Saturday, June 9, 2012

A Note on Spike and Buffy in Buffy the Vampire Slayer

I've just finished watching a little television show called Buffy the Vampire Slayer from beginning all the way to the grim end. I've been shocked, cried, laughed (a lot) and swooned until I'm literally just tired. When I watch something that I like, the story gets underneath my skin and embedded in my veins like a drug. Just knowing that I will never see a new Buffy episode is enough to throw me in a tizzy though luckily I've saved Angel and can enjoy that next. In an attempt to unload some of these intense feelings, I thought I'd write about a few things.

What I want to write about first is the whole Buffy and Spike thing because this going to take the longest for me to come to grips with. The whole truth of it is that I'm not satisfied with it. I love Joss Whedon and I think he's brilliant but I'm just not happy with how Buffy and Spike turned out.

As a character, I was pretty sure I wasn't going to be drawn to Spike. I liked Buffy and Angel because I believed in their relationship. They were willing to die for each other and fought along side each other in every battle they faced. They were equals and I respected that. I loved that about them.

And then this other vampire is introduced and I knew he became a player for Buffy's heart. So Spike drives into Sunnydale for that first time with his rock-n-roll attitude and complete disregard for everyone but himself and Dru and I was unimpressed. Heck yes, he was freaking funny but I just didn't see the appeal of him. Not when Buffy and Angel had such a strong relationship. I kept waiting to understand throughout the season and just couldn't. I did love how Spike was so deliciously evil with Dru and I found it interesting that he was willing to risk everything to get Dru and himself out of Sunnydale safely but I still didn't see it. Little did I know that I was catching my first glimpse at the devotion Spike would become known for... I was just witnessing it for a different girl.

So Spike comes back later in a parody of his first entrance, all drunk and sobbing and stumbling. But this time, he gets stuck in Sunnydale. Angel exits the picture for his own show, leaving Buffy broken and takes Cordelia with him. All of a sudden, they bring in Spike to (and I'm paraphrasing James Marsters own words) "tell Buffy she is stupid and is going to die" and it starts to work. I start seeing him tag along with the Scoobies, completely uninterested in their own safety but jonsing for a good fight, a reason to be sarcastic and to laugh when things go wrong.

After Spike gets a chip implanted in his head, it finally clicks. I realize that I'm craving scenes with Spike and Buffy together because I can't get enough of their witty jabs. All of a sudden I'm looking for that trademark bleached blonde hair and black trench coat in every scene. How the heck did this happen? Well, it's because he's funny and his chemistry with Buffy is undeniable.

But after a while, it's became something different for me. He was funny and I enjoyed all that but I realized that his character was changing. He was transforming into something different. Then he realizes his feelings for Buffy and for me, everything changed. It's because we hadn't seen that side of vampires in Buffy the Vampire Slayer before. We knew they were demons so how can demons love? But all of a sudden we saw a monster beginning to love like a man--passionately, without regard for his own life and without hope of reciprocation. Then, I got it. Spike is better because he maintains his ability to love through his vampirism and I should have seen it all along in his admiration of Dru.

Season 5 does a great job of building on this funny little feeling that Spike doesn't want to have. Suddenly, he starts to care about the things Buffy cares about. This is the Spike that I wanted to see Buffy accept and love back. But the writers of the show took it a completely different way.

I understand why the writers did what they did with the Season 6 relationship that is Buffy and Spike. I'm not even going to talk about her state of mind here or what it meant to her. I do want to point out that the abusive and highly sexual relationship the develops are major steps towards women's sexuality. I'm not saying that what they did was right or wrong but I am saying that Buffy was often the one to initiate both the violence and the sex and whether it's right or not, I think it was brave of the show to allow Buffy to have her sex life exactly the way she wanted it, even if it did destroy her.

