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DevilYouKnow: indulging_breck

Chez Claudia

Slayage Conference

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DevilYouKnow: indulging_breck
I've been away for a few weeks now due to a visit made to friends in Florida ::waves:: which was great, and which resulted in much bead shopping, eating of good food, and in Mike's case, guinea pig cuddling. It also resulted in missed plane flights, wonky car rentals, schedule changes, and the usual hassles of travel.

The trip ended up in Georgia at the Slayage conference. You can see the whole list of presentations here. This was held at Gordon College, which is a bit off the beaten path. As a result the closest hotels were in Griffin, a half hour drive, so it wasn't particularly convenient in terms of scheduling your day.



As a result we missed the daily keynotes all three days, though we had a full schedule the first day. One of the reasons I prefer reading papers to conference presentations is that I generally retain little from the lectures, especially if they don't have handouts or Power Point slides or something else to organize the points. The first day none of the presentations we went to had this and given the variety of points often being made, unless the papers had a central thesis, it was difficult to answer Mike's question at the end, which was generally, "So, what was the point of that?"

To wit, I have a hard time remembering from my notes how much of what I wrote came from the speaker's points themselves or from my own thoughts when I was listening to the discussion. The first one we went to was on "Representations of Blackness in BtVS" by Lynne Edwards. I suspect her forthcoming book on "The Other Sunnydale" is likely to be a good read because there were certainly interesting points raised, such as how the Scoobies mapped onto Ericsson's stages of development and how the creation of the Slayer was more of a Scapegoat story, where one person (or entity) is chosen to carry the sins of the community away rather than one of The Chosen Child, born of a virgin, etc. In the case of the First Slayer, instead of dying after the infusion of sin (or in this case, demon energy), she survived and went on to fight evil threats to her community.

Although I didn't quite catch her point, the speaker also tied in the metaphorical rape of Buffy by the Shadowmen to her survival of the attempted rape by Spike, neither of which succeeded. She also noted the reversal of the first Slayer losing her humanity in Africa, where demon and human became fused in the Slayer, to Spike's going to Africa to regain his soul.

I am even fuzzier on my notes about initiation, and the role of black characters in the series doing so. For example both in S3, Buffy's school counselor is black, and in Normal Again, her attending physician is as well. In both cases, the characters are examining Buffy's mind, in one case giving her perspective on her relationship with Angel (a vampire), and the other on her role as the Slayer. The Shadowmen could certainly be seen in the role of initiators to the Slayers, and Spike, in taking Nikki Wood's coat (a prominent emblem in Get It Done) is also initiated into his future role by a black character. She also discussed black vampires such as Absalom and Trick as being caught between the old and the new, being people who mediated this transition. Perhaps because he also serves this
function, she said that Spike essentially was a black vampire (this came up when she said that there was no need for Gunn to be vamped in AtS S6 and she hated that idea as the end of the character's arc).

One last point she just touched on in passing was noting that Xander tended to have an attraction to "The Other" such as Impata, and Ashanti's character. It is an interesting idea, as he tended to have his own thing for Slayers, older women (Joyce, Ms. French), women outside his class (Cordelia) and so on. Of course one could simply say Xander was attracted to just about any woman.

Session 2

In the next session on Gender, two papers were presented, the first by Chestina Turner on how women must be more than just an ordinary woman or else die in the Buffyverse (as opposed to, say, Xander, Giles, and Wesley who survive to the end of the series, never becoming more than human). Her best example was Anya's case, how she went from demon to human, to demon again, and then human at the end, dying in Chosen. It was an interesting notion to ponder given the purported feminist framework of the verse.

The second paper was by Jim Riser on the Western elements in the Buffyverse, how Sunnydale is the frontier town, Spike is the prostitute with the heart of gold, and Buffy fit the role of the western hero. There is also western terminology and metaphors used at different points, and plots such as the development of the lynch mob in "Gingerbread." The author compared this to the Oxbow Incident,where there are also three victims at the end.

In questions several other points were brought up, such as how the end of the series had the hero, not riding away and restoring civilization as we know it, but leaving the town as a crater. There was apparently a town burned at the end in a Clint Eastwood film (forget the name). Another audience member brought up how another theme in Westerns is a suspicion of Eastern things, which was reflected in the verse by the perspective developed on the Watcher's Council, who are overly organized and ineffective.

Session 3

Lorna Jowett did a presentation which appears in part in both her book on Sex and the Slayer and also coming up in the book Geek Chic. The overall theme was the representation of gender and science in both BtVS and AtS. One of the most interesting points in this apparently came from an article by Calvert in Slayage, discussing cyborg bodies in the Buffyverse. The idea was that Willow's use and misuse of magic comes in part from her basing her magical understanding and use from her own technological background. Unlike Tara's understanding of magic (and relative lack of technological use, see her discussion with Anya in "I Was Made to Love You"), Willow uses magic to control and organize, ideas springing from the use of technology, rather the more holistic and connected view of magic that is later emphasized in S7.

