Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Philosophy of Hair

As I was perusing Whedonesque the other day, like you do, I came across an amusing little piece on the narrative implications of Buffy's hair throughout all seven seasons of Buffy. It's a quick read.

I immediately recalled the paper presented at Slayage Conference 3 at Henderson State University by Jane Martin of the University of Saint Francis. Her paper was titled, "The Dark Redhead: Willow and Her Fury, or ‘Are you kidding. She’s like Dark Phoenix up there.’" Jane's paper came under the heading "Willow," the last session of the day on Saturday June 7th. How could I not attend a session focusing explicitly on Willow? As with many other sessions during the conference, mine included, the other presenter(s) did not show up, which provided for ample discussion time, but more than a few of the papers were on topics I would have been interested in hearing more about. Jane's fellow speaker would have been Lisa M. Vetere from Monmouth University. Her paper had a great title: “The Rage of Willow: A Kleinian Perspective on Witchcraft Performances.”

Jane's paper was very well constructed and well argued. I took loads of notes on this one and others. Jane had a great presentation with plenty of pictures and a lively style of speech. I particularly remember Jane's comments on how the decision to alter Willow's hair color to black when she became Dark Willow actually undermined the usual associations we have with the "fiery redheads" from an analytic perspective, an association never lost within the progression of the X-Men's Jean Grey character becoming one with the Pheonix entity as she maintains her red locks throughout her transformation to the Dark Pheonix. Willow's change to a "brunette" was most likely brought on as a way of visual shorthand, immediately associating darkness/black with evil.

After Jane's talk I remember Ryan and I had a brief discussion about the merits of a paper on Sarah Michelle Gellar's hair transformation throughout the series. I recall an interview or article explaining how SMG was the one who prompted her drastic haircut in the 6th series that was written into the narrative of the episode, "Gone" a point further discussed in the hair article mentioned above. It looks like someone has beat us to it, Ryan! Although, I'm sure a more thorough investigation of the phenomenon, Willow and Buffy included, is still in order...

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