But what I want to look at more is Spike. And the reason I want to look at it closer is because of the attempted rape scene in "Seeing Red". I was literally stunned when I saw this episode. How did Buffy and Spike go from demolishing a house with their love making to Spike trying to force himself on her in a scene so terrifying it still sends shivers down my spine and breaks my heart? I've been asking myself this question and I've been able to rationalize it in my own mind even if I'm not sure I can accept it myself. Season 6 took Spike away from being the ear that Buffy could always rely on and the hands that always had her back and made him into the darkness that was in Buffy's heart. Spike wanted Buffy to come into the darkness with him. Though I don't think Spike was the biggest problem in this relationship because the entire time they were together physically, he craved an emotional connection to. However, the monster in him wanted Buffy isolated, wanted her passionate and didn't know that he was killing her by encouraging it.

So here's my answer for "Seeing Red". Buffy began her relationship with Spike the monster in violence. It was a blend of self-loathing on her part, violence and finally, shallow passion. But in order to really end her relationship with the monster and get the man, it had to end the way it started: in violence. Since this is the one time that violence and sex was not wanted on Buffy's part, it resulted in an almost rape. I've read a lot of articles and I'm not sure how many of them are true but it has been stated over and over that the writer's truly believed Spike needed to be rocked so deeply in his core that there was no other option but to get his soul. While I understand all of this, I'm still not sure this was the way to go.

Season 7 reinforces my thoughts on this because Buffy never experiences a relationship with Spike the man. So what was the point of having this terrible violent ending with the monster since they have to go through all that to get the man? When he gets his soul back, which he openly admits was for her, there are no hugs or kisses or embraces. What we get instead are three precious nights where Buffy gives away the one thing she refuses to give most other people: a connection. She connections with Spike on a level that he has craved since he was only a monster and didn't even really know it's what he wanted. I just wish we'd been given time to see Buffy try to be with Spike the man. This is why I feel truly unsatisfied. I understand that Spike gets his soul for himself when it really comes down to it but the writers make it a point to tell us that it was originally for Buffy. So I wish we'd have gotten to see a little more reward from Buffy for Spike as a man than an "I love you" as he is dying which even he didn't truly believe. After all, it was Spike alone who stands behind her when everyone else forsakes her. He is the one that grips her from the darkness he so desperately tried for her to embrace before, and gives her the strength to keep going. So I really wish I'd gotten a little more from Buffy and Spike together in the end.

I am going to read the comics to see what happens and I'm really hoping that Whedon & co give Spike the chance to really be with Buffy the way that Angel and even Riley have as a man instead of simply a monster. It's my fondest wish that they at least get to try and from what I've been able to read, at least I know that Buffy still thinks of him romantically.

I ask myself this final question which I can't answer yet and that is, what do I want? Do I want Spike to be happy with Buffy or am I really craving for Spike to be happy?

Have you seen the show? I'd love for you all to chime in!


  1. Oh heavens. You've said so many great things here. The thing I loved so much about Buffy was that all the relationships just worked on the show. You could always see why the couples were together, even if they weren't good for each other. Even the silly couples like the Xander/Cordelia pairing had a real foundation behind them. Couples on Buffy weren't random, and they were always based on the needs of the characters being fulfilled in another person.

    I think part of the problem with the Buffy/Spike relationship was that all Buffy ever wanted out of that relationship was "to feel," but really, I think it was actually to forget. She wasn't with Spike for healthy reasons - she was being self-destructive and self-loathing, and a relationship with a monster made sense to her during a time where she wanted to hate herself. And the heartbreaking thing is that Spike had no soul at the time, but was in the relationship for better reasons than Buffy was. He was the monster, but Buffy was the one who acted more like a monster, right up until the end. I think up until that point, they had both been fooling themselves. Buffy was fooling herself into thinking that she had all the control and could do whatever she wanted. Spike was fooling himself into believing that he could be a man. And the near-rape scene proved them both wrong.

