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Feb 4, 2020 in Analysis

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Gender, Femininity, and Gendered Warrior-Hero

Buffy the Vampire Slayer appears to be a combination of horror, fantasy, melodrama, comedy, and action genres in order to generate a radically popular post-feminist television icon. TV show presents a powerful and muscular female superhero, who is capable of saving the world every single day, not even taking off fancy heels. The current paper will demonstrate how this TV show challenges traditional understanding of gender and femininity.

The opening scene of the pilot episode entitled “Welcome to the Hellmouth” demonstrates how a couple breaks into Sunnydale School during the night.  This scene is a reminder of a typical horror movie, including darkness, shadows, illicit actions, sexy titillation of the school girl by the bad boy. Nevertheless, the typical expectations are turned on their heads, as the blonde, baby doll-voiced Darla appears to be the aggressor, a vampire, and attacks the young man and not vice versa. In addition, the episode 1.4 “Teacher’s Pet” also demonstrates a female villain, Ms. French, who appears to be she-mantis attacking and killing virgin males. It is the attempt to turnover, and even subvert gender norms and expectations. Therefore, the primary theme of Buffy the Vampire Slayer stands for gender equality. This TV show challenges, complicates, even perpetuates norms about gender, sexuality, patriarchal standards, and dictates of femininity. In fact, popular culture itself contributed to articulation of unfilled desires. It preserves memories of the past and incorporates hope for the future, which reproaches the iniquities and partialities of the present. In case when warrior identity is equal to a quintessence of masculine identifier and inborn masculinity, then Buffy’s gender is the biggest transgression of warrior iconography, as it breaks and changes the gendered identity of the warrior-hero.

 
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Scholars utilize the term ‘gender’ when they desire to shift critical attention from males to females. This is a method to exhibit the incorrect universalization of male subjectiveness and indicate the discrepancy generated by the social marking. The ideal post feminist in popular culture is frequently constructed as a young woman who is no longer concerned with systematic change, enjoying the freedoms won by her foremothers; she is strong, independent, and sexually assertive, gaining pleasure from engaging in the world as an individual rather than facing any struggle against systematic gender oppression. Buffy the Vampire Slayer show presents Buffy as a typical normal girl in the majority of aspects, except for one thing. In fact, she appears to be a slayer, a defender who is supernaturally selected within every female generation in order to maintain the world secure from demons, vampires, and the omnipresent hazard of the apocalypse. Nothing distinguishably differentiates Buffy from other girls, meaning that her gender appears to be the key to her camouflage. On the one hand, Buffy is depicted as blonde, thin, and beautiful teenage girl. The viewer is not expecting that this girl can kill monsters and be fearless, as one of the initial school scenes demonstrates that she is clumsy, because Buffy bumped with some students, with all her books and a wooden stake falling down. In addition, she appears to be scared when librarian unexpectedly places a book entitled as VAMPYR on the desk and runs away. On the other hand, she appears to be very strong and fearless, as she easily opens a locked door to see the dead body, and effortlessly jumps on a pipe to attack and slam a man following her. Being a superhero, Buffy incarnates both stereotypical feminine and masculine features, as she is both vigorous and defenseless, sustaining saturated delight in physically challenging receptions with different monsters, even despite the fact that she frequently tries to discover peaceful solutions. The fact that she is a warrior does not decrease her femininity. 

The pilot scene establishes Buffy as an unwilling hero, as despite the fact that he understands her role, she refuses to accept it. The pilot scene demonstrates that Giles (librarian) notifies Buffy regarding the latest inflow of vampires, but she acrimoniously indicates: “Oh, come on. This is Sunnydale. How bad an evil can there be here?” In addition, Buffy lacks discipline when speaking with Giles. The episode 1.4 “Teacher’s Pet” demonstrates that she breaks the promise to Giles (despite the fact that he is her watcher and she should listen to him) not to go hunting and easily admits it: “Yes, I lied, I’m a bad person, let’s move on”. Thus, Buffy’s lack of discipline and subordination can also be viewed as expansion of traditional definitions of femininity.

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The desire to live normal life and make new friends undermines Buffy’s role as the slayer. After leaving the previous school, Buffy has decided she will no longer sustain her slayer’s responsibilities. In fact, her supernatural instincts are presented through a greatly individualistic Buffy’s form. They appear to be connected to her being-in-the-world as a white, middle-class teenaged American girl, capable of defining vampires through their shortage of fashion purport. This becomes obvious in a scene when Giles asks her if there are any vampires in the Bronze (local nightclub), and she is capable to spot one on a basis of his “carbon dated” clothes, assuming that “only someone living underground for ten years would think that is still a look”. Slaying appears to be an outspreading of Buffy’s consumerist presentism, which is related to the pubescent fantasy of being the nucleolus of the world. Buffy actually epitomizes the consumption-grounded (adolescent) individuality. Buffy’s performance empowers her world's existence in two senses. Firstly, she exculpates the ‘Buffy-verse’. Secondly, she actually protects it.

John Money outlined the social accepting of sex functions as an attempt to formulate the difference between physical sex (male/female) and societal functions (masculinity/femininity). This helps to discontent sex and role, as sex neither anticipates nor assures gender role. The episode 1.4 “Teacher’s Pet” reveals a lot about the intersection of femininity, gender, sexuality, and violence. The episode opens with Xander’s dream about vampire attacks in Bronze, where he saves Buffy in front of numerous visitors, as she is significantly weaker and less assertive than in real life. This episode demonstrates male’s subconscious requirements to weaken a strong girl to make him feel manlier. The episode is based of adolescent sexuality, as guys are boasting of and bragging about their defunct sexual life and sexual conquests, which is highly characteristic of adolescent behavior. As Xander appears to have no sexual experience to properly react to Blayne’s questioning of his “manliness”, he openly asks Buffy and Willow to play along.  As Xander is a cisgender man, meaning that his gender is on the same side as his birth-assigned sex, he desires to boost with his sexual experiences for other people accurately perceive his gender. The episode also demonstrates a beautiful feminine woman in a short skirt, which makes all with Y chromosomes tongue-tied, attracted to her and volunteering to help her. The major purpose of the she-mantis appears to be thematic, representing the potency and immaturity of teen sexuality. Regardless seeming womanly, vulnerable, and seductive, capable of appropriately use soft music, alcohol, and a skimpy black dress, Ms. French is violent, as the nature designed praying mantis females “larger and more aggressive than males”, as males are only required to fertilize eggs. This is another example how gender camouflages the essence and identity of the TV show character.

Buffy combines two roles, being simultaneously a Slayer (masculinity) and a typical teenage girl (femininity). The close connection with her inborn nature, inner and physical strength, instinctive reactions, and lack of subordination and discipline appear to be major expansions of traditional constructions of femininity. Nevertheless, even despite the fact that Buffy might wear the latest fashion cloths and heels, as a typical girl, it never restricts her movements or distracts from her Slayer responsibilities.

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