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Amanda Marcotte recently wrote this very interesting piece discussing today's "prestige television" and its exploration of masculine themes. Marcotte concluded TV producers have not been able to "stray away from the magic formula of building a show around a powerful man grappling with the limits of traditional masculinity."

Gasp I almost can't believe she said this. How can you possibly talk about the television revolution and not include Joss Whedon?! And once you include Joss Whedon, you couldn't possibly make such a claim (not to mention Veronica Mars, Gilmore Girls and The Sarah Connor Chronicles - ht Nate).

I would argue Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the watershed moment that marks the beginning of "prestige television." It was one of the first shows of "prestige television" quality and it was also one of the first shows that simultaneously pursued episodic and season-long storylines. It used to be that TV shows were short and movies were long; now, movies are short compared to television shows that pursue storylines that run for an entire season or, indeed, multiple seasons. Many will roll their eyes at the comparison (and you're an elitist snob, by the way), but I would argue it is a breakthrough on par with Dickens and Dostoyevsky publishing serialized novels in newspapers.

Perhaps Whedon is absent from Marcotte's analysis because he clearly undercuts her thesis - Whedon, of course, is known for his strong female characters and Buffy was a conscious subversion of female stereotypes. Moreover, Whedon's shows - Buffy, but also Firefly - explored feminist issues in important and subtle ways. And the subtly and nuance comes from the fact that Whedon hasn't created a single female character or just one type of strength, Whedon has created numerous memorable female characters (Buffy, Faith, Willow, Cordelia, Anya, Kaylee, Zoe, River, Inara) and through them he explores the nuances of the questions confronting third-wave feminists (from the nature of strength to the role of sexuality to the respectability of prostitution).

Much has been made - rightly - of the feminist themes in Whedon's work. I've twice set out to write about these themes in response to Marcotte's piece. And don't get me wrong, I love the fact that Whedon's shows represent so many different types of female strength, but Buffy and Firefly aren't just feminist shows. Whedon's shows - like the great films of my generation - are a comment on the times and speak to my generation's struggle to find meaning in an end-of-history context. And by "end of history," I simply mean an era where there is no significant resistance to the prevailing authority.

The rap on my generation, Generation X, is that we're cynical and apathetic (we're the Slacker generation). And the hipsters of subsequent generations have, if anything, taken these tendencies a step further. On the face of it, these generations' highest aspiration appears to be mockery avoidance. But this apathy and cynicism should be seen against the backdrop of the unchallenged hegemony of corporatist, consumer culture. As Francis Fukuyama concluded when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, we had reached the "end of history." For better or worse, this was it. Shopping malls for everyone!

David Graeber - astutely, I believe - interpreted Buffy the Vampire Slayer in this end-of-history context:

Today's rebellious youth . . . are reduced to struggling desperately to keep hell from entirely engulfing the earth. Such, I suppose, is the fate of a generation that has been robbed of its fundamental right to dream of a better world. The very notion of being able to take part in a relatively democratically organized group of comrades, engaged in a struggle to save humanity from its authoritarian monsters, is now itself a wild utopian fantasy--not just a means to one.

And if this was the subtext of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in Firefly the subtext became text.

The Firefly characters, like ourselves, live in an end-of-history era - that is to say an era where there is no viable challenge to the existing authority. The former resistance fighters, known as browncoats, are just trying to eke out an existence on the frontier of the solar system, out of the reach of Alliance control. Thus, the theme song - which Joss Whedon says he wrote before he wrote a single episode of the show - is an anthem of defiance by the defeated:

Take my love, take my land
Take me where I cannot stand
I don't care, I'm still free
You can't take the sky from me
Take me out to the black
Tell them I ain't comin' back
Burn the land and boil the sea
You can't take the sky from me
There's no place I can be
Since I found Serenity
But you can't take the sky from me...

The series opens with an idealistic, religious Malcolm Reynolds (Mal) and his comrades-in-arms, including Zoe, fighting an impossible battle against the Alliance and almost prevailing. When the resistance lays down arms, Mal is profoundly disillusioned. Cut to six years later and Mal is no longer a believer - in God or anything else. As David Graeber noted with respect to Buffy, in this context (an end-of-history era), finding a group of comrades and getting far enough from the reach of authority to be free becomes an end in itself:

Mal: Let me show you the rest [of the ship]. And try to see past what she is and onto what she can be.

Zoë Washburne: What's that, sir?

Mal: Freedom is what.

Zoë Washburne: I meant, what's that?

