There are really no words for how much Buffy the Vampire Slayer meant to me as a teenager. Or how much it means to me even now, as a full-blown adult. On the surface, Buffy is a campy paranormal fantasy about a blonde vampire slayer who moves to Sunnydale, California, home of a Hellmouth. In reality, the show is an allegory for growing up, using monsters to represent the demons that we face at different points in our adolescence. It’s also quick, smart, heart wrenching, deeply moving, and just plain fun. The day it went off the air was a dark one all around that many fans can attest to. And while creator Joss Whedon has continued the story in a series of comic books, it’s just not the same as watching our favorite characters come to life on screen (looking at you, SMG).
If you can’t tell, I’m a superfan. I pretty much worship at the altar of Whedon, who taught me that a teen show can be so much more than just makeouts and drama. Not to say that Buffy didn’t have its fair share of makeouts and drama. Buffy Summers and the Scooby Gang started out as high schoolers after all, and though they dealt with more conflict than most students (dying and coming back to life, saving the world (a lot), and fighting multiple Big Bads), they were still young and hormonal.
Which brings us to the two major Buffy ‘ships that had fans divided over 10 years ago –- and still get debated about to this day: “Bangel” vs. “Spuffy.” This is a classic ‘ship war and one that has never truly been resolved, floating out there in the open-ended ether and tormenting fans for years. By the end of the series in 2003, Buffy is with neither Angel, her first love, nor Spike, the complicated relationship that could have been so much more. While we wait in anticipation for the very minute possibility of a reboot (We would literally fall at Whedon’s feet if this happened), here’s a rundown of this longtime rivalry:
“Bangel”: Buffy and Angel
Was there ever a couple as tortured as Buffy and Angel? They were doomed from the start: he’s a vampire and she’s a vampire slayer, destined to kill his kind. But their attraction is undeniable, and the two can’t seem to stay away from each other. Their first time together is tender, sweet –
– and ends with Angel reaching true happiness, losing his soul and turning into the uber-evil Angelus. After sending him to a hell where he’s tortured for a century, Buffy and Angel work to repair their relationship and live like a normal couple. But they’ll never be truly normal; a fact that plagues Angel and results in him leaving Buffy at the end of the third season. He decides to start over in LA, specifically on his new TV show, Angel. The two never really fall out of love though, frequently visiting each other and having the most bittersweet reunion ever in the heartbreaking Angel episode, “I Will Remember You.” No matter what happens, Buffy and Angel prove over and over that they’ll always be there for each other. Theirs is a soulmate-type love, transcending space and time. And though they both fall for other people over the years, the connection between the two never fully dies. Angel is Buffy’s first love, and Buffy is the one who taught Angel true humanity. They just make each other better.
“Spuffy”: Spike and Buffy
Buffy and Angel might be endlessly tortured, but at their core is a pure, simple kind of love. The same can’t be said for Spike and Buffy, who take complicated to a whole other level. Spike starts out the series as a villain, and one of Buffy’s longstanding enemies. He even has his own tortured love affair with the delightfully unhinged vampire, Drusilla. When Spike becomes incapable of hurting humans (thanks to a handy little chip) his relationship with Buffy begins to shift. At first he reluctantly helps her, then reluctantly falls for her. But it’s not easy to change your nature over night, particularly when that nature is of a homicidal vampire.
Spike makes a lot of mistakes, included making a Buffybot sex toy, and though he still doesn’t have a soul, he struggles with his nature as a vampire who can’t be violent. He and Buffy have a pretty turbulent relationship overall, and he becomes the boy that she can’t seem to stop sleeping with, despite knowing that he’s bad for her. It all comes to a head in Seeing Red, where, in a fit of anger, Spike throws Buffy to the ground and almost rapes her. He leaves town, regains his soul, and returns to try and win back Buffy’s trust. It takes time, but she eventually comes to lean on him, defending him to the rest of the Scoobies and trusting him enough to bring him into her final battle against the First Evil. It’s in that battle that Spike sacrifices himself for Buffy and the world, and though he’s later resurrected in LA, his death is what finally makes him a champion in Buffy’s eyes.
Their love is tumultuous and rocky, mostly one-sided and a little morally ambiguous. But there’s no question that Spike loves Buffy, and the two have so much passion that they literally tear a house down with the power of their makeouts. It might not be very healthy at times, but these two clearly have something powerful between them, and they always will.
Verdict: Bangel. I can’t deny the chemistry between Buffy and Spike, nor the way he fights so hard to win her trust and love throughout the series. But it is very, very difficult to come back from a scene where one character sexually assaults a person they’re supposed to love. Sure, Spike doesn’t have a soul at the time, and Buffy comes to forgive him. But I’m still not sure I can forgive him -– or that I should.
Angel also ‘went bad,’ in the series, but Angelus was treated as an entirely different character from Angel, making it clear that this was not the person Buffy fell in love with. It’s a little murkier with Spike, and the relationship between Spuffy is definitely never quite black and white. Call me a romantic, but I prefer Buffy with a character who I trust to love her unconditionally. Angel might not be perfect, but I truly believe the two will eventually make it work and will spend the rest of their lives fighting evil side by side.
Are you for Bangel or Spuffy? Vote below!