Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Why Season 6 Is Better in Hindsight
Many fans hated the Big Bands in Season 6 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But the allegations against Joss Whedon put The Trio in a new, terrifying light.
Over two decades after its release, Buffy the Vampire Slayer remains and acclaimed staple of pop culture. The series featured a strong and capable female hero, Buffy Summers, portrayed brilliantly by Sarah Michelle Gellar, subverted the trope of the classic horror damsel. The young woman, relentlessly by bloodthirsty monsters, was the one to drive a stake through their hearts. In recent years, however, the show’s powerful feminist message has been muddied by the horrific abuse allegations directed at series creator, Joss Whedon. But time, awareness and hindsight have also recontextualized Buffy‘s “worst season.”
Once highly respected, the allegations against Whedon range from on-set abuse to sexual harassment. While the writer-director is credited for creating, writing and directing much of the series, he was notably absent for most of Buffy‘s controversial 6th season. While Whedon found himself stretched thin, working on the short-lived cult hit Firefly, and writing fan-favorite episode “Once More, With Feeling,” the bulk of Season 6 fell under the guidance of executive producer, Marti Noxon.
With Noxon as de facto showrunner, Buffy‘s sixth season was notably much different from previous installments. While the bulk of the series featured main antagonists of the supernatural variety – Buffy finding enemies in evil entities, demons, robot and of course, vampires – Noxon’s “big bads” seemed much tamer in comparison. In previous seasons, the malevolent supernatural forces in Sunnydale were representative of a variety of real-world troubles, notably the trappings of adolescence and burgeoning adulthood.
Season 6 does way with metaphor, choosing instead to tackle societal ills head-on. Appearing the farthest thing from threatening at first, the villains of Buffy‘s penultimate season are three ordinary human men. While Warren Mears, Jonathan Levinson and Andrew Wells initially seem harmless, and even goofy, the trio’s entitlement, penchant for violence and inability to view women as little more than playthings would transform them into the kinds of monsters that are all-tto-real, making them truly frightening.
However, critics of the time would feel much differently. Season 6’s trio of power-hungry geeks proved to be far too removed from the Lovecraftian horror that Buffy fans were used to. Aside from the hero’s toxic romance with former enemy, Spike – which is also being re-examined in the modern landscape – the season’s gritty, too-real tone left most feeling sour, especially following the death of fan-favorite character, Tara McClay, who met an unexpected and brutal end by Warren’s hands. While ranking all seven seasons in 2017, Vulture lists Season 6 as Buffy‘s second worst, calling The Trio “less credible as Big Bads than they are tiresome – an undifferentiated grab bag of cliches about geek culture.” And, while this sentiment was far from uncommon, it completely misses the point.
Warren’s misdeeds and sense of entitlement may touch on the more toxic elements of geek culture but, more so, the antagonists’ descent into slow, calculated ultimately deadly evil are a literal depiction of the worst kinds of men dominating incel forums today. It is an absurdity to believe that one’s interest in comic books, film franchises and science fiction would be the only barrier between the individual and a fulfilling love and sex life. It is also an absurdity to believe that one is owed sex in any capacity. But, this line of thinking is precisely what drives young men into the toxic echo chambers of these forums and, in extreme cases, drives them to commit acts of unspeakable violence.
Fortunately, today’s critics and newcomers to the franchise are finally giving The Trio – and their horrifying place in the Buffyverse – proper credit. While vampires and demons are the stuff of fiction, Warren, Jonathan and Andrew embody a “force of darkness,” that is undeniably prevalent in today’s society. While they may not have been an all-powerful force of wickedness, The Trio’s lasting impression comes from a very banal reality: They were nothing more than regular guys.
Original article at CBR
This article has been reproduced for archive purposes.