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Why Spike Ruined "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (New Salon Article)

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Why Spike Ruined "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (New Salon Article)

Old 05-13-03, 11:22 AM
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Why Spike Ruined "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (New Salon Article)

Why Spike Ruined "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"
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.
[By Jaime J. Weinman; May 13, 2003]

(You'll need to watch a commercial to read the last 2/3 of the article...)
---------------

Can't say I disagree, although I really want to. I like both James Marsters and Spike lot. But this article helps explain the problem -- at least for me... Seems like the soul went out of the program once it wasn't about the central Buffy/Willow/Xander trio anymore...

Last edited by adamblast; 05-13-03 at 11:25 AM.
Old 05-13-03, 11:30 AM
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Can someone copy and paste the entire piece? I can't get the commercial to play on my computer.
Old 05-13-03, 11:32 AM
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I agree with the article. In fact, I stopped watching the show about the same time Spike became a regular. It sounds like I bailed at the right time and things have gotten even worse.

Some characters work best in small doses, and I think Spike is one of them.
Old 05-13-03, 11:40 AM
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And the "everybody-must-hate-Spike" bandwagon rolls merrily along . . .

What- the **** - ever.
Old 05-13-03, 11:49 AM
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Wow, I really must be in the minority because I like Spike AND Kennedy
Old 05-13-03, 12:14 PM
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The worst thing Spike did to show was create all of those damned "Spuffies."

The epitome of whiny, bitchy, self-indulgent, demanding, clueless fans.

I'm experiencing Buffy through DVDs, so I've seen it through the third season, but now when I watch the later seasons, all I'm going to see is Fonzie. Thank you, Salon.
Old 05-13-03, 12:27 PM
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I also have to take issue with the article's assertation that Spike was a "cool punk" in his earliest appearances.

Look at it this way... he puts up a front.

But in his first show, he's ultimately defeated by Joyce. Buffy's mom clocks him with an ax.

A few episodes later, Buffy collapses a burning church on him and puts him in a wheel chair.

He loses his girl to an old rival.

He throws temper tantrums. (I Only Have Eyes for You)

He's a petulant little twat in "Becoming Part II."

Shows up once in season three, a drunken heartbroken loser.

In Angel season one, he loses the Gem of Amarra to one of his lackeys.

Spike has been a little ***** since day one. When was he ever cool?
Old 05-13-03, 12:30 PM
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Originally posted by grunter
And the "everybody-must-hate-Spike" bandwagon rolls merrily along . . .

What- the **** - ever.
That's right g. Those of us who disagree with you are all about forced conformity. You must comply.

Actually, I'm a big Spike fan, so I've got real mixed feelings about the article... I know I prefer shows about the underdog, rather than the superdude...

I'm not sure I completely buy the article's point that Buffy stopped celebrating nerd/geek culture... And now embraces the coolness it once mocked... I posted the article because I was curious what others thought...

Last edited by adamblast; 05-13-03 at 12:36 PM.
Old 05-13-03, 01:00 PM
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Why Spike ruined "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"
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.
- - - - - - - - - - - -
By Jaime J. Weinman
May 13, 2003 | A once-good show becomes a bad one through the unexpected popularity of a posturing, vaguely thuggish minor character in a black leather jacket. In television, as in life, events tend to repeat themselves. First there was "Happy Days," where a charming show about growing up in the '50s was revamped to focus on the Fonz. And now there's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," which has been all but destroyed by the Fonzie of our time: Spike.

As "Buffy" comes to an end, its fans are debating where to place the blame for the mediocrity of this season. Was it the introduction of a team of Slayers-in-Training, all of them so annoying that fans were happy to see some of them get killed? Was it the overemphasis on irrelevant new characters like Kennedy and Principal Wood? Was it the decision to build the season around a villain (the First Evil) who can't touch anything or do anything at all except talk and talk and talk? Well, that's part of it.

