Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Buffy the Vampire Slayer #13: Willow Don't Talk Like That

In a scene in Buffy The Vampire Slayer #13, Willow asks Satsu (the young woman who Buffy slept with last issue):

"What's she like in the sack?"

I'm sorry, Willow don't talk like that.

Willow is like Buffy's sister. Willow is Buffy's second-in-command. Willow would not refer to Buffy that way, in "locker room talk."

Has Xander ever asked this question of Angel or Spike? Has he ever asked, as Willow does, "Did she make that high-pitched squeal?"

I think it's just a question of the level of respect that Buffy & Willow have for each other.

Further, it's made explicit that when it's business for the Slayers, it's business. In the scene in question, they are flying to a battle in an airplane, army-style. Buffy is the commander. Willow is second-in-command. Satsu is a soldier. I would think it'd be bad form (not to mention distracting) to ask sexual questions about the commander on the way to a fight.

The "voice" of Willow in this scene just doesn't ring true. Now, that could be because she is really a Skrull. In which case -- brilliant!

Then there is the whole question of how Dracula has apparently become Stewie from Family Guy. I have no problem with Drac being (I'm assuming from the issue) bisexual. I have no problem with there being some sort of implied relationship (sexual or otherwise) with Xander. But, it's just played in a very broad, cartoonish way. It's almost played in that way where the very fact of Dracula being "gay" is the punchline.

It would have been far more interesting to see Xander in an actual, conflicted relationship with Dracula. To give equal time and show a male in a serious sexual relationship with another man in this TV/comic book series. But, it's like to water the idea down, the whole situation is played mostly for laughs.

I know there is a certain level of irreverence to Buffy The Vampire Slayer. But, I think in the TV show there was a better balance between the humor and the dramatic moments. Too much of this issue seemed like one big joke. I've read some Buffy "slash" fan-fiction that has played it a lot more true.


  1. I disagree up, down, & sideways! First, I think you are reading "locker room" voice where I hear Willow's "excited dork" voice. Maybe I'm coloured by "How I Met Your Mother," as this is totally something her character on that show would say too, but I certainly see Willow gossiping about sexual activities (see her whole Oz relationship). As for "all business," the Whedonverse mantra is to punctuate the balloon of "seriousness" with the pin of humor. So that, I totally see on point.

    Also, I didn't see Dracula as being "gay" either. Foppish, childlike aristocrat, maybe. Yeah, Xander is being fawning, & there IS sort of a "Xander is sure acting pretty GAY HERE!!!" undertone to that, but I read the joke more in the submissiveness. Though I don't disagree so much with this point, or much at all.

    Weird: I was watching some "Battlestar Galactica: Phenomenon" OnDemand last night (nothing recorded on the DVR to see!) with Joss Whedon & I started off on some rant about how I like Joss Whedon but he gets way too much of a "free pass" in feminism for inventing Buffy.

  2. Willow acting out-of-character? Another reason why it's good to believe that the show ran for only five seasons.

  3. Me and my friend were talking about Willow's inappropriate conversations with Satsu, and it really read a bit creepy. I guess they were going for the whole Willow is jealous because Buffy didn't want to experiment with her, but it really came off wrong...

  4. Willow's voice didn't ring true, you're right. Maybe she was just trying to get Satsu focused...yeah, that's the ticket...

    I actually liked the Dracula scenes. I don't think its so much that Dracula's gay or bi, more that he for some reason bonded with Xander when he was his manservant - and he's never had a manservant with independence before. He just likes his company.

    But yes, he is kind of Stewie like...

  5. I disagree up, down, & sideways! First, I think you are reading "locker room" voice where I hear Willow's "excited dork" voice

    I concur with mordicai.

  6. I gotta go with Mordicai on this one, I've never seen "How I met Your Mother" but I definitely heard more of a classic Willow the dork voice, maybe not high energy/nervous enough but def in the right vain.

