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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

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)

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.

OK, good point. I guess I tend to think a little too much about the output and not as much about the input... the proof is in the pudding. :-) But the expectations of the audience - and, indeed, the network - shouldn't be discounted. On the other hand, I think the relatively even gender mix helped give the show more general appeal - kept it from preaching to the crowd too much.

(I don't know if you saw the comments on the 8.08 preview over at whedonesque, which turned into a discussion on whether Faith and Gigi in a tub was sexist because Joss and BKV are men...)

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

I'd not seen that - I don't generally follow Whedonesque discussions because not being able to join in kind of puts a downer on things. But sueworld 2003 has expressed her dislike of the bubblebath scene in several other places, so I'm familiar with the argument.

As far as I'm concerned, shambleau's comments express my own opinion best. I definitely picked up the callback to the scene in season 4 where Faith shared a bath with Buffy's body, not to mention the whole "seduction through wealth and luxury" vibe. It was no more titillating than sweaty naked Xander in the last issue presumably was to androsexual people. I mean, seriously, people, if fanboys want gratuitous nudity they'll download actual porn like everybody else does; they don't need drawings in comicbooks. :-)

The argument that it's somehow unrealistic to show "an English aristocrat" being nude with a semi-stranger is more interesting, though still odd. I'm not sure what her class has to do with it; from what little I've seen first-hand of the British aristocracy, they're no more or less individual in their tastes and habits than the rest of us. Although given Gigi's isolation and sheltered upbringing, I wonder if she herself has acquired an odd, over-romanticised idea of the sort of things girls are supposed to do with their best friends. After all, it sounds like she never had a close friend of her own age before she met Faith.

As for Faith, I really can't picture her having a big nudity taboo. In fact, the word "shameless" springs to mind.

I would be interested in hearing a Scandinavian perspective on the issue. According to common stereotypes, you guys are jumping naked into the sauna together all the time, so Faith and Gigi in the bath shouldn't seem the least bit strange. :-)

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

I think we're pretty much on the same page re: the porniness of it; while I did have some icky Fastlane flashbacks - right down to the plot of our heroine pretending to be on the wrong side, if that is indeed what Faith is doing - but there's definitely more stuff going on than just "ooooh, hot naked chicks in a tub" (besides, Jeanty isn't THAT good, haha). Like shambleau said:

even if gratuitousness is there, it's never only there.

(Plus, the girls have already gotten naked Spike and naked Angel...)

Besides, wouldn't young British aristos these days be more inclined to take after Paris Hilton than Queen Vic?

I would be interested in hearing a Scandinavian perspective on the issue. According to common stereotypes, you guys are jumping naked into the sauna together all the time, so Faith and Gigi in the bath shouldn't seem the least bit strange. :-)

Believe every word. ;-) Though there's a certain safety in numbers; skinny-dipping or sharing a sauna or tub with 3 or more people is no big deal. Two people in a tub... then we could be getting a tiny bit closer to intimate space. (You want shameless, look at the Germans. I don't think they even sell bathing suits there...)

Of course, then there's the whole issue of where "callback" becomes "repetition", but it's late and I've snarked enough for today.

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

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...

Thanks! Feel free - or if you want text added (the name of the season, say), let me know.

I think there are only certain styles that let you add a banner; it's why I'm using Three Columns rather than Refried Paper as my style now. Of course, I haven't gone into the in-depth customisation options yet...

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