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Giles and the "Wild Woman"
Giles and the „Wild Woman“

Preface 1: No fic, sorry. These are some meta-y thoughts about Giles, his role on the TV show and his relationship with different women. It is a bit incoherent, jumping from point to point and not restricted to Giles-thoughts. The Master, Wesley, Angel/us, Caleb, Snyder, … all make a short appearance. Oh, and the women, of course: Buffy, Jenny, Faith, Willow

Preface 2: Instead of getting riled up on comics!Buffy, i thought a bit about gender roles in BtVS (the TV show). You know – stuff i love, instead of stuff i despise.

So,to begin with, i state the obvious, just as a remainder. BtVS is a show about women, mostly and how they relate to the world and the overwhelming presence of men in that world – men who rule that world. As i'm sure everybody is aware of, the roles of women in literature are quite a bit more limited than the roles for men – this is especially true for movies and TV shows.

In the beginning, there was man. And then the whore and the virgin. As times went by, a limited scope of other archetypes cropped up, like the femme fatale, the flapper, and then, unfortunately, Maryln Monroe. Now, don't get me wrong – Marylin Monroe is a tragic hero of the real world. Abused, mistreated, cheated on and ultimately destroyed by the surrounding society and work place.

I mention Marylin Monroe since the characters she played exemplify the the break between „the cult of woman“ and the cult of misogyny in pop culture. From sexy to sex bomb. From subject to object. Without the male gaze, Marylin Monroe is nonexistent.  The opposite of her is the „wild woman“, who exists completely without the male gaze – or even male interference or interaction. The „wild woman“ reaches back into time and myth, albeit her male counterpart is more well known, think Enkidu of the Gilgamesh epos, who is untouched by civilization (until he meets Gilgamesh and – consequently – dies). Modern incarnations of the „wild woman“ include „Tank Girl“ (the comics! NOT the movie – blech!), or, in the subject of matter at hand: Faith. Glory.  Willow (fully realized as „Dark Willow“). And, maybe, Buffy. These women (let's exclude Buffy for a moment here) are fully realized without male interference, male guidance or male sexuality.

("Wild Woman with Unicorn", painter unknown, ca. 1500, now Historical Museum Basel, Switzerland)

They are confident, self-reliant, powerful and own their own sexuality. And ultimately brought down by men or their female helpers. Their self-reliance, confidence and power and sexuality is depicted as something to be feared and controlled. To achieve this and lure the audience into conspiracy with the author, the show implements several devices and depicts their strengths in certain ways:

Self-reliance becomes selfish egocentrism, confidence becomes mental illness and psychosis and power becomes a source for and of destruction. Their sexuality becomes a danger to themselves and others.

These are „tricks“ to get the audience to root for the destruction, or at least the taming, of those „wild women“.

Now, when does Norwie start up with Giles? Wasn't this supposed to be about Giles?

So: Giles. Giles role in this play is that of a „tamer“ of the „wild woman“ - sometimes he succeeds, sometimes he doesn't and in the end he is conflicted about his own role in the play, which makes him a very sympathetic character in my book and the reason why i tackle this subject with Giles in mind.
Now, first we have to differentiate between the „tamer“ and the „destroyer“. The „tamer“ became necessary when women got more powerful and self-reliant in pop culture. Think flapper comedies of the 20s.Katherine Hepburn. Oh heck! Go back to good old misogynist Shakespeare: „The Taming of the Shrew“!

Unfortunately for women, there are some of them who are deemed unworthy of taming, and, consequently, have to be destroyed. Think about all the femme fatales of the cinema who end up murdered. Being a woman in pop culture ain't easy folks! Enslaved or murdered, men don't do it otherwise!

There is a whole host of famous destroyers in BtVS:

The Master, Angelus, Caleb. The Master and Angelus cross the border between tamer and destroyer quite fluently, depending on the woman in question and their own outlook on society (The Master tames Darla and tries to destroy Buffy. Angel tames Faith and tries to do the same to Buffy earlier, as well as he tries to destroy Buffy once he becomes fully realized as „Angelus“).

