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BtVS S9 #7 — The relationship part

If you're not interested in parsing the comics, I don't blame you a bit, and this is probably not going to be your thing.

People who do read the comics seem fairly happy with one point in this issue: Spike came clean about his feelings for Buffy. To her face, even! Possibly.

I'm not that thrilled with this development. Even though the jury is out on whether he said it to a robot or to Buffy's "consciousness", the whole thing made me vastly uncomfortable.

Here's the exchange from S9 issue # 7, On Your Own, Part 2:

BUFFY: Is it true, Spike? Are you still in love with me?
SPIKE: You really going to make me say what everyone else already worked out?
BUFFY: You know I'm terrible at everything that doesn't end with slaying. I'm not well rounded. I have lots of corners. And most of them are pointy. Why didn't you tell me?
SPIKE: 'Cause you had bigger problems and you needed my help. But I get how things work with us. I was a twit to think they might have changed. So once I know you're okay, I'm getting in my spaceship and flying into the wild black yonder. 'Cause I don't want to be the dark place you run to when things aren't working. That's not why I fought to get my soul back. That's not why I've been sticking up for you about the seed. And that's certainly not why I've stuck around this bloody city.
BUFFY: You stayed for me?
SPIKE: I didn't stay for cable cars and rice-a-roni. I can give you what you need. I want normal, too. And I want it with you.

(The conversation is cut short by mayhem, mayhem, mayhem.)

Aside from Spike dissing my fair city (you could do much worse, buddy!), it's sort of sweet and thrilling, isn't it? Spike's a heart-on-the-sleeve kind of guy, so it makes sense he would spill his guts at some point. I'm unhappy because it seems really unfair of Buffy to demand a declaration from him. I'm not saying it's not true to her character; I'm just saying that it's not right to insist on having the emotional upper hand like that.

For example, here's an exchange from the S2 episode Lie to Me:

BUFFY: Who's Drusilla? And don't lie to me. I'm tired of it.
ANGEL: Some lies are necessary.
BUFFY: For what?
ANGEL: Sometimes the truth is worse. You live long enough, you find that out.
BUFFY: I can take it. I can take the truth.
ANGEL: Do you love me?
BUFFY: What?
ANGEL: Do you?
BUFFY: I love you. I don't know if I trust you.
ANGEL : Maybe you shouldn't do either.
BUFFY: Maybe I'm the one should decide.


There are two things here. Buffy's right — she should be the one to decide. (Angel's insistence that he gets to decide what's good for other people is the basis of my problem with him throughout BtVS and AtS. Ditto S4-S6 Willow.) But beyond that, people have noted that it's manipulative of Angel to insist on a declaration of love (without giving his own) before telling Buffy something she might not like to hear. It's understandable that he might be nervous about revealing his ugly past, but it's the right thing to do and making it conditional on her "love" is a douche move, and cowardly as well.

It's true that S9 Spike is a grownup, while Buffy is still a teenager in S2, and so the balance of power between them is theoretically not the same as that between S2 Buffy and Angel. I don't think Buffy means to be manipulative in the way that Angel was, but the end result is the same — one party gets the other party to "commit" without committing themselves. It's a bit of a low blow in the game of love and war. (Yeah, I know, everything is fair...tsk.)

Spike, whatever his other faults, is unlikely to put another person into this uncomfortable position. So much so that I am always worried about his unguarded heart even when he isn't — I have to watch Crush while peeking through my fingers, and I'm not talking about the part where he eats the girl in the Bronze. I'm talking about the clumsy attempts to participate in date-like activities with Buffy, and especially the part where he completely bares his soul heart to her. So stressful! It's supposed to be funny, but the humor of humiliation isn't for me.

Anyway, the conversation does seem true to the characters. I just wish Buffy was being braver.

I was giving McDiva the synopsis, since she refuses to read the things but likes to hear what's going on, for the lulz. When I got to the part where Buffy's is a robot, she came up with an unprompted theory:

McDiva: Well, obviously the real Buffy is still off in Rome with the Immortal! *koff*jackharkness*koff*

This is so close to what I suggested to Barb C when she was prognosticating, that I cannot help but feel that I have successfully programmed brainwashed raised her right!
 


This entry was originally posted at http://rebcake.dreamwidth.org/22873.html. Please comment here or there using OpenID.

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gryfndor_godess
Mar. 18th, 2012 02:51 am (UTC)
That's such a nice story about your daughter! It's so great you can share BtVS like that.

