ReviewsBtVS and Consent Issues: Buffy and Spike, Post-”Seeing Red”

“BtVS and Consent Issues” is a series I began writing over a year ago with the goal to examine episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer where rape, sexual assault, sexual coercion, and/or violation of consent were major plot points. I wanted to examine the way rape and consent issues were portrayed in one of my all-time favorite television series – a series that had an explicit feminist vision.

The last episode I reviewed was “Seeing Red,” which is probably the most controversial episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This is the episode where Spike tried to rape Buffy on her bathroom floor, where he called her a bitch, where he left town in an effort to rid himself of the speck of humanity that stopped him from raping her. (Except oops – he actually didn’t rape her because she successfully fought him off, and oops – he wasn’t actually trying to rid himself of his humanity at all, and was in fact seeking his soul so that he would never hurt her again, except the writers tried to hide this through their clever misdirection and make it SEEM like he was trying to get rid of the chip of his brain.)

Anyway, I digress. (You can tell that I’m digressing when I write run-on sentences in parentheticals.) “Seeing Red” is such a disturbing episode in the Buffy canon because the male romantic lead/anti-hero tries to rape the protagonist. Subsequent episodes continue to portray Spike in a sympathetic light, and even attempt to reignite a romantic relationship between Buffy and the man who tried to rape her.

Seeing any show pursue a romantic relationship between a woman and her attempted rapist is disturbing, to say the least. Yet, all throughout season seven, I wanted Buffy and Spike to get back together. I wanted Spike to redeem himself, I looked for clues that Buffy was returning his feelings, and I felt completely swept up in their last moment together in the series finale, when she told him that she loved him.

It would be easy to say that the Buffy/Spike relationship was fundamentally different in the seventh season than it was in the sixth, due to Spike’s soul. And their relationship was very different, because Spike-with-a-soul was able to love Buffy unselfishly. Spike in season six would whisper manipulative words in her ear when she was depressed and vulnerable. He wanted her to be with him, no matter how terrible she felt about herself. Spike in season seven, however, tells Buffy, “When I say I love you, it doesn’t mean I want you. It has nothing to do with me. I love what you are.” And he means it.

But I can’t pretend that the existence of Spike’s soul is what made me root for Buffy/Spike in the last season, because in seven seasons, Whedon & co. never successfully explained what a soul was – why Angel’s missing soul turned him into a completely different person with not even a speck of humanity in him, why Spike and Drusilla were able to love each other even without souls, why Harmony the soulless vampire was the exact same person as Harmony the human (except with fangs). Besides, I don’t think hand-waving Spike’s actions with “but he has a soul now!” is appropriate when dealing with the attempted raping elephant in the room. (Ew. Sorry for the image.)

No, I rooted for Buffy/Spike in the seventh season despite my problems with the storyline from a social justice lens, because their actions after the attempted rape seemed perfectly in character to me.

“Seeing Red” and the episodes that follow make it clear that the attempted rape had a much stronger effect on Spike than it did on Buffy, even though Buffy was the victim. Buffy cried during and after the attempted rape, she condemned Spike’s actions in “Beneath You,” and she flinched when Spike put his hand on her shoulder, but by the season’s halfway point, she was in constant close physical contact with Spike without being triggered by the memory.

Spike, on the other hand, went completely insane after he earned his soul. Granted, some of this insanity was due to a hundred years of guilt catching up to him, but it was clear that attempting to rape Buffy was the single action he regretted most. (After all, that was the one thing he regretted doing before he had a soul.) The guilt tormented him long after Buffy stopped being triggered.

Strange that the attempted rapist would feel more emotional about his action than the victim would – yet given Spike and Buffy’s history, their reactions make complete sense.

We all know that Spike is “love’s bitch.” He always puts the woman he loves at the center of his world, whether the woman is Cecily, Drusilla, or Buffy. Being with the woman he loves is always his priority. This aspect of his personality was true when he was human, and it didn’t change when he became a soulless vampire, and it didn’t change when he became a souled vampire. Of course the act of hurting the woman he loves would torment him.

Buffy, on the other hand, is no fool for love. She loves deeply, but even as a teenager, she never put love in the center of her world. She put a sword through Angel even though she loved him (because that’s what heroes do. That’s my girl!)

