Posts tagged Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

The Portrayal of Addiction in Urban Fantasy

Because urban fantasy is thought of as unimportant fluff, it often gets a pass on many of the isms that it perpetuates. It never ceases to amaze me that in a genre which is filled with fantastical elements that so many find it difficult to create a world in which serious issues and marginalisations can be discussed or included in anything approaching a realistic or inclusive manner. Appropriation is absolutely rampant in the genre and it is quite common to take serious issues and minimise them by equating them to fantastical creatures. The viewer or reader is meant to identify with the issues of the supernatural creature, even as the portrayal leaves so much to be desired that it ends up stigmatising the very issue that the genre is supposedly discussing.

One of the recurring topics which urban fantasy has sought to integrate is addiction. One of the most obvious examples in the genre is clearly Being Human (UK).  Vampirism in Being Human (UK) is clearly a metaphor for addiction because the vampires in this series can exist for extended periods of time without consuming blood; however, the moment they are turned, they develop an overwhelming desire to consume blood. Essentially, the battle for each vampire seeking to assimilate is to forgo the consumption of blood thereby; making the consumption of blood a moral failing. By making vampirism a metaphor for addiction, Being Human (UK) is essentially saying that addiction in and of itself is monstrous and so are the addicted. This is highly problematic because even though those who love and support the addicted individual suffer, no one suffers more than the addicted person themselves.

It is clear that Being Human (UK) is attempting to create an equivalency between an addicted human and a vampire. While to some degree the biological nature is explored because it is not coincidental that children of alcoholics are far more likely to become alcoholics themselves. However, a propensity for addiction does not make addiction an inherent part of any person’s nature, not even if they go on to become an addict. This contrasts sharply with the blood hunger of a vampire which, by definition, is an inherent, unchanging biological element of who and what they are.

Being Human (UK) is not the only Urban Fantasy to use themes of addiction when it comes to the supernatural. We’ve seen the same themes in Buffy, Secret Circle and even the latest season of The Vampire Diaries, have their addictive dark magic episodes and themes, Being Human (US) even had body hopping addiction with Sally. It’s common in books as well, with Chloe Neil’s Chicagoland vampires exploring magic addiction. Addiction, whether it be to blood, magic, forbidden arts or innumerable other supernatural elements continues to be raised in the genre - but in nearly all cases, addiction is linked to the damage it does to others. The addict is shameful and needs to be stopped not for their own sake, but because of the people they hurt. No-one is stopping Willow or Mallory or worried about Cassie’s dark magic because them living with addiction so much as they are afraid of the people their powers will hurt. No-one is concerned about the difficulties vampires must endure with their blood addiction, interventions are motivated by fear for their victims.

In all cases, the addict is dangerous, a predator, a threat. Not a victim, not someone who is ill, not even someone who needs help particularly, so much as someone who needs to be controlled - not for their own good, but for the good of others.

We see this continue even with more direct addictive parallels. In True Blood vampire blood, V, is addictive and traded as a narcotic - and we do see it treated this way and very well with Andy Bellefleur fighting his addiction with Jason’s help. This is one of the few good examples on television as Andy is treated as an addict, one who needs help for his own sake not for the safety of others but to regain control and power in his own life. However, V also makes people stronger and more dangerous, so Andy Bellefleur’s struggles exists alongside packs of werewolves on V being extra savage and more violent and a threat to those around them. The message of the burden of addiction and recovery from Andy runs along side the monstrous, supernaturally powerful and enhanced addict with the werewolves.

Another element that these depictions of addiction of miss are the causes of addiction. While many people become addicted in many ways and along many paths, the addiction we see in the genre is usually either inherent (i.e. a vampire is “born” with an addiction) or someone stumbles across the substance/magic/whatever, likes it and becomes addicted (as is often the case with Black magic). While this does happen, it’s hardly the only or even the most common story. Many addicts are self-medicating or have been driven to self-medication. Poor mental health services, lack of support nets, violence, trauma, poverty, stress, hopelessness and a huge variety of other pressures can drive people to seek support, comfort or even oblivion however they can. It’s no surprise that marginalised people make up a disproportionate number of addicts, not due to some moral failing (though the hate groups often spin it that way) but simply due to the extra pressures and less support marginalised people often have.

