Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Inca Mummy Girl   Rewatch 
March 4, 2015 9:56 PM - Season 2, Episode 4 - Subscribe

Field trips continue to go awry as a 500 year old Incan mummy princess is awakened. She fits right in a student exchange trip and falls for Xander, but her needs go far beyond Twinkies.
posted by yellowbinder (34 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
First appearances by Seth Green as Oz and Danny Strong as Jonathan! And Devin I guess. And Dingoes Ate My Baby. I actually tracked down the albums by the real band (Four Star Mary) which wasn't easy to do in Canada, and I enjoy them a lot.

This is an average early monster of the week episode, but it's a warm and comfortable one. Ampata and Xander really do work together, and her sadness and desperation as things go south is affecting.

Willow's feeling down that Xander wants someone else that isn't her, but keep doing you, Willow. There's going to be awesome dudes and girls who will love you for your impractical Eskimo wear.

The parallels between Buffy and Ampata are really really really heavily drawn. They still work but the episode could probably have done better without spelling it out quite so many times.

My line of the episode has always been "One day I'm going to live in a town where evil curses are ruled out without even saying."
posted by yellowbinder at 10:18 PM on March 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

I like some bits of this episode, especially that we get to meet now only Oz, but Jonathan as well! Sadly there are issues with it.

1)The show is really a bit crappy about how it treats ancient cultures, especially those annihilated by European action. The Incans and their spooky magic sacrificing is a bit tiresome, but it's a fairly standard trope.

Also on this note, Buffy gets to underline that the show is not particularly nice to the Romany people with her "She got gypped line" later. Really Buffy?

2)Xander is pretty obnoxious at the start of this episode. Xander being jealous about Buffy and men is something I will be so glad to be rid of, then his initial actions to Ampata are extremely patronising. He becomes more likable later on, but uh.

3)Some minor plotting issues. Where are the museum staff? Why does nobody notice the plate being smashed? Where did that bodyguard come from? Who is he? Is he immortal? Does he just hang round the museum all the time? When he attacks them and then runs away again, where on earth did he go?

That said, the basic plot of this episode is OK, Ampata actually falling for Xander mostly works, although she becomes quite cartoonish at the end to make us feel good about Buffy slaying her.

-Giles knocked out count up to 5 (well, he falls in a tomb and doesn't get out again, so I'm counting it)
-Hi South American lady. Can you speak Incan? For fucks sake...
-"You're not a preying mantis are you?"
-Giles terrible car appears!
-Buffy claims Ampata wasn't evil to begin with. Really? Because she kills quite a few people pretty much off the bat.
-Joyce barely exists in this episode.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 1:14 AM on March 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

"Blah blah bitty blah, give me a scone." "It's as if you know me."

Xander definitely obnoxious again, as he tends to be when he talks about man parts and lady parts.

Many double entendres for those in on the true identity of non-Ampata. Poor Ampata; the real one I mean.

Mummyguard appears out of nowhere. Maybe he lives in hammer-space.

The whole lippy continuity error bugs me. Ampata in the loo, applying lipstick. She comes out, having sucked Mummyguard dry, with perfect lippy - even redder than before. Then she's asking Buffy for a lipstick because she doesn't have any. Buffy apparently gives her a gold lippy, but that's not the colour on her lips when she goes in for the Xander snog.

Poor Willow. But who is that Eskimo girl? There's some more racism for you, Cannon Fodder. Though really, with a band called "Dingoes Ate My Baby", not offending people isn't really high on Whedon's list. Besides, this was the 90s. Pretty sure people said that in genuine ignorance of its racist origins. I know I did back then, and only put two and two together a few years ago.
posted by Athanassiel at 3:05 AM on March 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also: her name is Juanita.
posted by Athanassiel at 3:13 AM on March 5, 2015

Mummyguard appears out of nowhere.

Yup. How exactly did he sneak up behind them at the top of the bleachers?

