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This recent post by Shadowkat about shipping Spuffy and gender reversals in the relationship shadowkat67.livejournal.com/793238.html linked on Buffyforums by Moscow Watcher got me to write a short reply about my views, which are a bit different from hers. I can't do that on her LJ  because she flipped out on me with absolutely no reason and attacked me on her LJ about a month ago and then blocked me.

Incidentally, I'd love to know which five factions of Spuffy shippers she thinks there are, and would ask her if I could. I also wonder if the "vast majority" of Spuffy shippers really identify with Spike rather than Buffy? A poll would be interesting, but I'm not sure where the best place to conduct it would be.

Anyway, here are some things I agree with in that essay, and some that I disagree with. I think her view of the relationship as a "gender-flipped one" in which Buffy is in control is oversimplified and doesn't quite match how I see it. It's not that she's not right - it's that this is just a part of the complexity of the dynamic. There are some ways in which their gender roles are flipped - and some ways in which they are not. Spike does play the male version of the femme fatale (homme fatale?), but I can tell you many ways in which Spike also plays some classic masculine roles, from admirer/courtly lover to stalker/pursuer to aggressive male seducer to reformed beast/bad boy. Likewise for the roles that Buffy plays. The closest to how I see it is what an academic essay on Spuffy said - they don't flip gender roles, they share gender roles. I don't think anyone was "in control" of the relationship, especially not in season 6 which was a constant struggle. I know the view expressed in this essay, it's the view of many female Spuffy shippers who identify with Spike and not with Buffy. But I don't share it and it misses a lot of the complexity of the relationship. Which is what makes it all the more interesting. I'm not interested in the same old story with genders just flipped, or in stories where one person is in control and the other one is a "bottom" (kind of funny in the context).

I particularly disagree with her summary of Buffy/Angel. Her view is, again, one I know, since it tends to be the view of female fans of Spike who dislike Angel and Bangel. You might know I'm not fond of Bangel anymore and haven't been for a long time (to put it mildly), but I find this view, again, oversimplified, and it doesn't match how I see it:


The trope is older/experienced guy, powerful, knowledgable, wealthy and a control freak with either a dark secret, a dark past, or an abusive childhood - seduces younger girl, who is less experienced, and not wealthy and who saves him or heals him in some way. It's a partriachial trope for a patriachial world. Examples? Stefan/Elena, Angel/Buffy, Christian Grey/Anatasia, Edward/Bella, Dracula/Mina, Mr. Rochester/Jane Eyre, Cordelia/Angel, Fred/Wesely, Fred/Gunn, Echo/ What'shisname who played Helo (Ballard?) there are others. It's an old trope. I'm not belittling the trope. I liked it at one point. It's popular for a reason. I like to call it the Beauty and the Beast complex. It sort of goes back to that fairy tale, I think. Very popular with the 18-24 set. Also for some reason with successful career women and mothers in their 40s, if Shades of Grey is any indication.

 
A few of the pairings listed don't really match that description either, but I'll focus on Bangel here.

What this quote misses is that Bangel actually subverted those tropes like whoa. The description above is how it may appear on the surface, because it's presented from Buffy's POV, and Angel tends to be a mysterious older man who gives her books of cheesy 19th century poetry and inexplicably lives in a Gothic mansion or an apartment with a lot of artefacts from around the world. But in fact, when you skim beneath the surface and think about all the facts...

Bear in mind that this is BtVS Angel we're talking about, not AtS Angel.

Angel, like Spike, also plays the "femme fatale" or rather homme fatale to Buffy's hero. Maybe even more so, because we get to see him almost solely from Buffy's POV, he rarely gets his own, unlike Spike, who occasionally threatens to take over the narrative with his POV of 'unrequited lover trying to win the lady'. Angel is mysterious and apparently unattainable - from Buffy's POV, even though he's actually been obsessing over Buffy before she even knew he existed. Angel is a damsel and Buffy saves him more often than the other way round - see What's My Line.

Angel is not wealthy. Angel is not powerful (not until he loses his soul and regains his standing with the vampires). Angel has no job, no friends, no family except for vampires that he's estranged from, no purpose in life other than following Buffy around. He's the guy who used to live in the street and eat rats. He must be squatting in that big abandoned mansion (the real estate is really cheap in Sunnydale) while those artefacts can only be stuff he stole while travelling the world with Darla. Buffy is the one with a job/duty, the one who goes to school and has friends and family, the one who takes care of the community. She is a fighter; he's the one who gives up and submits to destiny.  She has an active personality; he has a passive one. It's Angel, not Spike, who is weak - and he knows that (see Amends) while Buffy's strong.

How Angel managed to make Buffy not notice how pathetic he really was in Sunnydale is really amazing. His surface alpha male persona seems to be more convincing than Spike's, especially when the fandom is concerned, or it's more subtly subverted and deconstructed so that people don't even notice it.

That's one thing that Meltzer got right in 8.34: Angel is the yin (traditionally described as the "female" principle) to Buffy's "yang" (supposedly "masculine" principle - oh those gender stereotypes. (Spike can't be her yin; he's too "yang" for that and sometimes seems to be more "yang" to her "yin" than the other way round. Spike is certainly a yang to Angel's yin, for the most part - [the Spangels will love this, even though I don't mean it in the slashy way).

See some of the traits associated with yin and yang:

Yin - Darkness, Night, Moon, Winter, Passivity, Feminine, Shade, Rest, Flat, Matter, Produces form, Descending, Below, Water, Cold, Dampness, Deficiency, Hypo-activity, Quiet

Yang - Light, Day, Sun, Summer, Activity, Masculine, Brightness, Activity, Heaven, Round, Energy, Produces energy, Ascending, Above, Fire, Heat, Dryness, Excess, Hyperactivity, Talkative

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