Today I was feeling super unfocused, fatigued, and unproductive (because I have health problems, yo), and I decided the best way for me to feel productive would be to complete a simple task from my work to-do list today. Lucky for people who read The Boss, the only easy thing on the list was posting chapter four. So, chapter four is available now, here.
In every generation there is a chosen one. She alone will recap every episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Well, okay. Not really “alone” because a lot of people do it. Shut up, you don’t know her life. Anyway, in every generation there is a chosen one. She will recap every episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer with an eye to the following themes:
Sex is the real villain of the Buffy The Vampire Slayer universe.
Giles is totally in love with Buffy.
Joyce is a fucking terrible parent.
Willow’s magic is utterly useless (this one won’t be an issue until season 2, when she gets a chance to become a witch)
Xander is a textbook Nice Guy.
The show isn’t as feminist as people claim.
All the monsters look like wieners.
If ambivalence to possible danger were an Olympic sport, Team Sunnydale would take the gold.
“You’ve tasted it. I’m your faithful dog. You bring me scraps.”
The Master says he’s waited for “three score years” stuck in the Hellmouth (I don’t know how long that is) and when he ascends everybody better hope he’s in a better mood. Holy shit, I’m pretty sure I’ve had that argument with my husband before.
One thing that does perk The Master up a little is the knowledge that there could be a slayer close by. Then we cut back to the library, where Giles explains what a slayer is:
“Alright. The Slayer hunts vampires. Buffy is a slayer. Don’t tell anyone. Well, I think that’s all the vampire information you need.”
Buffy says that since she let Jessie get kidnapped, he’s her responsibility, even though Xander wants to go in all guns a-blazin’ and Willow wants to go to the police. Then we’re back in the Hellmouth, where Jessie is standing around listening to Luke and The Master talk. The good news for Jessie is, they’re not going to murder him right away. They’re going to use him as bait, to try and lure the slayer to them.
Back in ye olde school library that no students beside Buffy, Xander, and Willow go to, Willow finds some plans for the underground utilities in Sunnydale. The utility tunnels and sewers are basically an underground city for the vamps, who can move about freely without ever having to go into the blazing hot sunlight that would kill them. You know, like people who live in Houston scurry about underground to avoid the weather. Call me crazy, but the last thing I would vote for, were I on Sunnydale’s city council, is any improvement of modern civilization that would make it easier for vampires to get me. Of course, this is assuming that anyone in Sunnydale has ever actually noticed the vampires in their midst.
Xander: “So what’s the plan? We saddle up, right?”
Buffy: “There’s no ‘we,’ okay? I’m the slayer, and you’re not.”
Xander: “I knew you’d throw that back in my face.”
Buffy: “Xander, this is deeply dangerous.”
Xander: “I’m inadequate. That’s fine. I’m less than a man.”
No, Xander, you fucking prick. You’re not less than a man. You’re less than a slayer. And the slayer is always female, so you’ll always be less than a particular female. You can’t handle the idea that Buffy might be stronger than you because #5. If you’re not stronger than Buffy, you can’t save Buffy, thus making her beholden to repay you in sexual attention.
“This is just too much. Yesterday my life’s like, ‘uh-oh, pop quiz.” Today it’s ‘rain of toads.’”
I like this motivation a lot more than his previous, “I’m a man, therefore I should have my maleness constantly validated,” argument. I totally get and can sympathize with “I know something is wrong but there’s nothing I can do to fix it.” That should have been the angle the writers worked all along, instead of, “My maleness is diminished by letting a woman take charge.”
At the crypt, Buffy finds the secret entrance, and Angel finds Buffy. She asks him if he has a key, and he makes it clear that he’s not a part of The Master’s gang. Which is all well and good, but if he didn’t use the secret entrance, how did he get into the crypt in the middle of daylight in the first place? At this point Buffy doesn’t know that Angel is a vampire, the audience doesn’t know that Angel is a vampire, but still… when we do eventually find out halfway through the first season, it’s hard not to think back to this time when Angel was out wandering around in broad fucking daylight, since he couldn’t get through that locked door:
So, after getting some stern twitter words from some of you, and some emails, and some comments, and basically nonstop, Phillip J. Fry shouts of “Shut up and take my money,” I am ready to quite uncomfortably approach the subject of donate buttons and other forms of remuneration for my time.
