Buffy’s “Hush” & Suprematism


Buffy’s “Hush” & Suprematism

Malevich Buffy

Just before I lectured on Suprematism in the Art History survey course yesterday, a facebook post reminded me of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode, “Hush.” During the lecture, I realized that Joss Whedon and Kasimir Malevich have similar ideas of how to communicate pure feeling. I’m not sure I conveyed this connection very well in class since many who remember Buffy may not recall this particular episode, which aired 11 years ago, and some students may have been too young to watch something so frightening. This post is to help you understand the connection between the “Hush” episode of Buffy and Suprematism  so that you may gain a deeper understanding of Malevich’s intentions.

Written by Joss Whedon and aired in 2002, “Hush” is the only episode of Buffy that was nominated for an Emmy Award in writing. If you have Hulu Plus, you can watch the whole episode (Season 4, episode 10).  If not, get the gist with the WB Promo below (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qbnIH3zHT7M).

Early in the episode, Buffy and her love interest, Riley, use language to hide their identities; they fill the silence with talk about nothing. In another scene, Buffy’s best friend, Willow, complains that her Wiccan group talks and talks but doesn’t get to anything real. When the Gentlemen, a group of fairy tale monsters, steal everyone’s voices, Buffy and friends must communicate non-verbally to stop the monsters from cutting out the hearts of seven victims. In this episode, words inhibit communication and shield people from anything real. When Buffy and friends are forced to communicate without words, they connect to something real—pure feeling—through their actions.

Wheden explains:

When people stop talking, they start communicating. Language can interfere with communication because language limits. As soon as you say something, you’ve eliminated every other possibility of what you might be talking about. We also use language to separate ourselves from other people.1

In the early 20th century, Kasimir Malevich sought the pure emotional experience with visual arts. Watch the Museum of Modern Art’s tutorial on White on White, 1918 (http://www.moma.org/audios/embed/290/53):

Malevich writes:

Under Suprematism I understand the primacy of pure feeling in creative art. To the Suprematist, the visual phenomena of the objective world are, in themselves, meaningless; the significant thing is feeling, as such, quite apart from the environment in which it is called forth.2

For Malevich, absolute non-objective art, which is based on the basic geometrical forms, liberates the maker and the viewer to experience true feeling. This emotional experience is the essence of what is real.

Words in the Buffy episode are like representational objects in Malevich’s art; both are meaningless. However, non-objective art and non-verbal communication convey pure feeling.



1 Joss Whedon, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Complete Fourth Season; DVD commentary for the episode “Hush.” [DVD]. 20th Century Fox, 10 June 2003.

2 Kasimir Malevich, The Non-Objective World, Munich: Bauhaus, 1927.

Classroom Connection
ARTH 102 History of Art: Renaissance through Modern (Goudy)

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