I am starting this thread so that our EF family will have a place to use the comments and let us know if you DO have a hardship so, if possible, another member of the family can help in some way. (disclaimer... there will be no vetting so there is no way to control possible scamming so it's at your risk in the helping end. I doubt we have many or even any scam artists in our family BUT we will not be responsible for anyone who might use this for that purpose.)
Comments here is also the place to vent your anger or fear or depression etc.
Let's try to reach out to each other in love. This is NOT the place to put each other down so if you can't be supportive move along from this post.
Hope this can help.
*hugs* and love,
(NOT acting in the capacity as a Mod at EF, only as an individual member)
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We know you’re confused about how the upcoming Artistic Anniversary challenge will work, but don’t worry! We have answers for all your questions. See here for all the details: http://dark-solace.org/elysian/news.php?a
Hi everyone. It's nearly at that time for banner claiming - less than five hours and counting. Yay! \o/
First of all, important dates to remember:
Banner creation: 17th of July - 6th of August
Banner claiming: 7th - 13th of August
Banner confirmations: 14th – 15th of August
Writing time (but no posting of fics): 16th August - 30th September
Posting of fics to begin: from the 1st of October (and of course authors can continue to write/post throughout the month and beyond)
Now that we've got that out of the way... if you are someone who has been ogling admiring the pretties over the last few weeks (and there was just another massive upload of another 18 banners/challenges, so make sure you check them out) then here's what you need to do.
( See below the cut for more information...Collapse )
And that's it...
E-mails will be sent to authors to confirm their choice of banner, and then your Elysian Fields ID will be linked with the banner on the master list, which is why providing your penname is essential. Early email claims will not be accepted. So don't start writing until you receive your confirmation.
So when the time comes, happy claiming!
- Current Mood: excited
First of all, I just have to have to say I am very impressed with the banner entries we’ve had so far for the ‘Artistic Anniversary Challenge’. You guys are awesome!
For your convenience, the uber talented Susan has created a page for the archive, where I’ve been uploading all of the fabulous art for everyone to view and drool over. We have some talented members at Elysian Fields!
Each banner has the accompanying challenge criteria, as provided by the artists. So make sure you read over the info if you’re thinking of claiming one of the pieces. Just a friendly reminder, banner claiming is currently not open. So don’t go emailing me with a preference just yet! We’re allowing another two weeks for banner making time so that artists have ample time to submit their pieces.
To all you wonderful artists, keep them coming!
And to the authors in our community, I hope you've got your thinking caps on!
Wanna see the art? CLICK HERE \o/
- Current Mood: cheerful
The tenth anniversary of Elysian Fields is fast approaching--where has the time gone? The mods have decided a challenge is in order to celebrate this fact, and I come to you today with that information to encourage fresh blood and life (of the living and undead variety) to our wonderful community. Also, the challenge will involve both artists and writers.
So here’s the sitch. Authors have banners created for their fics all time. In most cases the art is made after the fic. Well, we’re switching it around. This will be an art before the fic challenge. It’s not a new idea, but it’s one that works, and I speak from experience having run such a challenge for a Livejournal community many years ago.
What will the Artistic Anniversary Challenge entail? Information is as follows.
( See below the cutCollapse )
That’s about it. If any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask!
Yours in Spuffy,
- Current Mood:artistic
You can see most of the panels for the issue here https://picasaweb.google.com/103058662
and you can read previous issue here https://picasaweb.google.com/103058662
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.
1. Sex and Violence in Spuffy
Even when they were enemies, Spike and Buffy’s relationship was characterized by the interplay between sex and violence. Their first fight in School Hard was peppered with sexual double-entendres. His rather nasty mockery of her relationship with Parker when he has the Gem of Amara in Harsh Light of Day at least demonstrates where his mind is while fighting her. And in perhaps my favorite episode, Fool for Love, the sensuality in their sparring is so thinly disguised it seems almost impossible to believe that even Buffy can remain in denial. Yet despite this eroticism, Spike never actually initiates sex through violence; that is Buffy’s modus operandi. Yes, once his chip stops functioning with her, he is willing to hit Buffy in other situations, but these hits are not intended as a prelude to sex—and frankly, he would have to work really hard to get even with her hits to his nose at this point. It is also implied that their sexual activities are rough. However, these activities are consensual, not forced, and it would be difficult to qualify them as genuine violence. They might be kinky, but they are not terribly out of the ordinary even for purely human couples.
I also find it interesting that whenever their fights start to get personal for Buffy, Spike has a tendency to take blows rather than give them. There’s a fascinating sort of parallelism between the sparring scene in Fool for Love and the beating Buffy gives him in Dead Things. Both take place in empty alleys. Both start out as fights between equals. And in both, Spike ultimately stops fighting and responds to Buffy’s emotional upheaval by inviting (even daring) her to hit him. One could write off these scenes as evidence of Spike’s masochism. Yet while he clearly does enjoy getting smacked around by the Slayer, he also enjoys fighting back. More importantly, his attitude in Fool for Love shifts from one of naughty but lighthearted suggestion to something more serious. And the whole of the Dead Things incident was serious, not playful. If it is masochism, then it is one based as much on an emotional need as a sexual one. Spike repeatedly demonstrates throughout the series that in moments of intensity, he would rather submit to a Slayer-thrashing than fight back. Thus, forcing himself upon Buffy in Seeing Red is a complete role reversal for him.
