This is a birthday post forazdaja_dafema
on the treatment of Andrew in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season Seven especially.
Now I have a shiny new issue of the so far very mixed Season Eight in front of me, and this may remedy the problems I raise in this article, as it has Andrew on the cover.
There are many issues with sexual politics, especially treatment of queer issues, in Buffy. I’m going to shy away from the big one (end of season six, particularly with Willow and Tara) for the moment. First, I’d like to talk about the series a little.
Buffy was hugely important to me in secondary school. The first friend I made I made because I watched Buffy (we later fell out). The lovelyazdaja_dafema
I talked to more because of it. My mother thought that I thought I was gay because Willow was. Now the slightly more embarrassing admissions: my diary aged 11-14/15 was addressed to Willow. I used to make up conversations with Andrew in my head to let myself go to sleep during season seven (when I was 15).
One thing you might notice is that Willow and Andrew are both queer. Another thing you might notice is that Andrew, possibly the only clearly queer male character in the show, is not a serious character. His sexuality is heavily implied but not stated and is clearly linked to his “camp” persona, which could be fine. Only it’s not, really.
I identified with Andrew. It helped that both the girl in whom I was interested and my family very clearly identified me with him. I identified with the camp squee over comics, the pedantry over Stephen King adaptations, even, earlier in the series, the desire to be a supervillain. That could be fine apart from moments when the character is taken seriously, and the plot around the murder of Jonathan. It was possible to do really good things, like the treatment of Faith after she killed someone, with the character. Instead, with Andrew, it seems to be treated as a) he’s a joke but b) he’s also evil and did really bad things, which are inextricably linked to his queerness.
Cast your mind back now to me, at 15, watching Buffy. The Willow/Tara storyline and treatment of that, showing a functional queer relationship, had been important to me as a positive queer role model. That’s one of the problems I have with season six. Now they get to showing a gay man, and it’s not that he’s shown as being in love/infatuated with/attracted to someone who is evil, because there are amazing things that could be done with that. It’s not even that he’s shown as in awe of Warren, and completely uncritical. It’s when we get to season seven, and even the episode where he’s central (Storyteller) treats him both as a joke and as someone whose point of view is invalid, and reminds us that he’s a murderer. I think there are ways that the writers could have handled it better, while essentially doing the same things. I think they could have treated his sexuality as real, for one thing. After all the Buffy/Angel angst, and Tara being written out before Willow went evil, in the Dead/Evil lesbian trope, I think they could have taken a male queer character seriously. I have straight male friends who complain that Xander is treated as a joke after the wedding episode. I’m not sure I agree.
Because, as I said before, Andrew is the only queer male character in Buffy, and his campness, his sexuality and his crimes are all bundled together, and mainly in the form of comic relief. So I really wonder, considering Buffy’s fling in season eight, whether lesbianism is okay because it’s cute or attractive to male audience members, but male homosexuality is at worst a threat, at best not to be taken seriously. Given Buffy is the show that gave me Willow and Tara when I was thirteen, delayed their first onscreen kiss until a point where it was unsurprising, and emotional, and not the most important thing going on, this really makes me sad.
As does Andrew continuing to be a joke character in the comic, which may be remedied in the issue I have in front of me, but also may not. Anyway, enough of that for the meantime, hope I did actually touch on the sexual politics enough, will try and post more about Buffy and sexual politics (why hallo there, biphobia) soon.