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Buffy , forgiveness, and - S3 vs S7

Buffy forgiving Angel vs Buffy forgiving Spike

  • I have a problem with her forgiving Angel but none with her forgiving Spike

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • I have a problem with her forgiving Spike but none with her forgiving Angel

    Votes: 3 17.6%
  • I have a problem with neither

    Votes: 11 64.7%
  • I have a problem with both

    Votes: 1 5.9%
  • I have an other answer

    Votes: 2 11.8%
  • I don't get your crazy system

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
    17

Cheese Slices

A Bidet of Evil
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So on the other thread I noticed a lot of people being unhappy with Buffy forgiving Spike and/or entering a romantic relationship with him, and while that is all fine and good, it made me ponder : given the obvious parallels with S3 when it comes to this particular issue, I was wondering if both cases were seen in the same light and if not, why. So, as anyone would, I made a poll. I'm hoping you can take the time to comment a little bit on your answers, so everyone can have nice, civil debate about it.

Note : I am not trying to make a particular point by doing this, but rather trying to understand different perspectives on this rather complicated matter.
Note 2 : To simplify the poll, I mean forgiving in terms of what we got in canon, so it does include the romantic aspects. However, if you feel strongly about it and want to make it known, I suggest you select "I have another answer".
 

thrasherpix

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I'm really not up for covering old ground again (which will probably just be ignored anyway, my words twisted into something else and forgotten) so just to sum up:

When Angel returned, Buffy took extraordinary precautions with him, and she wasn't even sure he killed anyone. She chained him up, at least until she felt he wasn't a threat anymore (which itself was reckless, but not as reckless with Spike later). Also, I'm one of Xander's (and Scoobies) few defenders for exposing Buffy as keeping the secret of Angel's return and--far, far worse--making kissy face with him. I'd be EXTREMELY angry myself and finding my faith in Buffy severely shaken. As far as I'm concerned, Buffy got off light (Giles sums up my feelings on the matter, and I see it from his point of view more than from Buffy or any other character).


In contrast, she lets Spike go while he still has a trigger in him. Earlier Buffy would not have done that. Though perhaps it's for the best as the plan Giles and Wood cooked up DID heal him, even if only unintentionally. And because of Buffy's irrationality I actually sympathize a lot with Giles here. While I don't support (however sympathetic I might be) what Wood did because this is a different Spike, gotta give him credit for doing what they couldn't before: getting rid of the trigger, though it was a brutal process. After this I had no problem with Spike walking around free, but before that it was stupidity of the highest order (though not the only stupid thing of season 7, mild actually compared to the mind boggling stupidity of both sides).

Spike also should've shown more difference than sociopath downgraded to jerk (and didn't like him much in season 7, though I disliked him less than season 7 Buffy) with mental problems (the mental problems itself okay, but not enough). Had he apologized to Wood while returning his mother's jacket to him (which would make me far less sympathetic to Wood if he continued his vengeful attitude against Spike), saying how much he loved his own mum--even better if he chides Buffy for threatening Wood and asking her how she'd have felt if Angelus had killed Joyce and took a trinket of his that he continued to wear in front of her--THEN I'd have seen a very different Spike, and my attitude to both Spike and Spuffy would've been VERY different. (That's just one example, but a good one enough to stand on its own.)

This would also help the forgiveness of the AR, but this Spike is clearly not the same as the Spike of season 6, whereas the Spike we got reminded me for the most part (even his self-sacrifice) of chipped Spike season 5 (who could be treacherous and was untrustworthy, and yet had more plot armor than Buffy herself). Beyond that, I do think they should've explored the ramifications of the AR more, but only because it was so rubbed into our faces in season 6...many who suffered real life experiences of that nature who expected better of the show deserved that much (even if there are those who had such experiences can shrug it off).


Made even shorter: this isn't a shipping war to me, it's about how the stories are told and characters are portrayed. And so I am less critical (but still critical) of how Buffy handled Angel (and Bangel) of season 3 than Spuffy of season 7.
 

