It feels good to be back! It feels less good to be back with this episode, but that’s okay.
Do you want to know something funny? I’ve seen Buffy, the series, dozens of times through. I’ve seen Season 2 probably the most (or close to it). Season 2 was what introduced me to Buffy as it aired on TV, I’ve watched each episode countless times, and I don’t think I’ve ever watched this episode with “campus rape” in mind.
Which is crazy, because as B said, it’s totally obvious. I mean, not subtle in the least. So I have to wonder why it is that I’ve never viewed this episode through this lens. It could be that this episode is just…not my favorite, generally. Maybe I’ve paid less attention to it for that reason – and in fact, maybe it’s one of my least favorites because I was picking up on all that yucky campus rape, victim blaming nonsense subconsciously. Or maybe I get overwhelmed with the Whedonized version of sex (aka “sex will always be treated horribly within the Whedonverse”) that I miss glaring examples of it. Who knows? I just thought that was bizarre.
To be clear, obviously the episode deals with sexual assault on a level that you can’t ignore. I mean, the scene where Buffy gets drugged and then a dude-bro starts touching her, you’re totally meant to think that he’s going to assault her, so like yeah. Overtones are definitely there. I just never framed this episode in terms of the larger issue of campus (particularly fraternity) sexual assault.
Anyway, B already summarized it well, so I’ll try to stick to our original *Episode Post* *Re-Episode Post* format here. There are a few things I want to touch on.
First of all, the way that the fraternity behaves in their quest for sacrificial murder is clumsy, ill-planned, and stupid. But I actually like that, especially in terms of a sustained, ingrained, systemic abuse of privilege (like, yes, campus rape). These boys don’t NEED to be subtle about this. They seem to target whichever girl is pretty and popular for no other reason than they want to. They don’t bother figuring out logistics like what they’ll do with their cars or how they’ll explain themselves. I have a feeling Girl #1 escaped because of poor planning (perhaps they sometimes offer sacrifices by force? Gross) or because they simply didn’t want to drug her. I’m assuming, since these sacrifices have been happening for generations, that there’s some kind of higher protection in place for these frat bros. Maybe their parents donate a lot of money to the school, so they look the other way. Maybe they have parents in the Sunnydale police department. (So, basically the same thing that happens to IRL frat dudes who do horrible things. God, this metaphor is really obvious and I feel really dumb.)
Anyway, framed that way, it’s a lot creepier and more depressing than it was before. Although, yes, Sunnydale’s occasional INSTA-JUSTICE is nice.
Rewinding a bit so I don’t get ahead of myself: the scene between Buffy and
Angel in the graveyard. OH LORD. I get it. It’s supposed to be painfully melodramatic and everything, and to my 10-year-old self watching this kind of thing for the first time, this was the epitome of romance. Still. It’s cringe-worthy now. I don’t think I appreciate it the same way B does. When Buffy says *that* line and runs away, I wish I could run away too. (And I laugh every time, imagining she’s running away, in part, due to humiliation.)
Giles is another point of interest in this episode. It’s completely clear that, at this point, he’s more of a father figure to Buffy than her actual father. We haven’t seen Hank at all recently, except in a Hellmouth-induced nightmare and in the season opener when he was unpacking some shoes. So Giles, for all extents and purposes, is the person guiding Buffy right now – not just with her Slayer duties, but with…well, everything. So it makes sense that he’s hard on her.
I even understand that his disapproval with Buffy’s choices throughout this episode aren’t supposed to be victim-blamey. At least, I don’t think they are. When Buffy says, “I told one lie. I had one drink,” and Giles responds with, “And you were very nearly eaten by a giant demonic snake,” he’s not supposed to be judging her actions as a girl. Rather, he’s holding her to a higher standard because she is the Slayer. Still, I’m troubled by how often Buffy’s slayer-ness is used as a metaphor for her woman-ness, and I think that’s definitely at play here.
That’s apparent early on in the episode, too, when Giles asks her, “You think I don’t know what it’s like to be sixteen?” Buffy answers, “No, I think you don’t know what it’s like to be sixteen and a girl and the Slayer.” And that’s what Giles’ dissociation really comes down to. Buffy can’t separate parts of her identity. She can’t be a good obedient Slayer, somehow disconnecting her age, maturity, experiences, and gender from that. She shouldn’t be expected to.
That’s a problem she’ll run into a lot with Giles. I just wish the episode dealt with that problem better. Giles does admit he’s pushing her too much, but he still essentially blamed her for nearly getting eaten (the metaphor of which we all know by now) and that’s messed up.
Like B, I don’t want to get into Xander’s gross needy possessiveness. Blah. My frustration with how Xander is NEVER called out on this kind of behavior will only grow, so stay tuned for that.
So, yeah. That’s pretty much all I wanted to say about this episode. Except that snakes on Buffy are always terrible-looking and there will be many more examples of this.