The Road Not Taken

Three geeks drink champagne to celebrate their new slavegirl, dressed in her French maid outfit and ready to call them master and pour some more at a moment's notice.

Have I ever told you about my disappointment in Joss Wheedon's bad judgment for introducing a baby into his series "Angel," an action-adventure show about hot young adults? Talk about jumping the shark! "Angel" did a full 2 1/2 gainer off the shark with that move. Never has a show so completely and utterly fucked up.

It was a bad idea and remains one, and maybe Wheedon will eventually pull a rabbit out of that hat, but even so I think the mistake has been too lengthy and stupid to be redeemable via any trick, however clever.

But Wheedon, whose crew on "Buffy" consistently produces some of the best written stuff on television or in the movies, is not out of bad ideas.

A major mistake of the "missed opportunity" variety occurred recently in Buffy The Vampire Slayer, another Wheedon vehicle. In the "Dead Things" episode, three geek wizards come up with a device that transforms women into slavegirls, completely devoid of will. They use it on a gal named Katrina and next thing you know she's dressed in a French maid outfit and calling all of them "Master." And it's made very evident that Katrina will serve all of her masters in any way they ask.

Now, let's review the situation. What are these guys? Geeks! And what does that mean? No pussy! And they're teenaged geeks, just as full of sex hormones as any other guy at that age, which is to say, their brains don't just CONTAIN sex hormones, they're SWIMMING in them! Now they've got a gorgeous slavegirl within their power, a slavegirl who has no choice but to serve all the depraved masturbatory fantasies that they've been having in the absence of actual sex with another person. No activity OTHER than enjoying their slavegirl is on their minds.

The new slavegirl is ready to serve, and kind of enthusiastic about it, to judge from the way she crawls all over him.

These geeks are hypnotized by the scent of ripe, helpless pussy under their total domination. Alpha geek Warren gets her first, ordering her to get down on her knees and declare her love for him. (Did I mention that Warren once dated Katrina but it ended badly because of a female robot slavegirl he'd built? Warren's got REAL control issues.)

Kneeling in front of her master of the moment, her face right at crotch level, looking up at him with complete devotion. Man, we've come a long way from "I Dream of Jeannie."

Katrina does as ordered, looking quite fetching in her French maid costume, especially as her face is right at crotch level and her expression shows that she would be honored to find Warren's cock in her mouth. But before she can be so honored, the conditioning created by the device breaks down (well, it IS network television after all, even if it's UPN).

Katrina suddenly returns to normal and finds herself kneeling in front of Warren in a sexy maid costume. Once she remembers what's been done to her, she starts doing some major screaming and yelling at her evil captors, calling them kidnappers and would-be rapists, which of course they are if you look at these things from a strictly rational viewpoint. Katrina trieds to leave but the beta geeks block her exit -- or try to. Katrina kicks the beta geeks' asses then scuffles with Warren, who conks over the head so hard that she dies.

What a stupid waste! A waste of a great, feisty female character and a wonderfully devised comic situtation. I have to agree with the feminist Television Without Pity recapper who wrote, "The first feisty woman we get in a long time and she's clubbed over the head like a baby seal."

What they should have done is transform the whole situation into a running story arc, with the nonconsensual slavegirl situation humorously paralleling Buffy and Spike's edgy bondage and dominance relationship. This is where I thought things were going when I first encountered the story. Imagine my surprise when, having gone to great lengths to set up the situation, in a very short time the gal is brutally conked over the head and dies.

The whole conking/death thing rang false on every note, too. The struggle that led to her death was hardly enough to kill her, but I can give them that point -- if someone gets hit in just the wrong way in just the wrong place, it can kill them easily sometimes. We'll call it a freak shot.

My real problem is that killing is way too heavy a crime for the comic-opera buffoons that are the geek wizards. In their earlier appearances in the series the geek wizards have been hapless idiots, building improbable devices designed to hurt or control Buffy, totally without success. Think of them as mildly evil Lone Gunmen. Having them transform into a bunch of brutal killers is all wrong. It rings false, completely false, as if the writers were so fucking eager to end the slavegirl subplot that they did it the quickest, easiest way they could.

My idea would have been to expand the comic possibilities of the situation by having Katrina, while physically in their power, forced to obey their every command, still able to express her low opinion of them. She must do as they say, but she can speak her mind about her opinion of what she's doing, and about her opinion of them. Huge amounts of humor as the geeks find that their sex slave isn't so much fun to order about when she has a sharp tongue. The only way they can deal with that is by gagging Katrina, or more to the point, ordering her to gag herself.

This could be a way to humorously explore the male sex fantasy of having complete control over a woman vs. the reality of doing so. (BTW, the fantasy of having a complete control over a woman is not strictly the provenance of geeks and bondage and dominance fans -- most guys have enjoyed it. We know, we know -- we're not SUPPOSED to have such fantasies, but we all do.)

In the process, the geek wizards would become the most hated villains on television. The guys you love to hate, and what a ratings draw that would be.

At first Katrina spends a lot of time gagged, but then she realizes that the geek wizards are not whizbangs when it comes to social interaction and she starts sweet-talking them when she's ungagged, with an eye to getting free by playing off their personalities against one another, a la "The Fan Club." Except that she doesn't just escape from the geek wizards, she engineers a complete turnabout and becomes their leader, displacing Warren, because once free she holds the threat of exposing their kidnapping, rape and enslavement of her to the authorities. Plus the beta geeks are sweet on her. Warren, who's exhibited definite sociopathic tendencies, dislikes her because she displaced him as leader, but can't do much about it.

Katrina realizes that the geek wizards are the key to her personal empowerment, and under her leadership they are a lot more dangerous than they were, as she becomes a major opponent of the Slayer. She even helps the geek guys obtain new slavegirls to keep 'em happy and more under her power, and also relieving her of some of those tiresome duties -- can be hard on the knees, y'know.

OR you could have the same scenario occur, except when Katrina turns the tables on her captors, she takes the opportunity to have a go at making real men out of them. (Real men may have fantasies about having complete control over a woman, but the ones who make it some woman's nonconsensual reality definitely are NOT real men.) Which leads to her and the geek wizards ultimately becoming allies of the Slayer.

It's all good, and it's all a hell of a lot better than the half-assed job that was actually done, because we were actually willing to explore the slavegirl plotline on its own terms, instead of being so fucking afraid of it that we're willing to kill an innocent character and play the other characters false just to end it.

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