On Spike and Seeing Red

Cheddarmoonbeam: Hi Ian! I love all the Buffy videos you do, as watching the guide of the first season helped me get my brother to FINALLY watch the show with me!! Anyways, I was wondering what your thoughts were on TV shows and movies using sexual assault as a plot device, such as in Seeing Red. I found that themes like this are not super uncommon on Joss Whedon works. Is it possible to include a scene such as the one in Seeing Red without it feeling so wrong and out of place, or is that what we're supposed to feel? The disturbingness of the scene aside, it just never felt like it fit in the tone of the show either.

Passionofthenerd: Hello cheddarmoonbeam! Awareness is everything. Progressivism is a sliding scale and aspects of something that looked progressive a decade ago don't necessarily hold up now because our awareness has grown. I'd never heard of the Bury Your Gays or the Women in Refrigerators or the Mystical Pregnancy tropes until I started doing this but now that I'm aware of them they're IMPOSSIBLE to ignore.

What’s much more difficult is to then decide under what circumstances it isn't in horrible taste to tell stories that include those details again. I think it's a mistake to say that we can never have a gay character die in our story or a woman murdered or a Jesus pregnancy story. One of the purposes of fiction is to help us develop ways to process terrible events, so BANNING certain details from stories seems like a mistake to me. But, when are those details not in BAD TASTE?

I don't have a problem with Seeing Red's darkness. It is the most controversial episode in the series by far but I don't think the writer's jumped the shark. Dark Willow and Spike's willingness to do vile things were WELL setup in advance. In Lovers Walk Spike says, "I'll find [Drusilla,] wherever she is. Tie her up. Torture her. Until she likes me again." That's pretty indicative of someone who would do what Spike did in Seeing Red. We were all lulled to sleep by the chip and Spike's passion and charisma if we forgot about that. So it isn't the violence of the scene that is problematic for me but the fact that they used an attempted RAPE of BUFFY (our treasured main character) in order to develop SPIKE'S character. That scene has nothing to do with HER and that's what makes it gross to me. She sustains a very ham-handed injury the scene before simply to make her vulnerable to Spike's attack so that he is forced to develop and do some literal soul searching. Incorporating these kinds of horrifying details in service of the attacker feels disgusting. The story USED her, it didn't develop her.

Source: https://thepassionofthenerd.tumblr.com/post/173896240389/on-spike-and-seeing-red