Session 4

The first paper by Kevin Durand discussed why Caleb was such an obvious and seemingly clumsy villain in S7, a caricature of institutionalized misogyny. His thesis was that Caleb was a lens with which to review the entire series not as a struggle between good and evil, but an internecine battle among different groups of patriarchal society, the main protagonists being the Watchers' Council. He discussed how the Shadowmen's attempted infusion of Buffy was a mirror of the First's merger with Caleb, Caleb and the Slayer merely being the different tools of two groups struggling for power.

I thought this was an interesting way to present things but the paper never went farther to discuss whether the Powers that Be and the First Evil are not on opposite sides either. It also made me wonder about how no one (that I've seen) has really explored what makes a Potential a Potential. I've thought since S7 that the whole transfer of the demon when vampires sire new vampires is much the same as the way the demon power transfers from one Slayer to the next. The only question is how does the demon power know where to go?

The second paper by Monique Hyman dealt with women's use of space on Firefly. The author pointed out how Kaylee and Inara each have their own spaces on the ship which are largely their own and, in the case of Inara, clearly delineated even after her departure (she leaves behind her trunk, and quickly takes over the shuttle again upon her return). Zoe, who lives more of the male life, shares all her space, public and private on the ship. River colonizes all space, however, going so far as to claim that she is the ship in "Objects in Space." Her mind, invaded by the Alliance, is only "rented" however, and she eventually reclaims it.

I'd argue that the whole space issue may change post-Serenity however, as River has reclaimed herself and apparently the ship's bridge, whereas Zoe now will have her own space.

Day Two

The second day we didn't head in until the afternoon sessions, which in my case began with the session on Fan Fiction. The first presenter, whose paper on Spangel had me the most interested, had cancelled out. There was also a paper presented on Buffy/Giles fic by Katia McClain, discussing the various spaces online for the 'ship and the way the relationship is treated in most B/G fic. There was also a presentation on Joanne Staudacher's project of writing a sonnet for each Buffy episode. She discussed this as a way of dealing with the series in a way that fit in with other creative fan projecs such as fic, vids and crafts. A lot of the talk could be summed up with "writing sonnets is hard and time consuming." She did read a few of them but when asked later if these will be available online said she hoped to get them published in a literary journal.

At the end of the two presentations a B/G vid from last year's conference set to "This Woman's Work" was played. What it made me realize is that it's often jarring (to me at least) to see a vid I've really enjoyed redone with a different pairing (or show even). I thought that Foomatic's Willow/Tara vid to this was much better, if for no other reason than the theme of the song was so much more fitting to their story and became quite touching when the two parts tied together.

The second session had 2 papers on OMWF. The first by Cynthia Masson was about rhetorical questions and how they obscured more than revealed truth. In previous articles the musical numbers were represented to function as the soliloquy does in theater, allowing the audience to know the inner truth of the character. This paper disagreed with that position saying that there were certain truths revealed in the songs, but the rhetorical questions obscure the deeper emotional questions. In discussing Buffy's failure to hear what she didn't want to confront (her own death wish, Giles' entire "Standing in the Way"), Xander and Anya's constant failure of communication, never answering one another's questions, Tara's song (which was changed from "Am I Under Your Spell"), and Dawn's question only when she was alone about whether anyone cared, the characters asked questions that they subconsciously did not want answered. Spike's question is the most obvious, as "why won't you let me rest in peace" seems to reveal a truth that isn't his actual emotional desire. It also addresses the big series question of why didn't Buffy ever kill Spike, given that it was her role and would have been fairly simple post-chip.

Hopefully this paper will get published soon as it held together very well, concluding with Fred and Angel in "Shiny Happy People" discussing how no one questions Jasmine. The second paper by Michelle Dvoskin discussed how OMWF utilized musical theater elements to enhance the queer aspects of the series, specifically with the lesbian experience in "Under Your Spell." The discussion afterwards focused a lot on who could hear what during the musical and what it (and the blocking of the episode) revealed.

The third session was on vampires and werewolves. The first paper by Peggy Davis dealt with Stoker and Buffy's use of vampires to reveal information about inner darkness in women and how desire equals power. The episode with Dracula begins the second arc of the series, from the battle without to the battle within. An interesting point made was how at the end of Dracula, Mina has accepted her role as wife and mother and has a child named after all the men who fought Dracula. Although the speaker didn't bring this up, this seemed paralleled in Buffy. After her encounter with Dracula, we first see Buffy with Dawn, and she takes on the maternal role by necessity in S5, culminating in the ultimate sacrifice for her sister/child.

The second paper by Hillary Brown focused on how the Oz storyline tied in with traditional and modern werewolf mythology, specifically as the avenging werewolf on the unfaithful lover. Part of being in a relationship is ceding control to trust of the partner. Oz's greatest fear is loss of control, and there are different signs that Oz has not learned to trust Willow after her earlier betrayal with Xander, both in the acts within the Wishverse as well as his attack on her in "The Zeppo."

The last paper by Devon Bryce focused on the changes to the vampire in the Buffyverse which ranged from the traditional to the modern. One example is the reaction of the vampires to the cross. It fills the Master with dread, Dracula turns away from it, Angel accepts its effect in his kiss with Buffy although he usually avoids it for its physical effects, and Spike handles one simply by wearing gloves and takes one on as a weapon in Destiny.