And the lipstick is annoying too. I didn't notice the colour discrepancy but if you're going to have her pointedly ask for lipstick because she doesn't have any and use it as a clue for Buffy to put things together (which takes wayyyy too long anyway), DON'T HAVE HER PUT SOME ON A FEW SCENES PREVIOUSLY.
posted by yellowbinder at 10:27 AM on March 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

Also is "Dingoes Ate My Baby" ethnically questionable? I didn't know that, I know it was huge in the zeitgeist due to one suspicious case, but wasn't it eventually proved that dingoes did eat the baby? I mostly associate it with Elaine Benes at this point.
posted by yellowbinder at 10:30 AM on March 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Dingoes Ate My Baby isn't ethnically questionable in the same way as gypped and Eskimo - there's no racial component to it. But the Lindy Chamberlain case caused a lot of strong feelings on many levels in Australia. Even if it had been straightforward, having a baby dragged off and eaten by wild dogs is pretty horrific. I think it’s like a lot of things Whedon does: once you think about it, it's less funny and more disturbing. Whether that's intentional - dunno. I'm not personally offended by the Dingoes thing, it's just odd. Besides, it was probably Seth Green's fault.

Mrs Slocombe's Pussy - now that's a good name for a band!
posted by Athanassiel at 12:52 PM on March 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Fair enough. And I definitely got the sense while watching the cultural costume party scene that it definitely wasn't something that would fly today.

One thing I wanted to shout out to was the shot of the eyeless mummy eye sockets opening. It was really really gross and creepy.
posted by yellowbinder at 11:00 PM on March 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've only recently learned that "gypped" is seen as a slur in Europe. I think most people in the US would be surprised to learn how offensive the word is elsewhere. It wouldn't even occur to people here that the "gyp" was a reference to "Gypsies." I'm fairly sure that nobody involved with the show had a clue the line could ever be taken that way.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 12:53 AM on March 6, 2015 [3 favorites]

I'm fairly sure that nobody involved with the show had a clue the line could ever be taken that way.

You're not wrong. I'm sure none of this intentional, but there is a lot of unthinking stuff throughout the show. The whole idea of a gypsy curse is pretty retrograde too. I think some of it is inevitable when you have a "all mythologies are true" kind of thing, because a lot of these myths about older cultures are tied up in prejudicial thinking. The closest I think the show comes to addressing this is in the very funny Pangs.

I mean, think about the fact that crosses (and only crosses, not other symbols) are used to repel vampires, but other religions exist: Willow is Jewish, for example (although now I think about it, I think she is the only character on the show to explicitly be associated with any kind of faith. We don't even see a church until Faith wanders into one in Season 4). I can't remember if we ever see her wielding a cross. The reason crosses repel vampires in mythology is because they cannot deal with a symbol of god. I'm fairly certain the reason crosses hurt vampires in Buffy is that's because vampire mythology says that they do. For all that this is a show that really likes its metaphors, some of the symbology is completely unthinking throughout the show.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 1:26 AM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

I thiiiiiiiink I remember an interview where Whedon explained that crosses hurt vampires because of the Church's heavy involvement in vampire hunting over the years, but that's such a cop-out.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:40 AM on March 6, 2015

I keep having new thoughts about this, so apologies, but this is a very white show. I think this is something that stems partially from it being a big show that started in the 90s, which if you look at them hardly went out of their way to introduce ethnic minorities (and, just as with those shows, Buffy eventually does introduce some minority characters). A list so far of speaking non-white characters:

-The girl auditioning with a (tuba?) in the Puppet Show
-The anointed one's minion in "When she was bad"

Obviously we will get Kendra turning up soon, who gets to be in, like, three episodes. It will take until Season 7 for us to get another recurring non-white character in the form of Robin Wood (well, I suppose there's Forrest in Season 4).

I never know how much blame to assign to Whedon on this and how much to blame on the networks, but there is a bit of a pattern of it in his work. In Serenity there are no Asian characters. I can't remember if there are any people of colour in Dollhouse because I do my best to forget that Dollhouse ever existed.

But yeah I love Joss Whedon and I adore Buffy, I just think it's a real shame it fails so much on this front.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 3:44 AM on March 6, 2015 [3 favorites]

Oh hey, I forgot Giles' girlfriend who appears in season 4 as well for 2 episodes!
posted by Cannon Fodder at 3:44 AM on March 6, 2015

I can't remember if there are any people of colour in Dollhouse because I do my best to forget that Dollhouse ever existed.

