Spike's a Flexible Kind of Guy

by Lisa


Having participated in a few different conversations regarding the character of Spike, I've been struck yet again by the fact that Spike is/was a multi-faceted character. A lot of people love that character ... and yet, it's not always the same character that we love. Even those of us who count ourselves as his fans can see him in some fairly substantially different ways. And the things we value about the character or consider sacrosanct in the characterization can vary somewhat wildly.

In one on-line debate, several people said that incident X was something which should be left as it was, that it didn't need to be tinkered with in any way in subsequent ( if there ever was one) episodes, books, or fanfics. The thing is, for myself, this particular incident never struck me as sacrosanct. It was interesting, and important, but I'm fine with it being used in new and different ways in fanfic, books, etc. The incident in and of itself didn't seem as important to me as is to some fans. I was actually surprised by how important that incident was.

In a separate online conversation there was a discussion about why incident Y in an entirely different episode should not have happened. That it was off and out of character. It didn't fit and was, in fact, quite suspicious. It is, in fact, disliked by several because incident Y is out of character. Again, my reaction was along the lines of "Huh. I never considered that incident all that important. What's more, that incident is perfectly in character for my view of Spike." What some fans believe is an OOC action, is the same action that I consider to be pretty typical of Spike.

Again, clearly there are differences in perspectives on the character.

To give a third (equally ambiguous I'm afraid) incident, I have one pal who has never viewed Spike the same after the AR and has in fact voiced on several occasions to have summarily ceased being a fan upon that incident. I have, more than once, felt myself at sea with this fundamental change. Primarily because the AR means nothing to me. Absolutely, positively **nothing** to me. I don't find it to be reflective of squat about the character.  I didn't watch the scene because (in my view) I categorically refused to be manipulated that way. Marti Noxon was trying to make the audience change their view of the character and, damn it, I'm not going to do it. Two minutes in one episode is never going to fundamentally change my view of a character. It's not. Not even when it's the AR. Especially when the AR was so clearly a plot device used to manipulate the audience. So, for that reason, the AR is absolutely, positively, 100% inconsequential to me. I don't even factor it into my view of the character. Now, sure, intellectually I acknowledge that it happened. I've even included the incident in fanfic because it is canon. But on a very visceral level, it means nothing to me. I don't care. It doesn't effect my view of the character in any way... which is why I always respond with dismay when told that scene turned someone wholly against the character. I'm not arguing the reaction, just that it's so wholly different to my own that I cannot connect to it. I don't understand it because I can't bring myself to put any importance on the incident. There were too many meta reasons why it happened for it to matter to me worth a damn within the context of the story.

Neither reaction is more correct. But one reaction is my reaction... and the other isn't.

And I've found when asking about it, and when reading some others reactions, those who -- for one reason or the other. It's not always the AR -- turned against or lost the love for the character, I've frequently discovered that what it was that we loved about the character wasn't the same thing.

Some love the "don't give a f---" rebel. Some love the "outsider." Some loved the "mushy romantic." Some love "martyrs" in characters, some absolutely hate martyrdom. And people with different loves for the character see all these incidents in a different light (Incidents X, Y, AR, and any other incident that is pivotal to one's view of the character). I've more than once discovered that what it is that's essential to the character to *me* may not be the qualities that someone else values. The person who turned against the character because of one incident seems to have valued a certain characteristic in Spike that really wasn't what was most important to myself. And there are fans who value some aspects of the character that do not matter in the least to me.

What's surprising is that so many of us saw and loved the character, and saw things that we valued in the character... and we weren't all seeing the same thing. That makes him quite the multi-faceted character.

Oh, and my Spike?

He's a smart-ass.

He's a romantic, but he's grown out of being a martyr to it.

He can love and hate at the same time and it can swirl around and get confused in his head.

He's emotionally available in a way that's truly superhuman... astounding even. And that can be both a miraculous and a catastrophic thing.

He has pride, but he doesn't always behave with it.

He's love's fool, but he's done with being love's slave.

Where he loves, he loves forever... but that doesn't mean that he doesn't know when to say enough is enough, that it is useless, and stops martyring himself to what he cannot have. Because he moves on, doesn't mean that past feelings are excised, it just means he's not torturing himself with it.

