Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Big Damn Buffy Rewatch s01e06 "The Pack"

In every generation there is a chosen one. She alone will never, ever try the Burger King turkey burger because it sounds awful. She will also recap every episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer with an eye to the following themes:
  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.
  9. Angel is a dick.
  10. Harmony is the strongest female character on the show.
  11. Team sports are portrayed in an extremely negative light.

WARNING: Some people have mentioned they're watching along with me, and that's awesome, but I've seen the entire series already and I'll probably mention things that happen in later seasons. So... you know, take that under consideration, if you're a person who can't enjoy something if you know future details about it.

So... "The Pack." I'm torn, y'all. I'm torn because it's one of the most problematic episodes in terms of racism and rape culture, but... poor, poor Principal Flutie...

It's also one of the most boring episodes, so let's just do this one, okay?

First of all, the kids of Sunnydale High are on a field trip to the zoo. Because somebody thought it was a fucking brilliant idea to build a zoo on a Hellmouth. What could go wrong?! (8) And before you argue that it could be a zoo in another town, check the sign:

And who takes high schoolers to the zoo, anyway?

So, they're at the Sunnydale Hell Zoo, and Buffy is walking around by herself, taking in the sights, when a wild clique attacks!

They mock Buffy for having no friends and being unpopular, then one of them makes a crack about Buffy beating one of them up. Instead of beating the jerk to death and dumping his body in the crocodile lagoon like I would do if I were a superhero villain, Buffy takes their teasing pretty much in stride. Which is one thing I've always liked about Buffy in this show. You get the sense from the way she deals with bullies that she probably was the nice popular girl at her old school. She doesn't seem too fazed by going from May Queen to the weird kid. Oh, wait, you didn't hear about her being May Queen yet? We'll get there.

So, where were Xander and Willow when all this was going down? They were watching the zebras mate:
Willow: "It was like the Heimlich. With stripes!"
Buffy tells them she was looking "at the fishes," which signals an alarming need for more classroom time vs. field trips for Sunnydale students, if you ask me.

The clique that teased Buffy finds another student hanging out by chimp island. And I noticed something really bizarre about this scene that I never noticed before: when one of the jerky kids says, "Lance," to get the non-clique kid's attention, one of the chimps responds with like, a "Who, me?" kind of noise. And he looks up. So... that monkey's name is Lance.

That's Dr. Lance, thank you. I didn't spend three years in monkey medical school to be on a first name basis with a blogger.

The really funny part is that when I was labeling my screencaps, I labelled that one "Lance.jpg" and all the ones of the human Lance are labelled "geek01.jpg" or similar.

Poor Lance (the human, not the ape) is the target of some pretty unclever monkey jokes, until Principal Flutie overhears and demands to know what the bad kids are up to. Because Lance is a nerd, and he wants to live through this field trip, he adopts pack mentality and tells the principal that everything is cool, the bad kids weren't bothering him. Flutie warns the clique kids that he's watching them, and stalks away looking like a fat Jerry Orbach.

You can practically hear him putting Baby in the corner.

 Because they're assholes, the cool kids dupe Lance into believing they really like him, and he should go check out the hyena exhibit with them. Even though the hyena exhibit is closed with some pretty serious looking cones. Buffy, Xander, and Willow watch as Lance and the clique head into the forbidden hyena house, and Xander muses that every school has mean kids. The mean kids at this school appear to be in their late twenties, but whatever. Their jokes were pretty bad, so I guess that's an indication that they've been held back a lot?

Buffy is going to go to Lance's rescue, but Xander suggests that since super powers aren't needed, he can handle this one. And I'm siding with Xander here. Lance seems so eager for approval from the four jerks that he's probably not going to be too keen on the "new kid" coming in to rescue him from his newfound popularity.

Buffy and Willow decide they're going to go after Xander, because, you know. Four, possibly five against one are not good odds, but then a zookeeper who looks like Bill Oddie's younger, handsomer brother shows up and says this totally bizarre thing:
"Are you blind, or are you just illiterate? Because hyenas are very quick to prey on the weak."
As we continue in the episode, you'll note that this is an important plot point. But it's stated so strangely. Not only does it imply that blind people and the illiterate are inherently weak, but it kind of seems like he's saying that literacy would save you in case of hyena attack. Which is an unnecessarily bizarre and ableist way of promoting reading to high schoolers.

If the dialogue and story seem kind of off to you in this one, keep in mind that it was written by Matt Kiene and Joe Reinkemeyer, a writing duo who only wrote two episodes, both uniformly horrible, Xander-centric stories for the series. The Pack and Inca Mummy Girl both feel like particularly well-written, but not entirely in-character, fanfic.

Bill Oddie's brother tells Buffy and Willow that the hyenas are in quarantine because they just arrived from Africa. He goes on to share some pretty specific information about how hyenas will hunt the Maasai by imitating their names to lure them away from their camp fires at night. And this guy? He is really into hyenas.

You can't see it from here, but this guy has a massive erection right now.

Inside the hyena hut (if I ever own a store that sells hyenas, that's probably going to be the first name I reject as being too obvious, but then I'll ultimately go back to it for its simplicity and aliteration), the mean kids are tormenting Lance by trying to push him over the rail into the hyena enclosure. Xander helps Lance get away, but then he and the four jerks all make eye contact with the hyena, who flashes yellow light from his eyes into theirs. The camera pans up to show that they're all standing in a pretty sick sigil:

As Lance (the human, not the monkey) runs from the exhibit, he stumbles, and all the flashy-eyed kids turn and laugh like idiots.

And we know how certain people feel about that, don't we?

Xander smirks an evil smirk:

He attended the Morgana Pendragon School of Smug Scheming, Sunnydale campus.

