Readers respond to Jaime J. Weinman's rant "Why Spike Ruined 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer.'"

Published May 14, 2003 8:00AM (EDT)

Read the story.

Jaime J. Weinman makes a good point about coolness, and Spike ruining the last season of "Buffy," although of course Spike isn't really bad, he's just badly written. The most interestingly written character this season is the far-from-cool Andrew: I'm in mourning for the rest of the cast.

On the other hand, Spike used to be cool and well-written. So was Oz. So I think the real problem must be the terrible, horrible, untrue-to-the-characters story lines.

Last season, Willow was (at least half of the time) badly written. This season, everybody, all of the time, except for Andrew and Anya, is boring, mopey and prone to President Bush-style speechmaking. Boring, boring, boring! Even the villains are boring. I loathe Marti Noxon. Bad writing is worse than a stake through the heart.

-- Kelly Link

Jaime Weinman's lament about Spike's alleged "ruining" of Buffy fails to take into account an important detail: The Scoobies aren't in high school anymore. Weinman is longing for a show that hasn't existed for several seasons, not just this one. Willow is now an überwitch, Xander has become a kind of unofficial watcher, and even annoying little Dawn suddenly knows how to kick ass. How is all this Spike's fault?

I happen to disagree with Weinman's assessment of the show as well as Spike's role in it. While many programs have "jumped the shark," and Buffy has veered dangerously close to doing that throughout its run (see any episode with the Initiative), Whedon and Company have always pulled it back from the brink brilliantly. In fact, Buffy is going out on a high note. Has there been a villain as straight-up creepy as Caleb in recent memory? I think not. And the First's ability to exploit the emotional chinks in the gang's armor is also quite chilling, recalling Hannibal Lecter's onion-stripping assessment of Clarice Starling during their first meeting.

As for Spike, Weinman sees him all wrong. Spike has never been the "cool guy" as she claims. He's the uncool guy trying to BE the cool guy. In life Spike was William, a pathetic milquetoast who couldn't have gotten laid in a whorehouse. His afterlife has been spent trying to reinvent himself, and after he regains his soul we once again see the insecure man he once was, now trying to live with his carnage. Sure he has his James Dean moments, but that's clearly not who Spike is.

Spike's transformation has been one of the most interesting aspects of the show, and he fits in perfectly with Weinman's celebration of the uncool. He's way off base on this score.

-- Todd Prepsky

I would just like to briefly comment on the article by Jaime Weinman. I'm sorry that the writer has so grossly misunderstood the show that he attempts to critique.

I began watching the show only because of Spike. His story resonated with me because, despite his bravado, Spike is truly the outsider. He is the one with his face pressed against the glass looking into the world that Buffy shares with her friends and wanting to be a part of that with her. He is the one who has suffered the pain of being an outcast in the face of the mocking and disdain of the core-four clique. He has been the butt of their jokes and the punching bag for the resolution of Buffy's Season 6 self-hatred issues.

Spike's journey in the name of love is the most impressive story line I have seen on television and is worthy of all the praise that has been heaped on James Marsters for his portrayal of Spike. To dismiss Spike's story with the overused Fonzie comparison is to truly deny oneself the pleasure of watching the story of a character of true depth and beauty unfold. I'm sorry Jaime Weinman can't see the beauty while wearing the blinders that are so prevalent on Television Without Pity as well.

-- Laura Adelmann

I just wanted to express my support for Jaime J. Weinman's article about the rise of Spike-decline of "Buffy" correlation. I can imagine he has been besieged by abusive and incoherent rants that berate him for daring to question the presence of this hunka hunka burning love and redemption figure on television.

The presence of Spike on the show has been, from the end of Season 2 on, an obvious manifestation of the desires of the producers to work with sexy James Marsters and his willingness to work shirtless.

I grudgingly admit, over the years, the use of Spike has had some interesting results. The sexual relationship with Buffy in Season 6 was well portrayed by Sarah Michelle Gellar as a symptom of deep self-loathing and depression. It was heartbreaking, but I felt like I was supposed to think it was H-O-T.