We had skipped the Thursday night reception and dinner on Friday night, but went to the vid night on Saturday. Mike and I had been in separate sessions all afternoon so we caught up over dinner first. He didn't have a whole lot more to say about his Saturday sessions than the two he went to on Friday. One thing that's certainly pretty challenging about a conference like this is that, although it should fall under the general heading of sociology or communication, and I think most of the presentations do fit that, it's pretty interdisciplinary. For example, there's nothing representing two of his majors, Political Science and Russian, so a lot of it starts getting jargony rather quickly. It also tends to assume a pretty good knowledge of canon, and he doesn't spend nearly the time reading or writing about that as even I do, so he found listening to most of the sessions pretty frustrating. Honestly though, when it comes to meta I think the stuff I read on LJ is often more interesting than what I heard there, the only difference being that it isn't tied to theory and disciplinary frameworks (for the most part). Of course that's probably also because if I'm on LJ I'm using my limited time to read stuff I'm already intrigued by! The other thing is that at least five of the sessions we went to didn't have one of the speakers there so one could say there were a fair number of dead links.

The vid night was scheduled to start 2 hours after the last session, I'm not sure why. There were, I think, 15 vids focusing on Firefly and Angel, about half of which I'd already seen such as "Hand That Feeds", "Passive", "Roseability", "Magic Carpet Ride", "Mr. Brightside" and it concluded with "Two Words." At the moment I can only recall "Cannonball" as being a new one (to me). The audience started rather small and about half the group trickled in late. The problem is that by the time the break came (when they were raffling off copies of the first half DVD), it was almost 10 PM and about half the group had to catch their bus back to the hotels. So they all missed the showing of "Scooby Road". We headed out too as we still had the half hour drive back and packing to do in the morning. I was sorry they didn't start the show at least half an hour earlier as I'd have really loved to see the group reactions to it especially at "Polythene Pam" and "You Never Give Me Your Money." The one that was most enthusiastically received in the first half of the show was the Firefly vid "Money for Nothing." Clever and fun, I'll have to track it down.

Day 3

We missed the keynote again, which was too bad as it was on Spike, Angel and the Buddy Genre but I'm hoping the discussion was part of Stacey Abbott's book. Since we had to pack and check out we also were a bit late to the next session, which is a real shame as we both enjoyed it a lot. The first paper, by Reginald Abbott was on "The Xander Harris Legacy of Masculine (Mis)Identity in BtVS." This was the one I really wanted to hear and what we caught of it lived up to my hopes. When we came in he was discussing the role of uniforms for Xander in the series, for example, what happened every time he wore a tux, and how Xander was forever "putting on" different masculine roles. For example, with Xander's soldier knowledge the everyday Xander served as a container for masculinity on demand, in the form of his soldier persona -- whereas Buffy was never called on to use any skills she might have retained as the aristocratic
lady (for example, in S4, it is Joyce, not Buffy who sews and alters her next Halloween costume). Abbott also looked at the clips used to represent Xander's character in the different opening credits over the years, and how they focused on his body as a way of defining the character.

The second paper was on Faith's arc as the evil dead lesbian cliche, only in this case, one who doesn't die but who is instead reconciled to heterosexuality. The idea was that Angel, the most masculine character on the series' is the guider of her "reform" in prison, and when she emerges she takes on a more clearly heterosexual role. In the discussion afterwards there were some modifications to this idea, such as that Faith is essentially a pushy bottom, who is continually trying to get someone to top her and match her in her kink orientation. I found the paper a pretty interesting reading of Faith's experiences and representations, especially as it pertained to why the knife kept reappearing in the shared dreams with Buffy.

The last paper was on Anya's role as the Fool in BtVS, noting at the end that in Shakespeare the Fool departs to be replaced by Cordelia, whereas on the show this was reversed. The paper was well laid out and presented and was a great look at Anya. There was a lot of back and forth in the discussion afterwards as well. We definitely thought this was the best session we had attended.

After lunch Mike went to the session on Narrative and I went to the one on Race and Class. The first by Agnes Curry was on the official displacement of Indians in Joss's Western by the Reavers, however there were many codings showing they were just that. Much of the discussion focused on stereotypical schema of other cultures and how the media perpetuates these. Probably because the chair of the session didn't appear the presentation ran rather long.

The second paper was by Elspeth Kydd on "Class Performance in BtVS" and dealt largely with the use of accents by Spike, and Angel in BtVS and AtS. It dealt rather more with the European/American old world/modern divide than with issues of class in the show, and tied Angel's transition to modern upper-middle class American, at least in terms of accent, style, transportation, passing essentially, whereas Spike is more fixed in his identity. (Although she didn't mention this it is a rather interesting thesis given Spike and Angel's first encounter with one another on the show). This presentation did use a Power Point and pretty effectively. In her final slide she mentioned that class discussions are also rather difficult for the following (as well as other) reasons:

Performative Nature
Concealed behind other identities
Manifests in culturally specific forms
Displacement of discussion of material conditions of class onto other issues

The last one was Nicole McClure's paper on Irish Otherness and Hybridity in Dracula and Angel. One of her points was that Angel is often challenged in his role as champion by English characters in the show such as Wesley and Spike. In comparing Liam's behavior towards Wesley in "Spin the Bottle" which is more traditionally Irish, she argues that Spike allows Angel to move past early Irish stereotypes, because he embodies many of these behaviors himself, to become a more mainstream Irish-American. She then looked at Doyle in "Hero" and the discussion of half-breeds, and how Dracula embodied racial discussions.