In the past, when people have asked me, “How can I pay you for this,” I’ve said, “Go buy one of my books.” It’s only recently that people have started saying, “No. I mean I want to give you money.” And god love you for knowing how publishing works. But I’m quite uncomfortable with the idea of getting paid, even in donations, for blogging. When I started this blog, it was as a way to raise awareness of and further my own writing career. That’s why authors blog. For publicity. But when I started recapping 50 Shades of Grey, I was at a point where I was seriously considering that my career might be over. I hadn’t contracted a book with a New York publisher since 2009, reviews and sales for my fantasy series had been overwhelmingly disappointing (time will tell on that one, Melville style), and while Abigail Barnette was doing quite well for herself, she wasn’t doing quite as well as Jennifer Armintrout had done. I figured my writing days were somewhat over, so I could do whatever I wanted on my blog (which no one was reading, anyway). If you doubt the veracity of this claim, I urge you to check out the entries pre-50 Shades recaps, where I posted cupcake recipes and pictures of smiley fries that resembled James Carville. So, when the blog exploded and there was this renewed interest in what I was doing, my biggest hope was that I would end up getting a little more work thrown my way.
Holy cow, was more work thrown my way. In addition to my involvement in the 50 Writers on 50 Shades of Grey anthology, I’ve done interviews, launched The Boss, and embarked on an entirely new phase of my career writing YA. And on top of it all, I found this amazing tribe of weirdos. All of this should be thanks enough, right? But there are still some people totally like:
So, tl;dr, I’ve been resistant to the notion of putting up a donate button or anything like that. But enough of you have asked that I decided I would put this up for debate via poll, here on the blog. I’ll go with whatever you guys decide. If you could take a second and answer some brief questions, I’d be grateful. I guess I’ll give it a week and see what happens?
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Here’s Roadhouse, episode 19, where we’re going to talk about Klango Fett and body image:
And, because they were missing for a while, we’ve reposted episodes 17 and 17.5! Sorry for the delay!
A lot of you have left comments or tweeted or emailed me to let me know about the broken links on the main recap page. Thank you so much, everyone, because while I knew one or two posts were missing, I had no idea there were soooo many of them with broken links. I will be working to get these fixed, I promised. Right now, I have to figure out if they’re broken because I messed up, or because the posts didn’t export to this blog, or something like that. Please know that I am working on it.
Now, I want to introduce you to someone very special.
Ana tells Christian she recognizes it’s Jack from his earrings and the shape of his shoulders and build. She thinks he’s wearing a wig, or he’s cut and dyed his hair. Which throws me for a bit of a loop, because I had been visualizing Jack Hyde as Rufus from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
“you seem to have studied your ex-boss in some detail, Mrs. Grey,” he murmurs, sounding none too pleased.
“Was it about you, or me?”
“Me.” He sighs.
“What sort of things? About your lifestyle?”
I love that this is still being portrayed as something that would ruin Christian Grey, both personally and professionally. He likes to spank women in his sex dungeon. As far as I’m aware, that’s probably the first and mildest vice anyone is going to suspect a billionaire of getting up to. I mean, off the top of my head, I imagine Donald Trump jacks off while personally slaughtering the urban foxes that are later fashioned into his stupid wigs (and he can’t sue me for saying that because THIS POST IS INTENDED AS SATIRE). So, “He’s into some kink,” isn’t going to shock the plebs, we all think rich people are up to deviant shit nonstop. It isn’t as though Christian Grey is making snuff films or feeding unruly servants to eels or anything.
Apparently, the car Jack Hyde drives is a 2006 Camaro. You guys, I’m so glad this came up, because CAR PORN TIMES:
“Well, Mrs. Grey, it seems that you are not only decorative, but useful, too.” Christian’s eyes light up with wicked amusement. I know he’s teasing.
Oh, so he doesn’t really think you’re useful? I assume that’s the part he’s teasing you about. What the shit is that? He’s saying, quite clearly, that the only value he thought Ana had was her looks. Did he go to the Dowager Countess Grantham School For Backhanded Compliments?
“Hungry?” he asks.
“Well – food actually.”
OMG, they flipped it! This time it wasn’t about sex! E.L. James is truly a treasure of human wit! They have the longest conversation ever about what he wants to eat, and they repeatedly call each other Mr. and Mrs. Grey because it wasn’t tiresome at all when they were calling each other Mr. Grey and Miss Steele, and I certainly can’t get enough of it and I hope it just keeps going on and on and on until one or both of them is dead by my hand.
Ana goes to the kitchen to make the MOST NEEDLESSLY DRAMATIC SANDWICH OF ALL TIME:
“Um – so what does Christian like in a, um… sub?” I frown, struck by what I’ve just said. Does Mrs. Jones understand the inference?
Ana seems to actually believe that everyone in the universe is obsessed with Christian Grey’s sex life. What’s spooky is, since this book has come out, that’s kind of become true.
“Barefoot and in the kitchen,” he murmurs.
“Shouldn’t that be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen?” I smirk.
He stills, his whole body tensing against me. “Not yet,” he declares, apprehension clear in his voice.
Too late, dummies!
