Sunday, 5 February 2012

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: I Only Have Eyes for You

“Whose idea was that?”

“Obviously some hairy-legged feminist…”

Wow. This is an extraordinary episode. There’s so much going on, both thematically and relating to the characters, and it’s very scary indeed. This is our first episode dealing with the paranormal- in this case a poltergeist- and we get to see all sorts of tropes of scariness that remind us of films like The Exorcist, The Omen and, er, Poltergeist.

Again, one of the main themes is the possessiveness which men feel over women, and its horrible consequences. Sadly, and I say this as someone who is burdened with a “y” chromosome, it does rather tend to be men who kill women because of sexual jealousy instead of the other way around. Perhaps this has a lot to do with the patriarchal assumptions within our culture- the man is the “head” of the family, a wife takes her husband’s surname- it’s easy how this sort of thing can cause some men to feel almost a sense of ownership over their partners, which can have terrible consequences when they find themselves rejected.

And yet… another theme of this episode is forgiveness. Buffy- the very person whose forgiveness the ghost wants and needs- is not very forgiving indeed. She doesn’t advocate capital punishment, thankfully, but she espouses some very unpleasant and tabloidy opinions on crime and punishment. There’s an interesting contrast with Giles, here: he has far more reason to be angry and punitive, given the way in which he’s recently lost the woman he loves (and we see this in the way he needs to believe that the poltergeist is Jenny), but he isn’t. And what he says to Buffy is right- forgiveness is the answer. James is just a kid- he’s not the embodiment of patriarchy or misogyny, but in some ways a victim of it too.

All this is echoed variously in a lot of character stuff that’s going on, too. Obviously, there’s Giles’ continuing reaction to Jenny’s death, but there’s also Buffy, who finally forgives James. Perhaps now she can start to forgive herself and realise that Angel’s actions are not her fault. It’s fascinating that the re-enactment of the murder, between her and Angel, happens with the genders reversed. Suddenly, forgiveness and understanding are possible.

There’s also a lot of sexual jealousy with the Angel / Dru / Spike triangle. Spike is pretty much being openly cuckolded and mocked by this point, and there’s another gender reversal as Drusilla addresses him as “pet”. And suddenly we find out that he doesn’t need that wheelchair. There’s a season finale on the way; I foresee conflict.

Oh, and Snyder is very, very interesting here. We haven’t seen him for a while, but his semi-comic desire to persecute Buffy seems to have intensified. There’s another scene in which he discusses a cover-up of an obviously supernatural event, but this time he utters the blatant line “We’re on a Hellmouth.” This made my jaw hit the floor on my first viewing; there is a conspiracy, and Snyder is in on it. And we get our first mention of the Mayor, clearly a figure to inspire fear…

Oh, and apparently, according to my good friend Google, the Sadie Hawkins Dance is an American High School Tradition, not just something invented for the episode. I never knew that. There seem to be an awful lot of formal dances in American high schools!

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