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Billy the Vampire Slayer: A New Gay Male Vampire Slayer

This is something I’ll watch with interest and suspicion - not least of which because the comics media in general is probably the third worst culprit when it comes to erasing GBLT people (I’d put children’s literature/programming and computer games ahead) and there has been a whole lot of problems in the past (already both DC’s Green Lantern, with extra gay-death and Northstar’s wedding, now with marital problems, look like they’re getting shaky) so I’m disinclined to jump up and down just yet.

Still, I do like the idea of a strong gay male character - especially an action character which is very rare.

I’m just not sure why he’s “Billy the Vampire Slayer” it seems cutesy, and rather silly. Especially since, in the Buffyverse, “Slayer” has a meaning - it’s not just someone who fights vampires, it’s someone with these ancestral ancient powers - which, they’ve made clear, Billy (or any man) will not have.

Which I approve of - I actually would be against Billy having powers that are reserved for women as it would be degendering and happens so many times with gay men (hi Ann McCaffrey and your thrice be damned Green Riders) if you’re going to have gendered abilities then deciding that the gay characters cross them feels more than a little “they aren’t REAL men/women” to me. Though a trans slayer? That would be awesome.

But it does make this quote from Jane Espenson “What if someone in high school is looking up to Buffy as a role model, and we’re saying: You can’t be a Slayer”

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Face Off: Cliched Episodes We See Again and Again

If you are a regular viewer of urban fantasy, you are probably familiar with a few of the tropes that we are going to discuss today. Once a series makes it through the first two seasons and is receiving good ratings inevitably the following episodes will make an appearance. In some cases, the appearance of these episodes sounds the death knell for the show as it is a sure sign that the writers have run out of things to do.

The Body Switch

The spell goes wrong! The machine malfunctions! The bad guy casts a nefarious spell - and suddenly the protagonists are in each other’s bodies. Hijinks ensue. Warehouse 13, Lost Girl, Buffy and so many others. The entire episode then revolves around the characters learning each other’s shoes and the actors desperately trying to play each other’s roles (to mixed success). It rarely, if ever advances any kind of meta-plot and it’s the epitome of passing time in a series.

When they don’t swap bodies there’s a close second - change the character’s gender! Sudden spell and your male character is now female or female male and suddenly it’s like becoming a completely alien species!

The Musical

The musical episode for some fans is a favourite, but in most cases actors become actors because they most certainly cannot sing. The Buffy musical episode is a favourite among many but beyond Anthony Head, not a single  member of the cast could actually sing.

In the case of the wildly popular Sanctuary, the musical episode was a preclude to the end.  When the characters had to converse in song because  Abby who was possessed by an abnormal could not communicate any other way.  The only saving grace in this episode is that we were spared the musical stylings of  Ryan Robbins, because it was torturous enough having to listen to Amanda Tapping, Robin Dunne and Pascale Hutton.

 Enemy Controls a Good Guy

Fred is acting awfully strangely, aren’t they? And absolutely no-one notices except the viewer… and Fred is even trying to hurt his colleagues. Has Fred changed sides? Has he had a moral conflict? Was he a sleeper agent all along? Hah, no, nothing so complex. Fred is one of the bad guys in disguise or possessed by them or mind controlled. He will now go forwards and commit all forms of mayhem before a good friend or lover realises that it’s not really Myka (Warehouse 13) or Piper (Charmed), or Claudia (Warehouse 13), or Lena (Warehouse 13) or Buffy.

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Vampires: The Duty of Conformity

Many times in Urban Fantasy we see the various monsters and preternatural beings as a stand in for marginalised groups - and this is often extremely appropriative and skeevy in many kinds of ways as we have discussed.

But there is one message we see repeated in many of these TV series and books that certainly has parallels with both being marginalised or just different from the “norm”. The message of how to be appropriately “Other.”

So many of these stories cover supernatural beings integrating opening into a human society - and the measures they take to be accepted. In short, they are stories of how the alien Other manages to become part of society. And one message we see repeated in many of these is one of acceptability - one of conformity. The way the Other becomes part of the Mainstream is to become the Mainstream, to repress its otherness, even repress who and what they are.

We see this most strongly when there’s a romance in the air - usually with a human woman and a Musty Vampire. The Musty Vampires are nearly always contrasted against a vampire that is either evil or morally ambiguous at least - we have the vampire who is trying to be human, denying his vampirising against the vampire who embraces his own nature and doesn’t compromise to please the mainstream.

Obviously, many of these vampires have reasons to resist their nature - murder and mayhem being primarily among them - but the mustiness is taken to extremes and the contrast between them is large, almost exaggerated, to carry the full weight of the message - to be good, the Other most Conform.

