What would Buffy do?

Have you seen the Buffy vs Edward (Twilight Remixed) clip yet? If you haven’t, you’re missing out.

As a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I absolutely love this brilliantly edited six-minute video mashup. It was created by Jonathan McIntosh and cleverly merges together scenes from Buffy with scenes from Twilight to highlight just how creepy Edward’s actions are. I’ve watched it a few times, but now that I’ve actually seen the Twilight film, I feel compelled to write about it. It was odd to see Edward in the original context rather than in the mashup. I thought, perhaps, that if I saw Edward in the film I’d be able to understand the attraction. But for me, Edward is as creepy in the movie as he is in the mashup. There is one scene in the film where Bella wakes to find Edward hovering near the end of her bed. He has entered her bedroom at night, without her consent. (I think this breaks vampire-story convention, but anyway…) He goes on to tell Bella that he likes to watch her sleep. Bella doesn’t find this disturbing or stalker-y. Instead she thinks it’s incredibly romantic and later in the scene they share their first kiss.

I’d read criticisms of Twilight in relation to Edward’s possessive and stalker/abusive tendencies before, but it wasn’t until I finally saw the film that I realised how truly creepy Edward is. I think he’s actually creepier and stalkier in the film adaptation than in the novel on which it was based.

A little while ago I read the first Twilight book in an attempt to understand the female fandom surrounding the series. I was sick of critics dissing the series on the basis that lots of women were fans of it. “Oh, those stupid women, how can they like this trash?”. (As an aside, this type of criticism is often used in relation to Sex and the City too). The first Twilight novel is pretty badly written, but despite my lack of interest in Bella as a character, I must admit, it was still a bit of a page-turner. The movie version, not so much. In fact, I didn’t hang around for the end of the film. Over an hour in and Bella’s only just figuring out that Edward is a vampire? Yawn. I might have been able to put up with the wooden acting and plodding pace, but what’s the point of a vampire love story without any blood, sex or lust?

But back to the mashup. In some ways it seems silly to compare Twilight with Buffy. Despite the presence of vampires in both stories, they really are quite different genres. Twilight is not a vampire superhero-action-horror. It is essentially a romance. It’s Mills&Boon for teenagers. Except the bad boy who comes to rescue the heroine from her boring life is not a leather-jacket-wearing, motorbike-riding, tough-guy/delinquent [insert your choice of ‘bad boy’ here], but a blood-suckin’ vampire. I can kind of see the appeal in that respect. The drama and sexual tension based around the person you can’t have, or the person you’re not supposed to have, is the basis for many of the best love stories. (But, of course, the Buffy and Spike relationship in BtVS does this waaay better).

I think what I find most problematic about the Bella-Edward relationship is that the whole thing is a metaphor for abstinence. Vampire stories are often largely about the sexual awakening of the young female character, and that’s fine, but it becomes a problem in this story because it is framed within the dangers of an ‘uncontrollable’ male sexuality. If Edward “can’t control himself”, Bella’s going to get deaded. This is quite a dangerous and unhealthy portrayal of human sexuality. Men are painted as predators, and women as helpless victims. As McIntosh (the creator of the mashup) puts it, their romance plays into “antiquated, sexist gender stereotypes”. These outdated stereotypes are not helpful for men or women.

The mashup video works so well because it uses the strength and humour of Buffy’s character to demonstrate the creep-factor of Edward. I absolutely love the part where Edward is following Buffy down a dark laneway at night, and she turns around and tells him “You know, being stalked isn’t really a big turn on for girls.” Brilliant stuff!

Jonathan McIntosh has written an interesting piece about his “Twilight remixed” project here: What would Buffy do? Notes on dusting Edward Cullen.

He writes,

Five months in the making, Buffy v. Edward is essentially an answer to the question “What Would Buffy Do?” My re-imagined story was specifically constructed as a response to Edward, and what his behavior represents in our larger social context for both men and women. More than just a showdown between The Slayer and the Sparkly Vampire, it’s also a humorous visualization of the metaphorical battle between two opposing visions of gender roles in the 21st century.

And a bit later,

We were troubled by how the main characters in Twilight seemed to embody antiquated, sexist gender stereotypes. Teenage protagonist Bella Swan is written as passive, co-dependant and perpetually the damsel in distress. Edward Cullen, her love interest, is written as over-protective, domineering and possessive.

What has always been so great about Buffy the Vampire Slayer (and I think it’s the case with True Blood as well) is that these gendered stereotypes are turned completely on their heads. The female characters may fall in love with vampires, but Buffy and Sookie are never passive, helpless victims in the story. They’re strong, independent and they know their own minds. Both series also explore death, sexuality and human relationships in much more nuanced ways than Twilight.

Related to this topic:
* A Feminist’s Guide to Curing Yourself of Twilight-Mania. I think the author of this piece makes some good points about the reasons behind the popularity of Twilight. The writer herself was caught up in the story and was reminded of the drama and intensity of being a teenaged girl. I too felt a bit like this when reading the novel. Although I cursed Bella for being so passive and un-interesting, there were elements of her character that rang true for me…particularly the sense of adolescent insecurity that Bella does so well.

* And while I’m on the theme of vampires, I recommend this article, which is not about pop cultural representations of blood-suckers, but explores some of the history behind the emergence of vampire myths: All the Dead are Vampires. (Thanks to O, song! for the link)

So to bring this to a hasty conclusion, we all know what Buffy would do.

…and then Buffy staked Edward. The End.

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One Response to “What would Buffy do?”

  1. Bite-Sized « Pop Culture Vampire Says:

    […] Jun “What Would Buffy Do?” at Pondering Postfeminism I think what I find most problematic about the Bella-Edward […]

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