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StephenT [userpic]

(Meta) Buffy opening credits

14th October 2007 (11:35)
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I was recently reading some metafandom stuff about representation of non-privileged groups in modern media. This included a discussion on whether Serenity passes the Bechdel-Wallace Test, as well as criticism of how many genre TV shows have a disproportionately male regular cast. "At least", I thought "Buffy doesn't suffer from that problem." Or does it? That got me wondering, so I did some analysis. And also made some pretty banners. :-)


Starting in Season One, it does indeed seem like BtVS will be a counterweight to the normal Hollywood gender balance, with the regular cast being 60% female:



But! No sooner does season 2 start, but David sneaks into the credits, and makes the balance an even 50/50. The regular cast won't be majority-female again for another three and a half years!



In fact, despite Sarah's last-ditch attempt to threaten Joss with a rocket launcher, season 3 sees men take over the cast - which is now 57% male. Alyson doesn't look too impressed by this development either - no wonder David is looking smug. At least there's a pretty new logo using a different font to distract our attention.



Season 4 begins, and we lose two regular cast members - but the gender balance is even more weighted towards the men now, with a 60% male cast. Both Sarah and Alyson look disgusted by this development. Tony's loving it though.



Episode 7 of season 4 sees James replace Seth, but that doesn't alter the gender balance at all.



In fact, it gets worse. Marc gets his own spot in the credits in episode 11 of season 4, and the women are now outnumbered two to one.



However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The first episode of season 5 sees Emma join the regular cast, bringing the balance back down to 57% male, 43% female. Sarah and Aly are looking a little bit happier now. Incidentally, 'Buffy v Dracula' is one of four episodes to have a unique title credit sequence (the others being 'Superstar', 'Once More With Feeling' and 'Seeing Red').



Episode 2 of season 5 sees another change, as Michelle joins the cast as well. The men's two-year dominance of the opening credits is finally broken as the sexes attain equality. James looks less than impressed by this. The first half of season 5 sees the regular cast at its largest ever, with eight members.



In episode 11 of season 5, Marc is gone, and the women move into the lead for the first time since 'Prophecy Girl' back in season 1.



Season 6 begins with Tony leaving the regular cast to be a special guest star instead, and the women now outnumber men two to one. James clearly hates this, but doesn't dare tangle with Alyson, who's not about to let anybody take the prime final spot in the credits away from her now she's got it. Also, is it just me or is Nicky doing a Joss Whedon impersonation here?




Hankies out as Amber makes her one and only appearance in the credits in episode 19 of season 6. *Sniff*.



And we're back to the regular credits for episodes 20-22. Although Amber did appear in 'Villains', she presumably didn't qualify as regular cast since she didn't have any lines in that episode. Since her character was, you know, dead.




And season 7 continues the female dominance. James and Nicky are clearly over-compensating for being in the minority by acting super-macho for these credits (or super-Village People, possibly). Mitchie looks dubious about this, but Aly clearly thinks it's cute.



And that's it. For the record, there are 420 appearances by male actors in the opening credits sequence, and 476 by female actresses: so the women do win out in the end, but only by 53% to 47%: hardly a vast overbalance. Which probably says something significant about our culture that it feels like a show mostly by and about women, even though women only make up half the cast.

Actual appearances in the credits:

SMG - 144
AH - 144
NB - 144 (only appeared in 143 episodes: he wasn't in 'Conversations with Dead People')
ASH - 100
JM - 82
EC - 66 (only appeared in 65 episodes: like Nicky, she wasn't in 'Conversations with Dead People')
MT - 65
CC - 56 (plus 88 appearances in the 'Angel' credits, total 144)
DB - 44 (plus 110 appearances in the 'Angel' credits, total 154 - the most of all the cast)
SG - 28
MB - 22
AB - 1

Incidentally, those banners are up for grabs if anyone wants to use them for anything.