They continue to make the MOST NEEDLESSLY DRAMATIC SANDWICH OF ALL TIME until a section break, after which Christian and Ana look over the plans for the remodel of their new house, and it turns into what I’m sure was an unintentional metaphor for their entire relationship:
“[...] I fell in love with the house as it was… warts and all.”
Christian’s brow furrows as if this is anathema to him.
BOOM. The reason I know this is totally unintentional on E.L. James’s part is because it’s clear from her repeated statements in the media that she doesn’t find their relationship unhealthy at all. But right here, we have Ana, the girl Christian picked to mold and shape and change through all his bullshit contract requirements about what to eat and how she’s supposed to work out and what clothing she’s allowed to wear, saying she likes something as it is, even if it’s not her idea of perfection, and he can’t possibly understand the concept. Now, I’m 100% fucking certain that E.L. put this in to show us that Christian doesn’t understand how Ana can love him as he is, without changing, or to prove to the reader that Ana really can love him despite all his flaws. But it actually says more about Christian’s inability to have a relationship with anyone he isn’t controlling and smashing into the mold he wants them to fit into.
After they’re done looking at the plans for the house, which includes more talk about how they don’t want to start a family yet, because when E.L. James looked up “foreshadowing” in the dictionary, this picture was next to the definition:
We have sat here three, maybe four times total, and Christian usually reads a book. He’s not interested in television at all. I curl up beside him on the couch, tucking my legs beneath me and resting my head against his shoulder. He switches on the flat-screen television with the remote and flicks mindlessly through the channels.
“Any specific drivel you want to see?”
Try not to be too condescending there, Chedward.
I’m going to get on my soapbox here and say:
I flush. “Of course.” Well, kind of…
“What! Who with?”
Oh no. I do not want to have this discussion.
“Tell me,” he persists.
I gaze down at my knotted fingers. He gently covers my hands with one of his. When I glance up at him, he’s smiking at me.
“I want to know. So I can beat whoever it was to a pulp.”
I giggle. “Well, the first time…”
“The first time! There’s more than one fucker?” He growls.
“We’re supposed to be making out.” I groan.
Christian stills. “I thought we were.”
“No. No sex.”
And then they have sex. Okay, so I get the whole, “let’s not have sex/let’s have sex now” thing is often used in romantic scenes, but this concerns me because remember, when they’re doing BDSM stuff nowadays, they’re not using safe words anymore, he’s just going to stop when she asks to stop. But right here, she has initiated sexual activity, she’s saying, “No sex,” and the first thing he does is set off on a quest to get her to have intercourse. He won’t play by the rules of her game, probably because they’re her rules. This isn’t inspiring a lot of confidence for that whole, “We don’t need safe words,” thing.
After boring and repetitive sex, Christian turns the sound on the tv to watch X-Files. He says he liked the show when he was a kid, but Ana says it was before her time. Wait, what? This book was published in 2011, right? So Ana was twenty-two in 2011, meaning she was thirteen when The X-Files was cancelled. Now, I can see why maybe a kid who’s ten or eleven wouldn’t be into the show, and there’s no law that everyone has to watch The X-Files.
Which reminds me… I shift, propping myself up on my elbows to see him better. “Why were you shouting at Sawyer?”
He stiffens immediately. Oh shit.
“Because we were followed.”
“That wasn’t Sawyer’s fault.”
He gazes at me levelly. “They should never have let you get so far in front. They know that.”
“Look, I realize that it was my choice to drive separately from our security, but they’re the ones who had the audacity to not be in the car with us when we were being followed. Also, they should have kept up with us, even though I encouraged you to drive like ninety miles an hour in an R8 when they were in an SUV. They should have swapped out for a sports car at the drop of a hat.”
“Enough!” Christian is suddenly curt. “This is not up for discussion, Anastasia. It’s a fact, and they won’t let it happen again.”
Anastasia! I am Anastasia when I am in trouble, just like at home with my mother.
Because your husband infantilizes you. He’s also clearly an American Conservative, because he’s insisting his opinion is a fact and refusing to entertain common sense.
Ana asks Christian if they ever caught up to the woman in the Dodge:
“Sawyer saw someone with their hair tied back, but it was a brief look. He assumed it was a woman. Now, given that you’ve identified that fucker, maybe it was him. He wore his hair like that.” The disgust in Christian’s voice is palpable.
But I thought Jack Hyde drove a Camaro. Oh, please. Don’t do this to me, E.L. Please tell me you know the difference between Chevy and Dodge?
The next morning, Christian rides with Ana to work, but this time, security is in the car with them. They have the longest good-bye in the history of long good-byes. Why can’t these nimrods ever just say, “See you at five, have a good day?” Oh, because romance, I forgot.
Since Ana left on her honeymoon, shit has changed at SIP. For example:
Hannah is my assistant. She is tall, slim, and ruthlessly efficient to the point that sometimes I find her a little intimidating. But she’s sweet to me, in spite of the fact that she’s a couple of years older.
