Anne J.

Television, Gender, and Sexuality Topic #6 – Fantastic Teen TV

Save the World or Go to the Mall: Conflicting Impulses in Fantastic Teen TV

Like the fantastic sit-coms of the ‘60s, contemporary teen shows structured by the supernatural disrupt notions of traditional family and attempt to represent the “unrepresentable” through displacement. Many shows, however, attempt to have it both ways – to offer “realistic” representations of teen life and make use of fantastic aspects in order to take up the excess that cannot be portrayed in any “direct” way through television. The power in these shows is with the fantastic teens against the unendowed adults (and the rest of the world), and the intrinsic nature of their “freakishness” suggests qualities that are more generational than age based. However, in disrupting biological ties in favor of the centrality of friendship, these programs cannot figure a sustainable relationship between audience and television. Fantastic teen series express dissatisfaction that they may then attempt to channel into commercialism (even while critiquing that very system), yet their structural underpinnings make commodities a poor substitute for love and romance. Ultimately, they suggest that only friendship bonds are powerful enough to change the world, and in doing so they refigure the role of TV in public life, as one that is constantly balancing between a system based on individualism and competition which holds TV together, and a culture of companionship and action that is increasingly defining what TV is. In her article “From Domestic Space to Outer Space: The 1960s Fantastic Family Sit-Com” Lynn Spigel traces the emergence of the “fantastic family sit-com” as a genre “founded on the merger between the troubled paradise of 1950s domesticity and the new-found ideals of the American future” (205). Such programs, she argues, “contested their own form and content” as a “complex organization of contradictory ideas, values, and meanings” (206). The origins of the “fantastic” genre, then, were filled with the contradictions that roiled the historical moment. Spigel contends that this genre did not “constitute an escape from reason” (206), necessarily, but instead “presented a highly irrational, supernatural discourse on private life…they launched a critique of the American family” (214). While fantastic sit-coms offered alternative to programs like Ozzie and Harriet that grew

further and further out of touch with contemporary social problems, they also presented a genre shift to TV, making it clear that TV need not attempt a direct reflection of daily life in order to be effective. When it was used on suburban adults, this technique shook traditional understandings and made middle-class suburban life seem potentially menacing. If these fantastic shows humorously depicted a challenge to the status-quo, however, the fantastic teen genre would seem to uphold it. Since the 1960s, teenagers, and especially teen girls, have been viewed by marketers and adults in general as “alien,” as outlined in Moya Luckett’s “Girl Watchers: Patty Duke and Teen TV.” She writes that “socially and culturally, then, teenage girls and their peculiar, ever changing tastes were deemed incomprehensible, unpredictable, and potentially unrepresentable” (100). Thus, whereas Samantha’s power in Bewitched might suggest that any of your perfectly “normal” suburban neighbors could secretly be a witch, fantastic teen TV can be seen to buy in to the dominant idea that teens are something completely different from adults – something desirable yet also unsatisfying. Luckett states that for marketers and television programmers, teen girls were portrayed as “bewildering, creating images of teenage girls as particularly erratic, incomprehensible, and often irresponsible” (97). Of course, like the earlier programs, contemporary fantastic premises hold both resistant and conservative elements within them. A series like Buffy the Vampire Slayer portrays this adult view of feminine adolescence through Buffy’s mother and her principal, who are confused by Buffy’s actions and, not knowing the secret that lies behind them, see her in the very terms Luckett articulates. Unlike My So-Called Life, for example, fantastic teen TV does not present a “unified surface” of teen identity (Byers, 713), but this in itself matches what Luckett notes as “strategies connote the fragmented and contradictory nature of teenage girls’ subjectivity” (101). The program and others like it thus offer the classic view of teens as alien by literalizing the premise, but it also offers a grounding narrative to explain teen girl actions, which makes it oppositional to stereotyped perceptions without necessarily turning away from the forces that hold up those perceptions. Contradictions, then, are part of the dominant representation of female adolescent identity, yet as we will see later, they present problems for TV form. Perhaps the biggest shift from the fantastic sit-coms of the sixties to the fantastic teen TV today is the move away from the biological family as the primary unit of association. For fantastic sit-coms of the sixties, the fantastic and the strange were embedded in the heart of the biological family itself. As Spigel writes, “woman-as-