But the problems with this season can be traced to a moment at the very end of the last good episode, "Conversations With Dead People." That's the moment when Buffy found out that Spike, blond vampire, attempted rapist, and current possessor of a soul, had somehow been killing people despite his souled status. From that point on, the show has no longer been about Buffy and her friends, or Buffy and her mission, or anything that used to be interesting on this show. It's been about Buffy and Spike. And that's about all.
Look at the record. The next two episodes after "Conversations With Dead People" involved Buffy trying to find out why Spike was killing again, following which she spent two more episodes focusing her attention on freeing Spike from a dungeon. Since then, we've discovered that a new character (Principal Wood) has a vendetta against Spike, seen an entire episode devoted to filling out Spike's back story, and sat through various other plot threads about Spike. Even when Spike isn't on-screen, characters are talking about him.

Meanwhile, the characters who used to matter on this show -- Willow, Xander and Giles, who with Buffy formed what is called the "core four" -- are getting nothing storywise; Willow gets a token lesbian relationship, Xander gets his eye poked out, and Giles gets to look like a bad guy for wanting to kill Spike (which, on the contrary, made some of us love Giles even more). In the words of "Sep," who recaps "Buffy" episodes for the famously snarky Web site Television Without Pity, "Watching episode after episode about Spike's journey when Giles has become a prick and I don't know a goddamn thing about what Willow or Xander are thinking, or even who they are anymore, and will likely never find out, breaks my heart."

It would be less of a problem if Spike were getting brilliantly fascinating stories, but he isn't, despite the potential inherent in the story of an evil creature trying to reform. At every turn, the "Buffy" staff has copped out on Spike's story, whitewashing his past (a flashback in a recent episode shows that even when he was turned into a vampire, he wasn't initially a vicious killer -- something that contradicts all the previous vampire mythology on the show) and making no attempt to show that having a soul has changed him one way or the other. By the evidence of this season's episodes, Spike is still a wisecracking punk who likes to hit women (he's hit Buffy, Anya and Faith so far this year) and isolate Buffy from her friends, yet we're still somehow supposed to sympathize with him, because ... why? Because he got a soul in the hope that Buffy would forgive his attempt to rape her and sleep with him again. Except for a couple of throwaway lines, Spike has never been made to seek redemption for his crimes; he doesn't even apologize to Principal Wood for having murdered his mother. The assumption appears to be that Spike doesn't need to atone because having a soul makes him a different and better person. But the writers haven't shown us that; all they've shown us is the same Fonzie figure from Seasons 5 and 6, only without the viciousness that made him moderately interesting.

And when they write a decent Spike scene, it gets cut. The second episode of this season, "Beneath You," was originally supposed to end with a scene where Spike expresses guilt for his past crimes, admits that he got a soul for selfish reasons (he thought Buffy would love him if he had a soul), and arrives at the realization that having a soul hasn't made him good enough for Buffy ("God hates me. You hate me. I hate myself more than ever"). But creator Joss Whedon rewrote this scene so that Spike talked mostly about the fact that Buffy "used" him for sex -- just another attempt to create unearned sympathy for Spike and deemphasize his past role as a killer and sexual predator. And James Marsters, a good actor who has shown himself capable of the kind of underplaying this show used to thrive on, made matters worse by playing this scene as an over-the-top fit of lurching and moaning, like one of William Shatner's lesser method moments on "Star Trek." (The gratuitous shirtlessness just adds to the comparison.) Any interesting stories about a vampire with a soul have already been told on "Buffy" and "Angel"; with Spike, all we've been getting is a lot of half-naked posturing.