Cheese Slices

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: this isn't a shipping war to me, it's about how the stories are told and characters are portrayed
To me neither, and for me too :)
Thanks for responding, I appreciate your perspective.
You speaking of the trigger got me thinking about how Angel's curse itself works on a kind of similar basis : an emotional event (or emotionally resonant) occurs, and they both become monsters incapable of reason (Spike more than Angel, but there is no reasoning with Angelus either). The major difference is that the trigger for Spike is fairly straightforward (the song) whereas the curse...does not make a lot of sense, let's be real. The show in S3 kinda decides that sex with Buffy is the way to do it, but is that really the only thing that can make Angel truly happy ? I look at the first scene in the Prom and I think : Angel looks pretty damn happy here, should we duck for cover ? Idk, but if we say true happiness triggers it, then Buffy is being reckless in pursuing their relationship after the events of Amends.
I think in both cases Buffy puts herself (and everyone) in potential danger, but I understand why she does it : if you don't believe in people, they won't believe in themselves. And I think part of it is also, she wants to take control of the narrative and not give in to the other side (ie the First) by treating them like rabid dogs that need to be put down.
Hell, Willow could cause a lot more damage than any of them combined and she's not going to chain her up either. Just like the Ben situation, It's the right thing to do, even if it does not make "utilitarian" sense. Also, and speaking of "practicality", say she has Spike chained 24/7 ; then what ? Giles comes up with the stone thingy but it doesn't work, just like it didn't work in the show. So the trigger is still there, and you have an increasingly crazy Spike (cause being chained up all the time - not good for your mental health) who contributes nothing to the actual fight; and the First won't even try and use him, because he's chained. So isn't it basically a stalemate ? Seems super counter-productive either way.
 
thrasherpix
thrasherpix
I equate Spike's trigger with something like Oz's lycanthrophy, one that can go off at any moment. Believing in Spike therefore doesn't factor into it, anymore than believing in Oz means Oz's lycanthrophy should be ignored.

Athene

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Since you said forgiving in terms of what we got in canon I chose the second option but I don't have a problem with Buffy forgiving Spike in principle, it was how that forgiveness played out in season 7 that I'm against. It comes down to many things- the attempted rape for me (and others) was a harder pill to swallow than anything Angelus did to Buffy so fair or not it's immediately easier to see Angel as someone to be forgiven in comparison. Then there's the fact that souled Spike is very unlikable in many episodes to me, downright psychopathic in his treatment of Robin (which Buffy enables), too punch-happy with Buffy, Anya and Faith and that combines really harshly when we're bombarded with scenes of Buffy going above and beyond for Spike - which she shouldn't be doing because it comes across as being really icky. Spike as a character should have returned with his tail in between his legs in many ways but instead it felt like he was pushed on Buffy (his victim) and the audience. So it was inappropriate forgiveness IMO it was handled badly.
 
thrasherpix
thrasherpix
Yeah, turns on her friends before they turn on her and says Spike is the only one she can trust. It just didn't sit right with me, and I imagine that's why many have a problem with it.
RachM
RachM
Well said!

Cheese Slices

A Bidet of Evil
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@thrasherpix (not sure if you want me to answer or not, but anyway). Save for the events of New Moon Rising, Oz is dangerous on a very precise and certain schedule, so I fail to see how that's similar. If we're talking post NMR, no one seems to be suggesting he should be chained up because he might turn if he gets upset, and I don't think you'll argue they should, either.
 

WillowFromBuffy

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It is a very hard question. I think I need to separate two ways of reading the character. Firstly, from the perspective of the diegetic world, both Angel and Spike deserve forgiveness. They became vampires through no fault of their own. However, from the perspective of us as an audience, it does feel as though the show has created a get-out-of-jail-free card that allows these two men to abuse their girlfriend, only to later be forgiven.

I also think that whether or not Buffy should still date them is a different question. In both instances, I think the most sensible answer is no. There is no happiness to be had with either of this guys. Both are damaged goods in their own way, and they have both left Buffy with some pretty deep internal scars.

S3 seems like it really understand this. It keeps hitting us over the head with reasons for why Buffy and Angel can't be together ... and after a while, the whole curse feels like a triviality alongside all the rest. Of course, there is some double communication, as we keep being fed regular drops of Bangel goodness.

Part of me wants Buffy to screw the critics and just get back with Angel. The reason is that Buffy is cursed, too. Her lot isn't that different to Angel's, so if they stayed together, they could help each other through the dark times and all the isolation that comes with being different and carrying the world on their shoulders.

