4.05 Beer Bad
4.06 Wild at Heart
**Follow along in Bite Me, pp. 219-222
For Angel viewers, this week’s episodes are
1.4 I Fall to Pieces
1.5 Rm w/ a Vu
1.6 Sense and Sensitivity (pp. 112-117 of Once Bitten)
This week’s trio of Buffy episodes is probably more of an emotional rollercoaster than I’ll see in any other week of the Buffy Rewatch. This might be the funniest scene in the entirety of BtVS for me:
Buffy: “This is Gachnar?”
Xander: “Big overture. Little show.”
Gachnar: “I am the dark lord of nightmares! (Buffy tries not to laugh) The bringer of terror! Tremble before me. Fear me!”
Willow laughing: “He – he’s so cute!”
Xander bends down: “Who’s a little fear demon? Come on! Who’s a little fear demon!”
Giles: “Don’t taunt the fear demon.”
Xander: “Why, can he hurt me?”
Giles: “No, it’s just – tacky.”
And this line…:
Buffy: “Want beer. Like beer. Beer gooood.”
triggers my gag reflex more than any other in the Buffyverse. I wish I could go back in time to the storyboarding of season 4, storm into the writers’ room and get down on my knees and BEG Joss Whedon not to do that episode. No, actually, I wish I could go even further back in time (and closer to home) and visit the writer of this episode who happens to be from... gulp... Toronto... and beg her not to go to Ryerson to take the writing course there, convincing her instead that she just might have a colourful future career as a florist. I mean, it’s such a great-smelling job! But alas, I can do neither of those things. Cue gag reflex.
“Oz... don’t you love me?”
immediately brings forth the tears for me. Willow tears are like tiny, wet daggers, each piercing my heart and wanting to gather her into my arms and make her happy again. And this episode just abounds with Willow tears.
So we’ve got the funniest, the worst, and one of the saddest episodes, all in the same week. Where to begin? Well, let’s begin with “Fear, Itself.” A fantastic episode all around, from Anya’s ridiculously awesome bunny suit to Giles wielding a chainsaw to the brilliant costume Oz wears (“Hello my name is God”) to that laugh-out-loud ending, “Fear, Itself” is one of the highlights of season 4. It’s the natural sequel to “Nightmares,” when the Scoobs all had to face their deepest fears. But notice how inconsequential their high school fears seemed compared to now, even though at the time they felt like the worst things in the world. Xander was scared of clowns; Willow had an intense stage fright; Buffy believed her parents broke up over her (something that’s mentioned at the beginning of this episode, a great dialogue cue that immediately brings “Nightmares” to mind for us); Giles got lost in the stacks; Cordy had crazy hair and was welcomed into the AV club. In this episode, Xander becomes invisible to everyone around him, like he’s no longer important in their world; Willow fears she will lose control over her talents in magicks; Buffy is scared that her friends will abandon her; Oz worries the wolf in him could threaten his friends. We’ve already seen Oz’s fear become a reality in “Wild at Heart,” and I’ll just say his isn’t the only one that will. But these are real fears that are life and death situations. The fears they all had in “Nightmares” ranged from funny to poignant, but here they’re all quite terrifying.
Until we realize that their fears are actually more dangerous to them than what lies ahead.
I’ll skip ahead to “Wild at Heart,” the episode where we finally meet the loathsome Veruca (aptly named after the vile character in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) and Oz breaks Willow’s heart. I feel for Oz in this episode, but that doesn’t take away the hurt of watching Willow fall apart. Buffy steps up as a real friend in this episode, and Willow plays with knives when she goes to the school’s science lab and threatens to make her fear from “Fear, Itself” actually come true. I still remember watching that ending for the first time, when Oz went out to his van, turned it on, and then turned it off. My face was soaked, I was practically hyperventilating, and I was begging him aloud to get back out of that van and go back to her. The scene cuts to Willow, and the audience expects the door to fly open and him to come back to her... but he doesn’t. He turns the van back on, and we watch as it drives away. One of the most heartbreaking moments on Buffy for me. Well, that and the fact that Giles, who’s supposed to have good taste in music, somehow thinks Veruca has charismatic stage presence. That girl looks like she’s going to swallow the microphone every time she opens her mouth. For god’s sakes, someone teach that actress how to LIP SYNCH. It’s not that hard, really.
