Kissing a Fool: Smashing, Wrecking, and Rebuilding Spike's Identity
|Title:||Kissing a Fool: Smashing, Wrecking, and Rebuilding Spike's Identity|
|Fandom:||Buffy: The Vampire Slayer|
|External Links:||Kissing a Fool: Smashing, Wrecking, and Rebuilding Spike's Identity, Archived version|
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Kissing a Fool: Smashing, Wrecking, and Rebuilding Spike's Identity is a 2001 Buffy: The Vampire Slayer essay by rowan.
This essay was posted to the Tabula Rasa website.
In Smashed, Buffy and Spike physically smash each other and their surroundings; metatextually, the episode smashes their illusions about their individual identities as vampire and slayer and their joint identity as a couple. The episode culminates in their sexual union amidst the physical and psychic rubble. In Wrecked, we start to see hints of what will survive and rise like a phoenix out of the rubble and wreckage. The importance of these two episodes when evaluating the potential for true internal change and possible redemption for Spike can’t be emphasized enough.
Spike, long established in the Buffyverse as the teller of uncomfortable truths, keeps reminding us that things have changed. In fact, both episodes are bookended by this notion. Early in Smashed, Spike tells Buffy, “A man can change.” After he finds out that his chip is still functional, he then comments, “It’s about the rules having changed. Everything is different now.” Early in Wrecked, after Buffy tells him their night together was a mistake, Spike tells her, “It was a bloody revelation.” Close to the end of the episode, he comments again that since their night together, “Things have changed.”
So what exactly has changed? Spike has started to make noticeable progress towards putting together his new identity. We saw the problem in Smashed: he’s neither a vampire nor a human. He’s not good nor is he evil. He’s supposed to slay the Slayer, not love the Slayer. Whatever peace of mind Spike showed in Tough Love when he commented to Dawn “Well, I’m not good, and I’m okay” seems to have evaporated to some extent. If he’s not those things, who is he?
Spike is still a Fool on his journey for love. But now the journey is as much about loving himself as loving others. Let’s look at this new fool for love who is arising from the rubble of Smashed. He appears to have a certain wisdom and maturity characteristic of what a redeemed Spike might display. First, he’s not bad enough to find Rack’s house. Amy can find it. Willow can sense it once Amy points it out and then is able to find it on her own. Spike’s clueless.
Second, despite the sexual tension and bantering that Spike loves, once Buffy mentions Rack, Spike’s mind is immediately on how to help Dawn and Willow. He’s about sex play, sure, but he’s not about irresponsibility.
Third, despite their uncomfortable conversation on the street that leads Buffy to claim she wants Spike out of her life, her work, and her home, Spike points out that life is more complicated than that. She’s already invited him in. He’s involved. She just can’t wish him away with a few words. Things are messy. He shares her work with her and the Scoobies, and he shares the care of Dawn. He also points out how immature it would be for Buffy to risk harm to Dawn just to spite him. He’s advocating responsibility both in this particular situation and in others going forward.
Fourth, Spike demonstrates his caring and nurturing side with Dawn. He strokes her hair, he takes her hand, and he tends to her while Buffy fights the demon. Simply put, he loves Dawn. Clearly, he isn’t just a fool for sexual love. He is capable of non-romantic, non-sexual connections.
But we really already knew that about Spike. What’s new in Wrecked is that Spike is clearly now able to empathize with humans outside the Summers family. It is Spike who stops, moved by Willow’s tears, much as Buffy’s tears in FFL moved him. He has every reason to be as angry on Dawn’s behalf as both Dawn and Buffy are. But he keeps his head. He doesn’t say a word. It’s his compassionate heart that causes Buffy to stop, rethink her anger, and go to her friend. Spike manages to do this despite the fact that he’s never really had anyone extend an empathetic hand to him in quite the same way.
Fifth, this is all combined with the Spike we’ve already seen, who has tremendous and profound insight into others. He knows Buffy felt something. He knows it was a bloody revelation. He senses he’s breached some walls.
Not everything is rosy in Wrecked. Spike does problematically say to Buffy, “If I’m dirt, then you’re the one who loves rolling in it.” It’s unclear whether he believes that about himself or if he’s just trying to use Buffy’s own comments against her. It’s been clear since The Gift that Spike does not believe Buffy can ever love him. But in Wrecked, part of his revelation is that Buffy does feel something for him and when Buffy challenges him that it’s not love, he replies enigmatically, ‘Not yet.’ It’s unclear whether Spike now feels himself worthy of Buffy’s love because he is aspiring to her level of goodness or if it’s because Buffy has now descended to his level.
Where will he go from here? We’ll see when we return from rerun hell in January. But the first half of Season Six has been a bright one for Spike’s redemption