Thursday, 31 August 2017

Buffy and the Beast: The Complicated Depiction of Werewolves and Masculinity in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Part Two)

This is the second and concluding part of Kaja Franck's blog exploring werewolves and masculinity in Season Two of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. To read part one click here, and if you want to share your thoughts on Buffy and Werewolves use the hashtag #BuffySlays20. (You can also read our first Season Two blog exploring Spike's 'cockney' accent by clicking here.)

The gendered nature of the werewolf is only briefly challenged in ‘Phases’ when Willow points out to Buffy that, following on from Larry, she is the most aggressive person at Sunnydale, with a history of violent outbursts. However, throughout the episode Buffy is compared to Cain (self-proclaimed werewolf-hunter) as an alternate hunter-type figure. Therefore, Willow’s comments seem less a challenge to gender constructs and more a comment that, through her physical prowess and hunter-like status, Buffy is just masculine enough to succeed as the Slayer. Later in the series, we are introduced to a female werewolf, Veruca, in the episode ‘Wild At Heart’ (aired November 9, 1999). Oz is immediately attracted to Veruca, a fellow musician, who is depicted as being deeply alluring. Even Giles is attracted to her aura, despite the uncomfortable age difference between the two. Veruca tries to convince Oz that he should revel in his identity as a werewolf, celebrating his instinctual desires and losing himself in passion. Though Oz is briefly tempted by this, at least in animal form, Veruca threatens to harm Willow. Oz’s love for Willow overcomes his feelings for Veruca. Indeed, once transformed, he is able to channel his violent tendencies into killing Veruca rather than hurting Willow. This moment infers that the werewolf is ultimately able to control their violent tendencies, even in wolf form, as long as their self-control is great enough. Ultimately, Oz leaves at the end of this episode in order to try to ‘cure’ his lycanthropy.

(Veruca (left) and Oz (right) in 'Wild at Heart')
However, just as Willow’s comments about Buffy suggest that she is outside the normal range of gender due to her Slayer status, Veruca’s gender is equally compromised. Though she is clearly monstrous in the physical threat she poses to Willow, she is also monstrously sexual, tempting the decent and honourable Oz away from Willow. In this way, the depiction of lycanthropy in this series coheres with idea that being a werewolf creates hyper-gendered versions of human beings. As Rosalind Sibielski notes, male werewolves are typically highly aggressive physically whereas female werewolves are sexually aggressive (Sibielski, 'Gendering the monster within: Biological essentialism, sexual difference, and changing the symbolic functions of the monster in popular werewolf texts', in Monster Culture in the 21st Century: A Reader, 2013). The portrayal of the werewolf in Buffy could be read in two ways. Given that the werewolf is treated as a ‘monster of the week’, and the parodic way in which they are introduced, this could be a further sign that their depiction simply does not need to challenge the ‘beast within’ trope, nor explore more complex representations of this supernatural entity. Alternately, it draws attention to the series more conservative aspects, specifically regarding female sexuality, such as Angel’s transformation into Angelus reading as a punishment for the loss of virginity, and the deeply problematic issue of Spike’s attempt to rape Buffy.  

Though ‘Phases’ centres on Oz and Willow, the backdrop of this episode is also telling regarding gender constructs. Angel, following his night of perfect happiness with Buffy, is now the sadistic and violent Angelus, every young woman’s dream become nightmare. During the episode, a friend of Buffy is killed by Angelus, though the death is thought to be by werewolf. Buffy’s discovery that there are two monsters killing beautiful, young woman highlights the fact that not all monsters look monstrous, in either the television programme or real life. Oz’s lycanthropy, Angel and masculine violence are brought together again in ‘Beauty and the Beasts’ (aired October 20, 1998). As the name of this episode suggests, masculinity is once more shown to be bestial and a danger to women. However, in this case, the perpetrator is not Oz nor Angel, both of whom were made into monsters against their will, rather, it is an abusive boyfriend who makes himself into a Jekyll/Hyde monster in order to further terrorise his girlfriend. Oz’s lycanthropy in this episode is used as foil to explore issues regarding the inherent violence of masculinity.

