Spike's redemption means different things to different people. My thoughts are explained below, followed by links to other redemptionist resources. Please note that my comments refer only to soulless Spike.
A being who can love with all his heart, sacrifice his own happiness for the good of others, behave tenderly and with compassion, cry, feel pain and passion, adapt to change, and struggle to improve himself deserves a chance.
Every person, no matter how badly he or she behaved in the past, has the ability the improve himself or herself. I disagree with the simplistic view that some people are inherently good, and others are inherently evil, and no one can ever move beyond his or her predetermined state. That belief in predestination, or fate, encourages passivity and denies us the responsibility for our own actions, and also denies us the ability to change. (Also, the idea that sentient creatures who feel and think can be abused at will because they are officially decreed to be inherently inferior has been the justification for many types of racism and intolerance thoughout history).
- I believe that Spike is capable of changing himself.
No one is inherently good or evil. We all make choices, right and wrong. If an "evil" creature makes consistently good choices, as Spike did from Intervention through Tabula Rasa, then he is no longer "evil."
- I believe that morality is not black and white.
Brooding doesn't solve anything. You cannot make up for the past, all you can do is move forward and be better from this moment on.
- I believe that guilt is not necessary for redemption.
The big moments are
gonna come. You can't help that. It's what you do afterwards that
counts. That's when you find out who you are. Whistler, Becoming
Spike is different from other vampires.
I saw Spike on a journey towards redemption.
- As a human, he was incredibly sensitive. He was also repulsed by evil and sought goodness.
- As a vampire, Spike is still "tainted" by humanity (The Judge, Surprise). Unlike Angelus, the ideal and truly evil vampire, Spike is capable of love and selflessness.
- Spike loves more completely and powerfully than any other character on the show.
- His love for Buffy and Dawn, as well as his tentative friendships with the Scoobies, give him role models and behavior to emulate.
- The chip allows him to see humans as people who he has to relate to, instead of "happy meals with legs." His natural empathy comes out as he is forced to relate to humans on their level.
Some may argue that Spike only did these things to get into Buffy's favor, but then why would he comfort, reassure, and show empathy for others when Buffy wasn't even in the room, would mostly likely never hear about it, or was dead at the time? There was more going on here than Spike simply trying to impress Buffy: he was truly changing internally.
- When he allowed Glory to torture and nearly kill him, so that he could protect Buffy and Dawn. Intervention.
- When he risked his life to save Dawn, even though he knew Buffy would never love him. The Gift.
- When he was the only person to comfort Anya and validate her feelings. Entropy.
- When he reassured Tara and Willow that it was okay that Tara had accidentally burned him. Spiral.
- When he hit Tara to prove that she wasn't a demon. Family.
- When he comforted Dawn and reassured her that she wasn't evil, then minimized his own pain to make her feel better. Tough Love.
- When he genuinely wanted to change for the better, even if he needed help with the specifics. ("A man can change" Smashed, "I can be [good] too" Crush)
- When he promised Dawn that he would keep her safe from the demon bikers. Bargaining.
- When, faced with a choice between joining the demon bikers on their rampage or protecting Dawn, he chose to go against his demonic nature and protect Dawn. Bargaining.
- When he saved Xander's life, even though Buffy wasn't even in the room. Older and Far Away.
- When he stopped and showed concern for Willow during her emotional breakdown, and then did not want her to endanger herself by doing magic even though it could have helped him and the Scoobies escape the house sooner. Wrecked and Older and Far Away.
- When he showed remorse over his inability to save Buffy. The Gift and Afterlife
- When, against Buffy's wishes, he made sure that Dawn did the resurrection spell safely, and protected Dawn from the Ghora demon. Forever.
- When he protected Dawn and fought beside the Scoobies all summer while Buffy was dead. Bargaining
Some viewers also argue that Spike could not be redeemed without a soul because it would raise serious questions about the ethics on which the Buffyverse is founded. My response: so what? Those questions should be raised -- this is a drama! What an interesting story that would be! We are watching Buffy's coming-of-age story; what could be better than a situation that causes the hero to question her simplistic ethical beliefs and realize that reality is much more complicated, that good and evil don't always conform to a simple binary system? Isn't that part of what growing up is about, realizing that the beliefs with which you are raised are not always accurate representations of the complexity of reality?
Anti-redemptionists also cite Spike's behavior in season six when they claim that he could not be redeemed. I am not claiming that Spike was redeemed in season six, I'm claiming that the progress he had made at that point indicated that he could have been redeemed without needing a soul. Let's examine the incidents that anti-redemptionists cite.
Spike tried to bite a woman in "Smashed"
Yeah, and he could barely bring himself to do it. Season two Spike would have bitten her instantly. Again, I'm not saying that he was redeemed, simply that he had made progress and could have continued to do so. His hesitation to bite indicates that he had changed a great deal, although he certainly wasn't there yet. We also can't ignore that he had just been hit by Buffy and called an "evil, disgusting thing" with very little provocation. Buffy had no responsibility to involve herself in a relationship with Spike -- but by telling him that he could never be good, she continued a pattern of negative reinforcement which eventually lead Spike to believe that he could never be good, so why even try? Buffy does hold the responsibility for verbally and physically abusing Spike for an extended period of time, and for viciously discouraging all of his attempts to do good.