Mal: Oh, yeah, just step around that. I think something must have been living in here. I tell ya, Zoe, we find ourselves a mechanic, get her running again. Hire a good pilot. Maybe even a cook. Live like real people. Small crew, them as feel the need to be free. Take jobs as they come — and we’ll never be under the heel of  nobody ever again. No matter how long the arm of the Alliance might get, we’ll  just get ourselves a little further.

~ Out of Gas

They harbor no hope of toppling the Alliance and living in a free society; they're just trying to preserve their personal freedom. It's no longer about winning, it's about not personally succumbing:

Simon: I'm trying to put this as delicately as I can...how do I know you won't kill me in my sleep?

Mal: You don't know me, son, so let me put this to you plainly: If I ever kill you, you'll be awake. You'll be facing me. And you'll be armed.

Simon: Are you always this sentimental?

Mal: I had a good day.

Simon: You had the Alliance on you, criminals and savages... half the people on the ship have been shot or wounded including yourself, and you're harboring known fugitives.

Mal: We're still flying.

Simon: That's not much.

Mal: It's enough.

~ Serenity

Mal, once an idealist, is now an unflinching realist; indeed, Mal and the crew of Serenity live on the edge of "the black." And the question Firefly asks is whether there can be meaning and hope in such a world? In Firefly, as in Buffy, the answer is yes. And that hope is not divine or revolutionary - it's a hope grounded in the power of a chosen family:

Saffron: You're quite a man, Malcolm Reynolds. I've waited a long while for someone good enough to take me down.

Mal: Saffron... you even think about playing me again I will riddle you with holes.

Saffron: Everybody plays each other. That's all anybody ever does. We play parts.

Mal: You got all kinds a' learnin' and you made me look the fool without trying,
yet here I am with a gun to your head. That's 'cause I got people with me, people who trust each other, who do for each other and ain't always looking for the advantage. There's good people in the 'verse. Not many, lord knows, but you only need a few.

~ Our Mrs. Reynolds

I don't think it's an accident that in the above-quoted passage, Mal explicitly rejects the capitalist view of human nature. To economists - the high priests of capitalism - human beings are assumed to be profit maximizers, who are "always looking for the advantage." Rejection of this, it turns out, is the glimmer of hope to be found on the edge of "the black" - there is no God, no hope of defeating the Alliance, but there are "good people in the 'verse. Not many, lord knows, but you only need a few."  

And to this glimmer of hope, Whedon adds a touch of solace - namely, Firefly affirms that even if there is no alternative - even if the resistance to authority has been defeated - that doesn't make the prevailing authority right:

Alliance Officer: For some the war will never be over. I notice your ship's called "Serenity." You were stationed on Hera at the end of the war; Battle of Serenity Valley took place there if I recall... Seems odd that you would name your ship after a battle you were on the wrong side of.

Mal: May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one.

~ Bushwhacked

Cross-posted at Plutocracy Files.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (31+ / 0-)

    Thousands of years ago the question was asked: 'Am I my brother's keeper?' That question has never yet been answered in a way that is satisfactory to civilized society. ~ Eugene V. Debbs

    by PlutocracyFiles on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 05:07:37 PM PDT

  •  If you are tracing back Arc (8+ / 0-)

    in prime time programing, you need to go back to Babylon 5 (1994). J Micheal Strazinsky's 5 year Arced SF epic (that also inspired DS9 to break out of static universe).

    Then again, b5 did not get the same level of critical attention and analysis as Buffy(1997).

    "All things are not equally true. It is time to face reality." -Al Gore

    by Geek of all trades on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 05:31:59 PM PDT

    •  Technically.... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SherwoodB, nomandates, SquirmyRooter

      You can go back further for prime time story arcs.

      The '80s prime time soap operas ("Dallas," "Dynasty," etc.) had season long story arcs.

      Before the advent of selling TV shows in DVD Box sets & the ability to download & stream episodes, networks & studios hated shows with story arcs because it usually meant a lower sale price for the show when it entered syndication.

      •  Well, if you count soap operas go back to radio+ (3+ / 0-)

        This is recognizably different from soap opera. For one, season-long storylines actually did wrap up at the end of the season - the opposite of the cliffhanger.

        Thousands of years ago the question was asked: 'Am I my brother's keeper?' That question has never yet been answered in a way that is satisfactory to civilized society. ~ Eugene V. Debbs

        by PlutocracyFiles on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 05:48:39 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  "Supernatural Soap Opera" (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          nomandates, SquirmyRooter

          Season 2 of "Buffy" ends on a cliffhanger with several issues unresolved, to be dealt with at the beginning of season 3.

