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  • Political metaphors and hidden meanings in Buffyverse.

    Let’s talk about it. First hypothesis from me:

    Hmm, what if Sunnydale is a metaphor for Israel?
    Small town – small state. Population in both lives in constant fear. SD has many churches and cemeteries; Israel is a center of the Christian pilgrimage. Hellmouth’s analog is big ole mosque in Jerusalem (forgot the name). Demons – arabs. Hellmouth is a home for evil creatures (Palestine for arabs).

    And the metaphor for Angel’s LA is so called Old Europe (GB, France, Spain etc.).
    Big city – Big states. Demons – immigrants (muslims?). W&H - maybe some political parties... like greens.


    We know the fate of both cities and can predict the future of both Israel and Europe. What do you think? Am I crazy, or Buffyverse & real world can’t be compared?


    Maybe you see other political subtexts in BtVS?
    Last edited by ntshpp; 14-03-08, 03:21 PM.
    Adam: "These are lies. [throws S8 comics in the trash] None of this is real. The world has been changed. It's intriguing but it's wrong."
    Vampire: "Feels ok to me."
    Adam: "You're under his spell just like the others. I seem to be the only one who is not." (c) 4.17 Superstar.

  • #2
    While I think Buffy and Angel carefully avoid explicit political metaphors (Bush only gets a few very passing mentions, though I assume JW is not a fan....eg Cordelia remembering who's president but wishing she didn't). But, absolutely, the shows encode the politics of the real world in their stories. Not necessarily party politics, but everything in life that has to do with us as social creatures potentially touches on political territory.

    Wolfram and Hart being a prime example. As Gunn says, "Evil white folks really do have a Mecca" - W&H embodies all the worst things about Capitalism, about people being seen as means to an end (eg employees sacrificing their children to get ahead. The metaphor here isn't that capitalism is evil, but that big business can house some of the worst impulses of the human heart. It's perhaps fair to say that it's a comment on corporate culture, in which the individual must serve the needs of their "masters", who do not have their best interests at heart, or those of the world.


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    • #3
      Comparing Sunnydale and Israel might be exagagerating a wee bit, but we do have some fun moments that lend them selfs to political interpretations.

      One of the most iconographical moments in Buffy is in "Anne" when Buffy starts the revolution against the demons fighting with a hammer and the sicle-like hungamunga. Love it.
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      • #4
        Originally posted by Satai (with Punsch) View Post
        One of the most iconographical moments in Buffy is in "Anne" when Buffy starts the revolution against the demons fighting with a hammer and the sicle-like hungamunga. Love it.
        Ooh yes, that one's a great image. What's interesting about it is that I don't think that Buffy is sending out a Communist message - it's not sayin, go Stalin, it's yo birthday - but using the iconography of Communism in a uniquely Buffy way. It's all about adapting symbols to fit the characters and the times. Buffy is living the Communist dream - helping the workers throw off their chains...and, in Anne's case, to work for the good of the community, rather than just to serve her own self interest. So, it's the core belief of communism - working towards the common weal, working together for a better world - but without all the nasty gulag and steel production targets and starvation nonsense.

        Similarly, Spike on the cross in Beneath you adopts Christian notions of redemption, suffering, sacrifice/trials, death and resurrection (as the end of Grave puts it in the soundtrack..."it's in dying that we are born to eternal life"...cut to Spike getting his soul back. It's not saying "Spike is Christ", but using the images that we've got in our culture to explore what the characters are going through - a culture which is a Christian or a post-Christian one (well, we being America, so not really we as in me...though mine is too, in Britain, what with the Queen defending the faith and that ). So, Christian imagery can be moving for the viewer without having to believe in what lies behind it.


