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Discussion of 7.02 "Beneath You" - Aired 10/01/02 (UPN-US)

Athene

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I interpreted Spike laying on the cross as him demonstrating to Buffy that despite the fact that he has a soul, he's still very much the same man that has done the same things as pre-souled Spike. Spike lays on the cross, it burns him and that's showing that God still rejects him because of the evil inside him and because he's still a vampire. Spike was full of pity for himself so of course he just accepted the burns and hugged the cross.
 

Fool for Buffy

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But in what way does the cross represent Spike's evil? The cross was the punishment Jesus endured for the wickedness of mankind.
Because after all the trials Spike went through in an attempt to become not evil, he is still a vampire and crosses are harmful to vampires. By falling onto it he is accepting that becoming ensouled didn't stop him from being a demon. And at this point Spike is saying he is basically done trying to stop being a monster. The evil inside of him, which includes a weakness for crosses, will always be there. He can choose to punish himself for it (Beneath You) or ignore it (Destiny). @Athene just beat me to some of these points:confused:
 

Priceless

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I interpreted Spike laying on the cross as him demonstrating to Buffy that despite the fact that he has a soul, he's still very much the same man that has done the same things as pre-souled Spike. Spike lays on the cross, it burns him and that's showing that God still rejects him because of the evil inside him and because he's still a vampire. Spike was full of pity for himself so of course he just accepted the burns and hugged the cross.
I think there is a little self-pity in Spike, because he didn't understand how the soul would affect him. But more that, there is self-loathing, he hates himself in that moment for what he's done, and 'can we rest now' is about death. Death is the final rest, the RIP. I think he's hoping to burst into flames by laying on the cross. He wants to burn out the soul by burning himself out, it's attempted suicide in a way.
 

TriBel

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He wants to burn out the soul by burning himself out, it's attempted suicide in a way.
I think you're right about that. I also thought it was significant there was a lit icon of the Madonna and Child - it's the first thing you see in the church.
 
I think there is a little self-pity in Spike, because he didn't understand how the soul would affect him. But more that, there is self-loathing, he hates himself in that moment for what he's done, and 'can we rest now' is about death. Death is the final rest, the RIP. I think he's hoping to burst into flames by laying on the cross. He wants to burn out the soul by burning himself out, it's attempted suicide in a way.
I think he has a greater tolerance of crosses than Angel - doesn't he? Plus - as far as I'm aware, the Powers That Be aren't particularly Christian gods are they? Which raises the question of why a Christian symbol would burn vampires.
 

DeadlyDuo

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I think he has a greater tolerance of crosses than Angel - doesn't he? Plus - as far as I'm aware, the Powers That Be aren't particularly Christian gods are they? Which raises the question of why a Christian symbol would burn vampires.
Perhaps anything holy would burn vampires but as crosses are easily recognisable, it makes sense to use them?
 

Priceless

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Perhaps anything holy would burn vampires but as crosses are easily recognisable, it makes sense to use them?
I can't remember the episode, probably season 2, but Willow nails a cross to her wall and says her father wouldn't be happy for his Jewish daughter to do that. The Star of David wouldn't keep a vampire out, but a cross would
 

Fool for Buffy

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I can't remember the episode, probably season 2, but Willow nails a cross to her wall and says her father wouldn't be happy for his Jewish daughter to do that. The Star of David wouldn't keep a vampire out, but a cross would
This is a good point, and that happens in Passion. They are doing the spell to de-invite Angel/Angelus.
 

thrasherpix

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Perhaps anything holy would burn vampires but as crosses are easily recognisable, it makes sense to use them?
My headcanon is that lost in the ancient past (and perhaps by the same people that created the First Slayer) was an epic spell that affected all vampires (just as a spell can affect all Slayers, at least when one has the Scythe). Just as the Scythe was used for Slayers, I'd say the cross was used for vampires, because the cross would represent how a vampire is both demon and human (and some demons would say a vampire is not either, at least not completely). That is just as the cross is made of 2 intersecting sticks, so is a vampire the "cross" of human and demon. It's the symbol of two natures that is powerful here.

Either as a side effect or deliberate intent, the cross gained a mystical power against vampires, but the reason for this is magickal, not religious. The cross became a Christian symbol because Jesus died upon one, as have countless others (and the Romans weren't the only one to practice that form of execution), which makes it believable to me that the cross becoming a Christian symbol was just coincidental to the cross also being used in a magic ritual. Naturally, when crosses were seen to have worked then Christians would (wrongly) attribute the power of God rather than the power of magick...and even vampires raised in Christian lore could make that mistake.

That said, it begs why holy water work. It's not stated that ONLY Christian holy water works, but assuming that is the case then that would suggest another epic spell by one who is Christian, or at least aided the Church in exchange for helping wipe out vampires.

