I always enjoy Ampersand's link threads, but when I see the word 'Buffy' I start making squeals of geeker joy (that's supposed to be a quote from Ted, but it may not be accurate). So I was really interested in Emma's Raping the Slayer, which analyses the portrayal of sexual violence on Buffy. The only thing more fun than watching Buffy is talking about your feminist analysis of Buffy (one day I might write a very long post about my theory on the portrayal of teenage girl's sexuality on Buffy, but you're spared that - for now). I disagreed with some of the smaller points she was making, for instance, I may being over-defensive on behalf of my secret-TV-Boyfriend, but I just don't think this is true:
Joss has always been clear that he resents some feminist analyses of it, and what he sees as an imposition of subtext.
But generally I really liked her analysis, particularly when it came to Spike's attempted rape of Buffy in Seeing Red, and the complete lack of follow-up in season 7. There were two things that most disturbed me about that plot-line, the first was that it was All About Spike. They wrote a rape plot that was all about the rapist and his quest for redemption, to the extent that the attempted rape had almost no affect on Buffy, and certainly none that was important to the plot.
The other was that getting a soul is a plot there is no real world equivalent for. This meant they could weasel out of the real world implications of what they were saying. While they were basically telling the story of a rapist who went away and came back a better person who could earn trust.
I like to believe that people can change, I'm not going to reject the possibility that once you've tried to rape someone there's no chance of you becoming a person who values women's autonomy. I wouldn't necessarily reject a fictional story that tried to talk about that possibility. But no-one who ever tried to rape a friend of mine could be anything but a rapist to me. If Spike had wandered off somewhere else entirely and played out his story of redemption there (preferably somewhere that wasn't on my TV screen), then maybe I could have stomached it. But the idea that you can achieve redemption and forgiveness from the person you tried to rape, is not a story I have any interest in.
That isn't actually what I wanted to talk about. On the comments of Emma's post someone brought up a planned Firefly episode, that I'd wanted to talk about for a while. The original source is here:
[Tim Minear, asked about eps of Firefly they didn’t get to make] hemmed and hawed and said, “Should I tell you this?… Oh well, what’s he going to do, fire me?” The original show was darker and this story was more in keeping with that tone.I'd never heard of a plot like that before, so I didn't have a feminist analysis at first, just a general feeling of disgust.
It opens with Mal and Inara fighting (as they do). Mal tells her she pretends to be a lady and wants everyone to bow before her and kiss her hand but she’s just a whore. Then the Reavers attack and take Inara. While trying to get her back they learn that she had something that would make anyone who had sex with her die.
When they finally track down and board the ship they find all of the Reavers dead and Inara shaking and traumatized. They take her back to the ship and Zoe guards her room. Mal tries to get in to see her and Zoe tells him he’s the last person Inara needs to see. He pushes past her, kneels before Inara and kisses her hand.
My most immediate feeling of repulsion was definately at the execution of the idea. I have written about the Mal/Inara relationship before, and I'm not a fan, this just underscored all the reasons why. The most basic reason was that he did not respect the work that she did, and that seemed to me a really shitty basis for a relationship. This plotline seems to be about her earning his respect for what she does by using it to do something that he does respect (fighting). That she has to be violated and traumatised to earn his respect is so gross and repulsive, that I imagine I would never be able to watch the show again after seeing that episode. The fact that he ignores her wishes, underscores how little he actually cares about her.
But what I do find interesting is the wider question. What do other feminist think of a piece of flabotinum that means women can kill their rapists through having sex? It's not something I'd ever come accross before (although for all I know it could be a common idea in some genre I'm unfamiliar with). One of the things it reminded me of was the rape condom - but as a fictional device I think it needs to be analysed completely differently. I was particularly uncomfortable that this idea came from two men. When men write about rape, I always wonder why. What are they getting from it? What are they trying to say? But I'm not convinced that a woman could write a feminist story about it either. Because ultimately it's about suffering oppression in order to get revenge.
Also posted on Alas