12/16/16

Who Is He and What Is He To You? - Buffy and Spike for Never and Ever

Originally published in a 2013 digital issue of Geek Monthly to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Buffy's last air date. Full disclosure: I'm vain, so I've edited it in the years since it's publication.
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I watch Spike's character arc on Buffy the Vampire Slayer every few years. It's a routine. Like how I watch JAWS every fourth of July or The Empire Strikes Back each Christmas. But the Buffy episodes don't replay as easily as the others. Not even a decade after the show's conclusion. Sure, the character is memorable, but there's something else.

There are the obvious reasons why Spike never dusted from the fans' collective consciousness. There was the nuanced performance of James Marsters. The character had the platinum blonde hair of the 90's. The iconic black duster. He was a walking decade.

Many popular characters have a distinctive look. Think Han Solo and his blaster. The Man With No Name and his hat. You get the point. Are they easy to cosplay because of their character design or were they designed to be cosplayed? It doesn't matter.

Like Han Solo, Spike was a wild card, frequently speaking hurtful truths. His antagonism kept the story pulsing forward. He was the requisite bad boy, a vampire pin-up. We were lulled into thinking he was safe for a few seasons. Like a true predator, Spike was dormant as long as he had what he wanted.

Then, the writers challenged the fantasy of the angsty vampire. Spike tried to rape Buffy in season six. He attacked her after she ended their tumultuous affair. To this day there are hundreds, likely thousands of fanfiction stories that exist for the sole purpose (or soul purpose) of rewriting that very scene. As I watch the Spike story this time and question my own obsession with the character, I realize the moment we want to forget holds the answer to our obsession.

Spike's memorability doesn't rest in his Tiger Beat-ness. It originates from the writers' willingness to follow the story through to it's disturbing but logical conclusion. Especially when so many other shows and movies continue to stick to the fetishization of vampire violence. *cough cough, Twilight, clears throat* (Hate mail, flame on!)

Spike wasn't just another centenarian heartthrob. He was a fully fleshed out character. The writers held true to what he really was, unhealthily obsessed with Buffy. There were dozens of reasons why BtVS was so groundbreaking. There was Whedon and company's clever writing. There was the fact that Buffy was the grand marshall in the parade of action heroines that have followed. (Thank goodness.)

But most of all, the show left it's mark by choosing to tell an ugly story with a beloved character. Spike and Buffy were the only vamp/human romance that ended with the vampire having to change for redemption. Not with a nip on the neck and undead matrimony. Buffy kept her life and her humanity. It was Spike who had to die for his salvation.      

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