'Course another explanation is that Christianity is the one true religion (which strikes me as even sillier than the vampire lore of Buffy), but that opens another can of worms...like why are vampires the only demons affected by crosses, as well as having other weaknesses limited only to them?

And just for the record, I like how Stephen King handled such matter in Salem's Lot in which it wasn't the cross or anything else, it was the faith. The priest in it was called "shaman" and in the novel there are references to many forms of "white magic" that isn't restricted to Christianity that the vampire has come to grudgingly respect (if in a hateful way), though not the priest who is too much of an alcoholic to have the necessary faith. When the priest refuses to throw away the cross, showing his faith was in the trappings than in God, then the cross loses its power, something that disappointed the master vampire who had hoped he had found a worthy adversary. In contrast, a little boy with perfect faith is even able to ward off a vampire with a toy cross taken from a monster model set, while a couple of others thinking fast make a cross out of tongue depressors (saying Psalms 23 over it, IIRC). But in this version then the Star of David should also work since the trappings are irrelevant, only the faith is important.
 

DeadlyDuo

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Just as the Scythe was used for Slayers, I'd say the cross was used for vampires, because the cross would represent how a vampire is both demon and human (and some demons would say a vampire is not either, at least not completely). That is just as the cross is made of 2 intersecting sticks, so is a vampire the "cross" of human and demon. It's the symbol of two natures that is powerful here.
I love that theory and it makes so much sense. :)
 

Ethan Reigns

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Vampire lore is descended from Bram Stoker's "Dracula" where the Roman Catholic religion was assumed to be correct. Crosses would have the effect of hurting vampires because Vampires were demonic and the crosses were from their opponent, Jesus. Robin Wood tried to defeat Spike in a garage with dozens of crosses on the walls. Similarly, holy water is a Catholic item and it was used to defeat Kralik in "Helpless" but it also burned Darla and a few other vampires. Consecrated soil in the cemetery burned the hands of the vampires who dug up the bones of The Master. The nun immediately recognized Angel as a vampire, showing the increased spiritual awareness of a member of a Catholic order.

One thing is certain - Joss is an atheist, so sensitivity to religious artifacts would not have been something he invented.
 

emnemnemnem

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Wow, this episode was so sad. It was devastating both to see Spike lose his mind and Buffy relive the moments of the rape scene. The only sorta happy thing that happened was Anya listening to Xander and reversing her vengeance spell, ultimately choosing her Scooby friends over her demon friends (yay!). This episode really emphasizes that Xander and Anya both still haven't gotten over their relationship/break-up. Xander is having trouble finding another girl to date, while Anya is visibly softer than the vengeance demon she once was, not being the demon Cecily looks up to anymore.

Didn't really have a favorite part of the episode, as it was all pretty gloomy. I guess I liked the scene where Spike comes in to help Buffy and the others, though, to everyone's surprise. And the scene when Dawn threatens Spike.
 

FeministMedia

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That was the BEST Vengeance creation EVER! Turn an abusive BoyFriend, into a BlockBuster, spineless, worm.
Maybe the BoyFriend was emotionally abusive. So as a vengeance, turned him into Physically Abusive. Cause to turn a Physically Abusive BoyFriend into a BlockBuster, is too much.
 

Mr Trick

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Think it was a miss opportunity not bringing Nancy back after this episode. She seemed likeable enough and could have been a decent love interest for Xander.

One bit of comedy I did enjoy was when Nancy asks the gang if there's any of them who haven't slept together and Spike and Xander give each other funny looks :D
 

Stake fodder

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It seems like Nancy was meant to be a more major character, as much as she was in this episode.

I can believe a lot of crazy things in this show, but Buffy being a counselor is really hard to swallow. One, she's completely unqualified, which is pointed out; two, she doesn't have a lot of patience with navel-gazing.

Spike seems as surprised as Xander that Buffy wants to go out alone with him. And what's with his shirt? I don't mean the color, which is deeply soulful. ;) The shirt seems too small for him, almost like a woman's shirt. Is it something he found in the high school while cutting and dyeing his hair? (And why can he do that, but not shower?)

Dawn has a definite arc this season of being "incredibly scary." It made me finally like her character.

Why is Spike reticent about telling about his soul? (I know, I know, for an awesome later scene.) But to speculate, does he think it makes him seem weak? That it didn't make any difference? That he feels even less worthy now? That he wants Buffy to guess from his altered behavior?

I originally thought something seemed really off about the bar fight between Spike and Anya and Buffy. Shutting Anya up would take only one punch (not that it was appropriate! Use your words.), and it seemed out of character for newly-souled Spike. But I thought of two reasons. One, Anya brings up a bad chain of associations. Sleeping with her led to his attempted apology, which led to the attempted rape. And of course, he has just been reminded of their encounter.