One would think that Buffy, not being ruled by love, would cut all ties with someone who betrayed her the way Spike did.

Unfortunately, physical violation and betrayal is a sad fact of Buffy’s life, and Spike was not the first person who betrayed her or violated her body.

Here’s a short list of instances where people have betrayed Buffy or violated her body: her father walked out on her family, her mother tied her to a stake and tried to burn her as a witch, Giles gave her a poison that would weaken her strength as part of the Cruciamentum, Faith switched their bodies and had sex in Buffy’s body with Buffy’s boyfriend, Willow ripped her soul out of heaven and reanimated her corpse and left her to crawl out of her own grave, and everything Angel did in the second half of season two.

That’s not a comprehensive list. Also, notice that every single person on that list is someone who was once Buffy’s friend, part of her family, and/or someone she trusted deeply.

Then Spike tries to rape her, and the next day, one of her friends is shot and killed, and Buffy herself is shot and almost dies for a third time. Almost being raped by a lover wasn’t the worst thing that happened to Buffy in her lifetime. In fact, from her perspective, it probably wasn’t even the worst thing that happened to her in that week.

Considering all that Buffy’s been through, her forgiving and even loving Spike makes sense for her character. Despite her reputation for coldness in the last season, she’s actually a very forgiving person, and she respects people who make active efforts to change for the better. If she could forgive Willow (who tried to destroy the world and threatened to turn Dawn back into a ball of energy), she could forgive Spike.

But this is where the story becomes problematic through a social justice lens. There is no real-life equivalent of “my best friend brought my back to life against my wishes, tried to turn my sister into an energy ball, and tried to destroy the world.”

There is a very strong real-life equivalent of “my ex-boyfriend tried to rape me.”

And even though domestic violence is far too common, this feminist show depicted a storyline where a woman forgives and falls in love with the man who tried to rape her.

And even though I think their character arcs in season seven make complete sense, even though their relationship stays true to their characters, I’m still disturbed that the writers portrayed a story where the attempted rapist feels really bad about what he did, you guys, and let’s focus on his guilt and his feels. (The girl? What about her? She’s over it.)

Ultimately, I think a writer’s primary responsibility is to remain true to his or her characters, and I believe the writers of Buffy the Vampire Slayer did just this with Buffy and Spike’s slow rebuilding of trust in the show’s seventh season. But the storyline still bothers me when I view it through a feminist lens. I don’t think they considered the implications of the attempted rape, nor the implications of the storyline that followed, and I still wish they had chosen a different impetus for Spike to seek his soul.

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21 Responses to BtVS and Consent Issues: Buffy and Spike, Post-”Seeing Red”

  1. Fascinating post – thank you. I never thought about the fact that the other traumatic events in the end of Season 6 don’t happen in real life, while rape does. Reading your post, I think you’ve put your finger on why the attempted rape storyline is so troubling. Also, as I read, I realized that while I didn’t find the use of the storyline as disturbing as many people did, it’s because I never after that rooted for Buffy and Spike to get together romantically. I believed she forgave him, and he’d changed, and I wanted them to be friends. But I also believed they never had sex again, even during what they thought was possibly their last night on earth. I couldn’t get past the attempted rape, and it was only after several viewings of the season that I believed that Buffy had, and that she and Spike probably did have sex that night.

    • Theresa Basile says:

      I think they were probably intimate in “Chosen” as well, and in order to imagine that, I have to consciously not think about “Seeing Red.”

      If I want to be That Person who constantly compares one vampire to the other, I can say that “if Buffy could take Angel back in season three, there’s no reason why she couldn’t take Spike back in season seven,” but since I hated Buffy/Angel in season three, I’m not sure I can do that.

  2. Jen Anderson says:

    Excellent points. I’ve pretty much decided that bad writing doesn’t count, and having Spike try to rape Buffy was even worse writing than the whole magic addiction nonsense. I realize this is willful self delusion, but I don’t think it’s fair that the characters and fans have to suffer because the writers couldn’t come up with a better motivation and decided to do the misdirection thing.