However, the aim of Buffy's story is to break the curse. She isn't fighting for redemption, she is fighting for emancipation from a destiny that was forced on her by the Shadowmen/Watchers. This is why I wish S7 had been happier, because I like the dark themes of S5 and 6, but I want to really see Buffy break the cycle. Of course, the ending implies that Buffy can now be happy, but we don't get to see it. I would have loved to have had an 8th season where the Scoobies move to San Francisco and start establishing their new adult lives ... with no Spike or Angel.

S7 is a bit more iffy in its attitude to Spike. Spike is a character that has earlier often breen broken down. The most common way is by making him look ridiculous or pathetic, which really starts all the way back in "School Hard", when he gets knocked in the head by Joyce, but really kicks off after he gets put in a wheelchair and Angel loses his soul. Another way is by showing him as being more cruel than we see him normally. Early examples of this is when he threatens to kill Willow with a broken bottle and the first time we see him with Harmony, but it becomes more common after he falls in love with Buffy.

However, in S7, we don't see this happen much. Spike starts the series at a low point and keeps rising episode by episode. In his confrontation with Robin, it is Robin who is humiliated and whose cruelty is exposed.

Unlike Buffy and Angel, it Buffy and Spike never date in S7. However, S3 seems to say that they shouldn't, while S7 seems to suggest that maybe they should. It isn't all that clear to me that what it is trying to say. I do get the feeling that if they could forget the past, then they would be happy together.

I hasten to add that while I think S7 may have been better if Spike wasn't in it or played a smaller role, I do enjoy most of his scenes. For example, I really do like his "death" scene. All the good and the bad things Spike has done for the last three years have been for Buffy to love him. Now that she finally wants to give him what he has longed for, he refuses to believe that she can really be sincere. Part of what the soul provides is self awareness (and also self doubt). Spike didn't have that before. There is something fantastically ugly beautiful about that.

That got very long. I hope it made sense to someone :)
When Angel returned, Buffy took extraordinary precautions with him, and she wasn't even sure he killed anyone.
Lol. She does not take extraordinary precautions. When Buffy chains Angel up, he is feral. He is violent and terrified. She lets him go after he breaks a kids' neck in blind protective instinct and manages to say her name. After that she keeps him secret from the gang, does sexy tai chi with him, kisses him and goes to sees R rated movies with him.

Considering that all that is known about Angel's curse at this point is that it could be triggered by sex, Buffy isn't extraordinary careful at all. She is actually quite reckless. On AtS, Wesley is very confident that only a very particular kind of fairytale happiness can turn Angel, though it is not clear where he gets this confidence from. What is clear is that the Scoobies don't share it.

Buffy really drops the ball when she lets Spike leave the basement in "Lies Our Parents", and I can understand why Giles feels he needs to take Spike out at that point. But up until then, Buffy is quite careful with Spike. She takes Holden's words seriously, even though what he claims should be impossible, and she starts an investigation. After she discovers what is going on, Spike is either chained up or watched by Buffy.
 

katmobile

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So guys. . Spike's ensoulment is invalid because he only does it for Buffy. Hmm so risking your life and being tortured means nothing if you do it for the wrong reasons but it's fine if you're ensolued involuntary. AR on the main character is unforgivable but murdering someone who isn't and mentally torturing the main character is fine. Look Buffy forgave both because she knew that neither were the same people without souls as with - she's been consistent. Rules should apply to equally shouldn't they?
 

AlphaFoxtrot

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It was always protrayed as if Angel/Angelus suffered from bipolar personality disorder, whereas for Spike, having a soul was like getting a tattoo while drunk. The writing was also a lot better in season 3, I mean, a lot better.
 
Cheese Slices
Cheese Slices
could you elaborate why
NileQT87
NileQT87
I think you meant multiple personality disorder, not bipolar. Bipolar is Carrie Fisher. The other is the Jekyll/Hyde situation of Angel(us).
DeadlyDuo
DeadlyDuo
Agreed.

katmobile

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It was always protrayed as if Angel/Angelus suffered from bipolar personality disorder, whereas for Spike, having a soul was like getting a tattoo while drunk. The writing was also a lot better in season 3, I mean, a lot better.
With respect....no I don't think either of those analogies work or at least not for me. The show compares both to recovering addicts with souls - Spike is the one who almost does something dreadful and turns himself into rehab - what a lot of addicts and leaders of bad life would call the moment of clarity - and Angel the one who's forced to go or just has an inhibitor put in as a consequence of doing something horific and regains his conscience and sense of decency once deprived the drug. It's not a perfect analogy but I think it's more what we see and what's intended.
 