Comments

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Posted by: M (spankulert)
Posted at: 14th October 2007 12:52 (UTC)
drusilla doll

Great stuff, great stuff. I love how you added their facial expressions into the equation.

Btw, correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't "Who Are You?" also have a unique title credit sequence? I seem to remember something like that. Might have been something I caught on YouTube I guess, because it wasn't on the DVD.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 14th October 2007 13:07 (UTC)

Thanks! I started out just counting up the numbers, but I couldn't resist turning it into a story. Much more fun that way. :-)

I had a look at 'Who Are You?': the only unusual part is that the list of guest stars after the credits includes "And Eliza Dushku as Buffy". The credits themselves are exactly the same as the other late-S4 episodes.

Of course, if I have missed any unique opening credits, I'll be happy to amend my list.

Posted by: M (spankulert)
Posted at: 14th October 2007 14:34 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 14th October 2007 19:22 (UTC)

Posted by: M (spankulert)
Posted at: 14th October 2007 19:51 (UTC)

Posted by: jadechowfan12 (jadechowfan12)
Posted at: 27th February 2011 04:47 (UTC)
Neat!

Posted by: hobgoblinn (hobgoblinn)
Posted at: 14th October 2007 13:41 (UTC)

Very nice analysis. And Pretty Pictures. One might argue that the reason Buffy doesn't seem to suffer the problem of disproportionate male representation (even when it statistically does) is how powerful the female leads are, and how a lot of the males are there for contrast.

But one might also argue that when females get anywhere near half the slots, it seems like a lot given how we're conditioned to expect so much less.

Nice job. Thanks for sharing this.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 14th October 2007 19:26 (UTC)

Probably a bit of both. I do remember hearing somewhere that Sarah had far more lines than everyone else - perhaps not as many as everyone else put together, but in that ballpark. And yes, what the characters do is as significant as how often they appear, but that's harder to measure. :-)

Thanks!

Posted by: AnarchAngel (anarchangel23)
Posted at: 14th October 2007 15:33 (UTC)

And that's it. For the record, there are 420 appearances by male actors in the opening credits sequence, and 476 by female actresses: so the women do win out in the end, but only by 53% to 47%: hardly a vast overbalance. Which probably says something significant about our culture that it feels like a show mostly by and about women, even though women only make up half the cast.

But... this isn't the only data at our disposal for this analysis, what about the actual content of the show: 2/3 or the core main characters are female, and most the the stories are about these three. When I think about Buffy, the credits are usually pretty far from my mind, and I don't think the credits really reflect the importance of the characters that much. Amber is the best example of that, IMO. She was important enough to be listed up there for ages before she was... in fact, I remember watching the credits to look for her! This might be a compelling argument against equality: significant boyfriends get listed quickly, but significant girlfriends don't.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 14th October 2007 19:39 (UTC)

It's the only data which was easy to gather without sitting through (144 x 42) 6,048 minutes of TV with a stopwatch and clipboard. :-)

It's certainly true that Buffy was in the most scenes, had the most lines, and was generally the main character... but the people around her were evenly split gender-wise. You talk about the core characters, but Giles is generally considered to be one of them too, so that's a 50/50 split... he was in 21 of the 44 episodes in seasons 6 and 7.

And didn't Amber Benson actually turn down a place in the regular cast, because she wanted to keep her freedom to do other projects? I certainly remember that story circulating at the time.

Posted by: AnarchAngel (anarchangel23)
Posted at: 14th October 2007 20:48 (UTC)

Posted by: AnarchAngel (anarchangel23)
Posted at: 14th October 2007 15:36 (UTC)

Why is it the Bechdel-Wallace Test? The link shows me Bechdel, who's Wallace?

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 14th October 2007 19:28 (UTC)

In the text above the cartoon, the writer says:

Alison would also like to add that she can't claim credit for the actual "rule." She stole it from a friend, Liz Wallace.

