Here at PDP one of the things we like to do is provide you with cool things to read that combine fandoms with academic writing. Many articles are behind paywalls, and we are uninterested in sending you to a for-profit company that asks you to pay fifty bucks for access.
However, every once in a while something drops that is not only open access, but also timely. There are a lot of current pop culture emphases on gender representations from the rebooted Will & Grace, to Denis O’Hare’s portrayal of Liz Taylor on American Horror Story: Hotel, to Sense8.
Given all of this, I found it apropos that the latest special issue of Slayage: The Journal of Whedon Studies called Queering the Whedonverses deals with such an important topic. The Buffyverse has always had queer relations: Buffy and Angel, Willow and Oz, Xander and Anya, Buffy and Spike, Willow and Tara, Spike and Anya, Drusilla, Darla and The Immortal. Even frenemies Wesley and Lilah, who mostly ventured into BSDM, had the occasional intimate moment.
And Angel and Spike. As Spike tells Illyria in “Power Play”:
Angel and me have never been intimate. Except that once…
And maybe Spike and Xander. Watch their reaction at :58 to all of Nancy’s questions:
As the introduction to the Special Issue states, “This special issue, therefore, seemed timely, if not overdue.” So without further ado…
The first two articles by Marcus Recht and Anthony Stepniak examine the negotiations of binary gendering, sexuality, and transgression, focusing on three of the Fanged Four: Angel, Spike, and Drusilla, some of the most sensual vampires to ever don our screens.
Taking a different turn, Steven Greenwood’s “‘Life isn’t a story’: Xander, Andrew, and queer disavowal in Buffy the Vampire Slayer” queers heteronormativity by examining how core Scooby Gang member Xander Harris and recurring character Andrew Wells represent homoeroticism and the tensions it creates for these nominally heterosexual male characters and audiences.
Moving on from heteronormative masculinity, Sharon Sutherland and Rowan Meredith’s article, as well as Alex Liddell’s contribution, explore the notions of bisexuality.
The articles interrogate female sexuality, bi-coding, and sexual fluidity in a number of characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, to Inara Serra from Firefly, as well as Fitz from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. They examine how these supposed gender transgressions often actually reify standard bi stereotypes.
Lewis Call explores how the transition of Buffy from television to graphic novel changes the way in which gender and sexual relationships can be portrayed. In what he calls “erotic pluralism” through the examination of Andrew’s out of the closet identity and his relationship with Billy.
Call also explores Xander’s submissiveness in the face of Buffy’s dominance, and Giles’ seemingly ageless sexuality, and suggests the comics offer an alternative to heteronormativity and its privileges.
Finally, for those of us who like to use Whedon in our classrooms, Nathan Fredrickson provides a syllabus outline that can get our students thinking critically about religious studies, queer approaches, and the Whedonverses, giving students enough distance to discuss personal issues
I binge-read this issue this week while doing other work, so I know I’ve overlooked some of the finer details. Even so, I got a lot out of this issue, and believe you will too.
Note: I did not want to make this the focus of the article, but it is worth noting that the edition’s introduction does also address the recent scandal involving Joss Whedon:
As this issue was in its final stages of preparation, The Wrap published an article written by Kai Cole, who was married to Joss Whedon for 16 years. Cole stated that Whedon had had a series of affairs with women he worked with from the point he was working on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and she accused him of being a hypocrite for calling himself a feminist. This seems to be the final nail in the coffin of Whedon’s public veneration as a feminist man producing female-friendly media, a veneration that could likely have benefitted from some nuance throughout his career (and did, in some circles).The fallout from Cole’s article is yet to be determined, though it is worth pointing out that infidelity does not prevent someone from producing feminist work. Human beings often embody contradictions. It is also worth pointing out that not everyone who calls themselves a feminist might be one in the eyes of others, partly because there is no monolithic definition of what feminism is. Whedon scholarship has long debated Whedon’s relationship to feminisms, and scholars within queer studies have been some of the most critical of his supposedly egalitarian and inclusive representations. At a point, then, where Whedon’s personal life and professional reputation seem to be imploding, it is instructive to interrogate Whedon productions from a range of queer perspectives and explore their complexities