Archive for the ‘Buffy’ Category

2010 in review: some blog stats

January 3, 2011

Happy New Year, my fellow ponderers!

WordPress just emailed to tell me that my blog is healthy. Phew, what a relief. It gets a rating of “Wow”. Thanks to everyone who read and commented on Pondering Postfeminism in 2010. I intend to keep this blog going in 2011, and vow to write more often. I also thought I’d throw it open to my readers a little bit. If you ever come across something that you think might suit this blog (articles, links, videos, etc) please drop me a line. I’m always on the lookout for inspiration.

I thought I may as well share some of the email that WordPress put together for me. It doesn’t mention some of the more hilarious search engine terms that directed people to my blog. So here are some of the more memorable and amusing:
– what would buffy do
– doctor handsome sex
– sex and the city naked guy (variations of this add up to probably the highest number of searches)
– couregous womeninsex fuc
– predicament bondage
– leather bra xena
– sparkly vampires fuck off spike
– witches noses stereotypes

The rest of this post was compiled by WordPress software.

The stats helper monkeys at mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 8,100 times in 2010. That’s about 19 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 34 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 35 posts.

The busiest day of the year was March 8th with 161 views. The most popular post that day was Pondering Germaine Greer.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were,,,, and

Some visitors came searching, mostly for princess valhalla hawkwind, sexing the body gender politics and the construction of sexuality, princess valhalla hawkwind costume, what is post feminism, and and then buffy staked edward.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


Pondering Germaine Greer March 2010


Super women and the changing face of feminism February 2010
1 comment


So, what is postfeminism anyway? January 2010


Princess Valhalla: postfeminist superhero August 2010


The Power of Female Sex February 2010


Female television characters: assorted favourites

October 15, 2010

I know this has been done before, but I thought it would be fun to give it a shot. In no particular order, below are some of my favourite female characters to have graced the small screen.

Lynda Day from Press Gang

Ah, Lynda Day. What a woman. Smart, sassy, successful. Press Gang was such an awesome television show. It was about a group of school kids who run a newspaper, the ‘Junior Gazette’. Lynda was the bossy, confident, bitchy and ambitious editor, and she was brilliant. The entire cast were fantastic, actually. A couple of years ago I bought the series on DVD because I wanted to re-live it’s awesomeness. I was pleased when it lived up to the fond memories I had. The Spike-Lynda relationship is full of brilliant one-liners and offers perhaps the most sparkling sexual tension ever seen on the small screen. (Is it wrong to say such a thing about teenaged characters?) For me it remains immensely enjoyable television, largely due to the clever writing and snappy dialogue by Steven Moffat. I am forever grateful to him for creating such a brilliant piece of children’s television series and for bringing to life one of the coolest female characters of all time.

Isobel Sutherland from Hamish Macbeth

Yep, another newspaper journalist. Based on my love for all these fictional journalists, it’s surprising I didn’t decide to study journalism. I do however have a massive love affair with Scotland. And I suspect it all started with Hamish, which was set and filmed in the beautiful Scottish Highlands. The series is named after the local policeman of a sleepy little Scottish village, Lochdubh. Isobel, played by Shirley Henderson, works on the local newspaper and for much of the series, her love for Hamish is painfully unrequited. Later in the series (as far as I can remember) Hamish returns her love, but he’s in a relationship with Alex, a tall blonde woman whom as an audience, we’re never supposed to like. We all know he’d be happier with Isobel, the short, sweet, softly-spoken brunette. I fear I’m making the show sound a bit naff. But it was brilliant. It had quirky and well-developed characters, surreal plots, and a wicked sense of humour. Oh, and accents. Sexy sexy Scottish accents.

In one of episode, fed up with Hamish’s inability to recognise her devotion and awesomeness, Isobel goes off to the big smoke to get a makeover. She has a job interview, joins the gym, crops her hair short, buys a convertible and scores a date with a lad from another village. Hamish is mega-jealous. However, Isobel wasn’t only there to be the love-interest. Her role as the village reporter had her involved in most of the police action, and she often uncovered mysteries or helped solve them.