2. Motives and Spike’s Personality
That Spike ordinarily prefers to meet his opponents as an equal or even an inferior underscores my second point about his personality. A lot of ink has been spilled about the differences between Spike and Angelus in their soulless states. Angelus is essentially the Mr. Hyde to Angel’s Dr. Jekyll. He is calculating and cruel and revels in both dominating people and in breaking them down completely. He takes sadistic pleasure in the destruction of a human being. Rape seems entirely within Angelus’ inclinations. Spike, on the other hand, is fire to Angelus’ ice. He is more wild than calculating. His evil usually consists in amoral apathy regarding the destruction his recklessness can cause. He has committed more calculated acts of cruelty, but generally only for pragmatic purposes or to please Drusilla. His own natural preferences are for a good fight against an opponent who might actually kill him. Thus, he craves the rush of danger that comes with fighting Slayers.
We are not given information regarding Spike’s sexual history outside of Drusilla and Harmony, so we cannot be absolutely certain whether or not he has committed rapes in the past. Nor can we simply assume that because he is evil, he must have committed every crime imaginable. What we can do is speculate about his past crimes based on what we know of his character, taking into consideration that personality seems to matter in the types of evil to which a soulless vampire is inclined. In most cases, rape is far less about sexual need than it is about dominance and bullying the weaker party. Personally, I rather doubt that this type of rape ever constituted a significant part of his previous violent lifestyle. It is not that he would disapprove of it, being a creature of darkness. It’s just that dominating the weak does not seem to be his thing. On the other hand, there is a type of rape that would be a bit more plausible for Spike. Warfare is unfortunately often accompanied by the ravaging of women in sacked cities and towns. As much as I might prefer to assume that even this type of rape lay outside of Spike’s interest in his days as Big Bad, I can see someone making a reasonable case that he might have done something like this in moments of extreme bloodlust. And these rapes are just as horrible, just as traumatic for the women (and sometimes men) who experience them as the more conventional dominance-rapes. Any such crimes in his past deserve to be condemned.
Yet even if we assume the worst and say that Spike has committed either one or both of these kinds of rape at some point in his past, the idea that he would do either to Buffy frankly defies everything else we know about his character. As I have already mentioned, I do not think that dominance-rape is something that would have given Spike much pleasure even with ordinary women. And Buffy is not an ordinary woman, but a Slayer. Even in his days as Big Bad, Spike sought out Slayers because he viewed them as worthy opponents. He respects them far too much to try to break them in this way. There would be no glory in it. In fact, he had so much respect for Nikki Wood that he did not even drink her blood. This respect is also why I do not believe that he would ever commit the second type of rape against a Slayer either. The whole point of bloodlust-rapes is that the victims are not real to the perpetrators. They are unknown and nameless women, dehumanized by their association with the enemy. Slayers could never be nameless in Spike’s eyes, even in his days as a Big Bad who had not yet fallen in love with one. This becomes more significant because Spike does fall in love with Buffy.
Spike’s sense of respect for Buffy is even greater than it would be for other Slayers. Even in the confused beginning days of their relationship, when his realization that he loves her is still mixed with his past hatred, he demonstrates no desire to break her. Take Fool for Love. When Buffy rejects him, Spike goes for a gun and tries to shoot her. It’s brutal, wrong, and evil, but it is also quick. He wants to kill her, not make her suffer. This cannot be credited to the chip, because Angelus would absolutely have found a way to break Buffy in spite of it. Then, when Spike arrives at Buffy’s back patio, he cannot go through with the shooting, stopped by the sight of her emotional suffering. When he ties her up in Crush, he can only bring himself to threaten Buffy. When her safety is actually endangered, however, he releases her. Even the BuffyBot can be interpreted as an attempt—however misguided—to respect her wishes and leave the Slayer alone. Personally, I find it highly revealing that he actually arms the robot with a stake, and his scenes with it indicate that he prefers to think of Buffy as unwilling to kill him rather than incapable of doing so. Regardless, Spike never demonstrates a desire to brutalize his Slayer, either as an enemy or as a lover.
At any rate, the onscreen assault does not play as either dominance-rape or bloodlust-rape. Rather, it seems more desperate than angry. While Spike being desperate to win the love of a woman giving him the cold shoulder does fit his character, there are a host of other issues that accompany this interpretation. For one, the suggestion that a man might sincerely love a woman he sexually assaults does not bear out in real life, and it is dangerous to make such a suggestion even about a fictional character. The only way around this problem is to accept Buffy’s insistence that his feelings are not genuine, but as I will point out repeatedly in this essay, we have seen plenty of proof since Intervention that his love for her is quite real.
