Thursday, January 27, 2011

Feminism on TV

Sarah Michelle Gellar, the once Buffy the Vampire Slayer, is coming back to tv show with Ringers, about twins on the run from the mob.  Gellar can totally handle a thriller as much as she can do horror, so I'm excited for this.  Then someone published a list of reasons why they would watch her new show.  They make some great points, reflecting back on what made Buffy the Vampire Slayer such a great show.
Here's the however: there was no mention of feminism.  What made Buffy the Vampire Slayer unique and interesting and better than most shows was its feminism.  It was imperfect and sometimes problematic feminism, but the show's dedication to a feminist allegory made it one of the best shows ever.  It was first great because finally, a show that had a strong female lead who was both normal and extraordinary.  The show might have had vampires and demons, but it was a more real depiction of high school (and later college and young adult life) than "realist" high school shows.  (You know I'm looking at you, Degrassi.)  There are few shows out there that are made for women, but enjoyable if you are a man.  And no show has ever wanted to be a feminist vision for young women.   
Mostly, though, was that its feminist allegory gave the show grounding and meaning in ways other shows have not had.  Unfortunately, tv shows do not generally have overarching visions, and if they go through several different producers or networks, the tenor of a great show can change.  This is why Buffy the Vampire Slayer is Whedon's best work to date: for as long as it lasted, the show managed to stay true to itself and always had the strong footing of a storyline worth telling.  Whedon's Dollhouse, while fascinating in some ways, never really took off because it spent so much of its time trying to find itself, and when it did, it was not with a feminist lens.

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