Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Buffy the Vampire Slayer = Girl Power?

In the article, The Buffy Effect Or, A Tale of Cleavage and Marketing written by Rachel Fudge, Fudge addresses the 90’s hit television show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and how Buffy, the main character is, or is not, a feminist icon. The author, Fudge, starts out the article by explaining how Buffy is an exception to the classic main characters of horror films. In the T.V. shows, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is blonde, beautiful, and as Fudge states multiple times throughout the article, a symbol of femininity. Contrary to most classic horror films in which the blonde female character is usually the one being hunted or the character shown running away in terror, Buffy is the protagonist and the main character who slays the evil monsters who present themselves during the show. Fudge continues to explain the plot of the actual show, which is basically about a high school aged female who finds herself in situations which require her to slay vampires and monsters while also tackling the daily frustrations of high school female life.

Throughout most of the article, Rachel Fudge praises Buffy’s character by writing that Buffy is an icon for girl power and femininity. I feel as if the author gives Buffy’s character more credit than she’s due, however. Fudge writes on page 2 of her article that “Buffy could be the poster girl for an entire decade of girl-oriented mass media/culture.” Fudge continues to write that because Buffy is feisty, “an angsty alternateen” yet able to wear tiny dresses and tank tops and knows how to perfectly apply her makeup and do her hair, that she is an icon and an example for females, especially females in the 90’s. I never watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and I’m not sure I agree that Buffy’s character is or should be an icon for women. However, in our culture which is consumed with achieving power and being independent and strong yet beautiful, I can see how Buffy has become an icon for women and femininity.

Towards the end of the article, Fudge does criticize Buffy’s character. Fudge writes, “Herein lie the limitations in the Buffy phemon: “Girl power” as articulated in the mass media (and mass marketing) is often misrepresented as de facto feminism, when in fact it’s a diluted imitation of female empowerment” (5). Fudge continues to write that the idea of “girl power” often relies too heavily on style and the material rather than “substance”. Much of what is in the Buffy television series, such as Buffy’s clothing and some props are now available at various clothing retailers and merchandise stores.

However, Fudge writes that Buffy has been able to create a feminine heroine who is strong and feisty which would appeal to men (also because she is beautiful and wears tiny shirts) yet Buffy is still able to keep her femininity in terms of her ability to put the right makeup on and wear the right clothing. I can understand Fudge’s point that Buffy’s character, as unrealistic as a vampire slayer may be, is able to appeal to all audiences and create a positive image of a female heroine. And, I might have to agree with what Fudge writes on page 5, “Call her a Hard Candy-coated feminist heroine for the girl-power era. And it isn’t just the pubescent boys who like their heroines sweet: This pastel veneer might just be the necessary spoonful of sugar to make the pro-feminist message palatable to network honchos, the marketing crew, and teen viewers alike.”

La Femme Nikita

Image from: http://thisdistractedglobe.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/08/Nikita%20pic%201.jpg

Youtube clip:

This movie, La Femme Nikita is about a woman who was involved in a crime and caught by the police. However, rather than throw her into jail or sentence her to death, the ‘government’ decides to train her as a top secret assassin. The beginning of the film portrays Nikita as a rough drug addicted woman who ruthlessly murders a cop by shooting him in the face. She is feisty and stubborn and refuses to cooperate (she curses a lot, too). While she is being trained to become an assassin, she learns how to become ‘feminine’ by taking classes with an older woman who teaches her how to apply makeup like a woman, talk like a woman, eat like a woman, etc.

Throughout the rest of the film, Nikita learns to be feminine while also learning how to put together a gun, perform martial arts, and some computer skills. According to Fudge’s opinion of a feminine icon, I believe that Nikita might possibly be a better icon than Buffy. Nikita pulled herself out of her old habits and learned to be aggressive and beautifully feminine at the same time. Of course, Nikita would have been killed by the ‘government’ had she refused to comply with their demands.

I find it interesting, however, that when Nikita is faced with situations in which she must assassinate specific people, she is portrayed as nervous, as if she doesn’t want to do it, etc. Of course, who would really want to assassinate people anyway? Nikita never becomes comfortable with her aggressive, ‘assassin’ side. I get the feeling that she would much rather be with her love, lying in bed all day in her apartment.

However, Nikita learns to take advantage of her ‘femininity’ and what she has learned in terms of how to be a woman. She finds herself a very honorable boyfriend. Nikita also somehow finds a way to keep her ‘second life’ as a secret assassin a secret from her boyfriend. When confronted about the issue, Nikita pushes it aside or somehow wins her boyfriend over with her cuteness, thus taking advantage of her femininity. The message of this film is clear when the woman training Nikita says to Nikita, “Let your pleasure be your guide, your pleasure as a woman. And don’t forget…there are two things that have no limit; femininity and the means of taking advantage of it.”

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