Anyway. I think that rant just signalled me to begin talking about that middle episode I’ve been avoiding, but before I get there (and I have a treat for y’all this week when it comes to that stinky episode), I’d like to re-introduce our wonderful Janet/Steve Halfyard, who is here this week to talk about the music in “Beer Bad” and “Wild at Heart.” And hey, she doesn’t hate “Beer Bad,” I’m happy to say, so let’s hear from her first before I unleash the hounds.
by Steve Halfyard
I come down firmly in the love camp for "Beer Bad". What's not to love? Beer is indeed foamy, and we in the UK really do not seem to share the US's concern about the evils of foaminess. I regret to say, of course, that what Buffy is drinking does not actually appear to be beer but that feeble cousin of beer's, known here as lager. If she'd been drinking real ale, none of this would have happened.
But: the big bad (as opposed to the "Beer Bad") early in season 4 is Parker, pretty, evil, amoral, adorable Parker, one of these people of such charm and yet such damaged psyche, who has the ability to make you feel like the most important and wonderful person in the world when they turn the spotlight of their attention on you, and who then turn away, leaving you desperate to get it back. It takes until this episode for Buffy to get him out of her system properly. Lorna Jowett, author of Sex and the Slayer, has observed that Buffy’s encounter with Parker is loaded with reminders of Angel, from his own remark about “dark and brooding” guys to the way sex with him “replays what happened when she had sex with Angel only without the allegory”: she has sex with him, and then he changes, loses interest, “turns evil”, and leaves her feeling that the only way to make sense of the encounter and to restore her sense of herself is to get him back, to prove that it wasn't a mistake.
And it is in relation to Parker that our old friend, the Buffy/ Angel Love theme appears in significant disguise, but revelatory of what is really going on in that Buffy brain. Buffy has her Parker fantasy in the teaser of "Beer Bad" In fact, if we listen to the music, we know right from the start that this is a fantasy, as the fight music is techno, not Beck’s normal orchestral underscore: this is fight music scored by Buffy's own imagination. And then, fantasy Parker makes his apology, and as he does so, listen to that music. In particular, listen to the first four notes of the theme – there they are, the first four notes of the Buffy/ Angel Love theme, in a slightly different rhythm, with different harmony, but the same melody nonetheless.
Fantasy Parker’s music is a sort of over-romanticised, easy listening, swooshy string version of the Love theme. What it seems to be saying is that Buffy thinks her problem is Parker; she thinks that what has upset her is how he has treated her. And yes, it has. But actually, her problem is still Angel, and the problem with Parker is that he’s not Angel. She doesn’t want Parker; she knows he’s shallow and unworthy. She wants him to be Angel. I believe the technical term for this is rebound.
And if any of us were in any doubt about her feelings for Parker, all we have to do is listen to how she constructs him musically in her fantasy: there’s a sort of metadiegetic thing going on here (sorry for the jargon), by which I mean that the music is arguably audible to Buffy as the soundtrack in her imaginary scene. She replaces Beck’s orchestral music for the fight with the type of thing she listens too (the type of thing of which Bay City Rollers-loving Giles would say “it's not music, it's just meaningless noise”), and she reworks her Angel love theme: her fantasy is trying to make Parker sound like Angel. It's a great sequence: and we get it not once but twice, the second time even more over the top, with Parker and his flowers and tub of ice cream - oh, Buffy! Comfort eating in your fantasies? Who could not love this episode, I ask you again?
The best bit is saved till last. Right at the end, whilst Buffy is still in cavegirl mode, Parker – who, of course, she now really has saved, although not quite as she fantasized it, she being more monosyllabic and with much less good hair than in the teaser – comes to offer her exactly the apology she had been hoping for, and we get the romantic fantasy version of the Love theme back again, a little more down to earth and sincere now (and on a piano, always an instrument for scoring sincerity in the Buffyverse), and a little more hesitant because now it is not the music of a fantasy Parker as imagined by Buffy but of the real Parker, who is genuinely grateful and ashamed. It is, of course, cut off in mid-flow as Buffy clubs him. And yes, we all know he deserved. Boy Bad, indeed.
