Asta 2

Color Me Confused

So, I just finished watching 'Dead Things' and by the end of the episode I was left wondering, what was the big deal about the sex? Now, before any of you go "What?! Are you insane???" Well, yes, but that's a discussion for another day. My point is why did ME, through Buffy, make the sex seem so wrong?

In 'Wrecked' we had Buffy describe her building crumbling night with Spike as the most "perverse, degrading" experience of her life. At the beginning of 'Dead Things' we have Spike's refering to Buffy as an "animal" following up with "But, you like what I do to you." This sentiment of liking what he does is echoed at the end to Tara when Buffy questions why she keeps "letting him do such those things to me".

What are these horrible things that leave her disgusted with herself??? Maybe it's me, but I don't call some rough sex (and consider we are talking vampire and Slayer here) and a little bondage all that shocking. Is ME's view of 'perversion' different then ours? After all, they sucked us into obsessing over a show about vampires, demons, and the Slayer that's protecting the world from them. I think we're a fairly open minded lot here.

Maybe like Willow's magic addiction storyline, it was ME trying to make things too simple and too literal to get a message across. It was Buffy's feelings for Spike that I felt were far more troublesome for her than the sex. I just wish that had been made more clear in Buffy's confession to Tara than letting sex with Spike = bad be such an issue.

And please don't feel that my mini rant is a sign of me changing my opinion of this episode (love it) or the season. Actually, rewatching I'm finding myself enjoying the season overall more than I did when it originally aired. Heck, when I was watching 'Doubelmeat Palace' I found myself enjoying it (except for the penis monster which is inexcusable).
  • Current Mood: annoyed annoyed
You could always be like some other Buffy fans and blame all of season 6's faults on Marti Noxon.
I actually use to belong to a board that viewed Marti as the root of all evil in the Jossverse. I won't even repeat the names they called her or what they wished happened to her.

Honestly, I think she's a good writer, but not such a good executive producer. I think overseeing the various arcs for the entire season was just too much for her. Listening to the panel discussion on the DVDs, Joss and Marti made it clear that they had done a lot with metaphor in past seasons and were going for a more literal interpretation of situations in season 6. I'm actually OK with that approach, but some more subtlety in doing so would have been nice too.
it was ME trying to make things too simple and too literal to get a message across. It was Buffy's feelings for Spike that I felt were far more troublesome for her than the sex.

I do think this was the case, that Buffy's real problem was that she didn't believe that she could allow herself to have feelings for Spike while at the same time she knew that he was in love with her, and that she felt guilt for using him like that. But I agree that the "sex with Spike is kinky and bad!" message was pushed way too hard, especially since many of their encounters were instigated by Buffy, and (until SR anyway) it was always consensual.

(except for the penis monster which is inexcusable).

My favorite part of the penis monster is that the lesbian character chops its head off.
Buffy's real problem was that she didn't believe that she could allow herself to have feelings for Spike while at the same time she knew that he was in love with her, and that she felt guilt for using him like that.

Last night, when I was watching the closing scene between Buffy and Tara, there was something I couldn't quite put my finger on, but I think you just did.

Tara: "Do you love him?"...."It's okay if you do. He's done a lot of good, and, and he does love you. A-and Buffy, it's okay if you don't. You're going through a really hard time, and you're..."

Buffy: "What? Using him? What's okay about that?"

I've always tried to deduce what Buffy's silence was indicative of after Tara asks if she loves him. As a shipper me heart is screaming that she does but simp;ly can't bring herself to admit it. But, your take makes more sense - especially given the course of the relationship over the next season and a half.

She really wasn't 'in love' with him at that point because she didn't believe she could allow herself to have feeling for him. She had to open herself up to the possibility before the reality of it could occur. And maybe that's why he had to get a soul. Not so much that it made OK to love him, but because by the time he did it, she had grown to the extent that she could recognize that he, a vamp, could go against his nature and make a huge sacrifice for love. I don't think she believed it possible before.

I do give her credit for admiting to herself and someone else that she was using him. She was just starting to come to terms with her behavior. Yet, at the same time, was was still unwilling or unable to look at the deeper reasons for it. It was easier to deal with (ie blame) the surface (in this case, sexual) issues in their relationship.

My favorite part of the penis monster is that the lesbian character chops its head off.

Like Fer, I hadn't thought about that! And Willow's enthusiasm over killing the thing makes even more sense to me now. ;)
Penis Monster!! ha!!

sorry... oh! and I keep going Michael Eisner everytime you type ME... which I find very hilarious...