Posted by: AnarchAngel (anarchangel23)
Posted at: 14th October 2007 20:49 (UTC)

Posted by: tessarin (tessarin)
Posted at: 14th October 2007 18:08 (UTC)

Interesting meta. And on the surface the argument holds up.

I do not think the credits can be used in this manner. As cast representation is covered by SAG rules and contractual pieces.

I agree with the comment above it is air time and storyline focus that is the key, not even a count of minutes on screen could do this as Spike with his stand around every scene would throw it out of whack.

AB only gets one brief credit but I would say that the balance was actually skewed towards very female from S5 onwards.

You add Dawn, Anya, Tara and loose Oz, sideline Xander, then lose Giles. I know when I was watching I was conscious there were not enough men Xander even makes a reference to it.:-)

Plus they are very much in supporting roles, the focus is obviously on Buffy, then Willow.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 14th October 2007 19:47 (UTC)

I think it's indicative trather than being definitive, but if you want a more in-depth and time-consuming study you'd have to pay me, or award me a PhD for it, or something along those lines...
:-)


I would say that the balance was actually skewed towards very female from S5 onwards

I agree - and my figures above do back that up. But contrast to Season 4 when you had Riley and all his male initiative buddies, Xander and Giles playing major roles, Spike getting his feet under the table, and Adam as the Big Bad... compared to just Buffy and Willow, and Anya and Tara playing an occasional scene as the girlfriends. The pendulum swung back and forth, it wasn't all one way.

Posted by: Beer Good (beer_good_foamy)
Posted at: 14th October 2007 21:26 (UTC)

I'm gonna have to agree with some of the above comments; your measurement gets 10/10 on reliability but not as much on validity - the number of penises on cast members isn't half as interesting as what the cast members actually do, and in terms of themes and plots I'd say the show is pretty obviously weighted towards the feminine side (which I think is a great thing).

I really like the graphics, though; I've half a mind to snag one of them if I can just figure out how to put a banner on my LJ...

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 15th October 2007 18:19 (UTC)

the number of penises on cast members isn't half as interesting as what the cast members actually do
Um, if the number was something other than "one" or "zero" it would be quite interesting... :-)

I don't disagree with your point at all; but I don't think the make up of the regular cast is insignificant either. These are the people Mutant Enemy was willing to pay a steady salary to, and create a part for them in [almost] every episode even if the story that week didn't really require their presence. That says something about their perceptions of the demands of the audience.

And given the common research finding that most people think that women "dominate a conversation" if the men speak less than 67% of the time, I did want to collect real data - however limited - rather than trust to my own perceptions alone. :-)

Posted by: Beer Good (beer_good_foamy)
Posted at: 17th October 2007 18:25 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 17th October 2007 20:15 (UTC)

Posted by: Beer Good (beer_good_foamy)
Posted at: 17th October 2007 22:55 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 15th October 2007 18:21 (UTC)

Posted by: 2maggie2 (2maggie2)
Posted at: 14th October 2007 22:13 (UTC)

Thanks for all the pretty pictures! People are right that the credits don't tell the whole story. But they do tell some interesting things.

In addition to your observation, I notice that we are primed twice in season 3 to be reminded of the trauma of season 2 (Buffy with the Bazooka calling back her first battle with Angelus); Giles with the rose (calling back Jennys' death). Not sure if season 3 DB is of Angel or Angelus. In season 6, we get a sneak preview that Willow's the big bad for the season. And in season 7, we are reminded that Spike fought for his soul.

Anyway, this is an occasion to mention another credit-based clue -- which is the closing hero shot of Buffy. In season 6, it was a shot of the Buffy bot. And in season 7, it was a shot of First Evil!Buffy. Of course, in season 6 Buffy definitely didn't save the world. And in season 7, her role was arguably only ancilliary. Not sure what to make of that, but there was a clear dial-back on the woman as heroine theme that is the hallmark of the show.