alien” films and television programs “problematized the ideology of domesticity by making it strange” (222). In Bewitched, for example, fantastic and supernatural qualities are specifically associated with the biological family. Not only is Samantha tied to the magical world primarily through her mother, Endora, but many of the magical guests who show up have some familial relation to Sam, often being introduced as aunts, uncles, or cousins. This is further supported by the fact that both of Samantha’s children have magical powers, despite their father’s decisive lack of fantastic genes. Luckett notes that “teens were conspicuously absent from Bewitched” and other fantastic sit-coms of the ‘60s (99), but it was not only their presence that was missing, it was also their social practices. Luckett states that “gimmick shows, with their deliberate emphasis on fantasy and displacement, offered an attractive solution” to the “dilemma of representing the ‘unrepresentable’” teenager (99), but shows like Bewitched emphasized an unbreakable familial bond that certainly spoke to teenagers in strange and conflicting ways. While the trope of a biological family that you cannot escape from may have been attractive to teens, the emphasis on the biological family as the site of both the counter-culture and the secretly empowered may well have rung false with teen viewers, those who are seen as “different” from their families and “strange” for not conforming to their practices or moral codes. Part of what may make teens unrepresentable here, and thus cause the confusion, is the problem of confronting teen sexuality. Samantha’s magical power does not come off as sexual, and her desire for Darren posits an almost oppositional relationship, wherein her sexual orientation is towards the human, the “normal,” while her biological ties are to the fantastic. Spigel argues of this convention that “it is romantic love and marriage (the reproduction of the status quo and normal gender distinctions) that finally solve the crisis of the ‘Other.’ That is, sexual difference structures all other differences” (222). This is displayed in Bewitched through the difference between Samantha’s relationship, that of the normalized ideal of monogamous marriage, and that of her parents, who often show up separately, do not live together and have other romantic interests. The fantastic family show, then, can use socially acceptable forms of sexuality as a device to contain the difference they present, but teen sexuality carries with it stigma and taboo, and cannot function to reign in difference because since the fantastic is shared among peers, potential romantic or sexual interests would also be “different” from adult norms. This is a problem for fantastic teen TV. Perhaps for this reason, teen programs of the sixties presented a world where “teenage girls participated in a culture that stressed the joys of self and same sex friendships” (Spigel, 96),

evading the messy questions of teen sexuality. This presented a kind of cultural segregation instead of letting sexual differences cover over other differences – teenagers stayed with people similar to them, allowing difference to be purely generational. Yet contemporary teen programs, dealing with a culture where teen sexuality is at least grudgingly acknowledged, do not have the same luxury of marking friendship and self as being the ultimate sources of satisfaction. While Buffy, for example, marks friendship as the ideal social relation, having the show structured around a group of friends and having friendships last throughout the series, it also depicts character’s longing for romantic and sexual relationships that last. Sadly for the characters, almost none of their relationships do last. Lovers are murdered, as in the case of Jenny and Tara, or circumstances prevent them being together, as for Angel and Buffy and Oz and Willow, or they simply betray or leave one another in more mundane human fashion, as is the case for Xander and Anya. By the end of the program, only Willow and Kennedy’s relationship remains intact, and it is a relatively new development[1]. Rhonda Wilcox argues that the dangers of Buffy’s sexual relationships “emphasize the dangers of sexual encounters” (21), but the pattern of broken relationships marks a larger void in the program that cannot be explained away as a pedagogical message about risky sex, since the pattern holds even in socially sanctioned cases such as Xander and Anya’s engagement. Instead, a consequence of abandoning the “normal,” is the loss of love relationships. By keeping teens in the position of the ever-desiring, the show is able to posit an empowered vision of adolescence without doing away with the longing for more that propels capitalist economies. This longing supports the continued existence of television, with what Hastie calls it’s “structure of obsolescence” (10). The program’s inability to offer an alternative method for satisfaction, though, gives an underlying critique to its existence, as it encourages a kind of capitalism that’s not selling anything. These changes from the fantastic family sit-com correspond with a change in the location of the fantastic. In contemporary fantastic teen TV shows, the fantastic is strictly opposed to the biological family. While magical traits often remain innate qualities in shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, they are not shared among family members. As Wilcox points out in “There Will Never be a ‘Very Special’ Buffy,” “the series implicitly calls attention to the generational conflict and the horror of facing adults/adulthood” (20). In Buffy, the title character hides her true superhero identity from her constantly clueless mother, who not only remains ignorant of her daughter’s true nature for the almost all of the first two season of the show, but also frequently constructs alternate