There are also a lot of tamers on the show, who don't cross the border: Snyder, Wesley, Xander. Out of these, only Xander succeeds with Dark Willow – but that scene can be interpreted in a myriad of ways, so i call him an unsuccessful tamer, too (like the other two).

(I left out Spike – not because he doesn't belong here, but because his story is more complicated, since he questions his own role at the end of season 6 and revolutionizes himself to not partake in one of the roles anymore, to become subservient to the female narrative.)

Out of all these male characters, i think Giles is the most interesting, because he IS „The Tamer“ (capital T).

Now, why does the „wild woman“ needs taming? To make her pliant to the male power and world view, to make her a companion to the male ruler, a servant to the male desire. Men, it seems, fear independent women, but suspect that women are individuals, too. Thus the trope of the tamed women is born, and repeated ad nauseam in literature and pop culture. They know that there are „wild women“ out there and turn them into unlikeable villains, or (self-)tamed companions („Valeria“ of Conan the Barbarian fame).

But the free and wild, independent, powerful female is nearly non-existent in pop culture. Whenever such a woman enters a male mind (or play), she has to be the villain or she has to be tamed, to wield to the male desire and power.

This is very apparent in the relationship between Giles and Buffy. Buffy has power, Giles tames her and uses that power for how he sees fit. Buffy is an interesting character in that respect, as it is hinted at that Buffy could be a „wild woman“, too. It is teased in her rebellious streak, but is more „flapper“ than „wild woman“: She is halfway self-tamed by having internalized patriarchal structures. Nonetheless, her narrative is often depicted as the fight against her tamers, destroyers and her internalized self-taming. (Just to pre-empt the happy ending: Buffy runs wild and free at the end of her seven seasons long arc! Yay! Buffy!) Along the road, she meets the temptation of the „wild woman“ in form of Angel, Faith and Spike. Angel is introduced as the temptation, changes into the destroyer and leaves the show as an unsuccessful tamer (but fear not, dear reader: whereas he failed in taming Buffy, he is allowed to succeed with „wild woman Faith“. Poor Faith!). Her adversaries in the form of tamers are Snyder (who obviously fails on a spectacular level), Xander (who equally fails, and becomes content with his failure), Angel (who only succeeds in breaking her heart), Wesley (see: Snyder), The CoW represented by Travers (who is openly rebuked) and, first and last, Giles. And, Giles succeeds for a while, he implants his ideas very successfully into Buffy so that – when confronted with the reality of her inner „wild woman“ represented by Faith, she becomes the destroyer herself, destroying the „wild woman“ in the name of her male superiors. (Tangent: I personally consider Buffy's betrayal of Faith – on the meta level, in-story-wise, there are a lot of „good“ reasons for her to stand against Faith in the end, and please remember what i said about „tricking the audience“ above! - as her gravest misstep on her way to become a self-reliant, independent, powerful woman owning her own sexuality apart from male desire, male guidance, male gaze, male power and male sexuality. Since i'm on a tangent here anyways, i want to reference the blackout scene between Buffy and Spike at the end of season 7: Shrouded from male gaze! Yay!)

So, Giles. What? Of course this is about him! (Just kidding.)

I just love the interaction between „conflicted woman“ Jenny Calendar, and Giles. She is – like Buffy - on the verge of breaking out of her inner tamed status: She tries to escape the patriarchal system of her clan, she is self-reliant, independent, powerful in knowledge (a teacher! Information Technology!) and mystic power (Witchcraft!). While her sexuality is centered around Giles, the tamer – she is the one who initiates the contact, expresses her desire. She is not a fully formed „wild woman“, as she still answers to Enyos and Snyder (as representatives of the patriarchal order) and – sadly - ultimately ends as a typical dead woman in pop culture. But, she is enough of a self-informed person, has enough of a wild streak in her to seriously rattle Giles, as well as being a dangerous opponent to Angelus, who therefore decides to destroy her (a femme fatale, a villain in his eyes). We don't know if Giles would have tried to tame Jenny, as she unfortunately dies before they make any meaningful headway in their relationship in that regard. But i think what we see here is a crack in Giles' armour: Before Jenny, we have seen Giles as the typical tamer, the representative of the patriarchal order, trying (and succeeding) to break up the matriarchal home of Buffy Summers (by excluding her mother from Buffy's life on purpose). Giles is the male stand-in for the male need to control female power, female individuality and self-actualization. Jenny Calendar rattles Rupert Giles – and instead of being revolted, he is intrigued! This woman, who is maybe not everything he stands against, but at least a good chunk of it, gets under his skin. We see that Giles is maybe not entirely comfortable with his role, or at least he is curious, seriously curious about The Other, the female not as a means to his ends, but to understand and form a companionship on a level of equality.

