willow is my spirit animal

A Word on Buffyverse Ships

I’ve been thinking a lot about the romantic relationships of Buffy, the canon ones and the fandom ones. I’ve never really committed fully to one ship or another, nor have I condemned one or another. I’ve watched them, I’ve analyzed them, sure. But I’ve never picked one or voted one off the island. I suppose it wasn’t the reason I watched the show, so I never saw the point.

Recently, I rewatched both shows as an adult (rather than a teen/collegiate). It’s amazing how a few years can bring new perspective to things. Writing my own fanfiction and reading that of others as well as engaging in many wonderful discussions here with other fans has really made me think about which ships I’m really ride or die for, and which I could do without. So, here’s my take for those interested (since I’ve given my two cents here and there in many of your discussions, I’m sure). Please feel free to reply, discuss, or what have you.

I’m going to talk about these basically chronologically (to the best of my memory). I haven’t scoured the Internet for every single ship, so these are just the ones I’ve thought extensively about recently. If there’s one I don’t mention and you’re curious about my thoughts, drop me a line.

Xander/Buffy – A Nice Thought
I enjoy the idea of this one in a post-show timeline. As a teenager I think Xander is way too immature and judgmental to be a good fit for Buffy. During the rest of the show’s run they’re on different pages romantically and don’t seem to want the same things, so I don’t think there was ever really a right time for them to be a couple during the show storyline. Although when I read the rumor that Sarah Michelle Gellar and Nicholas Brendan pitched the pairing for season six I gushed a little. I do think by the end of the series Xander has displayed a remarkable amount of growth to become a humble, supportive man. He’s loyal to Buffy in the way that he’s by her side no matter what. Even if he disagrees with her or if he’s angry at her, when push comes to shove he’s in the fray right with her. However, he’s not a yes man. He’s not so enamored with Buffy that he doesn’t see her flaws, and he’s not afraid to call her out (albeit a bit brutally) when he thinks she’s making a mistake. He also accepts her for who she is, even the parts he doesn’t understand. I don’t think these two would work as a lifelong pair, but they’d be an interesting match if the timing was right for them. Ultimately, I think it was a good move that this one remained unrequited.

Buffy/Angel – Meant to Be
I have conflicted feelings about this one. I do not think it was a healthy example of a relationship, nor do I think it was intended to be a romanticized thing for people to aspire to. To me, the Buffy/Angel relationship always came off as a cautionary tale. Buffy was young and naïve at the start of their courtship, and the guy had a checkered past. “Oh, but he’s different. He’s changed.” Her mother didn’t approve, stating Angel was too old for Buffy (rightfully so). All the iffy red flags were there. I think Buffy was good for Angel, motivating him and helping him grow. But, I think he might have been a hindrance to her, as he always became priority over anything else (like oh, say, an apocalypse). One of my favorite Buffy moments is when she sacrifices Angel to prevent the Acathla apocalypse at the end of season two because she overcame that very issue. As an aside, I think Angel was a bit shady in his relationship with Buffy, knowing it wasn’t the best thing for her, that realistically a life with him would mean a lot of sacrifice on Buffy’s end. But, he pursued it anyway. The part where he had sex with Buffy and lost his soul is a bit suspect for me. The show seemed to steer us toward the direction that he didn’t know exactly what “a moment of true happiness” meant, so that he couldn’t really know sex with Buffy would make him lose his soul. But I have to think he knew it was at least a risk or a possibility. In my opinion, he was a bit reckless with that relationship, always going against his better judgment. So, I have my beef with this relationship for sure, and it’s not my personal favorite. However, I think Angel is the person Buffy always measures everyone else she dates up to. He’s the one for her, and I think Buffy is the same for Angel. Therefore, these two are my OTP, much to my chagrin.

Giles/Jenny – We Hardly Knew Ye
This is a tough one. I wish we’d gotten a bit more time with Giles and Jenny because they barely got to be a relationship. Because of that, it’s hard for me to land on it. They have kind of a nice bickering Pride and Prejudice thing happening, which is amusing. And it was nice to see Giles have his own life outside of being a watcher and a librarian. I also love Jenny as a character. She was portrayed in a way that I could imagine running into her teaching at my high school. She was a character I could see actually existing as a part of my world. Sadly, I don’t see this as a long-lasting relationship. Mostly because they didn’t know each other very well and never struck me as madly in love. Had they gotten the chance, I’m not sure it would have worked out, particularly with that slight deception on Jenny’s end that put her at odds with Buffy.

