Spike and His Sense of Self

Hello, dear readers.

Before I had this site, I used to write all of my opinions and think pieces on LiveJournal.  In many ways, it’s what has given me my start.  Even more than that, was the Buffy fandom.  Stumbled across this old thing I wrote about my most favorite character of all time:

Spike.

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Did Spike really know Buffy?

Spike had certainty in his convictions until the cusp of s6.  He believed he was certain about who he was, what he wanted, what type of woman Buffy was, and how she felt.  Except he was wrong.  That season (six) at various points pretty much proved that.   The following season, Buffy tells him that he in fact didn’t know her, and that he didn’t even know himself.

I’m inclined to agree.

Note: This was brought on by various posts about Spike being certain Buffy loved him in “Chosen,” or not certain,
as pointed out by 2Maggie2.

“Pain keeps our brain from going down bad paths” and “A fool for love is a fool for pain.”

[The first quote is from Marsters’ character Barnabus in an upcoming ep of Caprica, and the second is a lyric from the song “How Can I Ease the Pain?”]

These two quotes, combined, connected for me after reading this passage:

In this episode, we begin to see, in his solicitous behavior toward Dru, the extent to which Spike is controlled and frustrated by women. When he encounters Buffy’s rebellious schoolmate Sheila in the alley, she is talking to two men, telling them: “You guys weren’t lyin’ about havin’ a Cadillac, were you? ‘Cause I’m crazy about a Cad. Just the feel of the leather makes me wanna…” And suddenly she runs into Spike:

“Who are you?” asks Sheila. It’s the second time Spike’s been asked that question, but for Sheila the answer is much different than it was for the Anointed One.

“Who do you want me to be?” he replies. And with those seven words, though we don’t know it yet, Spike gives us a stunningly complete and solid idea of the way he defines himself around women, and the method he uses to ensnare them…

Angel is a loner compared to Spike. He loves Buffy but he doesn’t need people, the world or women the way Spike does. He doesn’t need anyone else in order to know who he is, in order to define himself. And though Spike will accuse Angel later in this conversation of being “housebroken” by Buffy, it really isn’t true, not about Angel. It is Spike who defines himself according to Dru’s needs, and it is Spike who will eventually be housebroken by Buffy. Spike’s sensitivity and immaturity, his need for others that is also a lack of self, make him vulnerable in a way that the more self-assured and self-contained Angel can never be.
The “bad path” in Spike’s case would be the question of “Who am I?  Who am I really?”  It’s bad in that…it can at times be hard to accept oneself fully–to love and appreciate all that you are.   I mean, what if folks don’t like the real you?  Accept the real you?  It’s so much easier to conform and become a doormat.

One of the few things that Spike was certain of–the one thing he wasn’t wrong about–was that he was in fact a fool for love. 

Being someone else’s fool is a nice distraction from being yourself, and taking the time to accept yourself.  A nice distraction indeed.

I always thought that Spike self molded himself around the idea of what his current love interest wanted him to be.  We see it with his entire courtship with Drusilla, and it’s reiterated in “Lover’s Walk”–

I’ve been all wrongheaded about this. Weeping, crawling, blaming everybody else. I want Dru back, I’ve just gotta be the man I was, (stands proud) the man she loved. I’m gonna do what I shoulda done in the first place: I’ll find her, wherever she is, tie her up, torture her until she likes me again. (goes to leave) Love’s a funny thing.

The man he was, yes.  But was that his true self?  Facets of it, sure, but was that all of him?  I don’t think so.  For so long, he was lead to believe that he was never good enough in one way or another.  He’s essentially saying here that in order to get his love back, he has to be who she wants him to be.  Being just Spike won’t be able to keep her with him.

He does the exact same thing in “Triangle” and “Crush,” trying to be the man that he thinks Buffy wants.  He (seemingly) raids Riley’s abandoned closet, attempts to make nice with her friends, shows that chivalry isn’t dead…and then Dru comes back, and he tries to revert to who she wants him to be.  Thing is, neither works.

Spike was lost, and had been for some time.  He had a lack of identity and sense of self.

He only truly realizes this in SR.  So what did he do?  A bit of soul searching.  His head, his heart, and his instincts were going in different directions, so he needed the “piece” to make him…complete.  He didn’t know what he would find, but he knew he wasn’t whole–something was missing.

[And yes, I know that the soul was fought for for many other reasons, but I’m just discussing Spike’s search for his true identity.]

