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/waves/ Here's my meta! I was pretty excited when the chicken gave me meta to write, because I've always intended to write some anyway, so this is a great chance. The prompts themselves didn't really call out to me, so here is my rambling, slightly pointless work.

The Dance Begins: Buffy and Spike in School Hard

Tell you what. As a personal favour from me to you, I’ll make it quick.

When you think School Hard, you think Spike. You remember bulldozing that flimsy Sunnydale sign (setting a tradition till the bittersweet end), caring for Dru from the first; you recall Woodstock and stalking Buffy, getting hit over the head with an axe; Yodas and boredom; dusting the Annoying One. You think Spike.

But this isn't about Spike. There’s Buffy.

The main meat of Buffy's story in this episode is, of course, balancing her Slayer duties with everyday ones, a struggle that will inevitably continue through the series. The forces of darkness she must deal with in this particular episode are basically Spike and his much-hyped Slayer of Slayerness. He's the bind, the conflict, the vampire; he is the evil she must battle and will have to battle through the series, be it as an external threat or a representation of her own darkness.

These are the early days, the high school days, when Buffy was young(er) and (more) naive. Slayer versus normality is more commonly referred to as Slayer versus girl (made ever more obvious by the, ahem, tampon), never mind that being a girl is an inherent part of Slayerness (all Slayers are girls).

As Buffy struggles with her dual identities, Spike embraces them. He’s a punk vampire who delights in eschewing tradition. Even in this early stage, he makes no secret of being love’s bitch while flaunting his masculinity (taking control, ordering his minions around—and let’s not forget: ‘I just like them. They make me feel all manly’). He’s evil, he’s darkness, but at the same time, he’s bright and full of vitality. He’s learned to integrate and accept all parts of himself. (Let’s ignore the later revelation of William, shall we? This is about School Hard, and what the episode itself says.)

Particularly telling is his response to Sheila’s ‘Who are you?’: ‘Who do you want me to be?’ He’s adaptable. But more significantly, his individualism is malleable. This trait carries on to be an integral part of him, especially with his later love for Buffy and extraneous character changes. I also find the whole ‘Things change.’ – ‘Not us! Not demons!’ particularly funny. Buffy, on the other hand, is forced to mould herself to expectations. Her Watcher’s expectations, her mother’s expectations, her school’s, her friends’, her own. She tries her best to find wiggle room under the circumstances, put her own spin on her obligations. She has her dark vampire lover/boyfriend who broods and broods and occasionally offers up her friends as bread to break to his old friends. She dances at the Bronze and tries to make lemonade. She is chided on her appearance (thanks, Cordelia), reminded she is young, worries about her mom’s approval. Buffy juggles all this rather well, of course; her mistake lies in separating them into two discrete entities (her normal is her life, her Slaying is ‘a job’), which goes to hell when they get, as they do, all mixed up—

—But wait. This isn’t about Buffy.

There’s Spike. There’s Buffy. There’s the individuals, the pair; Slayer and vampire; hero and villain. It’s about them.

This is it. They start off rather separate, have a small first meeting, then collide spectacularly in their first faceoff. This is Spike, mixed up but singular; there is Buffy, pure Slayer. They’re cardboard cut-outs to one another, playing the roles they were made into. Vampire and Slayer. Forced identity.

In School Hard, they are identically marked. Spike with the blood drawn by Dru, and Buffy with paint from the banner, both on the cheek. They are nothing to each other, constructs and paper, but they are both foils and parallels on a deeper level, even if they don’t know it yet.

And maybe Buffy’s got her hands way too full and needs to concentrate on Spike too. Maybe Spike’s bitten off more than he can chew with this Slayer. Their underestimation comes into play when Spike bursts into the school three days before planned, bringing both of Buffy’s worlds into collision.

Spike learns his lesson that very night after Joyce clonks him on the head with a fire axe. After bringing the Slayer out, he realises there’s a girl—a Slayer with family and friends. He realises the significance, the importance of this. She’s a package deal, he won’t ask for anything else.

Buffy learns hers when he allies with her in Becoming. She can’t ignore the discrepancies in Spike anymore, what with Drusilla and the punk and rashness; he wants to team up. With good. To save the world. Bit of a shake on her world view there, and it’s then that he’s most definitely no longer just A Vampire anymore. He’s the freak vampire, straightforward but unfathomable—and Buffy definitely doesn’t want to fathom.

And then there’s the chip and begrudging allies, a love spell and a revelation, a leap—

—But that’s a ways off. For now, Spike is an annoyance on the peripheral, Buffy a goal. They aren’t quite known to each other yet.