Posted by: Elena (moscow_watcher)
Posted at: 14th October 2007 23:14 (UTC)

And in season 7, it was a shot of First Evil!Buffy. Of course, in season 6 Buffy definitely didn't save the world. And in season 7, her role was arguably only ancilliary. Not sure what to make of that, but there was a clear dial-back on the woman as heroine theme that is the hallmark of the show.

I vaguely remember reading somewhere that initially Joss wanted to show Buffy fighting with herself - the Fist Evil that took Buffy's form - in Chosen. But when they started doing storyboards they realised that it will be too confusing for the audience and probably unfilmable.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 15th October 2007 18:32 (UTC)

Posted by: Elena (moscow_watcher)
Posted at: 15th October 2007 19:54 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 15th October 2007 22:02 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 15th October 2007 18:11 (UTC)

Posted by: Elena (moscow_watcher)
Posted at: 14th October 2007 23:15 (UTC)
Hee

Very interesting meta - and thanks for beautiful banners!

Posted by: mr_waterproof (mr_waterproof)
Posted at: 14th October 2007 23:41 (UTC)

Very interesting and thought provoking as usual. I had not heard of the Bechdel Wallace test before, but it does tie in with something I had noticed with other Sci-fi/fantasy tv shows I've been following such as Battlestar Galactica and Heroes: although they have a fairly high percentage of female characters (four out of the seven official regulars in BSG, three out of eleven in Heroes but with some fairly significant recurring female characters), they very rarely have a significant scene together, it almost always seems to be about how they relate to one of the male characters.
At least with Buffy we had strong, developing relationships of various kinds between pairs of female characters: Best friends (Buffy/Willow) Mother/daughter (Buffy/Joyce), High school rivals (Buffy/Cordelia), sisters (Buffy/Dawn), homoerotic love-hate (Buffy/Faith), lesbian lovers (Willow/Tara), favourite auntie who turns a blind eye to mischief (Dawn/Willow), person who is unexpectedly there for you when you can't turn to anyone else (Buffy/Tara), not to mention many others involving characters who only appeared in one or a few episodes.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 15th October 2007 18:38 (UTC)

That's a good point about the different storylines on 'Buffy' - and even if you compare it to 'Angel' or 'Firefly/Serenity' you can see the difference. I know there were *some* episodes where the women characters interacted in a significant way, but mostly they were dealing with the men. In the discussion on 'Serenity', the only scene of two women interacting that people could call to mind was River and her teacher in the flashback...

Posted by: mr_waterproof (mr_waterproof)
Posted at: 15th October 2007 20:59 (UTC)

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: 15th October 2007 04:21 (UTC)
Missing in action

Since you listed CWDP, might as well list all the absences of credited regulars:

CC - 'The Pack' and 'I Robot...' [plus a bunch on ATS]
DB - 'Inca Mummy Girl'
JM - 'The Body'
EC - 'Normal Again,' 'Help,' CWDP

I think that's it.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 15th October 2007 18:41 (UTC)
Re: Missing in action

Thanks - I hadn't realised it had happened so many times...

Posted by: Karen (kazzy_cee)
Posted at: 15th October 2007 10:39 (UTC)
ani Angel clapclapclap

Excellent analysis! Well done. Popped over via a recommendation and thoroughly enjoyed your comments about each episode. I didn't even realise there was a change of font between seasons 2 and 3! *is bad fangirl!*

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 15th October 2007 18:43 (UTC)

Thank you! And if it's any comfort, I only had a vague impression that the logo in the early seasons was different, and it wasn't until I started looking at screenshots (from http://www.screencap-paradise.com/buffy.php, incidentally) that I narrowed down exactly when it did change...
(There's also a different version of the theme music in the first two seasons).

Posted by: Owen (owenthurman)
Posted at: 16th October 2007 02:06 (UTC)

I knew there was something I liked about S6.

The trend is even more disturbing when we consider that women are much more likely to turn their talents and efforts toward acting than men are. There are simply a lot more women available to work out there and men still get more roles.

