In the ninth episode of the sixth season of Buffy, both Willow and Buffy overcompensate for their fears by making REALLY AWFUL DECISIONS. Also, Spike, WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING? Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Buffy.
[Trigger warning: I have to briefly discuss body image/weight loss issues at one point, as well as my experience being in an abusive/self-destructive relationship. If that’s something you’d like to sit out of, then here’s your warning! Thanks, everyone. – Mark]
You know, I was initially mystified and bewildered by “Smashed.” How the fuck had this show gotten to this point? I had to take a moment and think about what I’d just seen before I was able to understand it. Admittedly, so much of this story is shocking, confusing, and upsetting. It was meant to be, but it was hard for me to think about it critically when I was so busy FREAKING THE FUCK OUT OVER HOW UNCOMFORTABLE THIS WAS.
But I got to thinking about the first relationship I was ever in, and I realized that there was something of great substance beneath the plot twists and the shock: sometimes, when left to our own devices, we can make terrible decisions.
My first relationship was manipulative and abusive, and I occasionally feel shame about it ever happening. I wanted to believe that I would never allow myself to be in a relationship that was so destructive and harmful. I’m better than that, I told myself. I won’t let that happen! I have too many close friends who will look out for me, who will tell me if I’ve got a boyfriend who isn’t treating me well. Truthfully, I did. The problem, though, was that I kept the entire relationship to myself. I wasn’t ashamed of the guy I fell in love with. On the contrary, I wanted to tell the whole world that I’d finally found a man that I loved. He was my first one! But the guy I was seeing did not feel the same way about me. He did not introduce me to his friends. He wouldn’t show me affection if we went out in public, saying that believed gay men should keep that to themselves. He refused to say he was in a relationship on MySpace. (MY GOD, DID I JUST DATE MYSELF?) And he told me that I should do the same thing, and over the course of six months, he isolated me from all my friends. That isolation, in part, is why I lacked any perspective on what was happening to me. I had no friends who could lovingly tell me that perhaps I was making poor choices by giving this man my time, my money, and my love. I had no friends to assure me that I was worthy, that I should be with someone who was proud to call me their boyfriend, and that I would be happier without this guy siphoning my energy and money away from me.
I’ve spoken in the past about how my need for affection has unfortunately caused me to make bad decisions. That was the case here, yes, but I know that in hindsight, it was my self-imposed loneliness that was my ultimate downfall. I willingly took myself away from my support network. When I finally hit rock bottom, I had almost no one there to help me. And you know what? I blame myself for that. Well, wait, I blame my first boyfriend for everything because he was a selfish, thieving, and abusive waste of space. I want to make that clear. What he did to me was his fault. That doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t examine what I did to enable this behavior, though. Without any friends to help me out, I veered rapidly towards self-destruction. I don’t talk about one aspect of what this man did to me, but I think I’m okay talking about it in this aspect. My first boyfriend was obsessed with men who had traditionally beautiful bodies. He wanted and desired men who were thin, muscular, and athletic. When he suddenly developed feelings for me, he couldn’t rectify his emotions with his view of what physical type he normally liked. I was chubby and large in those days, around 225 pounds. So he started shaming me. He’d make fun of my appetite. He’d tell me that it was a good thing that I was so fun to be around because my body left a lot to be desired. He’d make comments about how close the gym was to his apartment, urging me to start working out. And I told no one. Not a single one of my friends knew that he was treating me this way, and it was because he wanted to keep our relationship a secret.
So I started working out. First, it was forty-five minutes, three or four times a week. Soon, I was at the gym six days a week. Then I was working out for nearly two hours a day, running up to eight miles on average per day. There was a part of me that enjoyed it, especially since it was nice to return to long distance running again. I had missed that, and it was nice to see that I could still run pretty fast. But as the pounds started disappearing, the insults didn’t stop. I was still too fat. I was still massive. His pet name for me was Hippo. And no matter how much these jibes hurt me and made me feel awful, in my self-involved little world, I justified them. I believed him.