The other major problem with desperation-rape is that in context of their Season Six relationship it can be interpreted as an abuse victim (and, as I will argue later, I firmly believe that he deserves to be considered as such) finally lashing out against his abuser. While it is true that abuse victims do sometimes snap, this is an extraordinarily complex issue. I doubt it could ever be treated properly in a supernatural show like Buffy without the risk of confusing viewers, especially if it concerns a vampire who is supposedly evil by nature. Victims of domestic violence are frequently told by their abusers that they are evil or sinful and deserve the mistreatment. I have personally encountered individuals in abusive relationships who insisted that they were the ones at fault, even when they were afraid to be around their significant other. By having Buffy continually insist that Spike is incapable of changing his stripes throughout her abuse of him, then legitimating her claim through the attempted rape, the writers have essentially sent the message that sometimes abuse victims really are bad and deserve to be battered. That particular suggestion is just as problematic as blaming rape victims for what happens to them.
Perhaps the writers assumed that the supernatural qualities of these two characters would prevent anyone from walking away with such harmful real-world messages. In an earlier season that might well have been the case. After all, a vampire and a Slayer hardly constitute a conventional couple, and most real romantic relationships do not start out as mortal enmity. Season Six, however, is all about real-world problems, from nerdy villains to paying bills and holding jobs to depression and the story arcs centering around the Scooby Gang’s own character flaws. The season’s romantic relationships are no exception, from the trust issues between Tara and Willow to the spectacular blow-up of Xander and Anya’s happily-ever-after dreams. It is disingenuous to encourage viewers to read the season’s themes as commentary on real life and not expect them to extend that principle to topics as serious as abuse and rape.
3. Spike’s Character Arc
As previously mentioned, Spike makes a lot mistakes in early Season Five that temporarily justify treating his feelings as an obsession rather than real love, much like the one Angelus displayed in the second half of Season Two. By the opening of Season Six, however, Spike has undergone a profound transformation in the way in which he approaches Buffy, Dawn, and even the other Scoobies. To be clear, I do not believe that he has completely converted to the cause of goodness by this point. He still makes mistakes and has setbacks over the course of Season Six, but these are of a different nature than the ones he committed in early Season Five, and only a few of them can be considered unambiguously evil.
Take for instance the ridiculous plot with the demon eggs in As You Were. It is implied that Spike is the “Doctor” responsible for selling the eggs to arms dealers who are willing to drop them on innocent populations. However, Spike never actually admits to being the Doctor, and the evidence is merely circumstantial. In the past, Spike would’ve been one to brag about his misdeeds. Moreover, the idea of Spike running something as grand as a smuggling operation is frankly so unbelievably out of character that most fans just ignore it. Messing in things way over his head? Likely. Hiding the eggs for a poker buddy? Believable. Doing a one-shot deal for some extra cash? Sure. But a professional smuggler to arms dealers, complete with a pseudonym? As Spike would say: “Bollocks.”
Likewise, Spike’s attempt to hide Katrina’s body in Dead Things is a morally questionable action, but far less so than much of his earlier lifestyle. He did not kill the girl himself, and though Buffy believes she has killed her, Spike is ultimately trying to protect the woman he loves from making a massive mistake. His actions may be objectionable, but his intentions are loving. In fact, even if Buffy had been correct in her assessment of the situation, I still think trying to stop her from turning herself into the police would be the sensible thing to do. After all, it was clearly an accident and not the sort of case that the ordinary human legal system is competent to judge. Of course, Spike’s nonchalance about the girl’s death is still disturbing, and his comment that one death does not “tip the scale” indicates that he still does not grasp the moral problem intuitively. However, even these comments are mitigated by the fact that he seems open to listening to Buffy’s reasoning.
Another example of Spike’s evil inclinations in Season Six is his attempt to pull Buffy into darkness, an effort that places him in the role of a tempter. Yet even this apparent seduction towards the darkness can be interpreted more generously. It is a classic example of Spike trying to do the right thing the wrong way. Unlike most of her friends, Spike actively tried, for the bulk of the season, to help Buffy deal with her depression at being alive again. Of course, telling a woman who has just had heaven ripped away from her that she is actually a creature of darkness like himself is hardly the best approach. But since Spike sees nothing wrong with being a creature of darkness, he cannot be fully faulted for this failure in understanding. Truthfully, Buffy can be a little self-righteous and would probably be more at peace if she accepted her own imperfection—which is not the same thing as embracing inner darkness, but Spike has never been taught that distinction. Of course, it also does not help that Buffy and the Scoobies (who are chock-full of their own darkness at this point) keep insisting that he cannot change his stripes. He has been given the impression that the only way he can have a relationship with Buffy is if she meets him where he is rather than him rising above his moral failings to be worthy of her.
The only unambiguously evil action Spike takes in Season Six is his attack on a nameless woman in an alley when he thinks his chip has stopped working in Smashed. However, even in this moment there is a significant difference between Spike from Season Two and how Spike acts in this particular episode. After having been the Scoobies’ whipping boy for several years, it probably is not all that surprising that Spike is excited about getting his “stones” back. Just as he is about to perform his Big Bad Moment of Evil, though, he discovers that he has to give himself a pep talk before attacking! This shocking little scene illustrates perfectly both just how far Spike has come and how far he still has to travel back into the light. Obviously, the fact that he wants to kill the woman is a sign that he is still a long way from full redemption, but he would have had no qualms about draining her in Seasons Two through Four. More relevant to his actions in Seeing Red is the fact that this woman is not Buffy. Thus, while the scene does prove that a chipless Spike would still be a threat to the bulk of the Sunnydale population at this point, it does not demonstrate that he is still a danger to the humans he cares about personally. When it comes to hurting his Slayer, Spike is all talk and some weak punches here and there.
