Why Seeing Red Is The Worst Episode of Buffy: Defending Spike Part 1

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This is the first of a series of essays anonymously defending the character of Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer written by my friend Scholastica and edited by me. To this day, the fandom is divided about whether Spike was better as a villain or as an anti-hero, whether Buffy and Spike really loved each other or not, and especially about what is called “the bathroom incident” or “the attempted rape scene” in the Season 6 episode Seeing Red. There are mentions of abusive relationships, sexual violence, and other uncomfortable “trigger warning phrases” throughout this series of essays. However, Scholastica and I feel that these things need to be said because we both love Buffy, the titular character, and the character of Spike. So please read these essays with an open mind. Civil discussions are welcome, but keep in mind I moderate comments here.  You have been warned.

 


One of the most controversial plot lines of Season Six of
Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the torrid and abusive affair that springs up between the newly-resurrected titular hero of the series and the soulless but chipped vampire Spike.  The half-season story arc involves violent and secretive sex between the two characters, angry verbal spats, and one brutal scene in an empty alley.  All of this ugliness culminates in the horrific bathroom scene of Seeing Red, in which Spike attempts to assault Buffy.  In the aftermath of this painful scene, Spike journeys to Africa, and audiences are led to believe he is trying to remove his chip so that he can return to being the Big Bad.  Instead, the vampire undergoes strenuous trials and ends the season by regaining his soul.

Internet commentary reveals that Seeing Red is one of the most divisive episodes of the show.  Former fans of the character often find themselves unable to forgive Spike’s actions.  For the vampire’s detractors, the attempted rape is proof that his love for Buffy was never real.  “Spuffy” shippers who continue to love Spike after Seeing Red are sometimes accused of justifying or dismissing rape.  Now, I have no intention of excusing Spike’s actions in Seeing Red.  He attempts to rape Buffy and needs to undergo penance.  I believe he does. However, the episode does not change how I feel about him or his relationship with Buffy.  This essay, the first in a series that defends Spike as a character, explains why.

Before beginning, however, I would like to put forward a disclaimer:  I view Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a practicing Catholic.  I do not mention this fact because I am trying to convert anyone or dreg up controversial Church teachings, so I would politely ask that no one troll this essay or the next ones about subjects they do not address.  I realize that Joss Whedon is an atheist and that, like most shows on television in the twenty-first century, the bulk of the romantic relationships depicted on Buffy are illicit by Catholic standards.  I happen to believe that Christians should still engage with art that disagrees with their worldview, and the wonderful thing about the Slayerverse is that it brings up all sorts of fascinating moral and philosophical issues that viewers from diverse backgrounds will likely interpret differently.  I bring up my own religious background mainly because it would be impossible for me to address such topics as the nature of love and morality, free will, ensoulment, and redemption without drawing openly upon the Thomistic philosophical tradition that undergirds so much of my Catholic faith.

Ironically, these issues are much easier to explore in rockier relationships than in easy-going ones, making Spike and Buffy’s romantic entanglement a perfect avenue.  The “Spuffy” relationship exemplifies in many ways the increasingly complex moral universe of the show itself. Throughout seasons Two through Four of Buffy, all soulless vampires were claimed to be incapable of moral good.  By Season Five, this assumption no longer seems set in stone.  Moreover, as the series progresses, it portrays more and more human villains.  By the end of Season Six, even the heroes are shown making serious moral mistakes.

Set against the backdrop of this increasing moral complexity, the attempted rape in Seeing Red seems like an awkward late-series attempt to restore the paradigms set up in the early seasons of Buffy.  For the past two seasons, the writers themselves have appeared unsure how to treat the “monster” who wants to be a man for his beloved.  The bathroom scene is apparently their answer to the question of whether or not Spike can be good without the oft-mentioned soul.  Unfortunately, it does not really accomplish this task because the scene itself feels forced and unnatural.  Like many viewers, I consider the attempted rape to be borderline character assassination of Spike.  Not only do I object to the way it is presented on the show, I also believe that it does not fit with what has been slowly established about Spike’s background and personality through the past seasons.  Thus, for the rest of this essay, I will explore my manifold objections to the scene.