From: Christian Grey
Subject: Errant Wives
Date: August 22 2011 09:56
To: Anastasia Steele
I sent the e-mail below and it bounced.
And it’s because you haven’t changed your name.
Something you want to tell me?
First of all, Christian, your email didn’t bounce because she hasn’t changed her name. It bounced because she hasn’t changed her email address. An hour after arriving at work, just back from her honeymoon, she hasn’t changed her email address to reflect her name change, and this is assumed to be a clear signal by her new husband? What a fucking psycho.
Ana emails him back saying she’s not planning to change her name at work, and asks to discuss it that evening, as she has a meeting to go to:
As the meeting progresses, I grow more and more uncomfortable. There’s a subtle change in how my colleagues are treating me – a distance and deference that wasn’t there before I left for my honeymoon. And from Courtney, who heads up the nonfiction division, there’s downright hostility. Maybe I’m just being paranoid, but it goes some way to explaining Elizabeth’s odd greeting this morning.
My mind drifts back to the yacht, then to the playroom, then to the R8 speeding away from the mystery Dodge on I-5. Perhaps Christian’s right… perhaps I can’t do this anymore.
“If you’ll excuse me, Roach, I’d like a word with Ms. Steele.” Christian hisses the S sibilantly… sarcastically.
How do you not say “s” sibilantly? Either way, imagine Robert Pattinson saying this line, stressing every S. It will be the best laugh you’ve had in days. It certainly was for me.
After making a comment about how small her office is – expect a new office in an hour, Ana – Christian says:
“I’m just looking over my assets.”
“Your assets? All of them?”
“All of them. Some of them need rebranding.”
“Christian, I’m working.”
“Looked like you were gossiping with your assistant to me.”
Two women speaking to each other is always “gossiping” isn’t it? But when two men talk, even if they’re gossiping, it’s “networking” or “discussing.” Fuck this bullshit. I hope Christian Grey’s dick falls off.
There’s a knock on the door. “Come in!” I shout, too loudly.
Hannah opens the door and brings in a small tray. Milk jug, sugar bowl, coffee in a French press – she’s gone all out. She places the tray on my desk.
“Thank you, Hannah,” I mutter, embarrassed that I have just shouted so loudly.
“Do you need anything else, Mr. Grey?” she asks, all breathless. I want to roll my eyes at her.
“I like to make the odd impromptu visit. It keeps management on their toes, wives in their place. You know.”
“Are you ashamed of me?” he asks, his voice deceptively soft.
“No! Christian, of course not!” I scowl. “This is about me – not you.” Jeez, he’s exasperating sometimes. Silly overbearing megalomaniac.
“How is this not about me?” He cocks his head to one side, genuinely perplexed, some of his detachment slipping as he stares at me with wide eyes, and I realize that he’s hurt.
That’s called a narcissistic injury. Seriously, he can’t understand why someone would not want to advertise that they got their job by sleeping with the dude who owns the company? All he’s focusing on is that the object he acquired to have sex with doesn’t want to do as it’s told.
“Christian, when I took this job, I’d only just met you,” I say patiently, struggling to find the right words. “I didn’t know you were going to buy the company.”
What can I say about that event in our brief history? His deranged reasons for doing so – his control freakery, his stalker tendencies gone mad, given completely free reign because he is so wealthy. I know he wants to keep me safe, but it’s his ownership of SIP that is the fundamental problem here. If he’d never interfered, I could continue as normal and not have to face the disgruntled and whispered recrimination of my colleagues.
See, this concept is so simple, even Ana gets it. ANA GETS IT. I feel like I can’t stress how simple this is if Ana is able to grasp the fundamental truth of it.
Ana asks Christian why it’s so important that she change her name:
“I want everyone to know that you’re mine.”
“I am yours – look.” I hold up my left hand, showing my wedding and engagement rings.
“I want your world to begin and end with me,” he says, his expression raw. HIs comment completely derails me. It’s like he’s punched me hard in the stomach, winding and wounding me.
“It does,” I say without guile, because it’s the truth. “I’m just trying to establish a career, and I don’t want to trade on your name. I have to do something, Christian. I can’t stay imprisoned at Escala or the new house with nothing to do. I’ll go crazy. I’ll suffocate. I’ve always worked, and I enjoy this. This is my dream job; it’s all I’ve ever wanted. But doing this doesn’t mean I love you less. You are the world to me.” My throat swells and tears prick the backs of my eyes. I must not cry, not here. I repeat it over and over in my head. I must not cry. I must not cry.
Keeping in mind, this entire time, she’s at work. Have you ever worked with someone whose partner would show up at work and upset them? I have. It happens often in ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIPS.
