Out of Mind, Out of Sight (1×11)

A few gif(s) per episode | Buffy - 1x11 - “Out of Mind, Out of Sight”

The penultimate episode of the season dealt with themes of exclusion and being an outcast in the vicious society that is high school. It began with a focus on Buffy as an outcast, which is precipitated daily by Cordelia and her iron hold over the student body. In reference to the time that Buffy attacked her (1×01), Cordelia states that she doesn’t “know why the school accepts mentals.” Buffy also feels like an outcast when she’s with her own friends; she doesn’t understand Willow and Xander’s references to middle school versions of their peers, and she isn’t popular in Sunnydale like she was in L.A.

When the episode begins, it seems as though the focus will be on Buffy’s position in the social hierarchy. Instead, it becomes more so about the nature of an outcast in itself. Cordelia admits to feeling like an outcast among the student body; despite being surrounded by hordes of people at any given moment, none of them truly know her and they only ever nod and agree with her. The “big bad” of the episode is Marcie Ross. After being perceived as invisible at Sunnydale High School for months and even years, she becomes invisible (things like this can happen at the Hellmouth). Willow and Xander find “proof” that she is a social reject when they noticed that the only thing written in her yearbook is “have a great summer,” over and over again. They explain to Giles that this is the ultimate sign; people only ever write “have a great summer” when they have absolutely nothing to say. Now, as an invisible outcast, Marcie has made it her goal to destroy Cordelia’s life – she starts with her boyfriend, then moves onto her best friend, and then Cordelia herself.

The focus on this episode of the lonesome outcast poses as an interesting parallel to the archetypal woman accused of witchcraft in medieval Europe. Our classic convention (which we have begun to complicate in class by scrutinizing the historical records) is an older woman who didn’t fit societal norms; she was accused of witchcraft because she threatened the structure that society had worked to build. In this episode, Marcie was the outcast, not because she chose to be alone or had abnormal interests, but because she was constantly ignored by her peers despite her efforts to get their attention. This is different from our classic convention of the medieval European witch, and it is intriguing to put the two in conversation with one another.

The Pack (1×06)

One(or more) gif(s) per episode | Buffy - 1x06 - “The Pack”

“The Pack” followed the chronicles of Xander, Kyle, and Kyle’s friends as they get possessed by a pack of hyenas recently shipped from Africa, near the Maasai tribe. I noticed many themes of community exclusion and hyperactive ingroup and outgroup relationships throughout the course of the episode, which run parallel to the suspicion and paranoia present in the medieval European witch hunts.

At the start of the episode (prior to possession), Kyle and his friends pick on Buffy for her lack of friends, but they shortly move on and bully Logan, who seems to be a nice (but slightly geeky) kid. Kyle and his friends act as an overzealous “ingroup,” asserting their right to be a part of the accepted community (high school), and they thrive on victimizing the “outgroup” (Buffy, Logan, etc.) for having characteristics that vary from their understanding of social normalcy. After getting possessed, Xander hangs out more and more with Kyle’s gang, and he begins to distance himself from Willow. As his way of ultimately severing ties with her, Xander tells her he will no longer need her help with math (because he’s dropping it), “which means [he] won’t have to look at [her] pasty face again,” and Kyle’s posse (including Xander at this point) bursts into a laughing fit. Willow is speechless, and she bolts from the scene in embarrassment and confusion. Once again, the “pack” (as per the title of the episode) exemplifies characteristics of the uncontrollable “ingroup” as they tease the less fortunate and assert their dominance and skepticism over those that they perceive to be lesser than themselves.