 

Objection #1: The Scene is Unnecessary to Advance the Narrative

This objection is actually the least bothersome for me because I do understand the sort of hero’s journey the writers were trying to tell:  A beloved character hits rock bottom and commits the most heinous sin the show’s feminist universe can imagine.  It should be unforgivable, but the possibility of forgiveness is raised nonetheless.  Confronted with his own interior ugliness, the character goes on a quest to redeem himself.  Most of the psychological force of this narrative is blunted because the writers were also trying to trick viewers into thinking Spike was on his way to Africa to remove the chip.  Nevertheless, it would make for a good story if it were not for the other objections on my list.  The point of this objection is not that the story they were trying to tell is lacking in cathartic satisfaction.  Rather, it is that it was not the only way to spur Spike towards redemption.  The beauty of fiction is that writers have an infinite number of ways to get characters from point A to point B, and while not all stories are equally compelling, there were plenty of other options for Spike that could have served just as well.

For instance, there were a number of Spike lovers who would have preferred a soulless redemption for the vampire.  I actually have a lot of sympathy for this position.  This may surprise some readers, given that Catholics are generally pretty big on souls, but I think it makes a lot of narrative sense.  Because I plan on delving into the issue of vampire souls in more depth in my next two essays, I would prefer not to spend too much time discussing it here.  Suffice to say that I believe the soul canon in Slayerverse is sufficiently murky that a soulless redemption could have been believable.  Moreover, a good portion of Spike’s appeal is due to his ability to defy the apparent norms of vampire metaphysics, and a soulless redemption would have seemed like a natural extension of this aspect of his character.  I am not saying this is my preferred solution, but it would have been a plausible option.

The general impression I have gotten from fans who prefer soulless redemption is that a lot of their objections to Spike’s ensoulment have to do with the heavy effect it has on his character.  Whatever else the acquisition of a vampire’s soul may bring, it does seem pretty intertwined with feelings of intense guilt. While I do consider contrition a necessary component of redemption, I can also understand why advocates of soulless redemption dislike the guilt-fest.  In Season Seven, the newly-souled Spike is put through a tremendous among of physical and mental suffering, retreating in the first half of the season to a dank basement where his insanity is given full play.  He comes dangerously close to being transformed from a fun-loving punk rocker to a brooder like Angel, Buffy’s first vampire lover.  I’ll admit that I loved seeing Spike get his taste for a good fight (and his awesome coat) back in Get it Done.  With or without his soul, I prefer to see the sort of penitence that fits his personality, not Angel’s.

For me, the real advantage of a soulless redemption arc, however, is less about avoiding all the Angel-style broodiness and more about how the other characters react to the change.  For so much of Season Six, Buffy and the Scoobies justify their mistreatment of Spike by citing his presumed soullessness.  One of the unfortunate side effects of him getting his soul back is that it allows Buffy to change her opinion of him without having to confront the past cruelty she inflicted upon him.  While she does admit in one scene of Never Leave Me that his changes began before his ensoulment, she does not really dwell on his pre-soul moral growth.  Instead, whenever she addresses his detractors in Season Seven, her defense of him always begins with “It’s different now.  He has a soul.”  The soul comes across less as a requirement for morality than something all the cool kids have to have in order to please their peers.

Despite these considerations, I do have a slight preference for souled redemption because the quest to regain his soul works very nicely with the chivalric tropes I believe underline Spike’s character.  However, I still dislike using attempted rape as the catalyst for this soul quest, when there were a number of other ways to push Spike to embark upon it.  For instance, our boy could have continued to backslide into lesser crimes, much like the ones he committed in Season Five.  Such a narrative would make his decision to seek a soul the result of the realization that his good intentions were not enough without a moral compass.  Instead of reversing all the moral progress that has been made, his soul quest would be the natural culmination of the previous season’s character arc.  Alternatively, he could have sought the soul after the brutal beating Buffy gives him in Dead Things, either as an effort to understand her pain or to prove her harsh assessment of him wrong.  He could also have sought it after her rejection of him in As You Were, in order to be considered worthy of a continued relationship with the Chosen One.  He could even have sought it after the painful post-Anya scene in Entropy, when he seems so depressed that he almost welcomes death at Xander’s hands.  Any of these options would have seemed more in character with Spike in Season Six.  Regardless of what alternative one prefers, the point is that there were many ways of getting him to that cave in Africa without the bathroom scene.

