Not a Single Argument about Who Was the Better Bond


Academic conferences can bring out snarkiness, competition, cruelty in even the nicest people: they've got these intellectual territories to defend, ideas in which they have a great deal invested, and when someone threatens that territory by challenging those ideas, watch out! I've been in and observed my fair share of very heated exchanges--about like when Warren, Jonathan and Andrew argue over who was the best James Bond. (I love Andrew's resentful claim that "Timothy Dalton should win an Oscar and hit Sean Connery on the head with it"--not that I love Timothy Dalton OR Sean Connery--actually I hate the whole Bond franchise--I just can't help laughing at the line.) You'll sometimes see outright hostility flare up in the Q&A sessions after panels. It doesn't always happen, but it happens often enough.

One of the many great things about the Slayage conference was how little of that occurred: people were generally courteous and generous. I'm not saying no snarkiness occurred--it did--but the few times it happened just underscored how rare it was the rest of the time. We decided it was because we are so often attacked for having this bizarre scholarly interest in this element of pop culture most academics feel is beneath their notice, so when we got together, the main thing we felt was gratitude at being among friends. Still, it was very cool to go to a panel and hear such good-natured exchanges. By no means did everyone agree with everything they heard, but I've rarely seen criticisms presented and accepted so graciously: "Have you thought about this?" "Why no, I haven't! Thanks so much for suggesting that." OK, you hear stuff like that at conferences all the time, except that the graciousness of such statements is often a mere veneer, but when you heard it at Slayage, it seemed sincere.

Even when people discovered they had profound differences of opinion--say, someone who loved the final season found him/herself talking to someone who hated it (like me)--the difference didn't cause an argument. People agreed to disagree.

And there was plenty of well-deserved glowing praise: again, because so many of our colleagues think Buffy studies aren't serious, most people who do it try to be as rigorous and thorough as possible. One of the best panels I attended was on the musical episode, "Once More with Feeling." Cynthea Masson presented a great paper called "‘What Did You Sing About?': Acts of Questioning in ‘Once More with Feeling'" and Michelle Dvoskin presented an equally great paper called "Under Their Spell: ‘Once More with Feeling' and Queering the Audience." I also really liked a panel on three secondary characters, Xander, Anya and Faith: Claudia Rollins discussed Anya as a Shakespearian truth-speaking fool, while Reginald Abbott presented on "Xander with a Y (Chromosome)? Or ‘No More Butt Monkey': The Xander Harris Legacy of Masculine (Mis)Identity in BtVS." Abbott was especially great: his throw-away comments were hysterical. At one point he suggested that Joyce's death was NOT the only death in the show that didn't involve supernatural causes (as is usually assumed) because he felt her brain tumor was probably caused by living with the horrible blob of green energy that is Dawn.

I also really liked Elizabeth Rambo's paper on "‘Queen C' Goes to Boys' Town, or Killing the Angel in Angel's House," which discussed Cordelia in terms of the Coventry Patmore ideal of "the angel in the house." (I admit I liked this paper partly because it supports ideas I have about Cordelia.) There was even a very detailed parsing of speech patterns in character dialogue: one of the featured speakers was Michael Adams, who discussed "The Matrix of Motives in Slayer Style." (Adams has published a book on Slayer Slang, with Oxford University Press--that made a lot of the pooh-poohers do a double-take, 'cause you can't get much more reputable than Oxford UP.)

I also just enjoyed meeting people. I mentioned my blogging habit whenever it seemed appropriate, but few people seemed to share my interest. One of the few was Roz Kaveney--she does great work and is also just a very interesting person--check out her site, Glamourous Rags. I also learned that Jane Espenson, one of the writers for BtVS, has a blog, which I haven't started reading but plan to.