If "Beer Bad" revisits something old, “Wild at Heart” delivers something new: not just a new theme but a theme which, just for a change, is really not about Buffy in any way. There have been little thematic things here and there not about Buffy – some Xander music, some Xander and Willow music (oh, their season 3 guitar theme was cute!) – but mostly it all comes back to Buffy, her battles and her relationships (same thing, a lot of the time). This season has been no different – there's been a whole “Buffy's disappointment” theme going through the first five episodes of this season that I decided not to bore you with (it's only a little motif, and it disappears from the score around now) – and there is more Buffy-related music to come, but this episode, musically, belongs to Willow.
You would be forgiven for not noticing this because “Wild at Heart” is the episode where Oz's musical interests drives a wedge between him and Willow; and we hear the remarkably mean Verucca singing at the start of the episode (and really, with a name like Verucca, were we ever supposed to like her?) so in fact, musically it starts out looking like this episode belongs to everyone but Willow. Her music starts up when she finds the pair of recently un-werewolfed musicians in Oz's cage; and as she runs from the crypt, we hear a flute melody, which later reappears as the music that scores Oz leaving her at the end of the episode. If the Buffy/ Angel love theme is mostly about Buffy's loss of the man she loves, this is Willow's direct equivalent, and it isn't an episode-specific theme – again, this one is coming back (as indeed, is Oz, spoiler spoiler). The scene when Oz leaves was originally going to have a song (a “Goodbye to you” moment) but Whedon and his music supervisor, John King, just couldn't find one that worked, that didn't intrude or do too much, so in the end they got Christophe Beck to write music for the breakup, which is how we come to have this lovely, delicate theme in several places in this episode and others. But the fact that Willow is starting to get her own themes (there will be more!) is symptomatic of the gradual shift in the balance of power, as Willow gradually becomes more powerful as a witch throughout this season and so deserves to have her own music as distinct from Buffy’s. Season 4 is the season in which Willow really starts to become strong enough in her own right to compete with Buffy for agency and that in turn affects the way the whole narrative and its underscore are constructed.
Thank you, Janet!
OK. So. First, I want to say that in ten television companion guides, written over twelve years, there has only been one episode where I’ve written the following:
“This episode was such an insult to both the characters and the viewers that I really don’t want to waste any more paper talking about it.”
I don’t think I’ve ever written off a single episode more succinctly and completely than “Beer Bad.” In my mind, it’s a travesty. It’s a joke. It’s not worthy of the Joss Whedon stamp. As I say in my book, YES, it has that brilliant Parker vs. Willow moment. And YES, it has that great moment where Buffy clunks Parker over the head with a piece of wood (okay, so I hate Parker... who doesn’t?) But, to put it bluntly, it’s STUPID. Ridiculously stupid. I watched it again this week for the first time in years, thinking maybe it’ll make me chuckle. Maybe I’ll think it’s funny. I clicked Start. Heh, that Xander line at the beginning is pretty funny. And Buffy’s hair is pretty awesome at the start, isn’t it? Um... okay, seriously, Buffy, you got over ANGEL quicker than you did Parker, really? Are you still really moping over this guy? Okay, whatever... oh hey look, it’s Kal Penn! And... wow, you’d never know he could act from this episode. He’s kind of terrible. Good thing he switched from acting to public office. Oh god, cavepersons are starting now... and okay, no. You know what? I HATE THIS EPISODE. I tried, I really did, I hoped it would work. But no. No no no no no. I HATE it.
It’s pretty well known among my readers that I hate this episode (I kinda made my feelings clear in my book.) And over the years, while “Beer Bad” has become a critical term, as in “That episode is the ‘Beer Bad’ of this series,” (for the Losties joining the rewatch, I once used that term to describe “Stranger in a Strange Land”) I’ve also met many people who defended it. Some went so far as to say they loved it. And so, I decided it wouldn’t be fair if I just used this space to rant even more. Instead, I’ll let other people talk.
So I rounded up twelve of the Buffy Rewatch peeps (some of them you’ve yet to meet, because they’re scheduled to be appearing later this year) and I won’t provide intros to each one of them, but you can go here to find their bios on the contributors’ page. Six of them defended it with honour, and six of them unleashed the powers of hell... or maybe they were just a little angry. So allow me to present both sides of the argument, and I’ll let you decide. (Oh, and in case you think it’s lopsided for me to take up this much space despising it, thus skewing things to the Hate side, I let the Love group go much longer, so they probably have a higher word count... so I’m just evening out the teams. And hey, Steve up there liked it, so we’re even again!)