Veronica Mars from Veronica Mars

I’ve written briefly about my Veronica fandom before, but I’ll say it again. This chick is awesome. She’s a highschool student by day, private detective by night. She’s booksmart and streetsmart and always manages to solve the mystery, whether it be a trivial highschool drama or an unsolved murder. She’s also very techno-savvy, and we’ll often see her using the latest gadgets to help catch the bad guy. Veronica is supported by a strong cast and the writing is full of deliciously witty one-liners and wry observations about the world.

Caitlin from the Degrassi series

The great thing aboot Degrassi – apart from the fantastic Canadian accents – was the way we got to see the characters from grade seven all the way through until senior highschool. In the process the series tackled a whole range of issues facing young people. There were lots of memorable characters in Degrassi – Joey, Spike, Snake, Melanie, to name a few – but I think Caitlin was always my favourite. She was an outspoken activist and she worked on the school newspaper (see, there’s definitely a theme here). She re-appears in the new version, Degrassi: The Next Generation. I’m so pleased they made an updated version for another generation of kids to enjoy. Caitlin appears occasionally in this season, and there’s a whole storyline devoted to Kevin Smith, who so famously admitted his crush on Caitlin that he was offered a cameo appearance as Caitlin’s partner. One of his characters in Chasing Amy says he has a “weird thing for girls who say ‘aboot'”. Thanks to Caitlin, I think a lot of people do.

Darlene from Roseanne

I was thinking I should probably have Roseanne on this list, but then I realised that my favourite character from that show was actually the sarcastic and sullen teenager, Darlene. Roseanne was a pretty groundbreaking show, in that it was one of the first to portray a working class family. And one headed by an overweight woman. Even today there aren’t many portrayals like this. I haven’t seen episodes of Roseanne for years so I can’t remember many details, but I liked Darlene. She was the apathetic sister who offset the annoying perkyness of Becky, and she delivered her lines with a deadpan humour that I remember fondly. I was also a bit jealous of her because I had a crush on her boyfriend, David.

Albee from Love is a Four Letter Word

Perhaps the most obscure on my list, Albee was a character in a short-lived Australian drama called Love is a Four Letter Word that screened on the ABC in 2001. It was set in the innerwest of Sydney (some of it was actually filmed at one of my favourite pubs) and featured a cast of twenty-something characters. I remember longing to be like Albee and her grunge-trendy (and troubled) friends. The stories revolved around their love lives, failed attempts at careers and the ongoing battle against the poker machines that were threatening to ruin the live music scene. In fact, one of the coolest aspects of the show was that it featured a different Australian band each week.

I just found this archived website, with a page about Albee. She worked in publishing and I think she was writing a novel. She was in a relationship with Angus, played by Peter Fenton (actor and lead singer of Sydney band Crow). I liked Albee a lot. Apparently in one episode she said: “They accused me of being a shit-house feminist because I couldn’t quote the great ten female novelists of all time. I got a couple but they weren’t from my top ten”. I’m sure this line must have endeared Albee to me even more. Even though I was enrolled in Gender Studies when this was on air, I remember feeling like I was a bit of a shit-house feminist at times, too. Before I learned that there’s no “proper” way of being feminist. I’d love to re-watch this series to see if I still think Albee is fantastic. I even tried to emulate her outfits. 🙂

Joan Holloway from Mad Men

I’m having a tough time deciding on my favourite female character from Mad Men. Peggy, Betty and Joan are all pretty awesome in different ways. You’ve got the ambitious career woman in Peggy, and the downtrodden, depressed and lonely housewife in Betty Draper (perfectly epitomising The Feminine Mystique, and constantly reminding me how fortunate I am to have been born post-second-wave-feminism). And then there’s Joan, the bitchy, beautiful and va-va-voom curvaceous office manager. Even though she doesn’t have any official power at Sterling-Cooper – she’s only a woman after all – she’s definitely the queen bee of the secretaries and you wouldn’t want to cross her. She’s confident and self-sufficient and knows how to use her assets to get what she wants. [I’ve only seen up until the end of Season Two so no spoilers please!]