          There are a lot of soap opera elements in "Buffy."

          From TV Tropes: "Supernatural Soap Opera"

          A continuing series focusing on the personal relationships between several characters, usually following the form of the traditional daytime Soap Opera or Prime Time Soap. The difference is that the characters live in a world in which supernatural events and beings are commonplace, and as such the characters may often come into contact with vampires, ghosts, witches, etc. In some cases, the show's characters are themselves supernatural beings.

          The original supernatural soap was ABC's daytime drama Dark Shadows, although the form was perhaps perfected by Joss Whedon's cult hit Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spinoff Angel.

      •  So did Hill Street Blues, which I think is (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        SoCalJayhawk

        contemporary, more or less, with the soaps.

        If my thought-dreams could be seen, they'd probably put my head in a guillotine

        by badger on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 08:26:14 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I just checked (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          annetteboardman, badger

          Dallas started in '78, Hill Street Blues in '81.  But while Dallas fit into the traditional soap opera mold (including having the wealthy Ewing clan and a less well off rival family), Hill Street was the first "police" show that featured continuing story lines and changes in characters' lives rather than purely episodic programs where (as far as the main characters are concerned) the state of things at the end of the show is the same as it was at the beginning (think Adam-12 or Dragnet, or even Ironside).

    •  I soften the statement to say + (5+ / 0-)

      "one of the first..."

      Thousands of years ago the question was asked: 'Am I my brother's keeper?' That question has never yet been answered in a way that is satisfactory to civilized society. ~ Eugene V. Debbs

      by PlutocracyFiles on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 05:49:24 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  "oh God, oh God, we're all going to die." (6+ / 0-)

    Gorshame, Marcotte. Forshame.

    She was only a whiskey maker, but he loved her still.

    by wretchedhive on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 05:36:01 PM PDT

  •  Babylon 5 (5+ / 0-)

    Not to take away from Joss Whedon, but TV programs with substantial, long storylines really started with Babylon 5, where JMS changed the rules of TV, not only pulling off a multi-year story line, but actually writing every single episode for the most critical season. Of course, outside the US, before that was Dr. Who, which never operated on quite the timeline of B5, but where 3-4 episode storylines were routine.

    I'm with you on the rest, of course.

    •  Yes, see above - (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      nomandates, SquirmyRooter

      I'll find a way to soften that. I'm still marking the officially beginning as BtVS - there were others before, but this, I think, deserves to be the beginning.

      Thousands of years ago the question was asked: 'Am I my brother's keeper?' That question has never yet been answered in a way that is satisfactory to civilized society. ~ Eugene V. Debbs

      by PlutocracyFiles on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 05:39:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  While I love Buffy (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SherwoodB, nomandates, SquirmyRooter

    and I agree somewhat with your main point, it was hardly the first show to pursue episodic and season-long story arcs.  Babylon 5 (1993+) did it, and I am willing to bet it won't take long for someone to push it back much further.  I do think it would be easier to identify sf shows that did it effectively, but there are many shows that have "arcs" and Buffy was not terribly groundbreaking in this aspect.

    •  What I intentionally said it was + (6+ / 0-)

      simultaneously epidodic and season-long. So, there was a monster-of-the-week and there was a longer arc. Also, unlike soap operas - which use a cliff hanger format - the season-long arc was resolved in the course of a season.

      I don't know Babylon 5 well enough to know if it had BOTH an episodic and season-long aspect that resolved at the end of the season - and thus, I soften the statement a little - but unless you change my definition, I don't think there will be a lot of others.

      Also, I said that I would place BtVS as the start of "prestige television" BOTH because of quality and because of a more novel-like format that allows for more in depth character development, detailed storylines, etc.

      Thousands of years ago the question was asked: 'Am I my brother's keeper?' That question has never yet been answered in a way that is satisfactory to civilized society. ~ Eugene V. Debbs

      by PlutocracyFiles on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 06:07:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  While I was posting this (0+ / 0-)

        I overlapped with a lot of people who brought up Babylon 5.  You might enjoy taking a look at it, as there are very strong female characters throughout, both human and alien, and I think you would be surprised at the depth of the arc (which is laid out in the opening credits of each season) and some of the individual stories.  There also was an overall arc, across five seasons.

