∩ Security and Popular Culture: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

For this inaugural post, I’ve chosen to contemplate a subject dear to my heart: Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  I love Buffy for many reasons, not least of which is the wit of the scripts or the chemistry of the actors, but also because of the very premise of the show. The fluffy little blond who’s usually the first to get hacked to death/eaten/buried alive/whatever-horrible-fate-befalls-the-characters in most horror movies is in fact the Chosen One – the protector.

This is why Buffy is so beloved: she’s a powerful female character in a popculture world that is too often devoid of examples.

Overcoming societal obstacles and breaking gender barriers is not a power fantasy for me. In fact, a lot of the time, it’s part and parcel of my day-to-day reality. My power fantasy takes place in a world where those issues are gone, where I can be a champion without any red tape… Give me a smart, brave woman who already has the respect of the world she’s trying to save, and I will throw my wallet at you.

(from “What Women Want (In Female Video Game Protagonists)”)

Rule 1: Every Slayer needs a Scooby Gang

Why? Because Scooby Gangs are force multipliers.  Scooby Gangs do research.  They hit the library/internet so the Slayer has some clue what she’s up against. Scooby Gangs also provide critical back up.  Even a Slayer can’t be everywhere and do everything at once.  It helps to have some people who can take care of the minor stuff, allowing the Slayer to focus on the big bad.  Furthermore, the Slayer’s Scooby Gang must have at least one person who can hold down a job and fix the broken stuff.  Having a grown-up, responsible adult who can take care of the administrative overhead and logistics (and who can pay for it) may not be glamorous, but it’s really important.  Finally, the Scooby Gang to Slayer ratio should be about 5 to 1.  It may seem like too much tail, too little dog, but Slayers without good-sized, resilient support systems are very short-lived.

What does this mean for security, and especially for defense/military policy? I’m hoping it’s obvious: it takes a lot of support to keep an army in the field, and skimping on any one aspect means you’re not really serious about winning.

Rule 2: Everything is a potential weapon.  It just depends on how you use it.

Remember, anything is a weapon if you can swing it hard enough. 

Allow Buffy to demonstrate.

You can spend billions on weapons systems, but innovative use of a boxcutter can still break through.   The solution is not to spend more (or to outlaw boxcutters) but to learn to be innovative yourself – resilience = robustness.

Unfortunately, this also means that anyONE can be a weapon: little sisters, ex-boyfriends, etc. If it hurts, it hurts, and it doesn’t have to be material.  This is where the constructivist turn in International Relations theory rears its head: anything that affects an actor’s perceptions of their interests and identity can then affect their behavior.

Rule 3: Be prepared to pay the cost.

Being the Chosen One is a great responsibility.  There’s a lot of danger, there’s a lot of expense, there’s a lot of loneliness, and hardly anyone ever says thank you.  Sound like the United States complaining about its role as global police officer?  Tough.  Superpowers have interests that need to be protected, and those interests are worldwide.  Which equals dangerous, expensive, lonely, and no gratitude from people who just wish both the problem and its solution would go away.

Rule 4: Go in properly armed. 

Even if it’s only with your keen fashion sense.  

October 8th, 2012 2:00pm

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