I think the sex story and the magick stories got all the good stuff sucked out of them. It was the first season on a new network.. a network that paid a LOT of money for the show, and I think that the network didn't want to take any risks with running topics that were too edgey... I mean the WB ran that risk, but required an advisory on the beginning and after a commercial break when Spike was being haunted at W&H... not once did I see a warning for Buffy... if there had been I think then the whole Big Deal would be meritted... but I too think that a big deal was made out of a tiny slut-charade.
I actually think UPN let them push the envelope much more than the WB would have. It's a double edged sword though - they still had to leave certain things up to the viewers imagination (it is still broadcast TV). But, in doing so, there seemed to be a discrepency between what we consider perverse, wild, whatever, and what ME constituted would drive Buffy over the edge. Sure, if Spike was forcing her into a group sex act or beating her into submission, yeah, I'd be incredibly disturbed too. But, handcuffs? Sex in a public place? Maybe a bit kinky, but nothing I consider soul crushing.
Maybe like Willow's magic addiction storyline, it was ME trying to make things too simple and too literal to get a message across. It was Buffy's feelings for Spike that I felt were far more troublesome for her than the sex. I just wish that had been made more clear in Buffy's confession to Tara than letting sex with Spike = bad be such an issue.

I agree. It's the emotional aspect of the relationship that was more troublesome for her than the sex, and I also wish that had been made more clear.

I do think that it's plausible that since Buffy didn't have that much experience sexually before Riley (one time each with Angel and Parker), that maybe she thought that what she was doing and feeling was especially perverse, when it really wasn't that unusual, especially for someone one in her position. Tara to her credit did not make any judgements.
I do think that it's plausible that since Buffy didn't have that much experience sexually before Riley (one time each with Angel and Parker), that maybe she thought that what she was doing and feeling was especially perverse, when it really wasn't that unusual, especially for someone one in her position.

That's a very good point. Sex with Riley I'm sure was enjoyable (don't shoot me for saying that people), but it probably wasn't very adventerous. And I think most of us can agree having sex in an alley, in a bar, or in a condemned building would not fit any romantic ideal - especially Buffy's. So, yes, perhaps it was her naive(?) perspective that skewed how she interpreted their sexual relationship.
I am tired, so this may not make a lot of sense, but frankly, I do not give a flying fuck about what Noxon's and/or ME's agenda was regarding either the compulsive, rough sex or the so-called addiction metaphor.

The addiction metaphor was wrong-headed and doomed to failure, and Giles said exactly that to Willow at the start of the following season.

GILES: "This isn't a hobby or an addiction. It's inside you now, this magic. You're responsible for it."

Willow had tried to "fix" her problem by shoe-horning it into an addiction model, to be dealt with in some kind of cold-turkey, 12 steppy way. It was a terrible mistake, and her friends mistakenly colluded with her. But I don't necessarily think that in Season 6, ME believed in the addiction metaphor, only to recant in Season 7. This was all about Willow's perceptions.

Similarly, I am not interested in what the writers think is perverse, sexually. I don't think I have to be. ME could have presented the whole Spike/Buffy destructive arc without it being necessary for us to deconstruct ME's motives or morality.

Buffy and Spike, still under the lingering influence of Sweet in OMWF, meet out in the alley, and their last singing was this:

BUFFY: (sings) I touch the fire and it freezes me.

SPIKE: (sings) I died...

BUFFY: (at the same time as Spike's next verse)

I look into it and it's black
This isn't real
But I just want to feel...


SPIKE: (at the same time as Buffy's last verse)
So many years ago.
But you can make me feel...
. (The earlier line Spike sang next is cut off, but he sang "that it isn't so.")

Both of them knew that they were in some hazardous territory, that what they were feeling could be unstable, corrosive.

None of this causes me to assume anything about what - or if - ME is trying to sell us regarding the rough sex and its aftermath.

Buffy was not even within shouting distance of a healthy state of mind. She believed that "this isn't real" and part of her longs for what she lost in heaven, but another part of her "just wants to feel" - plus, she does want to connect with life.

BUFFY: "Will I stay this way forever?
Sleepwalk through my life's endeavor?...I just want to be alive!"


The biggest tragedy for me is that both of them started out so well immediately post-resurrection. Buffy was still shell-shocked, but there was definitely a two-way tenderness happening between her and Spike.