This was a great post, thanks for doing the work.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 17th October 2007 00:15 (UTC)

There's lots of things I like about it.:-)

Thanks!

Posted by: Desperately Random (crossoverman)
Posted at: 1st May 2008 02:27 (UTC)
buffy/angel

Hey, I just found this post from your sidebar - very cool!

(I've also snagged the 5x02 credits banner for my LJ profile page. I'm also thinking of making one for other shows I like, hmmm...)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 1st May 2008 08:40 (UTC)

\o/ Thanks!

Also, am glad my sidebar did its job :-)

Posted by: Desperately Random (crossoverman)
Posted at: 1st May 2008 09:23 (UTC)

Posted by: The One Who Isn't Chosen (gabrielleabelle)
Posted at: 31st August 2008 06:56 (UTC)
willow lessons

Yay me commenting on a post that's almost a year old (Haven't read the other comments so excuse any redundancy). :)

I'm a little embarrassed, honestly. I'd always thought of BtVS as having a vastly larger female cast although, when you break down the numbers, it's much more balanced than that. I must slap my own wrist now.

I think it's important to note that three of the male cast members (Angel, Oz, and Riley) are the love interest of a more developed female cast member (Buffy, Willow, and Buffy again). There's only one female cast member that was brought on specifically to fulfill the role of "love interest" to a member of the male side (Anya to Xander). This doesn't change your findings, but it is interesting to consider as it is a reversal to most shows that generally only have female cast members to accessorize the male cast.

However, I wonder if some extremely overzealous person might do a similar study involving screentime for the various cast members to see whether the female cast were given more lines/screentime/whatnot than the males. It certainly seems like they were, but I'm not sure if I trust my initial impressions now after seeing this breakdown. Meh.

*edited cause I don't like typos

Edited at 2008-08-31 07:06 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 31st August 2008 09:30 (UTC)
buffy-willow

The balance surprised me too - and a lot of other people in the comments raised the point about comparing actual screentime or lines of dialogue rather than just appearances in the credits. But that's the sort of thing you'd do for a thesis, not for fun...

I do remember hearing that Sarah Michelle Gellar usually had more dialogue each episode than the rest of the cast put together, or that she was onscreen for 2/3 of every episode, or something like that. So the show gives the impression of being female-dominated because it's all about Buffy, and she's a woman.

And, like you said, many of the male characters were there as adjuncts to the females - and as one of the comments above (from my brother) says, the show also had many different kinds of female-female relationship on it:
"Best friends (Buffy/Willow) Mother/daughter (Buffy/Joyce), High school rivals (Buffy/Cordelia), sisters (Buffy/Dawn), homoerotic love-hate (Buffy/Faith), lesbian lovers (Willow/Tara), favourite auntie who turns a blind eye to mischief (Dawn/Willow), person who is unexpectedly there for you when you can't turn to anyone else (Buffy/Tara)."

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: 13th April 2010 05:38 (UTC)
Two years late yo

These pictures were cool, but the post is pretty dumb. Buffy was never a female-dominated show... it was a feminist-friendly show. There's a huge difference. You don't have to have a female-dominated cast, or even a female lead, to be feminist content. That's actually pretty backwards thinking. Maybe I'm unusual but I never saw Buffy as female-dominated... thinking back, sure, I guess there were more women than men, but nothing noticeable. What I did see were feminist messages coming from *both* male and female characters.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 15th April 2010 18:34 (UTC)
Re: Two years late yo

You don't have to have a female-dominated cast, or even a female lead, to be feminist content.

Nobody said you did. The question of whether women have equal representation in the media is a feminist issue, but it's not the be-all and end-all of feminism.

Equally, whether people believe a show to be 'female-dominated' when in fact the sexes are roughly equal is an interesting insight into how perception doesn't always match up to reality, and a reminder of how it's important to check your facts rather than jumping to unsupported conclusions.

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: 21st April 2010 03:04 (UTC)
Re: Two years late yo

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