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        • #5
          the most political arc, imo, is season 4 ats. jasmine is the marxist dream at its worst ? la joseph stalin but with much happier (and warmer--as in: not in siberia) human meat bags (tim minear was show runner that season--david greenwalt and tim minear are BOTH conservatives!--and ats shows it a lot more than btvs). "freedom of choice" whether for good or bad is the enemy of world peace, which is the big hole in the whole idea of "world peace" (a liberal darling concept, but it goes against human nature).

          then you have the speech that makes all conservatives jump for joy--spike's julius caesar speech in pangs. and on the other end you have willow playing the fwuffy liberal... guess who wins? fort giles.

          actually, i'd argue that david greenwalt and tim minear (the two writers that probably shaped angel and ats the most--surprise! surprise!) definitely put in a lot of their conservatism against joss whedon's liberalism. and i wouldn't be surprised if david boreanaz's overt catholicism also snuck in the character/show (it's all through bones, too).

          it is interesting to note while joss' liberalism is very overt, he hired writers and even a few actors who are on both ends of the spectrum. ...giving the shows balance politically. i'd argue that there are definitely characters who are written to represent both sides--and it being mocked on both sides (take sheila rosenberg vs. principal snyder).

          and i'd say w&h is a pretty liberal organization--not everybody reads it as 'evil corporation'... particularly since most conservatives like to mock lawyers and bureaucrats (jokes like 'evil lawyer' is an oxymoron). my dad loves the holland manners' wine cellar scene.

          i believe sarah michelle gellar (also conservative) gave an interview way back where she even says that she believes btvs (and ats by default) to be one of the most religious shows out there (and "more religious than 7th heaven"). joss has even stated (despite him slipping some things in) that it is also intentionally one of the least political shows.

          despite a few gut reactions from parent councils run by tipper gore (not conservative!) and some religious fanatics who never watched the show (these people are not mainstream conservative or religious people)... believe it or not, btvs/ats both have pretty good followings from religious and conservative people (and those two groups are not the same). in fact, ats in particular is praised for its dealing with redemption and both shows praised for how actions always have consequences and deal with morality issues.

          just a taste of the other readings people get out of the show other than joss-influenced more liberal side (and the marks non-liberals made on the show or their opinions of what they get out of it). there's more than one reading possible because it does have layers and is meant to appeal a little bit to everybody.

          and yes, for all of joss' atheism (i'm agnostic, myself, but i probably relate to not being able to help being fascinated by those elements in a storytelling context--which is the vibe i get from joss), the jossverse is chock-full of religious symbology (angel and spike in particular), subtle nods for fun to biblical/mythological elements and concepts like redemption, morality, consequences, and higher powers (even if they are firmly in the gray-area). again, all sides are represented very well.
          Last edited by NileQT87; 15-03-08, 01:43 AM.

          "If there is no great glorious end to all this, if nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do."
          "Nothing in the world is the way it ought to be. It's harsh and cruel. But that's why there's us. Champions."

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          • #6
            Ooh yes, that one's a great image. What's interesting about it is that I don't think that Buffy is sending out a Communist message - it's not sayin, go Stalin, it's yo birthday - but using the iconography of Communism in a uniquely Buffy way. It's all about adapting symbols to fit the characters and the times. Buffy is living the Communist dream - helping the workers throw off their chains...and, in Anne's case, to work for the good of the community, rather than just to serve her own self interest. So, it's the core belief of communism - working towards the common weal, working together for a better world - but without all the nasty gulag and steel production targets and starvation nonsense.
            Would just like to point out that this is not really something that was started by BtVS today. A large minority of communists/anarchists/radical leftists today aren't big on Stalin and Mao either, but use the hammer and sickle as a symbol for what it originally represented. Whether that's a sensible use of the symbol in the political sphere is debatable. But like you said, on TV any icon can be used without anyone bringing up all the historical/religious baggage attached to it.
            Buffy: It sounds like it's difficult for you. Maybe your sister makes it hard for you to establish your own identity. You said she's controlling, she doesn't let you make your own decisions -
            Dawn: Yeah, and she borrows my clothes without asking.