(Oz locked up in the library in 'Beauty and the Beasts')
It is telling, therefore, that it is Willow who shoots Oz with a tranquilizer dart at the end of ‘Phases’ saving both herself and her colleagues. Willow’s role here functions in two ways. In some ways this moment continues the ‘Beauty and the Beast’ narrative, beautifully expressed in King Kong (1933), that it is Beauty who ‘kills’ the Beast. Both Kong and the werewolf are depicted as masculine and their “death” at the hand of the woman they love suggests that man’s greatest weakness is woman. Alternatively, Willow’s presence of mind in this moment also suggests that she is not simply an overtly emotional heroine. Rather than sacrifice herself to save her friends, she retains her sense of self-preservation in order to save herself and the rest of the Scooby Gang. In doing so, she subverts the hunter, Cain, thereby proving that the monster does not always have to die. At the end of the episode, she accepts Oz as a werewolf and states that she would happily have a relationship with him. Even if, ultimately, his lycanthropy will come between them. 

Following his disappearance at the end of ‘Wild At Heart’, Oz returns in ‘New Moon Rising’ (aired May 2, 2000). He tells Willow that he is now able to repress his inner beast; he is redeemed and has become an acceptable model of masculinity, returning in order to continue his relationship with Willow. Yet Willow has not remained in a heartbroken state, awaiting Oz’s arrival. Rather she has started a new relationship with Tara (and in doing so, shows to what extent the series had moved on in its depiction of gay characters from Larry in ‘Phases’). When Oz discovers this, he loses control once more, culminating in his realisation that his has more work to do in order to deal with his problem. It is jealousy and a sense of ownership over Willow that precipitates this transformation. These are emotions which, to return to the opening of the first part of this blog, are problematic aspects of masculinity, ones to which Oz cannot consciously admit. 

(Oz/Seth Green at Entertainment Weekly's 20th anniversary photoshoot)
Though Oz goes on to be a central, and much beloved, character in the series, his departure, return, and re-departure makes it clear that lycanthropy is always a curse. As with the vampire characters, such as Angel and Oz, who are given equally complex character arcs, monstrosity in Buffy’s world is always something to fight against. Even those who see themselves on the side of good and humanity, such as Cain, can easily slip into the role of monster. The boundaries between good and evil are never clear, and appearance rarely coheres with the true identity of a character.  

Dr. Kaja Franck is part of the 'Open Graves, Open Minds' project (, and she has recently passed her PhD researching the literary werewolf as an ecoGothic monster. As well as a passion for all things werewolf-related, Kaja enjoys touring churches and convents (although Sheffield Gothic can neither confirm nor deny her whereabout during the full moon). 

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Buffy and the Beast: The Complicated Depiction of Werewolves and Masculinity in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Part One)

Today in our Buffy Blog series we have the first part of Kaja Franck's exploration of Werewolves and Masculinity in Season Two. Don't forget to check out part two tomorrow, and catch up on our first Season Two post (analysing Spike's 'cockney' accent) here. As always, you can keep the conversation going using #BuffySlays20.

Though Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003), as the name suggests, generally centres on vampire-hijinks, the seasonal narrative arcs featuring the latest ‘Big Bad’ are broken up by frequent ‘monster of the week’ episodes. In this blog post, I want to consider a very different type of monster, Oz the werewolf. Oz’s lycanthropy is introduced in ‘Phases’ (first aired January 27, 1998). This episode manages to balance more traditional monster narratives with increasingly sympathetic depictions of lycanthropy. The first half follows a hunting narrative in which neither the viewer nor the lead characters know the identity of the werewolf. It is then revealed to the viewers that the werewolf is the quiet, benign Oz; we are then torn between wanting the typical outcome – Buffy kills the monster, the Scoobies party – and our fears for the well-being of Oz. The episode opens with Xander and Cordelia in a car on “Lovers’ Lane”. They are attacked by the werewolf. This opening scene, from the suggestion of sexual impropriety to Cordelia’s pronouncement that she can hear something outside the car, follows the typical narrative of the slasher film. (The rules of the slasher genre had been thoroughly postmodernised by films such as Scream [1996] by the time the episode aired).