Objection #2: It is only partially true that Buffy is responsible for stopping Spike

This is another relatively minor point, but one I cannot help making.  Technically, yes, the whole horrible scene ends because Buffy gives Spike a good kick that brings him up short.  Personally, I would have liked to see Spike stop himself (barring, of course, completely eliminating the scene altogether).  However, I suspect that the writers ended it the way they did in order to show a woman successfully fighting off a potential rapist, and I think that is a worthy enough message to send to female viewers that ultimately I accept the need for Buffy’s kick on those grounds.  A woman should never assume that words alone will end an assault and victims should fight back.  However, I will point out that Buffy’s kick might only have halted the attack temporarily.  She does not kill him or incapacitate him in any way.  Nor does she immediately try to escape.  If he had truly wanted to rape Buffy, the kick might only have given him a moment’s hesitation before he tried again.  In fact, I suspect that many real-life rapists might actually become more enraged by the kick.  Spike is clearly horrified.  So while her actions do (rightfully) halt the attack, I think it should be taken into consideration that the vampire is not evil enough to try again.  This does NOT remove his responsibility for the original attempt and I am not trying to argue that he should be given credit for not continuing his attack.  What I am saying is that perhaps it should give us pause that plenty of souled human males would have gone back for a second round of struggling.  I think this reveals something about his understanding of the situation and his intentions, which I will explore in a later objection.

Objection #3: The scene feels out of character for Spike at this point.

I actually think that it is out of character for him at every point in his personal evolution, but especially so by Season Six.  I am not saying that their relationship is a particularly healthy one or that Spike’s evil inclinations are fully in the rearview mirror.  What I am saying is that raping the woman he loves no longer seems like something he would try to do, if it ever had been part of him to begin with.  I found his attempted rape out of character for at least three reasons: 1) the scene does not fit with how sex has been connected to violence in their relationship up to this point 2) the scene provides no plausible motive for the attempted rape that fits either Spike’s personality or his relationship to Buffy and 3) the scene ignores the character development that has happened through the past two seasons.

My Vampiric Spirit, Confession, and Conversion

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Author note: This is a guest post written by my friend Kristin from Austin and edited by me. Kristin will be received into the Catholic Church on Holy Saturday.  Please pray for her and all others who will be coming Home.

At the time I encountered Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I was fresh out of college, having laid aside my checkered Protestant past for a relativistic agnosticism layered in a pleasant self-deception.  I figured, if any action helped me out within the simple constraint of “not committing murder”, it was certainly without reproach, and I could still consider myself a “good person”.  Then, a pivotal episode in Buffy Season 7’s “Beneath You” tilted my worldview enough to make me uncomfortable—uncomfortable enough to eventually become a Catholic.

In the closing scene of the episode, Spike and Buffy are in an empty, lovely, moonlit church together, and Buffy is concerned that Spike has lost his sanity. Up until this point, the rakish ne’er-do-well vampire was forced by an implanted chip in his brain to do no harm to Buffy Summers, leading him to try and do good out of his love for the Slayer. Unfortunately, his attempts at being good were also mixed in with his complicated, tumultuous affair with Buffy throughout the latter half of Season 6, culminating in him attempting to rape Buffy in “Seeing Red.” His shock at what he was about to do led to him going on a quest to receive his soul so that he can be the man he thinks Buffy deserves. Now ensouled, Spike is uncomfortably, completely conscious and guilt-ridden over his innumerable sins. I realized that there was something true there being spoken about sin and the need for redemption.

It would take me several more years to make my way to the Catholic Church and the lesson I gained from watching “Beneath You” was a crucial reason to why I was becoming Catholic. However, I didn’t fully understand the importance of this scene until I went to my first Confession to prepare for receiving the rest of the Sacraments at Easter. For some inexplicable reason, I found myself terrified of this sacrament.

We are born vampires due to original sin.  Like vampires, we are driven into the black night of our sins and transgressions, subconsciously terrified of being burned alive by the pure light of Christ. Like vampires, we’re driven away from pain and toward hedonistic pleasure, largely propelled by the forces of fear, anger, hate, lust, and greed. We live entirely for ourselves and see others only as a source of food for us—emotional affirmation, physical pleasure, and social recognition—and we’d best eat them before we’re consumed ourselves. We drive our greedy jaws into others without a thought, a care, or a twinge of remorse, and suck them dry, all in a desire to quench our endless thirst, our neverending desire to fill the emptiness within ourselves with something.

