Sunday, February 6, 2011

Buffy Blog "Ted"

Previously on Buffy: The fallout from Jenny’s possession by Eyghon and the resulting stepping back from her relationship with Giles in “The Dark Age” is back. Giles goes to see Jenny to see how she’s doing. Jenny tells Giles that she needs time and space. “I've stayed out of mortal danger for three whole weeks. I could get used to it. Still don't sleep too well, though”, she tells Giles. When Giles goes out patroling because Buffy has “killed” Ted, Jenny follows and accidentally shoots Giles in the derriere with an arrow. By the end of the episode Jenny and Giles have reconciled and are kissing. Ah! The events of “What’s My Line” are referenced and the Scoobies wonder whether Spike and Dru are still alive or not. Xander and Cordy continue their relationship in secret (Cordy wants it that way) in a Sunnydale High School utility closet. Xander complements Cordy on what she is wearing. Where is that angry verbal wit, Xandman?

Playing with Genre: “Ted”, penned by Whedon and Greenwalt and directed by Bruce Seth Green, plays with the 1950s domestic sitcom and the image of America and American manhood and womanhood portrayed on American television during that era. Ted is a salesman (the “salesman of the year”) and “citizen of they year” who doesn’t “take orders from women”, who uses quaint terms like “malarkey” and who has several skeletons in the closet, four to be precise.

The Metaphor: There is, of course, a great deal of satire and parody in “Ted”. “Ted” takes aim at the 1950s notion that father knows best and that mother should stay at home taking care of domestic life. Ted’s underground lair, the script describes it as 1950s kitschy, has a 1950s vibe to it as Cordelia notes. The other metaphor at play is the stepfather and stepdaughter relationship. Buffy is not handling Joyce’s relationship with Ted well. She is a somewhat immature teenager, after all. Nor does she trust Ted finding him to be too perfect. She finds out very quickly that beneath Ted’s citizen of the year, salesman of the year, smiling and friendly middle class exterior--he even prays--lurks someone obsessed, in an over the top, way about family, “fairness”, “the rules”, what is right, and proper relations between men and women (“Don’t I always tell you what to do?”, Ted asks Joyce). Finally, Ted is drugging people to make them mellow and compliant, 1950s conformists? “Ted” then is a feminist critique of 1950s domestic ideologies.

Psychoanalysis: Whedon and Greenwalt express one of the metaphors of “Ted” by having Willow tell Buffy that she is experiencing separation anxiety, the fear that her mother may be taken away from her, and anxiety over separation from her father. Buffy wants her mother and father to get back together rather than have her mother hook up with Ted. Buffy takes out her anxieties on a vampire at the park who she, as Giles notes, “…beats into a bloody pulp”. As Giles notes all of this subtext is rapidly becoming the text as all that is repressed by Buffy is coming to the surface, in "Ted".

Bringing the Tragedy: The “real” Ted Buchanan was an inventor whose wife left him. He built “Robot” Ted probably to presumably become the man she wanted him to be. “Robot” Ted kidnapped “Real” Ted’s wife. She died in captivity. He has since apparently married other women, other women who look like his first wife. Joyce is the fifth.

Character: Joyce: “[M]en [aren’t] beating down (Joyce’s)…door since she is a “single parent”. Joyce is lonely which is, as Angel notes, one of the scariest things there is. Buffy: The Scoobies think that Buffy is overreacting to Ted. This will not be the last time that they will think that Buffy is overreacting. Buffy doesn’t bruise easy. She is the Slayer after all. Buffy is wearing overalls.

Vampire Slayage: Giles dusts a vamp.

I Get It: There are all sorts of hints that Ted is a robot: “I’m not wired that way” and the reference to the Stepford Wives, the 1975 Ira Levin book and 1975 film of the same name about men getting rid of their feminist wives and replacing them with compliant domesticated robots.

Popular Culture: Willow and Xander argue about who the real power in the 1970s and 1980s popular pop duo The Captain and Tennille was. In a line deleted from the episode Willow argues that it was the Captain because “I’m just saying that if Tennille were in charge, she would have had the little captain hat.” Xander argues that the Captain was Tennille’s puppet.

Music: Christophe Beck’s score for “Ted” is ramping up the orchestral. Like it.

Sound and Silence: Nice use of sound (footsteps, footsteps on stairs). Love the sounds associated with vampire dustage. Love that Whedon, Greenwalt, and Green allow silences to dominate a scene as it does when Joyce drives Buffy home after she thinks she has killed Ted. Very effective at setting a mood.

The Chorus: “Ted” is a standalone episode with a monster of the week, the 1950s father knows best, salesman of they year”, and citizen extraordinaire Ted, who turns out to be a robot. At the same time “Ted” also moves several Buffy arcs alone: the Jenny/Giles arc and the Angel/Buffy arc, for example.

Foreshadowings: Buffy believes she has killed a human (“He was a person and I killed him”) and is troubled by it. Buffy’s anxiety over killing a human will be counterpointed against how Faith reacts to killing a human in the season three episode “Bad Girls/Consequences”. Interestingly, Detective Stein, who makes his first appearance in Ted, will also investigate the death of the deputy mayor in that episode and question Faith and Buffy, again. The Buffy and Joyce scene on the porch at the end of the episode (“we're Thelma and Louising it again”) is not the last time we will see a Buffy and Joyce domestic scene. “Surprise/Innocence” is coming shortly. This is not the first time nor will it be the last time that someone, in this case it is Ted, invades the “safe” domestic sphere of Buffy and Joyce (“This house is mine”, Buffy tells Ted as she knocks him out). Darla, of course, invaded Joyce’s and Buffy’s hearth and home in “Angel” in season one.

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