Dora

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Both , simple both are vampires and both used Buffy
Angel living on the streets living on rats when whistler finds him , next he has a place , nice clothes , he is supposed to be looking out for Buffy , but within 18 months takes her virginity , then later when his conscience get the better of him dumps her and goes to LA
As for Spike he played Buffy in a similar way , Spike is no fool we saw in the yoko factor he is able to manipulate people , Spike plays for sympathy from Buffy after being beaten from Glory , Buffy arrives dressed as the Bot and Spike gives a great speech about the Summers women , Spike can hear heart beats , Spike has a great sense of smell he knew it was Buffy not the Bot .....but the biggest con was Spikes telling Buffy he got his soul for her , not once does Spike mentions his soul , in fact he says to the demon , make me the man I was , he was never a souled vampire , the demon gave Spike his soul and Spike used it to have any chance of getting back into Buffy pants after the AR , what better than to her you had suffered for her (to be want she wanted) ,just playing her again
If at anytime Spike really wanted his soul for Buffy ....Willow ?
No both Vampire neither deserve Buffy
 

katmobile

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Both , simple both are vampires and both used Buffy
Angel living on the streets living on rats when whistler finds him , next he has a place , nice clothes , he is supposed to be looking out for Buffy , but within 18 months takes her virginity , then later when his conscience get the better of him dumps her and goes to LA
As for Spike he played Buffy in a similar way , Spike is no fool we saw in the yoko factor he is able to manipulate people , Spike plays for sympathy from Buffy after being beaten from Glory , Buffy arrives dressed as the Bot and Spike gives a great speech about the Summers women , Spike can hear heart beats , Spike has a great sense of smell he knew it was Buffy not the Bot .....but the biggest con was Spikes telling Buffy he got his soul for her , not once does Spike mentions his soul , in fact he says to the demon , make me the man I was , he was never a souled vampire , the demon gave Spike his soul and Spike used it to have any chance of getting back into Buffy pants after the AR , what better than to her you had suffered for her (to be want she wanted) ,just playing her again
If at anytime Spike really wanted his soul for Buffy ....Willow ?
No both Vampire neither deserve Buffy
At least you're consistent in being unforgiving. I don't agree but I can sort of understand why you feel that way.
Also a great sense of smell and/ or an ability to hear a heartbeat or the ability to interpret it may well be compromised if you've had seven shades of shit beaten out of you by a hell god.... just saying.
 
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DeadlyDuo
DeadlyDuo
Completely agree about Spike. He was beaten up pretty bad, couldn't even open one eye, his senses weren't their best. It's only when he felt the warmth of Buffy's lips (because she completely screwed up there) that he knew it was the real Buffy.

DeadlyDuo

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Buffy's forgiveness of Angel is easier to swallow because Angel and Angelus are treated as two separate personalities whereas Spike isn't. However given the lack of boundaries in Spuffy (which is partly Buffy's fault), there is an inevitability to the AR because Buffy was never consistent with saying no and meaning it. That's probably an unpopular opinion and the AR itself is 100% completely on Spike, but Buffy does things which completely undermines what she says. Things like in Intervention where she's spent the majority of Season 5 telling Spike to leave her alone but then, because he didn't give up Dawn to Glory, she kisses him on the lips. A kiss on the lips is an intimate kiss, not just a thank you peck on the cheek. Then of course we have season 6 where Buffy would tell Spike she won't sleep with him, then she's seeking him out for sex. If we assume that being soulless affects Spike's ability to understand certain aspects of human nature eg the reason why Buffy is sleeping with him, he is getting very mixed messages from her.

I don't see a problem with Buffy forgiving Spike, however there should never have been a romantic relationship between them post-AR.

It was always protrayed as if Angel/Angelus suffered from bipolar personality disorder, whereas for Spike, having a soul was like getting a tattoo while drunk. The writing was also a lot better in season 3, I mean, a lot better.
The inconsistent soul canon is so annoying. Angel was cursed with a soul because that was the worst vengeance the gypsies could come up with. They wanted him to SUFFER for all eternity, yet in Season 7 Spike gets a soul so he can be a "better man". The gypsies didn't want to make Angel a "better man", they wanted to PUNISH him. Either Spike essentially committed an act of self harm (to fit into the soul canon for Angel) or the gypsies were doing Angel a great service (which fits into the soul canon for Spike).
 

