Freudian Friday: Spike

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First order of business: Thank you everyone for your kind words on Wednesday. Puck is doing well, and driving us nuts with his normal batty behavior, so things are looking good for the moment.

Second order of business: I am defying the laws of nature today, and you can find me in THREE places at once! Check out my “Field Guide to the WannaBlessedBe” over at Pat Thunstrom’s blog! And definitely check out my Buffy Wedding Lessons post at Emmie Mear’s blog!

Now. Let’s get Spike on the couch and strip him down to his hard, muscular chest, and…. erm… um… I mean, let’s get him to open up and share his issues.

Spike is the classic Mommy-Issues, Oedipal-Complex mess. Since this is our first week talking about Freudian issues for men, let’s see what Wikipedia says about the so-called Oedipus complex:

In psychoanalytic theory, the term Oedipus complex denotes the emotions and ideas that the mind keeps in the unconscious, via dynamic repression, that concentrate upon a boy’s desire to sexually possess his mother, and kill his father…

…In classical, Freudian psychoanalytic theory, the child’s identification with the same-sex parent is the successful resolution of the Oedipus complex and of the Electra complex; his and her key psychological experience to developing a mature sexual role and identitySigmund Freud further proposed that girls and boys resolved their complexes differently — he via castration anxiety, she via penis envy; and that unsuccessful resolutions might lead to neurosispaedophilia, and homosexuality. Hence, men and women who are fixated in the Oedipal and Electra stages of their psychosexual development might be considered “mother-fixated” and “father-fixated” as revealed when the mate (sexual partner) resembles the mother or the father.

Technically that whole “Electra Complex” bit we were discussing for Daddy Issues in Urban Fantasy was Jungian psychology, but, as I’ve said before and will no doubt say again, I’m neither a psychoanalyst nor a psychoanalytical literary theorist. We’re not here to split hairs… we’re here to dissect fantasy characters!

So cute but so bad.

Back to Spike. When we first meet him, he’s a badass vampire with inexplicable Billy Idol hair, who rolls into Sunnydale with vague plans to repair his batsh*t crazy girlfriend Druscilla and maybe kill the slayer if he gets around to it.

Over the course of the show, he becomes Buffy’s reluctant and then head-over-heels in love ally. We see him grow from a scary-funny villain with a lot of half-baked plans into a tortured lover who, unlike Angel, chooses to regain his soul. (If you want to learn about Spike’s full character development, you should definitely read Emmie Mears’s post about him, which covers his entire character arc, since we’re only going to talk about his issues.)

That’s all lovely. But let’s look at some the undercurrents of Spike’s character. His relationships throughout the show are rocky at best. He works to restore Druscilla sanity, who then, in a glorious Whedon-esque moment, carries a broken Spike from the wreckage of his plotting. Druscilla later leaves him for a chaos demon after he becomes too tame for her taste. Spike eventually falls in love with the Slayer, tenderly protects her sister, and then… tries to rape Buffy? Yikes.

He realizes the horror of what he has done, though, and seeks a soul in order to become worthy of Buffy’s love and forgiveness.

But that’s nor why we’re here. Since the writers handed it to us on a platter, let’s look at his relationship with his mother.

Look at the nerdy little poet.

Although we don’t learn it until the last season of Buffy, Spike loved his mom. I mean… really loved her. At the point when Druscilla turned him, Spike was a lovelorn young poet whose biggest fan was his mommy. Even after becoming a vampire, Spike loves his mom, going so far as to turn her into a vampire to save her from the tuberculosis that is ravaging her human body.

(Weird sidenote: Commentary on “Lies My Parents Told Me,” the episode in which we see all this happening, says that the woman playing Spike’s mother was cast in part because of her resemblance to Sarah Michelle Gellar. Um… ew?)

But Spike’s mother isn’t grateful for the transformation: nor is she even Spike’s mother anymore. She tells Spike she wouldn’t be able to stand an eternity of his snivelling, and, worse, says,  “All you ever wanted was to be back inside. And you finally got your wish, didn’t you? Sank your teeth into me, an eternal kiss- …You wanted your hands on me. Perhaps you’d like to finish what you
started, hum?

They made the Oedipus complex quite literal, didn’t they? Spike, horrified, retreats from her, resists her, until she tries to kill him. He then kills her in self-defense.

Is this the defining moment of Spike’s character? The moment when he couldn’t have his mother the way he wanted her—as a mother, not a lover—so he kills her and returns to Druscilla, the woman who gave him new life and is also a lover? He needs a woman who loves and punishes, a woman who can be that twisted lover-mother without actually corrupting the only pleasant memories he has. Hence his later pain-filled sexual relationship with Buffy. Is that all there is?

I don’t think so.

The brilliance of the character arc is that Spike’s evolution comes from the moment when he realizes that his mother loved him. It was the demon he gave her that made her say the terrible things she did. Spike is able to overcome his “trigger” by accepting his own agency, forgiving his mother, and taking responsibility for his actions.

And that is probably as much as any psychoanalyst could want for her patient.

What do you think, readers? How much does Spike’s relationship with his mother and with his creator shape his relationship with Buffy? How much do you love Spike and hate seeing me dissect him? Tell me all about it.

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