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There goes my hero... (Essay-type Thing) - For the love of Buffy
femmenerd
buffy_love
femmenerd
There goes my hero... (Essay-type Thing)
While musing about my fic ideas for the upcoming Month of Buffy, I found myself bursting at the seams with Buffy-love. Here is my attempt to articulate the hows and whys of that.



For a long time, my love of Buffy the character went unnoticed by me. It was transparent—something that I never dwelled on.

And I think that this is because for me, the experience of watching BtVS involved identifying with Buffy as the center of the narrative, and so as a result she became the invisible conduit to my experience. I remember how it somewhat troubled me early on that in spite of the “feminist and proud” label I might as well be wearing on my head, the characters I was most drawn to were Spike and Angel (although I would argue that, in the case of Spike especially, their gender performances are of great interest to feminists). That is until I realized that I was seeing them through Buffy’s eyes.

Now let’s get it straight, I don’t personally identify with Buffy as in that she’s anything like me (were I molded from the stuff of Jossverse, I’d probably be some bizarre amalgam of Faith, Willow and Giles).

However, Buffy was the first heroic female icon that became imbedded in my consciousness. And this is important to me both politically and emotionally. Woman as Hero, much less Girl as Hero, is a very rare occurrence in the landscape of our cultural imaginary.

In 1975, a film theorist named Laura Mulvey rocked the world of academic media criticism when she published an article entitled, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” in which she applied psychoanalytic theory to the experience of viewing Classical Hollywood cinema and argued (controversially) that these films structured the “Gaze” as male. She proposed that dominant cinema at large locked the spectator into a forced position of identifying with male characters, at the expense of the female characters’ full humanity and three-dimensionality. Female characters did not act— they were there as a function of spectacle: “to-be-looked-at.” In relationship to this paradigm, Buffy and her numerous appetites, foibles, follies, and triumphs are revolutionary.

Fast-forward a few decades and we have Buffy, a young woman, physically similar to the fetishized women on Mulvey’s silver screen, except that this girl acts; she wants, desires, saves the day, screws things up royally sometimes, and generally propels the narrative—it is hers.

Buffy is not perfect but she is powerful. She learns and grows. And she could kick your ass.

All the best heroes are flawed; it makes them human.

There are other, less nerdily worded reasons that I love Buffy. She’s funny. She loves her friends and her mom. She’s willing to sacrifice herself for the good of the world but don’t try and fuck with her shoes.

But in the end, the moments when I am most deeply drawn into my love of Buffy are when she’s kicking ass and taking names. I am a weirdo who almost never cries at movies or TV, but when women are getting empowered, the waterworks come out like nobody’s business. Documentaries about suffragettes are my kryptonite—that and the end of “the Gift,” or the montage in “Chosen” when all the potentials become Slayers. In the case of the second example, it is the Buffy voice-over that sends me over the edge, because for me her action in sharing her power was the perfect end to the series thematically and structurally. And it takes a hero not only to give like that but also to lead and to teach, which is what happens next in own personal Buffy fanon.

Naturally, some of this general sentiment and affinity has found its way into my fanfic (porny as much of it is, and as lousy as I am at writing action sequences). When I did my end of the year fic round-up, I discovered that I tend to write Buffy POV fic. Of course, the part that didn’t even occur to me until just now is that I have never written a BtVS fic that Buffy wasn’t in.

She’s my girl.

As for my shipping tendencies, I primarily ship Buffy with Spike and/or Faith. This is because I see them as her doubles/others—the characters most capable of challenging her and forcing her to grow. And they are strong enough for my girl. (No, it’s not just because JM and ED are the hotness!) They are dark where she is light and light where she is dark. Part of this also has to do with how I see relationships between people as being most interesting/fulfilling in their complexity and capacity for mutual growth. This goes for relationships between men and women, women and women, as well as men and men (which is why I ship Angel/Spike but that’s another story).

