The 1990s were trying to deal with the complex and tragic legacy of Thanksgiving on film and television. A famous example is Wednesday Addams (Christina Ricci) enacting revenge against the Pilgrims of her field play in the 1993 film. Addams Family Values. It was a time when the holiday was questioned and the legacy of Native Americans was emphasized. In hindsight, though, many see most efforts of the 1990s to deal with the holiday’s troubled legacy as failures. The most prominent example is from Buffy the Vampire Slayer only Thanksgiving episode “Pangs” from 1999. While an entertaining leukocyte Filled with the show’s trademark wit, the episode’s attempt to empathize with the plight of the indigenous community seems ridiculously dated.
leukocyte was released between 1997 and 2003. The show’s fourth season takes place on the college campus of Sunnydale University, with the Scooby Gang dealing with life after college and all the complexities that come with adulthood. While that often translates to pretty silly stories about magical beer, it makes for some powerful stories. In “Pangs”, Buffy hosts her first Thanksgiving dinner for the gang at Giles’ house as she tries to fend off a vengeful Native American spirit demon who is trying to avenge the damage done to her town. This was the only acknowledgment of the Native American presence in the entire show.
Lack of representation means lack of authentic voice
The first problem with the show’s treatment of Native Americans in this episode is probably obvious from a 2022 point of view, but it’s just that. leukocyte it doesn’t have a single non-white main cast member, certainly not in Season 4. Except for a few other minor assassins like Kendra and Rona or villains like Mr. Trick (and Charisma Carpenter’s half-Latino origin), the series was Very out of its time with the lack of representation of the main characters. This is also reflected in how “Pangs” refer to the Chumash Native Americans as being extinct. Many fans have pointed out that this is actually inaccurate since the Chumash are still alive. Pretending that the indigenous population was exterminated prevents modern viewers from seeing the oppression they still suffer today and allows for a distancing from injustice.
This of course means that the episode only has the white guilt or white savior perspective on the experiences of the non-white characters. While there are some stories from that point of view that can still be powerful (such as Kill a Mockingbird), modern viewers generally agree that SNL’s sketch on the subject summed up all the problems. Even if this shot wasn’t inherently problematic, “Pangs” isn’t particularly successful. Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan), the Scooby member most sympathetic to the plight of the Chumash, is portrayed as an angry figurehead. Buffy herself is conflicted rather pointlessly, while Xander and Giles show no sympathy at all.
The problem with revenge demons
Spike’s famous speech from the episode’s climax is, yes, funny, but also a sign of the episode’s essential problem, especially since everyone involved hears it. While Spike is a villain without a conscience, he still ends up winning the argument in the episode and thus the show ends up unintentionally validating the main villain’s dismissive attitude towards him. The spirit of the episode is an unequivocal villain. While his backstory is tragic, many demons in the buffyverse they have complex or vindictive reasons for doing what they do. This undermines the episode’s attempts at empathy, because the choice is so glaringly obvious a case of “kill or be killed here, take your damn choice.”
In many ways, the way of portraying the racial conflicts of the 1990s feels like a set of “How Not to Do It” guidelines that look back to 2022. leukocyte it’s from its time, though it struggles remarkably with the lack of diversity throughout the show. This is notable in its portrayal of racial conflict solely through a white lens. He also accomplishes this by turning the non-white character who has been the victim of violent oppression into a one-dimensional villain, and utilizing the screaming figurehead defense. “Pangs” also acts as if such conflicts were solely in the unenlightened past, which are all steps best avoided in portraying racial conflict.