    The whole selling demon eggs thing he was doing when Riley showed up–they were weapons of mass destruction and Buffy just shrugged it off as Spike being Spike. She could’ve made that an issue, making him realize that she might love him back if he stopped being less amoral and mass murdery. And I’m sure there are dozens of fan fiction alternatives that make more sense than what was filmed.

    • Theresa Basile says:

      Oy, that episode. I try to pretend “As You Were” doesn’t even exist. I have Riley issues, to say the least.

      • Gareth says:

        I’d love to know why that is.

        • Theresa Basile says:

          My Riley issues will probably take a whole other post. Or two. Or five. :)

          Short version for now: I think he has a real problem with Buffy being stronger than he is, and instead of examining that aspect of his personality, he takes it out on Buffy. And I think the show makes us want to think he’s more heroic than he really is.

  3. lauren says:

    Joss has made it quite clear in the commentaries etc. that Buffy and Spike were never physical after the attempted rape. One of my main problems with the attempted rape scene is that it doesn’t make sense for Spike’s character. Spike has a long history of women he is obssessed with rejecting him, and he never tried to rape any of them. I wish the writers had made him try to vampify her. He was always going on about how she needed to embrace the darkness with him, and that could have set the story arc events of Season 7 the same, without the complicated implications set about by attempted rape.

    • That’s a good point about Spike’s history. Also that trying to turn Buffy into a vampire would have fit better with the narrative. It was Joss’ commentary in one of the last episodes that caused me to rethink whether Buffy and Spike had sex again. The scene was the one where Buffy and Spike just look at each other in the basement after he’s said she can stay with him for the night. Joss said he felt it was open to the audience’s interpretation. If the watcher believed they made love, great. If the watcher believed they just held each other and slept, great. I was a little surprised by that because I felt Buffy would not want a physical relationship with Spike again. I’ll have to listen to the commentary again, though, since you thought Joss ruled it out. Maybe I missed part of what he said.

    • Theresa Basile says:

      I understand the reason why many people prefer an attempted vamping storyline, but it doesn’t quite work for me – because for all of his bluster about wanting Buffy to “be in the dark” with him, I don’t believe he ever wanted her to be a vampire.

  4. Lexi says:

    Great post – your experiences were my experiences. I still want Buffy and Spike together, after all these years, because within the universe the soul is a way to excuse behavior (even though I believe Angel is a construct Angelus made when he experienced guilt – he wasn’t a different person, but he tried to be).

    My stance on Seeing Red is that it is incredibly irresponsible, but it is understandable and fits somewhat into the storytelling. I would have expected Joss and his ace team of writers to be able to come up with something different and less problematic.

    I’m curious as to what you’d think about consent in the Season 8 Buffy comics, especially the latter parts. I would never recommend that someone read the comics (they’re terrible), but there are major issues in Season 8 that the boy’s club of writers, editors and artists don’t seem to recognize (hint: Angel gets Buffy raped. By the Universe), and I would be fascinated by your take.

    As for Joss and Buffy/Spike sex post-Seeing Red, at a convention immediately after the episode aired, someone in the audience ranted about Spike being a rapist (I assume she liked Buffy/Angel), and Joss had to say yes, he thought it would be wrong for them to have sex. Later on the commentary for the episode was made, and by that time Joss decided to leave it up to the viewer. About a year ago he told an interviewer that Spike/Buffy was his favorite pair because of the Beatrice/Benedick relationship going on, which he’s obviously a fan of, if his directing Much Ado About Nothing is anything to go on.

    • Theresa Basile says:

      In terms of the season eight comics, I read the first half, and then spoiled myself for the latter half, and that was enough for me to declare it NOT CANON and forget about them.

  5. lauren says:

    You don’t have to declare the horrible comics NOT CANON lol. Joss said that he would have gone a completely different direction if he had done a Season 8 on tv. Fans of the comics argue this with me, but to me that makes the entire “Season 8″ title of the comics irrelevant.

  6. Jojo says:

    That’s really an excellent summation of why I could see Spike and Buffy getting back together in the way they did – because after an experience like that trust is so much more important than whether or not they had sex. One thing that has always bothered me is the fact that Xander actually made a very serious attempt to rape Buffy and it was not only never dealt with, Giles decided Xander could pretend he didn’t remember it. I actually find that more upsetting than Seeing Red because there was no atonement, no recognition of the enormity, and being a hyena doesn’t really give him a pass (hyena rape of human girls not being a real problem).