But it's not just the overemphasis on Spike that's the problem; it's the way this emphasis has betrayed one of the most appealing themes of the show: that it's OK to be uncool. "Buffy" began with a high school girl, formerly cool and popular, who discovers that she has a destiny that will prevent her from ever having a "normal" life. But she finds some comfort when she befriends people at the school who are social outcasts for other reasons: Willow, a shy computer geek; the loyal but socially awkward Xander; and Giles, head of a school library that none of the other students ever seem to visit. The bond between these four characters was the heart of the show for the first four seasons, more than anything else, even romance (there were many episodes where Buffy's love interest, Angel, didn't appear or was relegated to one or two token scenes). Every week, these characters proved what we'd all like to believe when we're outcasts in high school: that the uncool kids, the ones no one takes seriously, are really the coolest and most heroic of all.

To make this clear, the monsters on the show were often portrayed as the twisted embodiment of high school coolness. In the pilot, Xander's friend Jesse goes from "an excruciating loser" to an effortlessly cool bad boy after he is turned into a vampire. Another episode, "Reptile Boy," made frat boys the villains. And Spike, when introduced in Season 2, was exactly the kind of smartass punk who makes high school a miserable place for geeks: Arrogant, cocky and contemptuous of anyone who wasn't equally cool, he was a superficial, self-confident Fonzie type who deserved to get smacked down by our awkward heroes.

With the transformation of Spike into a lovable antihero, "Buffy" has stopped celebrating the uncool outcasts; instead, it celebrates the cool punk, the guy who would push the first-season Willow or Xander out of the way in the school halls. And it's not just Spike. Willow's new love interest, Kennedy, is a confident loudmouth with a privileged upbringing, who obnoxiously admires Willow not for her intelligence but for her power. Spike's nemesis, Principal Wood, is described in one of the scripts as "The Coolest Principal Ever." And 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. And whereas the early seasons usually showed the characters learning how to defeat monsters by researching them in Giles' books, they now find everything they need on the Internet -- a far cry from Giles' wonderful first-season speech about the superiority of books over computers. It seems that on a show where an unrepentant mass murdering monster can be a hero, there's no more room for a celebration of the power of book learning, or the nobility of uncool people.

Which brings us back to "Happy Days," and the Fonz. Just as "Happy Days" went on for years with Fonzie even after Ron Howard left the show, there are rumors that the character of Spike may go on after the end of "Buffy" -- perhaps moving to "Angel," or perhaps to a spinoff. The character is popular; cool characters often are. But "Happy Days" was a better show in the first two years, when it was just about the uncool Richie Cunningham. And "Buffy" was a better show in the first four years, before Spike fell in love with Buffy, before Spike started taking his shirt off in every episode, and when the focus was on four uncool people and their quest to rid the world of ... well, of characters like Spike.

About the writer
Jaime J. Weinman is a law student at the University of Toronto and a freelance writer on entertainment and media.
Old 05-13-03, 03:30 PM
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Originally posted by Josh-da-man
I also have to take issue with the article's assertation that Spike was a "cool punk" in his earliest appearances.
Exactly... furthermore this guy was a poetry writing pansy who was mocked by his peers in his previous life for crying out loud. He's just a different TYPE of outcast than Buffy & co. He's the freak who tries his damnest to be in the cool crowd and fails every time, wheras they're like the nerds who embrace their geekiness.

And really, what left is there to say about Xander, Willow, and Giles? They've all had considerable arcs throughout the show. Giles isn't even a regular character anymore, but Willow and Xander? Half of last season dealt with their storylines... between Xander's wedding and Willow's magic/Tara/evil problems. Hell, the season finale even pushed Buffy aside in the end and let those two take over. At least Spike still has some unexplored territory, characterwise.
Old 05-13-03, 03:45 PM
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I don't think Spike was the disease that killed the quality of the show, but I do think he was one of the biggest symptoms. The article touches on some of the stronger arguments against Spike, the biggest one being the refusal to actually deal with the character's story. Spike has no redemption arc, because his story does not arc. It lurches from one artificial justification for his existence to another. As the article points out, there's no difference in character between no-soul and soul-Spike; but we just have to believe that he's a better man now, or else the audience would never, ever swallow having Buffy ask her attempted-rapist to cuddle with her.