And after the opening credits, we join Buffy and Willow at The Bronze. Willow asks Buffy if she thought Xander seemed weird on the bus back from the field trip. Buffy says she didn't notice anything different about him, but she's also not "hyper aware" of Xander's moods the way Willow is. They discuss Willow's huge crush on Xander, and Buffy tries to deny having a crush on Angel, even though she's still wearing his leather jacket. Buffy points out that while Angel is good-looking, he's never around, and he only pops up to talk about vampires. But when Willow says, "He's here," Buffy immediately thinks she's talking about Angel and about gets whiplash. But it's not Angel, it's Xander, and he's behaving... strangely. He casually stares down a girl before joining Buffy and Willow at their table, grabbing Buffy's "buttery croissant" that she pronounces "qua-sont." Then he sniffs Buffy and tells her that she took a bath, but that's okay. Buffy and Willow are mystified by his actions, especially when the mean kids show up and have a pretty intense staring contest with him.
Eagle-eyed viewers will recognize that as the same look that same actor gave to his bulimic ballerina girlfriend in Center Stage, right after he catches her getting out of bed to purge. 

The mean kids pass Xander by to make fun of a fat kid, which Xander finds super funny, though he is somewhat chastened when Willow and Buffy aren't impressed. Then we cut to Sunnydale high, where Buffy finishes kicking Giles's ass in training, in a scene that goes literally no place before he sends her off to class (fanfic, anyone?). Then we cut to the legs of frightened, fleeing students and a panicked Principal Flutie. What's causing all this commotion?

Bacon is your friend! Don't run from bacon!

It's the new mascot, Herbert, a piglet who's meant to be a razorback. Buffy catches Herbert, Principal Flutie explains how this piglet is the most terrifying mascot ever (you know what would have been a better mascot for Sunnydale high? A FUCKING VAMPIRE), and we cut to Xander and Willow in the courtyard. Willow is trying to tutor Xander in math, but he's getting frustrated. When he asks why he has to learn this stuff, anyway, Willow gives him what is possibly the worst motivational speech of all time:
"You remember. You fail math, you flunk out of school, you end up being the guy at the pizza place that sweeps the floor and says, 'hey kids, where's the cool parties this weekend?' We've been through this."
So, no pressure, Xander.

No wonder he throws his book in the trash.

Even with her amazing coaching skills, Willow is unable to convince Xander to finish the lesson, and he storms off, content to be that creepy pizza guy she described.

While this episode is one of my least favorites, it sets up some important characterization for our Mr. Harris. Xander is motivated primarily by fear of failure in every area of his life. He's afraid of failing at school, with girls, later in his work life and serious relationships. And while he almost always does fail, he never stops trying. The fact that we see him quitting here, and it's shown as being completely out of character, is a perfect example of showing rather than telling, what kind of a person Xander Harris is. Take it from me, this is something that writers struggle with every freaking day, every sentence of their entire lives. It's done really well here.

In the hallway, Principal Flutie is still waxing poetic about how things were different when he was a kid, people cared about school spirit, etc., while Buffy holds Herbert the pig. When Principal Flutie observes that when he was a teenager, old guys complained about how things were better when they were young, you get a sense that Flutie is a goodhearted guy who just can't connect with his students anymore. He goes into the room where Herbert's cage is, just as Xander walks by. The pig is way not impressed by Xander, and Buffy struggles to hold on to the squealing animal, looking on in confusion as Xander passes her without a word.

Due to inclement weather, gym class has to be held inside, and the teacher, who I'm pretty sure is a veteran of some war or another, forces the kids to play dodge ball with the sadistic glee of a drill instructor a week from retirement. Xander and the mean kids end up on the same team, and an epic beat down ensues, scored by drumming and jungle noises so that the audience is aware that something "savage" is happening. Xander brutally slams Willow with a ball, and she looks totally "What the hell?!" as she goes to sit down. Pretty soon, the only person left on the opposing team is Buffy, and she faces Xander the mean kids, who inexplicably ignore her to turn on their own teammate, Lance.

Buffy helps Lance up, then there's another tense glare off. I'm beginning to think the more appropriate title for this episode would have been "The Staring Contest."

After gym, Willow waits by Xander's locker to confront him about his unnecessarily forceful dodge balling of her person. But he's hanging out with the bad kids. She asks him what's wrong, and they have this conversation:
Xander: "I guess you've noticed that I've been different around you lately."
Willow: "Yes."
Xander: "I think, um... I think it's because my feelings for you have been changing. And, well, we've been friends for such a long time that I feel like I need to tell you something. I've um... I've decided to drop geometry. So, I won't be needing your math help anymore. Which means I won't have to look at your pasty face again.
Willow. Is. Crushed. As she runs away, Xander and his friends laugh uncontrollably, and Buffy, having overheard the exchange, angrily asks Xander if he has anything to say to her. He just laughs and walks off with his new friends.

So, if you haven't gotten it by now, they are the titular "pack."

The pack - I'm calling them that now, because I love seeing the titles of things in things - head into the courtyard where they severely fuck up some kids' lunch by half-eating it, discarding it, and stepping in the rest. They don't like the hot dogs, because they're too cooked, so they sniff the air and follow their noses to poor Herbert.

Alas, poor Herbert, I knew him...

They make a crack about "doing lunch," which I really hope doesn't mean anything about bestiality in this context, and the scene cuts to Xander his pack roaming the campus in slow motion for way too long. You might not remember this, if you're a young 'un, but back in the 1990's, everyone walked in slow motion to angst-ridden alternative music. It was going to be our decade's official pastime, until someone invented Frolf. DAMN YOU, Frolf!

Xander uses his super hyena hearing to listen to a conversation between Buffy and Willow. Willow tells Buffy that she's known Xander her whole life, and while they haven't always been close, he's never been so openly hostile to her before. This contradicts the mythos that we're privy to in later seasons, when we hear about Xander and Willow being close enough to spend every Christmas together, etc. It's one of the very few continuity fuck ups in the series, but since it happens in the first season, I give it a pass, they might not have known where they were going.