Secondly, it made me think of Buffy's beatdown of him in S6 when she attempts to turn herself in for Katrina's murder. As with Buffy, Spike is perhaps projecting his self-hatred of his own demon onto Anya.

That all would explain why Spike then encourages Buffy to beat him. His comment about her expression being "absolutely delicious" hearkens back to when he used the word to Riley, after he found them together. ("A word that I don't use often.") I think he is deliberately reminding Buffy of the mortification she felt then, and the fall-shy comparison that Spike now feels he represents. (Which is in huge contrast to how proud he was at the time.) Bringing up the vamp face would reinforce that.

The giant worm shows Anya's losing her touch. It may have been impressive, but it just made the boyfriend more dangerous, and didn't stop him harassing Nancy. Though Anya's thing is vengeance, not restraining orders, so maybe she wasn't concerned with that.

The final scene in the church was haunting and poetic. But others have spoken of it far better than I could. I enjoyed reading all the comments on it.
 
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AlphaFoxtrot

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My opinion is that the Powers came to humans in the early days, and vested them with powers and taught them rituals to defend against dark forces, and that this knowledge has been passed on to all the religions of man. For an example, Raphael in the Book of Tobit, or Gandalf in LOTR, really. You see, the Powers are a real choir of Angels, their primary concern is defending earth and heaven from the forces of hell. They don’t concern themselves with ethics or metaphysics, just defense of the realms, and will aid any holy man, or so I would conjecture. This way, nobody has to concern themselves why Bibles are warded against vampires, they just are.

The Star of David isn’t actually a holy symbol. The Name of God, or the Temple Menorah would be the true holy symbols of the religion. You have to look at a religion's household blessing rituals, Judaism have a long history of protective magic. The reason crosses work is because a traditional crucifix is blessed by a Priest, then home will be visited by him in January, and with prayer, incense and holy water the home will be consecrated against the forces of evil. Jews have a famous practice known as the mezuzah, where a piece of scripture will be hung on a doorpost, as a reminder to both practice the law, and as protection against dark spirits.
 

TriBel

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I can believe a lot of crazy things in this show, but Buffy being a counselor is really hard to swallow. One, she's completely unqualified, which is pointed out; two, she doesn't have a lot of patience with navel-gazing.
It performs a number of functions. It's justified in text because a) she's cheap and b) no-one else wants to work in Sunnydale (that's how Robin got the job)...which is believable. In terms of story, it's as @Priceless says - Robin wants to keep her close. In terms of discourse, it means she gets to work through her own problems second-hand (as it were)...she can tell us things we might not otherwise get confirmed (like her later conversation with Amanda).

The giant worm shows Anya's losing her touch. It may have been impressive, but it just made the boyfriend more dangerous, and didn't stop him harassing Nancy. Though Anya's thing is vengeance, not restraining orders, so maybe she wasn't concerned with that.
The worm isn't just a worm...it's a worm with a very big toothed mouth. It's both a phallic symbol and vagina dentata. I'm guessing it's the Phallic Mother. It's presence is less to do with Nancy (though that makes sense) and more to do with commenting on Buffy (and perhaps Spike perhaps Spuffy). Oddly (or not) the Wiki page for the phallic mother uses Buffy as an example: she "demonstrates an ambivalent relationship to her phallic power as slayer/staker".
 

Stake fodder

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It performs a number of functions. It's justified in text because a) she's cheap and b) no-one else wants to work in Sunnydale (that's how Robin got the job)...which is believable. In terms of story, it's as @Priceless says - Robin wants to keep her close. In terms of discourse, it means she gets to work through her own problems second-hand (as it were)...she can tell us things we might not otherwise get confirmed (like her later conversation with Amanda).
And it allows her to be at the high school a lot. I had not thought of the second-hand thing, but I did understand it for bringing characters together. Same reason Spike "had nowhere to go," when the crypt was probably still available. Still, my takeaway was, "Yeah, nobody gets a professional job that easily."

The worm isn't just a worm...it's a worm with a very big toothed mouth. It's both a phallic symbol and vagina dentata. I'm guessing it's the Phallic Mother. It's presence is less to do with Nancy (though that makes sense) and more to do with commenting on Buffy (and perhaps Spike perhaps Spuffy).
Wow, now that is something I didn't think of all. Great stuff, TriBel! And so, Spike stabs it/Ronny, and then has a look of horror and falls apart. I'm trying to decide if this is therefore an allusion to the attempted rape, and/or his lack of apology for same. Or is it a metaphoric apology? It's beyond me, but I love this kind of analysis!
 

Ethan Reigns

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I see the worm character as a lamprey eel blown up to about ten times its actual size. If you want a monster with a phallic/vagina Phallic Mother appearance, see Doublemeat Palace with the little old lady who kills employees. The lamprey eel was a scourge of Lake Ontario until the cure was found: add Coho salmon to the lake. They eat lampreys.

 
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