explanations for explicitly supernatural events in order to maintain her denial. Rarely mentioned to begin with, the biological families of the other characters fade into obscurity as the program progresses, until at the finale for the show they are completely erased in their absence from any character’s mention. Instead of family, friendship is the glue that holds Buffy together. And while romantic relationships constantly fall apart, friendships remain sovereign, outlasting any attempts to break them. Wilcox notes, “friendship defeats the monster” (20). Even Faith and Buffy, who’ve tried to kill each other and fought desperately, end up as buddies in the end. The focus on friendship means that the program is organized around the fantastic core, while the “ordinary” remains always on the peripheral, unlike a series like Bewitched, where the “normal,” structured by sexual difference, is omnipresent. When it does show up, the real menace in Buffy is repeatedly shown to be the “real world” – parents who don’t understand, brain tumors, creeps with guns, and a society that refuses to tolerate difference. Perhaps the most frightening episode of the entire program involves a demon who poisons Buffy, making her slip back and forth between the diegetic reality of the program and an alternate universe that can be read as the “real world” (Season Six, episode seventeen, “Normal Again”). In that universe, there is nothing supernatural, and Buffy is instead having massive hallucinations, basically dreaming her entire life as it has been shown throughout the series. Importantly, in this “real life” none of Buffy’s friends exist, but her parents are alive and taking care of her, reaffirming the link between the “ordinary” and the biological family. In the “normal’ world, Buffy’s parents and doctor convince her to attempt to kill her friends in the “supernatural” world in order to bring her fully back to the non-fantastic universe. Thus, the ordinary threatens the lives of everyone in the diegetic “real world,” the fantastic one. Because the viewer is left uncertain at the end of the episode which world is the “true’ one, this “normality” also threatens the entire premise of the program. In “Normal Again,” even the doctor who claims Buffy is hysterical suggests this reading, telling her, “you used to create these grand villains to battle against, and now what is it? Just ordinary students you went to high school with. No gods or monsters ... just three pathetic little men ... who like playing with toys.” While the doctor thinks he is pointing to an inconsistency, he actually hits upon a central truth of the series, that the “real” is always more dangerous than the “fantastic” could ever be. It could be argued that this was always the real problem in Bewitched and programs like it, too – that if only the social norms had been less rigid, almost none of the problems in the series would be an issue. Spigel notes that in fantastic programs, “rather than the aliens advancing a threat, it was the white middle-class suburbanites who

revealed their darker sides” (222). Similarly, in the case of teen programs, the use of the fantastic serves to critique the status-quo, even though the program itself requires the dominant capitalist system for its existence. Is this ominous “real world” aligned with capitalism, though? In a way, it is the teen, here the “fantastic,” who is traditionally marked as supporting consumerism. The very category of the teenager is, more or less, a creation of consumer marketing. A focus on consumption was, in certain cases, used to distinguish teenagers from adults (at least when talking to teens). As Moya Luckett notes, networks seeking teen viewers in the sixties felt they needed “some novelty that would attract teenage viewers and distinguish the show from mundane, adult life” (98). This was necessary in order to sell to teens. She goes on to suggest that the main strategies for prompting teen consumerism were to include a “fantastic world or character” or to have a program that “capitalized on recent teen trends” (98). The fantastic show was thus tied up in getting teens to buy and creating the teenager as synonym for consumer. Buffy plays with these ideas, only to turn them on their head, presenting consumerism as antithetical to the true “teen” mission of friendship and service. This fits with Lynn Spiegel’s analysis of the introduction of fantastic shows in the sixties, which she notes originated among a “general dismay with consumer capitalism” (209). At the end of the final episode of the program, the characters discuss what they will do now that the hell-mouth they have lived over has been destroyed. Buffy suggests, “I was thinking of shopping. As per usual.” Giles, always the one to focus on the work to be done, replies, “Well, now aren't we going to discuss this? Save the world or go to the mall?” He thus pits commercialism against the fantastic duty, but he appears to be losing – Buffy playfully ignores him to go on about her shoe craving. And when Dawn discovers that the mall has gone the way of the rest of Sunnydale – underground – she replies in mock horror, “We destroyed the mall? I fought on the wrong side.” To which Xander sarcastically responds, “All those shops gone. The Gap, Starbucks, Toys “R” Us. Who will remember all those landmarks unless we tell the world about them?” Xander’s quip mocks any alignment between national identity and consumerism, yet it also backs up the link between the two by suggesting that consumerism is how people understand themselves. Although Buffy and Dawn both align themselves with a stereotypical consumerist mindset, it is clear from the context that they are mocking the very identities they embrace on the surface. In the fight between fantastic heroism and ordinary consumerism on Buffy, the former wins out every time. While the mall and all it embodies may not have murdered Tara or Jenny or planted a tumor in Joyce’s brain, it is destroyed alongside the hell-mouth and the horde of uber-vamps that inhabit

