Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Colonial Imaginary & “Pangs”
The cult show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer has been often heralded as groundbreaking and feminist; however, the show is not without its faults. Throughout the show’s seven-year run, the cast was predominantly white, with little cultural diversity represented. Various episodes depict the colonial imaginary, from a hypersexual Incan princess who comes back to life to seduce men , to the primitive and aggressive African Slayer . Perhaps the episode most engrained with colonial imaginary is the Thanksgiving episode, “Pangs”. In this episode, the spirit of a vengeful Native American is released when construction begins on a new Cultural Center. Centered around the story of Thanksgiving and Native Americans, “Pangs” epitomizes the features of colonial imaginary, with a racial hierarchy represented, a sense of Otherness, and dehistoricalization among others.
The episode “Pangs” stresses a sense of Otherness by stereotypically representing Hus, the Chumash Native American as savage and primitive. Beginning with his appearance, he is dressed in what Western culture believes is traditional Native American garb: a headdress, loincloth and war paint. To further accent his Otherness, Hus speaks in broken English and uses simple gestures to relay meaning. The writers have made Hus a vengeful spirit, intent on righting the wrongs of his past by murdering authority figures. This causes him, and the other Chumash spirits in the episode, to be depicted as savage. Further, it is assumed that because he is Native American he is savage; in a discussion about whether they should forgive Hus because of his past and what Americans did to Native Americas, Giles, Buffy’s guardian, exclaims, “No, I think perhaps we WON'T [sic] be helping the angry spirit with his rape and pillage and murder” (emphasis added). There was no point in the episode in which Hus raped someone, yet Giles associates this action with the spirit, perpetuating the idea presented in the “The Imperial Imagery” that Native Americans are savage beings that prey on women, and thus should be feared.
The age-old convention of identifying and portraying Native Americans as primitive is present as well in “Pangs”. Throughout the episode Hus is seen transforming into various creatures: crows, wolves and bears. Giles also comments on this association with nature, stating, “it's very common for Indian spirits to change to animal form”. By associating Hus and Native Americans with nature, it presents an image of primitiveness, and ultimately suggests that there is a racial hierarchy as it is implied that it is not common for American or British spirits to change to animal form.
Hus’ association with nature is not the only instance that a racial hierarchy is implied. As is common in the imperial imaginary, the white characters of the episode are portrayed as civilized and rational and are contrasted to an uncivilized portrayal of the “Others”...