Oz/Willow – The One I Want to Want
This ship is particularly close to my heart for many reasons. Willow is probably the character high school me could relate most to, and Oz is my all-time favorite Buffyverse character. I can’t explain why. He just is. I think for much the same reason I like Jenny. Because he’s someone I could have gone to high school with (you know, aside from the werewolf part). This was the relationship I lived vicariously through when I was single or feeling bummed about a break-up. Oz was kind, considerate, quietly charismatic, drily witty, intelligent, and endlessly patient. He wasn’t some knight in shining armor, or a smoldering heartthrob. He was just a guy, like any other guy I could have known. The fact that Willow caught the eye of a nice guy gave me personal hope for my own situation. Some days it still does. Oz is the dude I would date, marry, and have little werewolf babies with. Willow is my spirit animal. So, even though these two aren’t an OTP for me as a fic writer/reader or a fan, they are my favorite ship. I could go on and on about them, so I’ll keep it short and sweet.

Spike/Drusilla – Eyeballs to Entrails
These two are one of my favorite ships on the show. They’re dark and twisted and they’re both formidable villains when they want to be. But Spike, despite his undeniable edge, is so gentle with Drusilla and so devoted to her, it was one of the first hints of depth we saw in a vampire other than Angel. And Drusilla, despite her timid personality, had so much power in that dynamic. She was a strong woman, a force all on her own. These two are an OTP for me. I think if Drusilla had never left Spike he would have stayed with her forever. If Drusilla managed to get a soul she and soul-having Spike would probably reconnect with interesting results.

Spike/Angel – I’m Sure That’s a Thing
I don’t really see a window for this in the run of the shows, but I totally believed these two were a Louis/Lestat type of thing back in the days of the Whirlwind. I definitely see a lot of subtext there, intended or not.

Cordelia/Xander – Well, There’s Something You Don’t See Every Day
I… don’t know where this one came from. When Cordelia and Xander shared their first dramatic kiss I think I laughed. “Oh, what a funny reaction for these two to have in that moment.” And then that moment continued into a pretty substantial relationship. I never quite understood why these two were ever a thing. Realistically, yes. I get it. We’ve all watched two people get together and started taking bets on the date of their inevitable break-up. And on some levels I get the appeal. It’s The Shop Around the Corner effect: these two can’t stand each other, so naturally they need to be together. I did like the depth this relationship uncovered in Cordelia, but it’s not one of my favorites.

Willow/Xander – Ugh. Really?
Okay, I’m admittedly biased on this one because I’ve told you how I feel about Willow/Oz. I also have a general pet peeve when it comes to stories taking two characters who are good friends and deciding they have to pair them. It bugs the crap out of me that a man and a woman aren’t allowed to just be friends in anything ever (except for Lucas and Haley in One Tree Hill and I love that about that show). I also can’t stand love triangles. In conclusion, I hated this. Blasphemy. Never should have happened. Oz is a saint for forgiving Willow. Cordelia has every right to be pissed off about it. Xander’s a dick for having the nerve to pull that Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered crap.

Buffy/Faith – Now That You Mention It…
A relationship between Buffy and Faith never occurred to me when I watched the show. Then I read some fanfiction and some discussions about some subtext between these two. So, when I rewatched the show recently it was like “Wow, how did I never see that before?” One of my favorite moments in the show is the shared dream between Buffy and Faith at the end of season three. There is so much going on between these two women. I’m not sure the timing for a pairing was ever right for them in the show. Buffy was kind of closed off to Faith in the beginning, threatened by her and distant. Then once Faith went rogue I think she did some pretty unforgivable stuff as far as Buffy’s concerned. Faith could say the same. Buffy did try to kill her. I don’t think Buffy would ever forgive Faith for poisoning Angel, or for the body swap, but I don’t think Faith would fault her for that. And I think Faith could forgive Buffy for stabbing her. I wish there was a window somewhere in the story where I could see this ship happening. Maybe post season seven. I’d have to think on it. However, I think these two women have a unique bond and, under the right circumstances and in the right plot, I could see this happening.

