FEATURE: Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Reptile Boy
Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Buffy is struggling to balance her Slayer life with her normal life, a fact which is highlighted by her relationship with Angel.
Another monster-of-the-week episode, Reptile Boy deals with that apparent high school rite of passage, if Heathers is to be believed, the frat party. Actually, Heathers is a worthy comparison here that sees Buffy's odd couple, Buffy herself and queen bee Cordelia, head off in search of college boys and a wild night away from everyone else. Whilst Reptile Boy doesn't feature a sequence anywhere near as good as the Veronica-Heather argument ("lick it up baby"), it's hilarious to see Buffy deal with Cordelia's backhanded compliments. The frat party leads to many thematic developments so, despite this being a fairly ordinary outing for the Slayer, there's certainly a lot going on.
Relationships between genders is the focus here, how they should and shouldn't be conducted and also a fair amount of they both act in remarkably different ways. Largely, it's unproblematic and more to do with subverting gender stereotypes than adhering to them. Angel even points to this; 'this isn't some fairytale. When I kiss you, you don't wake up from a deep sleep and live happily ever after'. Cordelia in particular spends a large part of the episode trying to be the 'perfect' girlfriend but ends up making a complete fool of herself with a ridiculous fake laugh. The frat boys are all macho and manly until Xander, who they have humiliated by dressing him up as a girl (because being a girl is just AWFUL, duh), then gets one over on them and beats up his tormenter whilst the rest get their asses kicked by Buffy.
There's also a huge amount of the dangers of judging on appearance; the frat boys are all rich, preppy types which naturally Cordelia falls for and Xander hates. From what I can gather about American fraternities (and yes this is largely garnered from television shows and films like Animal House and Van Wilder - I have no idea if it's actually a thing) frat boys are dicks. They drink, they do weird ritual things and generally treat everyone who isn't pretty or in the fraternity like crap. It's not a stretch to have them as the bad guys in a Buffy episode and the inclusion of a giant woman-eating half-man/half-snake has more than a hint of metaphor about it. Yep, Machida's a penis.
However, this leads to a really odd moral dynamic to the episode that is way more problematic in hindsight than it was when I was watching it in my younger and more naive days. Buffy and Cordelia head to the party, they drink, wear short dresses and end up getting their drinks spiked, they black out and end up nearly getting fed to a giant snake. It's basically one big date-rape metaphor that leads to Buffy being admonished by Giles for going out in the first place. Now, obviously the lying aspect is definitely wrong, but if we to are extend the metaphor, having a go at her for getting drunk at a party and being attacked is practically victim-blaming. For a show so focused on the empowerment of women, this was more than a little uncomfortable when re-watching it.
It's also not the greatest of episodes in its own right and feels like a bit of a retread of previous ground. Buffy and Angel are still having trouble, Xander's jealous of anyone who Buffy pays attention to, Willow is largely the moral compass. Nothing really develops here, beyond that which we've already seen in the first season. That said, the episode is more important for how it feeds into the rest of the second season and David Greenwalt, this episode's scribe, does that well, particularly in terms of the loss of innocence, themes of sexuality and Buffy and Angel's relationship. It's just a shame the rest of the episode is remarkably iffy.
This has probably been the biggest disappointment for me so far on this rewatch as this was an episode I used to really enjoy. Xander has some great lines, Willow has one of her rants (see Quote of the Week below) and Giles has some heartwarming paternal moments. Well, before he becomes the wagging finger of the patriarchy.
Quote of the Week:
Willow (showing early signs of awesomeness) - "[To Angel] Well why do you think she went to that party? Because you gave her the brush-off! And you! [Giles] never let her do anything except work and patrol and I know she's the Chosen One, but you're killing her with the pressure! I mean, she's sixteen going on forty! And you! [Angel] I mean, you're gonna live forever! You don't have time for a cup of coffee?! Ok... I don't feel better now and we've got to help Buffy..."
Inventive Kill: Buffy severs Machida in half with a lovely looking sword.
Who's Who in Sunnydale: Who spotted Jonathan now named? Still odd that Cordelia would date him.
You can read Becky's rewatch of Inca Mummy Girl here.