Friday, December 4, 2009

Date Rape Orb (Buffy)


In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode “Dead Things”, the Trio goes out on the town with the magical equivalent of a date rape drug, what they call the cerebral dampener. According to Warren, the dampener has the power to make any woman their “willing” sex slave. However, either he misunderstood the definition of “willing” or he was flat out lying, because the dampener’s function clearly is to remove all free will. Warren’s always been portrayed as a creep, so this makes sense for him, but it’s strange that Andrew and Jonathan fail to recognize the act as rape until their victim Katrina explicitly tells them. Why didn’t they see what they were doing as rape? Can this shed some light on real life culture that may promote rape?
Katrina: “You bunch of little boys, playing at being men. Well, this is not some fantasy. It’s not a game, you freaks! It’s rape!”
Jonathan: “What?”
Andrew: “No… we didn’t…”
Katrina: “You’re all sick.”
The main thing about the Trio is that they’re playing. They’re doing serious things, acts of villainy, as a game. It’s fun to be supervillains and try to take over Sunnydale. It’s like they think they’re LARPing even as they’re committing real crimes, sometimes really trying to kill people.
What they try to do is the fulfillment of fantasies. They want to kill the Slayer… why? Because she represents the forces of good, her defeat a goal in the same sort of way as Superman’s defeat is a goal of Lex Luther as part of an ongoing plot to take over Metropolis. The Trio view themselves as supervillains, so Buffy fits into their model of what supervillains do. Problem is, only Warren is ruthless enough to actually want to kill Buffy, as the others like her. After all, she saved them a lot from the forces of evil back in high school.
Aside from killing or otherwise defeating Buffy, their goals include controlling the weather, miniaturizing Fort Knox, conjuring fake IDs, a shrink ray, girls, girls, “The Gorilla Thing” (???), becoming rich through robbing banks (which they attempt twice), spying on women in a spa through the creation of an invisibility ray intended for use on themselves, and becoming super strong with magic demon orbs. Let’s talk about the invisibility ray plot, which is similar to the use of the dampener in that the end is in attaining sexual satisfaction.
Warren and Jonathan are both heterosexual, while Andrew is gay but in denial, and they all hold women to be some grand unattainable goal. Warren is a controlling creep who is unable to hold onto his girlfriend Katrina because he constantly disrespects her as well as presumably all women. Jonathan is socially challenged, and has only got attention from girls either when they use him (Ampata, Cordelia) or when he uses the Mary Sue spell to make him seem to be the coolest person in the world. That can be a big blow to the self esteem, and we know he did consider suicide at one point. Andrew is a highly submissive gay geek who falls into the heterosexual geek obsessions with getting hot women, once expressing a fantasy that “Scully wants [him] so bad.” Moreover, Andrew follows Warren, with who he develops a secret relationship that’s actually Warren’s manipulation, and he molds himself into what he thinks Warren approves of. So, the Trio are basically united in together wanting women for sexual purposes, considering women as unattainable through proper romance, and disrespecting them to varying degrees.
The thing about their quest to see women naked is that they think they deserve it with or without the consent of the women they plan to ogle. The issue of consent doesn’t ever seem to occur to them, with the possible exception of Warren who is both more aware of their evil and more accepting of it. The idea seems to be that they deserve to get to see women naked for no other reason than that it would bring them sexual satisfaction, and because they are unable to get it the traditional way by means of dating then it’s fine to engage in voyeurism. They don’t care about the fact that the people they intend to ogle are actually people who obviously don’t want to be ogled. While Warren is the obvious misogynist, the others share a general disrespect of women.
So, then we come to the date rape orb, as I call it, the cerebral dampener. While it would appear to be Warren’s brainchild, the others definitely go along with it with some enthusiasm. When Warren makes a preliminary sweep to search for a victim with Andrew and Jonathan watching through a video feed, Andrew and Jonathan marvel at the power and ability they have to possess any woman of their choosing, making gross comparisons to candy. Warren spots his ex-girlfriend and decides to acquire her, his motive to assert his masculinity aggressively to prove his superiority. His later dialog in “Seeing Red” with a guy who used to pick on him suggests that he does his supervillainy to feel validated.
When Katrina comes out of her thrall she yells at the Trio, telling Warren to face the fact that she broke up with him. Andrew and Jonathan react with surprise, Andrew saying that Warren hypnotizing his ex is “messed up”. One has to wonder why that they find messed up but not the rest of it. I think it’s because they saw the whole date rape plot as like a game, their supervillainous attempt to make society conform to them, but Warren’s love life is seen as serious, thus making it messed up to bring mind control fantasy to it. Once Katrina informs them that what they’re doing is rape, they react first with denial, followed by realization after being able to seriously think about it.
The Trio is to some degree a humorous mockery of Buffy fans. We are, after all, geeks, as are the writers themselves. The Trio is relatable because they are somewhat like us. They are definitely sillier than most geeks, which make them amusing to watch, and their edginess takes them beyond normal geeks, but they come from the same general place as many real geeks.
Geek culture, which is predominantly male, contains a widespread meme of entitlement to sexual satisfaction. Geeks have the trait of being snubbed by the dominant culture, leading to a sense of resentment. In geek culture there is an overall sense of celebrating things that fuel heterosexual male sexuality to the point of disrespecting women in general. In male-only geek forums, everything builds off of each other, and it can reach the point of promoting misogyny veiled in the guise of just joking around. I speak from personal experience. It can get nasty.
So from this soup is where the Trio is supposed to have come from. If we look at the worst of what can come from geek culture, it does kind of make sense that Andrew and Jonathan were unable to understand the seriousness of the crime they were committing. Is Warren the inevitable product of cultural misogyny and entitlement, or is he just a bad egg in the geek omelet? If we look back in “I Was Made To Love You”, we see that Warren was fairly misogynistic even before we knew he was that into geek culture. He was known to be geeky in that he built a robot, but that just means he’s smart like Willow, who is geeky to some extent but not really into geek culture. I’d say Warren is supposed to be just naturally twisted, but the culture certainly doesn’t help, as it helped him snare Andrew and Jonathan.
In conclusion, the Trio was influenced by unfortunate trends in geek culture that led them toward misogynistic practices. While Warren is definitely evil, Andrew and Jonathan are also to blame for their acceptance of notions that hold women to be sexual objects, if only within specific circumstances that they can rationalize as the deserved fruits of their clever supervillainy. Because of the geek culture actually existing in a troublesome way in the real world, I have to wonder if it may promote real rape to geeks like the characters of Andrew and Jonathan, or if it might have been Joss’ intent to criticize such culture with his show.

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