it, suggesting it’s dark nature, and is here specifically put up against saving the world. If Buffy and her crowd choose to shop, the program seems to argue, the world is desperately in danger. Yet some argue that Buffy’s critique of consumerism may simply be a cover for a different kind of consumption. Amelie Hastie argues that for Buffy specifically, “consumerism becomes joined directly with knowledge” (1). She states that Buffy and its tie-ins “produces a viewer with an investment in historical knowledge” (18) and that the show itself turns to the “desire to know” as a central theme (17). However, while Hastie’s assertion of the value of knowledge in the show holds true for defeating specific evils and even “understanding several of the main characters” (17), it stops short of providing truly life altering satisfaction or assistance. At the conclusion of the show’s first season, for example, Buffy and her friends learn of a prophecy that states she will die facing the Master. Knowing the prophecy, Buffy almost flees her duty, only to eventually return not because she knows what will happen, but because her knowledge is irrelevant – as, indeed, it is proved to be when her inevitable death is followed by an almost immediate resurrection. Knowledge may be central to the show and the consumption of it, but knowledge won’t bring Buffy her true love, or get back Willow’s lost partner. In fact, when Willow “goes to the dark side” her first move is to go find books, saying “I need power” (Season six, episode twenty, “Villains”). She then places her hands on the dark arts’ text and draws the words from the pages, as the viewer sees the text moving up her skin. Here, knowledge is marked as incredibly dangerous, so much so that it threatens the entire world. Drawing on the link Hastie maps where “the epistemological economy…is tied to this consumerist economy” and “the economy based on knowledge is also responsible for the driving of the consumerist economy” (13), this scene can be read, by analogy, as being in part about the dangers of consumption. This is especially possible since Willow’s thirst for power, here embodied in the form of textual knowledge, is often portrayed as a stand in for addiction, the quintessential paradigm of over consumption. Knowledge may equal a certain kind of power in the show, as articulated by Willow, but too much consumption of it leads to a doom that can be countered only by human relationships. This is perhaps the only time in the series where non-supernatural means are required in order to save the world – it is Xander’s human devotion to his best friend that brings her back from the cusp of destruction. It can be argued that this is a case where Xander succeeds only because of his knowledge of Willow, thus supporting an “investment in historical knowledge” (18), but this knowledge is of a particularly personal kind that cannot be purchased, and is ultimately

more about shared experience than knowledge in itself. By critiquing both the biological family and consumer culture, Buffy puts TV in somewhat of a bind. From a network point of view, what good is peer culture if it is not based in competition and consumerism? Xander’s long standing attachment to Willow upsets the idea that television itself can offer positive answers, since “it is known in part through its very ephemerality” (Hastie, 4), not through ongoing friendship. Television’s repetition, Hastie notes, depends on a forgetting that works “against the production of historical knowledge at a structural level” (5). After all, at the end of Buffy, the mall is not the only thing missing – the TV sets are gone, too. The fact that the program itself has continued on in comic book form, a medium with an entirely different historical situation than television, only further confounds the status of Buffy in particular and teen fantastic teen TV in general. Unlike more “realistic” teen offerings, such as One Tree Hill, Gilmore Girls, or Gossip Girl, Buffy and its counterparts leave no space for viewers to feel that they can be like the characters through their purchases or consumer based lifestyles. In the case of Buffy, this conflict is further complicated by issues of gender which surround the discourses of both TV and consumerism. Buffy’s premise relies upon a resistance to women as passive consumers – for all Buffy’s interest in clothes, her identity is defined by an active role of Vampire Slayer. Joss Whedon, Buffy’s creator, has stated that his intent with the show was to subvert the trope of “the little blonde girl who goes into a dark alley and gets killed in every horror movie.”[2] When women are not only magical, but in control of their power on teen shows, they go up against tradition. Teen girls may have been seen as something out of this world for many years, but the idea that they can save the world through their actions is new – to an extent. After all, Buffy’s consumer identity never goes away, which highlights the tension between her version of saving the world and the traditional female role in this capitalist economy, which relies on the figure of the consumer in order to exist. While it is secondary to her slayer nature, and is rarely actualized on screen (in other words, we almost never see Buffy shop, while we constantly see her slay), consumerism is presented as an intrinsic part of the character, an aspect of her personality that, in tension with her slayer skills, comes off as comedic in both its presence and the subversion of it. If Buffy bought something new instead of slaying a vampire, every time, she might be seen as making the world safe for capitalism and propping up the perception of young women as fulfilling a highly coveted consumer function. Luckett notes that in the sixties, “[teen] girls were