    And I was totally frustrated with S7. I agree with you, he went through all that to get his soul back for Buffy, and she never seems to really consider the magnitude of that. But I think that really, what it comes down to is that Spike was always more prone to change, adapt, and mature than Buffy. So while he has gone through this amazing transformation, she hasn't come nearly as far since the near rape. Beyond the fact that I'm sure it was traumatic for her and very difficult for her to see him romantically again, S7 Buffy still isn't in a good place. Her big epiphany in the S6 finale is "I don't want to die anymore." And that's great, but just because she finally stops completely hating herself doesn't mean she's ready for a real relationship, where she would have to be vulnerable and honest. When Spike comes back ensouled, she doesn't have the option of treating him like dirt and pretending she's got all the power, because now that Spike is a man, she realizes that would be cruel. And Buffy is horribly flawed, but she's not cruel.

    And that brings me back to my original point about couples on Buffy. Spike and Buffy couldn't have been together in S7 because neither of them was equipped to meet the others' needs, either in a constructive or destructive way. Spike had matured, changed, grown, and come a huge way since S6. He needed someone who could be honest, vulnerable, and patient with him. Buffy hadn't come nearly so far. She was still broken and struggling, and Spike wasn't equipped yet to provide the support she needed, since he was still struggling himself. So they never got back together, even though it drove me crazy.

    I haven't read the S8 comics yet, so I don't know what the "future" for Spike and Buffy holds. They were by far my favorite couple on the show. Unlike you, I loved Spike from his first episode in S2. He was my favorite overall character too. But even though I wish they'd been able to get back together in S7, I understand why they didn't. So I'm at peace with it, even though it sucks.

    I'm scared to see how long this comment is....

    1. You make a really interesting point about couples on Buffy. They do usually serve a purpose other than so-n-so has a boyfriend. When Xander and Willow get together for a second it is a fruition of years of build up and works to break Xander and Cordelia apart. With Willow and Oz, Oz saves Willow from feeling like a nobody and is the first to give her the courage to grow into herself.

      I understand that Spike and Buffy weren't ready for each other in the same way that Buffy and Angel weren't ready for each other at the end but I wish that since they knew there wasn't going to be a season 8 that they made them more ready for each other so we got some resolution on screen. Even if Spike just believed that Buffy loved him at the end. Heck, they gave us a perfect moment when they were in the kitchen and Spike confesses that the night he just held her while she slept was the best night of his life. They knew we wanted Buffy to tell him then when he asks "what does this all mean?" but they didn't. For me, I would have just liked a little more from Buffy then because of the months of her dragging him around on Season 6.

      I'm hoping that these comic will finally give Buffy and Spike a chance the way Angel and Riley got. I mean, if you look at Buffy with Riley or Angel, she is completely different with them than with Spike. I just want to see them properly get a chance, even if it doesn't work out. They both owe it to themselves.

      There see! My comment is probably as long as yours!

  2. I love Spike. And Season 6 was so difficult to watch because it was so dark. Buffy was heaven and ripped out of it, but Spike was there for her when she thought she had no one to help her. He was her confidante and kept her secret until ONCE MORE WITH FEELING. The almost rape scene was brutal and devastating, and Spike knew that. So much that he wanted his soul reinstated so that he could prove to Buffy that he was the man that she wanted.

    I completely enjoyed Spike during the ep after he mother dies. He's completely bereft and not quite understanding why. I think Spike always had his soul, it was just trapped and needed releasing. Spike sacrificing himself to shut down the hellmouth, was the literal stake in the heart for Buffy and she realized that Spike was her true love.

    1. Yeah, Whedon is quoted as saying that Buffy didn't know if she loved Spike until she puts her hand in his as he is dying. I just wish they could have given us this a little bit earlier since they knew that there wasn't going to be a season 8 on screen. I feel like we as viewers invested a lot in these characters and not to give us and them some type of reward at the end kind of stunk.

      You make an interesting point about him having a soul the whole time. It makes you wonder if all vamps do and it's just buried. It would make Buffy's job a hell of a lot harder if they all did. I know Whedon doesn't believe in "kind" vampires though so I'm not sure if I completely buy this theory but it's interesting to think about.