  7. "Maybe I'm coloured by "How I Met Your Mother," as this is totally something her character on that show would say too, "

    I was discussing this with someone, and he made that point too. It wouldn't seem out-of-character for Alyson Hannigan to deliver that line.

    I guess where I have a problem is that I really saw the Willow and Buffy relationship in non-sexual terms, like sisters. For Willow to take such a salacious view of things kind of ruins that for me.

    I see what you're saying about the Xander/Drac thing. I just wonder why this relationship is played for laughs but the lesbian relationships on the show/comic are portrayed far more seriously. And I think the gender of the participants is the key. Male homosexuality in comics/TV is still seen as more taboo, and the humor might be used as a way to take the "edge" off.

    Was it implied at some point that one of the "Nerds of Doom" might be gay/bisexual? Or more than implied?

  8. Re the Nerds of Doom - there was a running joke about Andrew worshipping Warren in season 6, then transferring that to Xander and Spike in season 7 - but none of them were outright stated to be gay.

    Warren's entire character revolved around his women issues (to put it mildly); Jonathan was more about self-worth than anything else - and in his fantasy world was shacked up with twin playboy models - and Andrew was pretty much implied as being gay but they never actually came out and said so for some reason.

    There was a scene in Angel where he and Spike found Andrew heading out on the town with a couple of beautiful fawning women but I kind of thought that was a joke. I just assumed Andrew was gay.

  9. Evil Willow would totally ask that question – vampire or black-eyed versions. From what I’ve read from the eighth season so far, Willow’s been more like she’s been from early sixth season than any other point, which puts in her in a headspace where she’ll ask the questionable questions. Not maintaining discipline while on the job may be out of character for season eight, but with seven seasons of inappropriate asides during missions, it doesn’t immediately ring alarms for me.

    Can’t comment on the homoerotism between Xander and Drac other that to note that whatever happened should be in be taken with the context of Drac’s appearance in – what was it, season 5?

    Andrew’s two women were presumably Slayers that were working the Buffy’s stand-in in Italy story bit, which still doesn’t tell us about what he likes.

  10. Glad to know I am not the only one that thought Willows' comments were creepy and out of character.

  11. I am coming around to your way of thinking about Drac/Xander. I want to keep counter-pointing though. There is a strong element in a lot of comedy, & Whedonverse in particular, based on misplaced sexual tension. Putting Xander into that role is kind of par for the course, whether it be with a teacher, or a demon, or a praying mantis, or a mummy...

    I'm not totally convinced the joke is "lolz teh gayz" here.

    "I was discussing this with someone, and he made that point too. It wouldn't seem out-of-character for Alyson Hannigan to deliver that line."

    Yeah, I admit that there is some "colouring" of my view there, blurring of the Willow/Lilly/Hannigan/even a little American Pie possibly going on. It has been a while since I watched most of Buffy, so all I can argue with is my impression, instead of examples.

    Re: "The Trio." There was some PRETTY HEAVY hints dropped about Andrew...hints that were later "invalidated" by his appearances on Angel. Which I have to admit, I felt pretty cheated by.

  12. Reason #456 I'll not ever buy this comic, despise the gorgeous covers, and my love for the series.

    I've always hated Willow-as-a-lesbian because no matter how much people insist it was a natural progression for her character, it was not. The one who was given all the 'maybe he's gay' lines, storylines and subtext was Xander, right up until season 4, when someone decided that lesbians sell better than gay men, and gay men are good for laugther.

    And now they add Dracula to the mix again? After the hideous Tales of the Slayer where they imply that Xander spent close to a year as Dracula's servant without any of the Slayers even caring?


    But then, Xander was always my favorite character in the series because he was the only one I could read as 'human' and not as 'huge chosen one for something or other' as everyone else and their dog, so yes, that colors my opinions.

