Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Buffy Blog: "The Witch"

Previously on Buffy: Buffy was a cheerleader at Hemery High in Lost Angeles before she moved to Sunnydale.

All the things I mentioned earlier are also present in “The Witch”. There’s the pop culture references (Sabrina), the cinematic qualities (the elegant moving camera), the playing with genre (Buffy does body switching and body snatching a long theme in horror literature and film), the metaphors (at first we think it is all about the pressure parents put on their kids but it turns out to really be about how parents use their kids, literally in this case, to live their lives through them), and the great acting (Robin Riker, who plays Amy’s mum and Elizabeth Anne Allen are superb, in my opinion, in their guest roles).

I have always felt that Buffy is really good at misdirection. At first in this episode we think that Amy is simply trying to live out her mother’s dreams for her. As the episode proceeds, however, we come to realize that Amy’s mother has taken over the body of her daughter in one of those wonderful surprise moments that Buffy is so good at. Buffy is really good at these Twilight Zone moments. I love the Twilight Zone qualities of the episode particularly the ending where Amy’s mum ends up stuck in the object of her evil affections, her cheerleader trophy in the trophy case at Sunnydale High.

Like so many other Buffanatics I have long been a Buffy missionary. When I first showed the first three episodes of Buffy to a friend of mine in Austin he said to me that he was glad that Buffy wasn’t only about vampires. Joss Whedon said something similar in an interview in which he talked about “The Witch”. “The Witch”, he said if memory serves, was important because it was a critical episode in Buffy’s mission statement. Buffy isn’t only about vampires. It is also about all those things that go bump in the hellmouth night in Sunnydale including witches.

Playing with Genre: Buffy does the body switch motif common in films (think of all those tween body switch films like Freaky Friday and Big) and melds it to the witch theme.

Character: Willow likes Xander, Xander likes Buffy (the wrist bracelet), Buffy thinks Xander is one of the girls.

Mothers and Daughters: Catherine and Amy, Joyce and Buffy. The relationship between Catherine and Amy lead Buffy to reflect on her relationship with Joyce.
Visuals: I love the teaser where the camera is on Giles who is berating Buffy for joining “this…this cult”. Then the camera moves from Giles to Buffy who is dressed in a cheerleader uniform. Laugh out loud.

Nazis: Buffy refers to Amy’s mum Catherine as nazi-like.

Popular Culture: Reference to TV and film star Farrah Fawcett and the US series of “Gidget” novels 1957, 1959, 1961, 1963, 1965, 1966, 1968), the Gidget films (1959, 1961, 1963), the Gidget sitcom (1965-1966), the “Gidget” telemovies (1969, 1972, 1985), and The New Gidget sitcom (1986-1988). Joyce tells Buffy that she doesn’t have “Farrah hair”. She has Gidget hair. “Don’t they teach you anything in history?”, Joyce asks Buffy.

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