The last big mistake that Spike makes in his relationship with Buffy prior to Seeing Red is his one-night stand with Anya in Entropy. However, while I do consider this a terrible decision, I am not sure it qualifies as being more wrong than what Buffy has been doing with him for the past several months. Looked at through Catholic eyes, the encounter is just as illicit as most of the other sexual relationships on the show. And while it is true that both parties admit they do not actually love each other in Entropy, Buffy has been swearing up and down for the past half-season that she does not love Spike, so there is not a massive difference on those grounds either.
Looked at through secular eyes, both Xander and Buffy have turned their backs on their respective relationships and no longer have any real claim to the fidelity of their jilted lovers. Buffy has openly told Spike to move on. Of course, none of these facts make what happens between the two couples any less painful. Except Spike and Anya were not deliberately trying to hurt their lovers with their actions. Anya may have started out trying to get back at Xander, but by the time the two finish their bottle of whiskey, she has clearly lost interest in pursuing vengeance. And Spike only came to find some way to dull the pain. The only attempt he had made to get back at Buffy since being dumped was showing up with a date for Xander’s wedding in Hell’s Bells, and that was so half-hearted that it actually turned into a genuinely sweet moment. Ultimately, Spike and Anya’s encounter at The Magic Box is about two lonely and rejected people seeking solace in each other’s arms. Neither of them were aware that their lovers found a camera feed that gave them a front-row ticket to the whole sorry show.
Thus, when all Spike’s major sins in Season Six are tallied, it becomes clear that he has come a long way from his behavior in earlier seasons. Until Seeing Red, every bad decision he makes is either ambiguous, unsuccessful, pitiable, or the result of combining good intentions with bad judgment. If we had seen more crimes like the attempt to kill the woman in Smashed, and if many of these crimes were actually aimed at Buffy or the Scoobies, the attempted rape scene in late Season Six might have made a bit more sense, especially after Buffy’s harsh treatment of him. But the Alley Woman Incident was only one unsuccessful and abortive confrontation that might plausibly have ended with Spike being unable to drain the woman anyway, given how much effort went into psyching himself up for the attack. Clearly, Spike has already left gunshot, abduction, and sexbot territory long behind.
What is truly remarkable about his Season Six behavior is not how much evil still holds sway over him but how much moral progress he has been able to make in spite of the best efforts of the Scoobies to undermine his attempts to be good. He has made all these changes without any encouragement from Buffy or her friends, in the face of their unapologetic scorn. Imagine how much closer to redemption he might have been by this point in the series if the Scoobies had actually bothered to give him some direction and validation!
Objection #4: The episode plays fast and loose with the circumstances and Spike’s understanding of them.
A number of different commentators have pointed out that the immediate circumstances surrounding the attempted rape feel forced. Early in the episode, Buffy suffers a back injury when she is slammed against a gravestone. Personally, I found it rather hard to believe that the injury could have affected her that much. Buffy’s abilities as Slayer are supposed to make her much tougher than the average person and even stronger than vampires themselves. She gets injuries that would be serious for any ordinary human with great frequency. In fact, her surreptitious tumbles with Spike seem just as rough as the fight in which she is injured. And let’s not forget that this was the same girl who walked away from being impaled with her own stake, a little worse for wear but still capable of manhandling Spike the following night. Why is this injury suddenly enough to counteract her Slayer strength and make her too weak to push off an attack? If the injury really is serious enough to weaken her that much, why does it not seem a problem when she fights the Trio later on? The whole thing is very inconsistent, but I guess that is what one has to expect from mishandled plot devices.
Secondly, there is the issue of Spike’s understanding of the situation. Now, I have heard some people say that Spike’s intentions do not matter because in the real world rapists have often claimed to have misunderstood what was really going on. I understand this objection but I do not think that the fact that perverts sometimes manipulate the murkiness of a situation dismisses the reality that legitimate miscommunications happen. If there is one thing Season Six “Spuffy” demonstrates, it is that consent can be a tricky business. Spike knows that Buffy is ordinarily more than capable of manhandling him, and has no way of knowing that she has been injured. Even if he had realized that she was hurt, he might still have had the same problem as many of the viewers in understanding how this injury is serious enough to change the dynamics of their struggle.
It should also be taken into consideration what the word “no” has meant so far in their relationship. Buffy typically throws it around while demonstrating through her actions that she actually means “yes,” such as in the (in my opinion, pretty uncomfortable) balcony scene in Dead Things. She also proves more than willing to ignore his “no” in Gone when he tries to assert himself as something more than just her sex toy, opting instead to use her invisibility to reinitiate sex. That this scene is played for laughs while the bathroom scene is played for drama will be explored in my next objection, but I think it is also important to point out that this earlier sexual encounter began with Buffy assaulting Spike before he knew who was there. The implications of her actions were then quickly elided because he did figure it out and a possible rape turned into consensual sex. But it does raise the question: would Buffy have stopped right then if Spike had proven less willing?
Objection #5: The scene is shot in a manipulative way.
