itsnotmymind (itsnotmymind) wrote,

Cordelia's Bluntness

I rewatched Killed By Death awhile back, and it reminded me of just how much I love Cordelia.

I'm fascinated her, because I've seen plenty of discussion in fandom about how she is very feminine and acts as a gender role enforcer…and yet she’s also “tact is just not saying true stuff” girl, not an attitude encouraged in women. She can flirt with the security guard to almost-perfection (although the bit about his nose was a little bizarre), but most of the time she speaks her mind without a thought for the sensitivities of others.

I’m really sad that Cordy becoming more selfless on AtS meant losing a lot of that. It's been awhile since I've seen those seasons of AtS, but I remember that in the later seasons Cordy didn't have the great insensitive lines. Because good girls use their social skills to soothe the feelings of others.

Also, I love how Cordy is smart.

Back on topic: I’m trying to figure out why Anya’s bluntness doesn’t appeal to me as much. I do like Anya’s bluntness. I think partly it is that I always have issues with the way Anya’s murderous past is a joke. So Anya is a joke, and her bluntness is a part of that. Cordy’s bluntness is generally played for laughs, but I don’t think Cordy is treated as a joke because she is blunt. Her stupid and shallow comments early on made her a joke, but as she is revealed to be much smarter and deeper than she appears, her view on the world is taken increasingly seriously.

Admittedly part of it is a matter of choice. Anya works hard to be normal. Her bluntness is usual a failure of her attempts to pass for normal. Cordelia dismisses tact as “not saying true stuff”. The flirtatious scene with the guard demonstrates that if Cordy really worked it, she could be better with people (and, in fact, at times in her life when it has been beneficial to her social standing she has really worked it). But despite her role as gender enforcer, despite her eagerness to be part of the popular crowd, Cordelia is one of the few characters on the show who is most willing to be herself.

Of course, the flip side of this is that Cordy does have a genuine mean streak. Sometimes her bluntness is honest bluntness. Sometimes it's an excuse for being unnecessarily cruel. Cruelty is a major part of Cordy's personality while on Buffy and the early days of AtS.

And yet. In some ways, Cordy’s decision to walk away from the popular crowd in S2 is far more meaningful than Buffy striking up a friendship with Willow in S1. Buffy was popular crowd, popular crowd, popular crowd until being chosen as the Slayer forced her out of it. Don't get me wrong, Buffy is a good, compassionate person. She chose to return to vampire slaying again and again. She chose to befriend Willow instead of Cordelia after coming to Sunnydale. But unlike Cordy, she didn’t initially make the choice to not be popular. It was forced on her.

In the high school years, most of the characters are unable to accept and strive to be their true selves. Xander spends years struggling with concepts of masculinity, and in the high school seasons frequently acts borderline creepy trying to find success in a role he sucks at. Buffy before her calling pursues popularity, even though it is clearly not her true self, and after her calling deals with the trauma of being the Slayer by fetishizing normalcy. Willow is never comfortable with herself – even in S7 she’s only starting to figure out who she is. Giles’ role as the aging librarian is not really his true self, and like Buffy with slaying he was forced into the role of watcher. Spike is Spike, taking on identities as he takes on women. Faith has a whole persona, the bad-ass devil-may-care slayer. Anya is, well, selfless. Of the major characters, only Cordelia after her choice to stand up to the popular crowd and Oz seem to be their true selves in the high school seasons.

It’s also worth noting that while she complains about it, Cordelia is helping out Buffy and co. before she starts kissing Xander (that is, in fact, how the kissing begins…Cordy didn’t have to get out of bed and give Xander a ride to Buffy’s). Despite an entire lack of calling, Cordy choose the Scoobies over social status. Note that as she becomes closer to the Scoobies, her meanness decreases and we see more of the insensitive bluntness. Cordy chose to use cruelty to preserve her social standing at the expense of others. But she also chose leave the popular crowd, for no one other reason then her own integrity, and join with another group of a kids - a group who may save the world a lot, but also have a tendency to vilify and slut shame Cordy.

Cordy's bluntness and her selfishness as a female bully are themselves gender-challenging traits. No one should be mean or bully others, but at the same time it doesn't hurt to be aware that people respond to men and boys who are blunt and mean very differently than women and girls. Cordelia's general social inconsiderateness is a trait frequently tolerated in men and boys and considered unacceptable in women and girls. Despite her girly-ness, mean girl style, and role as gender enforcer - Cordelia challenges gender roles.
Tags: btvs

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