TriBel

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The gypsies didn't want to make Angel a "better man", they wanted to PUNISH him.
But I think Angel is punished by wanting to be a better man. Have you read A11 (no-one liked it)? Angel recalls a meeting between Liam and his father. Effectively, his father tells him he'll never amount to anything - his intrinsic evil will always come out. IMO, Liam unconsciously internalises this remark. Angel's punished because no matter how much he tries, he believes, deep down, he can never be good/better and suffers as a result. I'm guessing Anne was constantly telling William he was good. Hence Spike's soul, eventually, "makes him what he was".
 
AnthonyCordova
AnthonyCordova
Nice read

katmobile

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I have read that and as a child Liam's praised for liking to read (it's very plausible Angel is intelligent) nd told to work hard and believe in the Lord. At some point things broke down at either his father stopped believing in him or he stopped trying and the two fed into each other. Point is there was a time when Angel wasn't told he was rubbish by his dad. I'm willing to bet his artistic skills weren't valved though.

William was told he was rubbish by everyone but his mum. Some of the things Dru as the First said seem to suggest he was dismissed as stupid at school to begin with at least. He demonstrates later his Latin skills aren't shabby but he may not have been great at maths.
 
TriBel
TriBel
Yeah...I think it's important that Angel has these two opposing "encounters with the past". It's what allows him to come to terms with his present. A11's a mess in places but really important when it comes to understanding his journey. :)

WillowFromBuffy

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I think one very important thing about Angel is that he wants to be good. It is more important to him than I think it is to any other character, specifically because he rarely feels like he can be good. So, the soul may have been meant as vengeance for his sins, but Angel turned it around into a blessing. After meeting Buffy, he tries his best at being a good person, and it allows him to experience some moments of true great happiness.

That is why the Gypsies put the happiness clause in there. They must have known that a souled vampire who successfully managed to remake himself into a good person may experience a kind of happiness that a fully demonic vampire couldn't.

Angel redefining his curse from a punishment to an opportunity is quite similar to Buffy redefining what it means to be a slayer.
 

Cheese Slices

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The inconsistent soul canon is so annoying. Angel was cursed with a soul because that was the worst vengeance the gypsies could come up with. They wanted him to SUFFER for all eternity, yet in Season 7 Spike gets a soul so he can be a "better man". The gypsies didn't want to make Angel a "better man", they wanted to PUNISH him. Either Spike essentially committed an act of self harm (to fit into the soul canon for Angel) or the gypsies were doing Angel a great service (which fits into the soul canon for Spike).
I don't think this is inconsistent at all, but rather the fact that Spike and Angel (with or without souls) are different and their situations too. Angel is cursed with it, and when it happens he has no desire whatsoever to stop causing suffering to others (nor would he ever, imo); when Spike chooses to get his soul, it's out of guilt and realization that he fundamentally lacks something in order to not only be with Buffy but also to get the pieces of his fractured identity back together. In his mind, no matter how much the soul is going to make him suffer, it's still better than the limbo he's been living in for the past few years. The gain outweighs the pain.
The soul makes them both "better men" (or at least give them the capacity to be) AND makes them suffer.
 

katmobile

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I don't think this is inconsistent at all, but rather the fact that Spike and Angel (with or without souls) are different and their situations too. Angel is cursed with it, and when it happens he has no desire whatsoever to stop causing suffering to others (nor would he ever, imo); when Spike chooses to get his soul, it's out of guilt and realization that he fundamentally lacks something in order to not only be with Buffy but also to get the pieces of his fractured identity back together. In his mind, no matter how much the soul is going to make him suffer, it's still better than the limbo he's been living in for the past few years. The gain outweighs the pain.
The soul makes them both "better men" (or at least give them the capacity to be) AND makes them suffer.
There's a brilliant essay called 'Code of the Whedonverse : The Elect and the Damned' which I think was the foundation of my theories of the differences between Angel and Spike and how that puts them on different paths, with different rewards and challenges. It basically differentiates them according to Myers-Briggs index but it revealed a deeper truth to me - Angel's values are all rational - he thinks, he senses, he judges. Spike's are all instinctive - he feels, he Intuits, he perceives. It's also a way of understanding them without believing one superior to the other which I think is something that poisons a lot of discussion around them.
 