The last session we went to was on Myth and focused on Buffy's role. One of the presenters had dropped out, so the Chair told a story as we waited for everyone to finish filing in for the session. She had just gone from the conference to a wedding the night before, and the groom announced during his time at her table that the two of them were writing a paper on Buffy together. Someone scoffed at the idea of writing academically about a "silly" show, but then all the men at the table began asking her questions about the paper and shows while the women rolled their eyes. I couldn't help thinking of Kaylee's experience at the ball.

The first paper was by Erin Hanna on "BtVS as Myth", which basically traced Buffy's path through the series as the hero's journey using Campbell's stages of the myth. She argued that the traditional structure made it accessible to mass audiences and the polysemic meaning of the text (the various subtextual readings) allowed for a wider and deeper reach. She had a particularly interesting example, using the Gentlement in "Hush" as representations of the bourgeoisie, who naturalize history through myth, and the constant emphasis of the collective within the series as a countering political argument. She had a great concluding line, asking if viewers would heed some of the implicit calls to action within the show or allow Buffy to slay our demons for us so that we don't have to. It was a well laid out discussion and set out strong conections. And yes, it used Power Point.

The session concluded with Allison Henney's "The Psychic Development of the Feminine" which built on the first presentation to discuss metaphor and was, the speaker noted, born out of her frustration with her students' inability to grasp metaphor. She suggested that the BtVS series itself was like the Slayer scythe, being handed out to the audience for them to use for their own stories. In the discussion afterwards some of the questions focused on why Campbell is so often used for discussion, particularly since the academic validity of his analysis is pretty poor. It is presented as universal, whereas it is really very Western oriented and doesn't fit well with myths of other cultures. There was then some discussion of the Adam storyline and how this might be seen as a creation myth. The final part was discussion about the future. Will Buffy be both enduring and flexible enough for future generations to reinterpret it to reflect future societal concerns and entities? And that finally ended with discussion of converting other people and how knowledge of the series is spreading person to person and how that recreates oral tradition.

We had to skip the last session where the various Buffy academics who have published books were doing a panel discussion as we had to get to the airport for our flight home, which hopefully will go more smoothly than our flight down.
  • Very, very interesting especially In discussing Buffy's failure to hear what she didn't want to confront (her own death wish, Giles entire "Standing in the Way"), Xander and Anya's constant failure of communication, never answering one another's questions, Tara's song (which was changed from "Am I Under Your Spell"), and Dawn's question only when she was alone about whether anyone cared, the characters asked questions that they subconsciously did not want answered. Spike's question is the most obvious, as "why won't you let me rest in peace" seems to reveal a truth that isn't his actual emotional desire. It also addresses the big series question of why didn't Buffy ever kill Spike given that it was her role and would have been fairly simple post-chip.
    OMWF is like Restless - so many, many layers
    • OMWF is like Restless - so many, many layers

      Agreed. Serves a huge foreshadowing function for the season, and there's certainly a variety of detail to be mined there. I liked how she brought out that prior to their song, Anya never answers Xander's questions, just responds with more questions. The speaker talked about how they were forever talking past each other, clearly hearing what the other was saying but lost in their own concerns.
  • Thank you so very much for typing all this up. Makes for such fascinating reading and I'm sure I'm going to come back to this time and time again.
    Some really fascinating points, and perhaps I'd have to agree with you that sometimes reading on LJ can be a bit more illuminating than the critical theory surrounding the show.
    It's a shame that some of the presentations didn't live up to your expectations but there were some nice resonances for me.
    I liked the idea of Sunnydale being the Western Frontier and that the WC were something akin to the fear of the East. That's a neat idea.
    One of the most interesting points in this apparently came from an article by Calvert in Slayage, discussing cyborg bodies in the Buffyverse. The idea was that Willow's use and misuse of magic comes in part from her basing her magical understanding and use from her own technological background.
    I was thinking of approaching some of this for my dissertation actually and doh! reminds me I have a whole essay written about cyborgs in the Buffyverse. Zounds! But yeah, that's pretty much the conclusion I reached too.
    In the discussion afterwards there were some modifications to this idea, such as that Faith is essentially a pushy bottom, who is continually trying to get someone to top her and match her in her kink orientation.
    I think that's a fascinating idea and would certainly lend a lot to her portrayal in fanfic. I think I might have been trying to approach that in the Faith/Connor fic, but not really succeeding!
    I'm so pleased that you enjoyed the Xander discussion though this: Of course one could simply say Xander was attracted to just about any woman. Made me giggle.
    Fascinating stuffy anyway, thanks so much for putting this together. Off to pimp!!
    • sometimes reading on LJ can be a bit more illuminating than the critical theory

      I think that seeing how people tie 'verse elements into theory is pretty interesting, but in terms of the things they analyze, there's generally far more such discussion going on within the fandom, and at a much finer detail of depth. Of course, that's also because one can toss off an analysis of any length on one's blog whereas an academic article has to meet all sorts of tedious requirements. For example, the class discussion at Slayage had its interesting points but in general Spike's class issues have been explored numerous times in the fandom. I can think of Peasant's fascinating exploration of his educational background just off the top of my head. I was really hoping for a broader analysis of it within the whole series which was not what the presentation focused on.

      akin to the fear of the East. That's a neat idea.
      Yes, one of the things that is very cool about the conference format is the give and take that can occur, as the discussion can bring about even more interesting ideas than in the papers themselves. The pity of it is that it all gets lost as soon as people walk out of the room!

