During its seven-year run, Buffy the Vampire Slayer attracted a wide range of viewers and almost unprecedented academic interest. Sex and the Slayer explores one of the most talked-about topics in relation to this pioneering TV series—gender. As fantasy, Buffy potentially opens up a space for alternative representations of gender. But how alternative can popular television be?
Taking a feminist cultural studies approach, Jowett explores the ways in which the series represents femininity, masculinity, and gendered relations, including sexuality and sexual orientation. Written for undergraduates, Sex and the Slayer provides an introduction to the most important theoretical and historical underpinnings of contemporary gender criticism as it examines a range of thought-provoking issues: role reversal, the tension between feminism and femininity, the “crisis” of masculinity, gender hybridity, the appeal of bad girls, romance, and changing family structures. Through this introductory analysis, Jowett shows that Buffy presents a contradictory mixture of “subversive” and “conservative” images of gender roles and as such is a key example of the complexity of gender representation in contemporary television.
“Ultimately, Jowett’s analysis of the genres and gendered negotiations of Buffy provide both a useful introduction to gender analysis of popular culture artifacts and a commentary on femininities and masculinities in post-feminist society. Because Jowett includes an introduction to the terminology of gender studies and grounds her analysis in the specific events and characters of the show, her book would make a good resource for undergraduate courses in gender studies or pop culture analysis, provided the book is paired with clips from the television show (all seven seasons are currently available on VHS and DVD).”—Terri A. Fredrick, National Women’s Studies Association Journal, Summer 2006