Sunday, January 23, 2011

Buffy Blog: "Inca Mummy Girl"

Playing with Genre: “Inca Mummy Girl” is Buffy doing the mummy theme of the horror genre. As always Buffy adds twists. “Inca Mummy Girl” gives a female if not a feminist twist to the genre. It also uses Ampata’s story to comment on Buffy’s dilemma: normal girl or a Slayer?

Before Ampata (Ara Celi) was the mummy girl she was a sixteen-year-old Incan princess who was sacrificed (“buried alive)” to the mountain god for the good of her people. Buffy, as Ampata points out, is like her. Both are sixteen year old “chosen one[s]” who think of others before themselves but who also wonder what it would be like to have a “normal life” and a chance for love. As Buffy tells Giles when he comes to collect her from her home while everyone else is at the dance I am “[n]ot at the dance. Not with my friends. Not with a life”. The tragic dimension of Slayer choseness.

There are several other tragic tales being told in “Inca Mummy Girl”. Ampata is not evil but she has to kill—she sucks the life force out of her victims turning them to dust—in order to survive. Xander, who falls hard for Ampata, once again falls for a creature right out of horror films and horror television. He mentions his previous girlfriend, the she-mantis in “Teacher’s Pet”. At the end of the episode (act four) Xander tells Buffy that he “has the worst taste in women. Of anyone. In the world. Ever”. Poor Xander. Trying to comfort Xander, Buffy tells Xander that “[Ampata] was gypped. She was just a girl who had her life taken from her." Is Buffy also commenting on herself?

Speaking of Buffy commenting on herself: In the teaser when the Scoobies are at the Sunnydale Natural History Museum Buffy tells Willow that she should take care of Rodney Munson who is scraping the gold dust off of an Incan death mask. Willow tells Buffy that it doesn’t require “violence” and that she will take care of Rodney. Buffy responds, speaking to Xander: “I don’t always use violence. Do I?” Xander responds: “The important thing is that you believe that”.

Welcome to the Buffyverse: First appearance of Oz (Seth Green). First appearance of Devon (Jason Hall). First appearance of the band Oz and Devon play in, Dingoes Ate My Baby. The band name is a reference to Lindsay Chamberlain’s claim that “a dingo ate my baby” in Australia in the 1980s. Cheese makes its first appearance at the Bronze during the World Culture Dance in the form of a cheese sculpture that Willow knocks down at one point in the episode. Jonathan makes his first appearance (though he was in the pilot) in the Buffyverse.

High School Rituals: In “School Hard” it was parent-teacher night. In “Inca Mummy Girl” it is the student exchange programme. Buffy and Cordy are participating in Sunnydale High’s student-exchange programme. The World Culture Dance is part of the student exchange programme at Sunnydale High. The dance has a world culture theme. Willow is dressed as an Eskimo (Nanook of the North?), Xander as the “man with no name" from the “land of Leone”, and Jonathan (Danny Strong) as a cowboy.

Near Misses: Oz has eyes for Willow. He asks Devon while Dingoes Ate My Baby are onstage at the Bronze who Willow is. He just misses Willow as she and Buffy head out to save Xander from Inca mummy girl. This will not be the last Oz/Willow near miss nor the last time he utters “[w]ho is that girl” in reference to Willow.

Cinematography: Love the yellows and the close-ups of Ampata and Xander as they kiss backstage at the Bronze. Is this a reference to the life that is about to be sucked out of Xander? Do the bright yellows represent the life force that is about to be sucked out of Xander as he turnes to light brown dust?

Music: the score has a Latin American flavour which fits Ampata's background. She is from Inca Peru.

Mise-en-scene: The Buffy/Willow/Xander photograph makes its first appearance in Buffy’s bedroom. We will see this photograph later in season two and in season three. It will have enormous emotional meaning in later scenes in Buffy.

Clothes: Willow is back in overalls.

Technology: Once again one can tell that Buffy is being filmed on 16mm film.

The Chorus: “Inca Mummy Girl” is a fun take on the mummy theme in horror films. It is, as Buffy generally is, full of some great humour (“Oz: Well it involves a feather boa and the theme from A Summer Place (a 1959 romantic film)”, a reference to his dream date, “Devon: She doesn’t have to talk”, a reference to his dream girls, Xander: “It’s a delicious spongy cake filled with a delightful, white, creamy substance of goodness”, a reference to a (generic?) Twinky, “Buffy: Mummy dearest”, a reference to Ampata, the mummy girl, Buffy to Giles: “One of these days you have to get a grown up car”, a reference to Giles’s slow moving Citreon). The episode sets in motion the Oz-Willow relationship that will take form later in season two and last through season four. “Inca Mummy Girl” also does a nice job of moving the Buffy do I want to be a slayer or a normal girl arc and theme along.

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