Without a doubt, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is probably one of the most feminist shows there is. Shit, women’s studies departments even have small conferences on the show! There were fully developed, strong female protagonists; a main character was a lesbian; and the messages were undoubtedly about gender equality. I frigging miss Buffy.
Do you agree with this? Why or why not?
I don't think that I do agree with it. Yes, I'm still on Season 2, but a major issue I have is with the pervading "Nice Guyism" that I see throughout the show. There seems to be a very strong emphasis on men -- particularly Xander, but Giles and Angel are guilty of this too -- policing Buffy's choices, particularly her romantic choices. Despite Buffy's choices being questioned and probed in almost every episode so far, I've yet to see anyone called out for this behavior, nor have I seen Buffy effectively resist this intrusion. I'm also led to believe that the intrusion is considered beneficial by the writers, given that it frequently ends up saving Buffy's life (as when Xander follows her to the frat party, and ends up helping to save her). I just don't see any of this adding up to being a message about gender equality.
I'm also frustrated by the lack of people of color and people with physical disabilities and fat people on the show. When we did have a person of color -- Kendra the Slayer -- she was portrayed as backward and impoverished, stating that a torn shirt was her "only shirt" and unable to speak to Xander without stammering because she had been so deeply segregated from boys. Hell, the job fell to Buffy to "teach" the poor Jamaican girl that she does in fact have emotions. (Thank god there was a white woman around, amiright?) It's hard for me to reconcile 'most feminist thing ever' with major issues of race and the invisibiling of people with physical disabilities and fat.
Of course, one response is that "most feminist show" doesn't necessary imply potential so much as actual. Perhaps by whatever metric you reach for, Buffy is the best thing we've had so far. I don't watch a lot of television, so I can't really offer anything in rebuttal to that -- was Xena: Warrior Princess more or less essentially feminist than Buffy? And then we have to ask: by what measures? And how? A search for "feminist tv shows" nets such responses as Sex in the City (character Miranda identifies as a feminist), Saved by the Bell (ditto re: character Jessie), Big Bang Theory (LOLWHUT), and Game of Thrones (Because Arya). None of those shows, to my recollection, had a deeply diverse cast of people of color, people with disabilities, and/or fat people. So there's that.
What do you think defines "feminist television"?
What are some examples of television you consider to be positively feminist, and why?
Where do those same shows fall down and how would you like to see them improved?