        The more I think about your argument, I find I am disagreeing more and more.  I am uncomfortable with putting Buffy in the same category of "prestige" television that would be reserved (in my mind) to major networks (i.e. CBS, ABC, NBC, later FOX, and the less-watched PBS; recently the cable networks have moved into that, and things like Mad Men have proven to have a broader impact than might have been possible ten years ago).   Buffy was always on an "extra" network (the WB), so it was never central or that influential -- I think his subsequent work has probably been more influential because he was successful with Buffy and he used that as a springboard to get into more mainstream venues.  But Buffy was a successful genre show, and was impactful within that context but not in the mainstream.  

        •  Prestige television was a reference to Marcotte's+ (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          SquirmyRooter

          article. Almost none of the shows Marcotte mentions are network (Mad Men, Breaking Bad, etc.) So you might want to check out Marcotte's article as well as her follow-up post on her blog (which is where I think she actually calls it "prestige").

          However, I would absolutely, categorically reject the notion that genre cannot be prestige.

          Thousands of years ago the question was asked: 'Am I my brother's keeper?' That question has never yet been answered in a way that is satisfactory to civilized society. ~ Eugene V. Debbs

          by PlutocracyFiles on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 09:00:00 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I will look at the article (0+ / 0-)

            I am not in any way saying that genre cannot be prestige, just arguing that Buffy was not particularly influential (sadly) and that was because it was on a peripheral network that had very limited spread (we couldn't get it where I live, for example, even on cable -- in contrast, we have always had AMC since its inception, back when it actually showed classic movies!).  

            I would say that Star Trek, for example, was influential for when it was,  And that is certainly a genre show.  But I am afraid I skipped over the idea of prestige being her term, not yours.  My apologies.  

  •  I've always been a big Whedon fan . . . (11+ / 0-)

    . . . and used to have to deal with headshakes and eyerolls whenever I'd tell someone who hadn't seen the show that I thought Buffy was the best written show on television at the time.  I've always thought Whedon's dialogue was great, and of course there are the classic episodes like "The Body" and "Hush."

    But for me I think I only realized how well Whedon could play with story structure when he pulled off "Once More With Feeling.". Not just because of the musical numbers or the deliberate callbacks to '50's cinema musicals, but because if you think about the storyline of that season enough different plot threads had been introduced that wrapping them all up without feeling rushed would have taken episodes to work out.

    But whereas in muscials the songs seem to mostly take place outside of the story itself - such that other characters don't seem to notice when another is singing exposition, in the Buffyverse the singing takes place in everyone's presence.  The episode just brings together all the separate storylines into one junction and then allows the effect of everyone suddenly being made aware of what is happening with the others to plat out.  Far from being a simple gimmick, this episode allowed the season's myriad plots to be compressed without that compression feeling like a cheat.

    Of course, I'm also a Serenity fan (own the DVD collection) and was monstrously disappointed when Fox canceled it.

    You don't mention Dollhouse; I've seen people complain about that series because they seem to think Dushku was intended to be merely a pretty sexbot who tended to get hit a lot. (There is a site called "The Mary Sue" that explores pop culture from a decidely female point of view; the first time I found it I landed there because one of the writers had put up an intentionally provocative piece arguing that Whedon was did not really deserve the reputation for writing strong female characters that he has earned.)

    But I thought Dushku's character arc ober the series was another impressive display of a female character growing into and making use of her own strength.  I also thought the series did a fairly impressive job exploring the very nature of "identity.". Again, I was sorry to see it canceled so soon, and unfortunately this time I did think the premature cancellation caused the last couple of episodes to be to rush and dense.

    Really looking forward to seeing what Whedon's Avengers movie looks like next year.

      But I thought her character arc over the course of its two seasons definitely was yet another

    Politics is the never-ending story we tell ourselves about who we are as a people.

    by swellsman on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 05:44:28 PM PDT

    •  The first four seasons of Buffy (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      swellsman, nomandates, SquirmyRooter

      were among the best of television.  Then things started going downhill.  I still feel the last season was an abomination.  

      I recently sat down and watched all five seasons of "Angel" for the first time.  I was actually surprised by how much I liked that.  I'd been resisting watching it for awhile.  It was better than I expected.

      “I choose my friends for their good looks, my acquaintances for their good characters, and my enemies for their intellects. A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies.”

      by owilde69 on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 06:15:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yeah, I'm with you . . . (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        nomandates, SquirmyRooter, owilde69

        . . . on that last season.  That was disappointing.  Although if Robot Chicken is to be believed, the next season would have had killer Cabbage Patch dolls - now that would have been awesome!