In the midst of all this, the deep terribleness of the human heart, Christ the Slayer wants to kill our vampiric selves and ensoul us, which He does so well through the Sacraments. He calls us out of the darkness, and He watches us as we pathetically stagger out from the shadows, crouching, cringing away from the Light.

I spent my first Confession, sitting in very comfortable chair in a cheery, bright, well-lit office, feeling with every fiber of my being that I was about to go up in smoke as I rattled off my list of sins before the priest. And go up in smoke, my ego did. Like the newly ensouled Spike, I stumbled around, slowly realizing for the first time the depths of what I’ve done to Christ and Christ in others. My scarred heart, rife with manipulation, greed, carelessness, and selfishness, was laid bare before me in the harsh Light, no longer fancied up by the clever illumination of the night.

The priest gave me my penance, a single Our Father, and instructed me to meditate on the mercy of God. Not only did I meditate, I was sucker-punched by this overwhelming Divine Mercy toward me.  The emptiness inside of me was filled with the infinite waters that gushed from His Sacred Heart. It’ll be a lifelong process of torching my ego, repairing my heart, and fighting for my soul. I know that even after I am received into the Church, I’ll be in Confession again and again.  But like Spike at the end of “Beneath You,” I embrace the Cross which burns away my sins, and ask “Can we rest?”

Though the episode doesn’t answer the question, Saint Augustine does: “For You have formed us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in You.”

We can rest, brothers and sisters, in the arms of our Lord. As we celebrate Good Friday, let us hide ourselves in His wounds and fill ourselves with the endless fountain of His love and mercy.

Author’s note: If you want to know more about how the theme of forgiveness is seen in the Buffyverse, check out my post from last year.

Something Blue: Top 10 Buffy Episodes #10

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On paper, “Something Blue” should have been a bad episode. It was written by Tracey Forbes, who also wrote “Beer Bad” and “Where the Wild Things Are,” two of the least-liked episodes in the whole series. The episode is about Willow using magic to get over her broken heart, only for the spell to go totally awry. But something about this episode just had me laughing out loud. You wanna know what it was? Read the recap to find out!

Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Willow’s boyfriend, Oz, broke up with her and left Sunnydale in the hopes of taming his inner werewolf. Former Big Bad Spike has now become the Sitcom Annoying Neighbor when the mysterious government organization called The Initiative put a chip in his head that prevents him from hurting or biting humans. Also, Buffy has a new potential boyfriend in the form of one Riley Finn, who in my opinion is as boring as a cardboard cut-out. But I digress.

The episode starts with Willow going to Oz’s empty dorm room, sniffing out one of his shirts and missing him badly.

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Cut to a daytime shot of the UC Sunnydale campus, where Riley is found hanging a banner for the college’s lesbian alliance.

 

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Riley asks Buffy out on a date, a picnic on-campus. And Buffy is definitely all for going out. When she goes out on patrol with Willow later that night, however, she admits that while Riley is safe, there’s still something missing. Willow points out that Buffy doesn’t feel like she’s in misery the way she did with Angel. Buffy fesses that something in her associates love with pain and fighting.

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It’s clear that Buffy never heard the CS Lewis quote “To love at all is to be vulnerable.” One reason I never invested in the Buffy/Riley relationship was because they lacked serious chemistry and were never completely open and honest with each other. Besides that, Riley had major competition in the eye candy department:

 

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Spike is currently chained to Giles’s bathtub as part of Buffy interrogating him about the commandos. Spike, however, doesn’t exactly recall much. He’s fed blood via a “Kiss the Librarian” mug since the chip in his head renders him unable to bite people. Giles and Buffy want to be certain that Spike isn’t a threat to him and Spike isn’t taking the fact that he’s now been reduced to comic relief all that well.

And then Buffy teases him. And then a giggle escapes from my mouth. An then there’s a certain look in Spike’s eyes-

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But enough of that. Willow proposes using a truth spell on Spike. Buffy and Spike think that Willow’s doing alright, but Spike says that she’s hanging by a thread. The bleach blonde vampire turns out to be right. Willow goes to Oz’s room again to find it empty. She finds out from a friend that Oz has asked for his things to be shipped to wherever he moved to. Buffy tries to give advice to Willow, but it’s clear the redhead is in pain.