      I have a whole essay written about cyborgs in the Buffyverse. Zounds! But yeah, that's pretty much the conclusion I reached too.
      Wow! Such an interesting topic. You should submit it to Slayage. From what I gathered at the conference they're beating the bushes for new submissions. A number of the presenters mentioned that their papers were drawn from their dissertations and as a result they'll probably be publishing them elsewhere for tenure purposes. But it would be a nice addition as part of a PhD program application ;>

      I think that's a fascinating idea and would certainly lend a lot to her portrayal in fanfic.
      That was one of the thoughts I had listening to certain discussions -- that the character interpretations you see in fic lend a lot of credence to certain academic discussions, evidence if you will. I mean, academia is nothing if not legitimized fanon.

      Made me giggle.
      Made me think of the whole "Is Xander a slut" discussion on shapinglight's LJ a bit ago :> One other point the Xander speaker made was about how it is always Xander who first comments on another male character's attractiveness. He also felt it was a disservice to the character not to have him "the one who sees" in Andrew's role as the storyteller who compiles the Slayer's stories. In fact at one point in the post-chat the moderator had to remind people it was not an Andrew session!

      Thanks muchly for the pimp :> I feel so little of what I heard ended up here which is why I so wish the authors had handouts or something to cement their ideas in my brain as one lecture piled onto another!







    • I just wanted to thank you for your lovely synopsis of the weekend events. If only we all had timeturners to catch all of the sessions!

      (I presented the Anya paper on Sunday). It's also great to see the discussions continuing on Livejournal!

    • Well hello! We ran into one another at the computer lab there as well, not often I meet another Claudia :> We really enjoyed your paper, you did a lovely job setting up the clips and putting it all together so smoothly. It was such a great session to start the last day with (at least for us it started the day). Given how long our Sunday was, it was a nice energy boost :>
    • (Anonymous)
      It's taken me forever to catch up with online replies! Thank you for the lovely comments and I'm very glad to have met you in the computer lab at Gordon! :)
  • Wow. Thank you for this. In the swirl of information/theory dense presentations, you've done an amazing job of summarizing main ideas. There's a huge amount of work and time represented in this post. Once again, thank you!
    • Aw, thanks! I'm afraid it's just a drop in the ocean of discussion there, but glad to hear the tidbits were food for thought :>
  • Thank you for all the hard work you have put into this. I will be re-reading again to take in lots of the details. I’ve often wondered if there are essays on why Joss made all the vampires European? I can understand the historical time factor but it still seems odd that none of the ‘on going’ characters were American vampires.

    • Yes, it's a very interesting point and one I hadn't really heard anyone explore before. Of course, with the time limitations (usually 20 mins per person) there's only so much the presenters could squeeze in. Both the speakers who brought it up though seemed to see it as deepening the contrast between the main characters and the vamps.
  • here on a rec from lillianmorgan. Wish I knew you were there; I was there too!!

    We attended only three sessions together - Lynn Edwards', the one on werewolves and vampires, and the vidders' show.

    I gave a PowerPoint presentation on The Fandom Project, and chaired a panel on Family in the various 'verses.

    and yay! I won one of the vidders' dvds!!

    We left early today, so I especially appreciate your reviews covering today's sessions.

    Because the Buffy and Angel fandom is my research project, I'm sure to be at the next Slayage. If you go, please look for me; I'd love to meet you face-to-face!
    • Congrats on the luck of the DVD draw! Were you able to stay for the Scooby Road showing?

      And thanks for the invite -- I think it will largely depend on where and when Slayage will be held if we go again. We went to this one mostly because the timing worked for both of us and we could tie in other visits at the same time.

      Given how many sessions there were it's almost remarkable anyone had overlap in attending presentations, although some were quite well attended. I know Mike said the Wesley session was standing room only. There was certainly a lot to choose from with topics ranging all over the map. Makes for a pretty tiring weekend! Or that could just be us, we did a lot of driving and visiting beforehand and were already somewhat spent before we got there. It's good to be home again -- I'm sure you know the feeling!
  • Thank you so much for posting this!

    It also made me wonder about how no one (that I've seen) has really explored what makes a Potential a Potential.

    I've wondered about that a lot myself.

    At the end of the two presentations a B/G vid from last year's conference set to "This Woman's Work" was played. What it made me realize is that it's often jarring (to me at least) to see a vid I've really enjoyed redone with a different pairing (or show even).