Subsequently it got very, very dark, but I don't think that ME was doing any kind of soap-box preachin'. Sexual intensity is, IMO, neutral until put into context. In this context, both Buffy and Spike were burdening sexuality with far more than it could bear. It was their self-hating aggression that twisted the sex into degradation. Sexuality just is. It's a powerful means of communion, and a formidable weapon.

Poor, confused Buffy may have focused in on the symptom and not the underlying compulsion, just as Willow did with the magic. Willow's issues about her anger, her all-too-visible lack of self-esteem, for years throughout childhood...well, she didn't misuse (and then blame) sex. She misused magic, and mistakenly acted as though it wasn't about her misuse, but that it was something intrinsic to the nature of magic. She was wrong. Magic needn't be evil and ominous. It's just there, and neutral.

I hope this makes a tiny bit of sense.


In the alley beating in DT, it's obvious that Buffy sees Spike as the dark part of herself and that's what she's beating on. So, the relationship with Spike can be seen to represent Buffy's relationship with her inner self, which she's feeling pretty bad about anyway.

"Why do I let him do these things to me?" becomes "Why do I feel this way?"

"Why do I resent (maybe even hate) my friends for dragging me out of heaven? Why don't I want to care for my sister? Why do I hate this world?"

She's never been allowed to express her darker side, which isn't particularly dark, just the anger and irritation most of us carry and need to let out sometimes. However, if Buffy's anything less than peachy with a side of keen, then her responsibilities come crashing down and her friends fall apart. In Dead Man's Party, She's made to feel horrible for doing what she needed to do to grieve for Angel. In Normal Again, we find that she was thrown in a nursing home when she tried to talk about her fears, not to mention that Dawn gets into a fight with her while Buffy has a high fever and is semi-crazy.

In that light, the balcony scene, which I despised, becomes Buffy watching her friends dance and have fun while her inner turmoil won't allow her to participate. She would like to go to them, but can't/doesn't feel worthy. She belongs in the shadows with her darker self.
In the alley beating in DT, it's obvious that Buffy sees Spike as the dark part of herself and that's what she's beating on. So, the relationship with Spike can be seen to represent Buffy's relationship with her inner self, which she's feeling pretty bad about anyway.

ITA, and I think Buffy expresses those very feelings herself..."You don't ... have a soul! There is nothing good or clean in you. You are dead inside! You can't feel anything real! I could never ... be your girl!"

Buffy is transferring her feelings about herself onto Spike. The irony being that Buffy makes Spike feel alive – he lives through her – while she feels dead inside. And tying it back to the sex, in Buffy’s eyes she’s degraded and punished herself as much as she possibly can that way. Spike, who she views as a reflection of her own ‘soulless’ self, offers her the opportunity to ‘put it all on him’, allowing her to take out her anger and aggression on him in a way she can’t on herself.

The element of violence has always been present in their relationship. Commonplace and logical when they were enemies, there still remained a current even as they became reluctant allies. It even was a precursor to them having sex for the first time. And while she may have seen this dark, “perverse” streak as something to contribute to something she didn’t want to acknowledge – the source of her power – it was far more human than that:

She's never been allowed to express her darker side, which isn't particularly dark, just the anger and irritation most of us carry and need to let out sometimes. However, if Buffy's anything less than peachy with a side of keen, then her responsibilities come crashing down and her friends fall apart.

It was always easier for Buffy to be the Slayer than ‘just a girl’. Being herself was the harder persona to maintain. And that’s probably why she was so comfortable around Spike, so drawn to him, because she could be the Slayer around him, let down her guard, but, at the same time, she could be the ‘girl’ with all her faults and be accepted.

Coming back form heaven was just too much for her to bare. While she tried and, at times, even managed to keep up the façade that things were normal with her friends, Spike allowed her a release she never had before. Once that was offered to her, she took full advantage of it.
I doubt Buffy surfs the web like we do, so she probably *would* find all the things she does with Spike "perverse", not to mention, as a Slayer she's supposed to kill vampires, not shag them--so that would be a perversion of her calling. I think a lot of what Buffy finds perverse, though, is how she's using Spike and that doing these things is the only was she can "feel anything".

I have to admit before reading certain fanfics, my views on sex may have been a bit more vanilla. ;)

You make some excellent points. Last night I was viewing the sex more from the surface then pluming Buffy's emotional depths. Her feelings of 'perversion' may have less to do with the actual physical acts she's participating in and more to do with what she fears it says about her. Not only is she shagging a creature she's taught to loathe - going against everything she believes in - she's using someone. And, vampire or not, I think that sickens her as much as anything does.