He likes to say he's a rebel... but inside William the Bloody Awful Poet lurks. And William... William is a sentimental dork. He hasn't been expunged, just buried under a bunch of layers. And even innerWilliam can get angry and petty and petulant on occasion.

Spike is William. There is no one else.

He loves to fight, drink, swear, and is about as talented where sex is concerned as can be expected of a romantic who is over 120 years old (which is to say A LOT).

He's intelligent in most respects, but he is impetuous, and can be intellectually lazy. And being intelligent doesn't mean studious. My Spike is probably more likely to read Jackie Collins than Plato. . .not that he hasn't read Plato. He just probably hasn't read Plato in the last 120 years.

He loves Drusilla. Always has, always will. Doesn't mean that he's unaware that this love is no longer a strictly "good" thing, but he doesn't deny what he feels... even to himself. For the same reasons, he still loves Buffy. And he will continue to love Buffy, doesn't mean he's continuing to fool himself about the relationship. Doesn't mean he'll be her love slave or lap dog. Doesn't mean he's a lost, heartbroken puppy waiting for her attention. Loving her doesn't mean he's waiting for her -- not anymore. It's his love. He feels it. And love... there's always room for more. While he may love Dru and Buffy, that doesn't preclude the chance of his ever loving someone else. He could... because he's got a heart like that.

Is he a rebel? I honestly don't know how much of him is truly rebellious. He's sort of a rebel without a cause, so I'm left unsure about just how rebellious that truly is.

Is he an Outsider? Yeah, but I don't know that that's wholly by choice. On the other hand I don't think he's desperate for approval. Somewhere there's a middle ground that he's never been quite privileged to find. MoG was as close as he ever came.

His feelings for Angel are... complex. There's real affection there... and real rage and resentment. He'd probably offer Angel far more loyalty than Angel would ever offer him, but he would also verbally deny that's what he felt.

My Spike yearns... and in a lot of ways that yearning goes unfulfilled, but not from want of trying. And the truly heroic aspect of him is that he keeps trying still. That's the courage that I admire and love in the character. He isn't static. He changes. Changes directions, tactics, and what he will and can accept -- both in himself and others.

My Spike is a survivor. In fact, he can evolve through change and somehow thrive.

His greatest characteristic is that he can get his ass kicked -- physically, emotionally, spiritually-- and pick himself up and keep going... because that's what he does.

I haven't finished with the character yet. I'm not yet ready to let go (even though I seem to be lagging behind most as they drift away). Spike still hits too many of my own personal kinks for me to let go. Hell, Spuffy still hits too many of my personal kinks to really let go -- even though I hate canon Buffy quite intensely. As long as I don't have to see Miss Pinch Face's emotionally constipated acting, Buffy the character is salvageable to me (but not without a hell of a lot of work. But then the appeal is the challenge).

Spuffy still has too many of my own kinks that I can see so easily worked into fanfics for me to wholly abandon (even though I have quite a bit of resentment for what was on screen. And my amenability to fanfic Spuffy doesn't lessen my anger with the one that was on screen). I've yet to find a ship to replace it, even though there are ships that I've watched that I think were better executed (John/Aeryn, I'm looking at you). Still, Spuffy is the relationship that went unresolved in a way that I cannot seem to accept (or in fact do not accept), so I fight it by continuing to wrest it into some semblance of order in my own head. My very dissatisfaction with it is what fuels my continued fascination with it. If I had a sense of satisfaction and closure I would probably be content (as I am with Farscape). And new fandoms where many of the Spuffy authors are gravitating (VMars and Battlestar Galactica) really don't hit my kinks. I can't transfer. I have no desire to watch another teen series or teen ship, and while I find Galactica intellectually interesting, it hits none of my gut level visceral buttons. I just don't care that much. It doesn't inspire me. I'm not the least bit in love... and I sort of have to be in order to obsess.

So, I stay with the Spike fandom. Unhappy, contentious, fractious, difficult, bastard, demonized, orphaned stepchild of the Whedonverse that it is. It's the character that still hits me in a place where I'm left feeling there's more to say.

Oh, and he lived at the end of NFA. He's off being a formerly badass vampire/romantic ex-poet. Still. Because he's Spike.

Back to Essays