Alas, it is not meant to be. And so Giles stumbles through this play, and his challenges as the tamer. And Buffy is difficult to control, to tame. He hasn't got the time and will and capability to tame the other wild streaks in other women, namely Willow and Faith. He looks away: Someone else should tame these women! He's doing as best as he can in the way patriarchy asks him to do! With Willow, i think he is blind to see that the male narrative asks (him) to tame her, because Willow is a master deceiver. With Faith, he is willfully blind, maybe because he sees her as too far gone to be tamed, but since he isn't a destroyer, nor wants he to be a destroyer, he neglects his male role in the subjugation of women (and thanks for that!).

Once Buffy becomes more self-reliant after high school, he starts to flounder. Was he successful, can he be successful in the taming of the shrew? He thinks he wasn't, and he thinks he cannot control Buffy. But fear not, dear Giles! You were very successful! Buffy totally internalized her own taming. Your work is done here, tamer! But still, Giles doubts (himself). And he tries to change his role: From tamer to tutor, to guide. Of course, these roles are intertwined and we see Giles going back and forth between these roles, unsure of what to do, unwilling to be a tamer again, but also not able to fully embrace his new role without relying on the former role. He was never a tutor before, just a tamer. He doesn't know how to relate to women on a level of equality. On we go to the two seasons, when his inner conflict breaks out fully, when both his best sides, as well as his worst, become fully realized: Season 6 and 7. In season 6, at last he is willing to let Buffy go, to be whatever she wants to be, even a feared „wild woman“, if she desires so. He leaves Buffy to her own devices, he doesn't try to control her anymore. Go! Giles! I knew there was a human being behind that role! Of course, the tragedy here is that Buffy wants a tutor, after her resurrection. And Giles, not knowing how to be a tutor – all he ever was, he has learned to be was  tamer – cannot respond to her call. In the end though, he makes the right call. Since he only knows how to be a tamer, but since he doesn't want to be that anymore, he rather withdraws than staying the oppressor.

For Buffy, this is a cast of fortune. Depressed, desperate and nearly broken she now has the chance to become, to free herself of her chains and run wild! And she tries. Oh how does she try. She goes to the one creature she knows who has no restraints (apart from some tiny clockwork orange problem...). Who seems to be free (Haha! as if!). And Spike is eager to please: He wants Buffy to become a „wild woman“, without (moral) constraints, full of power, confidence and sexuality. Well, he nearly wants that... deep down, of course, he hopes to be able – maybe not to control Buffy – but to steer her, participate in her sexuality, her power. And of course, he is an amoral ass. So, Buffy's first steps onto the road to freedom are difficult. She has her own deep problems, and her chosen companion has a whole set of other deep problems. But, this phase does something wonderful for Buffy: She discovers her inner „wild woman“, something the show describes as „inner darkness“ (and again, gentle reader, i want you to remember what i said about „tricking the audience“ in this play). She becomes Faith and anticipates Dark Willow, so to speak. She's torn between her internalized taming and the things her companion offers. This inner conflict cannot turn out well. Since the show is eager to describe „wild women“ as insane and dangerous, it cannot allow Buffy to break free in this manner. But, Buffy lucks out again: Her companion gets that he is not a fit companion to a „wild woman“ - he is a controlling, needy freak! The miracle that is the diversity of male roles in pop culture strikes again: Spike revolutionizes himself! He transforms himself from destroyer and tamer to supporter. (Well, he goes through that tiny phase of insanity, of course, and needs rescuing on a really grand scale....)

