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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.


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)

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)."

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