    As for Willow – if you take the horrific drug metaphor and run with it (yeah – so hated that sledgehammer approach) you could say Willow got addicted to meth and almost killed Dawn, and then later when she was higher than a kite tried to kill…well, everyone.

    Most of all, the fans who refuse to even look at the subject rationally drive me nuts. Yeah – Bangel vs Spuffy (I’m actually a Spangel fan – so no dog in that race) is way too emotional – way to real – for some people. Rape can be a huge trigger for some, which is why accusing people of liking rape is beyond the pale.

    • Theresa Basile says:

      I’ve written about “The Pack,” and honestly, I do give Xander a pass for that action. I think demonic possession by an animal is an extenuating circumstance. (This is the post I wrote on it: http://theresabasile.com/wp/2012/04/10/btvs-and-consent-issues-episode-1-06-the-pack/).

      As for Willow, yeah, she tried to destroy the world and also brought Buffy back from the dead against her will. People don’t seem to have a problem with Buffy forgiving Willow for the gross violation of Buffy’s body so I’m not sure why it’s a huge shocker that she would also forgive Spike.

  7. AutoCorrectHappens says:

    1. Unlike some fans I have never actually found BtVS to be a show with a strong “feminist” message. I don’t believe that making a woman capable of kicking ass automatically equates that character with being a feminist role model. Buffy was not the first female to have super strength and fight the forces of evil and she won’t be the last. I am not saying that there isn’t any grounding in feminist ideology on the show, but I just never saw the show as particularly female empowering. In fact one could make the argument that Buffy has even less autonomy and authority of her life than any other woman in the history of the world because she has no choice in being the Slayer (which is also a frequent battle cry of hers throughout the seasons). Having no choice but to be a hero ipso facto means that Buffy is not quite as much the hero that some people would like to make her out to be.

    2. From a strictly artistic perspective (writing, directing, etc) it is ridiculous to assume that the unique circumstances of the show should be left out of the explanation for what happened between Buffy and Spike. Again ipso facto, anyone too daft to realize they shouldn’t model their lives and romantic choices off of what someone is doing on a tv show involving fictional creatures is in serious need of help.

    3. You point out on several occasions what happened after the attempted rape but are including almost none of what led up to the attempted rape. What am I talking about? Their on again off again status for several seasons, Buffy initiating sex on many occasions and asking Spike to keep it secret even though he is telling her he wants more than a sexual relationship, Buffy telling Spike that sex with him is the only things that makes her feel, her token breathless ‘stop’ before she spins around and launches himself onto him for sex on many occasions, her beating him into hamburger meat for trying to help keep her out of jail. To ignore the pre-existing dynamics of the relationship and be shocked at his behavior in this episode is madness. I am not a rape apologist and I don’t think these are ‘excuses’ for what he did but I do think they explain how he got to that place as a character. I also think it explains some of why Buffy forgave him. Neither of them were particularly happy with their actions and both of them wanted to do things differently.

    All of that being said I too wish they had gone with a different plot device. However, I don’t think that Buffy coming to love and forgive Spike sends a message that attempted rape is hunky-dory unless the person looking at the situation takes it totally out of context (and out of it’s fictitious universe of demons and such). If the same thing happened on say….The Big Bang Theory I would probably feel much more shocked and disgusted by it. Just sayin’. Context is important.

  8. Marcus says:

    Only one thing to say : I do get where people talking about the intended rape are coming from, but I don’t think it’s the failure in storytelling so many seem to think it is.

    By this point in the season it was needed to remind us and remind Spike himself that he was a monster. A funny, relatable, sympathetic monster but a monster nonetheless. Otherwise people would never have understood why Angel acted the way he did when soulless.

    Spike was really misguided and lost but never intended to rape Buffy.
    Still, when he realized what he might have done, the horrible contradiction between his professed love for her and his action, he did what he never wanted to do before and went to get a soul.
    To resume, even a creature for which actions hold no consequences (it’s the only common denominator for soulless beings in BtVS), killing and maiming a part of its daily routine, couldn’t live with the fact that he could potentially hurt someone he loves in such a way.