        Politics is the never-ending story we tell ourselves about who we are as a people.

        by swellsman on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 06:22:17 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  That's insane troll logic (Buffy quote)+ (6+ / 0-)

        I love 6 and 7. Didn't LOVE 5, but don't think there's a single bad season. How could you not love the trio (I think they're my favorite villains). In fact, if I had to order: 6, 2, 3, 7, 4, 1, 5.

        Thousands of years ago the question was asked: 'Am I my brother's keeper?' That question has never yet been answered in a way that is satisfactory to civilized society. ~ Eugene V. Debbs

        by PlutocracyFiles on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 06:23:19 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I loved the final resolution of Buffy. (5+ / 0-)

        I still get chills when I think of the scene where they empower women around the world. It was a brilliant portrayal of how a feminine leadership model would differ from a masculine one. She recognized how lonely it was to be the only one with all the power, that one person should never have to shoulder so much and that it's not effective in the long run, so she empowered everybody.

        though I wasn't as thrilled with the final seasons as the early ones, I found the ending very satisfying. (with the exception of the fact that all the humans, no matter how reprehensible they were survived and all the demons, no matter how redeemed they had become died. that is, of the ongoing characters. That, to me, was counter to a theme throughout the series that things are not always so clear cut and that you have to look at things more deeply to get a real sense of who someone is. it was almost parochial when it came to who survived.)

        Please remember to Witness Revolution. It means so much to them that we pay attention.

        by UnaSpenser on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 07:20:32 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  He killed of Anya - that pissed me off n/t (0+ / 0-)

          big badda boom : GRB 080913

          by squarewheel on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 09:19:31 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  i always get chills (2+ / 0-)

          in that scene too, and tear up a bit. also right before spike explodes.

          It is not upon you to finish the Work, but neither shall you, O child of freedom, refrain from it.

          by DoGooderLawyer on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 09:46:22 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  the way I figured it (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          PlutocracyFiles, UnaSpenser

          there was a kind of logical progression of the seasons, based on who the villain was

          Season #1 - the Master, conventional evil vampire lord
          Season #2 - Spike & Drusilla, charismatic Sid & Nancy sort of vampire duo

              but then he started escalating levels of authority

          Season # 3 - the mayor (with help from the principle)
          Season # 4 - the US government
          Season # 5 - a God

          at this point they couldn't exactly escalate any higher level of authority to oppose so they took it to a more subtle, inner level

          Season # 6 - the nerds; but also of course Willow, which shows that the enemy becomes something inside ourselves

          Season # 7 - Buffy realizes that she is herself the enemy, as she becomes more and more of an authoritarian jerk, and finally, kills off her own authority

          •  First off - awesome that you replied (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            UnaSpenser, david graeber

            You know you mentioned (half-joking) that you started Buffy studies, but ACTUALLY your paper was really early!

            Second, great point - I hadn't thought of the progression. There's also the misogynist preacher in S7 (Caleb, played by Nathan Fillion). I'll have to think of how that fits.

            Thousands of years ago the question was asked: 'Am I my brother's keeper?' That question has never yet been answered in a way that is satisfactory to civilized society. ~ Eugene V. Debbs

            by PlutocracyFiles on Sat Sep 17, 2011 at 12:27:29 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  absolutely. part of what made the storytelling (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            PlutocracyFiles, david graeber

            so compelling was this progression. It was never a stale, limited story with repeat themes. It was pushing for more and more exploration of what evil really is, what it takes to be redeemed, etc.

            And that redemption exploration continued with Angel.

            Please remember to Witness Revolution. It means so much to them that we pay attention.

            by UnaSpenser on Sat Sep 17, 2011 at 07:02:28 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  eyerolls (7+ / 0-)
      headshakes and eyerolls whenever I'd tell someone who hadn't seen the show that I thought Buffy was the best written show on television at the time.
      No kidding! I was in grad school at the time, and there were two types of students: those who got together and watched it every week, and those who had never seen an episode and laughed in our faces at the mere mention of it. To this day, my little brother ridicules me for watching it -- and, needless to say, he has never seen a minute of it.

      With every goddess a let down, every idol a bring down, it gets you down / but the search for perfection, your own predilection, goes on and on and on. . .

      by cardinal on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 06:45:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yes, I need to incorporate Dollhouse (3+ / 0-)

      The first season is just so erratic and then there's so much back-and-forth plot. What Dollhouse hadn't yet developed was that sense of family.