Willow suggests that the reason Xander doesn't like her anymore is because of Buffy. He likes Buffy, and views Willow as a third wheel. It's a really cool conversation, because Willow is jealous of Buffy, but not accusatory. She doesn't say, "You're such a slut, you're stealing my man." She just suggests that Xander is pushing her away to pursue Buffy. And for Buffy's part, she doesn't get angry at Willow's assessment of the situation. She insists that something is really wrong with Xander, and something weird is going on. So, she's going to talk to the expert in weird.

The scene cuts to the library.

Pictured: Weird.
Giles: "Xander's taken to teasing the less fortunate?"
Buffy: "Uh-huh."
Giles: "And there's a noticeable change in both clothing and demeanor?"
Buffy: "Yes."
Giles: "And otherwise, all of his spare time is spent lounging about with imbeciles?"
Buffy: "It's bad, isn't it?"
Giles: "It's devastating. He's turned into a sixteen year old boy. Of course, you'll have to kill him."
 Buffy demands that Giles take her seriously, but he just talks down to her about how testosterone turns all men into morons. Which is interesting. With what we'll learn about Giles's teen years in season two, it seems like he's projecting a bit here. Buffy tells him not to "Scully" her, and I flip the fuck out because ZOMG SHE JUST REFERENCE THE X-FILES! Though Buffy urges Giles to check his books, and tells him about Xander scaring the pig, Giles goes on and on about teenagers preying on the weak. This triggers Buffy's thought process, and she realizes that Xander has been possessed by a hyena. Giles doesn't take her seriously until Willow bursts into the library and tells them that Herbert the Fauxzerback has been eaten. Giles admits defeat and starts researching.

Meanwhile, Principal Flutie knows exactly who is responsible for Herbert's demise. He confronts the four bad kids - who are sans Xander at the moment - and orders them into his office, promising they'll have "so much detention, your grandkids will be staying after."

Buffy, Willow, and Giles are researching hyenas, and Giles suddenly knows all about this sect of animal worshipping Masai who allowed themselves to be possessed by animal spirits. Somehow, this did not raise alarms when Buffy was first talking about the hyena thing? Someone is getting Watcher dusty, methinks.

Because mutilation and decapitation is apparently a side effect of animal possession, Buffy knows she has to get to Xander right away. She goes to the room where Herbert met his tragic demise, and she's inspecting the remains when Xander shows up. He tries to block her from leaving the room and she knocks him down. So he tries to rape her. Interspersed with Xander's attempted sexual assault, we see the rest of the pack in Flutie's office, where they rip the phone off his desk and surround him. Xander tells Buffy that she's only been pretending she doesn't want him, and back in Flutie's office, well... RIP, Flutie. Actually, yeah. Literally. To shreds.

You were too beautiful for this world.

The fade-to-black for the commercial ends and we see Willow watching disgusting video of hyenas eating:
Bullshit she's watching those graphics on that computer.

when Buffy enters, dragging an unconscious Xander. She tells Willow she hit him with a desk while he tried "his hand at felony sexual assault." This is the important part here. She calls it sexual assault. This is going to be important at the end of the episode. She and Willow lock Xander in the cage in the library. I'm not a librarian, so I don't know what those cages are used for. But I'm going to assume all libraries have serious monster problems.

Giles returns from a staff meeting to inform Buffy and Willow that their principal was eaten. The story given to the rest of the school is that wild dogs got in somehow and mauled Flutie in his office, but obvs the Scoobies know what's up. The only problem is that they don't really know how to un-possess the pack. Giles kind of guesses at a solution, which is to transport the hyena spirits into another human. Giles and Buffy decide to go interrogate Bill Oddie's brother, and Willow offers to stay behind and keep an eye on Xander.

A woman out for an evening stroll through Sunnydale, with her baby, because #8, happens upon the pack sleeping on the ground outside. They make some predatory noises, but she gets away.

They are immediately eaten by vampires.

Back at the library, Xander wakes up and tries to seduce Willow into opening the cage. He's all, things were better before Buffy came to Sunnydale, because it was just you and me. Don't you mean you and her and JESSIE YOUR BEST FRIEND WHO DIED FOUR EPISODES AGO? No, of course he doesn't mean that, because Jessie is never mentioned again in the entire series, despite being Xander's best friend. But whatever. For a moment, it seems like Willow is going to fall for Xander's obvious manipulations, but when he tries to grab her, she tells him she has her answer, she knows he's possessed.

Giles and Bill Oddie's brother bond over creepy hyena rituals. The zookeeper somehow knows how to do a trans-possession ritual. Which is kind of weird, but maybe he had that on his resume when he applied for the job as Sunnydale zookeeper and HR was like, "Actually... that could be extremely helpful." Little Oddie tells Buffy that he needs all the possessed students to fix the problem. While Buffy knows where Xander is, she has no clue about the rest of them. The zookeeper assures her that after feeding and sleeping, the rest of the pack will look for their lost member. Which means they're headed straight for Willow, who is trying to set a world record for "most hyena footage watched in a single night."

The other pack members use their creepy hyena name mimicry to scare Willow, then they break in. And really, the mimic thing isn't that impressive when you remember that they're not actual hyenas, but people who could always talk and knew her name already. But whatever. They crawl through the library windows and break Xander out while Willow makes a run for it. 

It's like that scene in Titanic, except instead of sex, everyone gets cannibalized.

Xander and the pack pursue her through the school, and she's cornered when Buffy and Giles show up to save her. Which leads to INAPPROPRIATE STUDENT TEACHER CLOSENESS TIMES!

This hadn't happened yet in this episode, so you knew it was coming.

Buffy decides to lead the hyenas back to the zoo. She says they'll be looking for someone weak to feed on. So she should probably definitely leave Willow and the easily concussed Watcher behind.

Then there's a throwaway scene of a couple and their young son getting in the car to go somewhere during a marital spat, and the hyenas attack them. And then things get... weird.