(Oz in werewolf form)
So far, so tongue-in-cheek, and the reaction of Giles to the news that there has been a werewolf attack continues this pattern. He announces: ‘Werewolves! One of the classics! I'm sure my books and I are in for a fascinating afternoon’ (Hotel/Batali and Green, 1998). Werewolves, then, are ‘classic’ monsters and it is assumed that the viewer will be familiar with them. Indeed, Giles’ statement that he will be researching the werewolf is itself a standard trope within the genre and allows the rules defining their existence to be laid out. For example, it is quickly proved that werewolves transform not simply on the night of the full moon but also the night before and after. Following the darker tone of the previous episodes in this season and the transformation of Angel into Angelus, this episode appears to offer a mildly comedic respite.

Yet despite opening with a pastiche of the werewolf genre, ‘Phases’ goes on to be a more engaged discussion about the relationship between lycanthropy and masculinity. Typically, the werewolf has been gendered as masculine due to its physical prowess and aggression. Chantal Bourgault du Coudray locates the gendering of lycanthropy in Freud and his work with the Wolf Man; the werewolf comes to symbolise the fear of violent, animalistic masculinity which can never be fully repressed (du Coudray, The Curse of the Werewolf: Fantasy, Horror and the Beast Within, 2006). Mention of this monster seems to lead inevitably to the idea of the ‘beast within.’ Giles describes it as a creature which ‘acts on pure instinct. No conscience, predatory and aggressive’ (Hotel/Batali and Green, 1998). His description is suggestive of the psychoanalytical idea of the id, the subconscious part of our mind that controls our impulses and desires, often represented as the animal part of our mind.

(Larry acting out a version of masculinity in gym class in 'Phases')
Following Giles’ description of the werewolf, the Scooby Gang attempt to isolate the monster walking amongst them. It is quickly decided that the most obvious candidate is Larry, an aggressive, overtly masculine character. Larry is portrayed as being sexually threatening, demeaning women through his language. A brief joke about his hirsuteness, and the confirmation that he has been bitten by a dog recently, leads to Xander confronting him in the boys’ locker room about his potential lycanthropy. This location, the locker room, is a highly masculine space. It is associated with homosocial behaviour which, according to Eve Kofosky Sedgwick, polices acceptable expressions of male sexuality (Sedgwick, Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire, 1985). Xander’s discussion with Larry ends with Larry admitting his repressed homosexuality, and it becomes apparent that his performance of masculinity is compensatory. This scene parallels a key scene from the original Teen Wolf (1985) in which Scott, a recently transformed werewolf, explains his new identity to his best friend, Stiles.

Scott Howard: ‘Stiles, I got something to tell you. It’s kind of hard but …’
Stiles: ‘Look, are you gonna tell me you’re a fag? Because if you’re gonna tell
me that you’re a fag, I don’t think I can handle it.’
Scott Howard: I’m not a fag. I’m a werewolf.’ (Daniel 1985)

The intention of the film was that this scene was comedic, despite the overt homophobia. This scene is reversed in ‘Phases.’ The site of homosocial bonding and policing of homosexuality, the locker room, becomes a coming out space. Rather than being a werewolf, Larry is gay. However, this remains deeply problematic as Larry’s homosexuality is never fully explored. Instead, the scene is presumed to be as humorous as its predecessor. Homosexuality and lycanthropy remain aligned in this moment which reads uncomfortably as though being gay is, itself, monstrous. 

