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Love Hurts, or, Why Buffy Couldn't Find Love

Maria Vlahos

Unlike most teen shows, Buffy the Vampire Slayer wasn't constructed around romances. And while viewers followed her epic romances with vampires Angel and Spike, whether or not she would ever find true love was never really the point of the show.

Buffy fell for guys frequently throughout the show. But why did she do this to herself? Hasn’t she learned that being a Slayer makes it impossible to ever be in a normal relationship? Didn’t she know that before she got into the relationships? Isn’t she sick of heartbreaks and letdowns? Love is a human emotion that is impossible not to feel. Buffy, more than others, struggles to connect with people because her calling requires her to distance herself from others.

In Season Four, Spike was captured by The Initiative and had a microchip inserted into his brain that prevented from harming humans. Because the only way to be violent to was to cause pain to other vampires and demons he joined forces with the Scoobies (Buffy, Willow, Xander, and Giles). In Season Five, Spike realizes that he loves Buffy. He is there for her when her mother dies and when she needs help with Dawn. Buffy wants nothing to do with Spike and persistently rejects him. She doesn’t trust him, because even though he has a chip in his brain, to Buffy he is still a vampire and vampires have no souls. Spike continues to profess his love for Buffy and in “Crush” (5.14), to show his love, he offers to kill Drusilla for Buffy, a gesture that fails to move her. In “Intervention” (5.18), Glory kidnaps and tortures Spike in order to get him to tell her where the key is. He doesn’t say anything and for the first time Buffy feels something for him. She kisses him quickly and it was at this moment that he finally gained her trust.

But why would Buffy ever fall for a vampire again? She knows that it can’t work out; she tried it with Angel and at least Angel has a soul. Spike is merely muzzled because the chip stuck in his head won’t let him be himself. The fact of the matter is that Buffy doesn’t fall for Spike, ever. She levitates towards him in Season Six, because after sacrificing her life to save her sister, she is brought back to life by Willow’s magic. Her friends unknowingly pulled her out of heaven back to earth, which she now experiences as hell. All of Season Six, Buffy is in a dark and lonely place and the only person she can connect with and trust is Spike, as he is the only person she is in contact with who has also died and came back to life. And because of that shared connection she eventually turns to him sexually in order to feel alive again. They keep their sexual relationship secret and no matter how much Buffy hates herself when she sleeps with Spike she keeps coming back. For Buffy having sex with Spike is the only way to feel something because of the numbness she feels to everything else around her. In “As You Were” (6.15), Riley returns with his wife and she becomes embarrassed that she has a relationship with Spike. She ends the relationship with him, but realizes that she has some feelings for him. In “Seeing Red” (6.19), Spike forces himself onto Buffy, trying to rape her and she is barely able to fight him off. He flees Sunnydale realizing what he tried to do.

Up until now Buffy and Spike both have feelings for each other but don’t know how to show them. Their relationship started in an unhealthy way and has ended in an unhealthy way. Even though Buffy has feelings for Spike, she can’t let herself be with Spike for real, because he stands for everything she is against, everything she has fought against her whole life.

Angel and Spike are very different vampires that have very different relationships with Buffy. Angel was Buffy’s first love; he treated her in almost a fairytale way and he knew her when she was at her highest point in life; Spike fell for Buffy at her lowest point. He has seen her bad side and still loves her for who she is, but that does not dismiss the fact that he is soulless. Because of his reputation Buffy doesn’t love him the way he wants her to. The finale of Season Six shows Spike getting his soul back, after enduring a series of brutal trials in Africa. He comes back into Season Seven as a vampire with a soul. When Spike gets his soul back it changes their relationship forever. Unlike Angel who was cursed with his soul, Spike wanted his soul back for Buffy. He wants to give Buffy what she deserves, a man with a soul. But if things didn’t work for Angel and Buffy why would it be different for Spike and Buffy? She is still the Slayer and he still has a demon inside of him. The only difference is that Spike doesn’t really have anything to live for. He has no duty, no responsibility to uphold, yet.