    BtVS didn’t fail as a feminist show. (Nor did it ruin Spike’s character btw). It showed us that rape, even the prospect of it, was the worst thing anyone who ever wanted to belong with somebody else could do.

    Season 6 will always be my favorite season of Buffy.
    It’s ” Buffy versus Life ” and it tackled so many deep themes (depression, addiction, isolement…) in better ways than I’ve seen any TV show do before. It took courage.
    Even the addiction part that I know has been crticized sometimes, was handled quite well to my opinion. Some addictions are years in the making, rooted deep in your insecurities and fears but you can fall into quick and hard. Willow was the perfect character for such development.

    I know some people don’t like it, think BtVS should have stayed in some kind of eternal S1-S3 mindset but I think season 5 (The Body !) AND season 6 are the best thing that happened to the show.
    Suddenly it wasn’t about just life and its easily fixed problems (as much as the term “easy” can be used to describe giant snakes and apocalypses), it was about the ones that you couldn’t fix, the ones that stay with you or that you didn’t want to admit you had, the ones that put you down.
    It’s what really distinguished BtVS from any other show for me and will always give it a special place in my heart.

    (I’m only mentionning it because most Spike rants accompany a season 6 bashing)

  9. Safron says:

    As someone who has experienced sexual violence, season 7 almost constantly triggered me. That a “feminist” show would use attempted rape as nothing more than a plot device to make a male character more sympathetic is horrifying, depressing, and full of fail. This is feminism 101 stuff here.

    I think you’re right. It is in character for Buffy to start falling for Spike again. Because she has never been allowed to deal with trauma, I can easily see her developing Stockholm Syndrome! It just would have been nice for the writers to focus on how unhealthy her coping methods were. It also just would have been nice for the writers to not waffle about and bloody come out and say that it was completely in Spike’s character to try and rape Buffy, because violent, manipulative, controlling men have been know to do that, like always. But no, random guilt over hurting a womyn he has never ’til this point cared about hurting in the slightest. Or the two centuries full of womin he has never cared about hurting (and by hurting I mean raping, because you’d have to be an idiot to not think that he and all other male vampires are not serial rapists. We know for a fact Angel was).

    It sets Buffy up as this “special woman”. One who is better than the others, and therefore doesn’t deserve to be harmed (raped) like other womin.

    Fundamentally, that it was love that motivated him to get a soul still makes it about him. He only didn’t want to rape Buffy (except for, like, that one time) because HE loved her. Those other womin weren’t good enough to be loved, and so he didn’t care.

    Sorry if this isn’t very lucid. I haven’t slept and I just rewatched some Buffy so I’m pissed.

    • slasher48 says:

      I completely agree. There are three plot points I will forever be angry about in Buffy: C) Faith sexually assaulting Xander in 3×15 and then that being the thing she JOKES about even when she’s visibly redeeming herself for everything else because literally no one ever cares about men being assaulted even when they hold the rapist accountable for all else? Fuck off on that, Buffy PTB. B) Again, raping a man, Faith raping Riley in 4×15 and RILEY being blamed for agreeing when he was unable to give informed consent cos he thought she was his GIRLFRIEND. Riley being the vilified party there and Faith never being noted as having raped, just having punished Buffy by “fucking her boyfriend again”. This in addition to the icky thing she was trying to do to Angel in 3×17. I love Faith’s arc, I love how it treated her for the most part, but there is a serial problem in TV with treating f/m sexual assault (incl. rape) as serious and worth punishment and repentance. I have the same problem with the demon Meg in SPN, and they didn’t even TRY to redeem her in any legit way.

      A) THE BIG ONE YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT HERE. Spike nearly raping Buffy, ACTUALLY sexually assaulting her, after two seasons or more of objectifying, bullying, threatening, abusing, and manipulating her, with a demonic sense of ~love (which is a frequent recurrence in supernatural ‘verses involving demons) being “not brains but blood” as though it’s sentient and he couldn’t possibly control it by showing respect for her choices or affection for her that wasn’t pathologically dependent on earning her love.