Several commentators, most notably Kristen Smirnov in her open letter to Mutant Enemy, have observed the difference in the way consent is treated in Gone and Seeing Red, even at the visual and auditory level. She notes that the bathroom scene in the latter “is emphasized by a complete lack of background music,” while Spike’s rejection of Buffy’s advances in the former “was accompanied by a wacky score.” In the world of film and television, background silence is often an auditory cue that the onscreen moment is a significant one. (A much better example of this cue is the background silence in The Body). Thus, while Buffy’s treatment of Spike is intended to be viewed as petulant but funny, the actions suddenly become very serious when the roles are reversed. Smirnov anticipates that some of her readers will reject her position because treating Gone as an example of rape imbues the scene with more heaviness than the writers intended and needlessly clouds the issue for Seeing Red. Yet this is exactly the point. The only reason we consider one incident more serious than the other is that the writers have used external cues to allow us to laugh away Spike’s “no” while highlighting the drama of Buffy’s resistance in the later episode.
Incidentally, the Gone scene is an example of one of my least favorite tropes in cinema. Comedies have a nasty habit of taking situations that would be completely objectionable if the genders were reversed and using them for laughs or otherwise dismissing them. Women are allowed to pounce aggressively upon male characters, stalk them, and even restrain them against their will without the inappropriateness of their behavior being called out by the plotline. It is one thing to show a man willingly enjoying rough treatment by a powerful woman. It is another thing entirely to show him rejecting a sexual situation, only to have his will overridden by the woman in question. Scenes like these pander to our cultural assumption that while women may or may not desire a sexual situation, men will always want it. They are all, as Faith claims, beasts on the inside. I think this tendency reflects an unhealthy and disturbingly low regard for male sexuality.
Another external cue that affects our interpretation of the bathroom scene is the decision by the writers to have Spike attempt to rape Buffy while in his human face. He also leaves his duster—the symbol of his violence as a vampire with Slayer kills to his name—on the banister before coming up to the bathroom. These details represent a significant departure from the decision the writers made in Season Two, when Angelus killed Jenny Carpenter. That scene deliberately showed Angelus in vamp-face in order to emphasize that it was the soulless demon and not the souled Angel who killed Giles’ lover. If we assume the reverse to be true, then the decision to leave Spike in his human face while attempting to rape Buffy must emphasize that it is his human nature that is guilty of this crime, a suggestion that would be in perfect keeping with the all-too-human villains of Season Six. Except Spike is not supposed to be human at all, at least not according to what the show has established. To have Spike-as-human be responsible for the attempted rape means that the writers must acknowledge, at least implicitly, that there is some real part of William the Bloody Awful Poet (not just the memory of him) that remains in soulless Spike. What does that say about the true nature of the vampire?
Moreover, the writers are trying to have their cake and eat it too. If Spike’s humanity drives him to the attempted rape, then that fact emphasizes his full responsibility for his actions. Fair enough. But if he is fully responsible, then he is a free moral agent, not just a demon without a moral compass. His very responsibility undercuts the notion that the attempted rape is somehow proof of his unredeemable evil. Ironically, keeping Spike in human face throughout the scene also opens up the rather uncomfortable possibility of expanding our sympathies. His human face serves as a stark reminder that whatever Buffy claims, Spike is not a “dead thing” she has been toying with for half a season. Rather, he is a very real, vulnerable, and broken man who has just chosen a truly tragic way to reassert his personhood.
Finally, we have the marvelously-executed yet manipulative use of color, lighting, and wardrobe in the scene. The whole affair takes place in a stark white bathroom, the blinding whiteness emphasized through harsh lighting. The shots include both intense close-ups of the two figures and wide pans from high above them. The camera work and whiteness of the bathroom give the scene an air of clinical detachment that belies the passionate struggle between the two, making the whole affair seem almost cold in spite of the rolling emotions. Thus, on one level, the visual cues are intended to force the viewers to take in the enormous monstrosity of what they are seeing.
On another level, however, the show is simply indulging in one of its long-standing visual motifs in which the characters’ interior states are mirrored in their clothing style and reinforced by the external lighting. This motif is especially noticeable in Season Six as a whole. Willow is an obvious example. Not only does her hair and eye color change when she actively goes evil, but all throughout the season her inner darkness can be measured by the cut of her clothes—sleek and tailored when she is close to the brink, romantic and feminine when she is at her most peaceful. Spike’s normal black attire is also indicative of his interior state, and when he tries to switch to a blue shirt in Season Seven, he ultimately rips it off because his “costume” is not working.
Nowhere are these sartorial and lighting choices more significant than in scenes of emotional intimacy between Spike and Buffy. In her most virtuous moments, Buffy’s outfits are usually white (or at least light-toned), providing visual contrast to Spike’s dark clothing. She is often either raised visually above him or framed by light. A good example of this motif is in After Life, when Buffy meets Spike in the alley behind The Magic Box. Newly ripped from heaven, Buffy herself seems almost ethereal in her white top and skirt. Spike in his customary black sits beside her in the shadows and listens to her spill her secret. He had tried to give her room to be alone earlier in the scene, but was stopped by his inability to step into the sunlight. After their conversation, Buffy reluctantly does what he cannot and steps out of the shadows, into the light where she wants to belong. Her final command to Spike to keep her secret from her friends is given with her back turned to him as she leaves him alone in the darkness. It is a sad, beautiful, and poignant scene, demonstrating the show’s ability to use light and color imagery to great effect.
