Saturday, May 01, 2010

Buffy Season 7


First, I have an unhealthy amount of affection for that show. I mean, it's kind of ridiculous how much I like it. I love horror even though almost all horror sucks. I love chop socky even though almost all chop socky movies suck. I'm a sucker for well-done girl power stuff. And I'm a sucker for coming-of-age stuff. Buffy just pushes a large number of my buttons. IMHO, it's a damn great show.

But man, that season 7 is just not very good, is it?

I've managed to make excuses, spin the evidence, avert my mental gaze and all that for quite awhile, but JQ and I just finished watching the whole series again. (Huddled on our futon mattress in our still-unfit-for-human-occupancy house, with a giant extension cord snaking through several rooms to the one outlet that works. Grumble. Anyway, it's been really awesome to have the stack of Buffy DVDs waiting after hard day after hard day of not finishing this &%!@* house...). But anyway: season 7, not good.

It's really like the writers suddenly forgot what show they were writing for. Where is the humor? Where is the chemistry between the characters? Where are the unforeseeable twists and turns? Who is this cranky, superfluous fellow who looks like Giles? Sure, Conversations with Dead People is great--one of the relatively few genuinely frightening episodes in the whole series. And Him cracks me up. But other than those, I'd be hard-pressed to pick out a good episode. Chosen has its moments, and isn't too bad given what Whedon had to work with by the time it rolled around. But gah. Kinda painful to watch a large number of those episodes.

I'm not even going to discuss how painful it is whenever Kennedy is on screen. (And if people are fast-forwarding through the lesbian scenes...well, you're doing something wrong...) And Buffy's interminable inspirational speeches. Gah! A thousand times gah! And the whole idea of the slayerettes. Gah I say! And the awesome girl power stuff of earlier seasons is replaced by stuff so heavy-handed that it's almost unbearable. Gah! Gah! Gah! Caleb would have been immeasurably better if the audience had not been beaten about the faces and heads with his misogyny. And the lame meta-watcher woman who shows up for three minutes, twenty minutes from the end of the entire series, just to say "hey, we women watched the watchers so, ya know, still girl-powery!" So, so bad.

And man, if there's one thing I hate, it's an inconsistent conception of a monster's power. For three shows we see Buffy completely outmatched by the ubervamp. She drops several thousand pounds of pipes on his head, squashing him against a concrete floor, and he gets up no only unharmed, but faster and kung-fu-ier than he was before! Then we get the oh-so-lame set-up fight of Showtime, in which suddenly and for no apparent reason, Buffy is able to dust the vamp in order to inspire the troops. And by Chosen, Giles and Wood are taking on ten ubervamps at once by themselves.Even Anya (who dusts two in one second) and Andrew are dusting them. Oh so lame.

One shouldn't complain when a bunch of people have generated a story as delightful, amusing and downright heartwarming as Buffy. The show builds up enough capital and good will that it can coast through the last part of season six and season seven without generating too much frustration on the part of the viewer. But man, by that point it's not half the show it used to be. (Last night as we were watching End of Days, JQ said "by this point, it's just Charmed." She quickly decided that was too harsh. But still...

Anyway, I can't stand to write anything on this topic that doesn't end with something like: overall, that show really does rule.


Blogger Random Michelle K said...

Speaking of Buffy...

You never posted pictures of you dressed up as Spike.


I love Buffy (though not as much as I love Firefly) and a friend and I keep going back and forth about Joss Whedon's treatment of women. (My friend also loves Buffy & Firefly)

My friend argues that Joss Whedon's problem is that he likes to make his characters suffer (a sadist if you like) and often that suffering is unnecessary (See: Tara's death, See: Xander leaving Anya at the alter, See: Buffy & Spike, See: River Tam in Firefly & Serenity, See: Zoe & Wash in Serenity...)

My take is that life sucks. A lot. But you have to pick up the pieces and move on, and Joss Whedon doesn't like to sugar coat life.

Perhaps there is some small truth to that, which helped lead to season 7, which then caused them to totally screw things up to wind up the story arc.

I dunno for certain. I just know that his stories speak to me.

(But for all this is holy I couldn't STAND the Buffy/Spike relationship. GAH!)

3:00 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

I'm totally with you, MK, though I see your friend's point.

1. Stories speak to us, perhaps in part because the characters embody our ideals. What it says about you and me that we see some kind of ideal instantiated by a teenage chop socky vampire slayer...well, I dunno...

