Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Buffy Blog: "Teacher's Pet"

Monster of the week: the substitute teacher, Miss French (Musetta Vander), is actually a She-Mantis who assumes the form of a beautiful woman (a siren) and lures male virgins to her lair, mates with them and, in the process, beheads them. It’s a Greek tragedy?

Playing with Genre: Buffy does the beast assumes the form of a human motif. Buffy does the I’ve got a thing for my teacher motif.

Mise-en-scene: Miss French wears praying mantis green fingernail polish. Mr. Gregory’s (William Monaghan) glasses make three important appearances: the actor is cleaning them in the scene in which he talks to Buffy about her academic potential, they fall on the floor and crack after he is killed by something we are not shown (classic horror technique a la Lewton/Tourneur), and when Buffy picks them up and puts them in the pocket of Mr. Gregory’s white science coat pocket at the end of the episode. I love it how Whedon and Company, like a lot of thoughtful filmmakers, give meaning to objects. Giles’s office is full of dark woods (old world architecture). On the shelf is a statue of Shiva.

Clothes: Buffy is in tight pants and blouse. Willow is feminised and sexualized through her make-up, clothing, and hair.

Sound: Love the sound of crunchy crickets as Miss French eats her cricket sandwich for lunch.

Cinematography: Interesting slow motion, from Xander’s point of view (?) as Miss French, walks up the walkway to Sunnydale High. Xander has sex on his mind.

Character. There is tons of character information and development in this episode. Once again what seems like a stand-alone episode is only a stand-alone in part. Buffy is clearly infatuated with Angel. As Mr. Gregory recognizes and as this episode shows, Buffy is not dumb. Buffy is smart and quick on her feet, particularly when she prepares for battle and. Buffy, however, is also rash, as Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) tells her. She goes “hunting” for “fork guy” on her own after she promises Giles she won’t. Buffy’s impulsiveness will come back to haunt her in future episodes and future seasons. But then Buffy is young. Cordelia is traumatized when she finds a headless Mr. Gregory in a refrigerator in the lunchroom where she keeps her special meal. When Buffy overhears Cordy talking to a therapist one almost, almost, feels a bit of sympathy for Cordy. Xander (middle name LaVelle) is obsessed with Buffy. He has (male) delusions of grandeur: he saves Buffy from a certain death and plays rock god guitar hero in his daydream. Xander is jealous of Angel. His petty jealousies will come back to haunt the Buffyverse in future episodes and future seasons. Giles (“admiral”) doesn’t always inspire the troops with his sarcasm. He whinges about those “sunny” and “beautiful” SoCal days. Oh for British climatic charms.

Xander’s Love Life: Xander’s love life will not really get much better than this. He falls in love with a dead Incan princess in season two, falls for a vengeance demon in season three, leaves her at the altar in season six, and falls for yet another demon in season seven with near deadly circumstances. By the end of season seven Xander and vengeance demon, Anya, seem to have found a degree of comfort with one another and their relationship.

Playing with language: love the heal…heel play on words.

Psychoanalysis: Blayne and Xander are obsessed with sex and notches on their sexual belt. Is Xander’s guitar a male phallic symbol? Miss French emasculates young virgin boys by mating with them and beheading them. Are Whedon and Company parodying Freudianism and the Freudian infused film? There is the rock and roll god saves Buffy fantasy of Xander.

Male on male moment: Xander tells Willow Angel is “buff”.

Slayeretters er Scoobies in peril: This time it is Xander.

Buffy the superhero: Blayne tells Buffy that there is “nothing wrong with an aggressive female”. Is Buffy an “aggressive female”? Buffy pushes Xander out of the way when he is trying to help her fight the She Mantis at the end of the episode.

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