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"And working up a load of sexual tension and prancing away like a magnificent poof is truly thanks enough."
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May 13 2003

Salon addresses a problem with BtVS. (reg. required to read full article. Grr.)

"Like Fonzie before him, this too-cool thug in a leather jacket has diverted a good show from its original mission: To celebrate the uncool outcasts of the world."

I'd say "Hear, hear!" but I can't read the full article so I'll withold my appraisal for now.)

Fortunately, I subscribe to Salon.com. And this article has already led to war breaking out between the pro and anti Spike camps.

I like the character of Spike and I think James is a terrific actor but the author is right. Season 6 got hijacked by Spike and this season to a large extent is the same.
An excellent piece. I am in no way affiliated with Salon.com, but if you're looking for a reason to subscribe, this article is one of many. The title, "Why Spike Ruined Buffy the Vampire Slayer" says it all (note: I am not trying to incur the wrath of multiple Spuffy fans, the writer really does have some stuff worth hearing.) I was three seconds away from pasting the entire thing here, but then I read the rules =)
Yup, it's not James' fault that the writers are in love with his character and use him to live out their fantasies on screen (Apparently RRK and JE admitted to this in their recent Succubus Club interview... it's just baffling.) and have come to the end of the road with all the other characters on the show - unable to further their stories. I think in trying to please both the network (more Spuffy / more ethnic characters) AND the fans (have x-over/more Spuffy/keep Willow 'gay now'/create big bad that can shapeshift so we can bring back ALL the villains EVAH) they went overboard and lost the plot completely. Literally.
I remember, it was only a relatively short time ago, when people where complaining left and right about how little screentime that Spike had (you know about the first third of the season); I don't think this writer's assessment is entirely accurate (though Spike is one of the more major characters of this season), and I would love to see Stephanie Zacharek's response to the article. However, back to my main point, this article, like those earlier comments, points to one thing: At this point in the series, you can not make all of the fans happy, no matter what you do. My response, the writers should do whatever they want to do, if I didn't like it, I would stop watching it.

And I don't think they've lost the plot; I think they've followed their plot with a single-minded intensity.
To read the full article, all you have to do is click on the free day pass on the right-hand side on the bottom.
You don't need to subscribe to Salon to read the article, just watch the annoying commercial and you can have access for the day.

(x-post)

[ edited by dbadman on 2003-05-13 15:01 ]
"There are always things that people don't like, and part of that means you are doing your job correctly, because it means that people are identifying with the character. You have to earn [the audience's affection]." -- David Greenwalt

"Change is a mandate on the show. And people always complain. [Agitated voice.] 'Who is this new guy, Oz?' 'Where'd that guy Oz go?' They have trouble with change, but it's about change. It's about growing up. If we didn't change, you would be bored....But change is part of the show, and people always have a problem with it. But I think it's why they keep coming back." -- Joss Whedon
After reading it, I have to say that I agree with it, sadly, even though I am one of the few that enjoyed last season. I haven't enjoyed this season because I feel that Xander, my favorite character has been short-changed when he could have been featured, and there will be no chance to see him again after this season in a feature role.

I like Spike, and loved seeing the passion between he and Buffy last year, and the relationship between he and Dawn as well. But no one character should be bigger than the show, and things are now out of balance, I believe. Two episodes left, and it is still possible to end amazingly, though.
Of course I'll have to chime in with my defense, considering my apparent role as one of the Last Defenders, it's just obligatory at this point. I'll try for a non-manifesto. I'd simply like to back up Shroomy's observation that I've heard a lot of complaints about how poorly or insufficiently they've treated Spike this season (i.e. not giving him any screentime, relegating him to hapless subplots). If you go to the Usenet board, one of the most eloquent detractors of the show post-Season 4 is Rose (Mrs. Poet), who has been loudly complaining about the marginalization of her favorite character (Spike) for going on three years now, I think. This was a big complaint in the TWOP boards as well, earlier this season. I'd agree that it does show the writers just can't win.

