May 12, 2003
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DAC, Buffy, and Getting It Right

The one mention of Buffy in the 2003 DAC Proceedings is in Tiffany Holmes' interesting survey, "Arcade Classics Spawn Art? Current Trends in the Art Game Genre." Unfortunately, it's wrong.

The online explosion of the riotous cyberpunk culture in the middle to late nineties was followed by a resurgence of a glamorous fighter chick in both television and Hollywood productions. Hollywood’s Lara Croft, Buffy, Zeena, the Matrix’s Trinity, and Charlie’s Angels are but a few examples of the new technologically adept warrior princesses.

The problem is that Buffy is not technically adept. (Is Zeena? Seems unlikely) And Buffy is hardly an outgrowth of cyberpunk culture -- any more than Charlie's Angels were. And cyberpunk culture wasn't online, and as Neuromancer appeared in 1984, "middle to late nineties" might be a bit of a stretch as well.

It's an interesting paper, and these are minor mistakes that don't vitiate its argument. I'm picking on Holmes because it's a useful paper.

But there are errors, they contaminate the literature, they could lead people astray. (And how I wish the next sentence didn't concern Laura Croft's breasts: if you're going to do Freudian exegesis of her pistol, could you perhaps show some awareness of the role of latency, or whatever you want to call it, in Tomb Raider?) Do the humanities people just not care? It's not like this obscure knowledge is locked away in an unknown Anatolian archive. That's why we review completed papers: to find minor holes and fix minor gaffes.

Buffy is, obviously, a response to the teen slasher movie, and specifically to the genre's second body -- the pretty girl who enjoys her sexuality without earning it. Whedon says so, but it's not exactly rocket science to figure it out for yourself. Buffy is not Trinity and she's surely no Angel, and if you can't tell the difference aren't you arguing that all young women are interchangeable?

Note for Watchers: The Blonde Victim is attacked by monsters because everything comes easy for her. She's pretty, she's talented, she's popular, she enjoys her body. She's blessed -- and she does nothing to earn it. And that's exactly where Buffy starts, back in high school.

Now, very close to the end, Anya (of all people) says the words: "You're not better than us. You are just luckier. Than us."

So, we're doing Isolation Of The Hero, and we're making a clever little point about relationships by having The Night When Everyone Has Great Sex Except Buffy, we're courageously making TV safe for gay people, and all the time we're letting this childhood terror out one last time.

Not bad for about 20 minutes of footage. Or, maybe I'm wrong. I think I know where we're going, but you never know.