Given the wildly fluctuating highs and lows of 2017 (let’s face it, mainly lows), this past year’s GeekGirlCon represented the perfect space to reflect on the progress that has been made in the media we love, as well as the work that still needs to be done. One panel which perfectly encapsulated this blend of nostalgia and foresight was Lassos, Lightsabers, and Stakes: Assessing the Heroine’s Journey 20 Years After Buffy.
Image Description: Buffy twirls a stake in her hand. Source: Giphy.
Since 2017 was the 20th anniversary of the premiere of the complex and groundbreaking Buffy the Vampire Slayer television series, this panel highlighted the ways in which the entertainment industry still struggles to accept the lessons demonstrated by the enduring impact of the show, its characters, and its fans. Simultaneously, panelists celebrated the gains made through media ranging from Wonder Woman and Star Wars at the movies to Supergirl, The 100, and The Crown on television.
Drawing on the theory of the Heroine’s Journey – a counterpoint, most notably presented by Maureen Murdock in her 1990 book of the same name, to Joseph Campbell’s famed Hero’s Journey – in which characters experience a cyclical journey of personal and communal growth, the panelists analyzed the state of affairs in media representation for women and other underrepresented communities.
Image Description: A gif of Buffy squinting her eyes and looking intense. Source: Giphy.
The panelists included B.J. Priester, a law professor, novelist, editor, and self-professed “lifelong geek;” Tricia Barr, an engineer, novelist, and writer at the FANgirl blog; and Jennifer K. Stuller, a writer, editor, and pop culture critic and historian specializing in the history of American female superheroines and action heroines in comics, film, and television.
Image Description: A gif of Buffy and Willow, with Buffy sucking on a lollipop. Source: Giphy.
Fittingly beginning with the enduring significance of Buffy, the panelists discussed the modern-day resonance of its values, especially the themes of community, friendship, mutual support, and female empowerment and leadership. The panelists argued that, while many shows shaped the values of young people at the time, Buffy truly defined those values. However, the show is not without its flaws. The panelists noted the egregious lack of diversity in the show’s cast as a particularly frustrating limitation. Similarly, the actions of the show’s creator Joss Whedon – which have been incredibly problematic and disappointingtosaytheleast– are important to grapple with for fans who continue to glean insight, comfort, and empowerment from the series.
Image Description: A gif of the character Rey from Star Wars, with the caption saying “Follow me.” Source: Giphy.
The panel subsequently analyzed Star Wars and Wonder Woman, pieces of media which represent both how far we have come in terms of representation for women in film, as well as highlight the limitations that we still encounter time and time again. With the emergence of the character Rey, the Star Wars universe has introduced an exceptional new example of a heroic arc, as well as an inspirational figure for audiences and storytellers to connect with. At the same time, the film series needs to ensure that all female characters are depicted as full human beings, with agency and complexity of their own.
Image Description: A gif of the character Diana from Wonder Woman, deflecting a bullet with her forearm cuff. Source: Giphy.
As Jennifer noted, Wonder Woman not only became the highest grossing DC comic film ever, but had a “visceral, resonant impact,” due to the care with which director Patty Jenkins crafted a narrative of empowerment and the struggle for power and self-determination in a world marred by war and misogynistic violence. However, as Trisha noted, Wonder Woman is far from perfect, and it too falls far short in terms of full representation for women and marginalized groups as a whole.
This panel is a perennial staple at GeekGirlCon, a chance to check in on the state of affairs in feminist media. As the panelists noted, every year there are more stories to talk about, more examples of exciting and necessary representation, and more opportunities in the future to look forward to. But as with the Heroine’s Journey itself, the progress of intersectional feminist representation is never-ending, and we must constantly challenge ourselves to support diverse media, to fight for greater representation, and to create our own narratives which challenge all of us to extend our knowledge, understanding, and empathy.
Image Description: A gif of Dawn from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, with the caption saying “Cause at least I admit the world makes me nuts. Source: Giphy.
Hi everyone! With the new school year starting, we asked our GeekGirlCon staff what their favorite school subject was. Here’s what some of them have shared:
Jex Ballard, Volunteer Coordinator and Board Secretary: “My favorite subject in school was always math. I was a founding member of my elementary school’s math team, where we traveled all across Washington state competing against other schools. The best part was that Friday practices were game days where we played games like Set, Pylos, and any other game that enhanced our mental ability.”
An accurate depiction of Kris belting out a sweet tune.
Kris Panchyk, Vendor Coordinator: “My favorite subject through high school and college would definitely have to be choir. I was lucky to have stumbled into a fantastic group of people in high school, and musically we were AWESOME. It’s carried over into a love of music now and getting involved with local choirs.”
Ellen Ripley and Buffy (photo from EW.com)
Susie Rantz, PR Manager: “Geez, it’s hard to pick a favorite subject, because I feel I was a completely different person in high school than I was in middle school, and was yet another person in college. I will say the class I enjoyed the most was “Action Heroines in Contemporary Cinema.” We got to examine powerful female action heros, which meant watching Alien, Terminator 2, Buffy, Thelma and Louise, and more! I realized there were many more complex action heroines than I expected — and made me want to search for even more!”
What about you? What was or is your favorite subject in school?
Hi folks! We’ve got less than three weeks until GeekGirlCon ‘12, and staff members are already getting our convention schedules together to make sure we don’t miss out on all the fun. Here’s what some of our staff had to say when asked which panel they were most excited for!
“I am most excited for the “Once More with Feeling” Sing-Along because who doesn’t love the musical episode of Buffy? Also, I’m excited for YA Literature and Feminism. As an avid reader of YA books, I’m interested to see the panelists’ perspective on this topic.” – Jex Ballard, Volunteer Coordinator
“This year, we have SO many excellent panels that this was a tough decision. Since I’m a die-hard Browncoat and Buffy fan, I had to go with Jane Espenson and Husbands because it’s a hilarious series and I cannot wait to see what surprises Team Husbands has for us.” – Kristine Hassell, Twitter Administrator
“The panel I am most excited for is—well, it is really, really hard to pick just one—Steampunk Sewing! Each year I have a fabulous idea for a Steamcon costume that never gets executed. And this year is no different; I have a great idea and I am way behind. I hope DodiRose Zooropa, Alisa Green, and Annah Sophia Summers share some nifty tips to save me from donning my dirigible mechanic garb once again because a girl needs options!” – Adrienne Fox, Copywriter
“I’m most excited to see Jane Espenson and the cast of Husbands. Jane is my hero as we desperately need more women writing and producing TV shows. I love that she can bring the funny, the dramatic, and the heartfelt. I also adore Husbands as I do remember a time (when I was a tiny kid) where I never thought queer people like me would be positively portrayed and in lovingly adorable relationships in TV.” – Erica McGillivray, President and Marketing Director
“I am so excited about some pretty different panels this year. I’m really looking forward to A Fate Worse than Death: The Last “Outsider” in Popular Culture – Disability — the panelists are a fantastic group and it’s a topic I am interested to hear more of. If I have to choose between the super cool science-y stuff (robots! NASA! more!), I would have to say that the Stunning Space Science: Voyager — 12,396 days and counting is really calling out to me — you had me at space + science.” – Amanda Powter, Copywriter
Check out our Saturday and Sunday Programming Guides and let us know which panel you are excited for!