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The next day, Giles calls Willow to check on whether she has the ingredients for the truth spell and Spike whines about missing Passions. Buffy and Riley have their picnic and Willow arrives all mopey.

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Later that night, the Scooby Gang goes out to the Bronze as Blink 182’s “All the Small Things” plays. At first, everyone thinks that Willow’s doing okay and Willow boasts about her newfound resolve only for a small beer bottle to spill out from under her skirt. Willow asks Buffy “Isn’t there some way I can make it go away? Just ’cause I say so? Can’t I make it go poof?” Buffy gives Willow a look that says “No.” But that doesn’t stop Willow from trying anyway.

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The next morning, Giles visits Willow to check on why she forgot about doing the truth spell. The two of them have a minor argument and Willow declares “You don’t see anything!” to him.

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Later on, Giles tries doing the truth spell on his own, only for his vision to worsen. Spike takes advantage of the situation and escapes. Giles quickly calls Buffy to tell him of Spike’s escape, just as Buffy was trying to help Willow get over the fact that she seemingly failed the “Will be Done” spell. Buffy finds Spike and drags him back to Giles’s house where the two start arguing. Meanwhile, Willow mopes at Xander’s house and Xander tries to help Willow understand why Spike is necessary to have around. Which leads Willow to say: “Well fine! Why doesn’t she just go marry him?”

Back in Giles’s apartment, Giles finds Spike kneeling before Buffy. A strange feeling starts rising inside of me. As Buffy says “Yes” to Spike’s proposal, Spike stands up and they kiss for the first time. Then Buffy shows Giles her ring and says: “Giles! You’ll never believe what’s happened.”

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And in that moment, I gasp three little words:

“I SHIP IT!”

Yep, dear readers. This was the episode in which the “Spuffy” ship attacked my heart and never let it go. For the purposes of this blog, I will try to keep my squee to a minimum, but I can’t make any promises.

Willow continues moping at Xander’s, calling him a demon magnet. Meanwhile, Giles calls Willow and Spike and Buffy start planning their wedding. The kissing scenes between these two turn me into a pile of bubbly giggles and I’m still grinning as I write this. I mean LOOK AT THEM!

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Okay, okay. I’m gonna try and hold back my giggles now. Moving on!

Giles discovers that he’s gone completely blind, so Spike offers to help while Buffy goes out to get some ingredients from the local magic shop. As she wanders around town, she sees a gorgeous wedding dress on display.

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Riley comes across her and the two of them have the most hilarious conversation, in which Buffy tells Riley she’s not interested in him because she’s getting married to Spike and invites Riley to the wedding.

Xander and Anya get attacked by demons and make a run for Giles’s apartment. Buffy announces her upcoming nuptials to them and Xander goes:

"How?! What?! How?!"

“How?! What?! How?!”

Three excellent questions, Xander. But in the midst of trying to figuring out what’s going on, Xander realizes that all the weirdness goes back to Willow, who got kidnapped by a demon named D’Hoffryn. According to Anya, D’Hoffryn turns humans into vengeance demons and Hoffy, as she calls him, makes Willow an offer. As demons rampage on the Scoobies, Willow decides to turn down D’Hoffryn’s offer. She undoes the spell and Spike and Buffy go right back to hating each other again.

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Willow bakes cookies to make up for the mess that she made. Spike teases Buffy about how she wanted “Wind Beneath My Wings” to be their song. Buffy blames the spell, but I know she’s lying. In spite of the fact that Spike and Buffy were only this adorable under the influence of a spell, and Buffy quickly went running into Riley’s arms at the end of the episode, my mind was already made up. I stepped onto the Spuffy ship and never looked back.

The episode shows that you can’t use a quick fix for your problems. It also shows that Spike and Buffy have enough chemistry to set off a nuclear warhead and have the power to divide the fandom for days to come.

I realize, of course, that I am horribly, horribly biased. But give the episode a watch if you want to see the mindset of Spuffy shippers. And if you’re not a Spuffy shipper:

 

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Screencaps of Buffy the Vampire Slayer are copyright to Mutant Enemy and 20th Century Fox and are used for editorial purposes only.

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.

