Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Opinion Of A Buffy Fan

So I was on pinterest earlier (as I'm wont to be) and I saw this pin about Spike from Buffy The Vampire Slayer, with the following commentary on it:

I never understood why Angel was better than Spike. Spike was a gentleman when he was human. Angel/Liam was a womanizing, crude, drunk who started fights and spent all his time in a tavern. Spike fought for his soul while Angel's was forced upon him. Spike is more of a man than Angel will ever be. Everyone was blind to that. Spike was the best BtVS character.

And it kind of got me to thinking. What if that was the entire point of Spike's character?

Think about Gaston from Beauty & The Beast -- the entire point of his character is to show viewers how insidious such behavior can be, how romanticized it gets. Angel is a handsome, brooding man who is tortured -- and so many people love it. Why? He's not the type of man for happily ever after, and we can see that from the beginning. Constantly in the shadows, sad puppy eyes, and the chiseled jaw. Not the man you bring home to Mom. (Buffy you r crazy)

And later, it doesn't matter that we all know that, without his soul, he would immediately become the merciless creature he always was. The only reason he is what he is - a "champion" - is because the Rom cursed him to feel all the pain he ever caused. Gods help the world if he ever felt a a modicum of happiness, because we're the ones that would suffer (let's be real.). We still adore him and want him and Buffy to have their HEA as they ride into the sunset.

(I say "we" -- I never shipped that.)

Are we even surprised when that relationship goes down the drain? Not really. Let's be honest with ourselves, guys. No one here was surprised when the 17 year old girl and the 200+ year old vampire didn't make it.

And then there's Spike. A man who was once a gentleman, a poet, never a ladies man, and a mama's boy. He was the sort of guy you'd pat on the head and leave to his books while you chase after the...well, the Angel of the crowd. Spike was easily seduced by a woman, turned into a vampire -- and what is the first thing this guy does? Tries to turn his mom.

That doesn't turn out too well for him (wow, that's ew, Mama Spike) and it's only after that event that he becomes a truly awful person. Gets the name William the Bloody for being such a badass dude.

But when we first meet him, he's all big bad and evil, drenched in the blood of innocents and love? with Drusilla. Obsessed, and utterly her lapdog. He's fascinated by Buffy, and I think it pisses him off. He doesn't want to be enchanted by this woman, he wants to kill her, goshdarn it.

From the first time that man steps onscreen, the audience is captivated. We're intrigued by this man who appears so heartless, and yet is obviously devoted to Drusilla, and clearly submissive to most of his counterparts--Angel and Darla, specifically.

Sure, he's sex and rock and roll wrapped in fine leather goods - and those of us who hit puberty around the time his character is introduced, well, we discovered things about boys we did like. (Oh, Billy Idol Kink, here I am)

But he's not the hero. He's not the good guy by any stretch of the imagination. He's violent, obsessive, cruel, and malicious. Spike is the man who is always torn by what he feels he should do and what he really wants.

Lyrics from Walk Through The Fire in the musical episode, Once More With Feeling, clearly show Spike's contrary nature (especially when it comes to Buffy)
 The torch I bear is scorching me
And Buffy's laughing I've no doubt
I hope she fries -- I'm free if that bitch dies...
I'd better help her out 
And yet there are many instances of Spike clearly being a better man than any of the Scooby gang give him credit for--when Tara's mind is gone, and she opens a window -- thus burning Spike. He simply tells her it's ok, a bit of sunlight "keeps the ride from getting boring."

When it's pointed out by another villain that he has no soul, why is he helping them? Spike merely says, "I made a promise to a lady."

And yes, he still does awful things. (The attempted rape of Buffy is still #1 on everyone's mind, I'm sure. I have a lot of thoughts on that but there's a great meta somewhere on the internet that I found a few months back about it. I'll try to find it and link it here later on.) But he is still trying....without the excuse of a forcible soul to spur him on. He's not trying to find redemption to ease his own pain. He tries to find redemption for himself, and yeah for Buffy. He wants to be a better man for her, and to be worthy of anything she's willing to give him.

Because he knows he's not good enough at first, but he's willing to try to get there.

No, Buffy doesn't love him the way he wants her to. By the end of the series, she certainly sees the kind of man he is, and does care for him. (Forever bitter, right here, that they didn't get the HEA, but I'm realistic on that. It wouldn't have worked any more than Bangel would've.)

So, no. In my opinion (which probably could've been better put), Spike was never supposed to be the bad guy. He didn't start off the hero, either. He was supposed to be the lost boy with the hidden heart that grew up and became the hero.

Because few people begin as the hero -- they start off as people that have shit thrown at them and grow past it, and become the hero because it's their decision. Not some biological imperative to save everyone - it's a choice.

Got an opinion about Spike or Angel? Wanna talk Buffy in general? Join me in the comments (or tweet me) and we'll talk. :)

The Problem Of Procrastination

I have a hard time believing that there are writers out there that can always sit down and write, no distractions, every single time. Distractions happen. Procrastination happens.

I'm really awful about it, personally. (Which is why I'm writing this instead of my book, at the moment.) I end up on twitter, facebook, tumblr, or I clean my house, go visit friends, or take naps...anything to avoid the big Productivity Sign hanging above my computer.