The author of the article makes a lot of unsupported claims that I don't think actually stand up upon review. For example, he reduces "Lies My Parents Told Me" to an "entire episode devoted to filling out Spike's back story." Funny that, because I'd pegged it as an episode that explored Spike's relationship with his mother, Wood's relationship with his, and Buffy's relationship with Giles all under the same lens. I didn't realize that the Buffy/Wood stories actually didn't happen. He offers the uncomplicated assessment that Spike is all cool, arrogant swagger (keeps on mentioning the Fonz from Happy Days for some mysterious reason), without considering that a big part of Spike's development over the last three seasons has been spent subverting that cool facade (our discovery, for example, that he was the ultimate mama's boy; or his recent bonding with Andrew over the subject of the Awesome Blossom). He actually whines at one point that "Even when Spike isn't on-screen, characters are talking about him." Because in this show, we only discuss characters when they're onscreen, right? This whole "talking about a person who's not in the room" phenomenon has been applied exclusively to Spike. Not Buffy, or Xander, or Willow, or Giles, or Anya, or ...

He makes some other weak non-Spike digressions, like: "Andrew, the show's answer to "The Simpsons'" Comic Book Guy, is constantly mocked for his geekiness, because a show that was once on the side of geeks now portrays them as buffoons or villains." On the other hand, I'd argue they've used Andrew's geekiness to make him one of the most endearing characters, one who (the author neglects to mention) had an entire episode devoted solely to his perspective and his redemption. It was his attempt to be cool, to be a villain, that was his downfall, and the more geeky he is, the more we'll embrace him.

So yeah, simplistic and misleading, what else ya got?
Thanks, grrarrgh00, that makes me feel a little better. Does anyone agree, though, that Xander has been neglected? He had that great episode last year where he totally screwed Anya over by leaving her at the altar and he saved the world as well, but this year he wasn't even in the Whedon-penned Conversations with Dead People.
Do you have an e-mail address, brother_grady? If so, I'll tell you my thoughts about Xander's development. And Whedon didn't write CwDP, Espenson and Goddard did.
Grrrarrgh00 - very good points. You sort of articulated stuff that was just jumbled around in my head. And I'd agree, brother_grady, that Xander has been neglected - and Willow and Giles as well. The writers seem to have run completely dry on Scooby material (rather like the AtS writers seem to have run dry on Cordelia).
Describing Spike as the Fonz of the Buffyverse is clever, but I could have done without the axe-grinding tirade that followed. Did it ever occur to the author of this article that the reason why Spike started getting more and more of the writers' attention was that there wasn't much left to explore with the original Scooby Gang, creatively speaking? "Where do we go from here?" is like a cipher for Seasons Six and Seven. I'll admit that Willow has been a little underused of late, although AH did an incredible job of portraying post-Dark Willow Willow in the first few episodes of the season. But a lot of the grumbling that Willow's not getting enough "arc" is coming from the anti-Kennedy camp. I personally like the fact that Kennedy is nothing at all like Tara was (not to slight Tara) - despite her irritating perkiness, she's exactly what Willow needs to get on with her life. And as for Xander, he's had some of the *best* dialogue this season about the nature of heroism, his feelings of inadequacy in the company of superbeings, and Buffy's role as a leader. Both characters have had some monumental, earth-shaking things happen to them over the years, and I couldn't think of a more fitting end to Season Six than Xander talking Willow down from destroying the world. The problem is, what do you do with these characters after that, that hasn't already been done?

I also take umbrage with the notion that BtVS suddenly shifted from championing the geeky underdog to their cool tormentors. It's always been more complicated than that in the Jossverse. Buffy was hardly a geek or a freak, and doesn't anyone recall a cool, dark brooding vampire named Angel who devoured oodles of episodes (and won Buffy's heart, much to Xander's chagrin) in the first few seasons of the show? Jenny Calendar was always ripping on Giles for his attachment to old books back then. And Cordelia Chase, the bitch queen of Sunnydale High, ended up part of the Scooby Gang, but that didn't suddenly turn her into a nice person by any stretch of the imagination.

Now don't get me wrong - there are legitimate criticisms that can be made about where Season Seven has gone wrong (although I maintain that this season's worst enemy has been UPN, which has shown the episodes in such a plodding, staggered fashion that makes a plot that would have felt little faster-paced if shown back-to-back seem to meander and go nowhere. Compare with Angel, which showed ten eppies in a row). But I think the author of this article is more interested in launching a broadside against Spike than trying to understand the strengths and weaknesses of latter-day Buffy, and that's just too bad.