(Teen Wolf poster)
In terms of the narrative of ‘Phases,’ however, this scene relates to the complex performance of masculinity by suggesting that appearances can be deceptive. Rather than the overtly masculine Larry, it is the quiet, gentle Oz who is the werewolf. Oz had been introduced as a potential love interest for Willow. His is physically unthreatening, cerebral, and has no interest in objectifying women; this is made clear when he falls for Willow when she is dressed as an Inuit, during a fancy dress party, rather than the skimpily clad, popular girls who are present (‘Inca Mummy Girl’, first aired October 6, 1997). Furthering the ‘unsuitability’ of Oz to be the werewolf is the way in which he is transformed. Rather than being bitten by a werewolf in wolf form, he is bitten by his young nephew. It is only once he wakes naked and disorientated, a scene which the viewer also witnesses, that he realises he may be the werewolf. The viewer’s sympathy immediately switches to Oz and his trauma. However, he handles the experience with his usual understated cool. Certainly, his manner of transformation undercuts the typical trauma of lycanthropy: Oz is not severely physically damaged by his nephew’s bite and his somatic vulnerability is never performed. It is only when he believes he will be a threat to Willow, that his calm exterior is shattered. In later episodes, we see how Willow’s presence becomes increasingly related to his ability to control, or not control, his lycanthropy. This suggests that, despite being depicted as being an unthreatening, healthy version of sexuality, Oz is as prey to repressed violence as other men.

To further Oz’s predicament, Buffy quickly finds that her role as Slayer is being threatened by the arrival of Cain, a self-proclaimed werewolf-hunter. Cain embodies the role of the Great, White Hunter. He is dressed as a frontiersman and wears trophies from his kill in the form of a necklace made of werewolf teeth. When Buffy and Giles announce that they are not planning on killing the werewolf, Cain dismisses them as a weak woman and effete Englishman. His presence causes Buffy to fail in capturing the werewolf on her first try, leading Cain to state that this is ‘what happens when a woman tries to do a man's job’ (Hotel/Batali and Green, 1998). Just as the werewolf, the embodiment of repressed violence, is gendered as male, Cain presumes that hunters must also be male. (The unsuitability of the blonde, petite Buffy to be the Slayer is the central concern of the series). However, Cain is a man out of time. A recent arrival in Sunnydale, California, it is clear that there is no longer a wilderness beyond the frontier for Cain to conquer. Cain’s obsession with the kill is contrasted with Buffy’s ethical approach, clarifying for the viewer that despite being steeped in blood, Buffy remains a ‘good’ version of the hunter. Where Cain sees feminine emotionality in Buffy’s decision to tranquilise and educate the werewolf, the viewer sees her innate morality. 

[Tune in tomorrow for part two of Kaja's blog on werewolves and masculinity in Buffy the Vampire Slayer]

Dr. Kaja Franck is part of the 'Open Graves, Open Minds' project (, and she has recently passed her PhD researching the literary werewolf as an ecoGothic monster. As well as a passion for all things werewolf-related, Kaja enjoys touring churches and convents (although Sheffield Gothic can neither confirm nor deny her whereabout during the full moon).

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

‘Bloody hell. Sodding, blimey, shagging, knickers, bollocks. Oh, God. I'm English!’: A Linguistic Analysis of Spike’s ‘Cockney’ Accent

Kicking off our Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season Two posts in our Buffy Blog Series we have Holly Dann from the University of Sheffield exploring Spike's 'Cockney' Accent in 'School Hard.' Tell us what you think using the hashtag #BuffySlays20!

James Marsters’ English accent on Buffy the Vampire Slayer has undeniably divided opinions. His portrayal of Spike has made it on to both best and worst rundowns of on-screen accent attempts. Even Marsters himself admits that, particularly in those first episodes, his accent was ‘terrible.’ Personally, I found it very distracting at first, but did get used to it as the show went on, but this may be my accent-obsessed brain never switching off and over-analysing every voice I hear. If, like me, something about Spike’s voice has always niggled at you, but you can’t quite work out what it is, then read on. I am going to analyse Spike’s accent in his first ever appearance on Buffy in S02E03 'School Hard' and try to work out where he went wrong, what he got right, and whether it really matters at all.