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            • #7
              I think over analysing the show reduces the enjoyment of it.

              If there is all these political messages in Buffy to know about them would ruin it for me. I like politics im a politics student but analysing Buffy for political messages ruins why I like it. Buffy is a fantastic show, its about demons and good vs. evil not the political climate around the world. I think thats its just Buffy, in Sunnydale which is Sunnydale not a metaphor for some place where there is no political stability. Just a fun show with great characters and amazing story lines.

              ahhh i really hope i dont get people all angry for saying that. Im sorry if iv'e angered you.
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              • #8
                Nile has made an excellent point about W&H and the right--we right-wingers are distinctly uncomfortable with defense lawyers. W&H manages to play both sides of the political street by defending people they, and we, know for certain are guilty. They have an antagonistic relationship with the police (or at least with Kate Lockley), just as happens in some crime dramas. Also compare their strategy with that of the law firm in The Devil's Advocate, for instance.

                Ginatron, I understand where you're coming from. But there are also those of us who enjoy the shows more when we analyze them. Different tastes...
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                • #9
                  Wolfie Gilmore and Nile both have some good points.
                  The show uses a lot of different imagery and its arcetypical meaning, like the cross for redemtion without preaching. And i agree that the show manages to represent a lot of different belives and ideas.

                  The show is indeed very, I'd say spiritual rather than religious, In that that it tells you to think about how you live your life rather than just listen to authoritys who tells you what is best for you. Well, that kind of is both political and spiritual depending on how you turn it.


                  The metaphor I do have a problem with (as so many others) is the Willow-magic-drugs metaphor. But if you skip the inyourfacedrugsisbad part there is a very good potential for an exploration of the shows major theme there. That is the use and consecvense of power. How Willow chooses to use her power is so much more interesting than the drug metaphor.
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                  • #10
                    Buffy's religion? Is she catholic like Reilly, or wicca, or baptist?
                    Adam: "These are lies. [throws S8 comics in the trash] None of this is real. The world has been changed. It's intriguing but it's wrong."
                    Vampire: "Feels ok to me."
                    Adam: "You're under his spell just like the others. I seem to be the only one who is not." (c) 4.17 Superstar.

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                    • #11
                      We never get any outward indication of Buffy having any particular religious background or upbringing. Almost presumptively, she and her family are probably either lapsed or highly secular Catholics or protestants, to the point of being indistinguishable at a glance from agnosticism/secular humanism. If I had to guess, *had* to, I'd say lapsed Catholic, since she does ask a nun about joining the convent, even in humor -- I don't see many non-Catholics going there even for the funny.

                      Is Riley a Catholic? I couldn't tell if that was meant to be a Catholic church in "Who Are You?" or not.

                      There's not a great deal of religious practice in the Buffyverse at all. Willow's judaism and her later practice of wicca are both mostly lip service.
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                      • #12
                        Yeah, I thought Riley Finn was an Irish descent, like Faith and Angel.
                        Funeral ceremony from “forever” was catholic or protestant?
                        Adam: "These are lies. [throws S8 comics in the trash] None of this is real. The world has been changed. It's intriguing but it's wrong."
                        Vampire: "Feels ok to me."
                        Adam: "You're under his spell just like the others. I seem to be the only one who is not." (c) 4.17 Superstar.

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                        • #13
                          Not all Irish are Catholic, of course.

                          The form used in "Forever" is is used by Catholics, but, two things to consider -- first, almost all solemn forms of Christian ceremony, protestant or Catholic, are based on things that started with the Catholics, more or less by default. Second, Catholicism is sort of the default Christian faith in Hollywood, because it's the most visual in nature, the most well established iconography and symbolism.

