“Danger’s my birthright.” — Buffy Summers, The I in Team
“Someone mentioned that the show has developed a feminist subtext. Well, I never! I just wanted to show a quiet, obedient girl learning to attract men through cosmetics and physical weakness . . . But sometimes we can’t control our own creations. Forgive me.” — Joss Whedon, quote via the Isms of the Buffyverse
The basic premise of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is that the prey turns predator. The innocent blond victim in the dark alley turns around and attacks her attacker. This by itself is subversive feminism, but to quote Jennifer Mendelsohn in USA Today, Buffy Summers is “a feminist hero who’s smart, tough and self-reliant, but, in a very ’90s twist, isn’t ashamed that she also cares about boys and hair.”
And this dualism is what I think is most important about Buffy. From a feminist point of view, no one questions Buffy’s ability to kick-ass, even those characters who have never heard of the history of the Slayer. Many other heroines have grappled with the problem of being a hero and also having a normal life, but Buffy’s particular struggle is drawn in terms of not only wanting to be a person and a hero, but wanting to be a girl and a hero. This speaks directly to modern day women wanting to be feminists in charge of their own destinies, and yet also be mothers and shave their legs and like men. It’s kind of sad that our culture sees these two sets of values as mutually exclusive when they are in fact not.
The main factor in women being able to have both of these values is community support, that community being the micro in terms of family and the macro in terms of workplace, government and generally culture.
Buffy has this support in her mother, her friends and her mentor. She does not have this from her father (a man who is totally absent, not just derogatory toward her calling), and this is a commenting on the many men who aren’t willing to do their part today in the home and elsewhere. Male characters like Giles, Xander, Angel and Riley are a nod to the men today who do “get it.”
Buffy’s ability to kick ass is really just one component of why she’s a Danger Gal Friday. Like all good science fiction, BTVS, and in particular it’s main character Buffy Summers, comments on current society and shows us what really is our potential for equality.