However, that’s just me. There are a million ways to ship (or not ship) in the ‘Verse, which brings me to why I love Buffy the show—because Buffy may be my hero, but she’s got friends. And all of the relationships on BtVS have the potential for some kind of meaningful exchange. ::resists quoting Joss and his B-Y-O-subtext tagline::

I’m using this icon against my rules—I have no idea who made it (credit is love!). But when I saw kita0610 using it, I had to snag it and, like her, put a row of question marks in the comment line because I want someone to tell me who made it. I want to shake her/his (cyber) hand, because it’s true…

There goes my Hero. Her name is Buffy.
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elisi From: elisi Date: January 24th, 2006 09:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
If I didn't have you friended already, this essay would have put you on my flist within seconds! *g*

I want to say something meaningful, but I'm too tired, so I'll be flip instead... husband dearest likes Buffy (he has been known to have SMG on his desktop) (OMG that came out wrong! Hee!), but whenever we watch S6 he complains that Buffy isn't naked enough (as opposed to Spike!), and I suddenly realise that this probably has to do with 'seeing it through Buffy's eyes'.

Oh and the empowerment makes me tear up too!
femmenerd From: femmenerd Date: January 24th, 2006 10:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm so glad you enjoyed it! I think I'd been saving all of those thoughts up for a long time so it just flew out of me--*whoosh*

Buffy isn't naked enough (as opposed to Spike!), and I suddenly realise that this probably has to do with 'seeing it through Buffy's eyes'.

Good point! It probably also has something to do with the power dynamic between them at that point---Spike is so much more vulnerable to her than she is to him.

Oh and the empowerment makes me tear up too!

*sniff*
(Deleted comment)
femmenerd From: femmenerd Date: January 24th, 2006 10:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you so much for your comment!

she doesn't know how to quit.

Yep. And even when we see her falter, it eventually becomes clear that it's not truely in her nature to give up.

Oh, the love!
petzipellepingo From: petzipellepingo Date: January 24th, 2006 10:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
it is the Buffy voice-over that sends me over the edge, because for me her action in sharing her power was the perfect end to the series thematically and structurally. And it takes a hero not only to give like that but also to lead and to teach Bravo! Wonderful, wonderful essay and like the person above this is going in my memories.
Buffy is not perfect but she is powerful. She learns and grows. And she could kick your ass.
All the best heroes are flawed; it makes them human.
If she was perfect, she wouldn't be nearly as loveable IMO.


femmenerd From: femmenerd Date: January 24th, 2006 10:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, thank you. I'm so glad you enjoyed it.

If she was perfect, she wouldn't be nearly as loveable IMO.

Amen. It's in her struggle and her persistence (with humor!) that she shines the most.
impertinence From: impertinence Date: January 24th, 2006 10:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
Gah. I love this essay. I very much sympathize with your Buffy love--I've always loved Joss for giving us such a wonderful hero as the center to our story. She manages to be a typical girl and a hero--not a heroine, but a real, strong hero--as the center of the story, and it's just...sublime. Thanks for writing this!
femmenerd From: femmenerd Date: January 24th, 2006 11:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you. :) I'm so glad it resonated.

She manages to be a typical girl and a hero--not a heroine, but a real, strong hero--as the center of the story, and it's just...sublime.

Yes!

Incidentally, I'm loving seeing everyone's "Buffy is awesome" icons on this thread.

From: (Anonymous) Date: January 24th, 2006 10:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
Rock on, Chica.

So glad to have met you. :}

-Kita, (LJ is being a fuckwit today)
femmenerd From: femmenerd Date: January 24th, 2006 11:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks.

So glad to have met you. :}

Ditto! Buffy/Spike/Angel will bring the people together.

And LJ is indeed cracktastic. Last night it signed me out after ever single comment that I made. Grrrrrr.
frelling_tralk From: frelling_tralk Date: January 24th, 2006 11:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
Awesome essay!
femmenerd From: femmenerd Date: January 24th, 2006 11:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks! Awesome icon. :)
From: cadence_k Date: January 24th, 2006 11:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
What a great essay! I especially loved your discussion of the male gaze and how Buffy is the complete opposite of that. Like you, I am not that similar to her and yet I still identify with in many ways. She is the central part of the show. I don't know how you could watch the show and not identify with her struggles and successes.

Great job discussing what so many of us love about our favorite heroine!
femmenerd From: femmenerd Date: January 24th, 2006 11:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you! Buffy is really interesting in relation to the gaze--there's way more than I could possibly cover here.

I really appreciate your comment. It's nice to know that there are other people thinking about things in the same way as me. (i.e. I'm not a wingnut)

semby From: semby Date: January 24th, 2006 11:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
Excellent essay. This is a lot of what I love about her - including things that I agree with but hadn't thought of consciously before now. Thank you for sharing!

