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Perhaps I'm beating a dead horse, but here goes.

I was fascinated by the huge differences in how people perceive the way Buffy and Spike start their "relationship". I'm trying to find the crux of the divergence, and here is one possibility that came to mind:

Poll #1856222 I give up! (The Buffy Edition)

When Buffy succumbs in "Smashed", is she primarily giving way to:

Her own desires?
72(93.5%)
Spike's pressure?
0(0.0%)
Neither. I will explain my theory in the comments.
5(6.5%)

Yes, yes, we know it was a combination of factors. But which was the primary motivator for Buffy, in your opinion? Was she saying to herself "Hell with it, I'm gonna get mine", or "Hell with it, I don't care, let him have what he wants"? Is she putting her needs aside or putting them first?

If you have another idea about what is at the heart of the this wide, wild, fandom disagreement, I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Reposted because I confused Smashed and Wrecked. Again.

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Comments

( 57 comments — Leave a comment )
shapinglight
Jul. 25th, 2012 07:05 pm (UTC)
That was trickier than you might think. I do think Buffy's primary motivation was giving in to her own desires, but I don't think those desires were specifically for Spike, or to do with just sex, if you see what I mean. He was a means to an end - the most immediate way to make herself feel again. It helped that she didn't have any real respect for him left so using him to make herself feel better didn't give her the moral qualms doing the same to a human would have.

I don't think for one minute that she gave in to him pressurising her. If it had been just that - if she'd had no reason of her own to jump his bones - she never would have done it.

The above could well be interpreted as me thinking she's an awful person and Spike's a poor woobie, but I don't think that at all. Maybe if he hadn't been so bloody obnoxious to her earlier in the episode she would never have jumped him. She lost sight of him as a person due to the way he behaved, which made it easier for her to do what she did. Also, I think it must have struck her on some level as early as this how little he really 'got' what she was going through.

Enh! In other words, it was the Sunnydale town motto: it's complicated, and maybe I should have picked 'neither'.

Edited at 2012-07-25 07:07 pm (UTC)
beer_good_foamy
Jul. 25th, 2012 07:10 pm (UTC)
That was trickier than you might think. I do think Buffy's primary motivation was giving in to her own desires, but I don't think those desires were specifically for Spike, or to do with just sex, if you see what I mean. He was a means to an end - the most immediate way to make herself feel again. It helped that she didn't have any real respect for him left so using him to make herself feel better didn't give her the moral qualms doing the same to a human would have.

I came here to post pretty much exactly this.
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penny_lane_42
Jul. 25th, 2012 07:11 pm (UTC)
Amen.
rebcake
Jul. 25th, 2012 07:35 pm (UTC)
It helped that she didn't have any real respect for him left so using him to make herself feel better didn't give her the moral qualms doing the same to a human would have.

I'd add that finding out that he can defend himself against her physically also made it easier for her to go for it. That could be another factor in the "she's NOT just an awful person" argument. In a way, that would indicate that she does have a sort of respect for him (a warrior's respect for a worthy adversary/ally), even if she's not respecting him emotionally.
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rahirah
Jul. 25th, 2012 07:57 pm (UTC)
This, although I think Buffy was at least as awful to Spike as he was to her earlier in the episode.
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fenderlove
Jul. 25th, 2012 11:12 pm (UTC)
I voted for her own desire, but I've never really understood this scene. I don't think I ever will.
rebcake
Jul. 25th, 2012 11:39 pm (UTC)
That's pretty much how I feel about The Gift. Also, any discussion whatever about "the soul" in the Whedonverse. (I just don't think there's enough to go on to make any firm statement about what it is/does.)

This scene, though? I am ALL OVER THIS SCENE! Epic train wreck!
fenderlove
Jul. 26th, 2012 01:21 am (UTC)
I think this scene always made me feel ooky and uncomfortable. I think I am left with almost as many questions about it as I am with discussions of the soul or how the BtVS Universe was created according to their own canon. One thing that bothers me is that Buffy took a huge leap of faith that Spike was "ready" enough for her to hop on his disco stick. I mean, what if he wasn't ready? She'd have been pretty disappointed! Also, why does Spike's zipper sound like a sleeping bag zipper and not an actual zipper on clothing? What were Spike's thoughts about being manhandled out of his clothing (he seemed confused, judging by his expression)? How did Spike not get right-angled when they fell through the floor? Seriously, guys have fallen onto shoes from a bed-height and broken their members with less force than Spike had as he went through the floor.
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gillo
Jul. 26th, 2012 12:10 am (UTC)
It's her own desire, but not to have sex. It's all about his unique ability to make her "feel" something - he's the fire that doesn't freeze her, that's all. She wants to feel something beyond her depression, and sex and pain are so closely linked that one feeds into the other.

