I am a hardcore Spuffy shipper. Oh yes, I ship them to Mars and back. For those who don’t know, Spuffy is the pairing in Buffy the Vampire Slayer of Buffy and Spike, and shipping…well shipping is the unholy obsession that some of us have with certain pairs of people who we desperately want to get together because we live vicariously through their beautiful relationships. I have a lot of feels about Spuffy. I have a lot of Thoughts about Spuffy. But it’s been a while since I watched Buffy and right now my love for that pairing is slowly being usurped by a love for Belle and Rumplestiltskin (the last episode kills me. There will be spoilers of it in this post). And I’ve started to notice a lot of parallels between these two couples, particularly between Spike and Belle. This might strike some as a little odd considering the fact that Belle is a sweet girl who sacrifices her life to save her kingdom and sees the good in a beast whereas Spike is a soulless bloodthirsty vampire who keeps trying to kill Buffy. But the reason I love these two relationships is because each of these characters is a truth teller.
One of the things that I have always loved about Spike is that he sees right through the other characters in the show and says what needs to be said. From the point where he starts getting developed as a regular character this happens. In Lover’s Walk in season 3 he calls out Angel and Buffy, saying what no one else will say: “You’re not friends. You’ll never be friends. You’ll be in love till it kills you both. You’ll fight, and you’ll shag, and you’ll hate each other till it makes you quiver, but you’ll never be friends. Love isn’t brains, children, it’s blood…blood screaming inside you to work its will. I may be love’s bitch, but at least I’m man enough to admit it.” And from this point forward Spike becomes the truth teller of the show, even when he manipulates others and skews the truth to get his way. I think we see it most intimately in season 7 when Buffy has been kicked out of her home by the potentials, and Spike comforts her in the abandoned home. He doesn’t comfort her with empty words, he tells her exactly how he sees her and exactly how amazing that makes her.
In many ways, Spike is even a truth teller at the darkest points of their relationship. In season 6, he’s the only one who can see where Buffy has been and who asks her about it. He’s the only one who sees her when she’s truly falling apart. And he KNOWS that she is using him: in “Gone” he doesn’t want to have sex with her because he is in love with her and doesn’t want to be used anymore, he only wants to be with her if she’s willing to be seen with him. He knows exactly what she’s doing and he does call her out on it. In many other instances, Spike sees the good in Buffy, names it, and she grows. In season 6, Spike sees the darkness in Buffy, names it, and she grows more fully into that darkness. But either way, he is telling her the truth of herself. That forms the crux of their relationship and in the long run his ability to tell the truth is what allows their relationship to flourish. When Buffy is turning into something horrible, truth-telling destroys them, but when she is at her best, it saves them.
And I believe that there are some brief moments where truth-telling is what saves Spike too. In Seeing Red when Spike attempts to rape Buffy, she is finally able to tell him the truth of what she thinks he is, of the facts that he has no soul, of the fact that he cannot and has not respected her. Only through this truth-telling does Spike manage to find his soul and grow into a person who would NEVER do that again. And in the end, when Buffy gives Spike the amulet, she is telling him the truth that she sees him as a hero and it is only through that truth that he can save others. While Spike is more often pulling their relationship through with his truth, at crucial moments Buffy is able to tell Spike who he really is. When he is truly broken or when he desperately needs help to complete an action, she brings him back to who he is.
In a remarkably similar way to Spike, Belle is a truth-teller. From the beginning, both Spike and Belle see something that draws them to their respective lover. I believe that each of them sees nuggets of truth that no one else can identify. Belle knows from the beginning that Rumple is not as dark as everyone thinks he is. Belle is truth-teller in a slightly different way from Spike though: sometimes she comes straight out and tells Rumple who he is, but more often she tells the truth through her actions. She knows that Rumple will not hurt her for freeing Robin Hood. She knows that he will not kill Robin Hood. She acts in accordance with this knowledge and that proves to Rumple that he is who she believes he is. She reminds him verbally over and over that he is not dark and that there is love in his heart. She even reminds others, and in their relationship telling the truth to everyone is hugely important because Rumple’s reputation is an important part of his self-perception.
In the most current episode, Belle has forgotten who she is, and yet I still believe that she is a truth-teller. She sees through Rumple’s “best behavior”, the act and the façade that he puts up to try to win her over. She sees that there is darkness inside of him (because no one can deny that). He has been repressing his feelings of rage and impotence for a long time in Storybrook in order to try to win back his family, but it seems that he feels he is worthless and useless when he does this because in Storybrook love is more complicated than it is in the Enchanted Forest. Just as when he first became the Dark One, Rumple feels a need for power in order to protect himself, particularly when he has lost the love of those he cares about. Lacey sees this. Lacey sees that he has this overwhelming need to be safe through power. Belle is still telling the truth even when she is not herself.
But I suspect that what is really necessary right now is for Rumple to tell the truth. Belle is just as lost right now as Spike was in the middle of season 6. Belle needs her truth-teller to kick her in the chest and tell her to get her god damn soul back. Rumple has not stepped up yet. He’s tried, but he doesn’t know how to tell truth like Belle does and he has not been pushed in the same way Buffy was. Rumple needs to learn how to tell Belle’s truth before anything will break. I am highly looking forward to that moment.
The thing that I love about these relationships is that they ring true for me: the strongest and deepest relationships appear when you can see someone for who they truly are, both good and bad, and when you can help them become more themselves. This is true in media, but it is even more true in real life. Relationships live and die on truth-telling, and it is inspiring to me that relationships like these exist in media, relationships in which individuals are not afraid to tell the truth to each other no matter how terrifying it might be. And the reactions portrayed are real. Sometimes when you hear the truth about yourself you grow and change. Sometimes when you hear the truth about yourself you fall further into whatever you are at that moment. But truth-telling is always central to relationships.