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20 January 2011 @ 11:09 am
Season 8: The Status of Being Beneath Her and Not Being Invited In  
Two of the iconic ways Buffy asserted her position in the relationship at Spike's expense was when she said he was beneath her and when she revoked his invitation.  Both of those moments have been invoked in the comics.  Below an argument about why this isn't a callous repeat of some hurtful moments, but rather an upending of then.

1.  When Buffy told Spike he was beneath her, she meant it.  She was also right.  He was still evil at the time.  And with the chip in his head he was also pretty much a loser.  Don't get me wrong.  I hurt for Spike when she said it.  I assume she did NOT know how that phrase resonated with him.  And it was clearly meant to install Buffy as the new Cecily in Spike's life.  But Buffy is worth a million Cecilies, and she had far more right to the phrase than Cecily did.

But a lot has happened since Fool For Love, and it would be amazingly crappy if Buffy still thought Spike was beneath her.  So in #36 we have Buffy telling Angel that it's beneath him to be jealous of Spike.  In that panel, Angel and Buffy float above Spike's ship, which is rising up towards them, with all the rescued Scoobies on board, with Spike as the one who did the rescuing.

As I said in some of my posts when #36 came out, I think that whole episode, which was written by Joss was a big diss on *Buffy*.  She and Angel have just started an apocalypse.  People have died.   We get that underscored in a chilling way when Buffy first asks Angel if he'd have rather Spike arrived sooner and prevented the sexathon.  The implied answer is that Angel (and Buffy) are glad Spike didn't arrive.  They immediately, in the very next panel, separate to beat up a huge number of demons who have arrived BECAUSE of that sexathon.  That's making clear, for those who missed the point, that Angel and Buffy are incredibly messed up here.  They are the lowlifes who are so obsessed with each other and their orgasms (glow-induced or not) that they can't see that what just happened is horrible.

It is, therefore, intensely ironic that the term 'beneath you' comes up.  Buffy and Angel may think they're above everyone else (and most especially Spike).  But they are actually the creeps in the text -- the ones who deserve to be knocked down onto the floor in contempt.   We are as far from Fool for Love as you can get.  The line here is a commentary on Buffy, not on Spike.  And it's worth remembering that Buffy almost certainly doesn't know the resonance that line has for Spike and she's not saying it to him in any case.  Nor is she saying anything about Spike being beneath her.  She's telling Angel that his jealousy is beneath him.  So the Fool for Love resonance, and it's inversion, is entirely for our benefit.  It's there to tell us that there's been a sea change in the relative status of Spike and Buffy (and Angel).

#40 tells us straight out, for those of us who might have thought otherwise, that Buffy's low point in the season was exactly that sexathon.  That's when she super-literally f**cked up.  That just underscores the inversion intended by the invocation of the loaded phrase Beneath You.  Joss is a good writer.  That's all totally intentional.

2.  At the end of Crush, Spike bangs into the barrier and is crushed to realize his invitation to Buffy's house has been revoked.   It means a huge amount to him when the invitiation is reinstated in The Gift.  So isn't it terrible that he's once again disinvited?

It doesn't play that way.  Not at all.  First, the scene in #40 opens with Buffy mentioning that Spike is parked on the roof -- i.e. above her.  So forget the beneath you imagery.  Like I said, it's been upended in #36.  And in #40 it's still upended.

Second, we don't get anything like a wounded puppy dog look from Spike.  He gripes about it -- it's a pain cause it means he has to crawl around.  And it seems to be part of the reason he thinks Buffy is being weird.  But there's not a hint that he's hurt by it, or even reads it as a rejection.   Could be he's hiding his hurt -- but we've had Spike around a Buffy whose heart and body belongs to Angel for five issues now, and there's not been a solitary drop or hint of hurt.  If it's there it's a hurt that is 100% hidden.  Given that Spike's a heart on his sleeve guy, I'd say that if there is a hidden hurt, it's not an overpowering hidden hurt.   In other words, Spike has moved on -- at least some.  He's got some distance.