                          So we may not be meant to draw a whole lot from that one way or another. The only credited regular that we know was ever Catholic was Liam, actually. And aside from him, Willow is the only one who was specifically tied to a religion, and she was tied to two.
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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by KingofCretins View Post
                            There's not a great deal of religious practice in the Buffyverse at all. Willow's judaism and her later practice of wicca are both mostly lip service.
                            Hey, don't forget Spike! Remember, when it's said that he's not very "orthodox", Buffy suggests "maybe he's Reform"

                            There's the quiet moment of Jewish observance at Tara's grave in season 7, but that's more symbolic/emotional/traditional than religious per se.

                            Would just like to point out that this is not really something that was started by BtVS today.
                            What? Buffy isn't the source of everything? I am shocked and saddened. She is the alpha and the omega. As Jack from Will and Grace (which is usually rubbish, but loved this line) once said: "OMG! Buffy is my life!!"

                            EDIT:

                            Originally posted by NileQT87 View Post
                            the most political arc, imo, is season 4 ats. jasmine is the marxist dream at its worst ? la joseph stalin but with much happier (and warmer--as in: not in siberia) human meat bags (tim minear was show runner that season--david greenwalt and tim minear are BOTH conservatives!--
                            That's fascinating, I never knew they were. Hmm...interesting, good fact, thank you for posting that, really put a whole new angle on things. Got any good interviews about their beliefs by any chance? would love to read!

                            Re Jasmine's arc and its political meaning - it's interesting to read Jasmine as the charismatic "General Secretary", absolutely. Though I think Stalin rocked a moustache better.

                            Though, of course, you don't have to be a conservative to think Communism was, in 1066 and all that terms, A Bad Thing.

                            "freedom of choice" whether for good or bad is the enemy of world peace, which is the big hole in the whole idea of "world peace" (a liberal darling concept, but it goes against human nature).
                            Do liberals still believe in world peace? I would've thought most had abandoned that, apart from a few hippies in san fransico who've burned out all their synapses with acid. Sad, but I'd say most lefties now want "as little war as possible please" rather than "world peace". So, Jasmine's vision is not one that they'd aspire to - especially the authoritarian nature of it. Witness the objections to detention without trial from a leftie perspective...while such detentions might reduce terrorism (potentially), ergo increasing the peace, the human rights violations are more important.

                            then you have the speech that makes all conservatives jump for joy--spike's julius caesar speech in pangs. and on the other end you have willow playing the fwuffy liberal... guess who wins? fort giles.
                            It's an interesting one, that. Perhaps an example of the metaphor of violence that the show uses being problematic from a liberal point of view?

                            i wouldn't be surprised if david boreanaz's overt catholicism also snuck in the character/show (it's all through bones, too).
                            Ooh, I had no idea that he was a Catholic. Very interesting.

                            it is interesting to note while joss' liberalism is very overt, he hired writers and even a few actors who are on both ends of the spectrum. ...giving the shows balance politically. i'd argue that there are definitely characters who are written to represent both sides--and it being mocked on both sides (take sheila rosenberg vs. principal snyder).
                            Just wanted to say, nicely put, interesting point!

                            not everybody reads it as 'evil corporation'... particularly since most conservatives like to mock lawyers and bureaucrats (jokes like 'evil lawyer' is an oxymoron). my dad loves the holland manners' wine cellar scene.
                            I guess everybody hates a lawyer


                            just a taste of the other readings people get out of the show other than joss-influenced more liberal side (and the marks non-liberals made on the show or their opinions of what they get out of it). there's more than one reading possible because it does have layers and is meant to appeal a little bit to everybody.
                            Again, very interesting!


                            Originally posted by redrevo View Post
                            A large minority of communists/anarchists/radical leftists today aren't big on Stalin and Mao either, but use the hammer and sickle as a symbol for what it originally represented. Whether that's a sensible use of the symbol in the political sphere is debatable. But like you said, on TV any icon can be used without anyone bringing up all the historical/religious baggage attached to it.
                            Absolutely - Buffy is a magpie show, it pinches symbols and recycles them...I don't think the show ever really uses things in their original context, so it's never a matter of "Buffy is a commie" or "Buffy is a Christian" because she's using one of their symbols...the show makes these symbols its own and transforms them through the context in which it displays them.

