Friday, February 22, 2013

30 Days of Buffy and Feminism Day 11

Day 11: Least Favorite Romance

Man, I'm going to manage to piss off EVERY Buffy fan with this one.  But hear me out, I promise you'll understand.

Every Relationship Buffy Is Involved In

LET ME PREFACE THIS BY SAYING: I like Angel.  I really like Spike.  I do NOT like Riley and we didn't get to really find out enough about Parker for me to decide to like him or not.  I did not necessarily like those two first characters in their relationships with Buffy.  HERE IS WHY.

Look, I don't mind Buffy and Angel together at first.  But after they get all thrusty and sweaty and he turns evil...well, first of all he's a much more interesting character (Angelus over Angel 4eva) but we start to get into questionable territory.  First of all, it comes off as if the world is punishing Buffy for having sex--something Xander may outright do at some point in seasons 2 and 3, if I recall correctly--and it dooms her to a chaste relationship with Angel forever.  Plus then he turns evil and...well, kills and threatens her and her friends and lots of other people.  And then he tries to bring about the apocalypse.  And then she kills him and sends him to Hell.  And then he comes back, and then they get back together.


I'm sorry, no.  That's the point at which you say, "Y'know what?  I love you but you're a vampire and if we bone you're going to become evil and kill and hurt a bunch of people I care about again.  And I can't have all that after what you did to me before."  And he's a vampire.  Who can't go outside during the day.  And who drinks blood.  And who will never age.  And who will TURN EVIL IF HE HAS AN ORGASM.  At a certain point you realize that, as the wise Patty Smyth once said, "sometimes love just ain't enough."

Not to mention--and I can't emphasize this enough--HE KILLED AND TORTURED AND THREATENED HER AND HER FRIENDS.  And yes, the argument can be made that "well it wasn't Angel, it was Angelus, that's a whole other deal!"  To which I say--and I will emphasize THIS again--THAT ANGELUS WILL COME BACK IF THEY EVER HAVE SEX.  And as much as it might seem worth it to say "oh well, we just won't have sex", trust me, eventually you will want to have sex.  TRUST ME.

But in some ways this is a realistic first-time relationship.  Eventually you realize that it's not a feasible relationship and move on.  Of course it was Angel who condescendingly broke it off deciding that he wasn't good for Buffy and then skulked off to LA to be emo for awhile (yes, I'm on the fifth season of Angel now).  And after Angel breaks up with her, Buffy gives that whole "I feel like I'm dying, I can't breathe!" speech to Willow. 

And then she goes off to college and meets Parker, who...okay, who has not had a Parker?  Who has not met a guy that seemed charming and then he wanted to sleep with you and you regretted it?  I'm not necessarily saying we've all SLEPT with that guy (I haven't) but I'm saying that we've all met him and been charmed by him and then been ignored by him.  But Buffy just...doesn't handle that whole thing very well.  Once again, she is emotionally punished for having sex.  And while Parker is slimy--in a totally archetypical and boring way--it is totally normal for people in college to have sex with each other without it having to turn into a marriage proposal.  I give Buffy a big ol' pass here because she is still getting over Angel, but I do think the whole Parker thing is sort of poorly handled by the writers.

Then there's Riley.  Riley has problems with self-confidence.  He's also got this weird idea that his girlfriend can't be stronger than him because she's a girl and girls all need protection and chivalry and to be rescued and shit.  And he's BORING.  Oh God is he boring in comparison to every other character.  Now, yes, after all the weird crap Buffy had to put up with Angel someone boring is probably the right thing.  But not for as long as it went on.  And then he turns out to be a giant jerk in the end by basically cheating on her WITH VAMPIRES and then giving her an ultimatum.  And the fact that she chases after his helicopter...comoe on Buffy, so not worth it.

And then there's Spike.

I actually like a lot of the aspects of Spike and Buffy's relationship.  He does genuinely care about her, and she does lean on him in a way that is at times very unhealthy but at times very genuine.  But they do abuse each other.  Over and over again.  And then there's the rape.

As much as I could root for Buffy and Spike to eventually be good for each other, it's so hard to recover from the episode "Seeing Red".  And in all honesty I think it was sloppy writing.  The writers wanted Spike to get a soul eventually so they needed an event that would be a catalyst for that to happen.  And they used rape as a plot device and for later misdirection.  It backfired because so many people--myself included--could not recover from the image of Spike trying to sexually assault Buffy and think it was okay for her to still want to be with him (or even near him) after that.

 So then Spike gets a soul.  And he doesn't really change very much.  And while the speech that he gives to Buffy in "Touched" is sweet and pretty cool, I still can't fully accept any of it because I can't stop thinking about Spike pushing Buffy down onto that bathroom floor.  In the seventh season Buffy acts like an abused girlfriend in a lot of ways when it comes to Spike.  As much as I'd like to root for them because Spike does seem to genuinely care about Buffy and does want to support what she does as much as possible, they're both just not in a place where they can be good for each other throughout their relationship. 

She also exhibits a lot of the signs of being in an abusive relationship during season 6 when she's with him.  She is depressed and often upset about their relationship, she often just wants him to get away from her, she feels that she can't talk to her friends about her and Spike being involved.  She makes apologies for him constantly.  He isolates her from her friends--a good example being this scene from "Dead Things":

You see? You try to be with them.
But you always end up in the dark.
With me.
Spike appears out of the shadows. Buffy doesn't turn around as he slides in close behind her.

What would they think of you? If
they found out all the things you've
His hand moves down her body.

SPIKE (cont'd)
If they knew who you really were... BUFFY
(a whisper)
Stop me.
She doesn't. His overcoat swings in, obscuring the action as he gets her skirt up. Her breathing quickens. She gasps. Spike moans, his face consumed in the moment. Buffy grips he railing, her knuckles white.
She sees Xander, Anya, and Willow down on the main floor, dancing and laughing, totally oblivious. She closes her eyes, unable to look at them.

SPIKE (cont'd)
No. Don't close your eyes.
Buffy opens her eyes. Spike continues moving rhythmically behind her, his breath hot on her neck.

SPIKE (cont'd)
Look at them. That's not your world.
You belong in the shadows... with me.
Look at your friends... and tell me
you don't love getting away with this
right under their noses...

Creepy, and really abusive.  Spike is broken, because he's a vampire, and Buffy is broken for a million different reasons.  I want to root for them.  I really do.  But I can't.  It's another example of "sometimes love just ain't enough."

What I'm saying is, Buffy does not know how to pick 'em.  And that's a shame because she's a great character.  But the show tries to hammer home over and over again that love isn't compatible with being the Slayer, which is in itself problematic.  Buffy's strength, for some reason, seems to make her more likely to be involved in abusive relationships, which is not a great message to send. 

So there you have it.  I like these characters (for the most part) but I don't like them together.  Don't shun me!

I'll have another probably-not-that-controversial opinion for you later today.  Next up is "Least Favorite Episode".

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