Monday, October 21, 2002

Speaking of Societal Measures of Masculinity...

I found over at Uppity Negro this interesting, though maybe over-vocabularized article, on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and notions of masculinity. The article focuses on one of the long-standing male villians, a vampire named Spike, who started out as the worst kind of violent, macho baddie; became, through a government microchip, impotent as a vampire (it prevented him from inflicting any pain on a human being by causing a massive headache); and is now struggling with a full-on human conscience/soul (OK, remember, this tv show is very fictional ;-) ) in a demon's body.

The article finds parallels to the struggle of the modern Western male, who with the recent rise in female empowerment and status as of the turn of the century, needs to find new ways to express the masculine ideal in terms of status symbols, behavior, and appearance. What I found somewhat disappointing, though, was what I felt was a not very thorough examination of the character history of Spike. What the article doesn't mention is Spike's beginning as a vampire: he was once a failed poet, and essentially an utter failure as the "traditional" ideal of masculine. He was effeminite, sentimental, unattractive to women, and also a really sucky poet. After being socially rejected, he becomes a vampire, and takes on the hyper-macho personality of violence, strength, recklessness, and conventional male power. When finally confronted with a female equal (Buffy), he becomes emasculated again, only this time to (I think) gain the potential to grow beyond the stereotype of male-strong-violent-phallus-power. An interesting spiral of development, methinks. What the show then provides, is, perhaps (if you can believe that a television show about a teenage girl who is destined to kill demons can offer any kind of deep significance) a model for the modern man to accept a new form of gender idealism which doesn't focus solely on brute force and masculine strength.

I could go on, but that's enough blather for now. ;-)

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