Dichen Lachman and Miracle Laurie were in the main cast, as was Harry Lennix.
posted by kewb at 6:47 AM on March 6, 2015

Also, fellow Dollhouse cast member Tahmoh Penikett is of First Nations descent.
posted by Strange Interlude at 6:56 AM on March 6, 2015

I'm not personally offended by the Dingoes thing, it's just odd.

It's less odd if you were American when the Streep movie came out; the line really got a lot of attention because of her accent work and mockery thereof. Most folks would have viewed it as an artifact of entertainment, not anything to do with real people.
posted by phearlez at 7:49 AM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Another non-white recurring character: Mr. Quick (? Its probably not that but close) from season 3, who starts as Taquito's assistant and then teams up with the mayor. But yes, the show is pretty white.
posted by LionIndex at 9:05 AM on March 6, 2015

Willow is Jewish, for example... I can't remember if we ever see her wielding a cross

I think I have some vague image of her with a cross, possibly in the "Nighthawk" scene in Dead Man's Party? She definitely nails one to her wall as part of the uninvitation spell later this season and comments that she'll never be able to explain it to her dad if he sees it. Again, parents are almost entirely absent on this show so she doesn't have anything to worry about.
posted by yellowbinder at 11:19 AM on March 6, 2015

And yeah, when you really think about minority appearances it's really bad. Is there even an Asian character at all until the potential played for laughs in Season 7? I mean, Firefly's lack of Asian characters is worse given that world's backstory but it's still troubling.
posted by yellowbinder at 11:20 AM on March 6, 2015

Mr. Quick

He was such a short-lived character that I had to think about what his name was too: Mr. Trick. He lived for Taquitos.
posted by Strange Interlude at 11:21 AM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

I am not disputing the overall point - it is a very white show - but there was also the English teacher in the Marcie-the-invisible-girl episode. She even got to be almost-killed!

On Dingoes: Australians also mock the hell out of Streep's accent. I understand it's funny. Aussies, being experts at the piss-take, probably think so too. (Though apparently I now qualify as one. It's only taken 20 years!) My point was that the show features a lot of things, from jokes to characterisations to the casual use of offensive terms, that are off-putting when you consider them at a level other than face value.
posted by Athanassiel at 12:50 PM on March 6, 2015

Also - I haven't seen Dollhouse. Should I?
posted by Athanassiel at 12:53 PM on March 6, 2015

Eh. It's got some stuff going for it. It's dark and dystopian and the cast is mostly* really good. It takes a long time to find its footing, and it might not be worth it when it does. I find it hard to recommend, but it's rewarding if you get into it.

* - I would say everyone is great EXCEPT the two leads. I loved me some Faith but Dushku is not the person you want playing 3+ characters per episode. And Tahmoh Penikett, while objectively a fine actor, always seems to play these really obnoxiously self-righteous characters that always rub me the wrong way.
posted by yellowbinder at 1:17 PM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think some of the weird cultural stuff in this episode walks the fine line between being actually insensitive and being there for us to recognize that the characters are being weird and insensitive.

I like Ampata's "I have toured...I did not see much" comment. Took me a second when I was a kid to get that. Did not take even a second for me to fully empathize with Willow's sad face when Xander is talking about her. Aw, Willow. You will do better than Xander Harris, demon magnet, though I guess he does always come through in the end when someone's about to kill you.

It figures a character who was preserved for hundreds of years is amazed at the wonders of Twinkies.

