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July 22 2008

Chief Seattle has posted his character study of Spike. As always fascinating thoughts from the Chief.Angelus character sketch will be posted soon.

Haven't finished the whole thing yet, but the beginning definitely struck me as very insightful:

These heightened abilities force the Byronic hero to be arrogant, confident, abnormally sensitive, and extremely conscious of himself...Because of this inner darkness, these “larger than life” qualities and his sense of isolation, in one form or another, the Byronic hero rejects the values and moral codes of society and because of this he is often a figure of repulsion, as well as fascination.


I've often thought that Spike's original time period was significant, that he was definitely shaped by his Victorian/Romantic roots and that he never really escapes them. This just articulates exactly that far better than I could.

Also, I think the writer is very aware of the regression of Spike's character between Season 7 of Buffy and Season 5 of Angel. I'm definitely looking forward to reading the rest of the essay.

On the other hand, I disagree on the conclusion that none of Spike's actions are altruistic. I've always felt that he does get to the point where the mission is important, not just because of Buffy, and also not just because it's about him. Spike may not obsess over redemption like Angel does, but I do believe he cares far more for the people around him than the writer seems to believe.

[ edited by Lirazel on 2008-07-23 03:58 ]
I've just read the first part of the essay. The writer says that "School Hard" is an inversion of 'Hard School'. Am I the only person in the world that thought "School Hard" was a reference to the "Die Hard" movies? i.e. trapped in a building that's full of bad guys?
No, but the author might be the only person in the world that didn't see it that way ;).

(doesn't she even crawl through the ventilation system at one point ?)

Normally well worth a read these but they're quite long so I normally take a while to get around to them.
No i'm pretty sure it's universally accepted to that the title was a play on 'Die Hard'. Never heard the saying 'hard school' before. lol.
Read the whole article - it's pretty unbalanced - he/she has a very low opinion of Spike. They even manage to interpret his demise in 'Chosen' as revelling in the destruction of Sunnydale. Go figure.
Revelling in destruction full stop, I could kind of see but specifically of Sunnydale seems a stretch.
Bloody hell, here goes another night's sleep, because I can't resist this one. ;-)

it's pretty unbalanced - he/she has a very low opinion of Spike. They even manage to interpret his demise in 'Chosen' as revelling in the destruction of Sunnydale. Go figure.
tranquillity | July 23, 13:59 CET

I skimmed a lot of this but read the final (BtS) section quite thoroughly, and although I disagreed with a lot of the interpretation, I failed to find anything to even suggest the "reveling in the destruction of Sunnydale".
I do agree that the article is "unbalanced", but not that the author has a low opinion of Spike. On the contrary, my reading is that they have a low opinion of the treatment of Spike's character by the writing team, in general. Which is kinda the opposite.

Spike being my favorite whedoneverse character by far, I loved the "Byronic hero" characterization. My most serious disagreement with this article is in the interpretation of BtS season 7. This from the last paragraph, before moving on to "Spike in AtS", (which I haven't read yet) .........

"Worse still is Buffy's attitude toward him. She accepts him in spite of everything that has gone before because he has changed and shown her penance. But that sort of resolution required the writers to deal with his past as a murdering monster in general and his attack on her in particular in a serious and respectful manner worthy of the subject. They did no such thing."

At this point I have to wonder if he (assuming, from the name) was watching the same season 7 as I was. As in .... Beneath You, Sleeper, Never Leave Me, Showtime, LMPTM, Touched, End of Days and Chosen.

One of the major story arcs embedded in S7 was Spike's journey of atonement and redemption. The gradual healing of he and Buffy's relationship was handled with extreme depth, making it clear that it required mutual forgiveness, as well as each character forgiving his/her self, for the damage each had done to the other. Not exactly a superficial handling of the situation.

I don't think Spike's past, as well as the unfolding of his "post-souled" evolution, could have been dealt with much more effectively than in these episodes, in particular.

The article goes on to say:
"But here, the idea of change and redemption is taken care of by a pat mystical answer, he is given back his soul. and that really is it, he stops being a monster because of that."

Just the "given back" (his soul) is such a jaw-dropping mis-statement, again I have to wonder if I was watching the same show as the good Chief.
I think he gets most of the major character points right (his romanticism, his forthrightness, his "all fists and fangs" approach as opposed to Angel's methodical approach), but I disagree with most of his interpretations. First of all, the Spike who acts entirely out of love for Buffy is not really discontinuous with the former Spike, who acted primarily out of love for Dru and to some extent out of his paradoxical love/hate relationship with Slayers as part of his identity. Secondly, I think he gets Spike's motivations post-soul mostly wrong. It's true that Spike isn't all goodness and light at all, but it's wrong to say that there's no altruism in his behaviour. He is genuinely kind to Anya, admits some regret over Wood's mother, yells "I gotta do this!" when he's burning in "Chosen," saves Fred at the cost of his own corporeality, and so on. He's not introspective at all, and generally doesn't express guilt over what he's done, but that's part of the same adaptability and lack of introspection that's always been a part of the character, even as a vampire; compare to Angel/Angelus who is, either way, an artist, an intellectual, thinking about each and every kill. And "Damage" went in-depth into this. And I think there's a fundamental misunderstanding of the season seven Buffy/Spike relationship, and Spike's "No you don't" line--but then, I remember reading Chief Seattle's review of "Out of My Mind" back in the day, in which he thought that Riley was being entirely irrational in thinking that Buffy didn't love him. In both cases, I think Buffy failing to love the person in question is evident in the story, at least to the degree that the men need. (Plus: Spike needed Buffy to get the hell out of there.)

As far as the interpretation of Spike getting his soul back...what ME did with Spike brings up a conflict between maintaining the mythological status quo and following a really interesting story. The story is that an evil soulless thing achieves redemption through love and Pavlovian conditioning; the mythological problems it raises centre around the fact that if an evil soulless thing can become entirely good, then it calls into question Buffy's entire mission. What ME did was compromise: show that Spike can do good, even be good to an extent, but that ultimately he can't be a "good person" and can't ever have feelings for people directly around him. Have him get his soul, and then go all the way toward becoming good; so that the story is satisfied (evil soulless thing can "redeem himself") without breaking the show's mythology (evil soulless things can't be good). This compromise, depending on your perspective, could be brilliant (best of both worlds) or horrid (worst of both worlds--which Chief Seattle seems to feel, here). I'd say that it's mostly a success. Spike does in fact self-actualize so it's a great story; but his case is unique, depending on the very qualities that made him particularly evil to allow him to become good.
I think the article tries to shoehorn BtVS and AtS characters and stories into the traditional superhero stereotypes. And, obviously, the writer takes everything he/she sees on screen at face value and needs clear and simple explanations of every action.

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