Thursday, 28 January 2010

Buffy part 2

For the second part of my Buffy-thon postage I'd like to address an issue that might be triggering, so beware.

In season 6 of Buffy, our eponymous heroine survives a rape attempt in the episode 'Seeing Red'.

I think it was very important for BTVS to address the issue of rape purely because of the premise of the show: Buffy is strong. She is independent, powerful and beautiful. It demonstrates that it doesn't matter how strong or self-aware you are, you can still be a target. Additionally, the episode deals with rape by someone with whom Buffy has already had a sexual relationship: the vampire, Spike. With stories like this in the news I find a story-line such as this quite pertinent.

The scene is very difficult to watch, Buffy is injured and tells Spike to go away. He tries to 'prove' to her that she wants him by making advances, pushing her to the floor and trying to initiate sex, culminating in her kicking him off and questioning:

"Ask me again why I could never love you"

Buffy is never shown to be 'inviting it'; she is injured, trying to run a bath and he has entered her house. She constantly tells him to 'go away', and 'get off'. She says 'no', demonstrating that 'just say no' isn't always a viable option.

The episode doesn't even overtly make out that Spike is 'evil' as he tries to rape Buffy - he is not in his vampire face, he looks like a man. Thus the power of this scene emphasises that it's not a supernatural evil that causes Spike to rape Buffy, but a human evil, echoing the theme mentioned in my previous post that 'life is the big bad'

The incident inspires Spike to go on a quest to regain his soul as he cannot stand the purgatory of being 'not quite a man and not quite a monster' (my paraphrase). It is used as a development point for Spike's character, but manages to make a commentary on ideas of rape at the same time.

I have to admit, sex as a theme in Buffy isn't quite as empowering as it should be, Buffy uses it almost as a punishment during season 6, her first experience in season 2 causes Angel to become evil and she is portrayed negatively by the fraternity attitudes and reactions of Riley's friends in season 4. Nevertheless, the episode 'Seeing Red' is an important point in the series and demonstrates a strong counter-discourse to commonly held attitudes about rape.

Next up: 'Nice-guy' Warren

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