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Ship Wars: 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' edition

There are numerous heated battles that come up when pop-culture junkies discuss television. Is Buffy Summers the greatest feminist heroine of our time? Would Benson and Stabler have gotten together if Christopher Meloni had stayed on SVU? Was the Seinfeld finale the most underwhelming finale of all time? What was the smoke monster, exactly? Is Tony Soprano still alive and well?

However, the most passionate debates often center on TV ships, or which TV couple you root for on a show. To that end, we’re launching a new weekly feature: “TV Ship Wars.”

Here’s the sitch: Each week, EW Community members will dissect our favorite TV love triangles of the past and present. We will present a case for our favorite pair, and you sound off and add your own analysis in the comments. Love is a battlefield, y’all, so get ready.

Our first pairings are the tortured souls—and the soulless—of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Spoilers ahead!

Joanna Skrabala, Team Angel: Angel (David Boreanaz) and Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) were (and still are) a pair of perfect star-crossed lovers. What’s more lyrical than a vampire with a soul falling in love with the Slayer? Nothing. Whedon knew what he was doing when he wrote these characters into our lives. Sure, Spike is a vamp too—and he and Buffy share a great relationship—but Spike (James Marsters) will never be the chosen one for Buffy (more on that in a minute). Because both Buffy and Angel are tragic heroes, neither will ever lead a normal life as long as there’s a fight to be fought. They are leaders—and while all of this makes them an ideal match on paper, it is also the reason they could never ride off into the sunset together.

In the beginning, they unknowingly tried to be a “real” couple—but that consummation only led to a big, bad Angelus, and one very wounded Buffy. Later, the two share the most couple-y of days when Angel becomes human—and it’s everything you want it to be, until it’s not and Angel realizes he can’t be the champion he needs to be if he’s flesh and blood.

And that’s the thing right there. As great as the love is between Buffy and Angel, and as much as they want to be with one another, they simply cannot because of who they are and what they mean to the world. Yet they accept it and live with it. Self-sacrifice, man—it’s a bitch.

Back to Spike. Much of the above can be argued for our favorite Champion #2. He’s a vampire in love with the Slayer, and yes, he’s a hero who sacrifices a lot. During the last couple seasons, Spike was exactly what Buffy needed (even though she may not have realized it). And his allegiance to Buffy (over Faith) has my eternal gratitude. All is true and great—but in the end, he’s just a Robin to Buffy’s Batman. And this is why he cannot fill those brooding vampire shoes. The level of heroism is skewed when Spike’s loyalty—as commendable as it is—is to Buffy only, and not for the greater good. Spike is a devotee, not a leader. Buffy’s foremost affections are reserved for a different kind of vampire.

And woefully, Buffy will never get that happy ending with Angel—family, kids, cuddling on the couch while watching Netflix. But that doesn’t make them any less of a soulmate to one another. They have and will die and kill for one another and the world—even killing the other in the process. The magnitude of their purpose may cost them their endgame together, but the love is unaffected. As long as they exist in a world together, they will be in and out of the other’s life, forever there when needed. Buffy will always be Angel’s girl.

Cristina Iskander, Team Spike: First, let me acknowledge that I loved Spike with Drusilla. Their love is a thing of twisted poetry. I also understand the appeal of Angel and Buffy. I’m not a (Buffy)bot. I can appreciate how big and important first love is, but that’s all this is: first love that feels epic, but in actuality, isn’t soulmate-level love. I firmly believe Spike was the better person (man? vampire?) for her (and this isn’t just because of that intense, house-shaking sex scene, though that passion certainly doesn’t hurt my argument).

Angel and Buffy spend more of their relationship tossing tortured glances at each other than they do actually enjoying each other; it’s hard for me to root for them because of that. Other than them saying they’re meant for each other, what evidence do we really have that this is a grand romance? Angel is constantly making decisions on Buffy’s behalf. He withholds information from her, he shuts her out, he questions her decisions. He has her on a pedestal romantically and sexually, but doesn’t seem to place the same value on her outside of those identities. He doesn’t treat her like an adult or an equal partner.

Spike, on the other hand, spars with her verbally, but it’s clear he respects and appreciates her fully. In “Touched,” Spike says, “I’ve seen the best and the worst of you, and I understand with perfect clarity exactly what you are. You are a hell of a woman.” Spike and Buffy communicate. In fact, Spike is the only one Buffy can talk to after she comes back to life in season six. These two actually talk. They have fun together. They grow … together. It’s not a coincidence Angel and Buffy do much better when they are apart, while Spike and Buffy enhance each other as people.

I agree with Joanna that Spike sometimes does things for Buffy and not for the greater good, but I actually don’t see this as a flaw. Buffy inspires him to do more and to be more. Spike deliberately sought to earn back his soul in order to be worthy of Buffy. He wasn’t cursed with one, as Angel was; furthermore, his love for Buffy is transcendent. He loved her both when he had a soul and when he did not, which can’t be said for Angel/Angelus. Plus, unlike Angel, Spike is a constant in Buffy’s life. If Harry Potter is the Boy Who Lived, Spike is the Man Who Stayed. Angel leaves Buff, and other people in his life, time and time again. Yet Spike, who often refers to himself as a Big Bad, is one of the most loyal characters in the series. It’s Spike who looks out for Dawn after Buffy’s death at the end of season five. It’s Spike who sides with her when many of her friends do not (one of the few highlights in the very dismal season seven). It’s Spike who ultimately sacrifices himself to close the Hellmouth and, most important, to protect Buffy.

I too believe Buffy loved Spike. She tells him so, and these aren’t words she throws around lightly. I’ve always interpreted her hesitance around fully embracing it as a byproduct of her past failed romances (and when your past boyfriends include demons and secret agents, who can blame you?) She chose to spend what she thought was her last night on earth with Spike. That speaks volumes.

 

So what do you think, shippers? Who would you choose for the Chosen One? Let us know below!

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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