In the fourth episode of the first season of Buffy, a teacher of Buffy’s actually encourages her to succeed, and then mysteriously disappears. And then what. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
I hope that it goes without saying that I enjoy doing Mark Watches because it allows me to criticize a show while still actually liking it. But it’s something that’s sort of unheard for other people, and they equate criticism with a dislike of the content itself. (Fandoms, get your shit together. The two are not mutually exclusive at all.) I’m glad that “Teacher’s Pet” comes after “Witch” because it provides me with a chance to bring up this very concept.
So, straight up, I didn’t really like this episode, and I’ll get into the two main reasons in more detail in a bit. But I think most of us can look at things we love–books, television, music, etc–and find something we didn’t like in it. That’s fine, and the problem comes when people doubt our loyalty to something or start rambling about being a “real” fan of something, and then I roll my eyes so hard it causes an earthquake. Because no thank you and take your ridiculous, inaccurate, and unnecessary opinions elsewhere.
That doesn’t mean people can dislike something for the wrong reasons, or base that opinion on a misunderstanding or getting factual information wrong. I can’t tell you how many people I had to correct regarding the events of the series finale of LOST. I don’t care if you hate it; just don’t make shit up that wasn’t even there. But that’s not the point I’m trying to make here. When I watched “Teacher’s Pet,” I enjoyed a few moments of the episode, but the vast majority of it simply bored me. It wasn’t awful or terrible or anything. (Meaning it was not “Fear Her.” I will never stop finding opportunities to bring up that episode. I refuse to let go of that grudge, okay?) But….well, I suppose I should get into this.
First of all, let me get to what I liked: Dr. Gregory. The last three episodes have all featured someone inferring that Buffy will be a failure because of her past. lol all of u go away. How is that supposed to help her? Instead, Dr. Gregory tells her to ignore Principal Flutie and anyone else who insists on telling her that her past is all that narrates her present. It’s honestly this huge moment for Buffy, and I totally get why she’s emotional after Cordelia discovers his dead body in the cafeteria.
Secondly, Angel. Like, I have never really found David Boreanaz attractive personally, and what the hell happened to me? He puts on that smoldering look and I’m like DUDE DUDE DON’T DO THAT AROUND ME. I mean, I don’t want to marry him or anything, but he can give me that look any time he wants.
Thirdly, Willow’s adorable desire not to see Xander’s decapitated head made me shriek internally. SHIPPING THEM RIGHT NOW because seriously that was so obvious to me. She likes him, doesn’t he? I hope I read that scene right, or else I’ve just embarrassed myself in front of the whole Buffy fandom. (DON’T SPOIL ME.)
Fourthly…yeah, I don’t think I can get that far. I genuinely didn’t like pretty much other than this. Some of it rests on the fact that I’m bored by the trope of using sexual and attractive women as bait to show what evil people they are. Granted, this was only one woman and the other women in the episode did not demonstrate the same behavior at all. But it’s so common to have a woman use her sexuality specifically for the purpose of murder. (Well, I guess this episode also deals with reproduction, but isn’t that reproduction acquired through means of rape? Awesome.) The whole time, Ms. French exists to be stared at. She feeds into it, and the whole time, all I could think was GOD I AM SO BORED.
Thankfully, a lot the behavior here is followed by shrugs, laughs, and eye rolls from Buffy and Willow, who can’t understand why everyone is falling for this. It’s a neat way to have the show provide a negative analysis to how the various young men react to Ms. French, but I don’t know that it’s necessarily enough.
However, there’s a bigger reason that this all failed to have any interest for me. I don’t want this to come off as if I’m blaming Buffy for this problem, or to establish this idea that the show is this horrible because of this, or that it applies to everything that comes after. I’m only four episodes in and I acknowledge that. It’s more like…this episode just inspired a specific thought in me that I wanted to discuss at length, and this seemed like a good enough space to do so.
It wasn’t something that popped up immediately, but around the halfway mark, I realized why this was boring me so much: I’m not straight. Watching a bunch of boys hound after an attractive woman just felt so common and uninteresting to me because it’s all I ever seen in movies and television anyway.
Of course, I’ve been able to find plenty of things to relate to or identify with in depictions of straight relationships in the past. Just because I’m gay does not mean all of my relationships, sexual or not, have absolutely nothing in common with anything ever made or created anywhere. Being gay doesn’t make me special, but it does mean that there are large parts of my experience that will have no similarity to what straight people go through. I think nothing represents that better than the fact that most, if not all, of the men in this episode can openly hit on Ms. French without repercussion or being publicly shamed. And maybe that’s not something that you ever thought about! But like…unless I’m in the Castro or West Hollywood or Boystown or I get the look (omg all y’all queers can we have a discussion in the comments about the look it is my favorite thing ever), I really can’t just approach someone I find attractive. Part of that is sheer numbers: the vast majority of people I will meet are straight, and I have a 0% chance with them in any context. But part of it comes from fear, and the young men in this episode don’t have it. So I’m sitting there, watching them all volunteer to help Ms. French, and I have nothing to feel towards it aside from disinterest.
And look, I am not saying that Buffy is oppressing me or anything GOOD LORD THAT WOULD BE RIDICULOUS. But this episode is so…straight? And I can’t help but see it in almost every scene, since the writing isn’t particularly subtle. This is all about men and their sexual drive; all of it is brought out by Ms. French herself.
It’s also related to why I thought all the talk of virginity at the end of the episode was a little odd. I’m glad it was brought up, first of all, and I’m glad the characters discussed it. But everyone discusses it in this weird, virtuous way? As if they’d have made a terrible mistake if they weren’t virgins. I think the choice should be left up to the person involved, and everyone shouldn’t be shamed one way or another. But, again, me being a big ol’ gay gay who gays, virginity has a much, much, much different meaning for me. I couldn’t lose my virginity when I wanted to growing up, and, like marriage, for a long time I simply assumed it would never happen. I know that might be a strange thing to read because it’s so pervasive and common. So I don’t think Buffy necessarily gets things wrong, so to speak, but I wanted to offer up a different perspective on the concept. Those two things–virginity and marriage–were among many ideas that seemed impossible as a closeted gay kid in a violently homophobic community. I don’t know that I would want Buffy to acknowledge that; it would honestly be really distracting to appear here at all. This is more for all of you, just to give you an idea how someone whose sexuality differs from the norm can see small, seemingly inconsequential things, and then be inspired to have such thoughts. It doesn’t make you a bad person for not thinking of such things; it’s just the way society places weight on one thing over another.
Okay, enough of me gaying up the Internet! I didn’t like this episode, but it is far from being a show-ruiner. My excitement and anticipation for this show is still pretty high regardless. GIMME MORE, WHEDON.