With that soul came a lot more pain, self loathing, and revelations about his true lack of understanding about who he was, and the women he loved.  One of those revelations was that Buffy did not love him, but that she had used him, which she readily admits to.  Does she care about him?  Of course (even though she can’t even admit that much to her friends and family–reducing helping Spike to merely trying to get close to “the thing that’s playing us” but still).  But to care does not equate to being in love or even just plain love.  And Spike with his new insight, gets that.

I think Spike interpreted her “I love you” as more of a “I thank you,” and Spike’s “No you don’t,” was a, well, “No need, little lady.  Your tears of gratitude are enough for me.”  Not trying to be funny here, but that’s how I see it.   It was enough to know that she cared, but he didn’t need the pretty lies before he died.  If she had just left it at holding his hand…I think that wouold have been okay.

Not to mention the looks on both of their faces–Buffy looks proud of him, whereas Spike looks resigned.  Part of the reason why so many feel Spike’s emotions is because of the depth of his expressions.

 “No you don’t.”
 

“But thanks for saying it.”

Spike didn’t need her to…well, lie to him.  It wasn’t needed.  The “I love you” was more or less a consolation prize, and that’s exactly how it sounded.  A dying man’s last meal, no?  After all, if she really felt that way, why not have said it the night before when she “knew” they were going to win?  That they were going to make it?  Why say it when as far as she knew, that was the last time she’d see him?  It came off more as pity as opposed to being sincere.  It lacked emotion and expression–qualities that Buffy does in fact possess if she’s really passionate about what she is saying.  She was tossing him a bone here, and Spike knew that.  Not to mention that just the day before, she explicitly says to Angel that Spike is in her heart, but not that she loved him.

Yes, she would be sad at his demise, but that doesn’t equate to love. We’ve seen Buffy have all kinds of nervous breakdowns when she’s lost people (or almost lost people) who she really loves–Angel, her mom, Dawn, Giles…and while there wasn’t time to break down in that cave, once she was free and clear of that and the fight was over, she smiled.  Yes, I’ve heard folks describe it as hopeful at her new life seemingly free of slayerdom, blah blah blah, but to me, it just didn’t fit if she really felt what she said she did.  In the end, I don’t think she felt it, and I think Spike too did not feel it.

I think as BtVS fans, we can all say without a shadow of a doubt that she had been in love with Angel, and that a part of her will always love him.  But the last thing she says to him before the big fight is that yes, she does sometimes think that far ahead, and that, “It’ll be a long time coming.  Years, if ever.”  Now, if the guy who we know she loves gets that, well, it just doesn’t bode well for the guy she has ambiguous “in my heart/does it have to mean anything?” feelings for.  Nevertheless, whether she meant it or not (and I don’t think she did), I don’t think Spike believed her.

And I think that, coupled with the fact that Spike too had yet to finish baking, was why he didn’t seek her out upon his corporealization.  Being with someone who he had such powerful feelings for would undoubtedly hinder his progress in finding himself and his own path.  Graham once said to Riley that he was “the Mission’s boyfriend.”  Spike was more or less in the same boat, except he didn’t have the honor of being called “boyfriend.”  He was the Mission’s sexless shoulder to lean on. He was once again, being what someone else needed/wanted him to be.

In addition to that, Spike feared a repeat (I was…does it have to mean anything?)–

I expect Buffy would be happy enough to see me. It’s just, I gave up my life for her, the world.  And if I show up now, flesh and bone, my grand finale won’t hold much weight. All of it… won’t matter.

It’s quite telling, isn’t it?  His fear is that after all is said and done, if he were to go back to Buffy, it wouldn’t matter (to her).  An unexpectant, pleasant surprise that would make her smile…but then what?  It’s doubtful she spent that time counting the days he was gone.

While I think it was good for Spike’s personal growth and development to stay away, I think he actually did it because that way, he could keep the lie that he initially rejected–of her loving him–alive that way.  I’m trying to figure out how to explain what’s in my head eloquently…he didn’t need the lie right before he died.  He didn’t need his death to be easy or go gently.  But when he came back, resuming his path of self discovery, keeping that lie under his cap, thinking that perhaps that yes, he was worthy of love, was good to have.  He doesn’t really need to keep up the pretense or genuinely believe it, but it was a nice thought to hold onto.  “Maybe she did love me…but that doubt is going to stop me from finding out for sure,” kind of thing.  Going to see her would ruin the fantasy.   He knows the truth, but doesn’t want to face it exactly.  While he doesn’t deny the truth (e.g., not rebutting against Angel’s “That’s why Buffy never really loved you: Because you weren’t me.”), he doesn’t need it reaffirmed by Buffy.

 

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