And that, in turn, could well be one of the main reasons that Buffy keeps making a point of the lack of invitation.  Because she does keep making a point of it.  I disagree with people who say its not her invitation to make.  She wouldn't repeat the point if it were a situation she was powerless to change.  She's asserting something by doing it.  But it's NOT an assertion meant to wound Spike.  Or at least not directly.  She never says it in a negative tone.  Think back to how she looked when she slammed the door in his face in Crush.  That's not what she's doing here.  She goes out to talk to Spike, for one thing.  For another, when she's diving back into the apartment, and re-mentioning the lack of invitation, she's also asking him to come back and visit her.  As vamp_mogs  points out, the most likely reading of her state of emotion at that point is that Spike has gotten to her, invoking tears, and she doesn't want him to see he has gotten to her and so goes awkwardly diving back into her apartment (and falling on her ass while doing so).  The subject is brought up as part of the banter between them.  And I think that's really interesting.

First, it no longer has anything like it's previous emotional flavor.  It is NOT Buffy rejecting a guy who is head over heels in love with her, for whom she has no feelings (that she's willing to admit to him or to herself at any rate).  This is NOT a callous repeat of Crush.  On the contrary.  It's a huge flashing sign that says Things Have Changed (a lot).  Buffy isn't above Spike, she's the klutz who falls into her apartment in a rush to keep Spike from seeing that she's crying.   Second, it pretty much takes one of their previous emotional moments (both her initial disinvite and subsequent reinvite) and puts it back into play.  Buffy is the one who makes much of it.  I'm going to say that it's her way of saying she wishes that he'd react to it the way he did before.  Not because she wants to hurt him.  But because she wants him to still love her that way.  Or at a minimum, she's saying it bugs her that he doesn't. 

#40 reminded us of the nightmare of Spike and Angel getting it on.  It was a nightmare because the two vamps were supposed to be into her and not into each other.  Buffy then found out that one of the vampires really still loved her.  Alas, jumping on him turned out to be pretty much the worst thing ever and brought destruction down on everyone.  She can't even look at that guy.  That guy is now far more beyond the pale than Spike ever was.  What Buffy still doesn't know (and frankly what we don't even know) is whether the other vampire still loves her.  He's disinvited.  I think she's asking him to say it bothers him.  He's not.  He's not telling her he still wants in.  He just says it's inconvenient that she won't let him in.  She's asserting the power, but as she stumbles into her apartment overcome with emotion, and as she gives voice to thoughts of being alone every night over a panel of him flying away, I tend to think that the tables have turned on the disinvite.  Before it was Buffy keeping out a lovelorn Spike.  Now it's an at-least love-tempted Buffy trying to provoke Spike into showing any sign that he returns the feeling.

She's not in a space to make a real campaign.  I'm not even sure if any of it is conscious.  But season 8 has established quite clearly that Buffy stll has feelings for Spikes.  To those who want to say that the fantasy in #36 was not at all romantic, I say keep an eye peeled for all the icons that come from that fantasy that just scream "romance".   The question is not whether she loves him.  The question is now whether he loves her.  We dont have a shred of evidence that he does.  And neither does Buffy.  And that bugs her. 
Mrs Darcy: Seriously? by visualthinker11elisi on January 21st, 2011 10:31 pm (UTC)

That's all.
2maggie22maggie2 on January 21st, 2011 11:45 pm (UTC)
I suppose. But if so, he's missed. A good chunk of the Spuffy fandom is on the sidelines saying they won't get fooled again. Meanwhile a bunch of non-Spuffies are all "wow, there's something to this Spuffy thing after all". Or maybe that is what Joss is after.
Mrs Darcy: Spuffy - destroyer of worlds! by frimfraelisi on January 22nd, 2011 10:50 am (UTC)
Hmmm. Had to come back, because I don't think Joss is intentionally baiting the 'shippers or anything. Let me explain. Here is a quote from the_royal_anna from 2004 (and she didn't mean this disparagingly at all! She was just stating a fact):

I honestly think that if either Angel or Spike shanshu and end up with Buffy, it will be the most un-Joss-like thing ever to have happened on either BtVS or AtS. I mean that.