Spike tried to pull Buffy to the "dark side"
Yeah, but only after she refused to allow him to join her in the light. Spike is the one who wanted to talk things out, who wanted to be let into her life, who wanted to be "a man" for her. When she refused to allow him to do so, he encouraged her darkness -- the darkness that was already there, in Buffy, and which she needs to come to terms with and stop repressing if she's ever going to grow as a person. He also tried to separate her from her friends--the same friends who had just ripped her out of heaven so that she could take care of them and give their lives meaning ... then refused to take any responsibility for their behavior or to even speak to Buffy about it. (Pardon me for not caring).
Spike harbored demon eggs in "As You Were"
I'm sorry, but that plot made absolutely no sense. We don't even know that Spike was the doctor. If he didn't even know that the eggs should be refrigerated, how would he know that they were deadly to human beings? We have no idea what his motivations were for harboring the eggs in that episode, or if he knew that they were dangerous.
Spike tried to rape Buffy in "Seeing Red"
After she physically and mentally abused him for months. Yes, Spike did a horrible thing--a horrible things that humans with souls are also capable of. That scene was not about Spike getting off on hurting and overpowering Buffy; it was about Spike having a nervous breakdown after months of abuse. Read my gender essay for more.
I don't see any of this behavior as admirable, but it's not incontrovertible evidence that Spike couldn't be redeemed, particularly considering all the good he had done and the incredible progress he had made.
But the writers didn't mean for Spike to be capable of redemption without a soul
Point one: it's impossible to know for sure what the writers actually intended. The individual writers often approach the show with vastly different opinions (take David Fury's claim that Anyanka had no soul one week after Jane Espenson said that Anyanka did have a soul). Canon itself is often contradictory (see, for example, the vastly contradictory definitions of "the soul" in various episodes -- from a conscience to the entire essence of a person including memories and lifeforce, depending on the episode). The writers also flat out lie--see Steven DeKnight's S6 claim that Tara would die "over his dead body."
Point two: even if we assume that the writers did intend for Spike to be incapable of redemption without a soul--so what? Judge the story by what you see onscreen. Authorial intent may be a valuable tool when attempting to discern the meaning of a text, but ultimately the meaning should be determined by assessing the actual content of the text. The writers may not have intented for soulless redemption to be possible, but the evidence for it is right there in the text--regardless of what the writers intended.
If I paint a picture and accidentally make the sky red instead of blue, it might help you to understand the picture better if I tell you that the sky was intended to be blue. But that still doesn't change the fact that when you look at the picture, the sky is red. (Click here for a brief overview of literary theory on the role of the author).
Why Relate to Spike?
- Spike is the ultimate outcast. He does not fit in anywhere, and is struggling to find his place in the world. I want to see him find a place where he is happy and where others accept him for who he is.
As a vampire, Spike has no soul guiding him towards good. Instead, his demonic nature pulls him towards evil. Yet Spike has managed, more than any other vampire, to choose good, despite his own nature. Spike's ability to do good is much more profound because he doesn't have a soul telling him to do it. He's doing it all on his own. Yeah, it's hard, but that's why we care so much.
- Almost everyone can relate to the feeling of unrequited love. Spike is searching for love, and I want him to find it; not necessarily with Buffy, but with someone who will encourage his good side and treat him with the kindness and respect that he deserves.
Post-Season 6 note
I really couldn't care less about the redemption of Spike-with-a-soul. The story I cared about is over. At least there's plenty of soulless Spike redemptionist fanfic.
I firmly believe that Spike did not need a soul to be redeemed. The very fact that he was able to choose to get a soul shows that he was capable of free will -- the soul only enforces what was already there.
Spike could have succeeded, without a soul, if he had gotten the tiniest bit of support from anyone around him. After being taunted, physically and mentally abused, and told repeatedly that he was evil and could never change, it's not surprising that Spike eventually felt that he needed something more. Take anyone and tell them that they are "nothing," they are "an evil, soulless thing" and that they are incapable of ever being good and should not even bother, and see how well they turn out after months of that abuse.
Visit Tabula Rasa's Bunker of Debunking for responses to some common myths about Spike's ability to redeem himself.
Why did Spike go to Africa? by Laura
Redemption by Colleen Hillerup
Barb's end-of-season review-cum-letter to ME by Barb Cummings
Domestic Abuse and Gender Role Reversal in Season 6 by Kristen Smirnov
Buffy and the Beast by Paul F. McDonald
The Redemptive Force of Love: Spike and the Hero's Journey by Magpie
Pardon My Freudian Spike by Zanna
Read the Essays at the Bloody Awful Poet Society. Read the Essays and Thoughts at Tabula Rasa. Read the Essays at Nothing Like the Sun
For in-depth discussion of Spike's journey towards redemption, you can join the Bloody Awful Poet Society or Tabula Rasa discussion lists.
|"It only put me in Gryffindor," said Harry in a defeated voice, "because I asked not to go in Slytherin. . . ."|
"Exactly," said Dumbledore, beaming once more. "Which makes you very different from Tom Riddle. It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."
From Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets