Thursday, November 27, 2008

Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Relationships

I, as most might know, am a rather large fan of Buffy. And thus I feel the need to talk about it far too much.

There is a popular opinion amoungst Buffy fans that Buffy and Angel was the best relationship, indeed, with him leaving, the show got worse. I suspect this is entirely due to some of the audience fail to grow up with the show.

Buffy, over the course of 7 seasons, has 3 major relationships (meanwhile Willow has 3, Xander 2(ish), and poor old Giles gets one. Which ends in the second season. And don't even get me started on Joyce, who manages to form a relationship with an evil robot, and then apparently becomes chaste forever.... But I digress). These are Riley, Spike, and Angel. All these relationships are flawed, as they should be, because no relationship is perfect. Of these, the most bile seems to be directed at Riley. I really disagree with this, as of the three, I feel the relationship with Riley is the most mature, and possibly the best written.

Buffy and Angel is actually a really creepy story. Buffy begins the show at the age of 16, a mere child, and while she shows maturity in some respects- being forced to by the responsibility that is saddled on her shoulders, she also acts in many ways like a teenager. Particularly, her love for Angel. Angel is a centuries old vampire, and Buffy is well aware of this. Angel will never age, while Buffy will keep getting older. This, to my mind, is an odd relationship. Angel has centuries of experience over Buffy, and despite that, cannot tear himself away from her. There are very few scences where Buffy and Angel ever interact normally in the show- their main times spent together are slaying and hunting, and the notion that they can build a life is absurd. Eventually, they come to realise this, although Angel shows an awareness of this from the start. It does feel like Angel knows he shouldn't be doing it, but can't help himself, which adds a creepy subtext for me, but never mind. Some tar this relationship with the brush of true undying love, but actually it feels MUCH more like a teenage love, attched with this belief that it is the most important thing in the world, and detatched from the notion of what a real relationship is.

With Riley, however, this changes. Riley is secretly a government agent, but the relationship between him and Buffy ferments first in the real world, through awkwardness. It develops and grows, into something pretty special, where they actually have the occasional conversation, something sadly lacking earlier on. Unfortunately events get in the way. Buffy begins to grow more detached from Riley, and noticably fails to express her love for him when he does the same. She clings, badly, to the ideal of the last relationship, the notion of heart rending passion showing that in some ways she has yet to grow up. Her mother's illness makes her even more detached from Riley, and meanwhile, he gets upset and hurt, perhaps out of proportion, and makes some very bad choices. It takes Xander to point out to Buffy that she has thrown away the most adult relationship she has ever had, but by then it is too late, as Riley leaves, only to return once more.

Spike and Buffy's relationship is quite irritating, simply because while I believe the writing of the two previous relationships was strong, this one was much weaker. The writers wanted to take Buffy and Willow to darker places, and while magic addiction worked (mostly) for Willow, the abusive relationship Buffy sank into did not. The primary reason for this was that Spike had had an extremely interesting plot arc over the previous two seasons. After being "neutered" by the initiative, Spike began to play with the good guys, while still having no soul. By season 5 Spike had realised that he loved Buffy, and despite the lack of a soul, this caused him to act, in many ways, like a good man, to the point where he tried and failed to save Buffy's sister. Indeed, season 6 opens on an excellent note, with Spike racked with guilt over this very fact. Yet with the return of Buffy from death, this progress seems to be lost.

The only real answer for this is poor writing. Spike is extremely cruel to Buffy once the relationship begins, and while we might have excepted this had Buffy formed a relationship with an earlier version of Spike, we had become accustomed to a version which tread the boards between good and evil. As it was, it didn't really feel like this worked very well, with it being difficult to sympathise with either Spike or Buffy. Certainly Spike was taking advantage of Buffy, but the way it was written was confused, and a little awkward.

The post soul Spike was another slightly odd turn around, as they had no idea where to go with it. At least with the three previous relationships there was a strong sense of some point about Buffy they were making, the childlike true love, the maturer love that Buffy, cut off, cannot except, and the abusive love that Buffy came to believe she deserved. Arguably, the obvious next arc would be to allow Buffy to settle into a truly mature relationship at this point, allowing her finally to balance as a person, and give herslef up to her friends. However, frustratingly, season 7 makes Buffy even more cut off, to an extent repeating an arc she had already had in season 6. In many ways Season 7 is the weakest season, because there seems to be no clear plan for the characters, which is a shame, because the overarching plot and message wasn't half bad. Sadly the writers just didn't seem to know what they wanted to do with Buffy and the others, and it shows.

This post has turned into a writing analysis of the show as well as the relationships. I think Buffy works best from seasons 1-5. In season 6, there is no real overarching plot, and some of the character arcs are better than others. In Season 7 there is a plot, but almost no character arcs for most of those appearing on the show (actually, inexplicably Spike probably has the biggest character arc, as he has never had a soul before, so is effectively a new person. There is certainly an argument to be had that the show got a big obssessed with Spike....)

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At 9:33 pm, Blogger Kirbie said...

Just to let you know I'm still reading! Though I don't check as I used to.

Can't really comment on Buffy as I only ever watched a few eps. Never got too into it although Willow was hot til it turned out she was a lesbian! Well she was still hot, but you know what i mean lol.

At this point in time I can definitely vouch for relationships ain't perfect :(

At 9:34 pm, Blogger Kirbie said...

I really should do some more blogging - I was looking back at some of my old posts and they're actually a great record really.

At 1:44 am, Blogger Juanita's Journal said...

"Of these, the most bile seems to be directed at Riley. I really disagree with this, as of the three, I feel the relationship with Riley is the most mature, and possibly the best written."

I have to disagree with you on this. I agree that Buffy's relationship with Riley was probably more mature than her relationship with Angel. But it was marred by Riley's inability to communicate with Buffy and her tendency to treat him like fine china, once he lost his extra strength in "Out of My Mind" and emotionally shut him out.

I feel that it was the end of her relationship with Riley and her relationship with Spike between mid-Season 5 and Season 7 that really forced Buffy to set upon the road of adulthood.

At 1:45 am, Blogger Juanita's Journal said...

Your assessment of Buffy's relationship with Spike is one of the most poorly written articles on the series I have ever read. I'm appalled by what I have read.

At 12:37 am, Blogger hobbituk said...

the maturer love that Buffy, cut off, cannot except,

Except what? Could you possibly mean "accept"? It's strangely apt that all the inaccuracies are in the paragraphs relating to Spike. I'm guessing you are not a Spuffy fan...

At 6:34 pm, Blogger Mr K said...

"Your assessment of Buffy's relationship with Spike is one of the most poorly written articles on the series I have ever read. I'm appalled by what I have read."

Blimey! Maybe I could have put more effort into writing it- I do apologise for except instead of accept. But appalled? Would you like to respond to why my arguments are incorrect or poorly formed? Or do you merely mean my grammar/spelling? I imagine you will not read my response, so never mind!

While I think a relationship involving more communication is BETTER, I certainly feel that Riley and Buffy had a mature relationship on some levels- the lack of communication was a distinct failing, and I do not claim that theres was perfect, but it felt more real because of the imperfections, unlike the teenage love she has for Angel.

I actually quite like Spike's character, but it felt like only he and Buffy got much of a character arc in season 7.


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