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Happy Birthday Sarah Michelle Gellar!

13 Apr

April 14 is Sarah Michelle Gellar’s birthday. Gellar originated the role of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer for TV in 1997 (Kristi Swanson having earlier played Buffy in Joss Whedon’s 1992 film of the same name). During the series Buffy dies (and is resurrected) and we see her gravestone, which reads: “Best Friend. Beloved Sister. She saved the world — a lot.” And Buffy did save the world a lot; but we should stop and ask: from what?

I first saw Buffy in its second season, in 1999. I was working 80 hours a week in residential real estate in downtown Washington, D.C., and could have easily cloned myself and given my triplets lucrative full-time employment. I was an hour late to meet a lesbian couple in Dupont Circle, and as soon I entered their rented co-op I was handed a plate of the pasta they had just prepared and told to join them, because we would have to watch “Buffy” and then write the offer. It was a season two finale, with Buffy battling the evil alter ego of her boyfriend (to save the world). Sword play, martial arts (Gellar is a black belt in taekwondo), incredible gymnastics; I was hooked.
Buffy always had a big lesbian and gay following; female action heroes, anti-authoritarianism, a love that dare not speak its name between a slayer (human) and a vampire, a teen and her friends (“the Scoobies”) who must keep the secrets of their blossoming identities and their after-school activities from their parents and teachers; in later seasons, a major character who becomes a lesbian.
But Buffy had wider political ramifications. Buffy protected a sunlit world of oblivious humans (in Sunnydale in sunny southern California) from a dark world of predators waiting to eat them. Predators who either were the authorities in charge (a Mayor working dark magic to become a pure demon in dragon form, by a ritual that included eating the graduating senior class), or aided and abetted by authorities (Buffy’s bete noir, Principal Snyder). And even when the government stepped in to manage and control the demonic threat (a military funded “project 314” which captured demons and vampires, with the hope of turning them into weapons), it failed and Buffy had to save the world, again. (In the case of the military she was aided by a boyfriend played by actor Marc Blucas as a kind of hunky heterosexual Bradley Manning defector, who slugs his commanding officer and declares “I’m an anarchist.”)
And while Buffy was becoming a cult hit we were all in our own sunlit world, the asset bubble created by the federal government and the Federal Reserve’s inflating the currency to buy government debt and fuel expanding government under Clinton, Bush, and now Obama. An inflation that lit a boom and bust cycle with one collapsing asset bubble after another, from the tech bubble, to the real estate bubble, to the coming devaluation of the currency and downgrading of government bonds. The predators in this case also operate in the dark, with the Federal Reserve refusing transparency and both major parties (aside from Ron and Rand Paul and a few others) discussing tax rates and proposing gimmicky miniscule pseudo-spending cuts, but never discussing the effects of currency inflation on investment and employment.  Most voters and taxpayers are oblivious to this, just as Sunnydale residents were oblivious the vampires lurking in the night.

The writers at Buffy actually knocked government and statism often. Social climbing cheerleader and mean girl Cordelia Chase is thrown into poverty in her senior year when the IRS seizes her home and her parents’ business and assets. Demon-turned-human and Buffy friend Anya is shown in one flashback sparking the Russian revolution, in her role as as a vengeance demon, because she wants to see maximum bloodshed; later when Buffy’s cancer patient mom is facing a hospital that can’t cure her, someone in the Buffy entourage says “I hate hospitals” and ever-Dadaist Anya says “it’s like communism.” And of course there is always Principal Snyder, tin pot dictator of Sunnydale High (played by Armin Shimerman, who had a role as a villain in the Atlas Shrugged movie). This isn’t surprising, since Joss Whedon (who is a liberal, not a libertarian) always has libertarianish heroes in his work, like the crew of the ship Serenity, the rebels turned smugglers in the space opera Firefly, who outwit a galactic empire that created an aerosolized drug used by the government for mind control of the population.

Sara Michelle Gellar is reported to be registered as a Republican, as is her reportedly more politically active husband, Freddie Prinze Jr. One assumes that being young Hollywooders they are more libertarian than social conservative, but I have never heard them interviewed about it. (Emma Caufield, who played Anya for the last half of the series, publicly endorsed Ron Paul.) Of “Buffy” Gellar has said: “I truly believe that it is one of the greatest shows of all time and it will go down in history as that. And I don’t feel that that is a cocky statement. We changed the way that people looked at television.” I can’t help but agree with that, even aside from the politics of the Scoobies, and the show does seem to have helped encourage an endless array of entertaining occult fantasy shows (Moonlight, Being Human, TrueBlood, Grimm). Happy Birthday Sarah Michelle Gellar!