And that is a wonderful, fitting icon!
femmenerd From: femmenerd Date: January 25th, 2006 12:51 am (UTC) (Link)
In some ways, the icon propelled the writing of the essay (images have power!)

Thanks for commenting. All this Buffy-love is making me verklempt. :)
anomilygrace From: anomilygrace Date: January 24th, 2006 11:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
Excellent, excellent essay. I'm putting it in my memories as well. Buffy's a character who grew on me as the seasons went by. At first I adored Willow and Xander and was annoyed by Buffy, but as her character continued to developed, I fell madly in love with her and her absolute refusal to consider failure or giving up. With her desperate attempts to hold her family and friends and her glaring errors in judgement. Her flaws make me love her more. And you put all my feelings directly into a fabulous argument. Thank you!
femmenerd From: femmenerd Date: January 25th, 2006 12:56 am (UTC) (Link)
Your icon is love!

I fell madly in love with her and her absolute refusal to consider failure or giving up. With her desperate attempts to hold her family and friends and her glaring errors in judgement. Her flaws make me love her more.

Yes! Yes! A thousand time, yes. :)

Thank you for commenting.

lillianmorgan From: lillianmorgan Date: January 25th, 2006 01:22 am (UTC) (Link)
Yay, go you with your fine self. Excellent essay because it resonates.
Woman as Hero, much less Girl as Hero, is a very rare occurrence in the landscape of our cultural imaginary.
Exactly. And something that really strikes me whenever I come into contact with people who have kids/nieces/nephews etc is that Buffy is an important role-model, a figure of empowerment, for all the flaws we may see in her.
it is the Buffy voice-over that sends me over the edge,
Ahhhh, very good point.
And I'm using this icon, because what I like about it is that, even though 'ships abound throughout the fandom, it really should be about Buffy and her ability to take control.
femmenerd From: femmenerd Date: January 25th, 2006 01:31 am (UTC) (Link)
it is the Buffy voice-over that sends me over the edge,
Ahhhh, very good point.


It was your comment on the draft that made me think harder about that scene, and it is the Buffy voice-over that really makes it feel like a gift, y'know?

Buffy is strong AND hot in your icon--the hotness come from "her ability to take control." And of course, I trivially remember that both Spike and Faith were in that scene.
elyvern From: elyvern Date: January 25th, 2006 03:15 am (UTC) (Link)
An interesting essay, and one I really had to read since I signed up for the first day of BuffyLove ficathon and am intending to write an essay on her.

I see them as her doubles/others—the characters most capable of challenging her and forcing her to grow. And they are strong enough for my girl.

I absolutely ship Spike/Faith with Buffy for the reasons you stated above. Oh and the powerplay is just delicious.
femmenerd From: femmenerd Date: January 25th, 2006 04:17 am (UTC) (Link)
An interesting essay, and one I really had to read since I signed up for the first day of BuffyLove ficathon and am intending to write an essay on her.

Thanks, and I'll look forward to reading that.

I absolutely ship Spike/Faith with Buffy for the reasons you stated above. Oh and the powerplay is just delicious.

Oh yeah, that too. ::shivers::

purple_smurf From: purple_smurf Date: January 25th, 2006 03:23 am (UTC) (Link)
Love, so much love. I completely identify with not actually taking that much notice of the Buffy earlier (my own 17 year old hormones loved DB) and just...

All the best heroes are flawed; it makes them human.

Much love. Thankyou. It gave me goosebumps (which is entirely unrelated to the fact that the airconditioning here is on too high).
femmenerd From: femmenerd Date: January 25th, 2006 04:22 am (UTC) (Link)
Wow, thanks. So glad you enjoyed, goosebumps and all.

my own 17 year old hormones loved DB

Hormones will do that. :)

And oooh, yet another girl!strength/solidarity icon!



earth_vexer From: earth_vexer Date: January 25th, 2006 03:27 am (UTC) (Link)
Look at you, you scholar! Fantastic essay. I think I've always had female protagonists that I've identified with (Nancy Drew, hee!), but Buffy's story was the first one that I think could be called feminist -- with a few minor quibbles, perhaps, but nobody's perfect. :D

And I have no Buffy icon amongst my measly 6 user pictures. :(
femmenerd From: femmenerd Date: January 25th, 2006 04:28 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks, babe. :)