And how dare you start another of these great convos when I'm on dial-up!!! ;)

It's your bad influence! ;-)
I think that "sex was wrong" in Buffy's mind - she did something that she thought she isn't supposed to, and she enjoyed it. Of course, that was feelings behind the sex that were the real source of Buffy's distress. Therefore- controversial message. And, since Buffy's POV often becomes our (viewers) POV, as well as creators' POV, things are getting confused. ME tried to be brave in s6, and in some cases they got it right, but too often they put themselves in the corner with metapfor/literal approach, and with all the controversial topics and messages they tried to talk about.
And, since Buffy's POV often becomes our (viewers) POV, as well as creators' POV, things are getting confused.

Yep. I think if I watched the show without viewing it through Buffy and/or Spike's POV, I'd see things quite a bit differently.

ME tried to be brave in s6, and in some cases they got it right, but too often they put themselves in the corner with metapfor/literal approach, and with all the controversial topics and messages they tried to talk about.

I think ME wanted to have their cake and eat it to. They didn't seem to want to completely drop the metaphorical approach they had so long taken with the show, but mixing that with a literal viewpoint became very confusing to the viewers at times.
In Dead Things itself, we see rough, whacky, crypt-shaking sex that is companionable and largely positive for them both---they're having a conversation about normal, friendly things.

That scene actually raised hope of them moving beyond just the sex and into a more healthy realtionship. And everything seems to be going fine until Mr Foot In Mouth refers to Buffy as an "animal" at which point Buffy looks to make a run for it - "virtue fluttering".

Given the balcony scene later, I'm not sure if this was Spike's attempt 'lower' Buffy to his level or just a stupid slip of the tongue. Either way he manages to succeed in reinforcing Buffy's worst fears - that she's wrong, inhuman in some way.

There's a certain irony to that as well. Buffy, feeling disconnected from her life, had, at first, feared Spike's pronouncement, "You came back wrong", to be the truth. But, when Tara reveals no she's just Buffy, it's worse - she begs Tara to "Tell me that I'm wrong, please". Buffy's recent actions and emotions belong to her and she can no longer dismiss them as not being her fault.
Maybe like Willow's magic addiction storyline, it was ME trying to make things too simple and too literal to get a message across. It was Buffy's feelings for Spike that I felt were far more troublesome for her than the sex. I just wish that had been made more clear in Buffy's confession to Tara than letting sex with Spike = bad be such an issue.

I do think that ME didn't do as good a job as they could of showing the root of Buffy's troubled feelings about the sex. Some of the dialogue definitely makes it sound like Buffy's just disturbed by her enjoyment of a particular kink, rather than by the fact that Spike, a supposedly evil, soulless vampire, introduced her to and showed her how much she enjoyed a particular kink.

Her relative inexperience is probably a factor. If she and Riley had experimented with bondage or rough sex, I can't imagine that she'd have the same negative associations with it--but I have to assume they never did, because it seems entirely OOC for our corn-fed Iowa boy. But a lot of this is stuff we, the viewers, have to read between the lines to see.

At the same time, as I rewatch S6, I'm struck by how "Dead Things" represents the culmination of a pattern that started in "Smashed" where Buffy displaces more and more of her self-loathing onto Spike. After she finds out that the chip doesn't work on her, her reaction ends in a big messy ball of sex and violence (of course, Spike's taunting helps that right along). It just escalates from there to "Dead Things," and I think one of the reasons she broke down so hard to Tara at the end was because at that point even Buffy, queen of denial, could no longer justify putting all of her negative feelings for herself on him. After that, although it was just as unhealthy as ever, she stopped blaming Spike for her own attraction to him and started treating it more like what it really was--a compulsion rooted in her own problems.

Actually, rewatching I'm finding myself enjoying the season overall more than I did when it originally aired. Heck, when I was watching 'Doubelmeat Palace' I found myself enjoying it (except for the penis monster which is inexcusable).

I'm having the same experience. I think it's because I know what's coming. When I originally saw it, with each episode I kept thinking "it can't get any worse" and then it did. Now that I'm mentally prepared, I can enjoy the episodes for what they are. I think I'm way in the minority, but I actually vastly prefer "Doublemeat Palace," penis monster and lesbian empowerment anvils aside, way more than the badness that was "Gone." What crack were they smoking when they thought an invisible fight scene would be a good idea? :)
Some of the dialogue definitely makes it sound like Buffy's just disturbed by her enjoyment of a particular kink, rather than by the fact that Spike, a supposedly evil, soulless vampire, introduced her to and showed her how much she enjoyed a particular kink.

