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 firmly...in 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 outAnd 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. :)