                            Originally posted by The Ginatron View Post
                            I think over analysing the show reduces the enjoyment of it.
                            Heartily disagree! Well, depends on the show. Bad/trashy fun shows crumble when you look at them too closely. But Buffy just gets more and more interesting the more layers you explore, imo. But that's my enjoyment, obviously, not yours, and everyone has different pleasures.



                            [quote]If I had to guess, *had* to, I'd say lapsed Catholic, since she does ask a nun about joining the convent, even in humor -- I don't see many non-Catholics going there even for the funny.
                            [QUOTE]

                            I always saw Buffy's roots as being more prod. Not sure why though. Something about her work ethic perhaps Though, she does do guilt as well as any bad Catholic girl...

                            I'd totally go for the nun gag. Was never confirmed though...do I count as a lapsed catholic if I lapsed when I was like nine??
                            Last edited by Wolfie Gilmore; 20-03-08, 01:05 PM.


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                            • #15
                              about the politics of minear and greenwalt:
                              Spoiler:
                              minear and greenwalt on the republican lists:
                              http://blog.360.yahoo.com/blog-Vtl2H...o-?cq=1&p=1166

                              money they gave to republicans:
                              david greenwalt - $1,250 to bush in 2004, $1,000 to rnc in 2004 (http://fundrace.huffingtonpost.com/n...&search=Search)
                              tim minear - $2,000 to bush in 2004 (http://fundrace.huffingtonpost.com/n...&search=Search)

                              "If there is no great glorious end to all this, if nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do."
                              "Nothing in the world is the way it ought to be. It's harsh and cruel. But that's why there's us. Champions."

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                              • #16
                                What? Buffy isn't the source of everything? I am shocked and saddened. She is the alpha and the omega. As Jack from Will and Grace (which is usually rubbish, but loved this line) once said: "OMG! Buffy is my life!!"
                                When I watched one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, there was this shot where Jack Sparrow was running away from a big fight and fell into an open grave. I immediately said, "Hey! They stole that from Buffy!" in a loud and very unseemly fashion, and had to be informed later that this was a really old gag.

                                Buffy may not be the source of everything, but it should be, because it uses everything the best...
                                Buffy: It sounds like it's difficult for you. Maybe your sister makes it hard for you to establish your own identity. You said she's controlling, she doesn't let you make your own decisions -
                                Dawn: Yeah, and she borrows my clothes without asking.

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                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by redrevo View Post
                                  When I watched one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, there was this shot where Jack Sparrow was running away from a big fight and fell into an open grave. I immediately said, "Hey! They stole that from Buffy!" in a loud and very unseemly fashion, and had to be informed later that this was a really old gag.

                                  Buffy may not be the source of everything, but it should be, because it uses everything the best...
                                  Quite! Also, Buffy is post-modern so you can argue just about anything in those terms. If someone can write essays on the influence of Dickens on Shakespeare, I'm sure we can get away with talking about Buffy's influence on Marx


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                                  • #18
                                    Politics on the Hellmouth

                                    Sunnydale on the Hellmouth is a perfect symbol of the traditional conservative view of human life in which civilization is seen as a thin crust of laws, manners and institutions existing precariously above a boiling cauldron of chaos, rage, and egotism always threatening to erupt and destroy.

                                    Some of that rage is supernatural and the Slayer is a kind of supernatural police officer, but at the same time she is a person being used by another power for the sake of other interests--which brings us to the Watchers Council.

                                    Until Buffy came along and changed the rules, the Slayer was not an icon of female power. Quite the opposite in fact.

                                    The Slayer was an exploited woman, doomed to a brief and lonely life, a violent death, and no compensation for herself or her family.