 First off, we need to work out exactly what accent Marsters was aiming for in the first place and why. In various interviews, he has stated that Spike is supposed to speak with a working class London accent to help build his ‘bad boy’ persona: ‘Spike is British because Joss, [the director], wanted a bit of punk rock. I was supposed to be like Sid Vicious.’ Therefore, it can be assumed that Marsters was attempting to speak with something like a Cockney accent. Interestingly, this is actually pretty much how Anthony Steward Head, who is from North London, sounds in real life. Marsters has often said that he was given tips by Head on how to improve on the accent. It’s also worth noting that Spike was not always a ‘punk rock’ working Class Londoner; in S05E07 'Fool for Love' it is revealed that Spike was once an upper class Englishman and the Cockney accent was an affectation, along with his new name and ‘bad boy’ swagger (I’ll come back to this later).

Spike enters the show with a literal bang (sorry) in School Hard. Hard rock music is blasting from his car as he crashes into the Sunnydale sign and, clad in a leather jacket and combat boots, he steps out, lights a cigarette and muses, ‘home sweet home.’ Everything about him plays up to the ‘bad boy’ persona. This new villain is a stark contrast to the vampires Buffy has previously fought. Where the Master and his acolytes were archaic and ritual obsessed, Spike is modern, ‘cool’, and complex. His working class London accent is intended to help establish this character in the following scene, where he meets the Anointed One and his followers and promises to ‘do your Slayer for you.’

(Spike:"Me and Dru, we're moving in." - 'School Hard')
So, now for some linguistics: did James Marsters pull off the accent in his introductory scene? (NB: I am going to use the International Phonetic Alphabet here, but for those not familiar with the IPA, I’ve attempted to represent the sounds with re-spellings). The clip I am analysing starts 5:00 minutes into School Hard. If you can, go and have a listen to Spike in that scene, but if you can’t (I’ll never forgive UK Netflix for removing Buffy), here’s a transcript:

SPIKE: You were there? Oh please. If every vampire who said he was at the crucifixion was actually there, it would have been like Woodstock!
BIG UGLY: I ought to rip your throat out.
SPIKE: I was actually at Woodstock. That was a weird gig. I fed off a flower person and spent six hours watching my hands move.
So, who do you kill for fun around here?
ANOINTED ONE: Who are you?
SPIKE: You're that anointed guy. I read about you. And you got Slayer problems, that's a bad piece of luck. You know what I find works real good with Slayers? Killing them.
SPIKE: A lot faster than nancy boy there. I did a couple Slayers in my time. I don't like to brag. Oh, who am I kidding, I love to brag. There was one Slayer, during the Boxer Rebellion - Drusilla! You shouldn't be walking around. You're weak.
DRUSILLA: Look at all the people. Are these nice people?
SPIKE: We're getting along.
DRUSILLA: This one has power. I could feel it from outside.
SPIKE: Yeah, he's a big noise in these parts. Anointed, and all that.
DRUSILLA Do you like daisies? I plant them but they always die. Everything I put in the ground withers and dies. Spike, I'm cold.
SPIKE: I got you.
DRUSILLA: I'm a princess...
SPIKE: That's what you are.
Me and Dru, we're moving in. Anyone wanna test who's got the biggest wrinklies around here, step on up. I'll do your Slayer for you. You keep your flunkies from trying anything behind my back. Deal?

Cockney consists of a variety of non-standard features, as well as elements of southern Standard English (henceforth: sStE). I’ll just focus on a few of the key features here. First, it is non-rhotic, meaning that Cockneys don’t pronounce the /r/ in words like ‘farm.’ It is also similar to sStE in its pronunciation of words like ‘bath’ [ɑː] (bahth) and ‘strut’ [ʌ] (struht). Marsters’ success in producing these variants is pretty inconsistent (this will become a theme). While he manages to avoid producing rhotic /r/, he does tend to overcompensate for the lack of /r/ with some elongated vowels and, notably, the occasional addition of a ‘y’ [j] sound. This is what’s gone on in that bizarre pronunciation of ‘there’ in his opening line: ‘you were theyah [θɛjə]’. In the phrase 'a lot faster', there is an attempt to produce the sStE ‘ah’ [ɑː] vowel, but instead he uses a lengthened American variant [æ:] (‘faaster’), which is actually lot closer to a (distinctly un-‘punk rock’) Westcountry accent. He fares a little better with the ‘strut’ vowel, producing the ‘uh’ [ʌ] sound in ‘fun,’ ‘flunkies,’ and ‘love,’ but somehow pronounces ‘luck’ with a northern English [ʊ] (‘lohck’).