And then, this bullshit happens:
“Look, we were talking about my name. I want to keep my name here because I want to put some distance between you and me… but only here, that’s all. You know everyone thinks I got the job because of you, when the reality is – ” I stop when his eyes widen. Oh no… it is because of him?
“Do you want to know why you got the job, Anastasia?”
Anastasia? Shit. “What? What do you mean?”
He shifts in his chair as if steeling himself. Do I want to know?
“The management here gave you Hyde’s job to babysit. They didn’t want the expense of hiring a senior executive when the company was mid-sale. They had no idea what the new owner would do with it once it passed into his ownership, and wisely, they didn’t want an expensive redundancy. So they gave you Hyde’s job to caretake until the new owner” – he pauses, and his lips twitch in an ironic smile – “namely me, took over.”
Holy crap! “What are you saying?” So it was because of him. Fuck! I’m horrified.
“So one of the reasons I’m here – apart from dealing with my errant wife,” he says, narrowing his eyes, “is to discuss what I am going to do with this company.”
Errant wife! I am not errant, and I’m not an asset! I scowl at Christian again and the threat of tears subsides.
“So what are your plans?” I incline my head to one side, mirroring him, and I can’t help my sarcastic tone. His lips twitch with the hint of a smile. Whoa – change of mood, again! How can I ever keep up with Mr. Mercurial?
“I’m changing the name of the company – to Grey Publishing.”
“And in a year’s time, it will be yours.”
My mouth drops open once more – wider this time.
“This is my wedding present to you.”
I shut my mouth then open it, trying to articulate something – but there’s nothing there. My mind is blank.
“So, do I need to change the name to Steele Publishing?”
“You’re also the most well-read person I know,” he counters earnestly. “You love a good book. You couldn’t leave your job while we were on our honeymoon. You read how many manuscripts? Four?”
“Five,” I whisper.
Seriously? She read five manuscripts in three weeks, and he thinks that’s impressive? For an editor? I know an editor who read four manuscripts in a day last week.
Then, this other bullshit happens:
His eyes darken… in that way. Oh no – I know that look. Sultry, seductive, salacious… No, no, no! Not here.
Yup. Christian thinks that after disrupting Ana’s day, causing a scene at her job, telling her she only got her position because he bought it for her, he thinks she’s going to fuck him:
“We’re in a small, reasonably sound-proofed office with a lockable door,” he whispers.
“Christian, no. I mean it. You can fuck me seven shades of Sunday this evening. But not now. Not here!”
Before I read Fifty Shades of Grey, I had no idea that people used “x shades of n” as a legit expression. I mean, it’s used so often in here, I assume it must actually be an expression, right? I don’t know at this point, and trying to google it just leads to shit about these stupid fucking books. Whatever, at least we know what the inevitable sequels will be called.
Also, they’ll be about body-snatching aliens who are in no way plagiarized from The Host.
“Seven shades of Sunday?” He arches an eyebrow, intrigued. “I may hold you to that, Ms. Steele.”
“Oh, stop with the Ms. Steele!” I snap and thump the desk, startling us both. “For heaven’s sake, Christian. If it means so much to you, I’ll change my name!”
His mouth pops open as he inhales sharply. And then he grins, a radiant, all-teeth-showing, joyous grin. Wow…
“Good.” He claps his hands, and all of a sudden he stands.
“Mission accomplished. Now, I have work to do. If you’ll excuse me, Mrs. Grey.”
Christian is quiet when I climb into the car that evening.
“Hi,” I murmur.
How the fuck do you murmur that?
Ana gives Christian the somewhat silent treatment all the way back to Escala, where they have an argument I swear to Christ we’ve read before:
“What exactly are you mad about? I need an indication,” he asks cautiously.
I turn and gape at him.
It’s so much funnier if you assume she does this with her vagina.
“Do you really have no idea? Surely, for someone so bright, you must have an inkling? I can’t believe you’re that obtuse.”
I can’t believe we haven’t read this exact line of dialogue before, because I’m having wicked bad deja vu here.
They go into the apartment, where they continue to fight. I’m not going to recap the whole argument because we’ve seen it a thousand times before, and also, you and I both know this is never going to get resolved. She’s just going to accept what he wants and go blindly on with her life. But there is some awesome foreshadowing:
“Don’t be mad. You’re so precious to me. Like a priceless asset, like a child,” he whispers, a somber reverent expression on his face. His words distract me. Like a child. Precious like a child… a child would be precious to him!
Look, if anyone was shocked when they got to her finding out she’s pregnant, then… I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry. But in the condescending way the eleventh Doctor would be sorry, not the genuine way Ten would have.