But back to Giles. A shitstorm is brewing, Buffy is trying and there is another „wild woman“ on the loose back in sweet old Sunnyhell: Willow Rosenberg, self-reliant, knowing, owning her sexuality apart from male control and desire, POWERFUL. Willow wants to change the world – and conflicted or not, Giles cannot let this happen! Those women! The world will be destroyed when they try to come into their own! One mustn't allow women independence and power (and just think of  the sexuality – it is unnatural, it is!).

So, The Tamer comes back with a vengeance!  Fortunately – powerful entrances not withstanding – the Tamer actually doesn't succeed fully. While he is able to implant a doubt in the mind of the „wild woman“, he is unable to tame her (that role falls to Xander, of all male characters! Ick!).

And so „wild woman“ Willow is tamed, and brought back into the benevolent hands of patriarchy (or not – but that is a tale for another time).

Where does Giles stand now? Last we've seen him, he tried to give up on his role as the tamer. But now, the narrative asked him to don that mask again. This is rather unfortunate for Giles, since all the progress he made is undone. While he acknowledges that he cannot be the tamer of Buffy anymore, he is further away from being a tutor than ever. And thus comes season 7 and the last act of this play and his role.

Giles tries to be supportive of Buffy, he tells her she is the one who counts, that she has to make her own decisions and shape this world in her image. But, deep down, he cannot trust her: Those women! Better not left to their own devices. He has one last lesson to learn, and he cannot learn this by himself (the history always happens behind the backs of the people involved in it). Buffy, in her generous way, teaches him this last lesson: „No, i think you've taught me everything I need to know“. He either can fall back on his role of tamer, maybe in the more defined role of the manipulator – or he can accept this, Buffy doesn't need a tamer nor a tutor. He chooses the latter, and good for him! Giles ends the play as a human being, instead of a misogynistic jerk.

Buffy is finally free, she has taken the necessary steps to become – a „wild woman“. She has defeated everyone who tried to destroy her and tame her, the destroyers and tamers she thought of as her allies (-> internalized self-taming) have finally reformed and accepted that she is free (and i want to take this moment to remind everyone of Spike, who gave up his own narrative so that Buffy's narrative can continue. The male narrative vanishes, the female narrative stands and goes on. Go! Spike! Err, well. He's not going anywhere, actually).

I have so many more thoughts on the “wild women” of the show, how they are depicted, where the show falls victim to misogynistic clichés in storytelling, where it succeeds in telling a wonderfully different narrative: Faith, Glory, Willow. The best and the worst moments of the show.

But that's for another day.

FANTASTIC. Super tired right now and so have nothing intelligent to add, but I love all these thoughts. Giles isn't a character I think about much for whatever reason, but you obviously understand his role extremely well. :)

Come back when you're sober awake! :D

Oh. How very fascinating.

I may be back later with thoughts.

*licks your brain*

*Feels sweetly licked*

Yay! Be back! I have a lot more thoughts in that licked brain of mine! (Giles' motives for leaving Buffy are actually a bit more complicated than what i wrote above. Willow! She's so, so cool! Ah, i love how amoral she is and i think that's a great help to her in becoming a "wild woman" in the first place!)


Ah ha! Very intriguing analysis of the gender-based power dynamics.

I love the idea of Buffy being free at the end of seven seasons. And yes, the break with Faith is so utterly tragic, all because Buffy's bound to Angel.

*happily pokes back* :-)

I was thinking about the depiction of female characters in pop culture in general (after reading the master thesis of an actress in which she showed the limited scope of female roles).

There is a lot more going on on BtVS - and once you know your tropes - it is actually quite funny: Once Willow becomes independent and powerful the show goes all OH NOES! THE WORLD IS DOOMED! WILLOW IS ALL APOCALYPT-Y!!! :D

(And don't get me started on Glory - ah, strike that: I WILL write about Glory in the future!