Giles/Joyce – Awkward
I’m glad this was just kind of a fun one-time thing because how awkward would that have been? I feel like Joyce is always a bit competitive with Giles when it comes to Buffy. On the one hand, she respects Giles and appreciates how much he cares for Buffy. On the other hand, she resents him at times for endangering Buffy or for taking her away on some level. I think these two would always have a difference in opinion on what’s best for Buffy, and that would kill any chance at a relationship they might have. How funny was that Band Candy episode, though?

Xander/Faith – Wait, What Just Happened?
Again, I’m glad this was a one-time thing because – wait, what? This struck me as a plot device, a way to show us Faith was more dangerous than we thought. Tough break for Xander.

Xander/Anya – Haha! Oh, Wait… You’re Serious?
The issue I have with this ship is that it became a running gag on the show that Xander always fell for the monsters or the weirdos. Even when their relationship started, Anya was so awkward and out of place it was comedic. So when they made Xander and Anya a long-term couple I could never really take it seriously. I was always waiting for the punchline. It didn’t help that as the show progressed they sort of gave Anya the Eric Matthews treatment and she went from trying to get used to being a mortal to “Who dropped her on her head?” Although they kind of grew on me, I never really considered this a realistic or long-lasting pairing. I did like Anya’s arc after Xander bailed on their wedding. We got to see her trying to return to her demon ways and feeling conflicted. We got to see Xander struggle with the idea of a healthy marriage. That was all well and good. I just don’t see this as an OTP kind of thing.

Riley/Buffy – A Breath of Fresh Air
This is another ship that I personally really enjoy. Riley is a good, solid guy who’s a badass in his own right and doesn’t mind dating a woman who’s independent and badass. I think Riley and Buffy had a healthy relationship, for the most part, until that clunkily executed break-up at the end (I think the show could have written that better). This wasn’t quite a relationship I related to or lived vicariously through because Riley’s not really my type and I couldn’t really relate to Buffy much during this point in her arc. But, I enjoyed watching this ship and I really wanted it to work. It was healthy and safe, and Buffy never has enough of that in her life. However, I think the issues in the relationship were realistic. Buffy got kind of closed off and neglectful, and Riley got insecure and needy. Had that fortuitous and conveniently timed job offer not come along, I think these two could have eventually worked through those issues with some effort and commitment. But, I don’t think Riley could ever hold a candle to Angel, so as long as Angel was in the picture I think he was always SOL.

Tara/Willow – You Make Me Complete
This ship took me some time to warm up to, mainly because I felt like they wrote Oz out a bit unceremoniously so I didn’t quite buy the quick progression to Tillow. However, I think these two had one of the most functional, realistic relationships in either of the shows. I would consider it THE most functional relationship if the whole addiction to magic arc with Willow hadn’t happened (but that was a bit manipulative and unhealthy). I think Willow truly became whole as she grew over the course of her relationship with Tara, and I think Tara could breathe with Willow and feel comfortable with herself. I can’t picture these two ever being as fulfilled with other people as they are with each other. I would have liked to see more of Willow coming to terms with her sexuality and dealing with that, and I would have liked to see a bit more development with the relationship. But these two are an OTP for me.

Spike/Anya – I Almost Forgot About That
I didn’t like this either. They just shoved these two together, got them drunk, and had them sleep together. It felt very contrived to me and I wasn’t a fan.

Angel/Cordelia – I Guess You’ll Do
I never quite bought into this. It’s very similar to Jenny and Giles for me in the way that it was hinted at that these two might have warm fuzzies for each other, but nothing was ever significantly done with it. For me, I don’t know if I see this as a viable relationship. A lot of that is due to Angel being hung up on Buffy.

Cordelia/Doyle – A Face You Could Learn to Love
These two had so much potential and I wanted so badly for them to be a couple. Another Jenny Calendar effect here where there was barely anything to suggest a possible relationship. But I think the chemistry between the two characters was spot on from the start. From the second he sees her Doyle’s head over heels with the idea of her and she’s rolling her eyes all “as if.” But then they get to know each other and he genuinely appreciates the person she is. Unfortunately she never really gets to know him at all, so I don’t really know how that relationship would have panned out. But I would have loved to see what would have happened.

Fred/Angel – Handsome Man Saved Me from the Monsters
I’m glad this never became a full relationship in the show. I like the fact that these two were genuine friends and there weren’t any romantic strings attached. Fred had a bit of a crush in the beginning, but I think that was a confusing mix-up on her part more than actual feelings. He saved her, so she automatically developed an appreciation for him. Overall these two had a sweet friendship and, while I think it could have developed into something under the right circumstances, I’m really glad it didn’t.