                                    By a wide margin the Watchers Council was the most callous and unethical employer since the abolition of slavery. Their claims to be fighting for good against evil can be dismissed as crude propaganda.

                                    Up to a point the Council was ready to fight against vampires and demons, but they never wanted to carry matters very far. How much could be accomplished by one Slayer? What else did the Council do? We are told nothing. They are said to have had great influence in high places. Why?

                                    My own theory is that the Council was aiming to maintain a balance of power between the mundane world and the demonic underworld, a balance of power from which the Council gained profit and status and influence.

                                    Across the centuries we can imagine the Council accumulating very great financial strength, enough to cause stock market panics or runs on bank and currencies when they needed to crack the whip.

                                    When we meet some of them in Season Three, and later, it is obvious that the great days lie in the past. None of the people we see shows the faintest sign of any intellectual or spiritual stature. Quentin Travers is a pompous con man of the kind who sell dicey insurance policies to gullible fools. All the others are buffoons or grotesque types. Their "special operations" squads are models of gormless incompetence.

                                    Buffy was smart enough to realize when their bluff could be called. She got Giles re-instated. (No good deed goes unpunished.) Victories over Glory and The First, not forgetting Adam and the Master, owed nothing to the Council except to the extent that Giles played a role.

                                    In the new era of Season Eight the logical aim would be to establish a world slayers council. However Giles, though the most intelligent and amiable of the old Watchers, is nevertheless contaminated by the Council ethos. By cunning and deception he tries to get for himself some of the lost authority of the Council. People like Giles are quite capable of convincing themselves that they are only acting for the best. You cannot trust any man until you know what interest he is serving, and what he is getting out of it.

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                                    • #19
                                      By a wide margin the Watchers Council was the most callous and unethical employer since the abolition of slavery. Their claims to be fighting for good against evil can be dismissed as crude propaganda.
                                      Oh they fight the good fight alright! But unfortunately they are steeped in the traditions of the patriarkical society. The traditions ruling the relationship between the Slayer and the Council is probably as old as the Shadow Men and the First Slayer. As such they represent the traditional view of woman as the often destructive force of nature that has to be keept in check by the masculine society. In the case of the first demon enhanced Slayer this is probably true, but even it todays world those opinions is common.

                                      The Council is absolutly firm in their belife that they fight the darkness and that the only way to do this is to keep the age old traditions of Slayer controle. Unfortunately the fall of Fait played into their worst fears. A rouge (female) Slayer will cause devestation.

                                      Yes, the Council is opressiv and traditionalist, but non the less they fight the darkness the only way they know how.

                                      Faith and Buffy are both examples of what the Councils ways suppress, both the potential for devestation and the potential for greatness.

                                      In the new era of Season Eight the logical aim would be to establish a world slayers council. However Giles, though the most intelligent and amiable of the old Watchers, is nevertheless contaminated by the Council ethos. By cunning and deception he tries to get for himself some of the lost authority of the Council. People like Giles are quite capable of convincing themselves that they are only acting for the best. You cannot trust any man until you know what interest he is serving, and what he is getting out of it.
                                      Well, the interest he is serving is probably to keep the Slayers focused on their original purpose, to fight the darkness. And what he will get out of it is most probably an early death.

                                      Why then has the cunning Giles not worked to create a "world council" of Slayers? Most probably he has realised that any group of people, especially adolecents, who suddenly gets superpowers from nowere will not organise and not help people, especially not put themselfes in harms way to help others. No they will most likely use those powers to exploit people.

                                      To Giles the long term goal may be to establish some kind of world council, but he is well aware that in order to get a mass of hormone-ruled super powered people to do anything remotly altruistic and work towards a common goal a myth have to be created. First there must be something that explains how and why there is such a common goal. By creating a ideological framework for this new society of slayers he ensures that the new slayers dosnt missuse their powers for exploitation but rather gives them a common purpose to better the world.

                                      It could of course be seen as evil and deceptive, but thats not how I see it.
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