  13. I have to go with Mordicai as well - Willow was always the wallflower-y shy girl who, once she found out how awesome making out and stuff is, couldn't stop talking about it. She's always gossiped about relationships, and throughout the show (which I'm handily rewatching at the moment) uses it to break tension and be there for people. She's trying to be there for Satsu in pretty much the only way she can be.

    As for the Xander Dracula stuff, I think it's more that, as somebody said, Dracula sees Xander as a friend. Harris has been complaining lately about not having any guys aroudn to talk to, and Dracula's in kind of the same boat - everybody around him is either a servant or food, and Xander is the one person he knows that is still himself despite the whole thrall thing.

  14. I'll tell you what didn't ring true for me: one of the (presumedly) rookie Slayers making a "Love At First Bite" joke. I'm *grumblegrumble* years old, and there's people my age who haven't heard of that movie.

  15. Anonymous12:25 PM

    I agree with Adalisa on pretty much all accounts.

    Except there was that "I think I'm kind of gay" line in season 3, and Angel's half-spoken acknowledgement that vamps do share some of the human personality traits. So, there was a tiny bit of set-up for Willow.

    I gather that Joss Whedon's original plan was to do with Willow what he's doing with Buffy right now. Fun experimentation. (Probably has something to do with what Steven Moffat calls one of the four pillars of the male heterosexual psyche.) And then when people latched onto it, he couldn't go back.

    But there was certainly the potential for Xander to come out of the closet.

    I also identified with Xander because I share that kind of anger and insecurity. And that his humour is often a defence mechanism, which means sometimes while intending to be funny, it can come from a very poisionous place.

    He was the most human Buffy character. When they weren't just having him say something dumb just for laughs. I also thought there was a distinct between character-driven dumb and cheap-laugh dumb with Xander.


  16. Anonymous12:44 PM

    On second thought, "all counts" would be a little strong. I actually didn't mind Willow as a lesbian, even if it did violate established character traits. But I do think Willow/Tara was a lot safer to sell than say ... Jack/Ianto. The gay men in the Buffyverse do tend to be background tokens (Larry) or jokes (Andrew).

    And I am buying the comic, but I'm reconsidering that. Oddly, it's the Whedon-penned issues I'm most disappointed by. I think his sense on how to pace a TV show is much better than his sense of comic book pacing.


    P.S.: And Willow's dialogue doesn't sound that out of character to me. As others have said, it's dorky and tension-breaking Willow.

  17. Anonymous1:03 PM

    I find that most pop culture references in Buffy are more reflective of the writers' generation than the characters' generation.

    But I suppose if you slay vampires (well, until normal vampires became to blase for slayers) for a living, you'll have seen all the vampire movies.


  18. "Evil Willow would totally ask that question – vampire or black-eyed versions. From what I’ve read from the eighth season so far, Willow’s been more like she’s been from early sixth season than any other point, which puts in her in a headspace where she’ll ask the questionable questions."

    see, that's the only way Willow's comments would make sense to me. Also, when she was telling Satsu "don't get your hopes up." This is the sort of thing you tell a vulnerable (I mean, she is a slayer, but...) young woman right before she's about to put her life on the line? Like that's not going to crush her or shake her confidence?

    I don't buy that a Willow in her right mind would do any of those things.

  19. Honestly, Dracula was sort of a cartoony caricature - but then again, that's exactly how I felt about the episode of the show he was featured in and that's one reason I hate that episode so much. So I guess there's some consistency if nothing else.

    I guess the Xander/Dracula thing is cute, but I'm not crazy about it. It takes a story from "Tales of the Vampires" that really wasn't much more than a throwaway and tries to fit it into canon, and it does so awkwardly in my opinion.

    And I'm not "anti-gay," but I'm sort of opposed to Xander having a sexual relationship with him, too. If that were the case, it would feel a bit contrived; we've got Willow and I can imagine Buffy experimenting a bit, but I think it would be weak, narratively, if all three of the main characters were gay and/or bi, especially if two of the reveals came so close together.