  3. I loved the pairing of Buffy and Spike and was really disappointed that they didn't get their happy ending. On the other hand Joss Whedon wouldn't be Joss Whedon if he hadn't made that awful ending completely realistic. Buffy went through much in a very short period of time, and I don't think you could be emotionally stable in trials like that. So, even in ideal world if Spike didn't die and found her in s8 after she settled down, she wouldn't have been able to be with him, because for her he would have been a constant reminder of everything she went through.

    1. Well, Spike is actually resurrected in Angel season 5 so he is still out there in time for season 8. I know he makes a guest appearance in the comics very late in the game, I just hope to see him a lot more in 9 so they can finally get a chance to try. I'm not saying it has to be happy ending (I'd fear for his life (again) if they were completely happy all the time) but I want them to be able to have a go at happiness.

  4. OH I'm tracking you here. I was SO Team Angel and did NOT understand this Spike thing that I knew was coming. But then it happened, and like you, I started to crave more and more of the Spike/Buffy banter and secret kisses behind trees and staircases. Maybe it was because of Spike, or maybe it was because Angel was completely out of the picture and no longer an option, maybe a combo.
    I will say I've heard from someone who looked at the current comics and I wasn't unhappy with what she told me ;)

    1. Yup, I was totally team Angel too so it surprised me when I started craving more Spike and Buffy. I think it wore me down when he would stand outside her house at night and chain smoke until she came out so he could chat with her. Always made me crack up.

      I'm going to be reading all the comics and reviewing them so I guess I'll just have to see how I feel then!

  5. I liked Riley. Sad, I know, but true.

    I agree with pretty much everything you're saying here, I don't have anything clever to add. Spike was pretty awesome after Buffy, I'll say that much. :D

    1. I haven't met too many people who liked Riley. I kinda thought he was boring and stopped watching the show for a bit. Could you tell me what you liked about him? I'm just curious as to what I might have failed to see.

    2. I liked Riley too, and I'll tell you why. (And I think it's pretty much what Xander said to Buffy when Riley decided to leave, although I haven't watched that ep in a while). Riley was a nice, normal, stand-up guy who tried to be everything Buffy needed, even though he knew she didn't love him. And yet he tried. And he proved to her that she was worth someone like him -- that she wasn't doomed to darkness and vampires. Even with all the Initiative craziness, Riley was the guy who showed Buffy that she was worth something more. Too bad she didn't appreciate it until he was gone.

  6. I totally agree with you on Spike and Buffy. I shipped them so hard, and Seeing Red left me bewildered. I could not comprehend Spike's behavior. Obviously, Buffy did rather lead him on, but that's NO EXCUSE for what he did. Since I know how he felt and was never a huge fan of Buffy, I wanted so badly to still root for him, but I know that I just can't. It really broke my heart.

    I never liked Buffy and Angel. Well, okay, that's a lie. I liked them before they started dating. I liked them when he would show up, say something enigmatic to piss her off, and leave smirking. As a couple, I thought they were the most disgustingly sappy, melodramatic couple on television. And doesn't Spike's overcoming the monster for love of Buffy despite not having a soul mean more than Angel's love of her with it?

    Spike did so much more to be with Buffy. What Angel could not over come, he did. As I said, I don't think Spike and Buffy can ever be together, because he did the unforgivable, but Angel was never a real relationship to me.

    Also, unrelated slightly, but can we talk about how barftastic the whole Angel loses his soul when he's perfectly happy thing is? Well, to be more specific, the fact that sex is what triggers it. Love is not enough. Sex. Sigh.

    1. I think that what Spike did as a monster without a soul is unforgivable. I think that in his mind what he was doing was right if it would make Buffy see how he felt. I read in a Marsters interview that a female actually wrote that script because she had a similar experience. She was still in love with her boyfriend and they were breaking up. She thought that if they could just sleep together one last time then he would realize how much they loved each other and were meant to be. She tried to force herself on him and it didn't end up working. Looking at it from that point of view, I understand where Spike was coming from but I don't think it was portrayed well enough. If we were meant to think that then it needed to be stated earlier on and Spike should have planned on trying to seduce Buffy. Marsters also said that he thinks the message was lost because it is different when a man tries to do this to a woman and I have to agree with him there.