So her primary motivation is about getting some - contact with the world beyond the grey cotton-wool that surrounds her in her depression.
boot_the_grime
Jul. 26th, 2012 02:01 am (UTC)
It's her own desire, but not to have sex. It's all about his unique ability to make her "feel" something - he's the fire that doesn't freeze her, that's all. She wants to feel something beyond her depression, and sex and pain are so closely linked that one feeds into the other.

Spike: I wasn't planning on hurting you... much. (smirks)
Buffy: You haven't come close to hurting me!
Spike : Afraid you're gonna give me a chance? Afraid I'm gonna...

Buffy plans a kiss on his lips.
ms_scarletibis
Jul. 26th, 2012 12:39 am (UTC)
I don't think it had to do with anything Spike wanted. I don't think he thought it would go anywhere beyond making out so soon.

*see Spike's look of utter surprise when Buffy hops on here*

<--doesn't actually have a screencap of that.

Anyway, I think that scene would have happened eventually, but the process was sped up by her thinking she had the scapegoat of coming back "wrong," which is kind of odd, since she doesn't say "the hell with it" to anything else in her life. Flimsy excuse is flimsy, so it circles all back to her giving in to her own desires, IMO.

Not that I blame her for riding the Spike train, cause duh :p
rebcake
Jul. 26th, 2012 06:34 am (UTC)
I'm surprised at how many people think Buffy's desires don't include sex. There's lots of evidence that she enjoys (enjoyed?) it, and it's hard for me to wrap my head around her NOT missing that part of her life. (I tend to over-identify with her. ;P) I don't know if I'd say it's her number one issue at the moment, but I figure it's somewhere in the mix.
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rebcake
Jul. 26th, 2012 06:40 am (UTC)
I'm pretty sure that she was giving in to lots of things: anger, lust, a desire NOT to have to be "good" all the time, etc. Want, take, have...
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baudown
Jul. 26th, 2012 04:33 am (UTC)
Yes, she desires is to feel something in order to combat the feeling of numbness and deadness that makes up her grief. She wants to be punished for her anger towards her friends for bringing her back. To be punished for being"wrong." She desires to experience fully her own darkness -- something she's been seeking for a long, long time, and which Spike has long represented to her. And she's of course seeking sexual gratification. I think she and Spike have been attracted to each other from the first moments of their acquaintance, although neither of them knew it at the time. Just watch their interaction s in School Hard -- Spike stalking her in a very sexual way, Buffy proposing hand to hand combat rather than weapons -- it's there from the start.

But Spike being able to hurt her is essential to her giving in to desire. It's part and parcel of her desire itself -- to be hurt, to be punished. And she can permit herself to have it only when she knows he can truly give that to her, and that he isn't physically defenseless to her (although she ignores that fact that his emotional defenses to her are nearly non-existent).
rebcake
Jul. 26th, 2012 06:56 am (UTC)
Interesting points. It might be a minority opinion, but I too think that the attraction has been there on both sides for a long time. ;-)

It does not look like she's giving a lot of thought to what Spike might want here. I'm pretty sure she thought "he's a big boy" once she found out he wasn't defenseless, and figured he'd take care of himself. And really, she's already got a lot of responsibilities that she's failing at, so why would she add Spike's feelings to her to-do list? It's probably a relief to have someone she doesn't have to take care of. (She thinks.)
aycheb
Jul. 26th, 2012 07:34 am (UTC)
Looking at the somewhat one-sided results to this poll, I think it’s fair to say it hasn’t really succeeded in its aim – to find the crux of the divergences in how people perceive the start of the B/S relationship. Either a case of asking the wrong question or the wrong people, possibly a bit of both. The latter may change now it’s been linked to the herald but while people have different opinions on what Buffy was succumbing to at the end of the episode, I’m pretty sure the real points of divergence come earlier. The current debates started in Mark Watches but Mark never claimed that Spike raped Buffy and that case was only seriously made by one commentator. Mark’s great provocation was to talk about Spike beating Buffy. A lot of beating goes on in this episode, physical and verbal and I think it’s how people interpret that which determines which side of the great Spuffy divide they fall. Rahirah’s question would probably make for the most informative poll. “Who do you believe was the awfuller, Buffy to Spike or Spike to Buffy?” Or more importantly “Who do you feel…?”

