I’ve got lots of delicious links today, focusing on gender roles, relationships and the portrayal of young women in various pop culture franchises:
Sound On Sight has a very insightful article on Scooby-Doo of all things and its influence on Buffy. By the way, am I the only person in the world who shipped Shaggy and Daphne? Because Fred certainly never was on my radar at all, to the point that I keep forgetting his name. I suspect I subscribed to the Fred is gay theory early on.
Talking of Buffy, there’s been something of a resurgence in Buffy discussions of late (as if they ever died down, sigh), mostly to point out Buffy’s utter wonderfulness and superiority to Bella Swann of Twilight. Sometimes Katniss Everdeen of The Hunger Games is drawn into the discussion as well.
At Movie News, Monika Bartyzel compares Bella and Katniss and comes to the conclusion that they’re not as different from each other as conventional wisdom would have you believe and that Bella is a lot stronger than she seems. Monika Bartyzel also mentions that she once wrote an article comparing Bella favourably to Buffy and was almost crucified by rabid Buffy fans.
At the Atlantic, Noah Berlatzky also compares Bella and Katniss and wonders whether the rampant dislike of Bella is due to our general social discomfort with the feminine. He also wonders whether Katniss is really a better role model than Bella, considering that she kills a whole lot of people and keeps getting used by others for propaganda purposes.
There is another interesting point made in those articles, namely that Bella only puts herself in danger to protect the ones she loves, i.e. Edward, her parents, her baby, the Cullens, Jacob, etc… Meanwhile, Katniss fights for abstract ideals such as freedom and justice most of the time, though we should not forget that she only ends up in the Hunger Games in the first place, because she wants to protect her sister. Nonetheless, our culture often puts a higher value on fighting for an abstract ideal than on fighting for a very personal goal such as protecting friends, family and loved ones. I also touched on this dynamics in my Misfits post yesterday, since in traditional superhero narratives, the heroes fight mainly for abstract ideals (the example I gave was Batman, where this dynamic is particularly strong), whereas the kids in Misfits don’t much believe in abstract ideals (and the rotten world they live in has pretty much evaporated any ideals they might once have had) and only become active to protect friends and loved ones.
Monika Bartyzel and Noah Berlatzky also get into a discussion of Bella, Buffy and Katniss at The Hooded Utilitarian. Many good points there, including that Bella haters are usually quick to dismiss or ignore any flaws in Katniss or Buffy. Indeed, I’d go as far as to say that Buffy fans are often unable to see any flaws in the show or the characters at all, though there are plenty.
Interestingly, Monika Bartyzel also points out what an unpleasantly hypocritical character Xander could be and how he would often attack Buffy for being supposedly selfish and cut her down to size. This comment really resonated with me, because it reminded me how I disliked Xander much of the time for exactly this reason, because he spent much of the show being a condescending arsehole who attacked other characters, mostly girls (it’s not just Buffy either, but also Cordelia, Faith and Anya, even though he had relationships with several of those girls). It’s not just Xander either, Angel also had the moral superiority complex down to an art in his own show.
Indeed, one of the first episodes of Buffy I ever watched was an episode early in the third season (I had previously watched one or two episodes, but didn’t care for the show and was trying to give it another chance, because so many people were raving about it) where the whole gang, led by Xander, keeps yelling at Buffy that she is selfish for daring to be depressed about killing Angel and for wanting some time alone. I was absolutely horrified – after all, these people were supposed to be Buffy’s friends – and promptly stopped watching again. Whatever you think of Twilight, nobody ever treated Bella the way Buffy’s supposed friends treat her in that episode. And it’s not an isolated occurrence either, something similar happens when Willow becomes addicted to magic later on. And of course, Willow is not allowed to grieve for Tara either.
Noah Berlatzky seems to be one of the rare male defenders of Twilight, because here is an earlier article on Splice Today in which he dismantles and counters many of the common Twilight criticisms. I particularly like that he points out the flat-out hatred for teenaged girls that lies behind many Twilight bashings. Indeed, I wish that a lot of Twilight bashers would remember that they are not the target audience for the books.
Berlatzky’s article was a response to this Atlantic article by Alyssa Rosenberg in which she disfavourably compares Twilight to Patricia C. Wrede’s Enchanted Forest series, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Mists of Avalon and two YA novels by Monica Furlong. No, it would not have occurred to me to compare those works to each other either, because all they have in common is that they feature the supernatural and have female protagonists.
Finally, here is another older Twilight defense, also from The Atlantic, by Caitlin Flanagan. I find this one more rambling and less well argued than the articles by Noah Berlatzky and Monica Bartyzel.