When I saw what Joss Whedon had said about there being no empowered females in Twilight and Vampire Diaries, I was a bit surprised.
I mean, he’s right – he did ‘like that band first’ and did vampires before they became sparkly and went mainstream – aka Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Joss says that the females in the new franchises are ‘passive’ and don’t really ‘know what the hell is going on’. He’s likened the franchises to ‘Choosing Boyfriends: The Movie’ and says they essentially ‘go against’ Buffy.
I mean, I thought Bella and Elena were cool. Well, admittedly, I could kind of see where he was coming from with Bella but she wasn’t so offensive that I couldn’t read the books or watch the movies.
Elena has her own quirks and admittedly, it takes her a season and a half to get up to speed with everything but for me, she gets there in the end. Sure, just after she’s found her feet, she’s turned into a vampire thus back to square one but … well, we’ll gloss over that one.
Buffy was and still is one of a kind. She was created to be the ultimate empowered female in a male dominated and patriarchal world. Her quick wit, her love of ice cream and her dating woes were red herrings in an otherwise kick ass world of crossbows, hard choices and the pressure of being the ‘chosen one’. She surpassed expectation:
- She got dead but she was still pretty.
- She saved the soul of the man she loved then sent him to hell.
- She’s bled to the brink of death to save the man she loves, yet again.
- She saves the world from an evil robot.
- She actually does die this time – saving her sister – and goes to heaven (but is brought back; darn it).
- She saves the world – from her best friend.
Then she finds a way to not only save the world but save herself and her future in the process.
She fights and she fights hard. Sure, she cries, she breaks nails and she misses dates but she steps up to the mark every single time.
I think because neither Elena or Bella are that well developed or defined, Joss does actually have a point with what he’s said.
However, in their defence, none of the new franchises really set out to create a new brand of heroine – I don’t think they gave it much thought.
They are paranormal romances. And all of them have the age old ‘love triangle’ kicking around in the mix.
The difference is – for Elena and Bella, this is primary. For Buffy, this is secondary.
She does what’s needed to be done.
And though it has been some time since I’ve watched Buffy, this scene came to mind:
Buffy: I killed Angel! Do you even remember that? I would have given up everything I had to be with him. I loved him more than I will ever love anything in this life. And I put a sword through his heart because I had to…. It is always different! It’s always complicated. And at some point, someone has to draw the line, and that is always going to be me. You get down on me for cutting myself off, but in the end the Slayer is always cut off. There’s no mystical guidebook. No all-knowing council. Human rules don’t apply. There’s only me. I am the law.
Sure, Buffy was paranormal and it had its romance – but it had conflict; real tangible conflict that went way beyond the ‘should, I shouldn’t I’ dance that Joss refers to.
Does any of the above mean that I love Vampire Diaries (or like Twilight) any less? Hell, no.
Elena and Bella really become vampires – Buffy never (and couldn’t) go there… that’s new right? Damon and Edward are hot – eye candy is always good. And there is conflict, albeit not on the same scale or to the same intelligent degree that there was with Buffy.
Buffy, despite the name and the veneer of superficiality that goes with it, is actually one of the most intelligent pieces of TV ever written.
And I admit, when I think back to how I felt when I watched Buffy for the first time, when I watch Vampire Diaries, sometimes it does just feel like settling.
(But I’ll still watch…)