But what does this motif mean for the bathroom scene? For the bulk of Season Six, Buffy has been flirting with the darkness inside her. In many of her nastier moments with Spike (the alley beating, the post-Anya confrontation), her clothing also takes a turn for the earthy. After so many morally ambiguous decisions, it is unsurprising that her attire in the bathroom scene is a gray robe. But Seeing Red is not about moral ambiguity. The wide shots from above underscore this point: Spike’s form obscures Buffy, her grayness hidden beneath his blackness as they both struggle on the white floor. The show seems to be saying that no matter what we may have seen in their relationship so far, this scene is truly black-and-white. And the writers are correct. Rape is a morally clear-cut issue, with no possible justifications for Spike’s actions. But they are also wrong. Buffy’s moral “grayness” does matter, not because what he does is okay or because victims somehow deserve to be blamed but because Buffy is more than just a victim. For the past half season, she has been the aggressor, which leads to my last objection.
Objection #6: The scene forces the audience to ignore Buffy’s culpability and accept her perspective on their relationship.
In their mid-season interviews, the writers of Buffy the Vampire Slayer tried to explain the messiness of the “Spuffy” relationship as a mutual problem, with both parties bringing out the worst in each other. To some extent this is true, and I have already discussed some of Spike’s mistakes with Buffy, such as the attempt to pull her into darkness and the one-night stand with Anya. I have tried to demonstrate that while neither of these actions was moral, both were relatively understandable and at least partially mitigated by circumstances. Regardless, prior to Seeing Red, Spike’s contributions to the “badness” of their relationship actually paled next to Buffy’s own inexcusable treatment of him. If the soul signified a moral compass in the way so often claimed, then clearly the bulk of the responsibility for the disastrous parts of their relationship falls pretty heavily upon her shoulders.
I love Buffy Summers dearly, but over the course of one half-season she has committed nearly every known sin of domestic abuse against her vampire lover. While it is not my intention to use this portion of the essay to bash the hero of the series, it is important to take a hard look at her actions before jumping to conclusions about what happened in Seeing Red. Since I have already addressed her issues with consent, I will now turn to her other relationship crimes.
1) Buffy shuts down Spike’s attempts to communicate.
When Spike and Buffy shared their kiss in Once More With Feeling, his very sensible reaction in the next episode is to try to talk to her about what that kiss meant. However, in a complete inversion of stereotypical “bad boyfriend” behavior, Buffy refuses to acknowledge that it might mean anything at all. She maintains this stance throughout their relationship, first accusing him of being “fixated” on a couple of kisses, then taking off after almost every sexual encounter. One would think that someone who had been treated in a not-dissimilar way by Parker in an earlier season might hesitate to do so to another, but apparently not. Moreover, her lack of communication extends to moral issues as well as relationship ones. When Spike attempts to understand her distress about Katrina’s death, he makes the frankly shocking suggestion that she explain her moral perspective to him, going above and beyond anything expected of an amoral vampire. Buffy responds by punching him. There endeth the moral lesson.
2) When she does communicate, she becomes verbally abusive.
Even in Seasons Four and Five, Buffy can be fairly harsh towards Spike. “Pig” is her favorite nickname for her fallen enemy, and she expresses her disgust with him frequently. This is mostly forgivable in Season Four, when Spike is still fully evil, and in part of Season Five, when he continues to make serious mistakes in his pursuit of her. (Her belittling of his attempts at moral improvement in Season Five are a little harder to justify.) However, by the time they begin their relationship in Season Six, Spike has endured torture for Buffy, fought alongside her against Glory, protected Dawn, continued to fight with the Scoobies after the Slayer’s death, demonstrated more consideration of Buffy’s feelings post-resurrection than any of her friends, and saved her life in Once More With Feeling. In any reasonable relationship, these actions should have earned him at least a modicum of respect. Instead, after she has sex with him Buffy threatens to kill Spike if he dares reveal their relationship to the Scoobies. Imagine what we would say if a man threatened to kill his girlfriend for telling someone else about their affair. Moreover, she comes up with even more pejorative terms for him: “evil soulless thing,” “empty,” “dead inside,” and “unclean.”
Audiences are meant to understand that Buffy’s comments are evidence of how much pain she is in after having been ripped out of heaven. It is often pointed out that they reflect how she sees herself, now filled with shame and self-loathing at what she has become. Spike is serving as one of the many “shadow selves” that mirror Buffy’s internal state on the show. I understand this point. I really do. What has happened to Buffy is terrible and I genuinely feel sorry for her. And it is unfortunately true that people who are suffering can often project their feelings onto others. However, any good moralist or psychologist should be able to tell Buffy that her behavior cannot be excused by her own pain the way the show seems to suggest it should. Her comments may be about herself, but they are still directed towards Spike, still capable of hurting him. Even though some of the terms she bandies about are technically true (Spike still sees himself as “evil,” he does not have a soul at this point, and vampires are “dead” in a certain sense), this does not change the fact that she uses them in a cutting way.
