst, and I hate him so much, even before he was a dick to Anya.

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  29. I never got into Buffy as much as I thought I would. Maybe it was overhyped by the time I got round to it. Before anyone kills me for saying that I would just like to add that while there were moments that definatly did live up to expectations (judge + rocket launcher = AWESOME) so much didn't. I hate Xander, I wish Buffy had embraced her calling if only to keep people alive (you don't get to live a normal life, boo hoo because while you were whining about it people died and won't get to live any life at all). Oh and I think Angel should have kept his early more Angelus-like, attitude it makes his transformation into Angelus much more creepy. And I wish that when Buffy first was told she had Superpowers she was like "hell yes!" and then leant it sucked rather than hating it from day one.

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  30. Yessss I'm super psyched for this series. I have been a HUGE Buffy fan since the show first aired (and I was actually a teen then, damn I am old) and I'm interested in seeing your take on how it holds up over the years. I too have rewatched recently, and noticed a lot of the same things.

    I actually wouldn't have minded Xander's (and Jessie's) jerkishness so much if the narrative didn't continue to hold them up and make it seem we're supposed to sympathize with them. B/c it's realistic for teenage boys (or even grown-up men) to relentlessly pursue women who obviously are not interested. Unlike TV, though, most of the time it doesn't end with them wearing the girl down and winning her over (and wow, great message to send there). It usually ends with the girl ~*still*~ not being interested and everyone thinking she's a bitch b/c she isn't throwing a bone to such a nice guy, ugh.

    I also agree with all 8 of your points, especially #6. Sadly, though, for all its flaws when you compare Buffy to Twilight and all the copycat paranormal romances and/or bad guy/passive girl romances, it actually is pretty feminist. At least Buffy, Cordelia, Willow, etc. are actual characters. It's depressing how much we have regressed.

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    1. See, I never sympathised with Jesse or Xander in regards to wanting a girl that brushes them off. I just saw it as one of their annoying characteristics, every one has flaws after all.

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    2. I just need to say, I just graduated college when this came out. Shut up. You're not old! Cause I'm not old!

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  31. Buffy is the reason I am able to read your great blog and the boss.
    I (mostly) learned english by watching all seasons over and over again on video tapes that my brother had shipped over from the states . When the last season of angel came out I already downloaded it from the web, and this was just the beginning of me and my hopefully never ending love for US tv series. I love to agree with your insights, and even enjoy not to. (Enter more flattering words here that I just can't think of right now because of the weed)

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    1. I love it when I hear stories like this. Buffy, bringing the world together.

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  32. Awesome, just finished with a Buffy and Angel rewatchathon so most episodes should be fairly fresh in my mind. Stuff I noticed this time around was Cordelia is my favourite female character, although that's mostly due to her development in Angel, it's also partly due to the fact that she's pretty upfront about who she is.

    Willow is awesome in series 1 and possibly 2 as well (they're all blurring together now), but becomes a right bitch and I really hate the whole lesbian story arc (if that's even a thing), but the reasons are many so I'll wait till you get to that!

    Anya is also one of my fave characters. Buffy is probably the least likeable main character, although becomes more sympathetic later on when she goes through some real hard stuff. Giles is awesome, his love for Buffy is purely paternal, how can you say otherwise, please don't mess with my head like that!! I do see what you mean about that scene looking creepy to an insider though, good old Sunnydalers - all either too evil to care or totally oblivious!

    Don't actually mind Xander, but yeah it would have been way better if Buffy had just properly shot him down after his 3rd or so creepy come on and made him apologise.

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  33. One thing I'm really confused about is references to "season 6" and "season 7". My husband's a big buffy fan and has been introducing me to the series (we're towards the end of S2 now), and he assures me it ends with season 5.

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    1. Nope, seven seasons. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buffy_the_Vampire_Slayer_(TV_series)

      Angel, the spin-off, however, only had 5 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angel_(TV_series)

      But Buffy had 7.

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    2. secretly, I am aware of this easily discoverable fact and am implying he disapproves of seasons 6 and 7.

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    3. It went to season 5 on the WB I think and then was bounced to UPN for the last two. So your husband isn't totally wrong. He may also be thinking of Angel.

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  34. I'm watching Buffy now for the first time ever because of this! :) Could comments in future recaps that have a spoiler have a spoilers title type thing before them? Maybe people leaving comments could do the same?

    If not, it's my fault for watching Buffy for the first time this late.

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  35. I watched Buffy for the first time about a year ago. I started because we fell on hard times and cut the cord going with Netflix and the internet for all our entertainment needs. Which worked out very well.

    I liked it, but I have always loved having people to talk things over with that I am watching. I am looking forward to re watching the series with your blog. I expect it will be a lot of fun. Now I have to decide to watch the episodes before your blog and think of my own views keeping your criteria in mind or if I should watch them after I have read your blog so I can notice all the funny things you see that I would miss. Hmmm?

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  36. I couldn't find any evidence of it (not on IMDB or Wikipedia) but "That Guy" kinda looks like Adam Baldwin but young and with a lot of theatrical makeup. I mean, I know its not, but Adam Baldwin *was* in Angel...

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  37. This is great! I`m really happy you're doing this. I just started rewatching the series and I agree, I've noticed that Xander was a huge ass in S1. I first watched it when I was pretty young, and it didn't really take. Now I just kind of comfort myself by thinking "at least he improves, thank god".

    But I kind of have to disagree with one (minor) thing. When they were at the Bronze, and Xander says "you're talking about *Willow*, right?" I don't think it was meant to imply that she was unnattractive, just that she was painfully awkward and it was kind of surprising that she even talked to anyone.

    I hated Jessie. I refuse to acknowlege his presence if it's not strictly necessary.

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    1. I got the same impression from Xander's comment about Willow.

      Also, rules regarding alcohol differ so crazily from state to state. There's a club here (So Cal) that's 18+ and serves alcohol. I want to own my own The Bronze. I really hope some Buffy nerd has already started their own somewhere out in the wide, wide world.

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  38. Woah. So I've seen these all a million times, but now that finals are over, I decided to watch along (but had to get caught up with your posts!) and I JUST realized that ex-student guy is Detective Danny from CSI: NY. For some reason, this entertains me.

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  39. I wrote my bachelor's thesis about vampires: "Demons and Angels: Dracula and Sex Role Anxieties of the Victorian Age." It was pretty cool, considering I attended a private Catholic university (and yes I mentioned Angel in my thesis although I didn't mention Buffy herself) :P The English department did not like me very much.

    Ahem .. anyway .. in literature, at least within the last 100 years or so, a strong case can be made that vampirism can be an allegory for the eviiiiil sexing. Penetration, blood/fluids/goo/menstruation, beauty as danger, and so on. There's also a correlation in some literature to homophobia and anti-vampirism. It's all very interesting. I should go back to my school and check it out of the library and re-read it for old times' sake.

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  40. I really feel like Darla was wasted. I really liked her in Angel (despite some of the weird plot turns). To only have her in the first two episodes bums me out. She would have been cooler later down the line than say Drusilla (yeah, she bugged me).

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