Spike and Buffy become very close during Season Seven. We see both of them grow as individuals; Buffy needing someone to care for her and Spike becoming a good man for Buffy. Even though they are not physically intimate they are emotionally connected. Their love grows in a mature way. They rely on one another and they learn to trust each other. They have no expectations from each other and they both understand and accept each other’s pasts.

Unlike the other relationships, this one seems to be working for Buffy, but she never openly admits to it being a relationship. Maybe it is because she has been hurt before and she doesn’t want to get hurt again, or maybe it’s because she’s grown into a woman who doesn’t need the reassurance of calling Spike her boyfriend in order for her to believe that he will be there for her. But something happens in “Chosen” (7.22); Buffy gives an amulet to Spike, an amulet that can only be worn by a champion with a soul who is more than human. By calling Spike a champion she gives him a reason to live and a goal to fulfill; he was to help in the apocalypse that was coming very soon. Spike sees Buffy’s strength physically and emotionally and doesn’t feel threatened in the way Riley did. He wants to make it work with her and he is willing to do it on her own terms. They are able to spend the night together with Spike just holding her in his arms. Their love for each other is not physical but emotional and that is what makes it real. They can connect with each other and touch each other in a way that she could never do with others and the reason is that they didn’t need to sleep with each other to prove their love.

Buffy and Spike come to the realization that their love will never be fulfilled, not because they don’t love each other, but because other circumstances won’t let them. The end of the world is coming and no matter how much they love each other they have to push their feelings aside. Spike knows that Buffy’s job is to save the world and he is going to help her. Spike could have easily left the collapsing Hellmouth with Buffy in order for them to be together, but that would have meant letting evil take over the world. How could he be with her if he was responsible for letting evil take over? Would she love him if he did that? It was never a question for them to not save the world. Thanks to Buffy, Spike found his purpose and who he was called to be. He took it upon himself by embracing it. Spike turned out to be more like Angel during the last few episodes of Season Seven. He began to have a purpose and with that purpose came responsibility. Both vampires found their life’s calling because of Buffy and both decided to follow it to show their devotion to Buffy. And both relationships ended, much to Buffy’s dismay.

So does this mean that Buffy can never find love? The series ends and Buffy hasn’t found it. Was she doomed from the start? The simple answer is yes. Slayers aren’t supposed to have friends; they aren’t supposed to have relationships. They can’t. But Buffy has friends and she tries to have relationships; she unlike other Slayers has tried to connect to people and that’s what makes her a very strong and successful Slayer. But maybe Whedon is saying that she’s just a teenage girl and she’s too young to have a relationship. When Angel comes back in “Chosen” she tells him that maybe she’s not ready to be in a relationship:

“I'm cookie dough. I'm not done baking. I'm not finished becoming whoever the hell it is I'm gonna turn out to be. I make it through this, and the next thing, and the next thing, and maybe one day, I turn around and realize I'm ready. I'm cookies. And then, you know, if I want someone to eat m- or enjoy warm, delicious, cookie me, then that's fine. That'll be then. When I'm done.”

This is the point where Buffy has finally realized that she still has to become who she is before she can be with someone else. Maybe the metaphor here is that she’s just too young for a relationship and her personality hasn’t fully formed enough to be ready and mature for a relationship to work.

Joss Whedon made seven complete seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The twists in his storylines and loveable characters kept audiences interested. But did he make his decisions just to pull in a large audience or did he let the characters develop naturally? When Whedon created Buffy, he created a television show about life, a show about assuming responsibility for one’s life rather than a romantic drama. Buffy had more going on in her life than characters in other modern teen shows. In Buffy, love was secondary; saving the world came first. Other teen shows fail to capture life’s problems and tend to focus more on relationships and the mood the girl is in or whether her boyfriend loves her or not. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is about humans, their emotions, their purpose in life. This gave Whedon more of an edge and ultimately helped him to create one of the smartest, most studied television shows ever made.

MARIA VLAHOS was born and raised in Verona, NJ and is a junior at Fairfield University in Connecticut where she is a New Media: Film and Business Management major.

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