I like Buffy more than Spike, I find her easier to understand. Intellectually I can see that the grudge match ends in a draw but what Buffy does doesn’t hit me as viscerally as Spike’s more pre-meditated nastiness. Those who prefer Spike are bound to feel things differently. That’s OK.

As I see it, Buffy and Spike cross paths three times in Smashed and it’s like a dark and dirty joke - set-up, follow-through then punchline.

In the DVD commentary Drew Greenberg remarks that his first scene allows a last glimpse of quippy Buffy but the jokes are at rather than with people or not even funny in the case of Spike’s parting jibe about Buffy having no-one there for her but him.

He follows her to the museum, where it all gets much nastier. She gives him an explanation for kissing him that’s as honest as she can get (Giles left, I was depressed), he laughs at her. She asks him to stop (not for the last time) he tries to be honest in his turn but it’s too late the tone is set. He grabs her, she hits him, he knocks her off her feet. She comes back to have the last word physically and verbally. "You're a thing. An evil disgusting thing." He smiles.

Spike throws down a challenge a non-verbal “Give it to me good,” that this time Buffy can’t resist. Bad decision – he can hurt her now. But no-one’s backing down, verbally or otherwise. It escalates perilously, a fight to the death surely? But there’s a twist, a punchline that isn’t a punch. Suddenly the music rises, hearts grow bulgy and the house falls down.
rebcake
Jul. 26th, 2012 10:42 am (UTC)
I must agree that the poll has not really illuminated the point of divergence. And I thought I was really onto something! Tsk.

I actually have an older poll about some other points of contention in the episode, and those results are more wide-ranging. That can be found here:

http://fantas-magoria.livejournal.com/335454.html

But it doesn't clarify for me if there is a particular set of world views that can explain why this situation excites such different readings. And probably that's because there is no such straightforward solution.

I just read a really insightful meta on this period that posits that we are shown what the characters think are their problems, but that those aren't necessarily the actual problems. It makes it tricky for the audience, because hitherto we could usually be assured that characters were correct in their interpretations of events, or would be by episode or arc end. There is no such assurance in this season. It's a fairly radical shift in the storytelling. I like it.
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ms_scarletibis
Jul. 26th, 2012 05:10 pm (UTC)
"He follows her to the museum, where it all gets much nastier. She gives him an explanation for kissing him that’s as honest as she can get (Giles left, I was depressed), he laughs at her. She asks him to stop (not for the last time) he tries to be honest in his turn but it’s too late the tone is set. He grabs her, she hits him, he knocks her off her feet. She comes back to have the last word physically and verbally. "You're a thing. An evil disgusting thing." He smiles."

*Following isn't explicitly the same as showing up and perhaps expecting to run into someone. Not to mention there was no guarantee her friends wouldn't be there, and that's if they showed up at all.

*Giles wasn't gone in OMWF, so the simplest answer wasn't the most honest one.

*He makes her stumble, but she is the one who hits him so hard his body spins, and he falls to his knees.

*The smile is because his chip didn't fire, not because of what she called him.

But of course, as Rebcake points out below, YMMV.
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red_satin_doll
Aug. 9th, 2012 09:33 pm (UTC)
I'm quite new to BtVS (a couple of months) and thus "fandom" and I'm really rather taken aback by any notion of "who was awfuller?" I don't see that here, at all. Neither one is a victim of the other (not in the way Buffy was a victim of Angel, for instance.) This is a dark side of "empowerment" but they are both making a choice here and I can't see either as a villian of the piece. That's why their arc in S5-7 fascinates me so. It's so messy and real and so many shades of grey, when before things were very black-and-white. Which is closer to how the world really works - but they are still vampire and Slayer, and real-world rules/morality don't entirely apply, either.
(Deleted comment)
rebcake
Jul. 26th, 2012 06:59 pm (UTC)
Yes, I am a stern hostess. If comments get all combative, I screen 'em. I am trying really hard not to let these types of discussions fall into the old, bad "lines are drawn" territory. Certain accusations, like "Buffy Basher" or "Spike Apologist" (and vice versa) don't add any clarity or freshness to the conversation.