Lisa from The Simpsons

Ah, Lisa, the little girl doomed to wear that red dress and be eight-years-old forever. She’s the yellow, spikey-haired over-achiever we all love. She’s passionate about the environment and social justice issues, and always stands up for her beliefs, despite what her family or the Springfield townsfolk think of her. She’s headstrong and clever, with a big heart and a love for her family that doesn’t go away no matter how infuriating they can be.

Kate from The United States of Tara

I love all the characters in Tara. The gay teenage son, Marshall. The loving and patient husband, Max. The ditsy sister, Charmaine. And of course there’s Tara, and her “alters”, brilliantly played by Toni Collette. But my heart lies with the outspoken, sarcastic and somewhat troubled teenage daughter, Kate, played by Brie Larson. In the second season she starts dressing up as comic book character Princess Valhalla Hawkwind. I loved this postfeminist superhero persona, but for Kate dressing up as the Princess was just an escape. She acts all tough and knowing, but really she’s sensitive and doesn’t always deal very well with her mother’s mental illness. In the end she ditches Princess Valhalla, saying: “I’m mad at myself. I wanted to be an adult and I settled for a costume”. Kate is strong, but there’s also a vulnerability to her that I like, that makes her seem very believable as she navigates her way to being a ‘grown up’, whatever that means.

Buffy Summers from Buffy the Vampire Slayer

And last but not least, Buffy, our real postfeminist superhero. Wise-cracking, vampire-killing tough chick, Buffy Summers is probably Joss Whedon’s most famous character. The show ran for 7 seasons and developed a cult following. Buffy is independent, smart and incredibly physically strong. She’s also surrounded by a fantastic group of friends whom we also grow to love over the years. In the early seasons, we see Buffy as a schoolgirl, trying to balance the dramas of being a teenager with her demon-slaying responsibilities. Later in the series, she’s more mature but still wrestling with who she is and what she wants from life. Buffy has an incredibly strong cast of characters, but what I love the most is the humour. The clever dialogue, the mid-battle banter and the witty one-liners always have me coming back for more.

Also, if you haven’t seen it already, check out Joss Whedon’s Equality Now speech, where he discusses the answers he usually gives to the rather ridiculous question that he is most often asked: “Why do you write these strong women characters?”.

Honourable mentions:
– Brenda Chenowith, Six Feet Under (lots of great female characters in that show!)
– Alicia Florrick, The Good Wife
– Miranda, Sex and the City
– Lynette, Desperate Housewives
– Shane from The L Word
– Teresa Lisbon, The Mentalist
– Sookie, True Blood

Who else?! Who are you favourite female television characters? Why do you love them?

Princess Valhalla: postfeminist superhero

August 24, 2010

Not too long ago I posted a link to a rather odd video called Princess Valhalla Hawkwind. For readers who don’t know the television series The United States of Tara, the youtube clip would have made absolutely no sense. I awarded it a ‘postfeminist heroine of the week’ prize, but without explaining why. So perhaps it’s time to try put Princess Valhalla into context.

First, let me explain a little about the series. Don’t worry, there won’t be spoilers. In Australia the ABC is screening Series 2 once a week. (Except it has been rudely interupted mid-season by The Chaser’s election show. Boo!) You can also watch the series online via iView, but only one or two episodes are ever up at one time. The series is executive produced by Steven Spielberg, written by Diablo Cody (of Juno fame) and features Australia’s Toni Collette in the lead role.

Toni Collette is absolutely fantastic in this. So good that she has won Emmy and Golden Globe awards. She plays Tara, wife to Max and mother of teenage kids Kate and Marshall (perhaps my two favourite characters). Toni Collette also plays several other characters, in the form of Tara’s “alter egos” or Alters, because Tara suffers from dissociative identity disorder.

