The Trio: Do These Goofy Guys Spotlight Misogyny in Geek Culture?
It’s Monday, gentle viewers, and welcome to the Hellmouth for the next week of Buffyversary posts! As always, be warned that there be spoilers in these here waters.
When we’re talking the Big Bad of season six, there’s a lot of dissent on who meets the criteria for that. If you go by Grave, it’s Willow. But there’s a whole lot of episodes that come before the season six finale. If you ask Joss, he’ll say that life is the Big Bad. And I get that. That said, I’ve always felt that the bumbling, insidious-but-ignorant trio personifies Life in Buffy’s sixth season. They’re the curveball that gets in the way when you’re just about to get what you want. They’re the demon that bursts in and robs a bank when you’re trying to get a loan. They’re the doofus who accidentally turns you invisible.
Sure, they’re silly. We laugh at Jonathan turning himself into a goofy-looking demon and getting pummeled by drunk Buffy. We groan at the mummy hand loop.
But, like most of Joss’ characters in the show, they serve a purpose other than being obnoxious comic relief.
We’re Your Archnemesisis…es.
The Trio is made up of those guys. You know the ones. The one whose brother always overshadowed him (okay, so aspiring to be remembered for the flying monkeys you summoned to attack the school play isn’t exactly laudable). The one who was picked on so much he turned suicidal and who always tries the wrong thing to get attention and be loved. The one who’s pissed off at his girlfriend for leaving him and thinks he’s a nice guy. These guys are all too familiar. They’re people we went to school with. Hell, maybe they mirror parts of us.
When they get going in their little plot to team up and take over Sunnydale, their goals are pretty simple. Power, money, and “chicks, chicks, chicks.”
And that’s your first clue.
They look at Buffy as their biggest threat. It’s an interesting note because Jonathan was the one who gave Buffy her Class Protector award at prom. He knows how he owes his life to her, but to fit in with his friends, he classifies her as a threat. Right there is an underlying message: strong women are threats, even if they’ve helped you in the past.
The underlying messages parade into the forefront a few episodes later.
Let’s backtrack to where we first met Warren back in season five. He’d created a robot for a sex toy. Then he met and fell in love with Katrina, who inconveniently found out about his little bot-lovin’ when the robot tracked him down in Sunnydale. Like most women, she didn’t think that her boyfriend having sex with a robot was particularly kosher, and even less so after said robot tried to kill her. So, she dumps him. I would too. Most likely, so would you.
Back to season six. Warren has moved on from making robots and now has a way to make Katrina love him again. Brainwash her!
The Trio goes to a bar to pick out a woman they will make into their sex slave. Right there I get the jibblies, because listening to them go, “The redhead! The redhead!” “No, the bazoombas!” creeps me out every time. They’re looking at human beings and treating them like toys. And it gets worse.
Warren, of course, always had his eyes on Katrina. He brainwashes her using magic, then brings her back to their house. And all the boys clamor about who gets to do it with her first. Warren says he does, but the others can have her “when he’s done with her.”
Take a moment to think about that. This is beyond rape we’re talking about. Because Katrina left him (with absolute perfect reason), Warren has utterly dehumanized her. She’s now nothing more but a body to be used for his pleasure and given away when he’s finished. I don’t even have words for how disgusting that is.
The problem for Warren is, Katrina has a strong mind and fights off his compulsion. And you don’t want a woman thinking for herself, do you?
She comes barreling out of Warren’s room, kicking him through the door. She’s visibly jangled, upset, terrified and humiliated.
“It’s rape.” She tells them.
To which Andrew and Jonathan protest. They say they didn’t mean to.
If you were watching the news yesterday for the Steubenville verdict, those words should be a frightening parallel. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is fiction, but that scene is all too reminiscent of this high profile case where a girl had no control and was violated by young men while many stood by and watched. While the initial perpetrators are of course to blame and should be dealt with accordingly, the people who stood by and watched or participated by filming it — there is something just as deeply wrong with that.
Someone who says “I didn’t mean to rape you” has absolutely no understanding of what rape is, yet they clearly operate on an “I wanted this, I took it, and now you’re mad at me for some reason” mindset. There are layers of issues with statements like that. Layers.
Warren may have been the mastermind behind this plan of the Trio’s, but Andrew and Jonathan helped. They planned to participate. And they never put it together that the women they were going to make their “willing sex slaves” (note how they even added the word willing to this statement to absolve themselves of blame) were being violated.
Because in the eyes of people who view women as toys, “unable to consent” equates to “willing.” It’s this attitude which needs to be attacked and eradicated.
Andrew and Jonathan do eventually grow a conscience, and we all know what happens to Warren. But what they don’t mention outright is how the attitudes of Jonathan and Andrew are still displayed in geek culture. A few weeks ago I posted about how Gears of War gamemaker Chris Perna thought it was unlikely they’d ever create a female protagonist for their game, his subtext being that men aren’t interested in seeing strong women kill monsters. (Tomb Raider’s doing great, by the way, and all sorts of gamers are loving it even though Lara Croft is a female.)
Last year Joe Peacock wrote an inflammatory piece about the illegitimacy of female cosplayers that got a Scalzi-sized internet dropped on his head. The point is that within geek culture, there are still sectors where women are blatantly unwelcome. Peacock wrote that female cosplayers are only trying to get male attention, and he wasn’t alone in that thinking. (He also showed an alarming prejudice against good-looking women, which I’ve seen elsewhere to create a “no true Scotsman” sort of logical fallacy about physical attractiveness precluding one’s ability to identify as a geek or a nerd.) Within and without geek culture, there’s still a pervasive attitude that women wear clothes or reveal skin because they want to attract the attention of men. To sum up this attitude, the autonomy of women is irrelevant, and their actions exist only insofar as they relate to men and are filtered through that male perspective.
Katrina became a bitch for dumping Warren even though she had every logical reason to do so. If a guy’s robotic sex toy showed up on my doorstep, I’d dump a guy even if it gave me a hug instead of trying to crush me. But because she took that step, he eventually took her life. Because she fought back when he tried to rape her, and because she tried to get away from him again and exercise her right to her own body and life. He killed her for it.
I think that the Trio personifies life as the Big Bad in a lot of ways, and perhaps more subtly, the still male-dominated world that we live in. I’m never so blatantly reminded of these attitudes as during a trial for a prominent rape case like the one from Steubenville. There might not be that many Warrens in the world, but there are still heaps of Andrews and Jonathans, and THAT is what the world needs to address.
Posted on March 18, 2013, in 16th Buffyversary, Big Bads, Buffy, Themes in Buffy and tagged Andrew, big bad, Buffy, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, emmie mears, Joe Peacock, Lara Croft, misogyny, Steubenville rape trial, Sunnydale, Warren. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.