Christian reminds Ana that the architect is going to be coming over, so Ana does a little more internal back and forth about how infuriating Christian is and how horrible these things are that he’s doing, but how much she loves him and she’s going to put up with this bullshit forever, and then she gets all prettied up to face the perceived competition:
I’m wearing my gray pencil skirt and sleeveless blouse. Right! My inner goddess gets out her harlot-red nail polish. I undo two buttons, exposing a little cleavage. I wash my face, then carefully redo my makeup, applying more mascara than usual and putting extra gloss on my lips. Bending down, I brush my hair vigorously from root to tip. When I stand, my hair is a chestnut haze around me that tumbles to my breasts. I tuck it artfully behind my ears and go in search of my pumps, rather than my flats.
It sounds to me like she’s trying to fuck the architect, rather than stop her from fucking Christian, but whatever. Ana joins Christian in the great room, where they dance to a requiem – creeeeepy- and then Taylor announces Gia is there and the chapter is over.
We did a really good show last week, and the upload went awry. This week, we winged it, and it went just fine.
I see Marco Rubio’s drinking problem in action for the first time, and we talk about all the ways we’re strange
Next week, we’ll be talking about body image and weight issues. Tell us what you’d liked to see covered in that show in the comments.
It’s every other Saturday again, and That’s What I’m Talking About is featuring The Boss, chapter 3 as their Saturday conversation!
I think this is the very last place I’m supposed to remember to put this link! Go me! The Boss Chapter 3.
We ran into an acquaintance in the lobby, a woman who bartends for our theatre, who says to my husband, “Are you planning on enjoying being one of the few men in the audience?” Once we’re seated, I notice she wasn’t just saying that. The audience is mostly groups of women in their 40s with a few representative husbands and boyfriends roped in as designated drivers. There are lots of sweater wraps, hooker boots and big hair.
That’s the point at which I overhear the woman behind me say this: “I read the first one, and then I tried to read the second one, but then I thought, ‘Where’s the reality?’ And there was none. Nothing in this is real. It’s just as shocking and raunchy as they could make it. So I’m here to see them make fun of it.” At least I’m not alone in my expectations.
Spank! is a parody, so instead of Ana and Christian, we have Tasha Woode (Alice Moran), Hugh Hanson (Patrick Whalen) and, also, E.B. Janet (Anne Marie Scheffler). The three performers are among the show’s seven writers, with experience in improvisational theatre, burlesque and television, among other things. It’s a talented group (check their website http://spankshow.com/), I’m further reassured.
First, we meet our intrepid aspiring author, E.B. Janet. Her husband and kids are away for the weekend, so she has two days and a bottle of wine to write the best selling sex-fantasy novel of all time. Our heroine, Tasha Woode, is brought to life perfect and pretty and naive and isn’t that just terrible? Of course, she needs a sexy hero, someone who’s rich and dark, and owns a major corporation and has a tragic backstory based on something terrible that happened to him in his youth and, “Wait!” says Tasha, “Isn’t this Batman?” “You don’t know about Batman, you haven’t read any literature written after 1891!”
Not to say that Spank! doesn’t point out the other side of the coin, too. It’s made very clear that no one should have to sign a nondisclosure in a normal relationship and that this isn’t a healthy way to be and that Tasha should stop Mary Sueing around and behave like a real woman. Sometimes parody hits a point where the audience says, “OK, too far,” but that didn’t happen here. When Hugh revealed he was a sparkly vampire and asked Tasha to hop on his back, they were there all the way, agreeing when E.B. decided that a sparkly vampire refusing to have sex with Tasha wasn’t the kind of romance she wanted, she needed to write a sex book! The fans and the snarkers were enjoying the show in the same places- having seen how dividing the territory of the book can be, this is a pretty amazing feat.
Starting over with a new blog is kind of like moving to a new town full of scary vampires. Sure, you get to bring all your stuff, but you leave other stuff behind. You’re afraid you’ll lose touch with the friends you had at your old blog. You’re afraid you might go from being May Queen (whatever the fuck that is, it must be a California thing) to just hanging out in a library with a hot, bespectacled librarian and a bunch of Medieval weaponry.
Wait, is that really a bad change?
I forgot where I was going with this, but the point is, there’s no time like the present to start my Big Damn Buffy Rewatch. I was going to make season by season posts, taking notes as I watched each episode, and highlighting some important points I wanted to discuss, but them my list got super long, so it’s just going to work better to break it down episode by episode, like my 50 Shades recaps. However, it’s not going to suck nearly as much for me. There are going to be some themes I’m looking at in each episode:
- Sex is the real villain of the Buffy The Vampire Slayer universe.
- Giles is totally in love with Buffy.
- Joyce is a fucking terrible parent.
- Willow’s magic is utterly useless (this one won’t be an issue until season 2, when she gets a chance to become a witch)
- Xander is a textbook Nice Guy.
- The show isn’t as feminist as people claim.
- All the monsters look like wieners.
- If ambivalence to possible danger were an Olympic sport, Team Sunnydale would take the gold.
