Marcia Lane-McGee’s Buffy Story

Buffy shirt courtesy of jordandenenyc on Instagram

It started with a conversation on Instagram. I found Marcia Lane-McGee through fellow Catholics on Instagram. I follow her podcast Plaid Skirts and Basic Black. But being the opinionated woman that I am, I couldn’t resist commenting on this post:

I commented: “More like Kyo Ren is emo TRASH! But yeah. I named my anxiety Loki.”

Then meg_corr_20 commented: I absolutely love a Byronic hero, which prompted Marcia to reply “There’s just something about them, girl! It started with Angel for me.”

If you know me, you know which vampire from Buffy I stan, so I replied: “Angel is lame! His hair goes straight up and he’s bloody stupid! If you can guess who I’m quoting, you know MY type!”

One slide into her DMs later, and it out that Marcia and I have a lot in common. We both love superheroes, Taylor Swift, and Buffy. And don’t worry. She’s a total Spike fan, too. She even said “Spike had my heart by the time they stopped the apocalypse.”

So for this special Halloween “Throwback Thursday” blog post, I asked Marcia some questions regarding Buffy and being Catholic.

  1. For the sake of those who don’t know you, who are you and how do you live out the Catholic faith? Hi! I am Marcia Lane-McGee. I grew up Protestant and when I was 20 years old I went through RCIA and was confirmed at Easter Vigil. I live out my faith in how I love others and through sharing the Gospel as I share my story in my writing, speaking, and in the podcast I cohost.
  2. How did you get into Buffy? My childhood BFF loved the movie from the early 90’s and I was a Sarah Michelle Gellar fan from her time on Swan’s Crossing and later All My Children. I was really excited to see her on TV again!
  3. Which characters did you identify with the most and why? That’s a hard one! I would have to say Anya I’m a straight shooter who knows what she wants. I ask know my worth, don’t take anyone’s crap, and learns to be vulnerable and gain strength from it. I’ll also go down fighting. No question. 
  4. Fave characters: Anya, Spike, Xander, and Andrew. Fave Season: Season Two was phenomenal! I also loved season five. Fave Episode: Becoming (parts one and two) for sure is my number one as a set. “The Body” is a close second. That episode is so chilling and so beautiful and I love it. Fave Villains: Angelus. It broke my heart, but he was such a good villain! I also loved Glory. She was terrifying! 
  5. How do you think being Catholic affects your perspectives on the show? I was already into Buffy before I even thought about becoming Catholic so that wasn’t in my radar. Now that you ask, I may just have to do a rewatch with my Catholic lens! 
  6. What aspects of being Catholic do you see in the show?  I want to say how Buffy usually made the hard choice with the Common Good in mind instead of what she wants. Sending Angel to hell and dying for the world would go on that list. 
  7. What did you think of the BIPOC characters in Buffy and Angel?  Though there wasn’t nearly enough representation, I like how the characterization showed that Black people are not a monolith. 
  8. If Buffy was going to be rebooted, what issues concerning racism do you think should be addressed? I can’t answer that. Buffy should NOT be rebooted! Just like in every generation, a slayer is born, every generation has their own vampire lore. Anne Rice was 90s lore, Buffy was the millenium lore, we got Twilight for the late aughts and early 2010s. Right now we have What We Do In The Shadows. Our vampire lore is both timeless and has a time stamp. I think it should stay that way. Side note: if there was a reboot, Bianca Lawson could still play Kendra. That woman does not age.

Check out Marcia Lane-McGee on her Instagram, Twitter, and her podcast Plaid Skirts and Basic Black!

In Defense of the "Strong Independent Woman"

 

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I never thought there would come the day where I would disagree with Bishop Robert Barron on anything, but his latest article about the “You Go Girl” culture made me uneasy.

While I agree that parents in television, particularly dads, are usually portrayed as stupid at best and abusive at worst, I don’t agree with Bishop Robert Barron’s perspective that males are being made to appear weak in order to make women look stronger.

My friend Emily A. said

Men write these characters. In fact, I would claim that these are not elevations of women so much as parodies of both the male AND female characters.
These women aren’t smart, they are smart-asses. They are insufferably naggy women with impossible standards who don’t trust their spouse. And time and time again, the husband seems to prove them right.
The buffoon father is actually a stereotype perpetuated *by men* who want less responsibility.