It won’t hurt a bit.

And that’s the beauty, really. One thing I love about Buffy and Spike is that they start as two different characters, sometimes in orbit with each other, sometimes not. They aren’t soul mates. There is no love at first sight. There is no easy path.

Spike thinks this is just another kill (if a Slayer can ever be referred to as ‘just another’). Buffy thinks he’s just another vamp.

There is Spike. There is Buffy. Spike and Buffy come a little later. And by then…

No, Spike. It’s gonna hurt a lot.


( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 26th, 2013 02:49 pm (UTC)
Applause applause!! I enjoyed this!
Mar. 27th, 2013 08:54 am (UTC)
Thank you!
Mar. 26th, 2013 03:59 pm (UTC)
Huh, leading up to that line, at it inevitably would. Well done. I don't care what Joss said about Spike's initial role as a disposable villain, that incredible chemistry between them - as enemies or allies, was there from the beginning.
Mar. 27th, 2013 08:54 am (UTC)
Thanks. I just love that line.
Mar. 26th, 2013 07:04 pm (UTC)
tres nifty!
Mar. 27th, 2013 08:54 am (UTC)
Mar. 26th, 2013 08:11 pm (UTC)
As did I!
Mar. 27th, 2013 08:55 am (UTC)
Assuming you're referring to treadingthedark's comment, thank you!
Mar. 26th, 2013 10:34 pm (UTC)
Excellent meta. Lots of very interesting points.

‘No, Spike. It’s gonna hurt a lot.’
Oh boy - it really did.
Mar. 27th, 2013 08:55 am (UTC)
Thanks so much.
Mar. 27th, 2013 06:30 pm (UTC)
And you should write meta more often too. :)
Mar. 28th, 2013 10:07 am (UTC)
Thanks! I do plan to.
Mar. 30th, 2013 03:11 am (UTC)
Love the meta - and the exploration of where both characters are!

I do have to say that to tell someone you are going to kill them on Saturday - and then wait until Saturday - is not a very tactical decision. Whether is was impatience, or a desire to have the advantage of surprise, I can't say.

Is good - write more!
Mar. 30th, 2013 06:16 am (UTC)
May. 8th, 2013 03:25 pm (UTC)
I do have to say that to tell someone you are going to kill them on Saturday - and then wait until Saturday - is not a very tactical decision.

Of course Spike then jumps the gun and attacks on - Thursday? Tactical strategy is not his strong suit. He's rather ADHD-ish (at this point in the series) that way.

In terms of saying that to Buffy, I think part of that is swagger aka I'm the new BIG BAD in town, I'm the one you need to look out for. He's not driven by power per se but respect is a big thing for him, in terms of how others see him, but he doesn't respect a "chain of command"; witness the way he takes down other vamps and even the Anointed One.

I can also see that as wanting to strike a little fear and unease in her heart, thinking that he'll keep this "little girl" nervous and always looking over her shoulder, expecting a lonely girl not ones with friends and family. (Although - is that "no friends or family" really a later thing, ie Restless or FFL, or is it stated in the early seasons? I can't recall. And we find out it's not true anyway.)
May. 8th, 2013 03:34 pm (UTC)
You wrote meta and I missed it? My bad! This is great and I have nothing to add but a lot of agreement, and I love how you keep FFL and later developments on the back burner, because none of that was in the mix as yet here. When I watched this episode the first time last year I was thrilled by the entrance of Spike and Dru, they electrified me (esp after the Master who was funny in his way but not scary); but I was equally thrilled with Joyce protecting Buffy ("no one lays a hand on my little girl!" Oh Joyce, if you only knew....) and trusting that her daughter could "take care of herself".

Which, in hindsight, might be as much of a negative as a positive - the trust is good, but perhaps it allowed Joyce to continue her rationalizations and denials about what was happening right in front of her? (i.e. the blood stains she never said anything about, not seeming to see that Buffy had a LOT of strength and power in Ted, etc.) "My girl can take care of herself" also overlooks the fact that Buffy was still a little girl in a lot of ways. That she can still be hurt, that she doesn't always know what to do and is still growing up. It certainly fits well with later developments (esp Giles leaving in S6.) I'm NOT saying Joyce is a bad mother btw; I adore the complexity of their relationship. But I'd never thought of the end of that episode and Joyce's line quite that way before. *runs off to ponder*

‘No, Spike. It’s gonna hurt a lot.’

RIght? I watched the ep again recently and that line pretty much foreshadows the arc of their relationship; and nobody planned it at the time? It's just scary-good.
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )


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