Buffy gets Xander's attention and tells him, "You know what you want," and runs off, getting him to chase her. So... is she daring him to rape her here? After he just tried to? I guess it's an effective way to get the hyenas to leave the family in the car alone, but it's pretty disturbing that her plan hinges totally on being bait for possible sexual assault. (6)

Giles and Willow arrive at the zoo, where Giles goes into the hyena enclosure to help start the ritual with the zookeeper. Seriously, Giles? This raises no red flags at all that a guy who takes care of animals on the hellmouth also has an interest in the occult? To the point of knowing an obscure Maasai ritual that wasn't even in your books? Really?

Here's another issue we need to add to the list, folks. Some stuff on this show is racist as fuck. For example, the fact that many times "primal" or "primitive" magic is depicted as being African or from a "tribal," non-white culture. It might seem like using non-European cultures to illustrate power and vast knowledge of the unknown would be a positive thing, right? They're not saying anything negative. They're saying these otherwise "savage" people are truly strong and fearful. But the problem with this is, it relies on a colonial misunderstanding of "exotic/tribal/savage" cultures as being somehow more simple or mysterious than the "normal" white, western way of life. It's just relying on lazy cultural stereotypes to depict mystery and fantasy for a western audience. Because this will crop up again, and this show pulls a metric fuckton of racefail over and over, I'm giving this the #12 slot: Some of this shit is racist as fuck.

To prove my point, the zookeeper shows up looking like this:

And Giles says it's Maasai ceremonial painting or something. But even just a cursory glance at photos of Maasai ceremonies shows that they don't wear blue paint. So anything weird or scary to a westerner's perception can be passed off as this "exotic" culture most westerners know nothing about, and that's apparently fine.

Giles slowly puts two and two together - about the ritual, not the racism- that this guy meant to become a Primal himself before the kids were possessed. The fact that he's a zookeeper who knows a little too much about possession didn't clue you in at all? Okay. We'll go with it. And then Giles gets knocked out again, because being a librarian and playing for the NFL are pretty much the same thing:
I believe this is the fourth episode in a row where Giles has been knocked unconscious from a blow to the head.

Buffy and the pack arrive at the zoo, and Willow runs into the hyena enclosure to tell Giles and Blackface Bill Oddie. The zookeeper binds Willow's wrists, and she just lets him because, as I said before, this whole episode reads like a mildly OOC fanfic. He's got a knife to her throat before she realizes anything is up, but I'm too busy being distracted by the fact that this dude face painted all the way to the back of his head because his hair is so thin. That's almost more creepy than the fact he painted teeth over his mustache. And where the hell did he get a Snuggie in 1996?

Buffy bursts in and Willow warns her that's a trap, but it's too late, the pack has already got her. They're about to eat her when the zookeeper shouts something that I would bei money is made up words and not some real Maasai dialect, and the flashy thing happens with their eyes again. Possessed by the spirit of the hyena, the zookeeper throws his knife aside and is about to bite Willow, but the kids, no longer possessed, let Buffy up. Xander rushes the zookeeper in Willow's defense, but he gets knocked down. Buffy and the zookeeper fight, and she throws him to the hyenas, who eat him.

BUT THAT MAKES NO FUCKING SENSE, GUYS! We've heard through the whole episode that hyenas are pack hunters, they'll search for missing pack members, etc. The zookeeper is possessed by the spirit of the hyena, so isn't he a member of the pack? When the kids became possessed, the hyena backed away from them, like they had an understanding. And while it's true that the zookeeper didn't complete his ritual (he had to perform a "predatory act", like eating Willow), the other students became possessed without committing any kind of sacrifice. I suppose you could make the argument that the hyena "chose" the kids and Bill Oddie's brother "stole" their possession, but then why the emphasis on the ritual, if it just happened to be a magic hyena and not something that could be done with any old animal? We heard that these hyenas are very rare, but it's not unusual for rare animals to be kept in zoos. It's not like they said, "Hey, these are magic hyenas." They just said that they were more vicious and rare.

The fact that none of this stuff makes sense means that the zookeeper's tumble into the hyena pit was just a convenient way to dispose of him without Buffy having to murder a person.

Back at Sunnydale, everything is normal again. Xander is grossed out by the fact he ate a pig that wasn't cooked, and worries he's going to get trichinosis. He's grateful he didn't eat principal Flutie. He asks Willow and Buffy if he did anything else embarrassing while possessed, because he can't remember anything. Buffy and Willow share a knowing glance and tell him that no, he didn't do anything else.

As in, "No, you didn't try to rape me."

So, #6. The victim of the attempted assault is depicted as being understanding and a good friend due to her willingness to deny the assault happened. Because it might prove embarrassing to the perpetrator. 

That's not cool. That is just not cool. 

But it's nowhere near as uncool as what happens next. After the girls leave, Giles approaches Xander and calls bullshit on the memory loss thing. Xander asks if he's going to tell Buffy and Willow, and Giles tells him, "Your secret dies with me." Then he claps him on the shoulder in goodnatured sympathy because, heck, who hasn't tried to rape somebody while under the influence of something mind altering, amiright? Mortified, Xander walks off, leaving Giles to sit and, I guess, fondly reflect on the secret rape pact he just made?

He will sleep well tonight, knowing another fragile male ego is untroubled by conscience.
The fact that this screencap is now my desktop background in no way minimizes my point.

So, that's it for this week. Join us next week for one of my very favorite episodes, Angel, or "That time Jenny wore her 9 key the fuck out."


  1. Yo animal science major here. big problem for me; hyenas are female dominated. like...absurdly female dominated.

    1. Don't lady hyenas have wieners when they're young?

    2. Spotted Hyena females have external genetalia that is phallic. its called a psuedopenis.

      Yes...they give birth out of it.


    3. If you want to be scarred for life watch a video of a hyena giving birth through her psuedopenis. I really wish I never had, makes human birth look absolutely pleasant.

    4. Definitely a case of WTF Evolution. They have an upsettingly high rate of death in childbirth during the first birth. If they make it through the first one, they have a decent chance for the later births, though.