Whether It’s Being Human U.S., or Being Human U.K., a good vampire is one who abstains from blood and associating with his own kind. The objective is to be as close to human as possible.  While being a vampire means a loss of control and most likely death to any human in the vicinity, to be truly understood as good one must maintain the model of conformity. In both of these series, Vampirism is an analogy for drug addiction, which in itself is problematic because of the appropriation of a human experience.

In Being Human U.K., Mitchell pays the ultimate price for his failure to conform by dying.  He commits suicide by werewolf by having his best friend George kill him.  Mitchell begs for death because he knows no matter how hard he struggles that he will always return to drinking blood and thus killing humans.  When you consider the analogy to drug addiction, what hope does this give those who suffer with the disease? It says that one is inherently damaged and that there is no hope.

Another obvious comparison is Angelus and Angel from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel.

Angelus is Angels other half and he is utterly and irredeemable.  Angel is loved by Buffy despite the fact that he is a vampire because he conforms to human expectations.  He fights his nature every step of the way.  Interestingly enough, Buffy is a vampire hunter but she is more than willing to put aside her duties, as well as ignore what Angel is, because over time, he proves himself to be good.  When Angelus replaces Angel and he embraces his vampire nature, he is seen as evil and dangerous.  Angelus is killed by Buffy because he is everything that Angel is not. 

What Mitchell from Being Human U.K. and Angelus have in common is that they both ended in death.  It is worth noting however, that the writers did eventually come up with a way to bring Angel back from the dead.

The more recent examples of this ridiculous binary there is The Vampire Diaries and, of course, True Blood.  The first vampire we are introduced to is the long suffering, infinitely boring Stefan who survives on human blood. When Damon comes to town he is the evil brother.  He is excessive and loves being a vampire. Even when their relationship changes and Stefan becomes the ripper, Damon’s inability to completely conform and stay off human blood is still seen as a mark against him, even as Stefan is busy decapitating people.  If a vampire has a choice, he has to choose to conform. 

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Face Off: Vampire Villains

After looking at the ranks of Musty Vampires, we have to look at the flip side of the coin - our sexy vampire villains. With their cool accents, their disposable minions and their diabolical plans, these vampires remind us that the undead are, indeed, monstrous and dangerous and not to be trifled with. In this era of sparkling and musty vampires pursuing teenage girls with tearful eyes and tortured souls, it’s refreshing to find a vampire who is clinging to their horror story roots.

So, which one does it right, readers - who is bringing the evil back?

Russell Edgington: Russel made his appearance in season three of True Blood. When he was not mourning for his lost love, Russel made infamous television appearances (which managed to be both horrifying and amusing) and showed no pity, when it came to hunting and terrorising Sookie. Russel is ancient and not even remotely interested in dancing around with vampire authorities - even killing an inquisitor to prove his point. He aligned himself with the werewolves, hooking them on vampire blood ensuring that, like any self-respecting villain, he has minions. While he lacks the required menacing British accent, he is a British actor, so he still gets points. For his classic one line zingers and bold actions, Russel is a villian’s villan.

We last saw Russel encased in concrete - but what can be more villainous than a villain who is sure to return?

Klaus Mikaelsen: In The Vampire Diaries, Klaus is one of the first vampires, one of the Originals, making him over 1,000 years old. He’s also a hybrid - a combination were-wolf/vampire and nearly impossible to kill. This also provides him with a necessary staff of minions. He makes long ranged schemes, and is willing to kill anyone and anything to get the job done. Like all good villains, he has a menacing British accent (an almost pre-requisite), so he sounds suitably malevolent when required.

Klaus, alas lives in Mystic Falls and, as such, is exposed to the Aura of Mustiness. He has now started to fall in love with Caroline and is, no doubt, being slowly drawn into Elena’s Mary Sue field and will soon be adoring her and serving her like everyone else. He has already started the angsting and the crying that is the first symptom of being thoroughly mustified. Enjoy him while you can, vampire villain fans, before the angst claims him forever.

