I have a confession to make...I'm a "Spuffy" fan. While I was watching Buffy I found myself cheering for the passionate, volatile relationship between Buffy and her Vampire lover, Spike. So when I reached season six I was blind-sided. No one had warned me about the dreaded "Seeing Red" episode.
For anyone who doesn't know what I'm talking about, "Seeing Red" is the episode where Spike tries to rape Buffy. She's badly injured, and drawing a bath (standing in a towel) and Spike comes in and tries his usual stuff, but this time she's not up for it. But he continues. And as I was watching my mouth dropped open in horror.
After the episode was over I was in denial. "Well," I said to myself. "He wasn't himself. Plus Buffy has been stringing him along for ages and being a total jerk to him. It wasn't his fault..."
Then I had to stop and really think about the things I was thinking. Here I was, blaming Buffy for the attempted rape. Why?
Because I like Spike. That's why.
That's a terrible excuse. So I had to rethink things and change my perspective. Okay, this was to show that the character of Spike really is a monster, and that sets him on the path to get his soul back and ultimately leads to the ultimate self sacrifice that plays a major roll in the finale. But from that episode onward, I wasn't cheering for Buffy and Spike anymore. For me, that was over. There could be no going back to that because there are some things you just can't make excuses for.
I know, I know. It's fictional, so what? But here's the thing, if we're glorifying this type of relationship, and we're willing to forgive any type of behavior, what does that say about us? How are we portraying our characters and how does that influence YA readers?
I'm also a big Eric/Sookie fan. Or...I was. I'm not talking about the TV series, which seems to have made him a softer, more charitable version of Eric. I'm talking about the books. I know there was a big uproar (and some very bad behavior) in response to the last book. I haven't read it yet, but people throwing tantrums online have already given the ending away for me.
Am I disappointed? No, the ending makes sense. Not to mention, I stopped liking Eric nearly as much starting with Dead Reckoning. Here's one of the scenes that did it for me:
"You are being a hypocrite and I will take your blood," he said, and he struck.
It hurt. He didn't make it feel good, an action almost automatic for a vampire. Tears ran down my face without my wanting them to. In an odd way, I felt the pain was merited, justified - but I also understood this was a turning point in our relationship.
This made me flinch. No Sookie, the pain isn't warranted. Eric is being a straight up butt-head. There's no excuse for that. And he doesn't get better in the next book either. He's clearly willing to let Sookie give up everything for him (the Cluviel Dor) as long as he himself doesn't have to make any sacrifices (like ignoring his creator's orders). Bill isn't much better, having cheated on her (personally, I don't take "I couldn't help it" as an excuse). And yet, fans seem perfectly content with rooting for either of the vampires.
Are we willing to excuse any kind of disgusting behavior as long as the guy has washboard abs?
How about one of the most famous examples of douchebag behavior in a book character? Edward. He climbs in her bedroom window at night and watches her sleep. He tries to control who she hangs out with. In short, he's a complete control freak with major stalker tendencies. But because he rescues her a couple times and has smouldering eyeballs and pointy cheekbones, we eat it up? What's the message here?
He only controls you because he loves you.
He's aggressive and controlling, and it's HOT.
Crawling into someone's bedroom window at night is SEXY.
Does none of this bother us as readers? Are we willing to forgive this as long as he's hot? What to take away from this: Maybe as YA writers, it's our responsibility to portray relationships in a realistic fashion? Maybe our characters are fictional, but this is a very real problem. Do we give people a pass to date rape just because they seem "nice"? Maybe they're a popular football player, so everyone attempts to sweep it under the rug. Is it art imitating life, or the other way around? We need to axe this mentality somehow, because it's seeping into everything, including our writing.
What's your take on it? Do you still love Spike and Eric? Do you think Edward is just a little too enthusiastic?