Character Assassination

It’s not intentional, but a lot of my thoughts about writing also relate just as easily to other forms of media; usually games, movies or TV shows. I don’t think that it’s at odds with what  remember watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer when it first aired. Yes, I was a watcher. No, not the Rupert kind.

I never watched it all the way through, but I do remember that I used to get psyched by the theme song, and did remember bits and pieces from the later seasons. I hadn’t seen it all, though.

Thanks to a Buffy marathon with my wife, that particular gap in my education has been filled. I think Joss Whedon improved after Buffy, but you can’t deny how jossy it feels.

The rest of the characters aside, the one character arc that’s pretty damn interesting is ol’ William the Bloody. Spike. Yes, the rest of the gang do go through some amazing growth (Willow especially), but it’s Spike that was both a likeable bad guy, and an interesting anti-hero.

I can’t stress the word was enough.

I was at the Sydney Supanova in 2011, and from memory I should’ve worn wellingtons because James Marsters was one of the celebrities there that year. The guy undeniably has his admirers. The character of Spike had flaws, but they were akin to Nathan from Misfits. He was an ass to people, but he was still somehow likeable for it. The whole Murder-Death-Kill aside, he never seemed particularly cruel about what he was doing. He was also one of the first vamps to try reasoning his way through things. The guy was great.

Then the episode Seeing Red happens. The Jossiest episode of Buffy. The one where everyone’s life goes to shit. What happens at the end is one thing in itself, but that scene between Buffy and Spike just f**ked up Spike as a relatable character for me. I didn’t feel empathy for Spike, and not even his sacrifice at the end redeems him for me. It equates him with Warren, who (from memory) was the only other character that attempted to rape another character.

Stories of redemption are great, but if you want your character to be even remotely sympathetic, you need to make sure that they’re still actually redeemable. Prequel quality aside, the downfall of Anakin Skywalker could have been a great, tragic story. It could have been much more relatable, where he slowly loses control. Killing kids and choking Padme seems worse than the genocide wrought by the Death Star. I have a story I’ve been working back and forth with for a few years, a fantasy about a hero that becomes corrupted but then redeems himself. The line of where his sins were shifted, and maybe sometimes you need to push them further than you’re comfortable with.

I still wanted the Scoobies to succeed, of course, even when they come up against a charisma-laden misogynistic Captain Reynolds. I wanted Spike to do his bit, but it was the goal and not the character that I was cheering on. I suppose that’s the problem with anti-heroes. Their transgressions must be ones we willingly overlook for the sake of the greater good.

To call upon Joss again, it’s a little case of this:

“I’ve got red in my ledger, I’d like to wipe it out.”

Some of that red is a little more permanent than others.

One thought on “Character Assassination

  1. I have thoughts on this that need collecting before I post them anywhere, but suffice it to say that I think you hit a nail on the head here.

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