Regarding the more traditional Cockney vowel sounds, there are a lot of inconsistencies in Spike’s speech. For example, the Cockney ‘ai’ vowel in words like ‘price’ is traditionally monophthongised to something like [ɑː] (‘prahce’) or rounded [ɒː ~ ɒɪ] (‘proice’). Marsters does occasionally attempt this, but often misses the mark. For example, his pronunciation of ‘I’ is, in places, something like [ʌ] ‘uh,’ as in the phrase ‘uh fed off a flower person,’ On other occasions, his ‘ai’ vowel is pretty close to sStE: ‘do you know what I [aɪ] find [aɪ] works real good with Slayers?’ (Also: note here the use of the American intensifier ‘real’).

Marsters has a bit more luck with the non-vocalic sounds of Cockney. Although they are inconsistent, there are examples of (h)-dropping (‘who do you kill for fun around ere’), (g)-dropping (‘me and Dru, we’re movin in’). However, these features are found in almost every working class accent in England and are certainly not unique to Cockney. There are no instances of the more distinctly Cockney features, such (l)-vocalisation (e.g. ‘kill’ as ‘kiw’) or (th)-fronting (e.g. ‘anyfing’). In addition, there are no instances of intervocalic glottalisation (not pronouncing ‘t’s in the middle of a word). In fact, he produces the word ‘getting’ in ‘we’re getting along’ with a North American tapped [ɾ] (‘gedding’). He never does quite get the hang of those glottal stops, which plays a large role in the Spike’s classic staccato-like speech.

Finally, there is one example of dialect lexis in this scene: ‘nancy boy.’ This is indicative of Spike’s tendency throughout the show to use very stereotypically British words. For example, the word ‘bloody’ is used to excess, to the point that, I would argue, it sounds unnatural to the British viewer. Spike’s use of stereotypical British lexical items is typified by his outburst in S06E08 'Tabula Rasa': ‘He's got his crust all stiff and upper with that nancy boy accent. You Englishmen are always so... bloody hell. Sodding, blimey, shagging, knickers, bollocks. Oh, God. I'm English!’. Spike’s choice of English words is always highly stereotypical and usually not constrained to a particular region of England. This is an unsurprising writer’s choice, as if Spike were to use some lesser known Cockney dialect words, they would almost certainly be lost on a predominately American audience.

To summarise, Spike’s accent in his introductory scene in School Hard is recognisably English, but couldn’t really be described as Cockney. He has a mishmash of linguistic features from across England and, occasionally, a bit of his natural American accent slips through. However, the inclusion of highly stereotyped working class accent features, such as (h)-dropping and (g)-dropping, and British slang (‘nancy boy’) are enough to support the vision of this character as a gritty ‘bad boy,’ and are a stark contrast to the archaic speech of the other vampires.

Overall, the while Spike’s accent is certainly patchy, inauthentic, and highly stereotyped, I would argue that it does not detract from the character or the show. First, Marsters’ American roots go undetected by many of the viewers. Additionally, this persona is just that: a persona. The character of Spike was created after William became a vampire and affected the ‘Cockney’ accent a part of his reinvention. For me, the inauthentic accent serves as a reminder of Spike’s lovesick past as ‘William the bloody awful poet’ and the ‘bad boy’ persona is, perhaps, just an act. Finally, and most importantly, Marsters’ consistently stands by this mishmash accent throughout the show. As a result, what starts as a device to bolster a ‘punk rock’ look in a throw-away villain, becomes an integral quirk of one of Buffy’s most-loved characters.

Holly Dann is a PhD candidate in English Language and Linguistics at the University of Sheffield. Although she is an avid festival-goer, she was not at Woodstock, and, to our knowledge, she has not fed off of any flower people. 

