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Warning:  Because I want to be an optimist in any case, I cannot resist a tide when one starts -- even if it's small. 

The Small Tide:  Here's [ profile] angearia's latest.  She links to [ profile] ladyofthelog  and[ profile] me_llamo_nic both of whom write optimistic spins.  They spawned optimistic thoughts below the cut. 

I respect the pessimistic view.  I wouldn't even bet against it.  But maybe y'all could read the following in the spirit of "wouldn't it be cool if..."

So having read the three posts linked above, I thought some thoughts on the way home from work.  I draw liberally on their insights, and am not going to footnote line by line (or at all).  Call this a gathering, with a bit of extra juice.

The what of the basic spin is just that the Buffy/Angel stuff is unbelievably OTT.  I've been saying this since #33.  It's as cheesy as ever in #36.  Cheesier, even.  Velveeta cheesiest.  This just cannot be taken at face value by anyone not pre-committed to True Bangel Love.  At a minimum we have the show-stopper of Buffy calling the day she destroyed the world her bestest day ever.  The piece I missed in my brief sojourn into pessimism, now supplied by the lovely ladies I've already cited is that Buffy ends the issue fully aware of how awful the day has been.  She does get back to herself.  AFTER she sends Angel away and AFTER she has her talk with Spike.

So that prompts the big why.  Why is season 8 about the Bangel on the cheesiest possible steroids?  [ profile] angearia  wrote a post way back when about Season 8 as an epic fairy tale.  Let me twist it a bit.  Season 8 is about Buffy's attachment to her fairy tale, and the way it's been destroying her life.  Buffy's fairy tale is that there once was a mysterious dark prince who was the only one in all the realm who inhabited her harsh lonely domain between the demonic and the human.  He alone could accompany the slayer.  But alas, their togetherness pushed him to the demonic side.  And so Buffy was alone.  But!  She could keep the dream alive in her heart.  Angel is everything to her.  Angel is the reason she has to live alone in the battle.  Angel is her drama.  His defection to the dark and the resulting need for her to Give Him Up is the price Buffy pays to be the slayer.  The thought of him kept her company in the battle zone.  It also kept everyone else out.  Buffy has been emotionally arrested since Becoming.  Twangel tells his minions that this ends when Buffy turns the sword on herself.  She already did that, though.  In Becoming when she gave up the one last thing she had to lose -- her dream of not being alone.

So Angel is presented to us as the Big Bad of the season.  Angel single-handedly stopped Buffy's emotional growth cold when she was in high school.  She's been an emotional husk since then.  Angel is the figure Buffy has to overcome if she's ever to go forward.  So he's the big bad.  But as we saw in Twilight, Buffy doesn't hardly overcome him.  She's overcome by him and the world is destroyed.  So far in season 8 Buffy has had her behind seriously thrashed by this Big Bad.

But here's the rub.  At the end of Chosen it seemed like Buffy had finally gotten unstuck.  Another vampire ambled into her life.  Like Angel he loved her.  Unlike Angel, his love for Buffy drove him to the light, and not out into the dark.  Once he got the soul, he stood by her in battle.  And above all, he touched her.  They were close that night.  She was there.  It was a possible breakthrough.  Maybe she could give up the fantasy of Angel and step into the scary unpredictable reality of letting someone in.   She backed off, though.  "Does it have to mean anything".  Angel reappears and she runs into his arm.  Fantasy!  Good!  How much of a fantasy is it?  Angel is filmed in gauzy lens.  He's OOC.  It's anything but real.  But for once, Buffy resists.  The kiss is broken off quickly.  She puts Angel off.  She chooses Spike as her champion.  And then she finally ventures into something real and offers him an I love you.  The first one she's offered to anyone but Angel.

So what happened?  Well, it's scary to give up a fantasy.  Buffy barely stammers out the ILY.  And Spike reassures her that she doesn't really.  I'll defend to the death why this is a perfectly reasonable thing for Spike to say from his POV.  But the impact it has on Buffy is to give her permission to retreat into the fantasy.   A few months later, she hears he's back.  He's not called. This is hurtful (has he moved on?)  But that's not the only or even the main reason Buffy doesn't do anything.  She'll risk the pain if she wants something.  The reason she doesn't call is because she doesn't want to risk the intimacy.  Fantasy is comfortable.  And she's wrapped it around herself hard since she was sixteen years old.

Fast forward to Season 8.