      Especially since then, instead of the focus being on the (INCREDIBLY FASCINATING AND QUITE NOVEL) idea of post-S6 “Spike” and “Spuffy” actually being William or a William-controlling-Spike hybrid like early days Angel finding his feet after the curse, the Liam or Angel to Spike’s Angelus, the lines being blurred repeatedly with very little depiction of the difference (which as was said above, did SHIT on the canonical idea of what a “soul” is, though in the FIRST SEASON Angel points out that the demon possessing your body doesn’t have access to your soul. Angel and William, souled vampires, are actually the souls, the original human personalities suffering the memories and remembered sensations, guilt and need for redemption, they DON’T deserve because they had no control over what the demon did after they were turned; that’s as close to canonically explained as I can see it getting)…it seemed as though we were meant to see them as the same kind of creature, which is disgusting, because IT IS, I don’t care what anybody says, a terrible message to send that instead of it being two creatures possessing the same body with wildly different personalities and amounts of humane feeling, a rapist monster and a human who remembers the act and hates himself for it, the rapist (which again, yeah, good fucking point here, he ONLY feels remorse for Buffy, not for the other people ever, even though in Angel he says “I didn’t really care about the whole Evil thing” or something like that) just needed to redeem himself and we’re all good. It’s all good, he just couldn’t not rape her, and that’s okay because he felt bad afterward. I would have much preferred if Joss didn’t try SO HARD to create metaphors for the failures of men and women who would forgive them for them but also fight if they endangered others, and had acknowledged with Spike as much as he did Angel that DEMONS ARE NOT MEN and RAPE OR POSTCOITAL ABANDONMENT AND MALE DEMONIZATION SHOULD NOT BE FORGIVEN. I loved 3×10, for instance, because of that, because despite Buffy forgiving Angel for ANGELUS’S CRIMES, despite “you’re not him, that won’t work anymore” even before that in 2×14, she refuses to let him feel sorry for himself (like Spike does, putting the focus of hurting her on HIMSELF), to weaponize his guilt, because she was the victim just as much as he was of Angelus, and she remembers, she’s got trauma too.

      P.S. I really object to the idea that because Buffy can forgive those things of her FRIENDS (Willow, whose downward spiral parallels Buffy’s in S6 for a REASON, tyvm) and a souled vampire she she loved (whom she pointedly UNDERSTOOD had a dangerous, trust-straining past) who literally was not there to hurt her because she loved the SOUL and S2 was the demon with the soul GONE and not controlling anything and BUFFY KNEW THAT (in fact, it’s the only reason I can sit through the blurred lines [Thicke pun intended] of S7, that Buffy has dealt with a demon and a soul in the same body before and knows that they are typically VERY different.), and that because Buffy didn’t show PTSD for EVERYTHING, or because Buffy was violent and upset with Spike in S5/S6, that it “makes sense” for her to get back with her rapist (and no, I don’t care that he didn’t accomplish penetration because she has super strength, he wanted to and he would have because what he wanted to earn from her was more important than what she was open to giving) ever.

      I think it’s really important to note that the show blatantly didn’t CARE what message it was sending, as long as it could give “Spuffy” more airtime (otherwise, it would have made much starker than it already did the contrast b/w demon and soul and made it much clearer than it ALREADY DID that Buffy’s reliance on “Spike” aka William with Spike’s strength and memories was in large part because she was in over her head and he was powerful and she needed his help to defeat the First; not many others in her camp were that strong). And I think that the controversy between Spuffy and Buffy/Angel is wholly unearned and frankly bullshit, because only one of them actually had shit to apologize for when they “betrayed her and violated her”. Now, judging Spuffy and Angelus/Buffy or S7 William hybrid/Buffy and Buffy/Angel is a totally different story, because Spike and Angelus are on pretty even keels, different kinds of monsters or no, and William and Angel are clearly closer to each other in terms of equal respect for Buffy and consideration of her feelings.