Buffy/Faith - my heart breaks for them both! But then, i don't know if Angel was the sole downfall of Buffy. Without him, their dynamic would have played out very differently for sure. But i think at this point in the series Buffy had internalized the patriarchal system quite well and deeply, i'm unsure if she would have been able to overcome that. (But of course i really, really wish for smutty happy Fuffy in some parallel universe... ;-)

My long response:

Ooh, excellent.

A few quick thoughts:

It occurs to me that Giles himself -- and later Wesley, indeed -- are particularly interesting in that they are "wild men," when freed from certain constraints. Ripper accesses power through Eygon. But ultimately, mostly, we see him not as a man who uses patriarchal institutions, but a man who flaunts all authority. This is counter to the Master, for example, who believes he has nearly divine authority, or the Mayor, who goes through proper channels, or &c. &c. Angel sometimes plays the wild man, but it’s rare—think Beauty and the Beasts as the most obvious example—and he usually works within an operating patriarchal philosophical framework, if not necessarily *for* a patriarchal institution (though of course by the end of his own series he is very much working for a patriarchal institution, and inexactly subverting it). Giles’ Ripper past also matches up with Spike, who rebels against the role expected for him as a vampire. Part of what makes these men interesting then is that there is a big element of them that matches up with the "wild woman" and understands her, even though they are also in different ways still embedded in the patriarchy. Giles of course most of all. But anyway, I think the fact that Giles and Spike felt a little uneasy about the power structures in various ways leads to their accepting subservience to Buffy instead of to a new power structure.

Now, here is where it gets dicey. [[ First of two comics aside in this post: "When things get dicey, I'll do the dicing." --Buffy. ]] Your argument is that the narrative tricks us into rooting for the taming of wild women. Maybe. And yet -- the vulcanologist, while probably part of a patriarchal academic institution, probably didn't deserve to be stabbed to death. Dawn was nearly turned back into a key against her will. And Willow nearly destroyed the world. (Skipping Glory for now.) We can say these are narrative "tricks," but they *were* part of the narrative, and characters in the narrative do on some level have to respond to them. Is it really fair to hold characters accountable for not realizing out-of-universe reasons for in-universe events?

So here's what I propose. Ultimately, the characters live in a patriarchal world. With both Faith and Willow, there is careful work to show why they believe themselves unable to live 'wildly' but in a way that is not actively hurtful to people around them. With Faith, there is her own traumas growing up; there is her fear of rejection by Buffy; there is the various misunderstandings Maggie detailed (for ex.) in her Consequences review.

On Willow: first off I hope that Willow is counted among the "best" rather than "worst" moments in the show. :P I also want to note that the seven-season story ends with an affirmation of Willow's power and willingness to change the world and reject existing institutions -- even her willingness to change other people's bodies for the better. [[ Second of two comics asides in this post: And I am so excited and scared for what her story will be in the comics I can barely stand it. My feeling is that in the end it will be ambivalent-positive, which suits me fine. ]] But in any case, Dark Willow really does need to be stopped for people who care about whether or not Dawn gets a say in whether she turns back into a Key, whether Jonathan and Andrew really deserve death, or who think genocide needs to be stopped. That said, it is interesting that the last one happens as a result of Giles’ arrival and the accompanying power-up, so that there is in the text perhaps a criticism of Giles’ arrival. But I don’t think it’s just a matter of the text tricking us. Willow really does need to be stopped, for her sake as well as for others.