Spike's had some funny lines over the years, but I'd sacrifice them all to keep the focus on the core-four cast members, whose characterizations in the present season have been reduced to agents of plot movement and ridiculous exposition. Buffy's focus on Spike in the face of his conscious and unconscious decisions to hurt and kill, blindly supporting him against the wary protests of her closest friends, has made her a completely unlikable character to me -- something unthinkable for me before this season.

And I feel better knowing that I'm not alone in blaming Spike, because he ruins everything he touches.

-- Nora McGunnigle

I have watched "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" from its beginning and have read thousands of articles written about the show. NEVER have I been so upset about what someone, who is obviously so one-minded, that I've actually seen red!

The character of Spike is so much more than what the writer of this article states him as. I have watched Spike's development over the years and if anything, he HAS proven that a soulless evil demon CAN CHANGE. There was no reason for this change, other than his love for Buffy. He has repeatedly gone completely against his nature (evil souless creature) and proved himself in more ways than one.

Spike has ALWAYS showed more humanity than any other vampire on the show or of any mentioned. He has shown his ability to love and has worn his heart on his sleeve countless times. That fact alone sets him apart from all the others.

The quest to regain his soul was in itself an act that goes against everything he is. An evil soulless creature that "should not" care one way or the other, but he did and does. Why? Because of the love for a woman who cannot return his love because of moral issues. He did not regain his soul for any other reason than to prove to Buffy that he does indeed love her. To show her he CAN be a good man despite what he is.

James Marsters is a brilliant actor who has created a character with more depth than any other on the show in my opinion. He cannot be faulted for his ability to bring a character to life and to create a fan base for that character. There are people who hate Spike, and that is their right to do so, just as it is mine to love the character. For the author of your article to personally attack James Marsters for his ability to "act" and bring his character to life is a low blow.

The development of Spike over the years has been what kept me interested in the show. I doubt very seriously I would have continued watching if it weren't for the Spike story line. The chemistry between James Marsters and Sarah Michelle Gellar was amazing to watch and I will miss it. And as for Spike ... I'll be tuning in each week to catch him on "Angel," to see where he goes and what happens next. A character like that won't be forgotten and I'm sure thousands will agree with me.

-- Rhonda Hefner

Jaime J. Weinman makes some very interesting and valid points in his article "Why Spike ruined 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer,'" and this is not a letter calling for the "all shirtless Spike, all the time" show. However, I think she misses one central issue that Spike's back story has brought out beautifully: Spike was a geek and he retains a good part of that geekiness inside his sleek, platinum exterior.

When he was mortal, he wrote bad poetry, doted on his mother, and generally had no clue how to act around women. Hell, the "cool kids" made fun of him and his nickname "William the Bloody" originally referred to his writing being "bloody awful." When Spike gets to join the popular gang (Angel, Darla and Drusilla), he tries over and over to prove himself worthy -- he affects his cockney accent, starts smoking, dresses better, has lots of sex with Dru, but it doesn't, truly, make him fit in. He's with the popular gang because the beautiful psycho girl likes him, not because he, himself, is cool.

If Spike really were a jackass who hated the nerds, would he have felt genuinely sorry for Anya when Xander (in a fit of horrid cowardice) left her at the altar, or found Willow hottest when she wore the "fuzzy pink number"? In many ways, Spike is the outsider among the in group. He speaks the truth when no one wants to hear it, he ineptly, and, at points, disturbingly demonstrates his obsession with Buffy, and he plays on every "cool guy" cliché without ever making it work out exactly right.

Don't blame Spike for the decline in the show. Underneath the leather and the tight pants and the punk rock, he's still the sad, bad poet trying to win the girl.

-- Alice Stanulis

I agree with much of your article -- but you are forgetting how Spike began -- as a poetry-reading, mouth-breathing Mama's boy, universally humiliated by women. (He still has a twisted addiction to being beaten on emotionally and physically by women, Buffy and Drusilla being cases in point.) He is as much of a reinvented character is Willow is -- the leather jacket is a facade. The difference is, we got to witness Willow's transformation firsthand.

