Saturday, June 25, 2011

Getting What She Deserves

I’ll admit I sometimes watch Buffy reruns for inspiration. There’s a good laugh in almost every episode, even the serious ones. The thing that brings me back time and again, though, is the consistency of the characters and their depth.

For those of you who don’t know (both of you), here’s a simplified recap of the show’s premise: Buffy Summers is the chosen one, the one girl in the world who has the super-human speed, strength, and agility to take on the vampires and win. Other than her Watcher, she keeps her identity as the Slayer secret and walks through the world alone. Except Buffy’s not so good at secret or alone. She has a circle of friends who help her out and, I think, keep her sane.

One thread that runs throughout the show’s seven seasons is Buffy’s need to have someone to love. She needs someone who can understand her, someone who can accept what she is and love her because of, or maybe in spite of, it. She needs something good, something happy, to balance out the suckage of slaying all the time.

First, she finds Angel. He’s a vampire who was cursed by a gypsy many years ago, so now he has his soul. He doesn’t prey on humans; he tries to keep them safe. Angel was never my favorite. Even the first time I watched the earlier seasons, I thought he was too much the tortured hero. There’s too much of the martyr in him for me. Plus, he doesn’t solve Buffy’s problem – if he feels true happiness he loses his soul and becomes evil again. Not such a good thing when you’re looking for someone to be with.

When Buffy goes to college, she meets Riley, a down-home farm boy from Iowa. Riley’s more than he seems – he’s a member of a super-secret military group trying to neutralize the “sub-terrestrial” threat. Sounds good, right? He’s nice, he’s cute, he fights vampires and demons. He’s also human. Buffy’s not, not really. She’s something more and I think she deserves more than Riley could give her.

Enter Spike. Spike has been a baddie throughout the series. He’s a vampire looking out for himself and no one else. Mostly. Until he falls in love with Buffy. Then he’s still bad, and still looking out for himself, but he really wants to impress her, make her love him. He does horrible things in the process, but in the end he chooses to regain his soul so he can be worthy of Buffy. That’s what does it for me. That makes him better than Angel, better than Riley. He made the choice, knowing that she might not love him back and that he would still have the soul (and thus the guilt for all he’d done). Even without a soul, he loved her.

Of the three major love interests Buffy has, I would want my characters to be more like Spike. Even though he starts out evil, even though he’s despicable through most of the series, his redemption was believable. He was the one I loved to hate, hated to love, and then just loved. He’s the one I want to emulate - I want characters you feel something about, characters who are real.

What about you? If you’ve seen the series would you pick someone else? What about the minor interests, or the ones that went nowhere? Would you want your characters to be like them?