Oh, how I wish they had killed him after 5 episodes, as originally planned.

I think the show officially turned its back on the geeky masses during season 6. The Trio was introduced--Laugh at their nerdishness! They're not really complex people, so much as charicatures of buffoonish evil wanna-bes. Willow expressed shame over having been such a geek in her past. Xander was, again, sidelined, because the character was never given any kewl traits for the writers to hype.
Old 05-13-03, 04:11 PM
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Geez whiz, I am getting sick of all the Spike bashing. Everyone wants to say how he is making the show suck. IMO, he often proves the one thing that makes it watchable, especially last season.

I really do have high hopes for Spike on Angel, but I just know the bashing will continue once he gets on that show as well.
Old 05-13-03, 04:26 PM
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I like the direction the writers have taken the show and its characters (including Spike). I think its kind of hypocritical that the writer feels that "geeks" should always be the heroes on the show and the so-called "cool group" always the villains. I realize the writer and others may identify with some people as fellow "geeks", but not everyone who is a geek in HS stays that way. Xander stopped being geeky and got a job and moved out of his parents place. It happens all the time to people as they mature and grow. For that matter, no geek in my high school would have been able to date someone who looked like Cordelia.

As for the "uncool theory" that the show was good because Buffy hung around with losers. Since when are punks considered cool? I don't think since the late 70's and early 80's that they have been. If Spike had gone to Sunnydale high he'd have been considered just as much an outcast as Willow and Xander (possibly more so than them even in 90210 influenced California schools). I don't know what that writer has been smoking, but someone like Spike wouldn't have been "the kind of smartass punk who makes high school a miserable place for geeks".
Old 05-13-03, 05:07 PM
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Thanks for posting the article Danger
Old 05-13-03, 05:37 PM
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I think the move to UPN did more to kill the show than Spike ever did.
Old 05-13-03, 09:04 PM
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Originally posted by AndyCapps
I think the move to UPN did more to kill the show than Spike ever did.
I could see that as true.
Old 05-13-03, 11:09 PM
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Spike is awesome!
Old 05-13-03, 11:38 PM
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Originally posted by Jlbkwrm

I think the show officially turned its back on the geeky masses during season 6. The Trio was introduced--Laugh at their nerdishness! They're not really complex people, so much as charicatures of buffoonish evil wanna-bes.
I think I'm alone in actually liking the Trio (well, at least in some episodes, especially Life Serial). I guess it's kind of self-mockery to like them--they argue over who's the best James Bond, I argue over who's the best Buffy villain; they like to collect little Star Wars figurines, I like to collect little Star Trek christmas ornaments. I see them as a nod to fandom--maybe a critical nod, but I think it's funny because as silly as they get, I know I've been just as bad.

Now that they're gone, Andrew is one of my favorite characters. I think his line about Faith killing even the most gentle and logical of races (cut to Faith fighting a Vulcan) was hilarious.

As for Spike, I don't think he ruined the show (even though I don't like it now nearly as much as I liked seasons 2 thru 5).

tasha

Last edited by tasha99; 05-13-03 at 11:40 PM.
Old 05-14-03, 08:29 AM
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Originally posted by tasha99
I think I'm alone in actually liking the Trio
Fear not, you are not alone....
The Nerd Herd was a great source of comic relief (when the show really needed it), and I have to admit that Andrew has slowly become one of my favorite characters.
Old 05-14-03, 10:11 AM
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I also liked the Trio. They were great villains and did more damage both psychologically and physically to the core scooby gang than any other villains have managed to. Which is also interesting because they were the first major villains to be just regular human beings.
Old 05-14-03, 12:12 PM
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I think the best solution would have been to flesh out Spike's story more fully towards the beginning of Season 5, Spike profess his love for Buffy at some point, then be killed by Glory while he was captured, protecting Dawn.

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