Additionally, there is something to be said for stereotypes/archetypes: they exist because they *resonate* with people. Stereotypes are merely a compilation of common factors within a certain group. While they fail as a blanket statement, they are not altogether fictitious.
I think Father Barron is mixing up the concept of a caricature and a stereotype. They aren’t equivalent.

At the end of the day, though, we are all humans with failures, husband and wife alike. And we tolerate the worst on the bad days and sometimes have trouble recognizing and celebrating the best on good days. That’s human nature. It’s easier to laugh at those failings embodied in a character than dwell on them and get depressed.

I believe that when Bishop Robert Barron describes the “all conquering female,”  he is thinking of the “Mary Sue.” The best definition I can give of a “Mary Sue” is one I got from video blogger Tommy Oliver (no relation to the Power Rangers): “A character so perfect that they are never challenged by the events of the narrative.” Bella Swan from Twilight is a perfect example of a Mary Sue because the worst problem she ever had to deal with, according to her perspective, is when Edward Cullen dumped her in New Moon. She deals with having a baby and taking down an evil band of vampires way too easily and she gets rewarded for essentially doing nothing of substance. She gets the boyfriend she wanted, the perfect baby, a lavish lifestyle, and immortality, but she never earned or overcame anything in order to get those things.

Rey from The Force Awakens was cited as an example of the “all conquering female,” but she’s not a good example of what Bishop Barron is thinking about. It’s true that Rey is often mistaken for a Mary Sue because of how she was able to use the Force so easily. However, it’s shown throughout the movie that she has her own challenges and weaknesses to overcome. She fights toe-to-toe with Kylo Ren and also has to overcome her fears of abandoning her life in Jakku to become a Jedi. The male characters in The Force Awakens stand on equal ground with Rey. Finn especially is considered a deuteragonist because the movie focuses just as much on his character growth as it does Rey’s.

I think Bishop Robert Barron is trying to advocate for better role models for men in the movies and TV shows we watch. I think that the potential for good role models expands beyond Sully and Deepwater Horizon. Captain America, while not perfect, is a role model for any man because he’s willing to do anything for the ones that he loves.  The Flash has a few good male role models as well, including three characters who are fathers: Joe West, Henry Allen, and Harrison Wells from Earth 2. Barry Allen is also a good role model for young men because while he makes his share of mistakes, he does his best to learn from them in order to become a better person.

While I agree that women have been portrayed as weak in the past, the task of trying to make women strong and independent have led to a whole new kind of female stereotype: The Broken Bird. To quote the Nostalgia Critic:

“Women in the media for so long were always the emotional support, the damsels, the smiling pretty faces, so in the 90’s, there was a desperate need to change that. Oh, not by making them unpretty, we wouldn’t do that, but we suddenly made them cold, bitter, confrontational, and overly strong, to go out of their way to show that they’re not those old emotional stereotypes, and instead make way for new emotional stereotypes. For you see, in every 90’s film, the woman behind this strong independent wall that won’t let everybody in,  is a sad little bunny rabbit that will eventually let down her defences and reveal a tragic backstory. So you see, she wasn’t a strong, confident worker just because she was a strong, confident worker. Deep down she just wants to be held like any other fragile woman. Oh, I don’t want to think! I just want to be loved!”

In other words, the “strong, independent woman” in a lot of movies and TV still needs all her problems solved by having a man in her life. To quote my friend Mary: “Closed off? Man will open you up. Insecure? Man will make you feel better. Lonely? Man got you covered.”

There’s one example in my life of a wonderful, strong, female heroine that doesn’t sacrifice her femininity in order to be badass. And the men in her life aren’t made weaker in order for her to be stronger. Ironically, she was created by someone who loved the atheist philosophers Sartre and Nietzsche.