So after my little hissy fit above, let’s start with someone in the Love column. First on deck, Stacey May Fowles, who will be appearing in season 6 of the rewatch.
Stacey May Fowles
When I told my partner I had agreed to defend Beer Bad, he stared at me perplexed and said “Why would you do that?” Yes, I, in the minority, have always had a soft spot for it (and no, it’s not just the minor Kal Penn appearance.) Maybe it’s personal, in the sense that I shared a pitcher or seven of bad beer with a tribe of fiercely loyal boys in my freshman days. Maybe I love the fact that Whedon never gets all lazy, after school special on us by making the lesson “drink lots of beer around boys, get assaulted.” Maybe it’s the fact that Parker gets told by Willow, who is still in her slightly awkward phase, making the sting of it all that much better. Whatever the reason, in my mind, Beer Bad is actually real good.
“The id doesn’t learn, it doesn’t grow up,” Professor Walsh says in the opening scene, highlighting the entire point of the episode. Buffy wants Parker, or more accurately, wants Parker to want her. Parker only wants sex, seemingly with every woman on campus, and is willing to creatively lie to get it. While it’s easy to misread the episode as a lesson on the perils of collegiate drinking, it is more accurately a critique of both the perils and purposefulness of unbridled, capital W Want.
A deluded Buffy spends much of the first part of Beer Bad fantasizing not only that Parker loves and idealizes her, but that he’s actually worthy of her affections—as Willow puts it, the Buffster is in need of “a big mental tidy.” Who among us have not gone down this road of the lovelorn only to discover, through the help of some good ol’ glass clinking (“It’s nice. Foamy. Comforting.”), that the object of our affection is actually a complete douchebag? Buffy’s busy beating herself up for being “a slut” and “an idiot” (still deluded) when a random group of boys (Hey Kumar!) invite her to drink -- the side effect of the boys and the beer? Buffy wants. And in wanting she seems to actually clear up that pesky Parker problem for good.
Sometimes you need the beer and the boys to get past the I’m a slut and an idiot phase and realize that guy was a total loser and you shouldn’t beat yourself up over it. Sure some people may get pushed around and some things may get vandalized, but the episode is Whedon’s way of saying to the broken-hearted “Beer? Hey, why not? It’s a process—just don’t accidentally set the campus coffee shop on fire.” In fact, in all the chaos and destruction of bad, bad beer, the ending has our heroine return to her former uncompromising self.
Also, I laugh every time Buffy falls off that desk chair.
LOL! OK, to counter, I present David Lavery, the man behind Slayage and the first person on deck to co-host with me in Week 2 of the rewatch. What did you think, David?
A now-retired, often cantankerous colleague of mine used to insist literature professors customarily teach the wrong stuff in their classes. Instead of having students read and write about masterpieces / classics — Tom Jones, say, or The Great Gatsby — we should be concentrating on bestsellers. He would teach appalling novels by Nora Roberts and Danielle Steele in a course, all the better, he was convinced, to make clear, by contrast, what makes great literature great.
If those of us studying and teaching the Buffyverse were to accept such an approach, we would not be focusing like a laser on “Innocence” and “Becoming” and “Hush” “Restless” and “The Body” and “Once More with Feeling.” Instead, bottom feeders like “Beer Bad” and “Where the Wild Things Are” would captivate our scholarly and pedagogical imaginations.
Revisiting “Beer Bad” for the Great Buffy Rewatch I am more dubious than ever about the value of the “begin at the bottom” approach. If all copies of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the world were destroyed except for “Bad,” future humans could ascertain nothing about the genius of Joss Whedon’s series. I had forgotten how inconsequential it is, not just a stand-alone episode but a go-and-stand-by-yourself-in-a-corner episode. Who are these characters? These are not the Xander, or Buffy, or Giles I know. Only Willow comes through relatively unscathed. It’s so off, so out-of-synch, that I like to think of it as non-canonical. A professor of mine once returned a paper to be without a grade and whispered “Let’s just pretend you didn’t write this.” I like to pretend “Bad” doesn’t really exist.
