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Something To Sing About In Buffy The Vampire Slayer

1495 words - 6 pages

    Throughout much of recorded human history, people have written tales of the dead returning to life, usually to trouble the living in some way. These traditional myths have progressed from ancient superstitions, to campfire ghost stories, to television shows such as Joss Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In the series, vampires are created from the dead victims of other vampires (as long as a certain rite is performed during the victim's death). After a time they rise from their graves and immediately seek to kill and drink the blood of the living. Creatures such as these are, as Lacan [give first name when you first mention someone] describes them, "between the two deaths" and live again only to fulfill insistent, mechanical drive. This drive, often centered on killing, vengeance, or some other quest for closure, is distinct from desire in that it is not "caught up in dialectical trickery" (Zizek 21). According to Zizek [ditto], normal desires are not always what they seem, for when we desire something, we may be seeking something else entirely (21). Most of the vampires in Buffy the Vampire Slayer fit Lacan's profile of between the two deaths, and, as one might expect, they are antagonists to the protector of the living, Buffy. However, in the musical episode "Once More, with Feeling," Whedon explores two protagonists who are also between the two deaths, each struggling to revert back to their prior state of being, but both in a different situation. One of these characters, Spike, once fit the archetype of the vampire, but now faces difficulty as he is forced to cope with normal dialectical desire in order to exist in the civilized, symbolic world. The other, Buffy, fulfilled the death drive when she sacrificed herself, but has been unnaturally revived in order to continue performing her role in the symbolic order. Though each character is between two deaths, Whedon uses their individual situations to expand and experiment with Lacan's basic concept.


When he first appeared early in the series, the character of Spike was ruthless, violent, and intent on killing Buffy. Eventually, he was rendered incapable of harming humans by a chip implanted in his head, and thus he could not fulfill his death drive through killing. Robbed of his motivation, he could only exist by projecting desire onto an object. By the time of "Once More, with Feeling," Spike has long been in love with Buffy, causing him to act more like a normal man than a vampire between the two deaths. He sings to her, "I died so many years ago / You make me feel like it isn't so." Unfortunately, Buffy refuses to return Spike's affection, and out of frustration he tries to suppress his desire and regress to being dominated by the death drive. This regression is manifested when he expresses to Buffy his urge to find closure by literally being left in peace in a grave: "Let me rest in peace / Let me get some sleep / Let me take my love and...

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