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I can’t imagine my life without Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The overall theme of the show is dealing with things that come with growing up and becoming an adult. While Buffy, may appear to be a good example of what Bishop Robert Barron is talking about, she is actually a great example of a well written strong female character. She is strong, but she has her moments of vulnerability. She defeats evil on a weekly basis, but she also has friends and family that she loves unconditionally. She’s a force for good, but she also makes some mistakes that she has to learn from. And no male character is made weaker so that she can be stronger. All of Buffy’s male enemies were formidable opponents. Giles, Buffy’s mentor and father figure, contributed his intellect and wisdom. Xander, in spite of his flaws, was a young man with a good heart and has saved the day a couple times. And Spike goes through a lot of changes that kept his character interesting and complex without sacrificing his own strength and charisma.

I think that strong, female characters can be created without the women needing a man or without a man becoming weak at her expense. Men and women, fictional or nonfictional, need to be treated as equals. To quote my friend Jillian:

Male characters, particularly father types, shoud not be dumbed down to make way for “strong independent female”? But should female characters be written to be the worst qualities of men in order to be strong/independent (unless it’s some kind of well fleshed out redemption arc)? Heck no. Is it possible to have a realistic strong female character alongside a realistic non-dumbed-down male character? Yes, and there are a plethora of examples. Should we stop fighting for fair treatment of and well written female characters in movies/comics/tv because some male characters are written poorly? No, because the former does not cause the latter.

Tl;dr: Strong female characters are not the cause of the bumbling dad/emasculated male character.

Battle Ready Women!

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My dad and I love listening to Catholic Radio. Oftentimes, we hear advertisements about a program called “Battle Ready” as well as events centering on men. Sometimes, I would hear the radio hosts lamenting about how men aren’t as spiritually active as women.

The Battle Ready website is marketed mostly towards men. There is a page for women, but even though they say that woman are involved in the fight for souls, the emphasis is on women encouraging men, playing more of a supportive role. And I do agree that women need to encourage men who are spiritually struggling. Unfortunately, there’s nothing on the Battle Ready site that addresses women who have the same problems that men do. Because in spite of what you may see at Daily Mass or at Adoration or a youth conference, there are women out there who struggle with having a spiritual life.

I wasn’t always as spiritually active as I am today. When I started college and went to Adoration, I had to ask somebody what the Glorious Mysteries were when I started praying the Rosary. Before college, I only prayed the Rosary as a kid.

I don’t consider myself a feminist in the conventional sense. I see women as equal to men and not as “the weaker sex.” I do agree that men and women have physical and emotional differences. I acknowledge that I am most likely biased about why women should be battle ready. My favorite shows center on strong female characters, after all. But women have their own battles to fight.  And the battle for souls is just as important for women as it is for men.

And just before you think there aren’t any good examples of strong female women in the Catholic Church, I’m gonna turn your attention to one of the most badass female saints ever:

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Joan of Arc led an army in God’s name and defended France. Sure she ended up burning at the stake, but she died a warrior’s death nevertheless. Not to mention she totally owns Miley Cyrus in this Epic Rap Battle.

Other awesome women who embraced a Battle Ready lifestyle include Saint Katherine Drexel, who used her inheritance to create schools and hospitals and organizations that help people in need. Or Dorothy Day, who embraced the Catholic teachings on social justice.  Mother Teresa was also seriously badass in how she survived the harsh Calcutta lifestyle and endured persecution from people who didn’t understand her.

So what are some battles that women have to deal with when it comes to spiritual warfare?

1) Going to extremes when it comes to perspectives on gender

I think the biggest problem with gender politics is that it always feels like a war. A majority of feminists don’t like to consider men as part of the equation and the most extreme ones see men as hostile. Men’s Rights Activists see feminists as extreme as well and many countries in the Middle East have some really horrible perspectives on women to say the least. I still remember when there was a meme going around that went something like this:

“You say not all men are monsters? Imagine a bowl of M&Ms. 10% of them are poisoned. Go ahead. Eat a handful. Not all M&Ms are poison.”

The problem with that kind of mentality is that for one thing, people aren’t candy. They are judging an entire gender for the actions of a handful of people. And for a group of people who claim to be tolerant, they are sure ready to condemn and punish people instead of trying to help the perpetrator understand the wrongness of his actions. But that’s none of my business. I think I’ll take the breadsticks and get outta here now.

