Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Buffy Blog: "I Robot...You Jane"

Previously on Buffy: reference to Xander’s obsession with a giant she mantis (“Teacher’s Pet).

Monster of the Week: “I Robot…You Jane” is more of a stand-alone episode. The monster this week is Moloch the Corruptor, a demon who is bound by monks during the Middle Ages into a book but who, when the book he is bound within is scanned into the internet by Willow during a digitalisation project at Sunnydale High, escapes into the digital world of the computer where, he initially masquerades as an eighteen year old student named Malcolm before becoming powerful once again thanks to the computer and the internet.

Metaphors: “I Robot…You Jane” is a Twilight Zone (and beyond that science fiction) like satire. In this episode the computer, as Giles says, is the new “idiot box”, the new “idiot box” that turns those who are “jacked in” to the brave new world of the Internet into “zomboys”.

Playing with Genre: Buffy does the evil robot theme (see 2001: A Space Odyssey) with a curve. Moloch, the evil robot, is a demon who ends up inside the digital world of the internet thanks to a mistake by Willow, Buffy, and Giles. Giles tells Willow to put the book in which Moloch is bound in Willow’s to be scanned pile.

Character: Jenny Calendar (Robia LaMorte) is smart, holds her own in an argument, is forthright, tough, and a techno pagan. Willow is initially taken in by Malcolm though by the third act she clearly has doubts about him. During the climatic battle in the fourth act Willow attacks Moloch/Malcolm with a fire extinguisher telling him they should break up. Willow is no wallflower. Xander wins his first fisticuffs with one of Moloch’s techies.

Endings and Beginnings: “I Robot…You Jane” has one of my favourite moments in all of Buffy, the ending when Buffy, Willow, and Xander are sitting on the fountain at Sunnydale High talking about how dismal their loves lives are likely to be. The scene is pure Buffy as the initial humour where the Scoobies realise that they are likely not to have a normal relationship life turns to tragedy and melancholy as the Scoobies realise they really are not likely to have a normal relationship life let alone a normal life. A Very Buffy Comedy to Tragedy Moment.

Girlfriends: Willow lies to Buffy telling her that she has overslept and missed class when she has really ditched class presumably to talk to Malcolm online.
Scoobies in Peril: this time it is Willow.

Foreshadowings: Do the verbal sparrings between Giles and Jenny indicate a love about to bloom? Giles to Jenny: “Who are you?” We will find out in season two.

Cinematography: Love the wonderful transition from the monks putting the book they have bound Moloch the Corrupter into a box and closing it and Buffy, some four hundred years later, opening that same box and taking the book out. Note the computer greens in Moloch’s tech central headquarters. Note the reds.

Acting: Robia LaMorte is a great Jenny Calendar, There is a real chemistry between her and Anthony Steward Head (Giles) that comes out in their verbal sparrings.

Clothes: Buffy’s leopard spot coat makes an appearance.

Personal Hygiene: Buffy asks Giles and Xander to tell her the truth about her hair after she is nearly electrocuted by Fritz affecting her hair. Buffy escapes thanks to a warning from Dave. Dave is killed by Fritz soon afterwards upon orders from Moloch.

History Reference: Giles tells Jenny that he “will be back in the Middle Ages” (he is looking for a book). Jenny responds: “have you ever left?”

This isn’t a Kiddy Show: When Giles responds to Jenny’s claim in the conclusion to the episode that he (Giles) is an old fashioned man Giles says that he doesn’t dangle a corkscrew from his ear. Jenny responds with “that’s not where I dangle it”.

The Debate: Jenny condemns Giles snobbery for wanting to keep knowledge “where only a handful of White guys can get at it”. The debates between Jenny and Giles are nicely argued on each side. That said, I love Giles speech about the smelliness and tangibility of books in the conclusion of the episode.

Popular Culture: the title is a reference to “Me Tarzan, you Jane”. There is a 1984ish quality to “I Robot…You Jane”. Moloch/Malcolm becomes an evil big brother who sees and knows everything.

Nazis: One of Malcolm’s high school minions is named Fritz. Moloch, once he is in the computer, wreaks havoc. He refashions the paper of one Sunnydale High student into a paper that argues that Nazi Germany was an example of “a well-ordered society”. This will not be the first reference to Nazis in season one.

Trivial Pursuit: The first appearance of Jenny Calendar. Buffy’s grade point average is 2.8, a C+. Witches are more powerful than techno pagans. This is the first time we see Willow’s house and bedroom.

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