Buffy can't make a connection.  This is the big theme.  She's busy with her slayer army, but feels isolated.  She's sunk back into her fantasy though.  We're told this by the way Angel is strewn across her dream cube space.  She only lets Spike in for a sex fantasy, but she's turned to Angel with that dreamy claddagh ring on her finger.  He's got her heart.  It's perfect.  He's got her heart and he's not real.  She can turn to fantasy!Angel for comfort and not have to risk the intimacy she's been fighting against her whole life.  She dreams of him in #20.  He's all mysterious and handsomey.  She can't talk to him.  He's not real.  But he's so dreamy. 

Satsu and Xander are there to represent Buffy's competing desire to move out of the fantasy and back into the scary painful risky realm of actual connection.  Satsu is a transparent stand-in for Spike.  Xander is quite real.  And for a moment in Retreat, she seems to make a move.  But she's too late.  Did she deep down know she was too late?  Xander suggests something like that.  She wants to get real, but it's scary -- and it makes sense that  she'd sabotage herself by only going for it when it can't happen.  Then he can reject her, and she can keep building up her self-concept of herself as rejected.  It's the mask she puts on her own desire to stay isolated in her castle.

Castle.  Right.  Buffy is a princess in a tower. Literally living in a castle.   She wants Prince Charming to come and rescue her.  She doesn't want Mr. Real to wake her up.  But she needs Mr. Real to wake up.  Enter Satsu in LWH for the dry run on this.  But Buffy isn't gay.  Not so you'd notice.  That's the dress rehearsal.

So now we come to the big explanation for the Epic Silence about Spike.  Why is Spike not in the dream cube space?  He's real.  He's available.  He's scary.  Deny!  Deny!  How does Buffy explain her thoughts about him?  Great Muppity Odin, I miss that sex.  Spike gets a supporting role in her sex fantasies.  Why does she give Satsu a fling?  Satsu, the punkish right hand person with an unrequited love for her?  Spike without the actual attachment.  What does she tell herself about not going after Spike?  She's too busy?  Sure.  Everyone she loves gets hurt and runs away.  He's moved on with Angel (!).  Lots of reasons.  She hangs on to her fantasy.  In Anywhere But Here she's dreaming on the beach with a copy of The Vampire Lestat at hand.  Joss has told us twice in inteviews while the comics were being written that Spike is more evolved.  In one of them, he called Angel Lestat.  Andrew tells Buffy that she traded up when she moved on to Spike.  We get three frames on her frozen speechless reaction.

She makes her (safe) reach out for real intimacy to Xander.  Gets smacked down.  Is feeling all isolated and in swoops Angel.  She grabs him.  Epic sex.  Oops.  Epic sex?  She loses herself in the physical and forgets to even tell him she loves him.  At least at first.  It's all escape.  They literally blast out of the planet.  The world literally falls in on itself in their wake.  What a great move -- you jump into the fantasy and you don't just leave the world behind.  You destroy it. 

But Buffy has conflicting feelings.  She gets to her fantasy and realizes she can't stay there.  Also, if she really stayed there, it wouldn't exactly be a fantasy anymore would it?  She has to go back to fight for the world.  Having made that decision, right at that moment, in smashes Spike.  Mr. Real himself.  Oh shit.  Oh, shit, shit, shit.  She flies into the air with Mr. Wonderful Fantasy Man and swears her undying love to him.  While sending him off the playing field.  Mr. "I want to spend my life with you" has to be sent off in order for her to say that she wants to spend her life with him.  It's not just buttering him up to let him go.  It's that the precondition of making a connection for Buffy is that there be no possibility of actual connection.  Bangel has flourished in her heart BECAUSE he's been gone; BECAUSE he's unavailable.  So she pledges her troth to the fantasy that cannot ever be real.

And then squares her shoulders to deal with Mr. Real.  The posts I linked to above spell this out very well, and I won't repeat.  Spike grounds her in three seconds flat.  She's back to the painful reality of the world she's just destroyed.  He's just given her the kiss of true love and awakened her from her sleep.

So if this is the story, why is Allie so reserved about Spuffy?  Joss plays tragedy, not comedy.  Spike just woke her up.  It's probably too late because all hell has just broken loose and by all accounts, the toll is going to be grim.  

But hey!  The point of Spuffy is that it's not about happy fairy tale endings.  We've got a shot, though, at getting something real.

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