05.Mar.2008 Of Slayers, sexual relations and major media coverage

If you haven’t read this week’s Buffy (issue #12), you might want to hold off on reading the rest of this. There’re going to be some spoilers.

I should preface this post with a few points so it doesn’t just end up sounding like a rant, but then again it’s a blog, so it’ll probably end up sounding a little like a rant anyway. Forerunner one, this may get a little ranty.

Second, I’m a huge Buffy fan, and not just physically standing at 6’3. I could spend a whole Saturday rewatching a season, and the rest of the weekend watching another and I wouldn’t dub that “a waste of time.”

And lastly, I have a ton of respect for the New York Times. Coming from the University of Missouri School of Journalism, it was frequently cited as an example of one of the best if not the best newspaper in the world, and for good reason: It’s a great publication!

(Ok, here comes the “but” and the blog…)
But…
I’ve found some of their mainstream comic book coverage to be a bit wonky in the past and ran into the same situation again today with their article about a revelation in issue #12 of Buffy.

[The spoiler train starts here, this is your last chance to get off.]

I’ll admit that when I heard through the grapevine that Buffy was going gay in a scene of the upcoming issue, I groaned. At first, it sounded like a “ratings grab” type move: all shock, no substance. Then I came to my senses, realized how well this series has captured the show, put my faith in the creative team and hoped for some shock with a heaping helping of substance.

It was the right move—and a no-brainer really—because this issue was just damned good Buffy. Tender moments, action and hilarity all mixed in with a supernatural mystery and some cool new baddies. It had everything I always loved about the show and everything the comic has led fans like me to expect: greatness in storytelling. In the end, it was just a good Buffy comic, not a “HOLYCRAPBUFFY’SGAY!” comic, which makes sense as good creative teams have a tendency to put out good comics.

What doesn’t make sense to me is why the NY Times article treated this scene like it was some huge event. If you’re a Buffy fan, every issue is already an event already just because it exists. And if you’re a Buffy fan who’s not comfortable with homosexuality, I think you might have checked out in season four. More importantly, I think the question is really whether this is a big deal at all. It’s a main character of a popular series having a gay scene in 2008, not 1948 or even 1998. So, is it really a big deal? I don’t think so and hopefully most people are open-minded enough to agree.

If you’ve been “hanging around” with Buffy since ’97, odds are her love life isn’t going to end your “friendship,” just like it wouldn’t if someone you’d known for ten years told you they had once experimented. Hey, it may make you gasp—as Joss points out in the article about the scene—but good relationships run deeper than that, just like the relationships of fans to their favorite fictional characters.

I ended up feeling partly compelled to write this post after this part of the article:

“But before fans start blogging frantically, they should know that Mr. Whedon is clear where this is headed. ‘We’re not going to make her gay, nor are we going to take the next 50 issues explaining that she’s not. She’s young and experimenting, and did I mention open-minded?'”

I think there’s something kind of inherently wrong with Joss having to defend this scene. Drew Goddard, Joss and Georges Jeanty are storytellers telling a story. Why do they need to defend themselves if their story involves homosexuality? They shouldn’t.

I don’t feel like fans will be compelled to blog “frantically” about this issue any more than they normally would. There’ll be plenty of normal speculation from Buffy’s devoted followers—myself included—itching for more from their favorite creators on one of their favorite characters, and while I could gripe about certain parts of the article that seem to demonstrate a lack of Buffy knowledge on the reporter’s part (Like this quote: “In a new issue of the ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ comic book series, being released Wednesday, Buffy sleeps with a fellow slayer. And, oh yeah, she’s a woman.” Obviously man, slayers are women.) in the end, I simply don’t think a fuss should be made about something in a character’s sex life especially when it happens so naturally in a great story.

Then again, while I’m admittedly overly optimistic and an idealist, I’m not naive enough to think that news about a popular character from a successful TV show originally portrayed by an extremely attractive starlet having a risqué romp isn’t going to draw attention. Odds are this reporter digs comics and needed an angle to pitch his editor in order to get a chance write about them or his editor saw this angle and knew there’d be an audience for the story or both.

In the end, if this national media coverage introduces 50, 500 or even 5,000 new readers to a great comic book, well then great, it was worth it! I’m just a guy on a blog having a bit of a fanboy rant, and while I think it’s backed by the best of intentions and a hopeful mindset that the world may be a more accepting place than it actually is, won’t the world be a better place with a few more Buffy fans in it? I think so. Plus, that’s less people who’ll think it’s weird when I keep putting on the DVD of the Buffy musical episode after a night at the bars!

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