Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Reptile Boy

“Some guy’s attacking Buffy with a sword. Also, there’s a really big snake.”

Back to Buffy after my Christmas break, and the sheer Nineties-ness of the whole thing hits me immediately. It’s not the most fashionable of decades at the moment, is it? It’s old enough to be dated but not old enough to gain any of that retro cool. One day, perhaps, there will be Nineties-themes parties where we all wear faded jeans, lumberjack shirts and terrible hair. That day, alas, is yet to come.

Meanwhile, in the actual episode, we have one of the more obvious metaphors as a fraternity club is pretty much directly equivocated with those nasty, cowled, virgin-sacrificing cults that the horror genre seems to love so much. This leads to much subtext in which points are made regarding gender, age, social class and (in a rather puritanical way) alcohol.

…All of which leads to an abiding theme of these reviews, namely that I, a foreigner, know nothing about the many rituals of school and college life aside from what I’ve gleaned from popular culture. It’s all quite exotic to me. So, these fraternity things… they seem quite elitist, laddish and, well, uncool to me. Are they really such an elite thing as this episode seems to be saying? We seem to be literally told that they’re a disturbing cult and, while they may not literally sacrifice girls to an unconvincing-looking snake man, this is an obvious metaphor for their laddish abuse of women. God, I hate lad culture. I hate it almost as much as I love being old enough to ignore it and not care what anyone thinks. I’m a man, not a lad.

Er, anyway, ranting aside, there’s also an obvious class subtext here. First it pops up humorously, in pretty much all of the interactions between Cordelia and Buffy, but the way the frat boys abuse Xander, the most unambiguously working-class character, is downright sinister, and almost enough to drive one to Marxism. All the same, though, is this damning view of frat boy culture widely held in the US? There are times here where the imagery and subtext seem to border on conspiracy theory.

Oh, and isn’t there an excessively and disturbingly puritanical subtext to alcohol here? Buffy only symbolically “falls” once she drinks a cocktail (although, yes, there’s also a simultaneous rohypnol analogy here), and all the characters (who are sixteen or seventeen) speak of it as something utterly taboo. When I was sixteen my parents would let me have some wine or beer with a meal quite often, although admittedly this had a lot to do with my Dad’s ultimately successful campaign to impart his taste in beer unto the next generation. Oh, and there was also the underage drinking, but let’s gloss over that, shall we?

In other news, I completely adore the opening, as Buffy, Willow and Xander comment on a Bollywood musical. They should force them all to record a DVD commentary for every Bollywood film ever made. The campaign starts here. Also, Willow’s lecture to Giles and Angel on their treatment of Buffy (and her reaction afterwards!) is the best thing ever. I love Alyson Hannigan.

Jonathan gets an appearance, too. And this time he has a name!

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