After sleeping on Smashed, I find that my thoughts
are starting to coalesce a little more coherently. [Okay, its
the morning after, and everything I say still sounds dirty.]
Marti Noxon said in an interview recently that
she worries about kids watching BtVS because of its advanced sexual
concepts. Smashed makes me feel like I was treated to Advanced Sexual
Concepts 301. When the writers finally let me take the senior seminar,
it may kill me. It seems to me that the episode deals a lot with
the dynamics of control and power in a relationship. Up until Smashed,
Buffy had the power in the relationship with Spike. First, she had
physical control. If a conversation or event arose that she did
not want to have, she could enforce her wish to end it by overpowering
him physically. We saw that several times during the episode, but
its been an ongoing theme since hes been chipped.
Second, she had moral control. Because of her moral compass, Buffy
enjoys ethical control over Spike. Despite Spikes insights
into the human heart and his reforming behavior, Buffy still has
the moral high ground. Her comments in Smashed about him being not
a man, but an evil thing reinforce that. Those comments have been
an ongoing theme (despite recent episodes that have shown a different
attitude on Buffys part).
Third, Buffy had emotional control. Spike has confessed he loves
Buffy. She (ostensibly at least) does not love Spike. All this
makes Spike her willing slave; but a slave nevertheless. Shes
In Smashed, Spike discovered that the chip no
longer worked with Buffy. That immediately created a dramatic power
shift in their relationship. We saw Spike get drunk (smashed?) on
that power. Buffy no longer has physical control. As Slayer, she
may be stronger than Spike. But a vampire can always have one
good day. In the fight scene, we saw them relatively evenly
matched, both giving as good as they got.
Buffy no longer has ethical control over Spike,
either or at least her control has diminished. She is no
longer made out of stuff that is different from his
stuff (or so he thinks). Hes not human and shes less
human than she was. The hateful comments that they yell at one another
during their fight reinforces that they have come closer together
ethically. They are now more like each other than they are like
Buffy no longer has emotional control. She revealed
that (at least sexually) she has powerful feelings for Spike. Its
very interesting what we see in that sex scene. First, they are
greedy and violent, pushing each other around. They are standing,
so neither one is dominant (on top). They continually switch position
against the wall (the leader usually faces the wall).
Then when they physically `connect', suddenly
the power games go right out of the window. Both are, frankly, stunned.
They stop. They stare. Their eyes meet. They connect on a level
beyond the physical. This continues up to and beyond where they
crash to the floor. We get a reminder of OMwF's RIP ending grave
scene, with Buffy on top of Spike, but this time providing that
`sweet release.' I'll go out on a limb and say that they are both
feeling something powerful and good during the sex (as opposed to
the desperation, greed, and control issues of the foreplay, which
are a little more problematic, but also necessary).
Let's talk about the promo for Wrecked. Now we
see Spike really trying to exert control over Buffy on all levels.
First, he's obviously the one more comfortable with being a sexual
creature. He lolls naked, while she struggles to find her clothing
(armor) to don. Physically, he can wrestle her to the ground and
control her enough to initiate sex. Emotionally, he can control
her by manipulating her need for him since he's now `in her system'
as a craving as powerful as his for blood. He gives her a love bite,
branding her as a form of control, subverting her deepest fears
(her death wish) with her darkest desires. From the start of Smashed
to the start of Wrecked, the power pendulum totally swings from
Buffy to Spike.
Now, where is this going? Well, I think that ME
is speaking very powerfully about the heart of relationships. When
a couple gets together, one of the things that happens is they have
to deal with the power balance in their relationship. Being in love
and being sexually active makes a person extremely vulnerable. Relationships
require trust because we are willingly giving our well-being into
the hands of a person who can hurt us or use us terribly if s/he
chooses. Haven't we all looked at relationships of others and said,
`Boy, what does he see in her? She's such a witch to him' or `How
can she let him browbeat her like that?'
Relationships run the gamut from functional to
dysfunctional. It's hard to define a functional, healthy relationship.