    This happens to me a lot too, and often when I hear a song for the first time as part of a vid, I forever associate it with those characters/situation. And all of this makes me think about how the music and images come together to become a new text--an obvious thought, I know, but it's interesting to me how later the song seems like half of something instead of complete on its own. I have noticed also, that vidders of my acquaintance often shy away from using a song if someone else they know has vidded it to something else.

    As I read your synopses of these essays/talks I find myself thinking back on my own academic writing that has referenced BtVS. It's been awhile since I wrote anything that wasn't aimed at a fannish audience. But these essays seem to me to be very much fannish, albeit a different sort of avenue. Coming from a film and television studies perspective, almost all of my own scholarly writing used BtVS as an example of a larger phenomenon, rather than an internal analysis. Some people have teased me by saying that I "minored in Buffy" in college and while I smile and acquiesce to this ribbing, it is also not really true in that I would never, for example, say that I am going to "study Buffy" in my grad work--I am more interested in writing about fandom dynamics (in relationship to general media use/practices) than on any one singular text, while also acknowledging that my own specific fannish experience informs anything that I might produce.

    *Note: I wrote the previous remarks before I had finished reading your post, specifically before I got to your discussion of the relationship between what you read online and what you experienced there. Anyway, what I was thinking about was that the main reason that this all seems very fannish to me is because it is largely opaque to a general audience, only in this case one need be familiar not only with BtVS/AtS canon but also certain types of theoretical jargon. This all dovetails with how I often think about the similarities between academia and fandom: the secret codes, internally structured hierarchies and forms of recognition, the level to which one's enjoyment increases the more one can cross-reference/read intertextually--not to mention the "obsessive" nature of us it all.

    Thanks again. There were many more points which "pinged" with me, but there is only so much quoting I can do at this juncture.
    • I've wondered about that a lot myself.
      I suspect it would open quite the can of worms.

      how the music and images come together to become a new text--an obvious thought, I know
      Not so obvious as that :> I think you're right though, there's something a bit disassociative about having it reshaped. I know I sometimes feel the same when there's a particularly large sample in a new song, there's something jarring about the familiar not fitting well in the new setting. Which is rather different than someone redoing the same song, say between the Tears for Fears and Gary Jules versions of "Mad World." I think both still play very well, (though apparently TfF liked the Jules version so much they're now doing their version of his version which is quite the hall of mirrors). I first heard the Jules version in a (wonderful) vid by Luminosity, but I suspect those who first heard/saw it used in "Donnie Darko" probably have a hard time adjusting to the Spike vid version.

      Interesting what you said about the academic treatment of media texts in Film and TV Studies. I have a History and English background and then LIS which is, I suppose, a social science (it's really this odd interdisciplinary meta field) so I've never actually had a class that deals with media texts. What you say makes sense though, about the fannish approach. The common thing in all these presentations is the canonical text, becase given the fact that one person may be using it as an example of legal pedagogy and the next person is using it for a linguistics discussion, the canon is the only common point of reference for the audience.

      Completely agree on the fandom/academia parallels, including the personality types that tend to be attracted to them. Have you read Matt Hills' book? He has a whole chapter on the academic fan and the overlaps there.
    • Yep, I have read Matt Hills' book and I liked it so much that I considered applying to Cardiff and corresponded with him about that. Of course I would have had to get an MA first, which is why I applied to MIT. And 'twas sad when I told Henry Jenkins that I was not going to go. Though I think that it will be better for me to go to a solid interdisciplinary program where there will NOT be so much danger of being seen as an acolyte of someone else.

      And there are plenty of people in Film/TV studies writing text-specific stuff; I'm just more interested myself in making other kinds of connections and thinking about social phenomena. Which, of course, means that I'm going to have to branch out. To me, it often seems insular, and that's something I want to avoid. Of course, I realize that my fandom output is definitely like that, and my brain is percolating about WHAT exactly the big differences are going to be between my fannish activity and my scholarly activity, because I know (and don't mind) that they interlap.
    • interdisciplinary program where there will NOT be so much danger of being seen as an acolyte of someone else

      Yes, I could see that, although at the doctoral level the necessary networking makes that somewhat inevitable. It's the PhD you'll be starting on, right?

      Out of curiosity, are you very familiar with Social Informatics? Sounds like that might be/suit part of your interest?
  • (no subject) - barronsjzuk
  • Here on lillianmorgan's rec. Thank you for posting this! Back in the day I used to spend most of my fannish time reading the essays at slayage.tv, so this was a real treat.
    • Ah, the conference would have been catnip to you then :> I think you can expect that a number of these papers will show up in the journal in the next year or so and you'll likely be able to retain more than I did in person!
  • I find this kind of discussion fascinating, and I'm sure I wouldn't have been bored at any point. Certainly one of the things that made all three Whedon series great were the underlying layers, and that shows in the ongoing debates. And yet, I can't help wondering how much of this the creators might have consciously discussed (or at least thought about), how much might have come out of their subconscious, and how much might have been simply an accident of deadline and plot development?

    After all, as Xander might paraphrase Freud, sometimes a tool is just a tool. (Not that I mind -- it's still interesting.)
    • how much might have been simply an accident of deadline and plot development?