But the real problem with Willow is not that it is dangerous to have her near power. Power is dangerous and corrosive, yes, yes. But the real issue is that she has no model, whatsoever, for how to be powerful and “good.” Indeed, her entire conception of goodness is largely patriarchy-influenced. Flossing, doing what Giles says, following Snyder’s arbitrary rules, etc. She thinks that this is what morality is, because she is not animated from the pit with an instinctual ethical sense; she is animated with a desire to be good, but it is clear that it is impossible for her to do so with her power. She thinks she’s found a way, leading to early season six: she can make her friends and lover happier! But this collapses, and makes them more miserable and angry at her. Finally her power turns on her, she decides the power must be bad, that she is a bad girl, and that the way to be a good girl again is to reject her power entirely. This happens at the same time Buffy indulges her “wild girl” phase; Willow tries to be as normal and conventional as she can possibly be. But she still wants power and she still dislikes the role that she has to play, especially when the patriarchy ALSO tells her that she is uninteresting and undesirable because she is boring and mousy. She can’t win. So when Tara dies, she decides that being good is impossible, with the meek, ideal female role model Tara's death, Willow's mirror of "goodness" is obliterated. (Tara is an _extremely_ tamed woman, especially in Willow’s idealized conception of her, and while she has many extremely positive qualities she should not be a role model for Willow.) And it’s at this point that Willow feels, because she’s been taught this, that she has to try to kill herself (and possibly take the world with her) because the world leaves her no options to live successfully. In season seven, she has a relationship with someone who is less “tamed” than Tara -- though she has her own issues, of course, tied as she is to wealth -- and finds a way to reapproach her power without feeling that she has to be ashamed of herself. So I think this reading allows us to see why the show’s “tricks” are in place: they are the very tricks that society plays on the characters.

Very interesting thoughts. I do think that (assuming comics thoughts are okay?) Giles's bequeathing of his estate to Faith can be read as a serious apology for having underestimated her for so long, and bad girl shamed her. He was all too happy to play along with Buffy's internalization of the rules of being a good girl during that plot, and I think it's interesting that there is that final reversal of his attentions. Again, in keeping with your theme, not that he should be given a cookie for finally realizing he was wrong, but that even he realized how often he went along unthinkingly with patriarchal assumptions about women's behavior.

Edited at 2012-01-17 03:48 pm (UTC)

As said above - i'm at work currently. Will reply later in more length.

Just this: Of course it is ok to bring in the comics (they sparked this post, after all!). Just beware of the snark! ;-)

OK, this was absolutely fascinating (with the added aftertaste of making the comics look even more ridiculously out of place). Not entirely sure I agree with every example in-universe, but then that's part of the point... Hmmmm. Lots of thinking to do on this one.

(with the added aftertaste of making the comics look even more ridiculously out of place)

Yes, :) For some time now, i tried to formulate and express what's really bothering me with the comics. I guess i actually found the words for it, finally.

I also found it very interesting, without entirely agreeing with you. It leaves me more worried than ever about what Spike might be made to do in the comics, because another thing your post brings home to me (yet again) is how deeply steeped in comics culture Joss is. When he has Andrew talk about Willow doing her 'Dark Phoenix act in Two To Go (I think), he's referencing the seminal 'woman gets too powerful, can't handle it, has to pay the price' story in comics. This post gives that bit of dialogue even more resonance.

You don't agree with me: Talk to me! Make me see the light! :)

(I am way beyond worrying about Spike's role in the comics: They don't ... have a soul! There is nothing good or clean in them! They are dead inside! They can't feel anything real! I could never ... be their reader! But yeah, i agree with your view on Andrew's reference. And i say: Yuck!)

Very interesting. And dare I say, inspiring? (Am currently writing a paper on gender stereotyping and misogyny in Twilight , for a gender-perspective YA and children's lit conference, so I love the direction of your thoughts.)

One thought occurred to me while reading this, and I'm sorry if it's too unrelated to the topic. When you mentioned Xander's taming of Willow, it got me thinking about how a gentle Christian carpenter gets to tame a wild Jewish woman who intends to raise a temple made by an evil sorceress-worshipping cult. Hm.

No, it is not unrelated in the slightest. The story is actually far too rich and layered to get it all in some hundred words - i barely scratched the surface.

What i think is great about BtVS is, that there are so many valid interpretations, so many rich layers. And some of them are, let's say, not casting a very good light on the storyteller. But others are actually great explorations of the human condition, the stereotypes, the roles people are cast into.

And it gives me the creeps to think about the connotations you just made.

(But, as i said above - but i did not formulate it fully - there are some more benevolent readings of the Willow/Xander scene possible. local_max says it very well.)

I wish you all the best for your paper - we need to lay bare that what is beneath, tear down the veil and name the things! :)

This is fantastic. Thanks for taking the time to write this all out.

In the beginning, there was man. And then the whore and the virgin.