I think I've always had female protagonists that I've identified with

For me, it was Anne of Green Gables, and before that Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, since I've always been kind of a "friend of Dorothy." [/silly]

Sadness! Totally unrelated, did you happen to icon Mal's bare chest from the wave scene in Serenity and I missed it? Because lillianmorgan, kittyzams, amybnnyc and I were having a "lust-a-thon" via icons in LM's journal and I was aghast to find that I have no porny Mal icons.

makd From: makd Date: January 25th, 2006 04:39 am (UTC) (Link)
great essay!
femmenerd From: femmenerd Date: January 25th, 2006 05:54 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks!
cordelianne From: cordelianne Date: January 25th, 2006 05:25 am (UTC) (Link)
Lovely essay!! It reminded me of why I love Buffy so much. Yep, she's my hero too.

the experience of watching BtVS involved identifying with Buffy as the center of the narrative, and so as a result she became the invisible conduit to my experience.

Very well-said. It's fun to see Laura Mulvey applied to BtVS!!! In one of my film classes we studied her theory in the context of feminist films from that era, which was interesting academically but the films felt - sadly - very dated. It would have been way more fun to study it with BtVS.

She’s funny. She loves her friends and her mom. She’s willing to sacrifice herself for the good of the world but don’t try and fuck with her shoes.

I love those things about Buffy too! It's why I love her so much in season five. She has a huge heart.
femmenerd From: femmenerd Date: January 25th, 2006 06:09 am (UTC) (Link)
In one of my film classes we studied her theory in the context of feminist films from that era,

Which films? I've probably seen them, having double-majored in Feminist Studies and Film. And yes, I found ways to write at least 4 papers in undergrad that related to BtVS. *g*

Thanks for your comment!
coppersinger From: coppersinger Date: January 25th, 2006 05:42 am (UTC) (Link)
The icon rocks.

this girl acts; she wants, desires, saves the day, screws things up royally sometimes, and generally propels the narrative—it is hers.

Ultimately, it is Buffy's story. In a show with strong, flawed, human characters, Buffy is the constant, the centre.

Buffy is not perfect but she is powerful. She learns and grows. And she could kick your ass.

And her power isn't just in said kicking of ass; it's in drawing people together, in caring, in her creativity and even in a not so obvious intelligence... Though the fact that she can bend a rifle into an almost bow is pretty damned impressive. *G*

All that to say, brava.
femmenerd From: femmenerd Date: January 25th, 2006 06:11 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you.

And her power isn't just in said kicking of ass; it's in drawing people together, in caring, in her creativity and even in a not so obvious intelligence... Though the fact that she can bend a rifle into an almost bow is pretty damned impressive. *G*

Yes, absolutely. (And hee!)

I'm so glad I posted this--people are saying the most interesting things in the comments.
molly_may From: molly_may Date: January 25th, 2006 05:56 am (UTC) (Link)
this girl acts; she wants, desires, saves the day, screws things up royally sometimes, and generally propels the narrative—it is hers.

I love your brain. This really nails for me one of the big reasons I love BTVS so much. And not only does she own her own narrative, she gets to be such a complex character - brave, funny, scared, mean, generous, petty, loving, selfish, selfless.

This is going in my memories too.
femmenerd From: femmenerd Date: January 25th, 2006 06:13 am (UTC) (Link)
My brain loves you back. :)

And not only does she own her own narrative, she gets to be such a complex character - brave, funny, scared, mean, generous, petty, loving, selfish, selfless.

Yes! All those things make her real. There are so many ways to love Buffy.
kathyh From: kathyh Date: January 25th, 2006 11:04 am (UTC) (Link)
Coming to this a little late, but I just wanted to say this was a wonderful essay.

All the best heroes are flawed; it makes them human.

Exactly. When I read screeds complaining about Buffy it makes me want to scream. Her flaws and the fact that she never lets them stop her from carrying on the fight are the whole point for me.
femmenerd From: femmenerd Date: January 25th, 2006 04:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you. I'm so glad you enjoyed it.

When I read screeds complaining about Buffy it makes me want to scream. Her flaws and the fact that she never lets them stop her from carrying on the fight are the whole point for me.