      Thousands of years ago the question was asked: 'Am I my brother's keeper?' That question has never yet been answered in a way that is satisfactory to civilized society. ~ Eugene V. Debbs

      by PlutocracyFiles on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 07:12:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I could have written that entire comment. Thank (4+ / 0-)

      you for articulating that.

      I'll watch anything Whedon writes. He's a masterful storyteller.

      I was dragged into Buffy, practically kicking and screaming. I had seen previews and though it just looked stupid. My sister implored me to watch 6 episodes and then decide. I was hooked. I now own all 7 seasons, waiting to share them with my daughter. She's 11. In a couple of years.

      I also own Firefly and Serenity.

      Please remember to Witness Revolution. It means so much to them that we pay attention.

      by UnaSpenser on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 07:14:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Once More with Feeling (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SquirmyRooter

      I remember in one of the extras on S6 (or was it the commentary?) Joss said something about not being the first to take place in everyone's presence and the songs serve plot purposes. Apparently, Xena, Warrior Princess did something similar earlier in a episode called 'The Bitter Suite' and that he was influenced by that.

  •  thanks for the analysis PlutocracyFiles (7+ / 0-)

    I been a big fan of Serenity, although I never knew quite why.

    I always thought it was just very good, creative sci fi, with great character dynamics.

    But the anti-authority-freedom themes make a lot of sense too.


    Serenity's version of Empire, is much less hackneyed, than say Star War's version of it.  Thus much more believable, and scary too.

    Of course look at our current version of it, in the light of Naomi Klein, and it's plain to see that people will fall for about anything, if you package it with enough fear and drama.


    I'm curious about your reference to the "end of history" -- first I've heard of it.  Is it the Gen-X version of "existential angst" so popular back in my College daze?

    -- That constant sense that -- something is seriously wrong, with 'life as we know it' ... but you can quite put your finger on exactly what it is.  A worse, if you do get a glimpse of the source of the dread, ultimately any solutions to banish it, will likely be futile, in the long run.

    Such is the curse of living amidst a sea of callousness, etc.

    In that context, the Serenity Theme Song has a lot of resonance.  Makes me want to go down to junk yard, and kick a few tires, lol.  


    What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.
    -- Maslow ...... my list.

    by jamess on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 06:31:53 PM PDT

    •  End of history (7+ / 0-)

      Was an essay written by Francis Fukuyama in 1989 (after the Berlin Wall fell) that essentially bought into the Marxist/Hegelian framework, but said, Marx got it wrong - the end of history is free-market, liberal democracy.

      But, more importantly, in then came to stand for the fact that corporatism was essentially unchallenged after the fall of communism. So yeah, there was a feeling that we didn't accept the values of a corporatist society, but there was no resistance to it - the only thing that can be done is to carve out your own little space where YOU don't believe those things. Where you don't believe "greed is good" and that all people are simply seeking their own advantage. That is the foundation of the free-market liberal democracy that my generation was told was the only option.

      Thousands of years ago the question was asked: 'Am I my brother's keeper?' That question has never yet been answered in a way that is satisfactory to civilized society. ~ Eugene V. Debbs

      by PlutocracyFiles on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 06:43:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Wild that we're into a generation (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jamess

      after "the end of history", which rankled from the first time I heard it. I associated it with post-modernism, which was all the rage when I was in university, but I was never quite able to appreciate, because it postulated that everything was relative, and there was no moral structure but a dogmatic insistence on celebrating otherness. Post-modernism certainly had it's merits, particularly in challenging existing entrenched power structures, but was easily hacked by game theory, which basically institutionalized a culture of individual selfishness, as best expressed by Capitalism. Game theory should have been one of the names on the Vietnam Memorial wall, because that's where it died, thanks to McNamara, who kept sending soldiers out to die in Vietnam long after it was clear that that war was unwinnable.

      Fukuyama's "End of History" postulated that everything had already happened and Capitalism had won, so now it was just a matter of sitting back and making money. It was refuted by 9/11 but was perpetuated by the neocons, who did a great job of sitting back and making that money during the War on Terrorism. I suggest that the "End of History" be  retitled "The Endurance of Idiocy" because there are always going to be enough useful idiots out there for the game theorists to hack.