I really like your points about Buffy and the comparison to Angel in S2. I'm not sure I'm quite as annoyed at Buffy as you are, because I can understand why she would want to know the truth (especially since he didn't contact after after dying- her shock kind of makes sense in that light), but I was definitely irked by some of her behavior. What got me the most was her attitude on the ship about his inability to be normal. :/

I feel so uncomfortable during "Crush," too! For half of it I feel sorry for Spike (and I can't stand the secondhand humiliation), and the other half I'm cringing because his behavior toward her is so inappropriate that I feel like I shouldn't feel sorry for him at all.
coalitiongirl
Mar. 18th, 2012 03:00 am (UTC)
What got me the most was her attitude on the ship about his inability to be normal. :/


Same here! But on reread, I read that as Buffy beginning to point out that her life isn't normal, and Spike misunderstanding and overreacting before she could finish- hence her frustration in the next scene.
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ceciliaj
Mar. 18th, 2012 02:59 am (UTC)
McDiva sounds so awesome. I love this post.
rebcake
Mar. 18th, 2012 03:26 am (UTC)
Aw, thanks! McDiva is awesome, IMHO.
coalitiongirl
Mar. 18th, 2012 03:03 am (UTC)
It doesn't bother me quite as much because I read that whole scene as Buffy trying to get to a place where they can both be honest about their feelings, now that she has some verification that that's a conversation that's relevant (but she's cut off before she can speak (and isn't that unfortunate wording?)). Although I can imagine her taking Spike's explosion as an excuse not to talk about her own feelings in the matter, which might be in-character but is frustrating as always.

McDiva has it right! *snerk*
rebcake
Mar. 18th, 2012 03:32 am (UTC)
If that is what Buffy's trying to accomplish, this scene is actually an echo of the one in S8#40, where Spike's sideways syntax makes Buffy think he's criticizing her, when he's actually defending her. Amirite? It's okay, but not a storytelling conceit of which I'm particularly fond. You know, the "if the characters would just spend 5 minutes talking to each other, there would be no conflict here" sort of story? Yeah, not my favorite.

McDiva is rather terrific.
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shipperx
Mar. 18th, 2012 03:13 am (UTC)
I agree on many scores. I don't think Buffy consciously does these things. That said, that does not make the sting of them (or the underlying obliviousness) any less painful. It's just-- sheesh, Buffy. Please, stop!

The power imbalance has gotten old.

Edited at 2012-03-18 03:14 am (UTC)
rebcake
Mar. 18th, 2012 03:42 am (UTC)
Yeah. I keep thinking that Buffy has learned and grown, since that was the trajectory of the show, but alas, not so much.
cindergal
Mar. 18th, 2012 03:21 am (UTC)
Disclaimer: I don't read the comics, I just read other people's reviews of them. *g*

That said, I agree with you on many points, and with shipperx above: it's gotten old. No, it's not exactly OOC for either of them, but that's what's unfortunate, IMO. It would be nice to see some growth from Buffy after all of these years.
rebcake
Mar. 18th, 2012 03:25 am (UTC)
It would be nice to see some growth from Buffy after all of these years.

Exactly! She did show growth on the show, all the characters did, with occasional backsliding. Why did that process suddenly stop, or even go into reverse?
fangfaceandrea
Mar. 18th, 2012 03:29 am (UTC)
Buffy in Rome was my firts hopeful thought too. But this is the comic, leave hope behind all ye who read and all that jazz.

Still, I like Buffy with the immortal idea, even without Spike if it meant S8b never happened.
rebcake
Mar. 18th, 2012 03:52 am (UTC)
Yeah, anything that retcons S8 is probably going to be more palatable to me, too!
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zanthinegirl
Mar. 18th, 2012 03:49 am (UTC)
The more you quote McDiva the more awesome she sounds. Of course the Real Buffy is off with Cap'n Jack!

Season 9, why can't I quit you? You started off so well, then you drift into date rape, and pregnancy, and poor Buffy decanted into a robot. And having her arm torn off.

I tend to agree with your points, but then I can't bring myself to rewatch Crush. I don't like watching any one be humiliated, which is probably why I rarely watch sitcoms...

FRankly the thing I find most frustrating about the comics is that there isn't any character growth. The various characters are just "stuck" and it's frustrating. It was character growth in the series that made me fall in love with it in the first place, and they've just stopped.

And the robot thing makes so little sense. When did they switch her? The "you're not the slayer" dream seems to indicated it it was before that, but it was later that poor Buffy peed on the stick. How could a robot do that? It makes no sense I tell you!

rebcake
Mar. 18th, 2012 06:19 am (UTC)
It was character growth in the series that made me fall in love with it in the first place, and they've just stopped.

I think that's a big part of the problem. There are certain parties who complain about all the dumb stuff like Mecha Dawn and bug ships and I don't really mind if that is in there, as long as the characters are learning, growing, and making emotional sense. But that's not happening and so all the ridiculous trappings make the story even harder to relate to.