I began watching Buffy with “The Freshman,” and “Bad” arrived only four episodes later. I gave up on Vampires Diaries after only two, but “Bad” did not drive me away and obviously I am glad I stuck with BtVS. Not even the execrable “Where the Wild Things Are” (4.18) later in Season 4, also written by “Bad’s” Tracey Forbes, could drive me away.
Oooh! A smackdown! Well, the Vampire Diaries fans won’t like THAT one, I can tell you. Wait, what? We have the author of the Vampire Diaries companion guide to counter that one? Take it away, Ms. Calhoun!
“Beer Bad” is the kind of Buffy episode that a non-Buffy person could watch five minutes of and judge the series harshly (the way people currently rag on The Vampire Diaries until they actually start watching it). And while “Beer Bad” is no “Hush,” to malign it seems unfair to the episode’s simple comedic charm or its rightful place in the evolution of episodes — like “The Pack,” “Band Candy,” “Tabula Rasa” — where characters temporarily lose their identity. Buffy’s slayer strength helps her get everyone away from the fire (“bad”) in the end, but “Beer Bad” is otherwise about Buffy as a human — a college girl who feels stupid and slutty after sleeping with a guy who doesn’t want anything else to do with her.
Add to that the fun of seeing: Xander’s Good Will Hunting-style revenge on the poncey college guys; Willow faking us out by seeing Carter’s side of things; Buffy’s cavegirl hair; Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement Kal Penn as a caveman; Giles describing Buffy’s strange gait to random hallway dudes; Riley, all cute and full of love-interest potential; and Buffy bonking Carter on the head — twice.
And I know I’m not the only Buffy fan who’s woken up after a particularly late beer-filled night, feeling non-verbal and like stealing my roommate’s Cheerios, and in those times I can grunt, “Beer bad,” and feel close to the Slayer. Which is just about the best feeling possible in the midst of a hangover — or at any time really. “Beer Bad” good.
I feel like the sports commentator caught in the middle here... now, back over to the Hate team. And maybe the argument is just so obvious, all it takes is something short and sweet. Here is Ian, who appeared earlier in the Rewatch, using one of my favourite forms of poetry to describe his thoughts on the ep.
For the Buffy writer’s room:
Soda good, beer bad.
Seriously, we need to institute some haiku in our Buffy watch. I miss it. OK, back over to the Love team, who’s just getting warmed up. Let’s go grab Evan Munday, the guy who argued in favour of “Ted.” Of COURSE he loved “Beer Bad.” I’d expect nothing less.
'Beer Bad' gets a bad rap, sandwiched between two pretty solid episodes, the Hallowe’en one featuring a chainsaw-wielding Giles and the one that breaks Willow’s heart (and had me crying in my bedroom as if my dog had just died). Additionally, the episode has that whole after-school special aftertaste of the evils of drinking, but it does have some incredible advantages:
1) This episode was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Hairstyling in a Series! No one can style caveperson hair like Lisa Marie Rosenberg!
2) This episode features a guest appearance by Kal Penn. 'Nuff said.
3) We get a Cliff's Notes lesson on Freudian psychology (now largely discredited) in the first five minutes!
4) Buffy watches Luscious Jackson on the TV. Remember them? ‘With my naked eye / I saw all the falling rain / Coming down on me.’
5) Most importantly, this episode clearly inspired those delightful Geico caveman ads (which themselves led to another, less-successful) television series, Cavemen.
Ball’s in your court, 'Hated It.'
Oh, Evan. You almost convinced me. But not quite. OK, hated it, who’s next? Kristen Romanelli!
"Beer Bad" actually begins with some promise. We enter with a totally badass fight. Buffy’s kicking and punching and flipping and kicking, and she gets in some wicked quality dusting. It all goes downhill from here. This turns out to be a very sad little power/redemption fantasy about Parker. I mean really. Parker? You don’t get this hung up on a rebound. Trust me. I find it really hard to believe that a woman as badass as Buffy can get this mopey over a guy like Parker. An epic, tragic love like Angel, yes. But… really?
Ugh, anyway. This episode is like the perfect storm of awful writing, directing, and editing. The lines are stilted and the pacing is slow. Just because the characters regress to plodding idiot cavemen doesn’t mean that everyone involved in the production had to do so as well. “Nothing can defeat the penis! Too loud, very unseemly.” For reals, Tracey Forbes?