So, let’s start with episode 1 of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, “Welcome to The Hellmouth.”
The episode opens with some pictures of a graveyard and ominous narration about how in every generation, a slayer is born. She is the chosen one, she’ll stand alone against the vampires, blah blah, stuff Donald Sutherland covered in the movie. Then we cut to a guy and a girl breaking into Sunnydale high. The guy says he’s a former student (even though he looks younger than most of the extras cast as students in season one), and he wants to romance his gal on the roof of the gym. But she’s afraid, in an suspenseful, I-heard-a-noise-and-I’m-pretty-sure-we’re-not-main-characters kind of way. Ex-student guy teases her and makes a show of checking to see if anyone is there, and when the coast is proved clear, BAM! The girl he was wanting to bone turns into a vampire and devours him. Not only is it a pretty cool twist on the helpless female horror movie victim trope, it is also, in the very first scene of the series, setting up one of the most problematic and common themes in this show: my number 1, “sex is the real villain.” This guy was just trying to get laid, and the punishment for acting on his libidinous intent is death.
Our introduction to our titular (heh heh) heroine comes as she’s having some really fucking grim dreams, featuring shots from episodes to come. This prophetic dream device will be used multiple times in the series, but it kind of peters out around the fourth season. The first time I saw this episode the scene didn’t strike me as odd, but now it seems kind of awkwardly long. Buffy’s mom wakes her with the warning that she’ll be late for her first day of school, and we see that Buffy’s room is full of packing crates, indicating that they’ve recently moved.
Cut to Sunnydale High. Buffy’s mom drops her off in front of the school with a cheerful pep talk that includes a reminder to not get kicked out. While in terms of storytelling this is just a way to clue in the audience that Buffy has been kicked out of school before (presumably because of what she did back when she was Kristy Swanson), that’s not really the bar for behavior you should be setting with your teen, Joyce (3).
A teenage boy on a skateboard careens down the sidewalk, carelessly mowing down bystanders, until he sees Buffy and, blinded by sexual longing, crashes into a railing. This will be my favorite thing he does in the entire series, because upon rewatch, I fucking hate him.
A wild ginger appears! She seems to be wearing a school uniform when no one else is, and she stops to talk to Gravity McGee about math, giving us our introduction to Xander and Willow, the characters who will eventually become Buffy’s best friends. Upon entering the school, they are joined by Jessie, the third member of their group, and Xander and Jessie immediately start talking about Buffy as though she is an object to jerk off to/onto. Ah, high school.
In the principal’s office, Principal Flutie rips up Buffy’s transcript and pronounces her slate clean. Until he notices the part where she burned down the gym at her old school. Buffy tries to explain, as Flutie attempts to tape her records back together, that the gym she burned down was full of vampires. But of course, she can’t say vampires, because being the slayer is a secret and no one would believe her, anyway. So she settles on the gym being full of asbestos.
After meeting with the principal, Buffy fails to yield to oncoming foot traffic and her bag is spilled by one of the forty-year-old background students. Seeing his opening, Xander rushes to her rescue. Not because she needs help, but because this is a good opportunity to approach her and flirt with her. His opening line to her is, “Can I have you?” a Freudian slip when he meant to say, “Can I help you?” This, and his previous objectification of her, establishes that throughout the series, Xander will be textbook Nice Guy (5), but we’re expected to sympathize with his plight, because he’s goofy and also Joss Whedon’s avatar. Buffy drops her wooden stake, giving Xander the first clue that there’s something not quite right about her.
In her first class of the day, Buffy (blonde, dressed in light colors) meets Cordelia (brunette, dressed in dark colors), a girl who appears friendly and welcoming when she shares her textbook. Cordelia suggests Buffy get a textbook from the library, and shows her the way. As they walk, Cordelia expresses a fondness for shoes and the importance of knowing which nail polish, actor, and Starbucks drinks are the coolest. She then mocks poor Willow’s clothing and lectures Buffy on weeding out losers. So, she’s our mean girl, a walking stereotype of teenage girldom obsessed with everything that is superficial and shallow. While this character does eventually arc and become pretty damn interesting, it’s disappointing that it was set up so obviously, with the girl-on-girl hate and the dark vs. light/good-girl vs. bad-girl vibe. I’m slotting this scene under my number 6.
In the library, Buffy meets Mr. Giles, the librarian, whose enthusiasm about vampires and whose habit of leaving suspicious newspaper articles laying around scares her right off.
Then we cut to the locker room, and one of the best jokes of the entire series: a girl mocking Buffy’s “weird” name walks past another girl, who says, “Hey, Aphrodisia.” So, the girl making fun of Buffy’s name has a “weird” name herself.
You know how a joke isn’t funny if it has to be explained? Yeah, well, fuck off, because that one is brilliant and it took me about a hundred times watching this episode to catch it.