First off, then Bangel was designed to be the ultimate in star-crossed lovers. They want each other, but can't be together. (Really, the curse is *genius*.) And that ran its course, but it was planned.

Spuffy, on the other hand, was the run-away 'ship that happened organically, quite simply growing out of the characters, and the writers sorta scrambled to keep up and never really knew what to do with them, and it shows in the one-step-forwards-two-steps-back nature of the story.

And here's the rub - the only thing standing in the way of Spuffy turning into a proper, genuine relationship, is Buffy declaring how she feels. The second - the second - she does that, they could start dealing with that delightful couple-y thing. Except Joss doesn't want that. He's not interested in couples, not really. He wants Buffy to wander the back alleys nursing a 'pouty heart' (which, btw, is my least favourite description of anything ever). So Buffy will never tell Spike how she feels - or rather, if she does, then we know that Joss has decided to finally end her story. It'd be like Bart turning 11 on The Simpsons.

So, basically, Spuffy will be stuck in no-mans land. Spike will be kept around, because he's popular, but nothing can ever really happen. Which means that their story is now story-driven (writer-dictated) rather than character-driven, and I think that's a huge loss. Of course they're Joss' creations, he can do what he wants, but I think that refusing to let your main character evolve beyond a certain point is dangerous and will, in the end, ruin the story. Buffy was about growing up, after all...
aychebaycheb on January 22nd, 2011 01:44 pm (UTC)
Outside of by the rules Harlequin novels the end point of growing up is not admitting to yourself that you're in love with the gamma male you met cute with at the beginning. Buffy already has declared how she felt to Spike but he wasn't ready to hear it. They missed their moment, time passed and now neither of them can be certain of the nature or extentof the others feelings or even their own. Love in a romance novel or a shipper fic is a simple if tortuous linear progression. Love in reality is more complex. A double helix which loops back on itself, develops secondary structures and branches. I don't really care about Spuffy, whether it happens or it doesn't but I love to watch Spike and Buffy interact.
TimeTravellingBunnyboot_the_grime on January 22nd, 2011 04:42 pm (UTC)
Outside of by the rules Harlequin novels the end point of growing up is not admitting to yourself that you're in love with the gamma male you met cute with at the beginning.

I really don't know what that means.

And what's a "gamma male"?
aychebaycheb on January 22nd, 2011 06:58 pm (UTC)
It's a reference to the conventions of romantic comedies/romance novels. "Meet cute" describes the trope whereby the couple meet in some dramatic and amusing fashion that usually leads to hate/UST on sight. They often bump into one another literally. A gamma male is a relatively recent category of romance novel hero who is neither an alpha (dominant, arrogant, overbearing, paternalistic) or a beta (boy next door, cute, non-threatening, jokey, eager to please, nice guy). Gamma males don't run with the pack, they're outsiders, rebels, unafraid to show their stereotypically feminine side.
Snick: mood shippysnickfic on January 22nd, 2011 05:42 pm (UTC)
He's not interested in couples, not really.

I think this is the crux of it. As you say...

I think that refusing to let your main character evolve beyond a certain point is dangerous and will, in the end, ruin the story.

Exactly. What you say about story-driven vs. character driven reminds me very much of what little snippets I read of the official BtVS tie-in novels: as far as I could tell, it was verboten that any of the characters have any significant character development outside the show itself (which was fair), so the stories were emotionally empty. (Granted, it didn't help that most of the writers I tried couldn't have written their way out of a paper bag.)