Also? This episode marks the first appearance of Veruca who came out for all of 30 seconds to slobber all over a microphone wear offensively bad pants. Hate. And it reminds me that Kal Penn isn’t on House anymore. Double hate.
Is it just me, or is everyone mentioning Kal Penn? Now, when I sent out the list of teams to everyone on here, Evan Munday immediately emailed me back to say, “We are SO going to win, because we’ve got RAMBO on our team!” Ladies and gentleman, please welcome Elizabeth Rambo, who you’ll see more of in seasons 6 and 7 of our rewatch:
Yes, the subtext is blatantly textual in "Beer Bad," and I won’t even try to defend the cavemen, but lack of subtlety is one reason I find myself enjoying it. The other reasons are some character revealing moments that tie this episode to later developments:
When Buffy bumps into Riley, he’s so engaging: “I’m ungainly...[Parker] should have his attention span checked.” But she can’t see him...yet.
Willow is adamant about Buffy getting over Parker, while she puzzles over Oz’s mystifying attraction to Veruca. Willow can tell Buffy that drowning her troubles is no answer, but check her later in "Something Blue.” Willow's confrontation/conversation with Parker, in which he seems to be making an impression, giving her the “you’re the only one I can really talk to” line, until you realize that her sweet Willow smile is a cynical smirk and she gives him a well-deserved set-down.
The unsubtlety I love most: ultimately, it’s all worth it to see Buffy knock that rat Parker out, not just once, but twice. Unlike my namesake, I believe in forgiveness, not vengeance, but don’t believe for a minute that Parker was truly repentant; a good bash or two is the only way some people can learn. Um—metaphorically, of course!
One of my favourite people from Slayage is Cynthea Masson, and I was thrilled to discover she’d be in our Hate camp. A fellow Canadian, we can also get behind hating the fact the writer of this episode is one of us. Sigh.
“Beer Bad” wouldn’t be so bad if not for the beer—the “bad, bad beer,” as Xander dubs it. Admittedly, the episode (as with all “bad” Buffy) offers us a few notable highlights, including Veruca’s song and Xander’s sensible caveat: “Giles, don’t make caveslayer unhappy.” But such highlights are sparse and dispersed amidst the overarching foamy badness of metaphor-laden beer chugging. To appreciate the badness, we need only answer Xander’s final questions to the caveslayer: “Was there a lesson in all this? … What did we learn about beer?” I refer not only to the drinking will turn you into a Neanderthal metaphor (with which we are clubbed over the head along with Parker) but also to the less obvious and highly problematic drinking can bring a woman to her senses. That is, Buffy cannot forego her irrational longing for Parker until she drinks herself into complete inhibition (or a state of pure “id,” as Professor Walsh might say). Bad, bad lesson: college guys who drink become metaphorical cavemen (of the sort who wouldn’t stand a chance against astronauts), but a college woman who drinks can find the strength to recover from heartbreak.
That astronaut joke will make sense to the Angel fans. ;) I mentioned in the contributors’ post that I was pleased to feature both Dale Koontz and Ensley Guffey, a husband-and-wife comedy team (okay, they’re academics, but really funny ones!) who I know from Slayage, and they stepped up and agreed to take opposite sides (ah!) and do theirs together. So here are the Guffeys, with their little play, “Bakhtin or Bactine? Either way, this is gonna sting…”
DALE: The Tracey Forbes-scripted episode “Beer Bad” is often dismissed by casual fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which is to be expected in the virulently anti-intellectual cesspool that is so often Internet fandom. In fact, “Beer Bad” is a sparkling gem of an episode, one whose facets shine when the twin lights of logic and academic inquiry are properly focused upon it. The episode is a subversive primer in both Freudian theory, and, far more important to the post-modern critic, the explorations of grotesque realism put forth by Bakhtin.
ENSLEY: I’m glad you brought out the Bactine, since after watching this episode, I need an antiseptic that won’t sting.
DALE: Ignore the trained monkey, ladies and gentlemen. He gets snippy without a constant stream of bananas. Back to the episode – even you, incurious cretin, can’t ignore the utter propriety of setting the climactic battle scene underground, in the “Grotto.” Think about it - cave-men, cave-Buffy, cave-fire. Clearly, this is a direct reference to Plato’s famous allegory of the Cave.