a source of media fascination due to their unprecedented spending power and their new role as trendsetters” (100). Buffy encapsulates the fickle yet powerful teen girl – except she’s fickle to the market because of community demands, and powerful in her strength, not her spending power (a quality that is actually portrayed as somewhat lacking, as Buffy will occasionally remark on being unable to afford something she desires, as in season one’s “Halloween”). By presenting teen girl identity in this way, the program allows itself to illustrate the very pressures weighing on teen girls and on TV – on the one hand, to be consumers and to support consumption, on the other hand, to be active and directed towards public service and to offer “good” representations of girls like these. Lisa Lewis argues that the idea of adolescence is always fraught with contradictions when it comes to girls, because they “are subject to conflicting gender discourses – most notably the discourse of femininity…a set of expectations designed to restrict girls’ behavior and choices, especially at the time of adolescence” (35). She follows research about classroom dynamics where female teenagers are instructed in living the contradiction, saying, “authorities activate the contradiction in their contact with girls by asking them to ‘develop ‘masculine’ characteristics of independence, political and career interests’ as well as ‘a personality style of caring for others, looking after children, being gentle and unassertive’” (35). Yet the “authorities” she is speaking about could just as easily be a television program like Buffy, which preaches both independence and service, gives lip service to consumerism while affiliating it with the base and even the evil, and attempts to represent teen’s “real” life – school, family, romance – and displace the “real” onto the fantastic. Interestingly, almost identical pressures exist for television itself, which is dependant upon a consumer system but is often called upon as a pedagogical tool and critiqued for promoting consumption. Writing about Buffy and merchandising tie-ins, Amelie Hastie argues that “the tie-in makes explicit the function of the film text itself as a commodity, one which regulates the consumption and production of both goods and desires” (15). Hastie extends this analysis to television texts, pointing to the role of television programming in feeding a capitalist economy. However, in Sold Separately, Ellen Seiter discusses the many criticisms of this role, focusing on the especially negative reaction parents had to children’s series that were based on toys. She notes, “some of the most virulent attacks [on girl’s TV shows based on toys] were in fact diatribes against their ‘feminine’ appeal. One of the reasons they seemed so dopey, so contrived, so schmaltzy was that they borrowed from popular

women’s genres – the romance, the soap opera, the melodrama” (151)[3]. On the one hand, TV programs are under pressure from advertisers to develop an audience who will be ready and willing to buy their products, potentially by supporting the image of the feminine consumer. On the other hand, TV programs, particularly those aimed at young women and girls, are disparaged particularly for pandering to perceived stereotypes of femininity. One way TV balances these competing claims for its purpose, as capitalist and pedagogical, is to offer programs with, in Michele Byers words, “characters and scripts equally entrenched in reality and stereotypes, in reality and fantasy” (713). Byers writes about My So Called Life, in which “the text positions the viewer by always insisting that the facet of reality supersedes and mystifies the facets of fantasy and excess” (712). Yet in Buffy, fantasy is primary, allowing the “reality” of the show to be the escape valve for the overly fantastic aspects, rather than the other way around. This uneasy balance means that the push to consume comes through as secondary to the push to save the world, but its secondary status also leaves it without a full fledged system in place for responding to that push. Buffy holds both angles at once, and as such sends a somewhat confounding message that teen life is full of unfulfilled desires which cannot be satisfied through product consumption – or anything else. The trick to saving the world, the program repeatedly suggests, is through friendship and communal action, through interconnection and public work. But in heralding these ideals, it also points to a huge loss in terms of familial and romantic relationships. And while an answer about where to look for this missing component is not readily available, it is oddly suggested. In the same post-Sunnydale finale that casts shopping as antithetical to saving the world, something else emerges out of the conversation. At what seems to be a surface level, both Dawn and Buffy articulate their desire to shop, while those around them scoff at the idea. And while the sisters march off to fight evil together, the history of the program has shown that such a quest tends to separate them. Shopping, on the other hand, is at times figure as the one activity that has the potential for familial bonding. At the end of season one, Buffy is dreading her impending death, while her mother thinks she is only upset about a school dance. Joyce then reveals a dress she’s bought for Buffy, saying, “I saw you eyeing it at the store.” While Buffy initially protests they cannot afford it, she goes on to exclaim sadly, “It’s beautiful.” Despite the fact that Joyce completely misinterprets Buffy’s concerns, their understanding converges on the dress, which Joyce knows Buffy will appreciate. The only familial connection here is in a commodity, and we hear about bonding time that happened while shopping.