      I'm still not convinced that what he did as a monster should count against him as a man and I think Buffy gets that or she wouldn't have trusted him to come into Xander's house and believed him when he said that he didn't remember killing again. I think he may have done enough to redeem himself in siding with Buffy when no one else would and staying by her side till the bitter end.

      Because of all of that, I still think they deserve a chance to try to be together.

      You make an interesting point about Spike doing what Angel couldn't too.

      About the whole Angel thing... he doesn't lose his soul from sex, he loses his soul after they consummate their love. It wasn't the act (because apparently he has sex on his show without the consequences), it was what the act with Buffy meant. I can understand why he'd find true happiness then because truly being with someone without any barriers is a beautiful thing. I think it would have been barftastic (love that word) if he lost his soul while he climaxed because then it wouldn't have been about the meaning but the sex. So I'm not on board with you there but you certainly have a right to believe what you do!

  7. Love the discussion - I am a huge Buffy fan. I wasn't a fan of Spike initially then slowly fell in lurve - one of my favourite episodes is when he and Buffy bring the house down.

    When Spike came back into the Angel series I enjoyed he and Angel sparring over Buffy and then Spike's crush on Fred but always wanted Spike to go to Buffy.

  8. First of all - Outstanding commentary on the Spike - Buffy relationship, - glad that I made my way to your site.

    I love these:
    Season 6 took Spike away from being the ear that Buffy could always rely on and the hands that always had her back and made him into the darkness that was in Buffy's heart. Spike wanted Buffy to come into the darkness with him.

    The one point that I do find I don't agree with you is that Spike wanted to bring Buffy into the darkness of his world. From my perspective on the character and his connection with Buffy is that I believe he wanted to feel the light of life that she represented and that he could reach out and experience through her. He could leave behind a world that was eternally dark before he falls in love with her. But it's as you say, everything completely falls apart for him and we end up with the tragic attempted rape.

    You make great points about their relationship and the controls dynamics between them. While it is Spike who is given the lines about pulling her into the dark, it is in fact, IMO, Buffy who established the rules of their relationship - Spike, it seems to me, was the person who reacted to what Buffy set for them. And the very worst example of this is how she used him in "As You Were" and going to him to relieve her emotional trauma from the appearance of Riley presenting her with his perfect Mrs. Joe Normal wife.

    It cannot however be denied that Buffy and Spike were both very lost and in despair in season six - and, I agree with you that the AR was a violent and powerful way to destroy both of them so that Spike can recreated himself and win his soul and humanity back. Buffy also made a huge transformation. When she decides not to stake him when they think that he may be killing again. That Buffy states that she must have proof first is a huge transformation for her.

    Well anyway, enough of my rambles - I hope that you did get to read some of the comic books from BS8 and the current series, I would love to read your ideas of the comic books and how the characters have changed.

  9. You make some great points. I tend to dismiss the attempted rape as bad writing (I'm a writer myself) because it's just so out of character. Even if the writer of the episode tried to force herself on an ex, Spike is the emotionally intelligent one of the group and just isn't that dumb.

    They could've gotten him to the point of deciding to get his soul back in so many other ways, and instead they went in the one direction that led us back to yet more conversations among the Scoobies about how Spike is evil and Buffy shouldn't trust him.

    You make a great point about how Buffy isn't ready to be with him. I really felt like they never gave their relationship a chance in season 7 (because of the attempted rape, I don't think the writers felt they could go there).

    The comics give them the perfect chance to let them get together and see where it leads. I'm partway through season 9 of the comics and just wrote a blog post expressing my frustration that they haven't done that yet. But maybe Buffy needs to mature more. Maybe that's just one of the pitfalls of dating someone over 100 years older than you are.


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