ENSLEY: I think more likely it’s an allegory of the dangers posed by lax fire inspectors. Seriously – there’s a pillar of smoke rising from the middle of a college campus. Where the hell’s the fire department? And those are definitely sprinkler system pipes Cave-Buffy’s swinging on, but where’s the water?
DALE: You must have wet brain. The water pipes are a metaphor.
ENSLEY: Yeah. A metaphor for the necessity of fire codes!
DALE: As is typical, you’re unable to discern the forest for the trees, as your people would say.
ENSLEY: You mean SANE people? Just admit it – it’s a bad episode! It happens. (For example, see Dollhouse. Any episode. All the episodes. (Alan Tudyk excepted. I love you Alan!)
DALE: So you fail to see the redeeming qualities in showing Buffy striking out at the patriarchal society that has, for countless millennia, degraded and belittled the accomplishments of women?
ENSLEY: Well, you’re right about one thing. The episode does strike out; in fact, it’s a no-hitter, repeatedly bludgeoning the innocent, unsuspecting viewer with its hackneyed symbolism.
DALE: Oooohhh, look at the upright simian, using big words!
ENSLEY: You mean like “pusillanimous and obfuscating female”?
DALE: Ohhh, baby, tell me more. You know how I get.
ENSLEY: Aha! NOTHING CAN DEFEAT THE PENIS!
Oh, I love those two. Well, it all comes down to this. One last love, and one last hate. First, Jennifer K. Stuller, who you may remember from such Rewatch posts as season 1 finale and season 3 finale (the woman likes her satisfying endings!) Your team is counting on you, Jen, take it away!
Jennifer K. Stuller
That, in itself, should be enough. How can people not like the brilliant “Beer Bad”?!? (Kal Penn? Cave Slayer? Willow being the most awesomest girlfriend we all want in our lives?) Sure, the metaphor is stretched thin, but it often is on BtVS. As the hubby recently joked, “So, when Buffy is fighting Faith . . . She’s really fighting herself!”
We can go to our classes on Big Thinking and talk about “shadow doubles” (or we can debate the geo-political ramifications of bio-engineering) but I want beer. Beer good.
Maybe, it’s all those nights I spent getting drunk with my girlfriends in Santa Cruz – and driving back to Marin in time for class suffering the afterness of a bad night of badness. Or maybe it’s that I love the Slayer because even as the Chosen One, she makes the mistakes most of us do. To all you haters – I know I’m not the only girl who acted dumb around an id-boy she later wished she could knock unconscious with a big stick.
How cathartic that our girl gets to do it.
I’ll leave the final word to Matthew Pateman, who you may remember from the third week of the rewatch, and who we’ll see again in the “Restless” week. Unfortunately, it’s not really clear what side he’s on, so I decided to leave things with a decidedly neutral party. Just to be fair.
Beer isn’t bad; beer’s bloody brilliant. And more beer is even better. After a dozen pints, the world’s a better place (or you’re so smashed and unconscious that it not being a better place is not a worry).
Buffy is also brilliant – a morally nuanced, socially engaged, generally liberal show that offers an examination of being in the world in different ways and at different times of your life.
This episode was, at best, a blunt metaphor of absolutely no aesthetic worth, no narrative interest and peculiarly dull acting and direction; or it was a cow-towing act of nauseatingly obsequious obeisance to a corporate dictat from a bunch of hypocrite cynics and two-bob bullies.
The episode is dull, didactic and stupid. Worse, it parades its ignorant message of abstinence in a context that has always been open to multiple possibilities and to oppositionality. To love this episode is to pander to the worst aspects of a non-reflective, self-satisfied, moral myopia; it is to side with the philistines and life deniers.
No one episode has ever done more to try and defile the artistic integrity, aesthetic bravery and politico-moral sophistication of its parent show. It is an irredeemable excrescence.
I am not fond.
You know, I really wish he'd choose a side.
4.7 The Initiative
4.9 Something Blue
**See pp. 222-226 in Bite Me
For those watching Angel, prepare for the first truly great week of episodes... episode 8 is a don’t miss for Buffy fans:
1.7 The Bachelor Party
1.8 I Will Remember You