I can't help but think of two of the wild women of the 'verse that you didn't mention: Darla and Drusilla. The whore and virgin archetypes aren't even metaphorical with those two, but long before we know them as virgin or whore, we know them as vampires (and possibly wild women in your schematic? Darla serves the Master, but not completely, and she and Dru dominate Angelus and Spike respectively). I can never decide if I'm upset with the writers for using such overused shorthand to develop Darla and Drusilla's backstories, or if I think it is brilliant for subversion purposes.

I left out Darla and Drusilla on purpose. Yes, shame on me! But it is difficult to write about those two for me, because they become so much more fleshed out on AtS - and AtS is a totally different narrative, and consequently the roles of Darla and Drusilla change quite a bit compared to BtVS.

BtVS-Darla is, in my opinion, a femme fatale (so not a fully realized "wild woman") - and she ends like femme fatales unfortunately end in pop culture: murdered (by "good" men).

BtVS-Drusilla, on the other hand - no, not a "wild woman" (because Angel created her; man-made) but of course a seriously disturbing character (disturbing as in disturbing the patriarchal narrative, too: she is some twisted kind of "survivor girl", and Angel is her Michael Myers, her Freddy Kruger).

Drusilla has many qualities which make feared above others by the patriarchy, i'd say because she is an even darker force than the "wild woman": She is Kali, the Indian mother goddess turned avengress (well, i couldn't find a better mythological image!).

ETA: What i mean by "dark(er) force" here is of course that the "wild woman" is a dark force from the male perspective and narrative - not that she's really a force of darkness!

Edited at 2012-01-18 12:07 pm (UTC)

AtS is a totally different narrative, and consequently the roles of Darla and Drusilla change quite a bit compared to BtVS

That is fair and I totally agree - even though the two shows are supposed to be in the same universe, so much of the fundamental mythology changes between them - I find it really difficult to reconcile that, especially since AtS's take on women is so deeply problematic.

I like Dru as Kali. And I'm so glad she is still alive and kicking! (How did she ever survive AtS, the show that tamed them all???)

My take on the whole BtVS vs. AtS is that AtS is to BtVS like a "could-have-happened-that-way" tell tale. (For AtS, BtVS is obviously near nonexistent. Because: female narrative. Nonexistent in AtS....).

All main characters crossing over (in either direction) stop being characters and are just plot devices on the other show (exception: Spike, to some degree). The characterization just flies out of the window (insecure, magic-less and gult-ridden Willow becomes uber-cynical super witch on AtS, when she re-souls Angel and jokes around with Wesley about skinning people...; depressed Angel who just lost Cordy and Connor - and world peace - becomes chipper loverboy on BtVS, etc).

Because the stop being characters altogether - they are plot devices.

And yes! To the deeply problematic way AtS treats women. It is a manly man's tale, after all and jumps right into every cliché about women that there ever was.

And yay! For Dru surviving AtS!

(Perhaps Drusilla is way too "Other", even for AtS. Some deep rooted fears about the universal "nature" of women, as seen by men, something men are able to break, tame or destroy on an individual level, but not on a universal level. If that makes sense...)

Well, I obviously love this. I do think that Giles is deeply attracted to Wild Women (Jenny, Olivia) and that the role of Tamer is an uneasy fit for him. Still a lot of this has resonance.

I am excited by your descriptions of Willow as "master deceiver" and "amoral". I have a lot of problems with the character of Willow in the later seasons, but viewing it this way actually makes her more palatable for me. Not because I think those are such great qualities, but because it ties early Willow and late Willow together more. And because my distrust of her makes more sense in that context. ;-)

Excellent meta, m'dear!

Thank you!

Yes, i had some difficulties with Willow, too. I cannot relate to her on a personal level, so that's an extra layer of difficulty. But since she's arguably the second most important character on the show, i tried to decipher her character. And, once i put the pieces of "early Willow" and "late Willow" together (a great episode here is "Doppelgangerland"), it just fell together. As local_max points out, Willow has no inner morals, instead she's following the letter of the rules (because she doesn't know the spirit of the rules). She plays at being a "nice, good girl" and she's really good at it!

fascinating thoughts!

that Buffy wants a tutor, after her resurrection. And Giles, not knowing how to be a tutor – all he ever was, he has learned to be was tamer

oooh, that's a great point. It's a real blow to his worldview, because he justifies his tamer-ness by convincing himself he's a tutor.