The Patterns of Affinity in the Autistic Mind

So my dad was channel surfing through the news stories and my ear catches a sound bite about a man who has an autistic son who learned to communicate through watching Disney movies. As I watched the story, I saw a lot of myself in the autistic child, who I learned is now 23 years old.

The news piece about Ron Suskind’s son mentioned something called “affinity therapy” in which role-playing is used to develop social skills. As I thought about all of the things that I obsessed over as a child and the things I obsess over now, I realized that I did something along those lines as a kid. And like Owen, I was drawn to a certain type of character as I grew up.

My first obsession was Sailor Moon. I had some episodes on VHS (that’s the thing they used before DVDs to watch things, millenial readers) that I would watch over and over. The episode that I remember most of all is the episode in which Usagi/Serena is revealed to be Princess Serenity. Up until that point, I had no idea of any sort of princess, but what really got my attention was Usagi/Serena didn’t want to be a princess after Mamoru/Darien was taken away from her. In the past, I watched heroes who went into danger unafraid of anything. This was the first time that I ever saw a hero who was afraid and expressed her fear. As a child, I would watch that particular tape over and over again and sometimes pretend that I was a Sailor Scout. I also pretended to be things from other anime shows, but Sailor Moon was basically the start of it.

Anime continued to be an obsession up until my high school days, when I discovered a novel that changed my life forever. Pride and Prejudice featured Elizabeth Bennet, a young woman who was a lot like myself at the time: outspoken, witty, and a bit presumptuous. She wasn’t afraid to admit that she was wrong and to change, which was very different from the chick lit and young adult novels I read that had a lot of self-centered characters. But what really drew me to her was that she had her vulnerable moments and admitted her fears out loud. This was later shown in the YouTube adaptation The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, which became my obsession during my last year of college.

Although I never pretended to be Elizabeth Bennet, I did some theatre in high school and college and the roles I liked most were the outspoken, talkative, young female characters. Theatre became a concentrated form of “affinity therapy” because I was always playing a part in some shape or form. The best role I ever had was when I got cast in my friend’s production of The Boys Next Door. I played the role of Shiela, the love interest of Norman. Like the most of the others, my character was someone with special needs who lived in a group home. In spite of her disability, she was able to find love. And although I am no longer acting, a good percentage of my brain space has memorized entire episodes from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, which includes costume theatre segments that had me in stitches.

One particular experience of affinity therapy happened shortly after I started obsessing over Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The character I loved most was a super strong blonde character who had a vulnerable side that I could relate to, who hid that same vulnerability because it didn’t fit with the expectations others had of this particular character and yet he/she had such a dynamic personality that I rooted for him/her and wanted him/her to have a happy ending after all the heartbreak and pain he/she went through.

But wait, you ask, are you talking about Spike or Buffy? Yes.

My Buffy obsession eventually led to me cosplaying Buffy, meeting the guy who played Spike at a convention, and writing fanfiction, all of which I think fall under the affinity therapy umbrella.

All the characters I ended up loving had courage and showed their vulnerable side to the world, even when they didn’t know they were doing so. I haven’t really had the courage to do the same until now.

I want to post about my Asperger’s Syndrome more often and share my experiences of being on the autism spectrum. Lately it seems that poetry has been the best way for me to express that.

I wrote a poem back in middle school and my teacher, years later, shared that poem with some parents of autistic kids. These parents apparently saw their children’s mind in my poem, which was about feeling like I didn’t belong anywhere because my interests and ideals were different from everyone else’s. If a poem I wrote all those years ago could touch someone now, I have to keep going at it so that I can reach out and let other kids, teens, and young adults with autism and Asperger’s know that they’re not alone.

Tonight, when I was taking a walk, I watched a thunderstorm in the distance. It inspired me to write the following poem. I hope you enjoy it because there is probably going to be more to come.

 

Primal Instinct

 

Lightning dances across the sky

In a show of beauty and danger

It dances to the symphony of crickets and frogs

Mixed with the cacophony of dog barks and car horns

And in the middle of this song is the rhythm of a runner’s feet

Pounding the pavement as they run nearby

Close enough to the storm to watch,

But far enough to be safe from shock.