Generally, I find that I do best when I have headphones plugged into my ears, my newest fave song on repeat (Bad Blood by T-Swift and Chandelier by Sia, this week), and enough soda to give me a sugar rush for a few hours. The music blocks out distractions such as conversations, keeps my brain active, and it helps with the writing itself.

But sometimes, the music itself can be a distraction. (Into The Woods soundtrack, I'm looking at you)

I have a hard time sitting down and just working. Probably because I do it every day at the Day Job. When I do manage to sit down and do it, I have a difficult time maintaining the momentum for longer than thirty minutes. These days, I am honestly considering getting an extension cord and shoving my desk into the closet and just putting myself in there on days when I really need to get some work done.

I'd love to know how other people block out distractions -- gimme some ideas in the comments, guys. =)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Issue Of Responsibility

As content creators, it is our responsibility to be aware and critical of including horrifying abuses in our content. It is our responsibility to portray them as what they are: horrifying.

It is our responsibility to always be respectful of our audience, many (so many, too many) of whom have experienced the same atrocities that we write about. It is so important to know when to fade out, to close the curtains, to imply rather than state outright. It is important to be respectful. Yes, these things happen in real life and it is understandable to have them happen in media -- but only when it is necessary for the development of the characters and plot arcs. It is never to be thrown in for the sake of shock value, as a joke, as a "haha look how edgy we can be!".

Do I believe that violence in media is the cause of violence in real life? No, I do not. I do believe that justifying it in media makes it easier to justify in real life.

Media influences our society. Media influences our minds, and our ways of thinking. Whether it be in the news, books, magazines, movies, tv shows, comic books, etc. It influences us. And the pervasive inclusion of violence against women, children, disabled people, people of color, people of different gender identities and sexual orientations, only exacerbates the issues of real life. Particularly when handled with disrespect and passing it off as "oh it's just a tv show."

No, it's not. It adds realism? Because it happens to real people, right? Most likely, that has happened to someone you know. Someone you love. Someone whose experiences you have just treated like an edgy plot line for shock value.

If you want to bring in things like rape, murder, torture, incest, prejudice, etc and so on, then do it in a way that shows it as the awful thing it is. Shed light on how terrible it is and treat your audience with respect. Learn how to pull the curtains.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Development Of The Anakin Affliction

(warning: there are some spoilers for AGENTS OF SHIELD, BUFFY, AND THE 100)

I've been thinking a lot about character development lately. I've been watching a few different TV shows that incorporate negative growth -- where a good person makes bad decisions, and does things that could be considered "evil."

My own main character starts off in my WIP as a relatively neutral character--she has her own personal biases and preferences that could be categorized as "good". But as the story progresses, she becomes less and less inclined to remain that way. There are events that drive her to a point where she makes decisions she can never undo, and performs atrocities that she will never recover from.

I've found that I actually love sudden insurgence of this type of character development in popular media. I even have a few examples that people may be familiar with.

Characters like Jemma Simmons in AGENTS OF SHIELD, a woman who starts off with a very forgiving and open heart, slowly morphs into someone with less tolerance than she once did, leading her to murdering a (admittedly awful) man in cold blood.

In season 2 of AOS, we see Simmons struggle with the knowledge of what she did to Bakshi and the guilt she holds--though it stems more from having to lie and keep that to herself than it is from the action itself. She has crossed a line that, as a doctor and a woman dedicated to protecting people, she never truly expected that she would want to cross.

Or perhaps Clarke Griffin from THE 100, a idealistic and merciful girl forced into a situation that requires making difficult choices that often result in the deaths of innocent people, rapidly escalating in consequences -- eventually she makes a decision so horrifying in its calculation that she cannot bear to remain with her own people.
Clarke leaves her people to set out on her own after murdering an entire compound filled with men, women, and children to save those she loves. In a quote from the last episode of the newest season, "She bears it so they don't have to." It doesn't matter that she wasn't the only one to pull the trigger, it matters to her that she did it at all. She can never take that back.

Willow Rosenberg of our beloved BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, the lesbian witch whose lady love was murdered instead of the Slayer, which sent the redhead on a vengeful killing spree high on magic. She goes so far as to fight her own friends -- tense scenes of Willow vs Buffy that still kind of breaks my heart, and Giles, pulling an unexpected powerhouse punch. Xander, with his heartfelt speech that drags Willow from the edge of destroying the entire world.

 Though Willow surely comes back from being evil, and redeems herself, she can never erase the things she did when she was evil. It's established in later seasons that she not only still struggles with an addiction to magic, but also has a lot of issues stemming from that loss of control. Though it was triggered by an awful grief over the death of Tara, she still skinned a man alive. You don't just bounce back from that.

I have a lot of feelings about characters that are forced to make that first choice that leads them down a dark path that they can never truly return from.

I find that negative character development like these examples add elements of realism to the fantastical stories that they are. Aliens, post-apocalyptic sci-fi, superheroes, vampires & witches...oh my. The decisions that these characters have to live with, the lives they've taken, and the consequences of that.

And I sincerely hope that with my own work in progress, that same sense is coming across for my characters.