Snowmeggadon TV

21 Jan
Agent Carter

Agent Carter is a difficult show to pull off, though Joss Whedon and company did it will enough to come back for a second season.  Peggy Carter is a rare female CIA agent (or a pre-cursor to the CIA)  in the late 1940s.  The difficulty the show has to deal with is that Carter (and her antipode, the KGB villainess Dottie Underwood), are more intelligent, and even better at martial arts, than most of, if not all of, the males around them.  In SyFy and fantasty shows like Buffy or Bionic Woman or Wonder Woman, the heroine has mystical powers or high tech upgrades.  Agent Carter, played by Hayley Atwell (whose facial perfection is a kind of mystical superpower), is just human – though in the Avengers’ universe she is the love interest of Captain America.  So she has to be brilliant without merely looking so because the male characters are all written as stupid.  Whedon is succeeding at that.

The two hour premier features a little interracial romance way back in the 40s.

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Billions

Unlike Agent Carter, Billions is all testosterone.  Starring Damien Lewis (formerly best known for Homeland) as a Wall Street billionaire who survived 9/11 after graduating from Hofstra as a kid from a working class Irish family and then working as a trader.  It will be curious to see what lib-Dem Aaron Sorkin does with this.  Since Sorkin’s stock in trade is repeated liberal porn valorizing D.C. insiders, liberals, Democrats, Beltway journalists, etc. it’s hard to imagine he will provide a critique of the criminalization of free speech and information, i.e. “insider training.”  One suspects he was forced into this because incumbents, the ruling political class, mainstream media, are just not sexy.  Everyone hates them.  Not to mention that so many of them are freaks: spitting Chris Matthews, mush mouthed Eugene Robinson, pie cow Claire McCaskill, flop eared Obama, chew baca-ish Michelle, botoxed Andrea Mitchell, closet case Barbara Mikulski, medusa-like Debbie Wasserman Schultz, corpse like Harry Reid, discolored John Boehner, tongue tied EJ Dionne, and the nasally, phlegmatic castrati of NPR.

You can watch the upcoming episode already on Comcast on Demand.  So far it’s entertaining but it is all about a developing case where a homunculus Justice Department attorney played by Paul Giamatti tries to keep a perfect prosecution record by taking down a billionaire for insider trading, i.e.  making money off  tips and info not already available to every potential market participant.


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Supergirl

For all of us Buffy fans still suffering withdrawal over a decade later, Supergirl, along with EXTANT,    Agent Carter, and reruns of Emma Peel on The Avengers are our morphine drip.  Not perfect substitutes but still welcome and each tasty in its own way.  For those entertaining feminist theology we are just seeking splintered reflections of the Goddess.  Thank God Sarah Palin has returned to politicking.

But Palin’s not the only starlet to re-emerge.  Emma Caufield, a Ron Paul fan, a little more mature and thicker in the (facial) cheeks, who was hilarious as the vengeance demon/vulnerable girl/medieval witch Anya on Buffy, and who has been underused and underemployed like so many talented comic actresses (Madeline Khan), has joined Supergirl as An FBI agent.  Let’s hope her role grows if it adds to the show.

Joss Whedon’s "Much Ado About Nothing"

5 Aug
Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Serenity, the upcoming The Avengers and savior of various stalled movie franchises, has produced a perfect date movie, incredibly sweet, from William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.  Somewhere half way through one forgets both the antique English and the fact that the actors may be known to you as “Wesley Wyndham-Price” and “Winifred Burkle” (the lovers Alexis Denisov and Amy Acker played on Angel before they were Beatrice and Benedick in the current film) and the movie becomes adorable and engaging, Shakespeare’s comedy of love reset in suburban Los Angeles.  I hadn’t realized what a great debt Pat and Mike and other Hepburn/Tracy fare owed to this play about two arrogant, witty know-it-alls being dragged into admitting their desire for each other.

(Libertarians have long been in the forefront of Whedon fans for reasons I have written about elsewhere, though the libertarian content in his work may come partly from some of his less well known writer collaborators.)

Mr. Whedon also sets several short Shakespeare poems from the play to music that he wrote, sung by his brother and sister in law:

Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more, 

Men were deceivers ever, 

One foot in sea and one on shore, 

To one thing constant never: 

Then sigh not so, but let them go, 

And be you blithe and bonny, 

Converting all your sounds of woe 

Into Hey nonny, nonny. 


Sing no more ditties, sing no moe, 

Of dumps so dull and heavy; 

The fraud of men was ever so, 

Since summer first was leafy: 

Then sigh not so, but let them go, 

And be you blithe and bonny, 

Converting all your sounds of woe 

Into Hey nonny, nonny.