      And that, my friend, is why you have experienced

      -- That constant sense that -- something is seriously wrong, with 'life as we know it' ... but you can quite put your finger on exactly what it is.  A worse, if you do get a glimpse of the source of the dread, ultimately any solutions to banish it, will likely be futile, in the long run.
      •  thanks erratic (0+ / 0-)
        Fukuyama's "End of History" postulated that everything had already happened and Capitalism had won, so now it was just a matter of sitting back and making money.

        that's sums it up well, thx.  Got it.

        And your assessment of Game Theory and McNamara's Toy Soldier enterprise -- spot on!  (having lives during that slow motion human tragedy, myself.)


        thank for the re-quote erratic, allow me to fix my typos

        -- That constant sense that -- something is seriously wrong, with 'life as we know it' ... but you can't quite put your finger on exactly what it is.  And worse, if you do get a glimpse of the source of the dread, ultimately any solutions to banish it, will likely be futile, in the long run.

        funny, something still wrong though ...

        I think it's out there on the interest somewhere ...

        must. keep. posting.  must. keep. fixing. the planet.

        must. not. give up.


        What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.
        -- Maslow ...... my list.

        by jamess on Fri Sep 16, 2011 at 08:58:20 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Also, Dollhouse. Lots of interesting characters (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SquirmyRooter

    and another end-of-history story.

    I love all of Whedon's work.

    Please remember to Witness Revolution. It means so much to them that we pay attention.

    by UnaSpenser on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 07:11:17 PM PDT

  •  Walk through the fire... (4+ / 0-)

    Rooting for Democrats!!!

    by SquirmyRooter on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 07:12:22 PM PDT

  •  I'm likely the only commenter here (0+ / 0-)

    who isn't a Buffy fan - all that I saw and heard of it suggested a wining pop-culture combo of kick-ass girl + damsel in distress + high school drama. That last part was the turn-off for me. And the damsel in distress thing gets grating after awhile. As I get older, I've started to hold authors responsible for the experiences that they subject their characters to, so I don't have much love for slasher/serial killer flicks (even with a Victim Triumphant ending) or scenarios with what I feel are gratuitous acts of rape, violence or oppression (even with a Victim Triumphant ending). They're just tying the girl to a railroad track and then giving her a knife to cut herself free.

    That said, I really did enjoy Serenity, and followed Dollhouse even long after I understood that it was just about making girls suffer and then triumph.

    Great diary, PlutocracyFiles!

    •  not sure where you got damsel in distress. That (4+ / 0-)

      has never been in my vocabulary when thinking about that show.

      Did you actually watch the show?

      And what made the high school part watchable for me (I was in my late early 40s when I watched this) was that it dealt really well with the real psychological and sexual developments of that age group. Whedon didn't shy away from anything. So, when one of the girls discovers that she's gay, he lets that play out in a realistic way. Everyone has their own challenges with it.

      I will have my daughter watch this series as she hits her teens, precisely because I think it was a great storytelling model for all the things that teens grapple with. I was particularly appreciative of the secular treatment of souls and redemption and the complexities of demonizing. This wasn't some smarmy high school drama where everything was predictable. the complexities and the gray areas were rich.

      And all done with a fantastic sense of humor and excellent execution of dialog.

      Please remember to Witness Revolution. It means so much to them that we pay attention.

      by UnaSpenser on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 08:41:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I agree - damsel in distress = didn't watch show (3+ / 0-)

        And the teen part grew out of the original concept, which is that he wanted to subvert the horror genre. So, that young blonde girl that always gets killed in the horror movies (right after having sex), he turned that on its head. The cheerleader-turned-vampire-slayer. But even though it's set in high school (which was necessary for the concept), it's very adult. Go read the link to David Graeber's article about it.

        Thousands of years ago the question was asked: 'Am I my brother's keeper?' That question has never yet been answered in a way that is satisfactory to civilized society. ~ Eugene V. Debbs

        by PlutocracyFiles on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 08:56:00 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  agreed, I didn't watch the show (0+ / 0-)

        but just watching the clips posted in this diary, I see
        1-Buffy in tension
        2-Allies provide reassuring but ineffective support.
        3-Spike swoops in.

        In general though (in my opinion), damsel in distress constructs don't require that the damsel be rescued by someone else. The audience can experience the vicarious thrill of damsel in distress and then exult in the damsel fighting her own way free. Or rescuing others.

        •  Watch it - honestly - it's not what you think+ (0+ / 0-)

          Go read the Graeber article.