3) Buffy is also physically abusive.
Like her verbal abuse of him, Buffy’s physical violence against Spike (not counting mutual fights here) begins in Seasons Four and Five, but is easily forgivable because he is still completely or mostly evil during the bulk of those seasons. However, the ease with which she resorts to her fists in Season Six becomes truly disturbing, culminating in the painful scene in Dead Things in which Buffy beats the vampire to a pulp. In an example of his selflessness (which will be explored further in another essay), Spike refuses to hit back, accepting her abuse and even encouraging her to “put it all” on him. While this arguably demonstrates nobility on his part, it does not excuse the fact that Buffy takes advantage of his willingness to accept the beating, as well as his vampiric ability to withstand it in a way that would have been impossible for any of her human friends. Moreover, the “she was ripped out of heaven and is really punishing herself” argument does not work any more for the physical abuse than it does for the verbal abuse.
For comparison, let us look at a moment from Season Seven that might be taken as a parallel to the Dead Things beating. In Help, Spike aids Buffy in rescuing a visionary young woman from several high school boys who have kidnapped her and attempted to offer her to a demon they are trying to raise. Spike beats up the human ringleader, letting the chip punish him as he does so. On the surface, the two scenes are very similar, and Spike clearly hates himself as much as Buffy did in Dead Things. However, the differences between the scenes are even more important. Spike had merely been trying to save Buffy in the earlier episode; the boy he punches in Help poses an immediate threat. The chip in Spike’s head makes him feel equal or even greater pain than what he delivers to the high school jock. The vampire owns up to his guilt, telling the boy, “I am a bad man.” Finally, Spike’s beating does not threaten the boy’s life.
When Buffy beat Spike up in Dead Things, she metaphorically punished herself, but she was not actually subjected to any physical pain. She was clearly projecting her pain outward, telling Spike that there is “nothing good or clean in you.” Her thrashing left Spike incapable of standing in an alley that would have been exposed to sunlight in a matter of hours, and she was never shown returning to check on him. After everything he has done for her, he was put in a potentially fatal situation simply because the woman he loves so much cruelly abandoned him in a garbage-filled alley like he was just another piece of trash.
4) Buffy is emotionally abusive.
One of the worst aspects of Buffy’s treatment of Spike is how she exploits his unrequited love for her. She knows perfectly well that their kisses, their sex mean the world to the vampire, but repeatedly insists that she does not love him. In fact, after their first sexual encounter, she viciously tells him “You’re just convenient.” This cutting remark is merely the first in a long line of candid statements about how little he matters to her. That Spike is desperate enough to crave even a relationship of this sort with his Slayer does not make her actions any more justifiable; it just makes his position all the more pitiable. It does not even matter much whether Buffy is being sincere in her flippancy or if she is in denial about her real feelings. Her behavior is damaging either way.
Moreover, while she seems keen at certain points to hear how much he loves and wants her, she often insists that his love for her is not real but rather an obsession. This is of course utter hogwash, as any half-observant person could tell. Enduring Glory’s torture was real. Watching over Dawn was real. Fighting with the Scoobies was real. The tenderness with which he cared for Buffy after her resurrection was real. Saving her life when the song demon showed up was real. Enduring her beating was real. Spike’s love for Buffy is as real as any man’s could be and only the Scoobies are blind enough to deny it. Yet Buffy dismisses his love as merely being “real for you” in Entropy, and even the writers seem keen to have us believe that all his actions have somehow been selfishly motivated. What exactly did he stand to gain when Buffy was dead, pray tell?
At any rate, Buffy’s combined insistence that she does not love him and that his love for her is just an obsession would be more than enough to drive a less patient man to distraction. Luckily for her, Spike has already been schooled in romantic patience by a century of serving as Drusilla’s plaything. The vampiress also toyed with William the Bloody’s heart, and one has to wonder just how much Buffy knows about their relationship. Even if she does not know how frequently Drusilla manipulated him, she does at least know from Becoming, Part II that his former lover was unfaithful. Thus, intentional or not, Buffy is also exploiting the fact that Spike has never had a healthy or affirming relationship with a woman with which he can compare Buffy’s treatment of him.
5) Buffy keeps Spike her “dirty little secret.”
In my opinion, keeping her relationship with Spike a secret is actually the most disgraceful thing Buffy does to the vampire, even worse than her physical abuse. Ironically, it does actually fit within the chivalric trope that I believe underlines Spike’s character. Geoffrey de Charny’s Book of Chivalry recommends that men-at-arms be willing to keep their relationship with a worthy lady a secret. However, the purpose of this secrecy was to protect the lady in question from the very serious repercussions that could follow the loss of her honor in the fourteenth century. Buffy is not risking any danger beyond embarrassment; her refusal to admit the affair to her closest friends is less because of what she is doing than who she is doing. She is ashamed to have let herself be touched by an ostensibly soulless creature and never bothers to hide from him that she finds his “cold comfort” degrading, even as she accepts it.