Perhaps the closest I could come to a definition that might get
a consensus is that a functional relationship is one in which the
parties willingly concede their power over each other and voluntarily
agree not to use it to control each other or cause each other intentional
pain. Even in healthy relationships, we can all swing from extremes
of loving tenderness to raw, primal emotion. Healthy relationships
might be said to have achieved a balance where pleasure is the prime
result, not pain. They still have pain, but pain serves the higher
purpose of good and is not an end to itself.
Right now, Buffy and Spike are in the first stages
of their relationship. They are working through their control and
power issues. It's disturbing us and it should, because not everything
is healthy here. Buffy is trying to control Spike through her continued
denial of what's going on and Spike is trying to control Buffy with
sexual fulfillment. We're definitely on the darker side of passion
I know that as a Project Manager, we often speak
of the stages that high performing teams go through. Sometimes teams
experience all stages and sometimes they get stuck in one. The stages
are: forming, storming, norming, performing, and mourning. I think
the terms are fairly self-explanatory. Buffy and Spike have now
formed as a couple. They are in the stage of storming. There's a
lot of energy and emotion that could end up being very destructive,
or it could form into more normal healthy patterns.
Where will they go from here? ;) I think we all
agree that they are struggling with identity issues. Both have had
their old identities smashed. They are picking up the pieces of
those and trying to reuse them, but it's not really working very
well. Do they have what it takes to get to a performing, healthy
Spike's sexual identity was forged in Dru's fire.
That is not a healthy thing. He associates sex with violence and
pain. Whatever William's sexual experiences were, I think it's safe
to say they were probably close to, if not actually, non-existent.
Can Spike learn something different? My answer is yes. We saw Spike
acting out sexual situations that were tender and loving with the
BufffyBot. We have seen Spike treat Buffy with love and respect.
Spike has not suddenly transformed back into some evil being. All
these facets of his personality are bubbling around and they surface,
disappear, and then resurface. Frankly, they have yet to coalesce
into a consistent, integrated, new personality. He hasn't grown
up. Yet. Without any positive reinforcement, I doubt he can.
I often think of the movie Pretty Woman when I
think of Spike. Richard Gere tells Julia Roberts that she could
be anything in the world and seems confused why she would be a hooker.
She tells him it's easier to believe the bad stuff. I think Spike
finds it easier to believe the bad stuff, too.
Buffy's sexual identity has been forged by Angel,
Angelus, Parker, Riley, and her father figures. This is not a healthy
thing. She associates sex with abandonment and inadequacy. As a
result, she fears loss of control, but she secretly desires it.
She has frozen her emotions to a large extent to protect herself
from pain. She is attracted to pain, but worried about what that
means. She's afraid she is not normal. Now she's getting almost
as addicted to the need for the sexual fulfillment that Spike can
provide as she is to denial and emotional detachment. She's struggling
to understand her origins and her identity. She's afraid she's not
made of the same stuff as good people. She's hasn't integrated this
into a new identity. She hasn't grown up. Sound familiar?
Can Buffy learn something different? I think she
can. She is at heart a loving person. She sacrifices herself for
the world and barely stops to count the cost. She is full of love.
But this doesn't sound like a recipe for success,
does it? Two screwed up people trying to make a relationship work
against the odds. Well, aren't most of us screwed up? I feel I might
be looking at my life story, with certain names changed to protect
the innocent, and events slightly altered for dramatic effect. Now
I see where ME is going with the growing up theme and the love/hate
I suspect Wrecked is a necessary second part to Smashed just the
way all of you probably do. The emotions expressed here raw, powerful,
and real.. I suspect that to achieve a temporary cessation of hostilities,
the power balance will swing back to Buffy and perhaps we will have
a truce between the two in Wrecked. I don't expect resolution of
this relationship for a long, long time. I think we're in this thing
for the long haul until the end of the series. These two will shag,
fight, hate each other until they quiver, and perhaps mature in
the process without destroying everyone and everything around them.