Dammit, now I want this
Season 7 of Buffy is out on DVD. I wasn't going to buy it. Season 7 was a real snore at times, and I just don't feel that I'll go back to it again and again like I've been known to do with earlier seasons of the show, particularly seasons 2 and 3. But reading this review, well damn the extras sound great!
Listening to the DVD audio commentaries for Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Complete Seventh Season is much like watching the show with a room full of Buffy addicts you met on the Internet. That is: fun, obsessive, and something you hope no one ever finds out about. Buffy's writers and directors are clearly some of the show's biggest fans, alternately falling silent to catch their favorite lines and camera angles and gushing about their favorite actors, scenes, and episodes.
It's true. I've gotten a huge kick out of the commentaries on the first five discs, and they get better all the time as Joss Whedon gets more into it.
"The Last Sundown" shows clips of Whedon's 10 favorite episodes, as he explains that when he created Buffy, the concept of a female action star was still "revolutionary." He wanted to explore the idea of a young woman as "a hero, not just a heroine, but a hero."
Badass! I am already compiling a nerdy list of my own to compare to his. My hands-down favorite episode is still the last one of season, where Angel tries to kill Buffy by running her through with a sword and she catches it with her hands. I still tear up thinking about how cool that shot was and the subsequent fight. When I first started watching the show, I loathed Angel and all his mopiness. But by the end, when she had to kill him, well, *sniff*.
Season 7 was controversial, mostly because it was boring and it sucked to see Buffy so cowed and unfunny. Also, it made a lot of people really uncomfortable, I think, to discover that the Slayer was viewed from the very beginning as nothing more than a tool by the men who control her, that despite her intelligence and great personal power she was still being objectified like all women are on one level or another. (Though I always thought one of the strengths of the show was how in convincingly portrayed how men can choose to reject this fate as users, through the characters of Giles and Buffy.)
The ending of the series was also confusing--if it was wrong for the Watchers to force the demonic powers on the First Slayer in a scene that was designed to look very much like a rape, then how was it empowering for Buffy to turn around and push those powers on all the girls in the world who had potential to be slayers? But I think the answer lies, in part, in the process of objectification. The Watchers deliberately chose a girl to put the powers on because of her Otherness (see, the concept is incredibly useful). The saw her as an object, a tool that would house the necessary powers. This concept was bolstered by how the Watchers treated Slayers since then by paternalistically doling out information, training, and even discipline.
Buffy's choice to spread the power out was empowering because it was handed over freely from one woman to many with no strings attached regarding control. In fact, the power was released in a chaotic manner, imbuing girls with it whether they saw it coming or not. And we saw a montage of girls then turning around and using that power for their own means--one girl beats off a bully, another hits a ball out of the park.
This is the lesson Buffy has learned: as Espenson comments in "Buffy: Full Circle," "The way you protect your power is not to hoard it, but to pass it on."
Buffy was both the most powerful person in the world and a victim of that power, because of her unique status. She was never free to be her own person, because her Slayer status overruled any of her normal concerns. But now there are others to share her load and she can probably go out and do some more of the stuff that she's always wanted to do. In the end, I thought that the last episode of the series was wonderful and made some really great points about the importance of spreading power around and the benefits of community. Anyway, now I feel more inclined to buy it, though I know I probably won't spend much time watching some of the middle of the season episodes.