Friday, 25 August 2017

The Woman in White: Heroinism, victimhood, and the paradox of Buffy

Today on the blog we have Sheffield Gothic alum Kathleen Hudson discussing Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Season One finale 'Prophecy Girl' in relation to heroinism, victimhood, and the paradox of Buffy. (To read the inaugural blog in our Buffy Blog Series, click here). As always you can carry on the conversation using #BuffySlays20.

In “A Receipt for Novel Writing”, her 1799 parody of novel-writing and the Gothic romances which had flooded the literary landscape at that time, Mary Alcock describes the popular fiction author’s process of developing and torturing their work’s heroine: “Her fine blue eyes were made to weep, / Nor should she ever taste of sleep; / ply her with terrors day or night, / and keep her always in a fright […] (Alcock, “A Receipt for Novel Writing, 1799).”

Alcock’s ‘heroine’ could be any character from any number of early Gothic works, and she could very easily be Buffy Summers, the titular protagonist of Joss Whedon’s TV classic Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003). A California native moving from high school to college to adulthood during the late ‘90s, Buffy speaks to a contemporary time and place. She is also a classic heroine, a beautiful (and notably conforming to a beauty standard of blonde hair and blue eyes) pseudo-orphan plagued supernatural “terrors” which define her daily life, forced to negotiate social and moral values as frequently as she is forced to battle actual monsters. Buffy is distinguished from her predecessors, however, by those physical superpowers which make her the Slayer.

(Buffy descends into the Master's underground lair)
The tension between the ‘heroine-victim’ described in Alcock’s parody and Buffy’s ‘Slayer’ identity reaches an apex in the Season One finale, “Prophecy Girl” (aired June 2, 1997). In this episode Rupert Giles, Buffy’s Watcher and surrogate father figure, reads a prophecy that the season’s Big Bad, The Master, will rise and kill Buffy, and that it is only through this act that the conflict between them can be resolved. When informed of this Buffy attempts to adjure the identity which forces her participation, reaching for that ever elusive ‘normalcy’ which she desires even as her core being bespeaks abnormality. Her furious “I quit” in the Season One finale constitutes one of her most profound moments of rebellion in the series, and emphasizes the disconnect between the ‘Slayer’ and ‘Buffy’ – she openly admits that “I don’t care. Giles, I’m 16 years old. I don’t wanna die” (Whedon, 1997).

Because Buffy is by her dual nature both Slayer and classic ‘heroine’, her very existence suggests a violation of these identities and, by extension, the socio-literary influences which inform them. Whedon was initially criticized for naming his protagonist Buffy, though the jarring dissonance was actually the point – Buffy is a kickass warrior who drinks Frappuccinos, is a cheerleader, and has the kind of name one might reasonably give to a small, fluffy dog. On a superficial level, she is Alcock’s perfect ‘heroine-victim’, with all the inevitable ‘suffering’ that implies both within the boundaries of a fictional plot and within the reading/viewing audience’s perception of the heroine’s suffering as entertainment. As she points out, she is a teenager when the show begins, and her slight stature makes both her physical feats more impressive and the surrounding dangers more terrifying. Even Buffy’s strategy for escaping victimization, it seems, is by paradoxically acting like a victim – a normal teenager who, in the tradition of innumerable slasher films, just wants to go to the school dance. 

(Buffy trying on a (suitably heroine appropriate) white prom dress)
The perimeters Buffy’s ‘heroine-victim’ role is reinforced by her progress throughout “Prophecy Girl”. The written word determines identity – both within the plot and in larger negotiations of genre. As she prepares to either reject or accept her role she discusses the personal emotional loss that accompanies the death of several fellow students with her friend Willow, and is forced to finally commit to her decision to prevent Giles from sacrificing himself in her place, all moments which suggest a moral awakening and self-awareness. She attempts to get her mother, Joyce to leave town with her, while Joyce profoundly misreads the situation and ironically encourages her to be the ‘normal teenager’, idealistically citing the romantic possibilities that normalcy brings and giving Buffy a white prom dress straight out of a ‘Heroines-R-Us’ catalog.