(I actually just watched Dollhouse for the first time in the past couple of weeks and I'd recommend it. The supporting cast truly is great, even though I completely agree about Dushku and Penikett. I think it's the sort of thing that is improved by binge-watching, rather than the slow unfold week by week. There are some very interesting twists and moral quandaries. Mostly I just really enjoy the supporting characters. The show is bleak as hell, though, and I may have made a terrible mistake watching it in the middle of Toronto's coldest February since 1875, because man, I was depressed for a while after.)
posted by ilana at 1:36 PM on March 6, 2015

The guy who played Mr. Trick, K. Todd Freeman, also played (alongside Hank Azaria) one of the CIA assassins in Grosse Point Blank. He never had a huge screen career, though, and I think he's more of a stage guy.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:40 PM on March 6, 2015

I can see the criticism that Buffy was a really white show, but there were POC in the main cast of Firefly, Dollhouse and Angel. (Gunn started as a kind of embarrassing, very white take on a black gang leader, but once they stopped trying so hard to make him "street" he became a very real, complicated and endearing guy.) I don't know if there are any major non-white characters on Agents of Shield because I bailed after the first episode. Much as I love Whedon, I'm just not a Marvel Comics girl and that show felt like one piece of the whole Marvel Comics media saga.

Whedon is a lefty and a good Joe, and even if his default setting is white people I suspect that's something he works against when he remembers to.

(As an aside, his default setting for hunky male leads is very particular and kind of odd. You look at David Boreanaz, Nicolas Brendon, Tahmoh Penikett, Nathan Fillion, Adam Baldwin et al and they all have this handsome but odd look, tall and shoulder-y with huge chins and... I don't know, small mouths? It's like their features are smallish, on these great big heads... but handsome.)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:38 PM on March 6, 2015

Major character POC on Agents of SHIELD include Tripp, Mack, Raina, May, and Skye (the actress is half-Chinese and in the show her mother is played by the awesome aforementioned Dichen Lachman.)

So, two central characters, one reoccurring villain with complex motivations, and two team members who aren't always front and center but do have their own storylines.
posted by PussKillian at 7:53 PM on March 6, 2015

I don't know anything about AoS but it bums me out to hear that Dichen Lachman is already playing someone's mother. She and Enver Gjokaj should both be huge stars by now. Aaaaaand now I'm probably going to start a Dollhouse rewatch.
posted by yellowbinder at 8:43 PM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Hmm, well I actually bought Dollhouse on sale a while ago but haven't gotten around to watching it yet. So I'd be in that if there aren't immense spoilers. Though often spoilers don't bother me as much as they do some.
posted by Athanassiel at 11:01 PM on March 6, 2015

it bums me out to hear that Dichen Lachman is already playing someone's mother

If it makes you feel any better, she only appears in flashbacks from 25 years ago.
posted by Strange Interlude at 4:59 AM on March 7, 2015

And her being youthful looking is actually a plot point, so not only is she only being depicted as someone who would have an infant - not a full-grown daughter - but this is very much not a case of hollywood slotting anyone 25+ into momdom. Other series regular Ming-na Wen is 50 and shown kicking ass and being sexual.
posted by phearlez at 5:57 AM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yeah AoS is much better about having PoCs (although most of the main plot lines get assigned to the white characters). I think partially Buffy is an artifact of it's time on that front, but I think it's something worth noticing.

Personally I found the very concept of Dollhouse unpleasant, so didn't get along with it very well. I only watched season one because of that.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 10:48 AM on March 7, 2015

exist: Willow is Jewish, for example (although now I think about it, I think she is the only character on the show to explicitly be associated with any kind of faith.

I'm four years late to this discussion, but re-watching Buffy after probably ten years, I'm seeing all kinds of Jewish stuff in it. A couple of episodes ago, Giles mentioned a vampire doing something in an unorthodox manner, and Buffy said, "Maybe he's reform." And in this episode, Xander refers to "the whole cultural exchange Megillah." And in the costume party in this episode there is a guy in a tallit and a black suit dancing around. So now in my head they're all kinda Jewish (even though Buffy can't really be because if she were her mom would have something to say about the huge cross she's always got on - which seems a lot bigger and showier in 2019 than in did in the 90s/early 2000s. I think there were more "cool" fashion statement/secular crosses back then whereas if someone wore that now it would definitely be a religious statement.)
posted by frobozz at 2:44 PM on October 11, 2019

Whedon is a lefty and a good Joe, and even if his default setting is white people I suspect that's something he works against when he remembers to.

Oh this comment has not aged well :D

(not a critique, but it is interesting reading opinions of Whedon from almost 10 years ago)
posted by LizBoBiz at 6:44 PM on January 10

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