I mean, the beauty of science/speculative fiction and fantasy stories is that you can show fundamental truths in a setting that is odd enough that the it makes the "real" stuff extra real. That's not really happening here.
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boot_the_grime
Mar. 18th, 2012 03:54 am (UTC)
Why waste six pages of Spike declaring his feelings for her and her sort of feeling guilty about it?

She's not "sort of feeling guilty about it" as far as I can tell. She's surprised and moved by it. But that's the kind of thing one sees when one does read the comics.
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boot_the_grime
Mar. 18th, 2012 03:51 am (UTC)
These two situations are really not similar. Angel and Buffy were dating, Angel already knew that she was likely to say Yes, or at least that she would not say No (or I dunno, something like "What are you on about? Nonsense"). The reason he asked Buffy to tell him she loved him as a reassurance before he tells her about Drusilla - after she asked him to talk about Drusilla. That was really manipulative.

This is a completely different situation. Buffy asked Spike not because she was trying to manipulate him into accepting something; she was reacting to having heard someone claim that Spike was in love with her, which obviously came to her as a surprise. If it hadn't been, she wouldn't have asked him right there, while they had barely finished fighting the zompires. Or she could have asked him at any point during the previous few months he's been in San Franscisco. What this issue shows is that (contrary to what some fans were claiming) she really didn't think he loved her anymore, and it was a big thing to find out.

If Buffy was asking Spike for a favor and asked him "Do you love me?" or if he had found out something bad about her and then she asked him "Do you love me?" instead of replying, then these conversations would be comparable. This way, really not.


Spike, whatever his other faults, is unlikely to put another person into this uncomfortable position.


Well, yes - but he's very likely to put them into other kinds of very emotionally uncomfortable positions, of which Crush was a very painful example of. Fortunately the tendencies to push and push and not respect boundaries was something that went away after he got his soul back. It's just that a mention of Crush and other particularly bad instances of his behavior solely in the context of Spike-as-a-victim tend to produce a lot of annoyance on my part. Much as I love Spike, up until season 7 he simultaneously and equally attracted and repulsed me with his behavior. If Angel was bad with his elicitation of love declarations together with withholding his own, Spike was just as bad with his unwanted attentions and declarations of love he was smothering Buffy with. I've had lots of unpleasant experience with this kind of behavior, ranging from uncomfortable to stalkerish and borderline abusive (if not to the extent that Spike was). When I watch Crush, I cringe at his behavior in a very different way. I was a big Spuffy shipper but after he kidnapped Buffy and tried to force her into telling him he had a chance with her, all I wanted for her to do is shut him up and slam the door in his face, as she did.

Sorry for the tangent, but it's just something that's been long bothering me in the Spuffy fandom, this idea that, by the virtue of Spike having declared his love to Buffy, he was be default the victim and she was heartless bitch with all the power. As if love can't be abusive, controlling and suffocating. Buffy had her own brand of horrible behavior that started in season 6, equally frustrating in its own way. But the idea of soulless!Spike as a poor thing whose main problem was that he could get hurt because he was so emotionally open really doesn't sit well with me.
rebcake
Mar. 18th, 2012 07:32 am (UTC)
These two situations are really not similar.

The situations are not identical, true, but I do think they are very similar in that one person is pushing another person to make a confession they may or may not be ready to give (i.e. "push and push and not respect boundaries"). All without giving them any reciprocation. As I said in the post I don't think Buffy means to be manipulative in the way that Angel was, but the end result is the same — one party gets the other party to "commit" without committing themselves.

I do think Buffy's motives for asking were different from Angel's, but not the actual action. Maybe she was interrupted from saying something meaningful in return. Maybe she wasn't. We — and Spike — just don't know.

Soulless Spike was certainly guilty of being overly pushy and making assumptions about Buffy's feelings for him. What he's NOT guilty of is hiding his own feelings or failing to state his commitment up front. (I happen to think he's right in his assumptions, but that's not the point.) He doesn't insist on having all the emotional cards in a relationship, and gives his hand away quite readily. We've seen it with Cecily, Dru, and with Buffy. Love's bitch, and man enough to admit it, right? He also failed to hide his feelings for Harmony, the bastard. ;-)
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eilowyn
Mar. 18th, 2012 02:02 pm (UTC)
Um, I went out for St. Patrick's Day for the first time in my life and I missed a great conversation about the comics that I would rather have been doing!