Joss won't let Buffy have a stable, permanent relationship. Never happen. But nor, apparently, is he willing to let her "continue baking" and meanwhile be a whole and fulfilled single individual. He's damning her to relationship misery forever by mere authorial fiat, and I just do not hold with that.
2maggie22maggie2 on January 22nd, 2011 06:11 pm (UTC)
I don't see Joss as intentionally holding Buffy back for the sake of avoiding having to deal with an emotionally healthy lead in a committed relationship.

I see him as telling a character-driven story about a young woman whose heart got fatally gored when she was 17 and who will probably never manage a healthy emotional life. Or if she does, it'll take more than just having her turn on a dime at some point. Indeed, I see season 8 as being hopeful because it brings the root of the problem back into play and that might provide her the chance to start to deal with it.
Mrs Darcy: Smile Fan by buttersideupelisi on January 22nd, 2011 06:38 pm (UTC)
I saw her deal with on the show. She moved on quite successfully - to the extent that her final meeting with Angel was filled with nostalgia, mutual affection, but not much more.

a young woman whose heart got fatally gored when she was 17 and who will probably never manage a healthy emotional life.
And this exact interpretation is the reason the comics do less than zero for me. I'm not interested in a Buffy that fragile or damaged, because I don't see the evidence for it on the show. If you find that interesting, then I'm happy for you, but I feel it's a complete do-over. It works well enough if I ignore anything post-S3 (AtS included, obviously). But since I found the later seasons more compelling than the early ones, and Buffy's later traumas far more affecting (her depression in S6 had nothing to do with a broken heart), I'm afraid I don't much care for the issues as presented in the comics.

Sorry, didn't mean to grumble all over your LJ, but you helped clarify some issues, so thank you.
2maggie22maggie2 on January 22nd, 2011 06:46 pm (UTC)
She did seem to be on the brink of getting somewhere in the very last episode of the show. But she hadn't let Angel go -- she calls him back with that vague promise. Meanwhile she's tentatively reached out to Spike, only to have him deny it and then burn up.

People might make a bit of progress, but a lot of who we are is set. It's not surprising to me that her very tentative progress got upended by what happened next.

(I write from my own experience. People have their issues and they circle around them pretty much their whole lives. The idea that you have an aha moment and set it all side is just not true. You can do it for stretches of time, but the underlying issues are still there ready to bubble back up.)
The Mezzaninedeird1 on January 22nd, 2011 08:13 pm (UTC)

Emmie: Buffy Defeatedangearia on January 23rd, 2011 08:37 am (UTC)
(Sorry if you don't want to chat about this more, Elisi. I promise I don't want to argue or anything either. Your comment prompted thinky thoughts I needed to write down.)

The romantic illusions are just the escape mechanism after all the trauma's brought her to her knees. It's the fantasy retreat like when she goes catatonic or when she believes the Normal Again hallucination is real--when she's brought low, she looks for ways to escape.

The trauma you're talking about that affected her in the later seasons--that's in play. That's the heart of the story. That's what drives her to the breaking point where she gives into despair.

Romantic illusions aren't enough to break her. All the other trauma (isolation, weight of the world, deaths she feels responsible for, sleep deprivation, haunting nightmares that upset the balance of her psyche)--these are the traumas that converge, that batter her, and when she's fully gripped by despair after so much failure and so much death and so much pressure because she's the leader so the buck stops with her--then a handsome man flies in to save her from the monsters and the illusion tempts her dreaming self that wants to hope and the ~influence~ clouds her judgment that's telling her this isn't the way. What harm in a kiss? Especially if she's been wrong all along?

Mrs Darcy: Just a girl by kathyhelisi on January 23rd, 2011 09:13 am (UTC)
Sorry if you don't want to chat about this more, Elisi. I promise I don't want to argue or anything either. Your comment prompted thinky thoughts I needed to write down.
No worries! :)

I appreciate your thinky thoughts, I just don't buy it. The whole story I mean. Sorry. *hugs*