Just in case it is not painful enough for him to have to deal with such an attitude from his lover, Buffy’s silence also encourages the rest of the Scoobies to continue to treat Spike with disdain, despite the help he had given them over the summer. This dismissal culminates in the showdown of Entropy, when Xander and Buffy race to confront their rejected lovers after having witnessed Spike and Anya seeking solace in each other’s arms. Instead of behaving rationally, Xander immediately lays into Anya in a tirade full of self-righteous indignation. Note that Xander does not criticize his jilted fiancée so much for having a one-night stand as he does for letting Spike touch her. Spike, having already accepted a beating and near-staking at the human boy’s hands, is forced to listen to him slut-shame the woman he just spent the evening with for letting herself be “defiled” by his touch. In case the scene is not humiliating enough, Buffy sits quietly through the fight, never once raising a word in Spike or Anya’s defense. Granted, she takes the situation more calmly than her friend, but even she cannot resist her own bitter dig (“Didn’t take long, did it?”) at the lover she had supposedly wanted to move on with his unlife. It is only when the vampire finally stands up for himself (“It was good enough for Buffy…”) that she ever acknowledges the relationship to Xander. If he had not done so, would Xander ever found out that Buffy the Perfect had also found “cold comfort” in Spike’s oh-so-defiling arms?
Of course, none of this behavior justifies what Spike does to Buffy in Seeing Red. His actions are wrong and horrible, even taking all the mitigating relationship factors into consideration. However, neither Buffy’s abuse of him nor his assault on her change how I feel about either of them. I do not even mind that the writers brought the characters to such a dark place, though I find Buffy’s seasonal arc more believable than Spike’s. Her depression is very realistic given the circumstances, and her behavior rises very credibly out of the minor character flaws she already possessed in earlier seasons. These are merely magnified by the interior struggle she faces in the aftermath of her resurrection.
My real problem is not with Buffy’s behavior per se, but with the fact that the writers continually excuse it through the structure of the season arc itself. For most of Season Six, they seem to be trying to prove to audiences that Spike is no good for Buffy, that he can never be worthy of her without a soul. The bathroom scene of Seeing Red is supposed to be the final straw in a bad relationship. Yet while the relationship between Spike and Buffy in Season Six is undeniably a dark one, the writers failed to demonstrate that the fault for this brokenness lies entirely or even primarily with the soulless vampire involved. Indeed, by this point in the season arc, I would have found it more consistent with the trajectories they created for both characters if Buffy had been the one to pin Spike to the bathroom floor instead of vice versa. I’m not saying that I wanted this to happen and it is probably one of the few alternatives that could possibly have gotten the writers into hotter waters with the fans than what actually did happen. But when looked at objectively, it makes more sense for someone who is already physically abusing and objectifying her lover to progress to raping him than it does for the enabling victim to commit sexual assault against his tormentor.
As it stands, the scene feels like an awkward and forced attempt to reestablish viewer sympathy for Buffy, one that uses his sin to cleanse her of her own culpability in the eyes of audiences. It works for a lot of viewers because rape is one of the few crimes that even jaded modern audiences accustomed to sympathetic villains and antiheroes find truly appalling. However, personally, Seeing Red is one of the few episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer that compromises my suspension of disbelief and forces me to remember that these individuals are in fact just characters who must act out the roles the writers assign them. I must confess that I do not think of Seeing Red as the episode in which Spike attempts to rape Buffy. I think of it as the episode in which the writers themselves violated their two most complex creations by forcing them back into the neat boxes of White Hat and Black Hat.
This frustrates me because I believe that the writers owed it to the complex characters that they created (and the audiences that love them) to deal just as seriously with the events leading up to Seeing Red as they did the attempted rape. Unfortunately, while Season Seven does provide some healing for the broken couple, it still does not treat their behavior equally. After receiving his soul, Spike expresses his contrition for his crime by draping himself over a cross and letting it sear his bare flesh. He is under no illusions about his guilt. In response to her behavior, Buffy…(deep sigh)…seeks free therapy. How very modern of her. Just in case the scene from Conversations with Dead People isn’t awkward enough, she also ends up staking her vampire therapist because to her, he’s an evil soulless thing. Moreover, in the one moment of Never Leave Me when the she discusses her past behavior with Spike, the conversation quickly moves from her culpability to his ensoulment. Thus, as sweet as their Season Seven relationship becomes, it is predicated on Spike being willing to be the scapegoat who carries the sins of both parties.
Despite this problem, my affection for these characters always manages to survive the turmoil of the later seasons. Every time I watch Buffy lay into Spike in Dead Things, I remember her sacrifice in The Gift. Every time I watch the assault in Seeing Red, I remember Spike’s willingness to endure torture for her in Intervention. What is so irritating about the double standard is that it is not necessary to blacken Spike’s character arc to redeem Buffy’s. They are both complex characters whose ability to love is greater than the inner darkness that threatens to overtake them. In the eyes of this particular viewer, this capacity to love is more important than the color of their respective hats.
 Kristen Smirnov, “Domestic Abuse and Gender Role Reversal in Season 6: My Letter to Mutant Enemy,” www.allaboutspike.com/kristen.html
 Some fans have pointed out that given Buffy’s affection for her stuffed pig, Mr. Gordo, this may not be less insulting than it appears. It is a funny possibility. Still, she has a tone when she says it.
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