Buffy The Vampire Slayer Character Analysis

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In her book Playing in the Dark, Toni Morrison discusses how American literature uses distorted representations of blackness to better make sense of its own (white) American identity. She refers these black characters and images endemic to American literature as the “Africanist presence” (17). Through Morrison’s theory of the Africanist presence, we can better understand how Buffy the Vampire Slayer employs characters like Kendra and larger themes of monstrosity and darkness to uphold the power, and fundamental whiteness, of its heroine. Kendra, who has no last name, is first introduced in the season two episode “What’s My Line”. She’s been stowing away in an airplane cargo hold, and when a baggage handler spots her, she brutally beats him and walks away. “We stop on an ETHNIC YOUNG WOMAN,” the script reads, “her feline, feral eyes getting used to the sudden light. She’s a predator, a hunter, and her name is KENDRA” (Gordon and Noxon). From this initial depiction, we begin to understand her substantial physical power as something tied to her animalistic nature. She lacks any complex motivations, and she lacks real control over her power; instead, because she’s so thoroughly dehumanized, the audience comes to see her as a force that can be neutralized or harnessed by someone …show more content…
Buffy gains her power in opposition to the products of the Africanist presence: her heroism is tested, again and again and again, by the metaphorical threat of blackness. And Buffy is not alone in this; the same is true for every piece of media produced by white people in this country, permanently altered by the legacies of slavery and oppression. Fully understanding Buffy, then, like any other piece of media, means taking a critical look at the narratives of blackness that make up its backdrop, and beginning to understand them as reactions to the restrictions and anxieties of a racialized

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