      An enormous amount, really. I think it was in the discussion about Angel's Irishness that it was never mentioned the major reason for Angel rarely showing an accent was the actor's inability to perform it properly. However in the same session the "class" paper author did poke some fun at the fact that rather than going for the simple meta explanation she was going to explore the more complex, analytical version!

      On the other hand some of it was intentional, such as the discussion of the "bougeoisie" Gentlemen came in part from a quote of Joss's discussing his desire to make the villains very Victorian and having metal teeth as a representation of science conquering cavities, and the class differences between the Gentlement and their henchmen, because he found all those elements innately creepy.

      In other cases I felt the analysis wasn't taken far enough. For example, in the women's spaces on Firefly discussion, there was no question that Kaylee and Inara, the most "feminine" characters had very clearly defined spaces on the ship that were associated with them. However nothing was mentioned of how much Wash also fits this in his role as pilot, and what that may say about the character's role within the group. Or perhaps to use this as a lens for exploring how much men are seen as the generic in society whereas women are more often defined by their personal roles.

      Great icon, btw!
    • analyzing the analysis

      The icon, which is one of my favorites, comes with thanks from Earth_vexer; I have absolutely no talent for creating anything that I can't type. :-/

      The class paper author you mentioned has the right idea; go into it with a sense of fun. Still, we can never underestimate the meaning behind anything Joss creates, because he's one of the few in Hollywood who puts effort into thinking beyond the hereand now. I remember back when Star Trek fans were coming to blows over issues ranging from race relations to warp drive engineering. Joss Whedon and Gene Roddenberry were alike in that they both wanted to showcase critical issues within the fantasy trappings of their stories, which probably explains why fans of both universes remain so, well, fanatical.

      After all, few people debate the sociological elements of "Gilligans Island"!
    • Re: analyzing the analysis

      In the final session's discussion, when the conversion stories were being discussed, one audience member mentioned the reaction of one of her students to watching "Buffy" as part of the course text. The course was on religion and popular culture, and he was a fairly conservative Christian who was deeply suspicious of Buffy as a text. The students had to keep journals of their reactions to the texts as part of their coursework. Partway through watching he realized he was starting to understand both the appeal of the show as well as "seeing" the things being discussed in class, and started writing longer and longer responses to his viewings. He stated that he was becoming like "those fans" who argue about all the little details of their favorite shows! Made me grin.
    • those fans

      Yes! Another convert!
  • What a lot of fascinating ideas! Thanks for writing this up.
  • Ooh, thank you for writing all this up! It sounds fascinating.

    I'm pretty convinced by the argument that women must become more than just women, or die. As I've been trying to think about where the show has to be taken metaphorically and where it can be seen more literally, this ends up bugging me a lot. The conclusion of the series turns a bunch of women into superheroes and gives them the power to fight - how much can we really relate to that? Cordy the higher power, Willow the witch, Dawn the ball of mystical energy, Fred who dies a woman and is inhabited by a god, Eve the sinister villain who becomes pathetic when she signs over her immortality, Darla who starts dying as soon as she's 'just' a woman- and on the other side Tara, Joyce, Lilah, Alana, Kate who nearly kills herself, Anya. Buffyverse women never seem to get to be heroes - only superheroes. That seems very true to me.

    Not so convinced that the Watcher's Council is being orientalised, though - sure, London's east of California, but I don't reckon Edward Said would buy it!

    • Heh, my point exactly about how often we end up exploring these issues on LJ and other fan spaces. She mentioned some of the same cases you did, though she was focusing just on the "white hat" side, and I was curious to see what she'd come up with looking at other characters such as Lilah and Darla. What was interesting is that at the last conference she presented a paper on (mostly) Xander and the feminization of the male characters in BtVS as a way of keeping them from being a challenge to female power. A nice bookend of papers.

      Ah, sorry, they didn't mean Eastern as in Asia, but East Coast/West Coast in the U.S. Generally in Westerns there is a feminization and suspicion of things from the East Coast, which is seen as more aristocratic and civilized, but also naive and inept in dealing with the realities of the frontier culture.
    • Cordy the higher power, Willow the witch, Dawn the ball of mystical energy, Fred who dies a woman and is inhabited by a god, Eve the sinister villain who becomes pathetic when she signs over her immortality, Darla who starts dying as soon as she's 'just' a woman- and on the other side Tara, Joyce, Lilah, Alana, Kate who nearly kills herself, Anya. Buffyverse women never seem to get to be heroes - only superheroes. That seems very true to me.

      Dawn began as a ball of mystical energy but on the show she ended up grouped with Xander, her only superpower the ability to put in the hours with a Sumerian-English dictionary. Eve, rather like Harmony, was Lindsey's pathetic dupe regardles of the state of her mortality. Just before they died Tara was shown to be powerful witch who saved the scoobies from asylum Buffy and that unpronouncable demon and Jenny Calender's gypsy secret identity had been revealed to add a further gloss to her technopagan skillz. Kendra, of course, was a slayer. So I don't see a necessary relationship between female superpowers and survival.