Spike, who gave up his own narrative so that Buffy's narrative can continue. The male narrative vanishes, the female narrative stands and goes on.

I never quite thought of it this way, but YES.

Thank you! :)

Oh, yes, that's a great point you make re: Giles and tutor/tamer!

The way Spike gives up his own narrative for Buffy's narrative to go on is even more poignant when we consider that Spike actively enacts a role in his self-written narrative. From destroyer of the female narrative ("slayer of slayers") to supporter of female narrative - and that means that his own narrative has to end, that the role he enacts has to vanish, that his self-written narrative stands in the way and has to go away (permanently).

Outstanding - I am looking forward to reading more your analysis -

An excellent discussion by all the participants. For myself, the single most important issues regarding Buffy and Giles and the other fundamental male character, Angel/Angelus is how they imprinted their own dogma on this young woman. Giles, IMO, corrupted Buffy's mind with all his dogmatic Black&White world views - instead of being the great teacher, he played the role of creator/model-maker for the service of a restricted agenda to create warriors in the service of the power elite CoW.

Where Giles imprints Buffy mind, Angel plays on the other vulnerability of this young woman - her heart. I believe that Angel destroyed Buffy totally and the comic books, IMO, continued with that story of control via romantic love and emotional dependence with the "Lovers Reunion."

I don't believe that Buffy will ever find her true freedom and strength as long as she is unable to kill Angel and that love/dependence. It's interesting that once again, it is Giles who sets the stage for his own death and the, what I hope is her killing of Angel. The ending of BS8, from my perspective makes a great metaphor for Buffy leaving behind both the father figure and the lover. With Giles, this is his great moment as a great father who gives his life for his child. I only hope that Joss Whedon will finally set Buffy free from all the destruction that Angel brought into her life.

I think Buffy's story is much more than just "how the men destroyed her (life)". For one, my little essay of course focuses on the role men play in a woman's narrative within the context of the overwhelming male narrative found in pop culture. But there's so much more to be found in BtVS, and i truly feel that "Chosen" - while flawed - addresses especially this question beautifully and falls on the positive side of female narration.

For two - and this ties into what i said about "Chosen" - the comics continuation is a regression on a very large scale - exactly because "Chosen" broke the mold of the (male-centered) narrative.

To continue this kind of narrative, the characters and the story have to regress to have anything to tell at all. Of course, one could argue that it would have been possible to follow a different narrative with the comics. Alas, the author was unwilling, or unable to change the narrative. Hence, we got 7 years of BtVS compressed into some 22 pagers with flashy images. Same old, same old.

I don't believe that Buffy will ever find her true freedom and strength as long as she is unable to kill Angel and that love/dependence.

I don't think the story will ever go there. Because, what you are proposing is essentially Valerie Solanas' "S.C.U.M." manifesto. And, if taken seriously, Buffy would have to kill not only Angel, but also Giles, and Xander, and Spike (and Dowling, and possibly Eldre Koh, etc.).

Angel is just the stand-in for the male narrative (overpowering the female narrative).

(Of course, i think "S.C.U.M." is a parody, a particular great comedy.)

I don't think the comics are able to go there: They are comics! Totally drowning in male narrative and cliché. They are an economic enterprise first and adhere to all the according (and perceived) laws. Written and produced by the male narrative. The comics will never set Buffy free (and the DH staff is already salivating at the thought of the coming B/A reunion. It's what they (will) do).

("Wild Woman with Unicorn", painter unknown, ca. 1500, now Historical Museum Basel, Switzerland)

I went to the Cloisters in NYC this past September and they have all these Unicorn tapestries there. And thinking of this now, the Wild Woman with the Unicorn is so disturbing in that those tapestries depict the hunting down and destruction of the mythic creature so closely symbolized with woman and woman's sexuality.


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