When my first boyfriend finally broke up with me over a MySpace message after having taken thousands of dollars from me to fuel his coke habit and pay his bills, I weighed 151 pounds. I had lost nearly 75 pounds in five months. And while I thought I was healthy, my body was eating itself alive because I was overworking it and underfeeding it all just to make a man love me.
He never loved me back. He cheated on me, once right in front of my face while high, and not a single one of my friends knew about this. This was years ago, and I’ve not made this mistake again. And I feel perfectly fine stating this: it was a terrible mistake that I let my support network go, and it was a terrible mistake to refuse to seek out help when I felt like something was wrong.
My visceral reaction to the events of “Smashed” are based on this same feeling. I watched Buffy and Willow make one bad decision after another, and I can’t forget that both of them almost spoke openly with each other. Over the course of this show, these two friends have gone to one another for support nearly every time something has gone wrong. But here, we see how Willow purposely refuses to acknowledge why Tara left, distancing all of the Scoobies. We see how bringing back Amy has given her another person to enable all of these awful tendencies in her. We watch Buffy pursue a relationship with Spike that’s not just violently sexual, but destructive. Well, literally so in two cases: Spike beats her, and then the house they have sex in crumbles around him. I don’t feel like this relationship is healthy at all, and it terrifies me to see Spike and Buffy get close in this way. I am at a point where I really want to see Spike/Buffy explored, but this? Holy shit, what are these people doing?
And I must be fair here: Spike is INCREDIBLY inappropriate here. He kind of veers towards Nice Guy territory a few times in “Smashed,” treating Buffy as if he deserves physical affection from her. Like, for real, it’s so gross? Especially since Buffy sets her physical boundaries MULTIPLE TIMES, and he ignores every single one, insisting that he knows her needs and desires better. I have to remember that Spike is still a soulless vampire, and this episode makes his characterization so much more complex. He acts selfishly here. I mean, when he discovers that his chip won’t work on Buffy because she came back to life less human, he doesn’t console or comfort her. He exploits it for his own gain. Ugh, Spike, what the fuck are you doing?
Willow and Buffy are very much alone in this episode. Giles is gone, and Buffy can’t talk to Willow. She has no one to confide in about her confusing emotions. I mean, she’s attracted to a vampire without a soul, and that has to be really difficult for her to deal with. On top of that, now she finds out she’s possibly not human, broken irreparably after Willow brought her back, and Giles isn’t there to assure her of anything otherwise. Willow doesn’t have Tara around to keep her use of magic in check, and so she loses control, heading out with Amy to do FUCKING HORRIBLE THINGS to all the people at the Bronze. I’m hoping that the show doesn’t blame Giles or Tara for what happens to Buffy or Willow. So far, it doesn’t. And I was SO HAPPY to see that the writers are keeping Tara around, especially to develop her relationship with Dawn. Plus, it’s nice to see that they’re giving her character time to cope with breaking up with Willow, too. It gives me a much fuller picture of what’s going on with the Scoobies.
This was a difficult episode to watch, for sure. I mean, I guess I liked it? It always feels weird to say that you liked something this upsetting because I don’t like the things that are happening. I just appreciate the writing, and from a personal standpoint, I know how isolation can really fuck things up. I went through it myself. (Incidentally, I’m writing this on the day that Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange came out, and I can’t stop listening to “Bad Religion.” I can’t think of a recent song being more applicable to my life than this one. UGH OVERWHELMED BY FEELINGS.)
Jesus, this is just going to keep getting worse, isn’t it?
On a positive note, I fucking love the Trio so much. The whole Boba Fett scene was perfection. Ugh, and the Doctor Who / Red Dwarf comment was just too much for me. MORE OF THEM, PLEASE.
This episode also has a Mark Watches video attached to it. The fabulous Kelly sponsored this episode and the following two Buffy episodes as well! She is currently running an INCREDIBLY SUCCESSFUL Kickstarter campaign for her first novel, The Girl Who Would Be King. The Kickstarter ends next week, and you can preview some of it on her site! OMG. And now, on to the video for “Smashed.”
The video commission for this episode is now archived on MarkDoesStuff.com for $0.99!
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