As may be expected from my research for my masters' paper, I've been doing a lot of reading of articles about Spike, Spike and Buffy's relationship, and other related themes.

First, I'll acknowledge that, given the nature of the material and the sources I'm using (a lot of material from Slayage Online, the International Journal of Buffy studies), there's a very incestuous nature to that which I'm reading; authors cite one another fairly regularly, and some quotes turn up in more than a few publications. This is both a benefit and a negative -- benefit because it means I'm getting a pretty good notion that I'm doing a good job of covering the field; negative because sometimes it'd be nice to hear new voices (and I have found some as I've read more). Another positive is the possibility that I could be contributing to what is a fairly small group. This will eventually help me in my quest to become e-famous, such as it is (non-existent).

Anyhow, what has come up a few times is the idea that Spike attempted to rape Buffy in season 6 because audiences were becoming too supportive of his relationship with Buffy and were too sympathetic to him as a character. Now, I am in no way condoning, supporting, embracing or any other positive label-ing the attempted rape. I am a firm believer that even if you are at the moment of penetration, and the girl then says no, you are to respect her wishes and stop. Period, full stop, etc. Let me just get that out of the way. I will readily admit to having rape fantasies -- I think there's nothing wrong with this and it represents a healthy sexual fantasy. I was sickened and disgusted by the rape scene in Showgirls (I'll admit it, I watched it), which convinced me that I wasn't twisted or wrong with my rape fantasies, that I really was against rape.

I'm also well-aware of the murky grey area that exists in the land of, "Well, I didn't say no... but I didn't really want to" in sexual relationships, because an unfortunate number of my own experiences have fallen under that uncertain region. Would I say I was raped? No. Would I say I had sex against my will? Yes. It's a difficult distinction to make, and one I'm not always sure everyone understands (can I be potentially sexist and say men don't understand? I'm not sure; I'm guilty of not always being able to understand men in the same manner I feel I understand women, so I'll hesitate from officially making that declaration, but I'm not erasing it at the moment).

Anyhow, to get myself away from all of my conditions and caveats, my original point are as follows -- even as someone who is opposed to rape and so on, I was able to feel sympathy for Spike in the context in which the rape was presented. There've been two excellent articles I've just read by Gwyn Symonds, "Solving Problems With Sharp Objects": Female Empowerment, Sex and Violence in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and "Playing more soul than is written: James Marsters' performance of Spike and the Ambiguity of Evil in Sunnydale, that discuss the rape scene and re-present it in ways that I was trying to mentally articulate and couldn't. (It's cases such as these that depress me as a scholar/writer). The first article illustrates how the scene is filmed and talks of the different camera cuts, angles, visuals, etc., as well as actors' deliveries and such that alternate viewers' sympathies between Buffy and Spike. As a sympathetic viewer and one who is admittedly, a Buffy/Spike Shipper (that is, supporter of the relationship), my sympathies were with Spike before, during and after the scene -- not for the actual actions, but I felt that Marsters' did such an excellent job of bringing Spike's motivations into the scene, that I couldn't help but.

That is to say, Spike was trying to show Buffy that she cared for him, and he knew that she felt it during their sex life -- so he was trying to bring back those emotions, draw them back out from her. Now, maybe it isn't fair of me to use this line of reasoning, as I'm sure that many disturbed individuals have done similarly, but as Symonds points out in her second article, viewers come to the show with a tremendous amount of media literacy, and we don't automatically condone the immoral actions of real-life people simply because we do so for characters on the screen. Certainly many viewers have felt that the murders or vengeance killings of characters in films and television shows was justified within the narrative frame of said show or film, but how many of us actively and/or routinely condone murders or vengeance kills in every day life?

And yet, my original point was not just this. My frustration in some part with the writers and producers that have gone on record about the attempted rape narrative arc, such as Marti Noxon and David Fury, because ultimately, as writers and producers, they form some of the responsibility for the growth and redemptive narrative arc of Spike. Spike was originally introduced as a disposable villain, and because of audience admiration and the talents of James Marsters, he was kept on, and continued to grow and evolve throughout the series (which forms the basis for my research paper). Now, other beloved characters that were introduced were disposed of -- Jenny Calendar, Tara, in some ways Jonathan -- and yet, even with fan complaints (as I'm sure there were), the storylines were there. I'm arguing that the writers and producers had the power to kill off Spike at any time. They could have kept him from growing as completely as they did, or evolving/reverting to a more human state. Certainly, he was the bad boy, the Big Bad, and I don't believe that someone who has spent two hundred years murdering people is necessarily good -- but we were to believe such of Angel, who did his fair share of murdering before his soul was restored to him. He certainly was merciless when his soul was once again removed.

What I find interesting was that, unless my memory fails me, even once Spike learned he could physically hurt Buffy after her return to Earth, he only did so in the one episode prior to their first sexual encounter; he could have killed her at any time and didn't, because he loved her and because he was on his way to remembering his humanity.

But it feels as though these writers and producers who are essentially defending or justifying the attempted rape scene are almost washing their hands of it at the same time -- like, "You guys were starting to like this character too much, you didn't realize that he's supposed to be this awful guy, so we're going to have him go out and try to rape Buffy... but no no, it's not our fault that you like him, even if we're giving him lines and motivations that make him nicer and more likable. Sure, we neutered him and rendered him incapable of harming humans. Sure, we made him kind of a pathetic little puppy stuck out in the cold. Sure, we made him start to do good because he wants to be accepted, good, and be, in his mind, worthy of Buffy's love. But it's not our fault that you guys like him! We'll have to change that!"

It's just... frustrating, and I have to wonder if it wasn't ultimately a lot of PR work to keep controversy high and viewers interested in the show, or what.

And yes, as you can see, I'm extremely relevant and topical in my choice of discussions. A show that ended five years ago is totally up-to-date to analyze and get worked up about.

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