  20. I thought the comment fit Willow just fine. Part of Willow's evolution as a character is that she became stronger with a more defined sense of self, and that led to the occasional bits of dirty sex talk in there (i.e. I recall a comment about a tongue ring somewhere in season 7). Anywho, Willow does talk like that, and Willow would and has talked that way about Buffy and her teammates while not evil. This is a nitpick and a bad critique. Don't like the comic? Fine. But this is way off base.

  21. "Part of Willow's evolution as a character is that she became stronger with a more defined sense of self"

    you think asking your best friend's lover if she's "good in the sack?" is more evolved?

    And doing it on the eve of battle is smart? Is that what Willow is thinking about when these girls are about to risk their lives? Sex? That's how mature she's gotten?

    It might be fine as a self-contained comic, and can even be enjoyable to read. But as a continuation of the TV series -- as a representation of the evolution of these characters -- it falls flat.

    Again -- unless this is illustrating, like in Season Six -- a break-down in maturity of these characters.

    And Xander knows there is a little boy lost in the hedge-maze that Dracula plans to attack -- and yet he is just sipping tea with him? There is no urgency to find out what is to become of this boy?

    And Buffy sleeps with one of the girls she is in charge of?

    All bad decisions, all immature.

  22. aboynamedart: those people probably don't kill vampires by vocation...

  23. Mordicai and puckrobin's point about Slayers "film school" is well-noted, but ... put it this way: if the Slayer in question had been established as being a film buff, or even a geek like Andrew and Xander, the joke would've hit the mark. As it was, it just stuck out for me.

    But we digress ...

  24. I seriously thought this was Valerie doing her own gag version of the Dr. Doom complaints, but I guess it's for real. It can totally be read both ways.

  25. The whole 'Xander is friends with a guy whose currently torturing and murdering kids' part is what bothered me... And yes, he dated Anya, but there's a big difference between someone whose an ex-demon and someone whose currently a demon who viciously hunts children down in his garden. Ugh...

    The Willow part didn't suprise me at least. Post-Tara she's been pretty tacky and skanky. There's a difference between being sexually liberated and just plain skanky jerk ya know?

  26. "And Xander knows there is a little boy lost in the hedge-maze that Dracula plans to attack -- and yet he is just sipping tea with him? There is no urgency to find out what is to become of this boy?"

    This is what i really couldn't accept in this story. Xander is buddy-buddy with a murderer? So, when Xander spent a year with Drac, would he just play Xbox while Drac killed little kids?

  27. haha i can totally hear willow delivering that line in an amused, semi-ironic way.

  28. Then again, the TV show had Andrew, and if that wasn't textbook gay-for-laughs...

  29. I totally agree with your last comment, Valerie. I was just discussing the topic with my girlfriend, and we ran through the list of Buffy's relationships. I don't remember her ever asking that of Angel, or Spike, or Riley? It sounded like something Anya would have asked, because she had no social graces.

    And, I don't really buy the sudden "gayness" of either Xander or Buffy. Buffy had her opportunities in the past to have experimented, if she had wanted to. When she ran away, when she was in college, etc. For someone who is so responsible, and who takes her position so seriously, don't you think if she was going to experiment, she would have chosen someone other than someone in her care, in her command?

    And Xander...well, I just don't see it. I do agree there is a relationship between Drac and the X-Man, but it just doesn't seem a natural progression to his character. With Willow, I bought into it, not at the beginning, but as they started to show her relationship with Amber...that seemed natural. They seemed like a couple that, if you were to meet in person, you'd go "why don't I have a relationship like that?" I don't read that into the Drac-Xander exchanges.

    Just my two cents. Btw: Andrew was totally gay. So what? He also got Rupert to play D&D. And his "Robin" to Spike's "Batman" still makes me laugh.