All of your thoughts are good. At seven in the morning, that's all I got.
rebcake
Mar. 18th, 2012 05:42 pm (UTC)
St. Pat's! Here, have some green. I'm impressed you were up at seven after a holiday Sat. night.
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treadingthedark
Mar. 18th, 2012 04:29 pm (UTC)
I enjoyed reading your conversation as well. I've always thought that Buffy would be perfectly within her rights to stake Spike at the end of Crush. I was surprised that she didn't. But her constant smacking him in the face after that drove me crazy.
But now for something completely different, this little ficlet based on issue 1 of season 9, ignoring the rest made me very happy. And that's not easy when it comes to the comics! It totally made me take off my crankypants.

http://gryfndor-godess.livejournal.com/139191.html
rebcake
Mar. 18th, 2012 05:31 pm (UTC)
To be fair to Buffy, I don't think she did smack Spike after Crush. Maybe because she saw him with new eyes, but more likely because she didn't want to touch him. ;-) At least, she didn't until after they started with the smoochies in S6 and she freaked out and reverted to old, bad ways.

I look forward to reading the ficlet, though I suspect that I've already read it, coming from a quality author like GG!

P.S. I think Buffy would have been perfectly within her rights to stake Spike during Lovers Walk, Pangs, or after Primeval, OOMM, Crush, or during Intervention (if she found out about the robot before the Glory torture). There's lots of times she exercised mercy when maybe it wasn't the best idea. I wonder why? I have a theory that involves Buffy subconsciously being into him, but I know not everybody else shares that view. ;-)

Edited at 2012-03-18 05:40 pm (UTC)
kats_meow
Mar. 18th, 2012 05:04 pm (UTC)
YES! Yes. THAT is who the Immortal is! THANK YOU!

::sleeps the sleep of the quieted fandom mind for the first time since Angel season 5::
rebcake
Mar. 18th, 2012 05:44 pm (UTC)
Hee! Do yourself a favor and read elisi's "My Immortal". It did me a world of good!
ms_scarletibis
Mar. 18th, 2012 09:27 pm (UTC)
The only thing I can say is a big ol' "word" lady. Aptly put :)

Additionally, didn't we see this movie before? I mean...really.
rebcake
Mar. 18th, 2012 09:34 pm (UTC)
Hey, have you ever watched "Plan 9 From Outer Space"? I watched it 3 times before I realized that, no, I hadn't been falling asleep in the middle all those times. It just was repetitive and non-sequential. I'm getting a similar vibe here.
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annapurna_2
Mar. 18th, 2012 11:21 pm (UTC)
You make an excellent point there. I suspect she's not doing it consciously, but I agree that her subconscious definitely wants the emotional upper hand. And it's not fair to Spike.

On the other hand, there could also be some neediness involved on Buffy's part. I see Buffy as basically someone who has little or no confidence in her lovability, for lack of a better term. Maybe she's having a hard time believing Spike could still love her, especially when she hasn't given him much encouragement in that respect.

If that's the case, I don't think either of them have the emotional upper hand. Those poor, mixed-up kids. ::loves on them::

Either way, you're right though. She's still expecting Spike to expose his very vulnerable heart while she protects hers.
rebcake
Mar. 19th, 2012 01:55 am (UTC)
Not to say that Buffy's heart isn't just as vulnerable as Spike's. It's just that she's got it under lock and key...which doesn't make her any happier, does it? Hmmm?
elisi
Mar. 20th, 2012 08:01 am (UTC)
Meant to say this, but managed to forget as I was so busy...

To me, this conversation mostly reminded me of this Buffy/Spike conversation in Normal Again:

SPIKE: (slightly calmer) I hope you don't think this antidote's gonna rid you of that nasty martyrdom. (Buffy still not looking at him) See, I figured it out, luv. You can't help yourself. You're not drawn to the dark like I thought.

Buffy looks up at him now, still frowning.

SPIKE: You're addicted to the misery. It's why you won't tell your pals about us. Might actually have to be happy if you did. They'd either understand and help you, god forbid ... or drive you out ... where you can finally be at peace, in the dark. With me. Either way, you'd be better off for it, but you're too twisted for that. (pauses) Let yourself live, already. And stop with the bloody hero trip for a sec. We'd all be the better for it.


Or rather - it seemed like a deliberate opposite. Spike, in s9, specifically distances himself from 'the dark' ('Cause I don't want to be the dark place you run to when things aren't working.) It's not really about Buffy, but about Spike setting down the terms. The ball is now in her court.
rebcake
Mar. 20th, 2012 03:18 pm (UTC)
True. He should set his terms and refuse to participate in a relationship that's not fulfilling or makes him feel worse about himself. We all should. It's good that he's thought it through. I'm proud of him, actually.

Looking back to the previous issue, it seems as if he was going to unburden himself to Buffy about his feelings before she dropped her pregnancy bombshell. He'd probably have said the same thing to her without her demanding a confession. He doesn't have much problem with revealing his soft underbelly to the woman he loves. ;-)
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