The two obnoxious valley girls give us some exposition about Buffy’s past before they find the corpse of the guy who died before the credits. He was stuffed into a locker. This will be only one of many corpses found stuffed in places over the course of the series. It seems almost quaint now.
Buffy approaches Willow in the courtyard, and after an awkward discussion of social rules at Sunnydale, Buffy asks Willow if she can help her with schoolwork. Willow suggests they hang out in the library, because she’s obviously got a crush on the “cool” new librarian. Or maybe she has a crush on all the old books he brought with him. It’s hard to tell with season one Willow. She fills Buffy in on the Giles situation. He’s a former curator for “a British museum,” possibly the British museum. Why is no one but Buffy questioning his sudden career change from museum curator to high school librarian? Given the fact that she knows he has a passion for vampires, and he just suddenly started working there, Buffy is suspicious.
Jessie and Xander show up to make Buffy feel uncomfortable as the object of their attraction (5) despite her clear verbal and nonverbal signals of disinterest.
Cordelia also drops by the bench to inform Buffy (around constant, unwanted, sexually-tilted remarks from Jessie) that a dead body was found in the locker room, so gym is cancelled. Hopefully the sexual harassment seminar is still on, because if ever a school needed one…
Buffy asks if there were any marks on the corpse, then takes off to play CSI: Hellmouth in the locker room. The scene neatly sets up Buffy’s super strength (she breaks a locked door to get inside), but one has to wonder why an apparent murder victim would be left unattended in a high school. Sure, the door was locked, but where are the police? The crime scene tape? Someone just threw a blanket over the body and took a lunch break, I guess, because Buffy is able to get in and get a good look at the clear vampire teeth impression in the dead dude’s neck.
Back at the library, Buffy angrily confronts Giles to tell him that while he clearly expected vampires, she didn’t, and she doesn’t want anything to do with them. Buffy knows that this guy is obviously the new Donald Sutherland sent to watch over her. Their argument sets up some basic rules for the series: to become a vampire, you have to exchange blood with a vampire. Into every generation, a slayer is born. Buffy can’t get out of her duties, going so far as to suggest Giles take over her slaying, since she wants to retire. But Giles argues that a watcher doesn’t fight vampires with the slayer, he just “prepares her.” To which Buffy responds:
“Prepares me for what? For getting kicked out of school? For losing all of my friends? For having to spend all of my time fighting for my life and never getting to tell anyone because I might endanger them? Go ahead. Prepare me.”
And then Giles looks like this:
I’m going to give Xander this one, though. Because if I had just accidentally overheard an intense argument about vampires and secrets that endanger people, I wouldn’t be psyched to broadcast my newfound knowledge of said dangerous secrets, either.
Giles follows Buffy into the crowded school hallway, where he tells her that stuff in Sunnydale is getting worse, and something horrible is going to happen. Buffy should really get used to this kind of thing from him, because as I’m rewatching this series, I’m noticing that Giles never has good news. But this isn’t what concerns me most right now. What concerns me is this:
“Oh come on. This is Sunnydale. How bad an evil can there be here?”
“Hi! I’m an enormous slut. Hello. Would you like a copy of The Watchtower?”
Because those are the only options. She can either be a total slut, or an uptight religious person. So not down with the slut reference, Buff. You’re better than that. (6)
Joyce comes in and asks Buffy if she’s going out, and advises her to be careful. Then she starts in with some nervous mom blather about the parenting books she’s read, how her positive energy is flowing and she’s going to get the gallery started, and how they’re going to make living in this new town work. And then she subtly blames Buffy for the upheaval in their lives by saying:
“You’re a good girl, Buffy. You just fell in with the wrong crowd. But that is all behind us now.”
So, you know. You’re the reason I’m a divorcee living in Sunnydale, but I trust that you’re not going to screw things up again. That’s a positive message, Joyce. (3)
Buffy heads out into a strange town full of dark alleys (parenting books not cover that, Joyce?) where she meets a twelve-year-old who sounds oddly like David Boreanaz:
Buffy and Angel’s meet-cute is that she takes him down while he’s following her through a shady part of town. He’s been looking for the slayer, and tells her he wants the same thing she wants, to kill all the vampires in the world. When she argues that she doesn’t want any part of being a slayer, he tells her she’s “standing at the mouth of hell” and warns that she can’t ignore what’s coming. Specifically, he mentions “The Harvest,” which is the title of episode two, so Angel has Netflix, too. I feel a kinship with him.
Angel gives Buffy a silver cross necklace (she dreamt about that at the very beginning of the episode) and tells her that he’s “a friend.” But not necessarily her friend. His characterization in this scene is weirdly reminiscent of his characterization as Angelus in season two.
But I’m getting ahead of myself, because it’s time to go to The Bronze!