          Thousands of years ago the question was asked: 'Am I my brother's keeper?' That question has never yet been answered in a way that is satisfactory to civilized society. ~ Eugene V. Debbs

          by PlutocracyFiles on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 09:41:20 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I'm probably not going to watch it (0+ / 0-)

            a few friends have sat me down with episodes and it just didn't spark with me. But that was an interesting article, and I retract the "damsel in distress" construct for Buffy. But that still seems to me to have been a strong undertone in Dollhouse.

            •  you should watch it (0+ / 0-)

              this is a diary full of Joss evangelicals, of course we're gonna keep suggesting to watch his work, he's really good. make sure you watch some of each kind of eps, and watch the musical in full, it's pretty brilliant. as mentioned before, Hush too, and then maybe The Body, if you're ready to be disturbed. I love bewitched bothered and bewildered for humor and hot buffy and jenny calendar trying to bed xander.

              It is not upon you to finish the Work, but neither shall you, O child of freedom, refrain from it.

              by DoGooderLawyer on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 10:58:00 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  It really a body of work that has to be seen (0+ / 0-)

                in full. Single episodes can't give you the sense of it. I never would have continued if my sister didn't force me to watch 6 episodes. Only then do you get a feel for what's going on: the depth of story telling, the feminist underpinnings, the humor, the growth of the characters and the complexities of their relationships, the subversiveness in terms of being anti-pop culture and then becoming pop culture. There is just too much to catch unless you are willing to spend the time to take it all in.

                Please remember to Witness Revolution. It means so much to them that we pay attention.

                by UnaSpenser on Sat Sep 17, 2011 at 06:58:20 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

  •  this is one of my favorite diaries ever (2+ / 0-)

    I've ever read on Daily Kos. Thank you. I love feminist pop culture critique, hope to start a blog on it too, and Amanda Marcotte's (who i love) piece also struck me wrong, and I love that you used Joss to rebut her. also yeah, veronica mars and gilmore girls. it really was the golden age of strong female lead prestige tv :(

    really really well done. Im definitely going to click follow on here, and I'll try to check out your blog. "We'll see it through, it's what we're always here to do."

    It is not upon you to finish the Work, but neither shall you, O child of freedom, refrain from it.

    by DoGooderLawyer on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 09:40:44 PM PDT

  •  Buffy was a huge influence (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    PlutocracyFiles

    on my evolution into a strong, self-assured, kick-ass chick!

  •  Oh my goddess (3+ / 0-)

    There's a Buffy diary on Daily Kos.

    A Buffy diary on Daily Kos.

    Just give me a moment so my heart can slow down a little.

    And it happened at a time I was so busy I couldn't be around for the discussion. :(

    But still, as you can tell by my username, Buffy is my favorite  show ever.  I went into mourning when it went off the air and basically have not watched much tv since then. In fact, I threw my television out since the only thing I was watching was Buffy. And Daily Kos is the only the second website I have contributed anything (the first was All Things Philosophical on BtVS where I used to write long treatises on mythology and psychology in BtVS - my favorite thing to write was an exploration of the mythological elements behind 'Mother's milk is red today').

    Ok, now that I've got the fangirlishness out, I can actually make  a semi-intelligent comment. I think the incredible thing about BtVS is that it wasn't a show for 'girls'. Sure, just took a horror movie trope and subverted it and said something incredibly important and women and feminism and tropes and film-making. But he created a show and a heroine that people of all ages and genders could identify with because he wrote about character who was struggling becoming herself. That's something that we all explore and Buffy in many ways is a 'universal' character in that the challenges she  struggles with are the challenges we all struggle with growing up and living. So she's someone in an exceptional circumstance with an exceptional gift, who is just going through what we all go through - meeting our demons as we grow and mature, except her demons are exteriorized and have pointy teeth and drink blood and are dark, brooking and handsome.

    As for 'prestige television' I just had to laugh. I recall that at the time the show was aired, there was little prestige factor - Joss couldn't win any recognition from the tv/film community (not even when finally nominated for writing the excellent ep Hush) and most 'serious' people I knew (I worked in a serious job as an economist at the time) thought I was mad to watch that and thought I should be watching Masterpiece Theatre (yes, I had this discussion at a work social event. I remember sitting with my boss's teenage son discussing Buffy, Pinky and the Brain and anime). The tv critics certainly didn't give BtVS credit and I think that the people who knew it was quality were fellow writers (who loved it) as well as the fans, who dedicated an incredible number of websites and lobbied hard for Buffy's return after season 5 and a few academics who were starting to give Buffy her due. I'm happy now though that people think Buffy was prestige.

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