The primal instinct of running is fear,

And yet these feet do not run away from the storm

They dance a fine line between risk and safety

Knowing that home isn’t far away

True Love Tuesday: Why I Ship Spike/Buffy and Faith/Angel

In October 2013, I started watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer to get myself hyped up for Halloween. Since all 7 seasons were available on Netflix, I went through all 7 seasons in a matter of 5 months.

At first, I liked the Buffy/Angel relationship. I thought it was cute. I also loved Spike as a villain and I loved him with Drusilla. I was fairly certain that I would ship Bangel given how much Buffy loved him. And I still like Angel’s character to this day, but when he became Angelus, it was basically the most emotionally driven story arc I’ve ever seen next to Seasons 5.

Then everything changed when I started watching Season 3. It kept showing just why Buffy and Angel could never work in the long run. She is desperate to hold onto him while he keeps her at a constant distance, knowing the consequences of what happened in Season 2. It culminates with Buffy forcing Angel to feed on her and it shows that that is the closest thing the two of them get to having sex without Angel losing his soul.

As I said, I love Angel as a character, but what irks me about him is that his brooding demeanor. He has a reason to brood, obviously, but that kind of attitude is all wrong for Buffy. So when Faith came around in Season 3 and tried hitting on Angel, I was actually intrigued. When I watched the episodes where Faith appeared in Angel, I was even more certain that they would be better together.

Faith and Angel are birds of a feather. Both of them have seen the darker side of life and are working towards bettering themselves as people. However, Faith can bring something to Angel’s life that Buffy can’t: a wild, rambunctious spirit that can lift Angel out of the dumps and a more direct approach to life. Even if Faith and Angel had sex and Angel would lose his soul, they’d still work together and become the hottest evil couple ever. In an AU where evil rules the world, Faith would be a hardened vigilante who plays by her own rules and Angelus would encourage her to embrace the darkness she loves.

So where does that leave Buffy? Should she be with Riley? Uh, no. Riley is boring and a total hypocrite. Intimidated by Buffy because she’s stronger than him and then he goes and marries someone that can fight alongside him? Someone beat him over the head with a shovel. Repeatedly. Until he dies.

No. I ship Buffy with Spike. It started in Season 4’s “Something Blue.” The intent of the episode was supposed to show how ridiculous the Spike/Buffy relationship. Instead, I loved the idea of it. I literally went from “I know they’re under the influence of a spell, but this is so cute” to “Get a room already!” in the span of one episode. Then as soon as it was established that Spike was falling for Buffy in Season 5, I wanted Riley out of the picture way earlier than when he left and for Spike and Buffy to start hooking up. I ship them so hard, that I’ve started writing fanfiction about them. And I haven’t posted anything on fanfiction.net in years.

Why? Because again, it’s about bringing out what the other person needs. Buffy needs someone who brings fire into her life. Spike’s devil-may-care attitude combined with a softer, romantic side is perfect for Buffy who has a bad tendency to close off her emotions. It’s shown that the two of them work wonderfully together in the Becoming 2-Parter. He also gets along with her mom and when Dawn enters the picture, Spike is the one who acts as Dawn’s confidante and protector. Need we bring up the events “Intervention” (stupid BuffyBot aside)?

Yes, Spike and Buffy have a complicated relationship and Spike attempted to rape Buffy in “Seeing Red.” Attempted rape is always going to be a horrible horrible thing but the problem is that it was kind of the end result of a series of complicated events that I’ll explain on Friday. I’M NOT SAYING THAT SHE WAS ASKING FOR IT OR THAT SHE DESERVED WHAT HAPPENED. I ACKNOWLEDGE THAT WHAT SPIKE DID WAS WRONG. A really well written defense is shown in this post.

Funny thing is after that happened, he went off to get his soul so that he can become the man Buffy deserves. And their relationship was actually at its best in Season 7. It was also one of the few good things in Season 7, especially the episode Touched.

To quote Spike in Touched: “I’ve seen the best and the worst of you and I understand with perfect clarity exactly what you are.” Which is true as evidenced by this post.

Even if Spike were to lose his soul somehow, they could still work because Spike sans-soul and sans-chip has been shown to be a good ally to Buffy in Becoming Part 2. The best picture that shows their relationship was in Chosen when the two of them held hands and their hands caught fire as Spike was about to sacrifice himself. Buffy and Spike are the fire that the other one needs.

On Friday, I will cover the form of love everyone is familiar with but also misunderstands the most: Eros.