Sunday, October 11, 2009

Commandeered Feeling

Last night's tweets;

There're no swimsuits for the real genders.
Cube worlds defy navigation by poles.
Longboats need perpendicular timbers.
Viking cats lose their trophies in wormholes.

So tired. Didn't get much sleep.

Last night I watched "Once More, with Feeling", the musical episode from Buffy the Vampire Slayer's sixth season. I don't think it's that bad. Okay, the villain seems like a cheap knock-off of Jim Carrey's take on The Mask and Mr. Ooogie Bogie from Nightmare Before Christmas, and there's an uneasy balance between irony, homage, and sincerity throughout the episode, but the songs aren't actually terrible, mostly, and they serve the story. If you buy into the concept of a musical in this context, some of it kind of works.

Tara and Giles singing together to foreshadow their stepping back from Willow and Buffy respectively works in relation to the show's agenda, though not from an organic storytelling standpoint, which again results from the show's increasing difficulty in parsing irony and sincerity--obviously, Whedon wants a reasonable explanation for Giles' departure from the show, but this requires again to redefine the severity of the threats which Buffy faces. I suppose one could say that an actual tale of someone facing impending apocalypse is something viewers can't relate to, and it's therefore better to reduce the relationship to an issue of family and/or business dynamics, where Giles leaving might actually be helpful. Though, then again, we also have to assume Buffy's financial situation isn't as bad as it realistically would be and that leaving Buffy and Dawn to their own devices even in a realistic world would be a potentially good thing for Giles to do.

So, if we take the threat of rampaging killer demons that keep Buffy occupied for good portions of the night to really be, say, taking care of a puppy, and we exchange taking care of Dawn and their house for learning to support oneself financially in a world where that's viable for someone without a college education, then Giles' song makes sense. And I think a lot viewers do prefer to see it this way.

The Disney glitter effect during Willow and Tara's song doesn't work at all. Maybe it's supposed to be funny. I don't think it is. The lyrics to the song make sense if you can remember Tara's characterisation--I rather liked the episode "Family" where Tara realised the Scoobies where more of a family for her than her blood kin. But the problem of Tara's and Willow's relationship rarely having been realistically portrayed is in evidence here. It's really happy and cutesy, and so it kind of comes off as a couple you don't know being overly demonstrative in a restaurant even as you sense their relationship is based on pretty much nothing--like two people with competing variations of, "I love you, schmoopi-oopkins!" "No, I love you, sugar nibbly puffs!"

The ongoing plot about Willow's magic abuse is on similarly insubstantial foundations. Too much about the show seems to be a transparent chart of where Whedon would like it to go rather than where it organically would--and this may simply be a reflection of the superiority of art produced by an auteur--the more hands on deck, the more delegation between writers, the more firmly laws have to be laid down so individual visions don't inevitably clash with one another.

Spike's "Rest in Peace" song was an effective progression on his arc--it makes sense if he's in love with Buffy that it's painful for him to be around her if she's never going to reciprocate. This also makes the stalker Spike arc even more anachronistic, though.

Saving Buffy with the line about how life is "living" ought to have gotten the reply, "Yeah, I know, that's what I'm complaining about." Though I kind of liked the advancement of the Buffy's lack of passion arc with all the business about fire that doesn't burn. Buffy's close-up when she looked at the camera and asked us to sing along was extremely cheesy. Anya's hair looked really good.

The episode, for my money, wasn't as good as Friday's Dollhouse, that's for sure, though it was another exercise in moral ambiguity that I'm sure won't help ratings at all. I feel sort of disappointed in the skeevy use of "The Miller's Tale", and I'm not sure I believe a college professor would be able to afford a Dollhouse contract. But the episode was an interesting exploration of female sexuality as empowering women versus being something that represses them. The professor's hypocrisy in suggesting Kiki's sexuality grants her power even as it provides her with a cheat out of attaining the power of knowledge and enlightenment, juxtaposed with the serial killer story where women are the victim of a man who can't properly deal with female sexuality. Actually, I guess the episode might almost be an argument for women to become nuns.

So I say to you now, please, ladies, don't. Men aren't all bad, really. Look at that Paul Ballard guy, he's kind of okay. Right? I mean, from certain moral angles? And Boyd, if there was believable inflection in his voice, he'd be okay too. And sweet little Victor, what about sweet little wiped Victor? See, some of us are . . . er, harmless zombies sometimes.

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