    5. Males have to practice for months at "threading the needle" so to speak before they can successfully mate.

      Insert joke at Xanders expense here

      Kinda bugged that save for being predators they didn't actually act like hyenas

    6. Hyenas tend to get written off as unsavory filthy scavengers. Kinda wondering how different the episode would have been if they were possessed by wolves. Probably not so different. Just switch out the African primitive tribes with Native American primitive tribes. Oh god, that stupid Thanksgiving episode in season 4. -_-

    7. So they didn't bother to learn anything about the animal in question...huge shock

      See Mantis woman

    8. That's spotted hyenas, specifically. I'm not sure what hyenas these were, exactly...

      Spotted hyenas are really interesting, though, as their sexual dynamics are totally reversed from most mammals including humans, and the females are bigger, stronger and more agressive, while male qualities (like erected penis) are the signs of submission, and because of what their genitalia is like, rape is pretty much impossible.

      Why go with hyenas for this if you don't take advantage of their unique biology?

      Also, hyenas will just eat their whole prey, they don't leave much left of the carcass...

    9. I was so going to say that. I am glad somebody else is has a problem with real animal portrayal too.

      *I'm looking at you Back at the Barnyard!

  2. Any of the real facts about Hyena pacts would probably make them far more terrifying.

    I wonder if the episode would be better or worse if it was about a female cliche getting possesed and becoming absurdly strong and aggressive?

  3. "heck, who hasn't tried to rape somebody while under the influence of something mind altering, amiright?"

    Even so, I wouldn't classify Xander himself as an attempted rapist. He was magically possessed by a mystical hyena, not by the demon Four Loko. Hyena possession was not something Xander chose or asked for. If he was all, "Hey, I want girls to like me so I'm going to channel a violent animal to be badass and sexy and screw to risks" that would be another story. He was violated himself. I don't mean to minimize what could have happened to Buffy, just to be fair to Xander (who is my least favorite Scooby).

    Willow not being angry with Buffy was great. This is how women need to treat each other.

    I always forget about this episode because it is one of my least favorites.

    1. I think I would be more forgiving if Xander wasn't content to just ignore the "hey, I almost raped you," aspect. Yeah, he was under the influence of hyena possession, but that's just incentive to not dance around it. Instead, it's like, "let's pretend this never happened."

    2. I see your point, but the entire way the writers went about addressing it is what's skeevy to me. I agree with Jenny that the incident should've been addressed and not played off as a joke, like Xander just did something mildly embarrassing and not something horrific and potentially traumatic (what if Buffy hadn't been a slayer? What if possessed!Xander had gone after Willow or someone who wouldn't be able to fight him off?) I feel that any decent human being who remembered the incident would've felt some remorse over it, b/c even if that person wasn't "themselves" they still sort of were... like, it's the same face and body as the victim's friend and the association is there. But I also think fantasy/paranormal shows in general (Smallville is notorious for this) use the "not themselves" device entirely too often as a reset button and a way to avoid addressing the problematic aspects of what the character did while "not themselves."

    3. In a realistic sense though, I feel like from the position of two close friends (who are both teenagers and probably don't know how to deal with complicated emotions really well), it may have been easier for both parties to just pretend like the thing never happened. I mean, if either had been open about it, how would they even deal with that kind of thing down the friendship path? However, what I do think is bullshit is Giles' reaction to it. I mean, he is a responsible adult, as he so often likes to proclaim. When he admitted that he knew Xander did remember that nonsense, how about a genuine offer to help this poor kid how to deal with the fact that he almost raped one of his best friends? I may not be remembering accurately, but when that happened I recall Xander being kind of mortified. It seemed like he really didn't know how to handle that emotion other than hoping to move past it. That could have been an ideal time for Giles to do something more than to say, "It's cool, the Hellmouth will make you do some crazy shit" and leaving it at that.

    4. A thought occurs:

      The writers very obviously contrived things so Xander didn't contribute to Principle Flutie's death - presumably because his character would then be a murderer and this would make us like him less.

      The writers didn't want to make Xander a murderer. But they were okay with making him a rapist. (Well, attempted rapist, but morally it's the same thing. He wanted to commit rape; he tried to commit rape; the thing that prevented rape from happening wasn't some change of heart on his part, but the fact that his target fought him off.)

      Says a lot about society that the writers didn't balk at this and that viewers did indeed keep on liking Xander.

  4. But did Giles even know that Xander tried to rape Buffy? Giles wasn't in the library when Buffy told Willow. I guess one of them could have told him afterwards, offscreen.

  5. I am a librarian and I was absurdly disappointed my first day on the job to not have a cage in my library. I do thank Giles though for being one of the sexier librarians in pop culture.

  6. Thanks for the Center Stage validation. I don't normally. Subscribe to the "guilty pleasure "classification 'cuz watching just about anything and enjoying it makes you a more rounded person...and a cheaper date. But I've always been a little embarrassed about that one. Because I actually own it.

    Knowing you've seen it lightens the guiltt a bit.

    1. Sorry aboutall the typos, but I just got my nails done for a wedding and it is beyond fucking impossible to type on my phone with them!

    2. I might own Center Stage too... Sshhh.

    3. I love Center Stage and I don't even care, lol

    4. People are embarrassed about enjoying Center Stage? Almost every actor is/was a professional ballet dancer. The dancing and choreography are incredible. I love that movie.

    5. I have no shame about loving Center Stage. I am out and proud about the fact that I can quote that movie like nobody's business!

  7. When I saw the blue face paint I thought "Wouldn't Longshanks have freaked the fuck out if they had showed up to battle painted like that in Braveheart?".

  8. The entire episode is full of rape undertones. Possession is forcing a spirit onto a spirit. Forcible consumption of the pig, innocents, random foods, Principal ritualistic killings etc. = Sex ( according to my eccentric literature professor).The literal scenes with Xander and Buffy and The Pack overpowering everything they come in contact with add to the overbearing tension. And then we are all supposed to laugh and forget about it as some sort of funk that will be the butt of several jokes in later seasons.

