OK, I know I've already blogged about this just a bit when I first watched the series. However, something has lingered about that attempted rape (in, is it the 6th or 7th season?). I rationalized it and tucked it away but something still pestered me.
Well, I was watching episodes today from the sixth season. Where Spike and Buffy's relationship starts to change a bit, where she has, whatever revelation it is she has, and makes a place for him in her life. I noticed, among other things, one line in particular where he tells her that her friends aren't really there for her, that he's all she's got. That's what an abuser tells his wife, to keep her around, to beat her down and make her believe she needs him despite what he does to her.
I noticed that, and I noticed his forceful seductions of her. And, to be fair, hers of him. (S&M anyone?) And I realized, with the addition of the attempted rape, did Whedon know the commentary he (well, his writers) was making, on Hollywood itself?
One of the things I've seen discussed at Feministing when rape issues come up, is the blurry line of seduction. The problem with seduction, is that you can never know, absolutely for certain, that the other person wants what you're doing. In Hollywood, in movies and tv, we as the audience have the benefit of knowing the desires and intentions of both parties, and so we excuse things as commonplace that we would rarely (or never) accept from our lovers irl. Things as simple as the scene in Spiderman 3 where Parker is walking by MJ's apartment, and she is looking out the window (we are to assume thinking of him) and she turns away right as he looks up and they each fail to realize the other is thinking of them. But if you looked outside your house and your recent ex was standing there staring at your window... Would it be sweet like that scene is? No. That's stalkerific.
If a guy you'd repeatedly refused was constantly lurking in the dark behind a tree every time you leave the house. Would that be annoyingly sweet, as I think it is every time Spike pops up following Buffy? No, that would be cause for a restraining order.
The same is true for seduction. Which is also used commonly in Hollywood, and used extensively between Spike and Buffy. The great thing about seduction, in a book, or on the screen, is we the audience knows both parties want it. Hell, WE want it from HIM. Oh yah baby, rip my clothes off!
But in real life? Seduction can easily be coerced rape. Because YOU NEVER REALLY KNOW IF THEY WANT IT. You aren't an omniscient audience, seeing the scene unfold and knowing that when Buffy says "no" she really does mean "yes." Irl, that is just rape. And as hot as it is to watch, the fact remains, some people are going to get the message that sometimes when a girl says "no" they really mean "yes." And in an environment, in a relationship, where you can't believe the person when they say no, how are you to know they really mean it this time?
Whether intentional or not, I think this is what Whedon leaves us with. In that episode, and with that scene, he removed the Hollywood in their relationship. That was real life. He showed the other side of the coin of the seduction scene we see so often, and had seen so often, one of many Hollywood myths.
Now, given the nature of Spike and Buffy's relationship... I still forgive Spike in the end. They needed a safe word, among other things, and I suppose you just can't discount the fact that a vampire's nature is that of a predator. Not immoral, really, but amoral, certainly.
But if you translate a lot of that relationship to real life, he does represent a lot of the things I hate. And for some reason watching through it this time it was harder for me to ignore that, to not notice all the themes running through their interactions.
A rare instance where I will subscribe to the notion that "ignorance is bliss" because to be honest, I loved my seduction fantasy, and would love Spike (or James) to enact it for me. But I can't totally divorce myself from the knowledge that irl, you don't get a Spike, or, maybe you do, but he's only the evil part, and has none of the redeeming qualities.
I hope after articulating this my watching can go back to suspending reality and buying into the universe presented me, where I have the comfort of being that audience again.