We cannot see men as the enemy. Nor should we be competitive with other women over things like jobs and men. Instead, we need to cooperate with them and treat them as, you know, people. Men are human beings which means like every other human being out there, they won’t be perfect and will have flaws and are capable of hurting women. We gotta love them anyway, sisters in Christ, because God created men which means that men are essentially good. And if any men out there are reading this, don’t write off all women for the actions of the girl who broke your heart or the girl who left you in the friendzone. You are not entitled to whatever you want just because you act nice to them. Girls, same thing.

(I’ll probably make a separate post about entitlement applying to both genders later this week.)

2) Modesty/Body Postitivity

I will probably write a separate post on what modesty means to me. But this still falls under spiritual warfare as well. On the one hand, I don’t like seeing women trying to dress like Miley Cyrus nor do I like all the songs that talk about butts. I’ve written about self-esteem issues on this blog before, but the point is that when it comes to what we wear and how we carry ourselves, I want us women to be confident!

Modesty isn’t about how much you cover up. To me, modesty is about knowing what looks best on you and owning what you feel are your best features without being a diva about it. As Coco Chanel said: “Your dresses should be tight enough to show you’re a woman and loose enough to show that you’re a lady.” I think that can easily apply to the way women dress overall.

But all the fashion in the world won’t help if the woman in question still sees herself as invisible. Confidence is more than just loving how one looks on the outside, but also knowing what one is good at. If you’re skilled in engineering, pursue that field. If you know how to play the piano, take the opportunity to show that talent. And men, encourage women in your life (especially if you have daughters) to learn and grow in whatever skill or talent they have, whether it be in science or arts.

3) Emotional chastity

Chasity is usually seen as applying to just physical situations. Emotional chastity however is just as important. Women objectify men just as often as men objectify women, sad to say. (Just spend some time with me and some fellow Buffy fans and watch us drool over Spike and the actor who plays him for example.) But aside from drooling over Ryan Gosling or Chris Pratt or any of the Avengers, women also have a tendency to build up unrealistic expectations when it comes to relationships and about men. Think of the really bad Katherine Heigel movies where she acts like a total control freak. Women have a tendency of building up this idea of a perfect relationship and the perfect romance. When people spend more time daydreaming of perfection, it’s still a way of using a person because they end up just being a set piece in a scenario. I think part of emotional chastity involves accepting that the imperfections of romance as well as making sure you don’t objectify people.

So how can women be Battle Ready?

1) By imitating Mary

One thing I did like about the Battle Ready site is its devotion to Mary, calling her the most valiant of women. The devil hates Mary as this article from The Catholic Gentleman goes into. But while Mary is humble and a great mother, she’s anything but weak. She’s actually sassy. (I also have this headcanon that she’s short. Partially because she was called “Little Mother” and partially because short and sassy go hand in hand. Just read Rebecca Frech’s post if you don’t believe me.)

It’s also why I love writing Bible studies for the Heart of Mary Women’s Fellowship. They encourage having a heart like Mary’s, which includes Marian consecration. And to paraphrase a Catholic pick-up line, doing the Marian consecration may lead to someone marrying you in the future. You never know. (You may also end up going into religious life. Results may vary.)

2) By knowing their own value

One thing that’s majorly important when it comes to spiritual warfare is knowing what you are fighting for. That means knowing what your soul is worth and how much God loves you. It also means finding a balance between knowing your worth and not being full of yourself. The best example of this can be seen in the last episode of Agent Carter, in which Peggy does not pursue taking the credit for saving Howard Stark and New York from Hydra agents. When Sousa gets mad over Thompson taking the credit, Peggy says, “I don’t need a congressional honor. I don’t need Agent Thompson’s approval or the president’s. I know my value. Anyone else’s opinion doesn’t really matter.” It took her a long time for her to get there, but that moment of confidence was just perfect!

3) By choosing the right battles and the right ways to fight

Sometimes, the greatest victory is the battle not fought. Never seek out fights or act aggressively. I’m an advocate in fighting for self-defense. Fight to protect yourself, the ones you love, and what you stand for. The combox trolls and people who will never change their minds aren’t worth attacking. Instead, pray for them. And don’t ever think you have to battle alone. Find people who will support you, from both men and women. And always remember that the God of angel armies is always by your side.

So make your choice. Are you ready to be strong?