  9. Should the dodgeball scene maybe be filed under #11? It seems it should to me.

  10. I'm just completely bewildered as to why is there a cage in the library. Was it there before? And why is Buffy training in the library during school hours? What if somebody walked in?

    This is so weird.

    If I were Buffy, I would have told Xander: "Well, you got kinda gropey, but is a good thing that desk was there, isn't it?" with a big smugly smile on my face. Just 'cause I think he deserves to be humilliated a little bit.

    1. I always wondered why the Sunnydale library felt there were special books that needed to be locked in a book cage. Integrate, don't segregate!

  11. I truly don't understand the problem with Buffy and Willow choosing not to tell Xander about the attempted rape. I can see why it's uncool on Giles' and Xander's sides (who /does/ that?), but why the ladies? I mean, isn't she trying to sort of protect him?

    1. No, no, it's uncool on the writers' part. Buffy doesn't have an obligation to tell him, but the script, overall, dropped the ball.

    2. That's what I'm not getting. Sorry to be so thickheaded, but why was the ball dropped?

    3. From a writing standpoint, it would have strengthened their friendship for Buffy to be able to acknowledge and forgive that.

      From a social justice perspective, it would have been a good example for girls watching the show: you are not responsible for making your rapist feel good about himself.

    4. Because it endorses rape culture. For a show to have a predominately rawr girl theme, for said lead female to basically pat Xander on the head, was basically to say, "It's all okay," when it really is not.

    5. So... because she didn't confront a victim of mind rape about what he was forced to do while literally possessed by a maelevolent spirit, it endorses a rape culture?

      Does this apply to Amy back in Episode 3 too? Is she supposed to learn some aesop about not having your body stolen by a witch and used to perform evil deeds?

    6. Amy didn't try to rape anybody in a scene that could have easily been written as just a fight between a person possessed by an evil spirit and not sexual assault. That's what the problem is. The fact that attempted rape was even in the episode at all when it wasn't necessary to the plot, later it's a joke, is what reinforces rape culture.

    7. This is not the first time that attempted rape will be used by the BtVS writers in circumstances when it is not really necessary to the plot, i.e. when another attempted act would have made the point better. Sex is not handled well in BtVS, but of course you recognise that in your Point No. 1.

    8. BTW that comment of mine was intended as a reply to to Jenny, not Anonymous. I messed up.

  12. I always figured the zoo keeper was asking if they were illiterate because they were ignoring the signs. But yeah, it really doesn't make sense with rest of his comments.

    It isn't just the assault on Buffy that gets whitewashed (and I'm not saying that's not super important btw but that's been covered already). Xander and Willow are best friends, super important down the track. He treats her very poorly and while I could kind of understand her not bringing it up because she's in love with him,he's also happy to let that slide. He treats her like crap and he doesn't think it's worth an apology because it may mean a backlash re the Buffy incident. His whitewash of his assault on Buffy means he just ignores what he did to Willow as well.

  13. marzipanpieplateApril 2, 2013 at 8:12 PM

    Regarding the 'fishes' thing, grammatically, fishes is permissible if they are of a different species. So, "There are 100 species of fishes in Lake Superior*" is completely acceptable. Sorry, I just love grammar too much to let that pass. However, based on how often we see Buffy in class or studying, I'm not sure she knows this.

    With regards to the rest of the episode -- UGH. I really dislike this one. I can't think of anything positive to say, which is a rarity for even the not-so-great Buffy episodes. Er, Xander's hair looks good when he's an evil hyena person?

    *Made up statistic.

    1. 88 species of fishes. I couldn't help myself; I just had to Google it. (sometimes I think Google was the worst thing to ever happen to my obsessive tendencies)

    2. 99 species of fishes in the lake, 99 species of fishes...

  14. This episode was really one of the worst (I always hated anything Xander-centric). I enjoyed your recap, though! And I'm happy that this recap means that "Angel," is next, as that is one of my all-time favorite episodes of anything. I know Angel is an asshole (and I will enjoy your skewering of the episode), but I still get cartoon hearts in my eyes watching the Buffy/Angel dance at the end.

    1. I think Zero is the only Xander episode I liked.

  15. This episode is one of my least favorites for the same reasons. The attempted rape scene and the way the script dealt with it left me so skeeved out when I first watched this. I blame Smallville for this more than Buffy but I cannot anymore with the "not themselves" conceit. It seems that every time it's used, the writers use it as an easy "out" to avoid acknowledging the aftereffects of the possessed person's behavior toward the other characters. I'm not even certain what the attempted rape scene here was supposed to accomplish. There were already plenty of scenes to tip viewers off that Xander was possessed and plenty of non-rapey ways for Buffy to have figured it out. Whatever dramatic benefit that scene might've offered is cancelled out by all the creepy questions it raises. What if Buffy wasn't a slayer? What if Xander attacked a girl without super powers who couldn't fight him off? Would she still be all "hey bro, it's no big, you weren't yourself?"

    This episode immediately brings to mind the skeezy gender politics that come up in "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered" in S2.

    1. The thing that pisses me off is, the fight scene could have still been there. If he tried to EAT Buffy instead of RAPE Buffy.

    2. I think the grossest part for me is that it really didn't feel out of character for Xander, imo; he was just no longer hindered by the more craven part of his insecurity. That was the creepiest bit for me - we were still supposed to like him. We're supposed to be sympathetic, ffs.
      Then we find out he knows and it's somehow even more skin-crawly.

    3. @HellaNova, that is EXACTLY what bugged me about that. It seems like being possessed just lowered his inhibitions, and considering how creepy he's been to Buffy (watching her through the mirror when she was getting dressed for her date last episode) and how little he respects her autonomy, it really seems like the only thing he'd need to feel comfortable going for it with her is for him to feel empowered in some way. Once he has that leverage, it doesn't seem like such a far step for him to get pushy with Buffy. So him trying to rape Buffy wasn't much of a stretch. Xander's fucking creepy.

