“It’s just been such a profound thing for people who were going through the same thing or just terrified of what they were going to have to go through and just to see somebody that they had been watching for so many years to get to not feel so alone, it’s like it’s such a gift to be able to be part of that.”
William Pratt, Captain Peroxide, Blondie Bear, William the Bloody, The Slayer of Slayers, Spike: The character everyone hates to love, and loves to hate.
Spike is my favorite male character (Buffy Summers being my all time favorite, but I’ve already written like 50 posts on that, so). I used to call him trash, I used to love him apologetically and shamefully. But the more time I had with my thoughts, and the less time I spent around other peoples opinions, I realized how much I actually love him. And while I’ve been unapologetic about it for a while now, I would like to make it crystal clear exactly how great I think Spike is.
The “story of Spike” is a very feminist one, and being a raging feminist myself this is a topic of great importance. It’s also a topic that can lead to heated arguments, since so many disagree on what “feminist storytelling” actually is. When in reality it comes in a huge spectrum, with one kind not canceling out another. The “story of Spike” is simply one particular flavor of it, not more right or wrong than any other - just different. It’s also a very thought provoking (and anger inducing) one, which in my eyes is even better. So why is it feminist?
Spike’s a metaphor for a meninist turned feminist ally. It’s a long and messy road of making a decent, functional person, out of a misogynistic, sociopath.
The rape attempt is treated as the worst thing you could possibly do. So vile that it makes even a soulless, murderous, monster, question his ways.
He takes on the stereotypical role of “naive, love-sick, secret mistress”, which is almost exclusively reserved for female characters in entertainment.
The content is very self aware of his flaws, making it clear that his behavior is unacceptable.
Also, I’ve never seen such a drastic, yet organic, character development.
Spike would take baby steps in the right direction, then huge strides in the wrong one, getting beat down, built up, and torn back down all over again. And it all made it feel so very authentic. He didn’t better himself on a steady curve - he was flying all over the chart, making massive mistakes on his way, which took the viewers on a very intense emotional roller coaster of not knowing whether to hate or love him half the time. Other times hating him with such sheer intensity that you just knew it was beyond repair, then growing to love him again against all odds, crying rivers when he sacrificed himself in Chosen.
There are many more reasons why I find this character so wonderful, but to keep this post relatively short and to the point, I’d like to conclude with this:
The character “Spike” is art. Everyone wont appreciate him, everyone will interpret him and his story their own way. But the vast array of raw emotions he evoke in so many of us, the soul searching and questioning he forces us to do, is what makes him not only art - but a masterpiece, worthy of going down in history as more than just your “problematic fave”.
I was really curious as to what the hell this line was about, so I looked it up and it’s a reference to a short story by Edgar Allan Poe, “The Cask of Amontillado,” about a man named Montresor, who murders his friend, Fortunato. Claiming that Fortunato has insulted him one too many times, Montresor lures him down into a basement, gets him drunk, chains him up in an alcove, then walls him in and leaves him there. As he puts in the final layer of bricks, he hears Fortunato desperately screaming,
“For the love of God, Montresor!”
Montresor ignores his pleas for mercy, finishes building his wall and then happily goes on with his life.
This is what Spike is talking about when he tells Buffy to scream ‘Montresor’ all she wants. He’s saying, give it up, there’s no point. No matter how desperately you appeal to my humanity, it won’t make a difference because there’s none left.
This is why I love the writing in Buffy so much: even season 7, which really isn’t my favourite, has gems like this, that pack in so much extra meaning. At first, to someone who isn’t familiar with American Romantic literature (like, say, probably 60% of the audience and Buffy), he appears to be talking gibberish but then, once you actually go to the trouble of looking up the damn reference, a passing knowledge of the story suggests that this is an expression of self-loathing. If you go one step further and actually read and reflect upon the scene in question, you become aware of the very creepy similarities between the murder and the infamous attempted rape - Spike could be drawing a parallel between the murder of Fortunato and the AR in
Seeing Red - Buffy crying out for him to stop and him ignoring her. More than that, Montresor was supposed to be Fortunato’s friend. In fact, in the narration, he continues to refer to him as ‘my friend’ even when he’s sealing him into the wall. This is more than an act of heartless violence, this is betrayal.
A lot of people accuse Spike fans of being rape apologists. Some Spike fans actually are, sadly. But it’s clear that no one blames Spike more for the attempted rape than Spike himself. Spike is well aware of how deeply he betrayed Buffy and this little throwaway line shows it. Does it excuse the fact that he did it? No. But it’s still heart breaking to see him view himself this way, convinced that there is no hope for him. There’s no point in even attempting to get out of the basement, because he just isn’t worth it. Just how much emotional impact can one stupid literary reference deliver anyway?
Once you’ve even parsed all the layers of what Spike’s trying to convey by saying that, there’s still the fact that he’s somehow managing to dig up a reference to a relatively obscure short story, even though he’s insane and being mentally tortured to the First. I’ve seen people suggest that Spike’s literary pretensions went out the window with his soul when Drusilla sired him and that he didn’t read as much after, but I’ve always headcanoned that he remained a bookworm - although he probably became a lot less discerning in his choice of literature. I imagine that William probably read a lot of the Romantics: their ideas of re-instituting an age of harmony between man and nature by means of a universal transcendental poetry would almost definitely have appealed to him, particularly with their tendency to fixate on romantic love. I can’t picture him enjoying a tale as gruesome as The Cask of Amontillado but I’m pretty sure Spike would’ve loved it.
I adore the infinite layers of meaning behind this one short line. This kind of writing is why BtVS will never get old.