Buffy Saw the Meninists Coming
Buffy the Vampire Slayer was one of my favorite shows when I was a teenager. Seven seasons of watching a teenage girl and her nerdy best (and Jewish!) friend alternately fight, and fall in love with, supernatural creatures was catnip for my seventeen-year-old self.
There was one season of BtVS that in turns frustrated and fascinated me. If you're a Buffy connoisseur, you probably already know that I'm talking about the infamous Season Six. Where once Buffy and Co. had fought fast-talking vampires and demonic mayors, suddenly, in season six, they were grappling with problems like paying bills, depression, and the mundanity of everyday life. The Big Bad that season wasn't even supernatural: it was three nerdy dudes who whined about their alleged victimhood at the hands of badass Buffy.
I didn't know what to make of this atypical season when I was a teenager. Now, as an adult, it's perhaps the season of Buffy that sticks with me the most. And that's not just because, on this side of my early twenties, I now recognize that season was an All Too Real portrayal of the trials of early adulthood. It's also because the Big Bad of season six was perhaps the biggest, scariest Big Bad of all, chiefly because its dynamics are too familiar in twenty-first century America.
First, a word on the three nerdy villains of Season Six. They're led by ringleader Warren, who pulls the puppet strings of sidekicks Jonathan and Andrew. They hang out in a man cave and make plans about how to get girlfriends (one strategy: cast a spell on an ex-girlfriend to make her into a “willing sex slave”--which, dudes, not a thing); later, they strategize about how to kill Buffy, who Warren views as the root of all his problems. Although their whining and nerdy, self-pitying misogyny is played for laughs at the beginning of the season, the plot takes a darker turn when (***If you've avoided Buffy for the last fifteen years, but still care about not getting spoiled on the show, stop reading now!***) Warren murders his aforementioned ex-girlfriend in a fit of rage, and an even darker turn when he shows up at Buffy's house with a gun, intending to kill her and instead accidentally murdering her best friend's girlfriend, Tara.
When I think about these villains, there are two aspects that resonate deeply with me as an adult in 2017. First: we tend to think that villains are evil people laughing in evil lairs about their evil plans, but most of the time, villains are self-pitiers. They think the world owes them something, and they justify their vile actions through that logic. The three man-children of BtVS Season Six epitomize that principle. They believe that Buffy, protector of Sunnydale, is hurting them and their aspirations through her existence as a strong, powerful woman; they view themselves as the downtrodden because women won't have sex with them. It sounds absurd when you lay it out like that, but this self-pity is a prime characteristic of modern men’s rights activists. A casual perusal through any men's rights forum will demonstrate that today's so-called meninists truly and honestly believe that because women have made strides and gains over the past century, men are now endangered and oppressed. And it's not just limited to the fringes: how many a white dude justified voting for Trump through explicitly or implicitly stating that his demographic is victimized in today's America?
The other aspect of the three Season Six villains that feels all too real today is how they are played for laughs at first––until they're not. Confession: certain JWA staff members and I spent a recent afternoon giggling over the conspiracy theories that we found on a men's rights forum (if ever you wanted to read some theories about how synthetic vaginas will shape our nation's future, these forums are the place to do it). Thinking about all those dudes hunched over their computers and spewing insane female supremacy conspiracy theories into male-only corners of the Interwebs was funny––until we remembered that we live in a country where a roomful of men can make a decision about healthcare that affects millions without a single woman's input. It was funny until we remembered that in 2017, men who work at some of our nation's top companies still think that professional women talk too much. It was funny until we remembered that some meninists' belief that men should shun women is just an extreme extension of Mike Pence refusing to dine with a woman who isn't his wife. It's absurd and funny until the man who thinks he has the right to grab any woman's pussy becomes president of the United States.
It's absurd and funny until the dude shows up with a gun and tries to kill Buffy, right? I wish I could say that Season Six of Buffy didn't age well, that it feels so 2002, that there's nothing in it that reflects the times we live in, fifteen years on. On the contrary, it's never felt more real. And whenever I'm tempted to giggle at a male argument about why women should be re-disenfranchised, I remember that these arguments aren't separate from the ones that shape our national conversation. They're just an extreme, but natural, endpoint. It's a dangerous cocktail, victimhood and entitlement, and its reach extends all the way from the darkest corners of the Internet into the White House.
It's funny until it isn't.
How to cite this page
Cataneo, Emily. "Buffy Saw the Meninists Coming ." 21 June 2017. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on April 26, 2018) <https://jwa.org/blog/buffy-saw-meninists-coming>.