Early Gothic heroine Emily St Aubert from Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho, E.J. Clery argues, survives the unstable Gothic space by “turning the tables and learning to treat herself as a commodity”, namely by exploiting her predilection for heroic virtue within, rather than in opposition to, a socially-constructed marketplace (Clery, The Rise of Supernatural Fiction, 1995). The villainous Montoni’s derisive quote that Emily speaks “like a heroine […] we shall see if you can suffer like one”, is a mocking attempt to undercut Emily’s identity (Radcliffe, The Mysteries of Udolpho, 1794). However, as both Emily and Buffy come to realize, embracing the heroine identity is its own strength. The only way out is through and in this, as Angela Wright argues, “Heroinism thus becomes a process in self-awareness” (Wright, “Heroines in Flight”, 2016).

(Buffy and the Scoobies in the library, having defeated the Master)

Buffy, wearing her white prom dress, that ever-potent Gothic symbol, goes to The Master as a sacrificial victim. Like Radcliffe’s Montoni, The Master mocks her limitations, her lack of knowledge, her role within the larger narrative: “You tried. It was noble of you. […] But prophecies are tricky creatures. They don't tell you everything. You're the one that sets me free. If you hadn't come, I couldn't go” (Whedon, 1997). Having unwillingly unleashed The Master and kickstarted disaster, Buffy is killed, becoming, at least temporarily, a passive object within a larger horror plot.
However, once Buffy dies and her self-sacrificial vitim-role is arguably ‘completed’ the boundaries of the prophecy narrative and indeed the Gothic-horror world which the characters occupy begin to break down. Firstly, Buffy is drowned rather than drained, suggesting a sort of failure of ‘vampire-ness’. Her friend Xander revives her when her love interest Angel cannot (as a vampire Angel doesn’t breathe and thus cannot perform CPR), exposing the limitations caused by the fictional universe’s own ‘rules’ regarding the supernatural. Her later face-off against The Master further undercuts an already shaky reality through an affectation of the physically-coded bubble-headed ‘blonde-ness’ which Buffy both embodies and subverts:

The Master: (turns to face Buffy in disbelief) “You’re dead!”
Buffy: “I may be dead, but I’m still pretty – which is more than I can say for you.”
The Master: “You were destined to die! It was written.”
Buffy:” What can I say? I flunked the written.” (Whedon, 1997)

In this Whedon points to the limits of the “written” and of visual signifiers such as attractiveness, those elements which lock heroines into patterns victimhood, and extends the formula past the point when a story about heroine-sacrifice would typically end. Buffy, naturally, slays The Master and lives to fight another day, and Giles wryly admits that he should have known no such paltry limitations could stop her.  Throughout the tenure of the show and in “Prophecy Girl” especially, Buffy emphasizes her youth, femininity, and vulnerability. However, because Buffy is dually ‘victim’ and superhero, she is also an identity paradox, and one which enables a radical shift in the boundaries of Gothic storytelling and identity. Buffy is a sacrifice, but she survives, and in turn weaponizes the heroine’s traditional ‘weaknesses’, turning them into tools, providing an on-going alternative ending which incorporates and then reworks traditional understandings of horror, femininity, heroism, and identity.  She notes wryly at the end of the episode that the white dress is a “big hit with everyone,” from Buffy’s enemies to her love interest. The signifier of Buffy’s heroine status becomes a fetishized object, but one which emphasizes the lengths to which she has been consistently underestimated even as it reflects a long tradition of ‘heroine’ identity. Buffy as a series never escapes its roots, but rather articulates and embraces the anxieties and tensions which define female identity more broadly – the paradox of a character who both suffers and endures. In this Buffy echoes her later quip to Dracula – we’ve seen the movies, and we know that the heroine, like the vampire, “always comes back” (Whedon 2000).

Dr. Kathleen "Queen of the Goths" Hudson is an eternal member of Sheffield Gothic: while she lives the American Dream, Sheffield Gothic continues to worship her from across the pond. To the best of our knowledge, she does not live imprisoned in an underground church leading a cult of vampires, nor does she teach in a school situated above a Hellmouth.