As you stated, had she had more kinky sex with Riley, she probably would have viewed sex with Spike quite diferently. In the end, I don't think it was as much about the sexual acts themselves as it was ab
(Anonymous)
All these wonderful discussions, and I always seem to be a day or two late!

I’d like to approach this from a slightly different direction. Whatever ME’s intent, to me, the cumulative effect of the characters’ experiences throughout the years tends to leave an impression of, at best, a suspect view of sexuality and, at worst, a skewed one. Let’s take the S/B sexual relationship first. Immediately after they first have sex (the morning of “Wrecked”), it is firmly established it was great sex, not good or OK, great. Spike points it out, Buffy doesn’t deny it, and it’s even confirmed by a note in the shooting script it’s the best she’s had. The culmination of this sexual relationship is extremely negative – the worst a man can do to a woman from a purely sexual standpoint – he tries to rape her. Now, I know this is very simplistic and there are extenuating circumstances, but I’m going for the bare bones here – trying to show a pattern. In fact, please assume the previous caveat for the rest of these comments. Then in S7 S&B have a non-sexual but romantic relation, which is portrayed as more meaningful and profound than all the sex that went on before or going on around them now (the scene in “Touched”), and I’m not giving anyone the scene fade-out scene in “Chosen” because it wasn’t shown. At the end of the series, Buffy (the hero, our POV) is left thinking fondly of her past (the sexless “good” Spike relationship) and her possible future (envisioning a celibate relationship with Angel because, you know, THE CURSE!). Considering that BtVS is a show with supposedly feminist underpinnings it is quite disconcerting to find our hero seemingly rejecting rather than embracing her sexuality at the culmination of her character’s development.

If this were something germane only to B&S, I still wouldn’t like it because I envisioned that relationship in a very different manner; but its pervasiveness within the Buffyverse is bothersome. You know the drill: Buffy sleeps with Angel and becomes a monster; Jenny&Giles are about to take it to the next level and Jenny dies; and Tara&Willow have make-up sex and Tara dies. Xander and Anya possibly could be an exception, but their sexscapades are consistently played for laughs. There’s Riley, but I take their break-up as so anti-feminist (Riley essentially blames Buffy for his consorting with vamp tramps) that I can’t take it seriously. Then there’s Angel, the HERO of the other show, who, essentially, is forced to live the life of a eunuch otherwise he’ll turn into (again) the most vicious villain in the Buffyverse. (Yes, I know – Nina, but it happened in the penultimate episode of the series!) Why is this message filtering through again and again? Against a historical backdrop where part of women’s struggle for equality has been to fight against being forced to repress their sexuality, it’s the repetition that is insidious in light of Joss’ self-avowed feminism. Joss may have flipped the horror genre convention of the blonde girl in the alley, but he kept the one where very bad things happen to people who have sex.

Thank you for letting me play in your sandbox!

Gail

You can play in my sandbox anytime. :)

You've definitely touched upon some ideas I've been thinking about recently. Though, your conclusions are far more complex than mine thus far. On a simplistic level, it did dawn on me how sex, overall, has led to disaster on both shows though more so on Buffy. Wes and Lilah probably had the healthiest sexual relationship but it couldn't move beyond that because she was evil - supposedly. ;)

I actually understand where Joss was coming from in season 2 when Angel became Angelus after sleeping with Buffy. It really was a girl's - any girls's - worst nightmare. You love a guy, spend the night with him, the next day he doesn't call and you find him a competely different person. A metaphor that worked (in my opinion) in that case.

I can see ways to defend the stance ME took with Buffy's sexuality by the time she got involved with Spike. Angel turned evil, Parker, essentially, turned evil, and at the end of her relationship with Riley (the nice, normal guy she desperatley wants to make it work with to prove she can be a normal girl) she discovers he's turned to vamp whores for some sort of gratification she can't give him. The thing is, the issues in all these relationships belonged to the guys, but she bared the brunt of them herself. When she finally is faced with a fulfilling sexual and possibily emotionally mature relationship with a man who loves her, the Slayer, and all the faults with both, it's with an individual she is taught to hate and should kill. No wonder any pleasure she took was viewed as being bad and her being bad because of it.

Still, I see your point. Because it's not just Buffy's relationships that were screwed up, it was all of them. How many shows have there been where every relationship fails and no one finds personal happiness? Maybe the writers should have spent a little more time worrying about the demons on the show and a little less time trying to work out their personal ones.