Cheese Slices
Cheese Slices
thanks I'll definitely check it out

vampmogs

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I have a problem with neither.

In reality I would have a lot of issues with Buffy forgiving either of them but the soul mythology makes her forgiveness palatable. Neither Angel or Spike had a soul when they hurt her in S2/S6 and it makes sense to me that Buffy could come to forgive them when their "human heart" (Consequences) was restored. I also think that the fact that both Angel and Spike risk their lives to fight evil by her side in S3/S7 proves that they earned that forgiveness too.

With that said, a part of me does resent both Bangel and Spuffy in S3/S7 and how the restoration of Angel and Spike's souls, and the suffering they endure as a result of this, seems to burden Buffy and compels her to prioritise them before her own well-being out of some sense of guilt for what they're going through having suffered "because" of her. I feel this is a little more true of S7 Spuffy where it's repeated several times that Spike got his soul for her ("it's what your wanted, right?" "the soul. I did it for you!") and Buffy is greatly pained by this (her tears in Beneath You as Spike drapes himself over the cross). I get the sense she feels responsible for him or guilty, even, for the pain he's going through because he got the soul for her. But this is also true of S3 Bangel with Buffy having nightmarish dreams of Angel suffering as a result of her sending him to hell ("go to hell! I did...") and then Buffy feeling responsible for watching over him (her keeping a watchful eye throughout the night in Beauty and the Beasts as Angel lays suffering) or bringing him blood (Homecoming). In both cases, Angel and Spike are suffering as a result of their own actions but whether they intend to or not, and I don't think either of them did, their suffering becomes an albatross around Buffy's neck despite the fact that their actions actually hurt her so much in the first place. As a result of this it annoys me that Buffy priorities their well-being and their pain instead of coming to terms with her own after what they put her through.

I think Buffy does resent that a little. It's in her nature to protect and nature but there's flashes of resentment in Amends ("I know everything you did because you did it to me. I wished I wished you dead") and Never Leave Me ("You don't know me! You don't even know you!") which I am completely sympathetic too.

As for the relationships themselves and how fans respond to them, I can understand why people find it easier to move past S2 Bangel then S6 Spuffy. As others have already pointed out, regardless of whether you are of the belief that Angel/Angelus are two separate entities or not, there is a much great dichotomy in how Angel is portrayed with or without a soul. That "divide" absolutely contributes to fans being able to compartmentalise Angel's actions whilst soulless from his actions in S3. Whereas, whilst there are certainly differences between how soulless Spike/ensouled Spike behaves, those differences are somewhat more subtle and the lines appear more blurred. I think the fact that Buffy/Angel broke up the moment Angel lost his soul as opposed to Buffy/Spike taking place whilst Spike was soulless also contributes to fans finding it harder to get past events in S6 because the actual Buffy/Angel romance seems very much separated from Angelus' crimes in S2.

In terms of the crimes themselves there's also the fact that Angelus' actions were, for the most part, pretty 'larger than life' and fantastical whereas the AR was grounded in reality and very triggering for a lot of people. When people seriously ask "what's the difference?" and act as if fans are silly for reacting to the two differently I must admit to finding that pretty naive, to be honest. The AR was shot hyper-realistically and was lit, directed and acted very differently from your typical BtVS scene. That was done intentionally to provoke a particular response from the audience. In comparison, when Angelus murdered Jenny Whedon has gone on record of stating that he was very aware that Jenny and Giles/Jenny were beloved by fandom and that Angelus having murdered her may be deemed an unforgivable act by fans. Knowing that they didn't plan on keeping Angel evil forever and that they'd be perusing Buffy/Angel again in S3, Whedon was adamant that Angelus must be in "vamp face" when he killed her. Whedon was intuitive enough to know that by making Angelus appear monstrous to the audience that they'd be able to embrace a humanised Angel again and be able to draw a line in the sand between his actions in Passion and his character post-Becoming. They did the polar opposite in Seeing Red and as a consequence of that some fans will never get over the AR or support Spike or Spuffy again. The AR is also a really touchy, taboo and triggering subject for a lot of people for a host of reasons whereas audiences have largely become desensitised to murder and violence. So, no, objectively there's no reason why either action should be judged differently or that even vampire should be held to a different standard in terms of their crimes, but audiences don't react objectively ("If we could live without passion maybe we'd know some kind of peace. But we would be hollow") and the writers were aware of that.