Similarly, the second episode of season five has Joyce asking Buffy to take Dawn shopping for school supplies, a task she abnegates in order to practice her slayer skills. While the supernatural breaks apart the biological family, then, consumerism is figured as having the potential to bring it together, but is always rejected in favor of supernatural heroism. What fantastic teen TV shows figure, then, is the often painful process of leaving the home – one that ceases to threaten TV as new ways of consuming and producing television become possible. In “the Suburban Home Companion: Television and the Neighbourhood Ideal in Post-War America,” Lynn Spigel shows that from the beginning, television has been “caught in a contradictory movement between private and public worlds” (213). And so, from the time of their creation as a group, have teenagers, who oscillate between the realm of family and the public world of friendships and work. Yet these days, TV is increasingly public, like a teenager emerging from the nest – as Hastie describes, there are countless spheres for television tie-ins, including the academic world. And while TV has historically been used for “allowing people to occupy faraway places while remaining in the familiar and safe locale of the office or the home” (Spigel, 214), fantastic teen TV argues that it is time to leave the nest and make television consumption an increasingly active and communal experience. Yet by marking consumerism as a source of familial bonding, an almost private experience, Buffy suggests that something is lost if television becomes only about the pedagogical, the active, the “good.” The biological family, aligned with consumerism, is not fully disposable, it suggests, and will linger on, while a model of television that focuses solely on the fantastic teen friendship group and anti-consumerist sentiments will exclude fulfilling romantic and sexual relationships, which can stand in for television reproduction and continuation. Situated at a historical moment in which television is changing rapidly, fantastic teen TV shows present the argument that television structures need to fundamentally change in order to come into their adulthood. Romantic and sexual relationships here come to stand in for an adulthood yet to be imagined, a TV model that will evolve out of current contradictions. In Buffy and Angel’s final meeting on the program, Buffy tells her former lover, I'm cookie dough. I'm not done baking. I'm not finished becoming who ever the hell it is I'm gonna turn out to be. I make it through this, and the next thing, and the next thing, and maybe one day, I turn around and realize I'm ready. I'm cookies. And then, you know, if I want someone to eat m- or enjoy warm, delicious, cookie me, then that's fine. That'll be then. When I'm done. (Season seven, episode twenty-two, “Chosen”).

Contemporary television is, in many ways, still only cookie-dough. Fantastic teen TV thus becomes a stage on which the current contradictions of television emerge. To know who will enjoy the warm, delicious cookies of television to come, we can only wait to see what’s next. Of course, there will always be some people who prefer cookie dough to cookies, and for some, fantastic teen TV will have the final word on how to leave home in style.

There may also be an extra-textual reason for this particular relationship to make it to the end of the series. When Tara, Willow’s previous lover, was murdered, there was a backlash against the program for providing such a strong lesbian romance only to fit into a homophobic pattern of having one of the partners be killed and the other a killer. Curve magazine reported that “when Tara was shot through the heart moments after makeup sex with Willow, it sparked the biggest backlash in the show’s history. What Buffy creator Joss Whedon thought would play as a heartbreaking lover’s tragedy instead played like a lost clip from The Celluloid Closet” (“Dead Girl Talking,” Vol. 13, #7, In this light, Willow and Kennedy’s relationship can be read more as an attempt to appease angry viewers and reject accusations of homophobia than as an organic plot development.
[1] [2] [3]

Seiter, Ellen. Sold Separately: Parents and Children in Consumer Culture. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1995.

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