And therein lies the problem -- we don't get to witness anything firsthand anymore. Anything that passes for human interaction, we are told about, not shown, and there's no growth, just repetition (Willow's Kennedy "thing" -- I can't call it a relationship -- for starters). We are hit over the head with anything the writers want us to know through the characters' exposition rather than watching it unfold ourselves. They've begun talking everything to death on "Buffy" even worse than on "Charmed."

(Not to mention the gross errors of continuity the writers have allowed through -- sending characters traipsing through an Initiative that was supposed to be "destroyed and filled with cement.")

The show has suffered dreadfully and perhaps irredeemably the past two seasons, but I can't blame Spike all alone.

-- C. Lofters

Mr. Weinman, I imagine today's e-mail bag is stuffed fulla unfriendly messages from folks who just can't bear you shedding the harsh light of day on beloved "Buffy." The show, they'll argue, is just like it was -- no, better! Well, take heart, Mr. Weinman, this isn't one of those letters. I think the show has changed.

Praise for uncool kids, meant to counterbalance their constant denigration, is almost always founded on some expectation of future retribution and assimilation: When you're rich and handsome, oh spotty nerd, then you'll show 'em. And sure enough, some of those geeks grow into handsome lawyers and swanky socialites. But what about those that don't? What happens to the poor saps who didn't fit in then and can't fit in now? Well, I suppose they write articles like yours.

You're right, "Buffy's" characters have changed. Joss Whedon's famous theme for the sixth season was "Oh, grow up!" By then, the Scoobies had literally and metaphorically overcome social isolation and needed to move into adulthood, which may be less romantic and more ambiguous, but no less terrifying. Appropriately, that season's big bad villains were three boys who couldn't face these challenges, who still dreamed of fighting high school battles for high school fantasies. Should the show have defended the left behind? That would've justified the chronically uncool, but would it have been right, for its characters or us? Don't we ever get to grow up?

"Buffy's" greatness never rested in its allegiance to those that don't fit in; rather, it constantly delighted because it forced its characters to grow, and allowed them to fail. Even in its final seasons, the show presented choices we'd rather ignore. And between change and stasis, I'd choose change. Because we have no choice.

-- Jeremy Eric Tenenbaum

There is a whole faction of Buffy fans who hate Spike. I don't, because except for Xander, Spike is the only character who can make me laugh.

Spike didn't ruin the show. We have the lack of an engaging plot, the lack of an interesting villain, an overcrowding of faceless girls who are simply there to be killed off, and an unlikable heroine; but it's all Spike's fault?

Willow's character was neutered in Season 6 with her ridiculous "addiction to magic," which in Season 7 became something else entirely, but with the same result -- she's afraid to help out. Seriously, if Willow wasn't afraid to use her magic, she could solve all the problems Buffy is having in one episode. So just to keep the plot going, Willow's sidelined.

Xander has always been the bravest person on the show. He has no special powers and doesn't have a vampire's strength and agility, yet he throws himself into every battle without hesitation. This is still the case, but when they focus on Xander's personal life it's all Anya, Anya, Anya. How is that Spike's fault, again? And speaking of mass murderers ...

Don't forget that Anya and Andrew are both killers. Andrew is a personal favorite of mine, but he had a very important episode this season in which he faced the reality of his deeds. He's not just some brave geek whom people unfairly scorn. They don't trust him because of his past. At least that story line came to some kind of resolution when Buffy suspended him over the hell mouth! Anya, just one season ago, killed a houseful of frat boys. She faced no comeuppance other than the death of a friend and the loss of her demon status, and nobody has forced her to face anything except that she has friends.

I, too, am upset about the scene that was cut from "Beneath You." But it's the least of the problems the show has this season. The show hasn't done the most it could do with any of the characters, including Spike.

And one last thing. Spike was also a misfit -- before he was a vampire. This was established in Season 4 or 5. The revelations in recent episodes concerning Spike's past do not necessarily contradict what came before. I wouldn't be surprised if Joss Whedon planned a lot of the current Spike story line from the very beginning.

-- Helen Mazarakis

By Salon Staff

MORE FROM Salon Staff

Related Topics ------------------------------------------