ps. Not a Spuffy.
There has been a lot wrong with season 7, but Spike isn't part of the list. Without Spike, it would be even worse. The list of what's wrong includes the dull and irritating SIT's, (also bringing in the non-credible Willow/Kennedy coupling), the pointless Giles/First red herring, the crude, season one-style ubervamp, and, of course, the sidelining of Willow, Xander and Giles. But it was the writers who sidelined the Scoobies to make way for the the SIT's, Kennedy, Giles/First, the ubervamp etc. Spike's plotline had nothing to do with it. Worst of all is the Big Bad - the First just doesn't work for me on any level. And as for Caleb (nothing against NF here - he gives the role all he's got), he seems to have been crowbarred into the concluding episodes. For the first time in either Buffy or Angel, we have a Big Bad major sidekick that comes from absolutely nowhere, with no history, no foreshadowing. For me, he's Caleb the Afterthought. It's the entire concept of the season that's at fault, and Spike is one of the season's few redeeming features.
Great thoughts. I just wanted to fill everyone in that Goddard & Espenson revealed on the Succubus Club that the writing of CWDP was split between them (writing the Trio & Dawn sections) and Noxon & Whedon (who wrote the Willow & Buffy sections). Noxon has mentioned before that trying to get four writers credited is next to impossible with the Guild so they probably just gave full credit to G&E.
grrarrgh00- Thank you for articulating so many of my thoughts. You've saved me the trouble of having to write them all down myself. In fact, I'm fairly certain you did a better job of it that I would have.

(BTW, please get out of my brain. I need it back.)
grrarrgh00, oodja, well put.

The show's focus has been vague and uneven this season, but I suspect that some of the disintegration is intentional...the best of friends becoming functional strangers, the strongest bonds getting weird. There's still that fundamental chill on the scooby friendships left over from last season's bleakness, and I'd even go so far as to say that the last two seasons have been about the slow collapse of the friendships that were built in the first seasons. Which is fairly brutal, but totally not out of the question for Joss.

Also, I'm completely spoiler-free, so I have no idea if this is on the mark, but I'm still hoping that there's some explanation for the breakdown of Giles's character. He's never quite seemed right even after the lame "Giles is the First, no wait, wrong" development.
My rebuttal, sent first thing this morning to the editor of Salon...

Jaime J. Weinman is so hopelessly out of touch with what makes the series 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' in general, and the character of Spike in particular fascinating and relevant as to beg to question, "What show has she been watching for the past seven years?"

It may come as a surprise to Ms. Weinman to learn that there is an enormous fanbase dedicated to the character of Spike, the vast majority of whom are NOT attracted merely by his snarky, leatherclad, Fonzie facade, but rather to the emotional integrity and accessibility of the human beneath; in fact, Spike (or William if you prefer) is, and has long been, the MOST HUMAN character on this show. While obviously exaggerated and "metaphorized" by the very nature and genre of the series, the essence of this character is ressonant with so many fans precisely for the reasons that Xander (and in fact all the "core four") originally were (and sadly are no longer) -- he is us.

Spike embodies a larger percentage of humanity in his twin desires to be his own man and yet earn the love and respect of others. While Buffy and her Scooby Gang have gotten steadily worse as the years have progressed (at one time we were meant to sympathize with them at least partly because they were social "outcasts" that were picked on and ridiculed by the "in crowd"... and they eventually learned that they were cool in their own way, so now they get to pick on and ridicule others that are outside THEIR little inner circle), Spike has stumbled and suffered his way into becoming even better than he was to begin with. He is the only character (with the possible exception of Anya, and the very pleasantly notable exception of Faith) that has actually improved with age. Buffy if more of a b*tch than she's ever been (and no I don't think being the Slayer gives her an excuse). Willow is a pathetic, paranoid ex-junkie shell of her former self. Xander? He's spent years perfecting the art of doing unto others (Andrew for example) as was done unto him in high school. Uncool to be sure, but hardly "heroic". And Giles has devolved into some kind of two-dimensional characiture of what his Ripper persona COULD have been.

Unlike dear JJW it seems, most of us understand that the "cool punk" that is supposedly being celebrated on the show (and on countless fansites and conventions) is a veneer. It's a carefully constructed costume that the REAL Spike (William the Bloody Awful Poet) has been wearing for 120-some odd years. And it's that costume, that protective coloring, that holds our interest. More importantly it's the study of a character that feels he NEEDS that kind of protective coloring that fascinates and ressonates. It has nothing to do with him being "cool" or shirtless. It's the heart he wears on his sleeve while pretending he doesn't have a heart.

I recommend taking another, more open-minded look at the character, and the show. Your description of him as "an unrepentant mass murdering monster" is evidence that you haven't been paying the slightest attention to what's been shown, or I suspect to the nature of the real humans around you.

There's much more than one way to be defined as a hero. Don't insult those of us that identify with or care for this character by belittling his (and our) attempts at personal heroism.

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