The PEELING of Feminism
This article was obtained from The Boston Globe, July 14th, 1997.
By Ed Siegel
Thanks to Lawless for providing this article.

      There's a certain chagrin among feminists that today's young women take the struggles of the 1960's and 70's for granted, that they don't have enough respect for those who cleared the path of sexist barriers.

      When you look at popular culture these days, though, not only are the most interesting characters strong young women, but they do indeed pay homage to a '60's icon. But it's not Gloria Steinem or Betty Friedan, it's Emma Peel, the high-kicking heroine of the stylish '60's spy series "The Avengers."

      While the boys are off doing equally unproductive things....either moping about the meaninglessness of their lives or shooting of their guns in action movies and gangsta rap....the girls are having all the fun, meeting the world with arms open wide, eyes open to new possibilities, and a whole lot of attitude.


      Another real heroine for our times is "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," on Monday nights, which rivals "Seinfeld" or "Larry Sanders" as the best comedy on TV.

      Not a bad accomplishment considering that it's actually a horror series with an advisory that it may be too intense for younger viewers. Nevertheless, its signatures are producer Joss Whedon's laugh-out-loud "Clueless"-like sense of humor and Buffy's attitude. Locked in a seemingly losing battle with a Vampire, Buffy says in typical Vampire-slaying lingo: "There's something you forgot. Sunrise." As he looks up, she adds, "It's in about nine hours moron," as she drives a stake through his heart.

      Vampires aren't the only creatures being skewered. "Buffy" takes on every generational orthodoxy in sight, from Gen X paranoia to baby-boom moralism. The latter is represented by Giles, Buffy's mentor, who is forever lecturing her on what to do and how to do it. The problem is he's almost as afraid to meet the day as the Vampires, preferring the company of books while leaving the real living....and the younger generation he feels morally superior to.

      Xander, Buffy's would-be boyfriend, is equally ineffectual, locked into self-pitying "I'm less than a man" mode of dealing with the changing rules of relationships....not unlike the young men in "Chasing Amy."

      Buffy is a real latter-day Emma Peel, karate-kicking vampires back to Hell with a self-possessed sense of cool (Though Sarah Michelle Gellar could use some of Diana Rigg's charismatic irony).

      Buffy has no time for her air-head classmates, which isn't to say that she's not into boys, fashion and putting down dull teachers like any healthy, rebellious adolescent. Buffy takes her shifting sexual personae and gender equality for granted, which is perhaps why she doesn't find any strength in victimization.

      Though the creator of "Buffy" is a man, you don't have to look far to find significant post-Peel young female artists. Popular music is full of them.

      Here again, where so many male rockers are contemplating suicide and murder, the women are seizing control of their lives and rocking out.

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