  16. I thought the kids got possessed after their "predatory act" of bullying Lance, but I could be wrong...

    1. But given hyenas...that's not predatory to them. that's establishing a pecking order.

      Again lucky we wernt dealing with real hyenas or the alpha female would have tried to mount him

    2. I agree, I think that was the "predatory act" they were trying to establish. However I am confused why it affected Xander then since he was there to save Lance. Was it like an area of effect thing?

    3. I thought it occurred much later, when they ate the pig.
      Although that doesn't make total sense, when I think back on it, since they were already exhibiting some serious predator behaviour by that point....

  17. Hahaha, I read "That time Jenny wore her 9 key the fuck out," and all I could think was, "is Jenny Calander on the show already? Then I LOLed, because I'm a dummy!

  18. Spotted Hyenas are often the ones people think of when people think of hyenas- and they are extremely female dominate, social and everyone has a phallic of some kind (the female's being bigger....as she does give birth through it).

    But my understanding is the other breeds- brown and stripe are more solitary than social and the females tend to have a vulva, not a phallic.

    So yeah, more sexist and inaccurate bullshit for having missed that hyena males tend to be more submissive and would *never* attack a female (unless they were from a rival pack or are young and free roving were it's everyone for themselves).

    Also- while true all carnivores will target weaker prey when they are in need of a food, Spotted Hyenas are known for gagging up on and tearing down prey that is way bigger and stronger then they are. They'll take what they can get, however they can get it but they are quite happy to tear down a full size water buffalo when they have the numbers to do it (water buffalo being like the ultimate you do not fuck with prey. LIONS don't even fuck with them). They also have a habit of teasing MALE lions just to see if they can get away with it (spotted hyenas: a species that sees a water buffalo and a male lion and goes "I'm going to go fuck with that just to have something to do").

    So that whole backing down because Buffy is stronger thing? No. A real Spotted Hyena would have seen Buffy as a rival challenge and gotten it in her head to go after her- not Willow. If you are not part of the pack, you are fair game, and if they out number you they will come after you.

    And never mind the whole rape bullshit. The only time a male spotted hyena is remotely SAFE around a female is when she's in heat and even then, he follows her lead until she indicates she's ready to follow his. Have you seen a vid of male hyena trying to mate? It is hilarious, sad and those poor guys just can not win. Male hyenas can not and do not rape. The concept of rape would NEVER enter the mind of a male hyena because they physically can not rape a female- consensual sex is complicated enoghf as it is.

    Xander would have seen Buffy as the lead matriarch and Willow as the Beta thus enraging the jealousy of the one female bully, motivating her to take out the 'rival' to her queendom (and even THAT is inaccurate because spotted hyenas don't work like that but for the sake of tv, moving on).

    But having the female bully suddenly become this aggressive matriarch power house with her three male harem and targeting Buffy as the threat to her queendom and actively going after her would have been too confusing to the audience and too much work to write.

    Or maybe these guys were brown or striped hyenas and therefore I have know idea what I am talking about. *le shrug* Is there a hyena expert in the house? I'm just a hobbyist that is using this a corner stone for my own fictional story telling.

    1. you're right but since they where pack hyenas I pressumed spotted.

      That said acting like a real hyena probably would have been a better episode.And fit the metaphor of boys with their hormones amiright?

      Xander starts toadying up to Buffy, being mean to Willow (because she's lower in pack), starts picking fights for fun against the football team, and goes ballistic at Giles when he tries to give Buffy orders

    2. Oh and you could grow Xanders character with it by addressing his insecurity at women around him being stronger than him.

    3. @Ing: omg, even after reading the post above I hadn't put together the connection between real hyena behavior and Xander's insecurity about women. That would have been incredible. I weep for the wasted potential.

    4. But in Hyena society the lowest female is above the highest male. So (for the sake of TV) if he sees Willow as a non pack member, I can maybe see Xander being mean to her...but I still think he would be just as submissive to Willow. Which might have given her a confidence boost of having Xander actually listen to her and acknowledging she has some kind of authority. Xander turning to HER for advice/orders and then him obediently carrying them out? Actually apologize when she calls him out for being an ass (say he really did provoke the foot ball players and Willow steps in and scolds him for it)? Yeah, Willow could have grown from that, and Xander could have as well.

      The idea of him going off on Giles for bossing Buffy around is amusing. Addressing Xander's insecurity of being surrounded by women stronger than him was really a missed opportunity.

    5. ...and now I'm learning interesting shit about actual hyenas. I fucking love this blog/its people.

      Co-signed on the insecurity observation. That would've kicked so much more ass.

    6. "But having the female bully suddenly become this aggressive matriarch power house with her three male harem and targeting Buffy as the threat to her queendom and actively going after her would have been too confusing to the audience and too much work to write."

      I would have LOVED to see that episode.

    7. This discussion is amazing and now I'm sad you guys weren't in the writing room when they were creating this episode. It could have been SO good.

    8. @warwriter

      You're right. he should be bootlicking towards Willow and her guiltily enjoying the attention. good way to grow characters

  19. I love these recaps. In themselves they are immensely entertaining reminders of the show I loved so much, but the comments are also fun and interesting, too. I'm really enjoying all this information about hyenas. Didn't the writers make a serious blunder when choosing the genus of animal to use! :D

  20. The thing that really annoyed me about this episode? Principle Flutie being on the field trip! In England the headteacher of any school, never mind a large high school, would not have time to go on a class outing!

    1. In America it depends on the size of the school or the event. I remember a few rare times we went on a school trip (class trip to Disney World for example) and the principal was there. It was considered a "treat" that your class was so important that the principal or vice principal was on the trip with you.

    2. I'm from England, occasionally our headteacher went on the optional trips e.g. there was one to India she went on. (Yes I lived in a pretty affluent place where they had school trips to India.) However she probably would have better things to do than come to Canterbury Cathedral with us for the 1000th time...

    3. In all the field trips I had in my American schools, not once did the principal accompany us, not even when I went to a small private school and there were only 30 students per grade level. And definitely not when we had over 700 students in our class.