      This as a pointed critique of a show that I do, actually, think is largely feminist, if not perfectly so (because wow with the lack of women of color, disabled women, or transgender women, and wow with things like the benevolent sexism of not calling Faith’s rape rape, etc. etc.), and as part of the reason I find it very difficult to trust people who genuinely have to /decide/ whether or not Buffy/Angel or Spike/Buffy (as in not-Angelus and not-William) was more preferable: people who think that S7 should be considered the redemption and forgiveness of a rapist (if a likable, charismatic womanizing one, like Barney Stinson or James Bond or Pete Campbell or any of a thousand other likable “sexy” playboys who are actually usually controlling, abusive, misogynist rapists) instead of the amends of a character who was innocent of the rape but could remember the sensation of hurting her and an acceptance with understanding by the survivor that this character wouldn’t hurt her like that (even when she needed the other one instead to fight with his bloodthirsty violent demonic prowess) make me very wary of how they view other symbolic portrayals of rape culture in action. Spike’s redemption ends at his willingness to imprison himself in the body William controls for the rest of his potentially long life to earn the forgiveness of the woman he abused for multiple seasons and assaulted. William’s begins in 7×01. People would do better to remember that instead of trying so hard to find good, character-building reasons a woman would forgive him and fall in love with him (more).

  10. j. says:

    Correction to the above: “he meant nothing to her” — I actually meant that she didn’t love him… In fact, the scene was one of the few times that it appeared that she cared about hurting him and it was obvious that he did mean something to her.

  11. slasher48 says:

    Ugh, I can’t even. This is ridiculous.

    First of all, Xander was not himself, Xander was controlled by something else (something that had such a hold of the victims that they ATE the principal). Spike was himself. Spike wasn’t controlled by a demon; he was the demon, and his soul acted totally differently for the most part, just as Angel’s did. Xander NOT being controlled wouldn’t (as was shown in 2×16), and either way, trust me, I have my issues with Xander about his Buffy infatuation as well. And yes, humans with souls can act as terribly as demons (Warren!!!!!!), but that doesn’t mean vampires have souls because some of them can emulate the humane, like, remotely.

    Second of all, not demons in general (Clem doesn’t cooooount; neither does Lorne), VAMPIRES are soulless. Yes, the pilot likely fucked that up and then Angel corrected it later in 1×07 (and in fact, Giles in 1×02, I believe, clarifies that the demon is not Xander’s friend, it is the thing that killed him). And Liam wasn’t EVIL so much as aimless, unambitious, and abused by his father (nor was Darla as a human–she was a dying syphilitic abused sex worker and that’s really all we know about her): something he recognizes in Buffy when he first sees her, empathizing and wanting to save her from what was done to him. As I said above, I believe, demons find it much easier to draw from aimless, abused souls more evil creatures because they’re empty vessels, clinging to no specific drive or worth, into which they can pour villainy. William’s drive was a codependent, pathological need to be loved (like his mama loved him), and his demon shaped that into Spike’s damaging perception of love and how you MAKE someone feel it: that doesn’t make him BETTER than them, just cos Spike as a shitty Evil creature had a goal (to contend with) and there were no goals to incorporate into Liam’s or Darla’s demons, so the demons got to be whatever they wanted and shockingly chose Evil. (It’s not “part of the soul” remaining. It’s “part of what was taken from the human in creating the demon”.)

    More to the point, inserting the chip was not rape, fuck off. And if you truly believe that Spike wasn’t Evil to begin with cos he still had some soul, then why the hell would he be upset about not being able to be so because the chip stopped him from being so? You’re contradicting yourself. Also a rape victim raping people is not absolved of the action being Evil because they felt it before. Also “against his own nature no less” yet “Spike isn’t really a soulless evil demon”: make up your fucking MIND. Is he Evil and so pure and noble cos he fights who he is for her, or is he secretly Good and redeemable but controlled by his abuse from women?

    Third of all, rape and abuse is NEVER defensible (if it’s of your own free will), no matter whether or not the person you’ve been badgering to love you for at least a season (or more: ‘member when he’s like “hey look I’m not feeding on trauma victims!”) consents to loveless sex with you or not. Spike was not a victim of Buffy being callous; Spike is a demon who thinks how love works doesn’t involve respect and/or personhood, “it’s not brains, it’s blood” etc., who used the depressive isolation Buffy felt from her friends after she came back to pull her into a sexual relationship and used the sexual relationship to try to PROVE to her that he knew her feelings better than she did (cos sexual attraction can’t exist without romantic love, right?? Right? Yes please, shove those who sexual orientations and romantic orientations don’t align under the bus more).