I’m not a psychologist so I don’t know how accurate a portrayal of the condition this is. But this is television, and as a piece of drama, it’s fantastic. I really love it. The acting is brilliant, the scripts are moving and hilarious and the relationships between the characters always strike me as believable. Each character copes with Tara’s mental illness in different ways, painting the complex story of a family in all its quirks, its tensions and its humour.

So where does this whacky Princess Valhalla Hawkwind character come in?

I’m glad you asked. Princess Valhalla Hawkwind is a fictional character within the series. We first come across her when Kate (in her new job as a debt-collector) has to track down a woman called Lynda P. Frazier. Lynda turns out to be an artist, and the creator of a comic-book featuring feminist super-hero Princess Valhalla. Kate and Lynda quickly become friends, hanging out and smoking pot. Kate becomes fascinated with the Princess Valhalla character, and in one episode she raids Lynda’s wardrobe to dress up in full Princess Valhalla costume.


What would Buffy do?

June 20, 2010

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.

Super women and the changing face of feminism

February 17, 2010

Samantha Stevens, the lead character in the 1960s sitcom, Bewitched, is a woman with special powers – a witch who can make anything happen with a slight twitch of her nose. She first appeared on television just as the first rumblings of second wave feminism were being felt. Samantha symbolised the ideal suburban housewife, and on the surface Bewitched is not a particularly feminist programme. Her powers are mostly restricted to the private world of the home because of a promise made to her husband, Darrin. However, Samantha had powers to disrupt the male world, to break free of domestic constraints and influence the public sphere. While second wave feminism was emerging, a time when women were beginning to realise that they could be more than housewives, Samantha’s supernatural abilities hinted at women’s potential beyond housework and child-rearing.

The programme first screened in the US the same year Betty Friedan’s influential feminist text, Feminine Mystique became a best seller. This famous book, which became emblematic of second wave feminism, uncovered what Friedan called “the problem with no name”. It articulated the stifling and oppressive conditions experienced by many housewives in the mid-twentieth century. Susan Douglas argues that within this context of emerging feminist agitation, new kinds of female characters arrived on television – women with special powers – a witch, a genie and a flying nun. Furthermore, she proposes that these new representations of women suggest that

“the pop culture moguls were trying to acknowledge the impending release of female sexual and political energy, while keeping it all safely in a straitjacket.”
(Douglas 1994: 126)

Bewitched highlights a defining moment in the history of women. Early second wave feminists vocalised women’s sense of oppression as housewives and sought the path towards autonomous selfhood. For example, Johnson and Lloyd (2004: 14-15) suggest that Betty Friedan “drew on a familiar trope of modernity in which the modern self leaves behind the banality or everydayness of home life to become such as self”. This narrative of the journey from suppressed housewife to liberated, self-governing individual became one of the key themes of the second wave.

Samantha was representative of suburban domestic ideals. However, at a time when women were beginning to have their horizons broadened, Samantha’s supernatural abilities conjured up the promise of women’s liberation and the unleashing of female power that was to come.

Fast forward thirty years and another young woman with super powers appears on television. This time she is not a witch, nor a housewife. Instead, she is a teenaged girl, the “Chosen One”, the Slayer. Her duty is to slay vampires and save the world from evil. Samantha’s life revolved around the domestic sphere – the daily tasks of a suburban wife, who must try to suppress her powers and do things the normal – mortal – way. Buffy’s life on the other hand, revolves around the world of the immortal.

Buffy uses her powers to protect society from vampires, demons and the occasional apocalypse. While a proportion of the storylines are centred on her personal and family relationships, the major focus of the show is her ‘slaying’ work, performed in public at night. Buffy exemplifies how women’s roles have shifted.

