Monday, December 26, 2016

BuffyLog Days 3 and 4: She, Buffy. You... Felon?


By PATRICK MCCRAY


Covered -- Season 2, Episode 13-22. Season 3, Episode 1-14


So, this is what happened.


I became very wound up with what I thought was hypocrisy on the part of avowed feminist Mr. Whedon when Angel committed statutory rape with our heroine. If a law calls something ‘rape,’ I think it’s very dodgy for a show (starring someone who is a major role model for adolescent girls) to selectively depict that said rape law can be suspended... if the guy is hot enough. It sends just as bad a message to male viewers, “If I think myself hot enough, it’s not really statutory rape. Me, Angel. You, Buffy.”


No. She, Buffy. You, Felon. Even in 1997. In California.


I really tore Joss a new one on this in my first draft. Especially because the statutory issue isn’t really touched upon. Normally, artists aren’t really shackled with too many -- if any -- duties.  But the show relentless presents itself as a very political animal. I think it’s dirty pool to press pause on that when a moment is soapy enough. It’s the Cool Kid’s Prerogative, and I don’t like it. So there.


Paranoid that I was diving into a tar pit, I consulted everyone from lettered, feminist scholars to Satanists to vet the piece. I came through with flying colors. But it was becoming an epic that makes what I’ve written here look like a Burma Shave ad.


So, there. I pretty much said it. It’s out of my system again.


As I waited on the vetting, I kept watching. Not only did I still have a lot to say about a major day of developments, new ones were popping up all the time. I’ve lost count, which is a commentary right there. Christmas morning, an important relative died. Not geographically close, so there really wasn’t much I could do. I finished my viewing and am all caught up; it’s been a unique Christmas.


At present, the Mayor has begun his Hundred Days of Evil, and Buffy has a new Watcher. Inevitably, they took the easy route by making him a cowardly prig rather than someone who differs from Giles, but is effective. We missed out on a Captain Jellico, and that’s a shame. What if he'd shown backbone? What if he'd been made of stern stuff? Or had some other management style?


You know, all is well on the show. It is very solid television. I’m not sure it’s going to cure Bendii Syndrome, but it’s good. The reason I kind of damn it with faint praise is because of something my co-writer, David, said. He contends that when it’s good, there’s not much better. I can’t really say that, and that fact put things in perspective. Is it THE PRISONER? No. I, CLAUDIUS? No. SEINFELD? No. THE TWILIGHT ZONE? No. Doesn’t make it bad, but it does create a little relief. I think that statement is more about how humdrum genre television can get.

But it’s good. I’m even getting used to the sense of humor. The fans, I proffer, misled me in their zealous attempts to pull me into the flock for twenty years. All I heard about was its realism. A crock, methinks. Apologies. The show feels, more than anything, like a sitcom with serious and soapy moments. Heck, look at the title. Once I thought of it as a sitcom title rather than an exercise in twee irony, it worked fine.  


Okay, I’m going through an episode guide and free associating….


Evil Angel -- the character, not the studio -- is far more interesting than good Angel, and it’s nice to see the actor have fun. Both he, Marsters, and Landau really sell the show, and I’m very eager for the latter two to rejoin the cast.


The filler episodes come in two flavors -- dull (especially compared with ones that substantially contribute to the main story) and intensely interesting. As for the latter, “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered,” and “Band Candy,” are standouts. They take sitcom situations to points so extreme that we see the horror and chaos possible in them.


Naturally, I’m going to really enjoy, “The Dark Age,” which is about the most instructive episode possible for people who want to know about the past lives of teachers. Still, only in mid-Season 3 does Giles get his S1 mojo back. In Season 1, Head is doing is finest James Mason, and I liked the dignity of the character. Then, as with Willow, he seemed to be relegated to the broadest cliche possible. Well, by where I am now with the series, he’s finally stopped stammering. Although Willow is becoming increasingly strange as a character, her cliche is an adorable cliche, and so all is forgiven.


Faith is, um, fine I guess. Despite what Sam Harris says.


“GIngerbread,” “Helpless,” and “The Zeppo,” form a trio of episodes that show just how versatile the program can be and just how confident the writers are with inhabiting it. “The Wish,” which is their “Mirror, Mirror,” is an episode that I will absolutely rewatch.


Predictably, I’m nutty about The Mayor. For years, I’ve been hearing about him, never knowing what an all-powerful goof he is. So far, it’s a descent into nuttiness that is the show at its freshest.


Lastly, I really cherish how devoted the show is to the unadulterated wackiness of horror’s tropes. Scarred cultists! Hooded acolytes! Jackbooted guardians of hell! Not only does the show refuse to apologize for them, it celebrates them. This (along with the color palette of the fashions) reminds me of how we were before 9/11. I miss it. I miss opening theme credits. I miss beige. I miss the days when stories about the end of the world weren’t so damned literal.

For me, the sadly nostalgic part of BUFFY has nothing to do with what it brought to the air. I get nostalgic when I realize what we lost in the years after it left.

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