Several people asked me to post my paper on-line, and I'm not going to do that. It's just not wise in academia to do something like that until the paper has already been published, and then sometimes there are copyright laws that prohibit it. I will, however, give you a paragraph from the middle of the paper:

Some of you might remember a Canadian band from the early 90s called The Pursuit of Happiness. They had a single called "I'm an Adult Now," which contains the lines "Adult sex is either boring or dirty. Young people, they can get away with murder." This seems to be the attitude on Buffy. In "The Freshman" (4/1) Buffy goes to Giles's apartment and discovers him in a dressing gown; soon thereafter, a partially clad Olivia walks out of the bedroom. Buffy is horrified, and when Giles asks, "I'm not supposed to have a private life?" she replies, "No! Because you're very, very old and it's gross." In fact, the "grossness" of adult sex is a joke mined all the way through season five, at which point the Scoobies themselves are all past 21, and officially adults as well.

I plan to shape the conference paper into something I can submit to a journal, and if it ever gets taken, I'll let you know.


Dude, I TOTALLY remember that song!!!

Welcome back Holly. Good to read you again. There are purple chivey things growing here too.

Mere veneer sincere.

I enjoyed this whole post and it's clear that you enjoyed the conference, good for you.

Of course I remember 'I'm An Adult Now' and someday may be able to say it and believe it!

Buffy for president by the sounds of it. I'm going to eventually succumb and rent the dvds I think. I've never seen a single episode.

Hi Dale--

Mere veneer sincere

Glad you noticed. Yes, I try for good writing, even on the sentence level, even on my blog.

Buffy for president by the sounds of it. I'm going to eventually succumb and rent the dvds I think. I've never seen a single episode.

Well! Not everyone loves it as much as I do, but most people who watch it have to admit that it's an inventive, smart, rewarding show. Promise me that if/when you do watch it, you'll start at the beginning and make it all the way through season 1, which is only twelve episodes long. And then tell me what you think.

I must confess... I have never seen an entire episode of BtVS. Unlike never seeing an entire episode of Seinfeld, though, I KNOW I'm missing out on something incredible and culturally amazing. I've just got to get my crap together and put Buffy in my Netflix queue.

As for James Bond... second confession here... I'm a Bond junky. I know, I know. Bond films are "sexist, misogynist dinosaurs whose time has come" (Dame Judith Dench as "M", 007's boss in the first Pierce Brosnan Bond, "Goldeneye") but they crack me up and I can watch them endlessly. For the record, here's how I'd rank Bonds: 1. Sean Connery (who defined the genre); 2. Pierce Brosnan (who eloquently personified the definition of the genre); 3. George Lazanby (who was elegant and beside Diana Rigg looked like a million); 4. Roger Moore (who runs as badly as Harrison Ford and is horrible actor. Moore is mincing in his gait, Ford is gangly and out of control. Both look bad when they run. Ford wins in so many other areas, though, that his bad run is forgivable. Moore is just bad all around); and 5. Timothy Dalton (who was the worst of the very worst and whose films were COMPLETELY forgettable.)

Okay, now I'm going to go back into my Bond closet...

It all starts at the sentence level!

My personality would not allow me to do anything but start at the start of the first season. I'll let you know if I'm able to get to it. I've heard only good things.

The major conference I attend each year deals with international politics and just before the beginning of the invasion of Iraq, there was not a single panel (among literally hundreds of them) on the war. Someone actually made flyers with the conference logo on it and changed the conference theme to "Don't Mention the War" (how was that for another popular culture reference -- to Fawlty Towers?). The off-conference conversations tend to be about how bad the conference is and why do we keep coming back... I have conference envy, Holly!

There is a great book by Tony Bennett (really!) and Janet Woollacott called "Bond and Beyond," that looks at the cultural connection to Bond (including the guilty pleasures of the writers of the book). It turns out, in my opinion, to be an excellent book for studing international politics. And I'm with Janet -- Sean Connery was the coolest one. I loved the tango scene in "Never Say Never Again" -- not to mention the whole premise of bringing Connery back to make the film! Oh, but talk about a guilty pleasure... we really have to let the patriarchy be if we're going to talk about who the best Bond was. Which, I suspect, was part of the point of the argument among Andrew, Jonathan, and Warren.

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This page contains a single entry by Holly published on May 30, 2006 6:04 PM.

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