  30. It's exactly the opposite for me, Mr. Entertainment. Or at least, it was in the series. Willow had two lines refering to her possible bisexuality before meeting Tara, one by her and one by Angel. Not to mention that her relationship with Tara seemed, to me, pretty much a "All guys suck" rebound after what happened to Oz, but I digress.
    OTOH, Xander's first words about Angel were "He's buff, why didn't you mention he was buff?", and from then on, he had a lot of lines regarding how attractive other male cast members were, even after starting dating Cordy and Anya. So it felt to me like a let down that he was never explored like that (And like that, I mean in terms of bisexuality. I have no doubts that his feelings for Cordy and Anya were quite real)

  31. And, see, adalisa, I never saw Xander's comments that way. I was always under the impression that Xander, despite whomever he was dating, would rather be dating Buffy. And whenever a new guy came into the picture, it was always a comparison comment. For example, the comment you used, I didn't see that as being played as:
    ::Xander licks his lips::
    "He's buff. Why didn't you mention he's buff?"

    I saw it more as:

    ::Xander attempts to hide jealousy::
    "He's buff. Why didn't you mention he's buff?"

    But, I'll have to go pull the mid seasons off of the shelf again. I remember thinking, as you mention, that it was an "All guys suck" rebound, too, at first. I can't pinpoint the point where they won me over on that relationship.

  32. Oddly, I never bought Willow as straight up gay. Her relationship with Xander, Oz... I mean, I understand the concept of her not being really in touch with her sexuality, but (especially with Oz) she seemed to be genuinely attracted to guys. And that's what made the whole episode where Oz came back so heartbreaking because a part of her still kinda loved him, even though she loved Tara more.

    That's not to say I didn't like her and Tara, though. I LOVED her and Tara because it was done so maturely and subtly to begin with, showing that Tara brought out this power and trueness in Will (and vice-versa). Their relationship felt very real and loving. Still, after that, it was like there was this sudden characterization switch that happened where it was like "oh yeah, she's total queer. Like, girls get her all hot and stuff. Look at her size up them chicks," etc, which I felt was a goofy, awkward retcon for the sake being progressive.

    So yeah, gay I never bought. Bi I would buy. Her talking like that... I dunno, maybe it wasn't a jump her bones moment. I kinda took it as a wanting to know a wacky, intimate thing about a friend without having to go "Hey Buff, what's your O face look like?"

    Mature? Nope. Appropriate? Nah. In total defiance of what she had just given Satsu a lecture on? Pretty much. But these kids are still like mid-20s at the oldest. They're goofballs, imperfect, and hypocritical, which I honestly... kinda like. Plus It's the Wedonverse, so a degree of goofy surrealism is expected.

    The Xander/Drac thing? Feels a little wonky, but I'm willing to run with it if they give more backstory about Xander spending a year with him. I've liked the storylie so far, so I'm willing to cut it some slack to see how it shakes out.

  33. Gray: >Look at her size up them chicks," etc, which I felt was a goofy, awkward retcon for the sake being progressive.<

    But was it progressive? It always struck me as the old idea that homosexuality is something people "catch" like a virus; that people "turn gay" and are suddenly different people. That's retrograde.

    That Willow and Tara loved each other was convincing. That Willow, after meeting Tara, suddenly though boys were icky, felt like a lie.

  34. I'd have to say that the reason that Xander doesn't focus on Drac's hunting a child is that he's in thrall! It takes a specific act of will to do _anything_ other than to follow Drac's will. Since he has to find something out, he's not focusing on something that he could not change, and he's doing the best that he can to get the overall mission done. After that's taken care of, perhaps they can save a child.

  35. Anonymous9:22 PM

    I think it's just a question of the level of respect that Buffy & Willow have for each other.

    - Sorry, ancient post, but i have only recently read that issue.

    I don't really understand what you're saying re: "level of respect", but i think i find that attitude a wee bit offensive; their conversation was not much different than conversations i've had with friends. I don't think it's disrespectful to talk about sex, or to talk about ones friends sex lives... with all of my close friends, such a conversation would be "humorous", at the very worst.