2. I think Whedon really appreciates the power and poignancy of the death of a real character. (Not a walk-on, not a character set up to die, but a real (even if not main) character that the audience likes and knows). IMHO he doesn't actually *fully* appreciate it, because the deaths are frequently sudden or ill-conceived (e.g. Buffy's death in The Gift, which, though presaged for at least several episodes and perhaps the whole season (Dawn being actualized as Buffy's sister; "death is your gift"), didn't make a *damn* bit of sense. Summers blood is flowing and won't stop until it ceases to flow? Ever hear of a bandage? Jumping into the Special Effects of Doom is your first idea? Seriously?

3. Whedon gets the girl power thing, and that's largely why I love the guy. For much of my life I've been astonished by how few authors (outside of some sci fi of the last 20 years or so) get that. Even in fantasy, where you can have elves and talking trees and magic of all kinds--e.g. in the Lord of the Rings--more than a smattering of occasionally tough women...why that's right out...or was until rather recently.

Though, again, I don't think Whedon quite gets this all the way--or didn't in Buffy. Making both Buffy and Willow super-duper-heroes while simultaneously making Xander the perpetual afterthought...not good. Groovy girl power doesn't mean the guy has to be the Zeppo.

4. Unfortunately, 2 and 3 combine to make Whedon torture his female characters. They're his heroes, and he likes to make his heroes suffer.

5. Totally with you on Buffy/Spike. Apparently they did it for the fans. (Read: the fans with a crush on Spike...) It is said that neither Gellar nor Marsters was comfortable with it. (Note: I cannot feckin believe I know that...) The one thing I'll give it is that it broke the mold of the chaste hero/heroine who only has sex for love. Usually it's one of the ways movies show you who's the good guy and who's the bad guy. The good guys are making with the tender Sarah McLachlan love, the bad guys are making with the wild monkey love. Nice to see that mold broken...but overall, very, very bad misstep.

Yargh. See? See how I think way too much about this stuff?

8:09 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

And as for dressing up like Spike--where am I gonna get a coat like that?

1:21 PM  
Blogger Random Michelle K said...

Assuming you're not going to take out a slayer to get your own coat, googling "black leather trench coat: gives me 185,000 results.

So hop to it!

Re the sex, I heard an interview with Joss Wheadon years ago (mumble public radio mumble) and he said that when he made the movie (which I do own) he wanted to break the mold of "cute girl has sex, then is brutally killed" you saw in so many horror movies.

And I think that Xander did get better towards the end of the series--when he got "split" and then put back together, he actually became responsible.

Also, he's responsible and all that in the comic.

Yes, I read the comic. I'm a geek grrl, what can I say?

9:07 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Well, then I can also admit that I read the comic, I suppose.

I've got to say, I've recently though that it was downright insulting. I mean, a submarine? And teleporting a submarine? And then everybody just willingly giving up their powers? And just to avoid detection? And all because Harmony has a reality show?

Seriously--it's just insulting to fans who have stuck by them ten years past the cancellation of the show.

3:17 PM  
Blogger Random Michelle K said...

ACK! I'm not that far into the comic yet! (covers ears)

7:02 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...


Er...spoiler alert?

Anyway, I started out being really happy about the comics, but am downright pissed about them now. I think they're now constituted of one ill-formed, crappy idea after another flashing by at lightning speed. I know that comic books foster that kind of story, but it's rarely good, and it's against the whole spirit of the story.

I'm downright angry about it, and irked at Jane Espenson in particular, who wrote the last piece of crap I read.

12:46 PM  
Blogger Random Michelle K said...

Well, I suppose now I know not to get my hopes up. (I tend to lag way behind reading Buffy since they tend to like cliff-hangers and I hate cliff-hangers.)

I'd actually picked up the series because Brian K Vaughan was writing for awhile, and I loved Runaways (and think it (Runaways) has kinda gone downhill since he moved on. Thank goodness Ex Machina has a limited run and will be written by Vaughan all the way through.)

Am I geeking out too much here?

7:16 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

"Am I geeking out too much here?"

Not for me...

I've never read the Runaways, but now will get the first volume. Will check out Ex Machina, too...

3:40 PM  
Blogger Random Michelle K said...

Oooh! Make sure to let us (me) know what you think about Runaways. (Though if you get one, you may as well get two and three, since they're of a single story arc).

My understanding is that Ex Machina is supposed to have a limited run, like Sandman. I hope it does, because I really like a sense of closure.

6:20 PM  

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