    She /thought/ she was using him once she thought about it (and he sure as hell fed that perception, like an abuser will) and wanted to stop, but she had every right to feel sexual attraction but not romantic and/or consent to sex but not to love (and yeah, fuck that idea, that she was just “afraid of x” so that’s why she didn’t love him or admit to loving him: “ask me AGAIN why I could never love you” she says after he sexually assaults her, and before that “I could never trust you enough to love you”, so like, THAT REALLY ISN’T IT. BUFFY thinking “it’s complicated” in S7 because he framed the assault as “your fault for not loving me so I had to make you” doesn’t make it complicated [apart from the part where Spike isn't William and thus being ensouled MAKES IT SO, as Buffy knows better than anyone after Angel/Angelus], it makes her beholden to victim-blaming herself for the rape.)

    Fourth of all, fans have every right not to want a character without a soul with the hero, considering that villains, even pathologically dependent infatuated ones–as we’ve seen with Spike–in romantic/sexual relationships with heroes almost always GUARANTEES abuse and rape. Angel WAS the only vampire who should have been with Buffy, because he wasn’t the demon; he was the soul, and thus he treated her humanely. Everything wrong with Buffy/Angel was external, unpredicted by either of them, causing them both devastation and making them BOTH reluctant to ever do anything that might put them in that position again, because they care about other people as well as each other. Everything wrong with Spuffy was created by it being Spike in the relationship. And no, not giving Dawn up to Glory was not “redemption” in any moral sense, because without Buffy, Spike wouldn’t have given a shit about Dawn, just like he didn’t give a shit about all his past victims until it wasn’t him but the soul, William, feeling the guilt.

    Fifth of all, caveats or no caveats, fuck off, you ARE a rape and abuse apologist if you think that S6 victimizes Spike more than it does Buffy. You’re also ableist as fuck, for thinking that abused abusers who become rapists are more defensible than depressed people who admit to using a sexual relationship (into which they were repeatedly coerced when they felt as isolated as they could get by a skillful abuser) as self-harm and then end it because it feels disrespectful, only to be sexually assaulted by someone who can’t let go because their dependent love is unhealthy and pathological. Regardless of human or demon, that’s not on: “more likely, did he believe it was over and was so psychologically twisted around by their past interactions and his history as a victim of abuse that he lost control?” is disgusting and you should be ashamed. Abuse victims don’t by nature have the moral high ground BECAUSE they were abused.

    Sixth of all, Buffy is a hero for a reason. Spike is a villain. They’re framed respectively because they are good and evil people accordingly. Buffy’s abuse is in REACTION to Spike’s, as is the usual case with heroes and villains, NOT the other way around. No, it doesn’t matter that when Spike loved Buffy, he chose to do good stuff to impress her so she’d love him. No, it doesn’t matter that when the soul returned in S7, William acted totally differently to Buffy and everybody else and was redeemed for crimes he didn’t actually commit cos he was in the ether. No, it doesn’t actually matter that Drusilla turned him and they treated each other like shit, just as Angelus and Darla did, because demons love harmfully–abusively, predatorily, and without respect for each other’s personhood and agency. That makes him sympathetic; not NOT a villain, a demon, an abuser and rapist, a character who has caused harm for a century and doesn’t care about the harm he causes unless it’s to “his” woman in a way that loses her. “No matter what he did as a vampire” and “Spike was more of a victim” is all I have to hear from you to know that you will never see this the way it is meant to be seen from a non-apologist perspective.

    Seventh of all, don’t you EVER compare Spike/Buffy to LGBT representation, because a straight-coded relationship in which people like you try to make us sympathize with the controlling, obsessive, abusive male rapist by insisting the female victim had an equal share in the problem is the farthest thing from it (the most par for the course, dime a dozen, standard procedure bullshit) that could possibly exist. Don’t you dare insult queer people’s need for representation curbed by heteronormativity by likening it to people who don’t want villainous demons shipped with human heroes (Christian or not, that’s TOTALLY understandable). Don’t. you. dare.

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