I seem to be on a bit of a blogging roll right now, so here's a post about three things I've been musing about in relation to various things I've been reading in recent times.1. I still find Buffy empowering, in spite of everything
Let's get this out of the way. Buffy
fails on numerous occasions in matters of race, sexuality and even the feminism which its creator, Joss Whedon, claims. I personally think its storytelling is excellent, but I know numerous people who find it deeply problematic and even hurtful, with good reason. It is, to me, an example of a flawed story that nonetheless never fails to speak to me, and I know that I have in the past excused or failed to recognise its flaws due to ignorance.
Chief among these flaws is one that feminists often raise in relation to all of Whedon's work: he ostensibly writes stories about 'empowered' women whose source of empowerment is overcoming some kind of trauma, usually a literal or metaphorical rape.
And yet, for me, as a teenager and young woman, I found that particular story, especially as it was told in Buffy
, extremely empowering. Despite having a relatively calm adolescence, with nothing worse than low-level bullying, I always felt broken
(and indeed in my early 20s actually sought out situations that would give me an excuse for this brokenness). As such, the idea that out of brokenness came strength was incredibly empowering for me. I know now that we need stories about women whose strength is not simply an act of revenge, a side-effect of abuse or destruction, but back then, Buffy
's was a story I needed to be told.*2. Leave Twihards alone!
On a related note, I think the bashing of Twilight
fans needs to stop. This is not because I think Twilight
is a wonderful story, or that it's a terrible story but this somehow doesn't matter because it's 'light, fluffy entertainment' (nothing is 'just a story', and nothing is above criticism). It's because if I had been twelve, or fourteen or even eighteen when Twilight
came out, hell, I would've been a fan too, and I think those of us who were introverted and 'only ever fell in love with fictional men' need to show a bit more empathy and compassion.
You know how I said I felt 'broken' as a teenager? Well, I used to think the solution to that 'brokenness' was an all-consuming, all-sacrificing, transformative love. I read just the kinds of books to feed my rescue fantasy, and I thought if the right guy (always someone 'dangerous' and 'damaged') would walk through the door, all my troubles and angst would be over. As a fifteen-year-old girl, it's a powerful idea: that true love is obsessive and dramatic and will cause you to change completely, and Twilight
simply taps into that idea. As a teenager I was reading Cecilia Dart-Thornton and Sara Douglass and Juliet Marillier and a whole host of other female romantic fantasy writers who fell under the umbrella of 'Celtic-inflected historical fantasy', and who am I to say that they were any less damaging to my ideas about romance and relationships than Twilight
I'm not saying that we should throw our hands in the air and give up criticising Twilight
. No, we should criticise it until Stephenie Meyer is no more than a distant spot on the horizon of the YA corpus. But we should stop thinking of Twilight
fandom as a new phenomenon and recognise that many of us read equally problematic books as teenagers, and gained equally disturbing beliefs about relationships because of them.3. Hufflepuff and proud
I'm a self-sorted Hufflepuff, and actually only want to join Pottermore so that I can have this sort of officially confirmed. (I'm sad, I know, I know.) And while I know I'm overinvesting, it does make me sad (even though I know it's all done in humour), when people like The Last Muggle
persistently bash my beloved house and the qualities that it epitomises.
This criticism does have some validity. After all, loyalty - the key Hufflepuff trait - does have a dark side, as one may be blindly loyal and supportive where he or she should be constructively critical or antagonistic. But I think that kindness, compassion, hard work, fairness and loyalty are unjustly underrated, and that these are qualities (kindness in particular) that we ought to demonstrate, not mock or belittle.
In any case, it seems to me that the whole Potter series is, in fact, arguing for a less rigid separation into houses, since people don't tend to only embody the traits of one House, but rather possess them all in varying proportions. Ultimately it takes representatives of all Houses, and the utilisation of the myriad traits they embody, to destroy the Horcruxes, not Gryffindor bravery alone. We are composite beings.
But then that's probably just me being earnest like the Hufflepuff I am.
*Also, I rewatched Season 6 - not a fan favourite - at a time in my life when I really needed it, and I seem to be alone among fans in thinking that it was a well-executed season whose story perfectly matched where the characters were in their lives. (I do recognise, however, that many queer fans found the Willow/Tara storyline distressing and a betrayal, and, though they don't need my validation, I think they have a valid point.)