Monday, November 24, 2008

This Is What All The Fuss Is About?

This is one of those biggish posts I mentioned last week.

With some of my birthday money, I picked up the third Buffy Trade, Wolves at the Gate. This one includes issue 12, which enjoyed a few weeks of notoriety earlier this year because it featured the aftermath of Buffy sleeping with Satsu, one of the new recruits to the Slayer army, who also happens to be in love with her. And I've got to say, now that I've actually sat down and read the durn thing, I have no idea what everyone was so offended about.

Drew Goddard writes this one, with Joss Whedon "exec producing," whatever the heck that means for a comic. The previous issue, written by Whedon, featured Buffy confronting Satsu about the crush, and a fight with Season 8's Big Bad, Twilight. 12 starts with Xander and Renee observing the eponymous canoids outside the castle, and going to alert Buffy. (The "wolves" are actually some Japanese vampires who've picked up Dracula's shape-shifting tricks, and whose various hijinks against Buffy & Co. comprise the meat of the trade.) There's madcap comedy for a few pages as, one by one, the entire principal cast walks into Buffy's room while she and Satsu are still in bed (it's the afterglow, ya pervs), and then we get on with the actual plot. At the end of the trade, Satsu stays behind in Japan to head up the local Slayer brigade, and except for one last night we don't see much of, that seems to be that. Goddard even goes to great pains to make it clear this is Buffy being "experimental," not Buffy going full-core gay like Willow did back in Season 4. (Note to all male writers: We're not allowed to try to reclaim the word "dyke," OK?)

Really, if I wanted to be mean, I'd say that actual lesbians are about the only people who ought to be pissed off at this story. It follows the pattern of the male-dominated Hollywood idea of lesbianism. All the girls (Buffy included, for however short it lasts) are pretty well-entrenched in the "lipstick" lesbian mode; cute, girly, non-threatening, and all-too-eager to discuss their hot lesbian action on-panel and at length. (There's a scene where Willow tries to get Satsu to dish about how Buffy is in the sack that's embarrassing to read, not because I'm a prude, but because I dislike seeing a writer throw most of his credibility and all of his dignity out the window in such a brazen fashion.) Buffy's character arc for this event (that she's pathologically terrified of the people she loves suffering as a result of the relationship, as they tend to do) comes off like the writer thought of it as a chore, reluctantly taken on and quickly disposed of in favor of more enjoyable pursuits. And the art doesn't help; way too much cheeky almost-boob in the bedroom scene. It's hard to believe Buffy's trying to cover up when I can almost see as much as Freddie Prinze, Jr. has. (By the way, what minor demon did he sell his goofy-ass soul to, and are they taking applications?)

But, as should probably be expected, most of the complaining came from the way-hetero fanbase. I've maintained that the lion's share of resistance to Willow's outing was from enamored fanboys whose Gary Stu hopes of "Willow kissage" were firmly dashed by the entrance of Amber Benson's Tara. (You may parse that sentence however you like.) I'd bet dollars to donuts much of the response here came from largely the same place, and it's also got me thinking about where the male backlash against Buffy shagging Spike in Season 6 came from. (I already know where the female backlash came from. I've been to one of James Marsters's concerts. I needed hip waders.)

Frankly, it's all much ado about nothing (thanks, Bill.) For my money, the gay relationship everyone should have been focusing on was Xander and Dracula.

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