Coming of age in the wake of the successes of second wave feminism, many young women take equality and career opportunities for granted. This is something I found in my thesis research. A belief in the basic tenets of feminism is almost goes without saying because they have never known anything different. As prominent third wave authors Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards (2000) proclaim,

“for our generation, feminism is like fluoride. We scarcely notice that we have it – it’s simply in the water”
(2000: 17)

The emergence of what has been called a new ‘wave’ was paralleled by the publication of several books in the 1990s, claiming to be the voice of the next feminist generation. Although I am cautious about assigning labels, some salient themes of the third wave are its embrace of ambiguity and contradiction; a concern with celebrating femininity; and a focus on difference and diversity.

It is within this context that ‘girl-power’ shows like Buffy materialised. In contrast with the 1960s representation of super-woman as homemaker, the 1990s female hero is empowered, independent and courageous. Buffy is an icon of a time when women have grown up feeling they can do anything. Today’s young women do not feel confined to the domestic sphere as women who grew up watching Bewitched may have.

As Susan Hopkins suggests in her book Girl Heroes,

“if the popular culture texts of previous decades taught girls to sacrifice their own interests for the good of husband and child, contemporary pop culture prepares girls for a future of action and independence”
(Hopkins, 2002: 176)

Buffy’s confidence and autonomy reflect the way today’s young women feel about themselves. Buffy portrays and promotes the ideal of the confident, empowered young woman, while at the same time exploring some of the darker aspects of postmodern life. Despite the opportunities available to today’s generation of young women, as Buffy highlights, there are still some patriarchal demons to slay.

The critique of patriarchy is a constant theme in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Buffy’s feminist credentials can be seen throughout the series. It is the final season of Buffy that is the most blatantly feminist because of its portrayal of collective action against an overtly misogynistic demon. Buffy rounds up an army of “Potential Slayers” from around the globe and the biggest evil they face takes the shape of a preacher named Caleb.

As Pender puts it, Caleb “is a monstrous but familiar representative of patriarchal oppression propounding a dangerous form of sexism under the cover of pastoral care” (2004: 168). This season indicates the strength of Buffy’s feminist convictions and highlights another element of the third wave – diversity. At the end of the final episode, we are shown a montage of clips from around the world as young women everywhere take up the power and fight back against their oppressors. In transferring Buffy’s power to “a heterogeneous group of women from different national, racial, and socio-economic backgrounds Buffy’s final season addresses…the issue of cultural diversity that has been at the forefront of third-wave feminist theorising” (Pender 2004: 170). The transmission of Buffy’s superpowers to young women around the globe underscores the third wave’s critique of second wave feminism as a predominantly white, middle-class endeavour. More significantly, it suggests feminist possibilities for the future.

In assembling a force made up of women from every corner of the earth, what the final season of Buffy hints at is the potential of a feminism that acknowledges and celebrates women’s differences, but does not preclude the possibility of a collective project. When Buffy defiantly declares, “Every girl who can stand up will stand up. Every girl who can fight will fight”, she conjures up the image of a universal battle against patriarchal injustices.


Baumgardner, Jennifer, & Richards, Amy. (2000). Manifesta: Young women, feminism and the future. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Hopkins, Susan. (2002). Girl Heroes: The New Force in Popular Culture. Sydney: Pluto Press Australia.

Johnson, Lesley, & Lloyd, Justine. (2004). Sentenced to Everyday Life: Feminism and the Housewife. Oxford & New York: Berg.

Miller, Jessica Prata. (2003). “The I in Team”: Buffy and Feminist Ethics. In James B. South (Ed.), Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Philosophy: Fear and Trembling in Sunnydale. Illinois: Open Court Publishing.

Pender, Patricia. (2002). “I’m Buffy and You’re…History”: The Postmodern Politics of Buffy. In Rhonda V. Wilcox & David Lavery (Eds.), Fighting the Forces: What’s at Stake in Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Lanham, Maryland: Rowan and Littlefield.

NOTE: I can’t remember where I found the images included in this post. If I’m breaking some kind of copyright, please let me know and I’ll rectify. Thanks.