Catharsis and Character Empathizing: The Heroes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer

I have gone into detail in other entries about how one aspect about Asperger’s Syndrome is having narrowly defined interests in something, otherwise known as “obsessions.” My latest obsession, if you haven’t read my blog before, is currently Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

I said in my previous entry that one reason I started watching Buffy last year was to get into the Halloween spirit. However, another reason that I got into Buffy was because I was seeking catharsis.

The dictionary defines catharsis as: “the purging of the emotions or relieving of emotional tensions,especially through certain kinds of art, as tragedy or music.” I wanted an escape from some things that were stressing me. Without going too much into detail, somebody I wanted to cut off all ties with tried to contact me again and was in completely in denial about the hurt they caused me. This person was also into vampires, so naturally, a show where the vampires were the bad guys was just what I needed.

Joss Whedon stated that the things Buffy was put through represented the things teenagers had to overcome. Even though the first season had horrible lighting and the writing was “safe” but nothing special, I wanted more. Long story short, I watched all seven seasons of Buffy in a matter of five months.

What I love about Buffy is that I felt like I was part of that world. The show didn’t have social media marketing, just an underground of message boards and chat rooms. I didn’t chat with anyone about what I was watching. I just let the show sink into me. Not only did this show provide me the catharsis I needed, but I found myself relating to three characters from the show: Buffy, Spike, and Tara.

When I got halfway through Season 2, I was particularly drawn to all the times that Buffy felt vulnerable. I felt Buffy’s pain as Angel lost his soul. I cheered for her when she used the rocket launcher against the Judge. I cried when she sent Angel to Hell and felt so devastated that she decided to run away. I wanted her to be happy in Season 3, even as Angel was sending her mixed messages before deciding on leaving her. I loved it whenever she embraced her Slayer duties and used her powers to stand up against all who opposed her, especially in Season 4. I wanted to hug her in Season 5 when she suffered so many losses and finally decided to embrace her gift. I wanted to be there for her in Season 6 when she couldn’t find a single soul who understood what she really felt except for one particular reluctant ally. And I was on her side in Season 7, even when everyone else except for that same reluctant ally was turning against her.

I knew that I would love the show and I knew that Buffy was always going to be my fave, but there were some things I didn’t expect.

One of them was me growing to love Spike. From what my friends told me and what I read on TV Tropes, I assumed that Spike would be this poorly written character that got a large fanbase because he was the bad guy or that he was the Buffy equivalent of Loki. Boy, was I proven wrong! Getting the chip didn’t make Spike less of a badass. One fan of Buffy pointed out that it actually made him even more badass. I can’t help but agree because although I liked Spike as a comic relief character in Season 4, it wasn’t until Season 5 that I realized that I was falling for the bleach blonde vampire.

So I guess you’re wondering why and how I fell in love with this particular vampire even though I originally watched the show because the vampires were bad guys.

It’s pretty much a matter of empathy. I understood what he was going through, to an extent. I tend to sympathize more with people who experience unrequited love rather than people who are being chased by someone whose feelings they don’t returned, although both have happened to me. Spike was stupid, don’t get me wrong, but he was a bad guy who was trying to make the best of a bad situation. He stood up to a Hell Goddess and refused to reveal any information about Dawn, even if it meant getting himself killed. He helped Buffy try to deal with her depression in Season 6, even though his actions were horribly misguided. He got his soul back after realizing that his misguided actions led him to pushing things too far and he ended up saving the world in “Chosen.”

Tara Maclay was a character who didn’t appear until Season 4 and [SPOILER ALERT] ended her run towards the end of Season 6. She’s one of the characters I wish had more screen time because I saw a lot of myself in her. We were both introverted and intuitive. I loved that she did her best to help Dawn and Buffy out in Season 5 and felt like a genuine member of the family, but she was pushed to the side and eventually left the show in the most heartwrenching episode that to this day I refuse to watch after seeing it once. I also liked that she was friendly to Spike. She didn’t judge him like the other members of the Scooby Gang and she could do magic without falling into darkness like Willow. And without going into detail (again), I understood how Tara felt when it came to people who tried to control her. She learns how to stand up for herself. If I could change one thing about the show (other than how “Chosen” ended), it would be so that Tara would’ve been a bigger asset to the team.

Tomorrow, I look into the villains of Buffy and talk more about the process of catharsis.

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