That said, keep doing the weird stuff, and please tell us aaaall about it! ;-)
lostboy_lj
Jul. 27th, 2012 06:52 am (UTC)
This post generated a pretty massive meta from me that's still in progress, but since my pick involved saying something in comments, I'll just ask this question: Why do the events in "Smashed" necessarily involve Buffy "succumbing" to some irresistible force?

Is a source of pressure really distinct from the person who succumbs to it? Or is it an intrinsic part of who they are? There just seems to be a basic agency problem with the wording here. As in real life, choice signifies life in the Buffyverse. For good or for ill, Buffy chose to kiss Spike in "Smashed", as she did in "OMWF" and "Tabula Rasa". These were the first real choices she made since clawing her way out of the grave, and the fact she find them disturbing doesn't mean that they were generated by forces beyond her control.

The (often infuriatingly) observant Spike calls her out on this rather frankly during the hangover morning of "Wrecked." Buffy doesn't admit it, but that is because the sixth season Buffyverse is filled with untrustworthy narrators, and characters who don't understand themselves yet.
rebcake
Jul. 27th, 2012 07:21 am (UTC)
If the poll's non-results are anything to go by, I don't think you'd get much of an argument about anything you've said, as regards this case anyway.

Is a source of pressure really distinct from the person who succumbs to it?

I think a lot of the "rape culture" arguments we were seeing non-expressed on Mark Watches are about how outside pressure can be internalized into inside pressure, which is why some people were questioning Buffy's consent in this case. I absolutely concede that there are real world examples of this kind of thing. (A horrific NPR program on "Lover Boys" in the Netherlands was just the latest I ran across this week. Brrr and grrrr..) So, there's that.

In this particular case, though, my opinion is that Buffy is NOT giving in to an outside force, or anything beyond her control, even if she wishes she could characterize it that way.

She is giving in to...herself. Her resolve NOT to do something she clearly wants to crumbles. I know people get upset when the "dieting" metaphor is used in this case, because it's all Much More Serious than Buffy giving in and having a Hot Fudge Sundae after all those years of fat-free yogurt. But then I look at Spike and the Hot Fudge Sundae analogy doesn't really seem so far fetched. ;-) YMMV. Hee.

But seriously, I read a really cool somewhat related meta yesterday that might appeal to you:

http://coracle33.livejournal.com/915.html

And, I can't wait to see your meta, too! *salivates*
lostboy_lj
Jul. 27th, 2012 02:42 pm (UTC)
She is giving in to...herself.

Yeah, I think that's the crux of what I don't agree with, in regards to the wording of the question. I recognize there's a great deal of poetic license that goes along with that sentiment ("giving in to your desires", "submitting to the needs of the flesh", yada yada), and that might be the way you were using it. But given the sensitive nature of this particular question it seems important to more sharply define the line between what is "choice" and what is "compulsion."

Her situation seems similar to me (and, I'd bet, to the show's authors) to what's going on with Willow in this exact episode. I think Willow's problem gets misunderstood/mischaracterized in the fandom as a "magic addiction" for the same reason that Buffy's fraught relationship with Spike gets mischaracterized as non-con (or, at least, dub-con). Inner confusion or denial about why we make certain choices doesn't mean that we haven't actually made them, it just means that we are too scared or damaged to look in the mirror and figure out why. Willow's tale isn't really about "addiction" any more than that of a politician who lusts for power, even though the TV trope layer leads us by the nose there.

Likewise, I don't think Buffy's parallel tale is really about sexual "addiction" or "surrendering to desire" or what have you. It's about learning how to be alive again, which is about making choices. In "Smashed" she makes a choice to begin a (very strange, stealthy, and often mutually destructive) relationship with Spike. Then later on, in "As you Were", she makes another choice to end it.

Ironically (given the events of "Seeing Red"), it's really Spike who may have issues of dubious consent in season six, because he's such a stranger to himself and is shown to be driven by his compulsions and addictions (bloodsucking vampire and whatnot). Seeing how destructive this makes him, he kind-of makes the choice to go get his soul back, so he can begin to actually know himself. But even that choice is dubious... in "Grave", he doesn't even seem to consciously know he wants his soul back, although the Demon/doctor/priest/philosopher does.

Edited at 2012-07-27 02:46 pm (UTC)
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