Here’s my first of several posts on the wonderful presentations I heard last week at the Southwest Texas Popular Culture and American Culture Association conference. I hope y’all enjoy! My original idea was to write about every presentation on every panel I went to, but once I got home and settled in and looked at all my notes, I realized I listened to 48 presentations! Kind of impossible right now to write on ALL of them, so I’m just going to write about the highlights of each day.
Wednesday night at PCA was a delight – there were three Whedon panels back to back to back in one gloriously large, though freezing cold, conference room: Science Fiction & Fantasy: The Works of Joss Whedon; Power and Whedon; and Sex and Whedon.
Alyson Buckman kicked off the night with her great paper ” ‘Ship like this, be with you ’til the day you die’ : Place, Time & Subjectivity in Firefly.” To quote Alyson, it is important to note that “Serenity is a place, not just a space.” She shows us how Serenity is truly home for each of the nine main characters who become, in varying ways, physically and emotionally rooted to the ship. Alyson discussed the effects that changes in time and place have on the characters throughout the series. In explaining this impact and the power of returning to proper place, Alyson used a poignant example from the episode “Safe” : River explains that when the cows were inside the ship, “They weren’t cows . . . Now they see the sky and remember what they are.”
Then in the paper “Buffy, Bahktin and the Blogopshere: Heteroglossia and Reflexivity in Fan Blog Discussions,” Susan Fanetti touched on the fun world of rewatching and discussing Buffy. She focused primarily on Nikki Stafford’s Great Buffy Rewatch, Myles McNutt’s Cultural Catchup Project, and Noel Murray’s Buffy/Angel Blog. I will admit I’m not familiar with McNutt and Murray, so I couldn’t honestly appreciate her dissection of the work they’ve done. I do believe, though, that she was holding up Nikki Stafford as the ideal model, especially considering that Nikki’s blog contains spaces for old and new viewers, allowing individuals to watch along for the first time and remain spoiler free. On a related note, I will add that I’ve been re-watching Buffy with the fun hosts of Potential Cast. I’ll confess it’s more difficult (time-wise) to keep up with blogs (I realize the irony of writing this in a blog), but I always have time to listen to the potentials in the car.
In “Pryde and Prejudice: The Origins of Buffy in the X-Men,” Dale Koontz discussed the appeal the X-Men mythos has always had to outsiders (a group Buffy‘s Scoobies definitely identify with!). She also pointed out that X-Men has always had an inclusion of strong female characters; they have been equal partners to males. Dale then examined the inspiration Kitty Pryde had on Whedon’s Buffy. Sure made me wish I was more well-versed in the X-Men! At the very least, I must read Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men. In her conclusion, Dale argued that the characters from both verses often demonstrate that having both knowledge and love leads to success. And, furthermore, they show us that “maturity comes with knowledge of loss,” something we’ve definitely seen our dear Buffy come to grips with.
Lewis Call gave the fascinating presentation ” ‘Love Keeps her in the Air’ : Radical Erotic Pluralism in Firefly.” Pushing up against the work of Gayle Rubin, Lewis examined the “honest desire” of the characters in Firefly. Ultimately, Lewis argued the following for each character: Wash desires Zoe and commitment; he wishes to be dominated, and she wishes to be dominant. Mal is dominant and attracted to other dominants. Inara wants monogomy with Mal, but her dishonesty about this prevents it. Simon has an unnamed and incestuous desire for River, therefore self-sabotaging his relationship with Kaylee. River’s desire is sensual, not sexual; she is most connected to the ship. Kaylee has a carnal relationship with the ship. Book chooses celibacy, demonstrating that the series endorses all types of sexuality, even re-channeling desire. And Jayne? Well, who could he love but Vera??
Finally, AmiJo Comeford also developed a compelling argument in her paper: ” ‘I’m Ready to Wake Up Now” : Pregnancy and the Absence of Female Desire in Angel.” She pointed out that the three primary pregnancies in the series (both of Cordy’s and Darla’s) were demonic and supernatural, and demonstrated maternity as disjointed from desire. Even the pregnancy in the season 2 episode “Judgement,” these characteristics are present.
Now I’d like to take a minute to note that I am really moved/touched/amazed by the way we all connect so instantaneously through our shared fandom. It’s like we all have this history of a shared experience, even if we’ve never met. It’s like meeting someone through a mutual friend: Oh, you know Spike? So do I! To an outsider, this may sound a bit nutty… but I see the Whedonists reading this nodding their heads in agreement.
“We’ve done the impossible, and that makes us mighty.”