      It's also hard to think of male characters who don't have some kind of power. Wesely and Giles both do magic, Riley is a supersoldier, Gunn gets all lawyered up in S5 before his heart gets ripped out and bleeding to death is the happy version of his ending. Angel and Spike are vampires. Oz is a werewolf. And so on. Apart from Kate men tend to leave and women to die. Or like Faith when they do leave they come back. Wasn't Tara planned to return in S7 but the actress wouldn't have it?
      • Wasn't Tara planned to return in S7 but the actress wouldn't have it?

        Those meta issues are always a complicating factor in any analysis, one of the reasons why Jenny was killed but Faith returned, Doyle never returned but Lindsey did, etc. For example, the story that Xander's character was originally supposed to be Ben, housing Glory, changes the whole superpower discussion as well. Given the other frequent plotline rumor, that Xander was supposed to get the gay storyline while Willow got the magic one, the whole split male/female identity of Ben becomes a counter-discussion to that if we can see groundwork being laid for Xander's development in S1 to S4. Except that since that storyline never played out and the series returned in S6, all of it just becomes debated subtext instead of clues to his ultimate identity.
      • But I wonder if the same writers with the same philosophy/understanding/weltanshaun whatever had gone with those different plots the outcome would still have been the same in terms of viewer interpretation of the subtext of it all. Or it’s significant that they didn’t end up telling those stories. Joss’s idea about resurrecting Tara could be more like him writing crack fic for his own series and would never have flown.

        Also I suppose one difference between fan and academic discussion is that the former can allow itself to psychoanalyse the writers and get quite personal about it where the latter has to stick more to dispassionate dissection of the text. At least on the surface, a lot of the papers seem to echo fannish concerns very closely. I hope they publish the ones on OMWF they sounded really interesting. The conference sounded fun.
      • Different philosophies about the show and characters among the writing staff is always fascinating, though from the fan perspective hard to determine (I'd think) since the finished scripts can't always be attributed to the writer with the credits. I found it interesting to learn about the argument Fury and DeKnight apparently had about who should win the cup in "Destiny." To me it seems they made the more sensible choice, and yet apparently it could have gone either way. Which would certainly change the whole meaning of the episode, as well as the Spike-Angel dynamic that season.

        Joss's idea about resurrecting Tara could be more like him writing crack fic for his own series and would never have flown.

        I got into online fandom in S7 of Buffy so by S5 of Angel I was trying out a variety of forums. I remember the scathing comments on TwoP about "A Hole in the World" and the verging on/absolutely maudlin (depending on your POV) death scene with Fred, as well as Fred's whole character being an awful Mary Sue. So depending on who you ask the crack was already there (as opposed to "Superstar" which was a Mary Sue sendup) :>

        psychoanalyse the writers and get quite personal about it
        True, though this might also be seen as a matter of degree. It'll be interesting to see what the new Lavery book on Joss is like, but certainly in English Lit I think historically there's been a great deal of author meta research in critical readings, though perhaps for reasons of libel it only goes so far unless the author's dead! For that matter in more recent years biographies have taken a page from RPF and are dramatizing their accounts. I tend to agree with femmenerd that the academic and fannish have a lot of similarities, the main difference with the academic being the placement of analysis within a broader framework, whether that's theory, a societal framework or a historical perspective. To me that's also the fun of the better papers at Slayage, seeing how 'verse discussions and elements can be cross-referenced to other cases or disciplinary interests.
  • Hi my LJ name was bellakuuiupo1 and you and I was friends I have a new Personal LJ mypetconcubine could you PLEASE FRIEND ME :D
  • (no subject) - maeve_rigan
    • Thanks for dropping by :> I've just been looking at the ones linked from Whedonesque by Simon. I was glad to find out who won the Mr. Pointy award. Sounds like Roz did a great presentation, that should be an interesting forthcoming book!

      I'll pop by to see your write-ups too. It's great to see other reports since even splitting up it was impossible to attend everything, though the proximity of the various lecture rooms made it simpler to mix and match sessions. Gordon College was definitely a nice venue, pity about the lodging situation.
  • :: waves back ::
  • I attended Slayage, can I add you as a friend?
  • Thanks so much for posting this! I really enjoyed reading about the variety of presentations. It's exciting that there's still so much fascinating discussion about the shows.

    A lot of the talk could be summed up with "writing sonnets is hard and time consuming." This really amused me because I've had to write sonnets and that was my reaction!!

    When we came in he was discussing the role of uniforms for Xander in the series, for example, what happened every time he wore a tux, and how Xander was forever "putting on" different masculine roles. Very fascinating!! I've always thought of Xander as a very open character who doesn't hide a lot (not to say he's shallow). He's always willing to speak his mind and call his friends on something he sees as problematic. Anyway, it's interesting for me to consider him in terms of "putting on" masculine roles. Although, even when he does that it's overt because it's a recognizable change in his appearance.
    • This really amused me because I've had to write sonnets and that was my reaction!!
      Yes, it struck me that what we were getting with her presentation was essentially the "DVD Commentary" of writing a fic!

      Although, even when he does that it's overt because it's a recognizable change in his appearance.
      I think that's part of what the author was getting at. I do wish we'd heard the first half of the paper as I imagine I'd have better understood what his overall discussion was building to.
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