Buffy-bashing makes me sad too. That's why I was so pleased when this community was started.
moscow_watcher From: moscow_watcher Date: January 25th, 2006 11:22 am (UTC) (Link)
Fantastic essay!
femmenerd From: femmenerd Date: January 25th, 2006 04:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you!
missy7280 From: missy7280 Date: January 25th, 2006 09:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
Great job on the essay! I agree with you on everything. And I'm so glad you reminded me of all the reasons I love Buffy! =D

P.S. Yay for shipping Buffy with Spike/Faith!
femmenerd From: femmenerd Date: January 26th, 2006 04:12 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you! And Buffy is quite loveable. :)

From: (Anonymous) Date: January 26th, 2006 03:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
Lovely essay. Thanks for sharing!

- monanotlisa*


* who has a livejournal but is hated by LJ right now
femmenerd From: femmenerd Date: January 26th, 2006 08:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
You're welcome, and thank you!

Why is LJ so hateful lately? ::sympathy::
lettered From: lettered Date: January 26th, 2006 06:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
here via kita

A little late but I just wanted to add my voice in and say I love this. I started watching because of Angel, but as much as I love him the reason I really ended up loving the show was Buffy. I've heard other people say she's not really a feminist hero or a bunch of other stuff I don't know enough about to understand, but I know this: she's the first and only female heroine that just makes my heart want to burst with her heroism.

And so there with you on that icon. It's one of my favoritest ever, and the first time I saw it I nearly cried--and I'm not a crier either.

Thanks for this essay!
femmenerd From: femmenerd Date: January 26th, 2006 08:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you so much.

she's the first and only female heroine that just makes my heart want to burst with her heroism.

::nods head::

I've been so happy about seeing all of the comments to this post---both because there's a whole bunch of group Buffylove but also because it's reassuring to see that it crosses ship/kink/whatever lines, if that makes sense.
glossing From: glossing Date: January 26th, 2006 07:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
GORGEOUS.

Think I could archive this over at Braids?
femmenerd From: femmenerd Date: January 26th, 2006 08:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you. And sure. I'm glad that it's universal enough to be useful to Buffy fans of multiple shipping tendencies.
From: stultiloquentia Date: January 27th, 2006 12:18 am (UTC) (Link)
Yes! Mulvey! Yes!

Every, heh, once in a while, when people get around to discussing Buffy's stupid and cruel moments, I hear someone screeching, "Ha! That's not feminist! A feminist show would never do that!" But on the contrary: the show is more deeply feminist when it presses beyond the Kickass Girls' Role Model golem to give us a hero so fallible, so confounding, and so gender-transcendingly human.

Thanks for writing, Femmenerd.

P.S. How much do I love the profusion of gorgeous solo!Buffy icons mushrooming in this thread? Much. :)
femmenerd From: femmenerd Date: January 27th, 2006 12:28 am (UTC) (Link)
Hee. Fangirling over film theorists is of the good.

the show is more deeply feminist when it presses beyond the Kickass Girls' Role Model golem to give us a hero so fallible, so confounding, and so gender-transcendingly human.

Ah yes, the old debate about "positive images." I (obviously) totally agree with you.

P.S. How much do I love the profusion of gorgeous solo!Buffy icons mushrooming in this thread? Much. :)

Me too! I think I remarked about that earlier up in the thread somewhere.





untitleddemo From: untitleddemo Date: January 27th, 2006 10:26 am (UTC) (Link)
Aha! I finally stole a moment to allow myself the pleasure of reading this. I've been looking forward to getting a chance to go over this because Buffy truly is my favorite female character ever. And yes, I know that makes me some sort of fandom mutant.

All the best heroes are flawed; it makes them human.

Exactly. What I love so much about Buffy is that she goes through all of these ups and downs, and even finds that point of not giving a damn anymore, but she always finds a way to bring herself back from it. The emotional and physical strength of that tiny girl is stunning to watch. I heart her forever.

Thank you so much for writing this, sweets. You know I'm madly in love with you now, don't you? This was so true, and passionate, and heartwarming. You've got my Buffy pride running high. I love how insightful and eloquent you are, and I'm totally jealous. *hugs*
femmenerd From: femmenerd Date: January 27th, 2006 04:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
Buffy truly is my favorite female character ever. And yes, I know that makes me some sort of fandom mutant.

Well, perhaps this thread is proof against that. 'Cause clearly we're not alone. :)

::blushes about the praise::

Thank you and you're welcome and...

::blushes some more::

The emotional and physical strength of that tiny girl is stunning to watch. I heart her forever.

Yes! The end.



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