“Sounds Like Kinky Business to Me”: BDSM on Buffy and Angel
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Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997–2003) and Angel (1999–2004) have done a great deal to promote tolerance of alternative sexualities. The two shows are especially well known for their positive depictions of gay and lesbian sexuality. However, Buffy and Angel have also brought about another intriguing revolution in the representation of unorthodox sexual practices. Throughout the 12 seasons which comprise the televised Buffyverse narrative, Buffy and Angel have consistently provided positive portrayals of BDSM. In the early seasons these representations were, of necessity, largely subtextual. As the two shows progressed, however, they began to provide bolder, more explicit depictions of BDSM. Thus the Buffyverse’s kinky discourse gradually moved out of the subtextual and into the realm of the textual. As representations of kink became more open and explicit at the textual level, these representations became increasingly available to the Buffyverse’s audience. In the later seasons of Buffy and Angel, the two shows did not merely depict BDSM, but actually presented it as an ethical, egalitarian way in which participants might negotiate the power relations which are an inevitable part of their lives. Buffy and Angel brought BDSM out of the closet and mainstreamed it. The Buffyverse has already secured for itself a prominent place in the history of narrative television.
KeywordsEarly Season Textual Level Alternative Sexuality Narrative Television Positive Portrayal
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