Monday, November 7, 2011

And the weird behavior award goes to…


Okay, I have some problems with this one. On its surface, The Pack is a good episode dealing with bullies and bullying in a smart way. Hell yeah, bullies are like hyenas. They’re usually not very bright, and laugh at stupid shit, and share that whole “scavenger” vibe. And on that level, I think this episode is good.

However. Two things. Firstly, I take issue with Giles’ cavalier attitude when Buffy first approaches him. Let us review (along with my real-time thoughts):

Giles: Xander's taken to teasing the less fortunate?
Buffy: Uh-huh.

(Me: Yeah…)

Giles: And, there's been a noticeable change in both clothing and demeanor?
Buffy: Yes.

(Me: Uh-huh…)

Giles: And, well, otherwise all his spare time is spent lounging about with imbeciles.
Buffy: It's bad, isn't it.

(Me: Well, yeah, but when you put it that way it just sounds…)

Giles: It's devastating. He's turned into a sixteen-year-old boy. Course, you'll have to kill him.

(Me: Wait, no, that’s not exactly—)

Buffy: Giles, I'm serious.
Giles: So am I. Except for the part about killing him. Testosterone is a great equalizer. It turns all men into morons. He will, however, get over it.

(Me: Come on, not ALL men…)

Buffy: I cannot believe that you, of all people, are trying to Scully me. There is something supernatural at work here. Get your books! Look stuff up!

Giles: Buffy, boys can be cruel. They tease, they, they, they prey on the weak. I-i-it's natural teen behavior pattern.

(Me: Okay, now. Time out.)

It certainly sounds logical, being a simplification and all that, but it strikes me as jarring that we agree so readily with such a dim view of teenage boys. Sure, they’re immature and occasionally cruel. Emphasis on “occasionally.” Giles basically conflated “teenage boy” and “bully.” As if girls can’t be bullies. Wake up, mister:

This is (was) the 21st (20th) century! Testosterone is no more an equalizer than estrogen is. Beware generalizations.

While the bullying message is what we’re supposed to take from this episode (see: “high school is hell” metaphor), what I took from it is that (1) we don’t expect very much from teenage boys, general, and (2) Xander has a hell of a cruel streak.

A hell of a cruel streak. Whoa, mama.

A note on the trans-possession. I find that, in Buffy there are two kinds of spell/supernatural occurrence: One in which the subject is totally subsumed into the possessing agent or spell. Total immersion. The ensorcelled has no say in what happens to them or what they do, and frequently there’s memory loss—basically, what Xander and Giles let the girls believe Xander went through.

And then there is the other: the subject is at least marginally aware of their surroundings, the subject’s memories and desires are co-opted, and indeed, the subject’s desires are… not the driving force per se, but let’s say the foundation of the possessing agent’s goals/effects. We see a lot of this second one. And I think it’s what we’re dealing with in Xander’s possession.

The problem with this is that this is still Season One. We can’t really go into the implications of what this means, because Season One is about introductions and monsters-of-the-week. This is supposed to be one and done, really. Buuuuuuuuuuuuuut… I can’t help it. The writers done goofed.

I don’t believe Xander is totally responsible for everything he did while possessed. That would be ridiculous. But I do think that the last scene, while it was played for laughs and was necessarily shallow (for it to be a successful Season One episode, that is), was a mistake.

Why suggest that Hyena Xander is influenced by Normal Xander’s desires and disdains but unable to restrain them, and then put him back on the hook for his transgressions by having his post-possession amnesia be a lie? And why have Giles aid and abet?!

I guess I would’ve been cool if the worst thing Hyena Xander had done was trip some dweeb in the hallways, but sexual violence is a wee bit of a hot button with me. I find that this show is oddly cavalier about it (except in one case which I also hate, but for different reasons). Still one of the better episodes of the first season, but… I don’t know. Fuck it. Here’s a picture of a kitten.


Stray observations:

  • The pre-hyenaed bullies suck.
  • Why is the principal on a school trip? Is the entire school on this trip? Is this a California thing?
  • Flaws aside, Xander was kind of hot in this episode. Not when he was laughing, but you know.
  • Do hyenas usually rape?
  • RIP Flutie. I liked him.
  • This episode marks the third in which Giles is knocked out.
  • The psycho-zookeeper’s name is Dr. Weirick.

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