In regards to whether a romantic relationship should have been pursued in either S3/Bangel or S7/Spuffy is, IMO, dependent on from what angle you want to look at it from. From simply a storytelling/entertainment POV I see little justification for why it shouldn't be. The soul mythology paves the way for it to make sense for all the characters involved and it has a lot of story potential (although I personally find S2 Bangel/S6 Spuffy to be infinitely more interesting than their S3/Bangel and S7/Spuffy incarnations). From whether either relationship aligns with the show's "feminist" and female empowerment messages/themes, I think both relationships are pretty anti-feminist and are often contradictory to what the show supposedly stood for. Even Whedon was aware of the irresponsibility of ever showing Buffy/Spike be intimate together again onscreen after the AR (which he speaks about in the Chosen DVD commentary) which kind of puts a ceiling over what they could've really explored with that ship after S7 (should the series have continued) if they didn't even feel it was right to show it. It's a hard sell to argue that the show is feminist whilst simultaneously shacking up your icon of female empowerment with her attempted rapist no matter what the in-verse mythology says. Likewise, whilst Angelus' behaviour in S2 may not be as blatant or triggering as an attempted rape, he's an emotionally abusive, slut-shaming, misogynistic pig who spends certainly much of Innocence shaming Buffy for her sexuality ("was it good for you too?" "No, really, I thought you were a pro") and playing the part of the nasty ex boyfriend. For Buffy to resume a relationship with him can easily be interpreted as disempowering and backtracking on powerful scenes where she did shut him down (the iconic scene of her kicking him in the balls). Both Angel and Spike are also well-known for their violence against women in S2 and S6 respectively (Theresa, Jenny, the girl in the alley etc). But there's always been a tension between the show's entertainment value and it's political messaging. They often do not align and I think Whedon made the right call to prioritise entertainment over his messaging if he felt he had a worthwhile story to tell. He kind of speaks about this continuous tension himself in the Innocence DVD commentary when he stated that he was very much aware that the story arc could be perceived as "punishing" Buffy for being sexually active, as is so common in the horror genre, despite it not being his intention and despite scenes deliberately crafted to try and show otherwise (the "you just look... different"/"You look the same to me" scenes were Whedon's way of undermining the supposed loss of "innocence" women face for being sexually active). But the storyline potential was simply too enticing and too relatable (unfortunately) that he had to tell it regardless.
 
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TriBel

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I don't think the soul's inconsistent...rather vampires are as inconsistent as people. Whedon admits he has no idea what the soul is...except it's a "beautiful thing" (the "beautiful soul" is a concept in itself but I don't know whether he's referring to that). You can't make a valid judgement about a vampire with a soul because - until Spike - the test case consists of one and all we know is how that one responded and what that one tells us. Not all swans are white: not all swans are black. Some are white: some are black. Angel's much more in keeping with the Enlightenment subject; Spike the Romantic subject. They both have different religious persuasions (whether they were practising or not). Different churches have different ideas about "forgiveness".

The soul seems to return suppressed/repressed memory and activates the super-ego/conscience. What it doesn't touch is primal repression - that's still in place, though we see it in disguised form. It's not until both vampires undergo "therapy" of sorts (Spike in Lies My Parents Told Me; Angel - I think - in A11) that they have "full capacity" (or as full as it gets. I don't think we're looking at the self-identical self). I'm over-simplifying here.

I'm dubious about "the Curse". I'm not sure whether it's an external "spell" or whether it's self-inflicted...a self fulfilling prophecy. In addition, there's a concept called "the mother's curse" - who's to say Spike wasn't similarly "cursed"? The "mother's curse" can be infinitely worse than the father's...just as Joyce's real death is more significant than Hank's absence - his "symbolic" death as a father. If I'm honest, I think much of Buffy's behaviour from S5 onwards (and in retrospect, 1-4) is partly informed by this joke (we see it as an involuntary memory at the beginning of The Body) or "Curse":

JOYCE: (quietly to Buffy) You are a demon child.
BUFFY: I live to torment you, is that so wrong?
JOYCE: A daughter's duty, I suppose.

This has massive implications, particularly for a feminist icon. Buffy can forgive others...I'm not sure she ever forgives herself. That's kinda sad.
 
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