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Urban Fantasy’s Guide to an Authenic British Vampire

Deep within our lexicon is the trope Dick Van Spike. And it amuses me muchly it does, oh yes it does. I often read passages aloud to see how many people I can get giggling

The sexy British vampire isn’t the most common in the genre (Scandanavians seem to becoming more popular thank to True Blood - but the portrayals include far less accent mocking - but it’s coming! Don’t you get comfy, Swedes!), but it certainly has its place and in the interest of ensuring the integrity of these characters I feel we need a guide on how to write a truly authentic Urban Fantasy British Vampire

First of all, you need profanity. Nothing says authentically British like a character who can’t stop bloody swearing every sodding sentence. Specifically it must be special British profanity. Now, if you go to Britain today, you’ll probably find that “fuck” and “shit” etc are pretty common. This will not stand! Such generic cussin’ completely ruins the mood. No, find some truly British cussin’ – “bugger”, “sod,” and of course the holy grail “bloody”. Yes, nothing says British like a good “bloody hell”.

But if you really want to go for gold, try to find some anachronisms. “Bloody” is good, but “Bleedin’” and “Bloomin’” (the missing gs are important! We’ll come back to that!) are jackpots. In fact, you might want to check out some Shakespeare – sure your by our lady protag may sound like a concussed, time travelling renfair reject, but at least he’s an authentically British, concussed time travelling renfair reject!

Secondly, you must use that profanity everywhere and all the time. In front of a truckload of nuns? His mother? Small children? Never mind that – bring on the profanity! Nothing breaks the ice like a foul mouthed tirade in front of your aged granny. Not only that but squeeze it in everywhere. If a sentence doesn’t have at least 3 of them in, you’re slipping. You can’t ask for a cup of tea (and it better be tea! British people cannot drink anything else, it is known. In fact, what you don’t know is because of our unique British constitution, tea is actually crack to us. Heroin addicts have an easier time of going cold turkey than british people have doing without the Earl Grey, it is known). He needs to “Sodding ask for a buggering cup of bloody hell tea.”

Which brings us neatly to the next point. Any of these profanities can be used anywhere in any context. Yes “that buggering thing” is hardly in common usage and “bloody hell” isn’t really an adjective, but don’t let little details like that get in the way of authenticity!

Thirdly - the accent. Those missing g’s. So we can have bleedin’ and bloomin’. And advanced classes can skip some hs too - bloody ‘ell. Remember, while you’re making the effort to type the accent, there’s no rule saying ti has to be consistent! In fact, often you can get away with just using your authentic accent on the authentic cussin’! If you truly want to go the whole hog you can have “loves” (or even luv’s!) and “duckies” and even the odd “pet”: now these terms of endearment tend to come from different parts of the UK, but let’s not complicate things. Remember there is only one accent in the UK; usually a London one - which is, of course, the only place in the UK as well. There’s London and the hot guys in kilts and nothing in between.

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Enter to Win Buffy The Vampire Slayer Omnibus Vol. 1 

That’s right everyone, it’s time for another exciting giveaway.  This month we are giving away Buffy the Vampire Slayer Omnibus Volume 1.  We know that even though it has been many years since the last episode, there are plenty of people are still in love with the Buffyverse. This graphic novel is based on the television show, but begins before the very first season.

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Enter to Win Buffy The Vampire Slayer Omnibus Vol. 1 

That’s right everyone, it’s time for another exciting giveaway.  This month we are giving away Buffy the Vampire Slayer Omnibus Volume 1.  We know that even though it has been many years since the last episode, there are plenty of people are still in love with the Buffyverse. This graphic novel is based on the television show, but begins before the very first season.

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Thoughts on Season Seven of Buffy The Vampire Slayer

It was a long journey, but I have finally come to the end of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  I am going to miss sharing this experience with my twitter family and your often challenging remarks.  Out of all seven seasons, I would have to say that this was among my least favourite.  I believe that the show peaked between seasons  4-6.  I loved the character development of Willow and Spike, but as for Buffy herself, her selfish irritating ways, were only surpassed by Dawn.

Okay, I was not enthused with Spike having cognitive difficulties throughout most of the season.  I know that Whedon thought he was covering his ass blaming it on the woo woo, but really enough already.  When we consider that almost every second word coming out of Buffy’s mouth is the word lame, it was just another sign of the disableism that has plagued the show from the very beginning. Also, can we possibly be more trope filled than neurologically atypical equals violent?

This episode also brought us the dueling mothers.  Spike was triggered by a song his mother sang to him and Principal Wood, was desperate to get revenge for the murder of his mother.  They ended squaring off in a battle and Spike declared that his mother loved him, and that Wood’s mother chose the job over him.  So much for the supposed feminist slant of Buffy.  The treatment of Wood’s mother suggests that one cannot possibly be a good mother and have a job. It is further problematic that the White mother was cast as ultimately loving, though she is the one who said hateful things to Spike after he changed her.
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