  21. "Fishes" and "fish" are pretty much interchangeable plurals although the former is more often used to mean many different types of fish.
    /grammar nitpick

    My school library had a sort of cage in which there were valuable/old books that you had to get the librarian to get out for you in case you damaged them. Kind of like the restricted section in Harry Potter that I've forgotten the name of... except they were mostly not about dark magic AFAIK.

  22. My middle school had a cage in the library. AV equiment got locked in it. To my knowledge, the librarian wasn't a guru of the dark arts, though.

  23. Another librarian (University library, Germany) checking in: We have a cage! Yay!
    I'm not even allowed in there, (and it's in the stacks, underground, where no patrons are around), but it looks like a much bigger version of the Sunnydale library cage, and contains manuscripts, facsimiles, and similar valuable stuff. And the books about horcruxes, of course.

  24. I feel like when they made Xander not take advantage of Buffy when she was under the love spell in S2's Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered, that was their way of saying that "see, Xander's not actually rapey at all, and that whole attempted sexual assault thing from season 1 totally wasn't a big deal." Especially because after the spell wears off, Buffy THANKS him for not raping her ... So she has to be grateful for not being raped, but Xander doesn't have to feel contrite about attempting to rape? (#*$&#*$(#!!!!!

    1. Yeah, the first time I watched this show, that was the episode I just NOPE NOPE FUCK THIS NOPE NOPE DONE WITH YOU'd on, if I'm not mistaken.

      I hadn't even heard of rape culture, and didn't understand feminism yet (I was 10 when the series debuted), but I remember being so. damn. uncomfortable. and upset in this icky unwordable sort of way.

  25. He painted his MUSTACHE.

    Oh, lordy, I woke up at 3am, I am not able to handle this XD

  26. When I'll start watching this show I'll probably skip this episode. It feels too wrong on soooo many levels.

    1. Please do. I've watched the series through more times than I care to admit, and every time I hit this episode (and often for Inca Mummy Girl, too), I groan and wish that I had remembered to skip it this time round. Truly the most dull of the series.

  27. I've just found a perfect video about psychopathy. There are Slovak subtitles but they speak in English. I think it's the best characterization of Christian Grey in the world. Really, really go and watch it!

  28. Thanks to this post and related comments I have just spent half an hour googling spotted hyena pseudo penis and james deen sex and submission.
    My husband, walking in on me mid research, is now a little bit scared of me.

  29. I love you for calling out the epic grade-a racefail that plagues this show.

    I mean, I love this show, but good god damn, Whedon.

    And THANK YOU FOR THE RAPE EXCUSING TRA-LA-FUCKING-LA CALL OUT. OMG. I cannot even put to words how angry that part of this episode made me. That? That is why it took me fucking forever to finish Buffy. That sort of shit is why I gave the fuck up on the show back in early season 2. I just could not with it. I only finally rewatched it this year on the promise it improved, and it does get better, but it is so very not feminist at all in some huge ways for a long damn time.

    I cannot wait until you get to rip into Riley OMG that will be so satisfying. You even made this, my most hated episode, enjoyable in a perverse sort of fashion. Well done, you.

  30. Well, if we're talking favorite episodes here...

    I cannot WAIT until you get to Hush. <3

  31. Wait. How do you pronounce croissant?

    1. In northern California, we pronounce it "Cra-Sont"

  32. I agree the attempted rape should have never been there, but it always creeped me out they didn't acknowledge that Xander (and those bullies) got violated in a way that's as bad as sexual violence. And they just decide to ignore it.

    (However, treating possession and rape in a fictional thing is not the same because one of those things doesn't actually exist. Well, some people do believe possession does, and use it as a justification for abuse...)

  33. I haven't watched this episode for a while... what I'm wondering is, does Giles actually find out about the attempted assault? I don't remember Buffy or Willow actually telling him about it. That's why I was never really disgusted by the ending because I assumed the Xander/Giles knowing look was just in reference to him eating the pig.

    Buuuuut maybe I didn't ever pay that much attention because like others I found this episode pretty dull and filler-y.

  34. I think the turkey burger sounds alright.

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  36. I don't know if it's been mentioned yet, but if Xander can remember everything he did when he'd been possessed, that means the rest of the 'Pack' can to. And...I mean, they ate their principal. And they remember that.

    Why isn't Giles concerned about THAT?

  37. I admit the 'couldn't help themselves' because of previous victimhood/drugs/alcohol is way overused IRL and fiction, it becomes a bit more iffy. Choice is the big issue on both sides. If someone really has been possessed and used like a puppet, how can that be handled in a fair way?

    This wasn't written as well as it could, but what would be the right way? Coming down on Xander because on the hyena attack while he's just on the balcony isn't fair to him. He did not choose to attack Buffy. If Buffy cuts him off because of things he had no choice in, that means he loses his only friends when he's not guilty. There's even a legal thing that if you're forced to do a crime in fear for your life, you're not guilty as you had no choice. Wouldn't the friendship be ended though neither is at fault?

    They made a big writing error to try to increase the horror in that Xander has to remember but then make it a joke. It would have been more interesting if he did remember, but Giles and his creepy wink-wink was dropped. It would have been more horrifying revealed another way as he tried to deal with remembering what he couldn't stop.

    Giles wink wink was the big FAIL for me. He had a rape attempt survivor he's supposed to be mentoring. And he had a mundane kid with the normal teen hormones who's been possessed and remembers doing horrible things and can't escape remembering doing things he'd never do. You'd think Watchers would have some some guidelines, as normal shrinks wouldn't believe possession is a valid defense. Rape culture is the wink wink, but doesn't deal with the possession horror which came before and during the other crime.

    Powerful magics make ethics and morals much more tricky than real life. Is remembering the hyena's attack worthy of the punishment of losing his best friends? After he was mindraped successfully he has to be in denial to keep his friends and support? Isn't that what happens to men who are raped? It's that final scene that finishes the near epic FAIL. A good ending can redeem a weak story, but this did a 180 and added a worse ending on a weak story.


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