Fred/Gunn – What Could They Possibly Have in Common?
I’m not sure how these two ended up together. Opposites attract, I suppose. It just didn’t feel like a real relationship to me. I tried to picture these two sitting around bored and talking and I had no idea what they’d possibly talk about. I feel like they’d be having a strike out conversation. “Do you like movies?” “Oh, I haven’t really seen too many. I do like some of those old black-and-white romantic movies.” “Oh. I’m not much for romance. More of an action kind of guy.” “Oh… Have you read any good books lately?” “Uh… Not really. Been a little busy sharpening my knives and stakes.” “Oh, right…” *cricket, cricket* It’s not quite that I don’t like this ship. It’s more that I would have liked to have seen more of it, how it developed and how they worked. I didn’t really have enough evidence to buy into it.

Fred/Wesley – Too Much Alike
I understand the appeal of this ship, but in my opinion these two are too similar for a relationship to work well. I think they’re much better as friends.

Buffy/Spike – Love Me, Hate Me
I have a lot of personal bias with this one and it brings up some unpleasant feelings for me, so I don’t think I could ever fully get on board with it even if I tried. That being said, I could see why this made sense at the time. This was always a relationship I could see happening under the right circumstances. Well, the stars aligned in season six and there you have it. The thing I don’t like about this ship is how very unhealthy it is on both sides. It’s very manipulative and abusive, and while that would be just fine if the two of them were soulless villains, it felt pretty out of character some of the time, particularly for Buffy. There was always a forced nature to it for me, which maybe was the point. Anyway, overall while I can see how it makes sense and I get the appeal, this isn’t one I can rally behind because it makes me feel too icky.

Angel/Faith – Huh. Well, That’s Interesting
There’s a lot of potential here. I think Faith and Angel understand things about one another no one else really could. They’ve both done terrible things (and enjoyed it), and they’re both on sort of an impossible road to redemption. After a certain point, these two quietly became pretty ride or die for one another. And believably so. I didn’t really see a place in the show’s storyline where their pairing could have realistically fit, but I could see these two being a pair under the right circumstances. I think problems would arise because Angel’s OTP is Buffy, and I think Faith would be very troubled by the idea of being compared to Buffy. But, it would be an interesting run while it lasted.

Wesley/Lilah – A Sharp Turn
This was unexpected, but very cool. I liked that we saw a darker edge to Wesley and a softer side of Lilah. I also believed this relationship from the start. It made total sense to me at the time even though I didn’t see it coming. These two had a mutual respect for each other, and they challenged each other. I also think they were very much in love, but neither of them really wanted to voice it (and I think they understood that about each other). While this relationship wasn’t good for the rest of the characters involved because it sort of took Wesley away from the group, I like this ship a lot and it has the potential to be an OTP in my book. I would have needed to see a bit more of it.

Angel/Darla – It’s Complicated
I have mixed feelings about this one. While I think Darla and Angel totally miss the mark, Darla and Angelus are a perfect match, much like Spike and Drusilla. I think Angelus and Darla have a mutual appreciation for torturing and ruining others, and I think Darla understands exactly who Angelus is and is content to let him be that. He may not be devoted to her or even in love with her, but she’s okay with that. As long as she’s a part of the fun and she’s in on the plans. It’s not like she’s entirely loyal to him either. She has her own agenda and likes her independence. However even human Darla and soul-toting Angel didn’t really click for me. I think these two only work when they’re both soulless monsters.

Connor/Cordelia – Eww, Why is This Happening?
This was just gross. Wrong on so many levels. Cordelia was a mother figure to Connor, so her having a romantic thing with him was just icky, amnesia or no. Don’t even get me started on the “It wasn’t really Cordelia” thing. However, on Connor’s end I totally understood it. He never knew Cordelia as a mother figure. She was someone who was in a similar position he was in. They were both sort of lost and out of place, and neither of them trusted the group of people claiming to be their allies. I also think Connor sort of needs something to do or he goes a little sideways. He needs a thing to kill, a task to complete, or someone to protect. Cordelia was a purpose he could cling to, and cling he sure as shit did. However, this is another one I think was blasphemy and never should have happened. It was outright character assassination for both of them.

That’s about all the steam I have. If I think of anymore ships I’ll do another entry. In the meantime, please comment, discuss, or message if you feel the need.