I never liked or agreed with Alphonse‘s arguments about Buffy the Vampire Slayer having fascistic content. I’m still not convinced (and – maybe I should say because – I’m a big fan of the show and of the comic book continuation[s]), but let me say this –

due to an upsetting near miss of sorts my wife and I are trying to focus on some TV that is engaging enough to be distracting, without being either just funny or really heavy. The TV of choice is Buffy, season two.

Maybe it’s cuz of the recent police brutality or maybe it’s cuz I’m in a mood, regardless of why, I noticed a sequence this time. Buffy’s friends have been kidnapped and hidden someplace, for use in some ritual which will bring back a big monster. Buffy interrogates a captured vampire by putting a cross in its mouth, holding its mouth shut, burning the inside of its mouth. There’s a similar sequence in Batman Begins (which is far from perfect – nowhere near as good as the graphic novel it’s based on – but is very enjoyable, I say this as someone whose fandom of the Batman comics is selective while still deeply felt, and as someone who is well aware of the highly problematic/objectionable themes exemplified in Batman). Batman ties a cable to a guy and drops him off a roof repeatedly, simulating death by falling in a way analogous to how waterboarding simulates drowning.

In another Buffy scene, a rescue sequence, Buffy kills some of the vampires with fire. This is not the sort of “has to be done” killing of vampires that sometimes happens in the show (I’m not defending that, just pointing out a difference) The vampires scream and writhe from the fire, and that suffering is at least justifiable and probably enjoyable.

In these scenes the torture is not a necessary evil (an otherwise regrettable act forgiven by larger/more pressing matters [I’m not opposed to that sort of moral reasoning on principle in all cases; this sits uncomfortably with what are also moral absolutes for me including opposition to torture]), rather it’s awesome. The audience sits over the torturer’s shoulder, sympathizes, and more than that, cheers and enjoys the activity.

A disconcertingly similar thing is going on in some of the commentary on the newspaper coverage of recent events here in the Twin Cities – anarchists and “violent” protesters getting what they deserve and so on.