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Realism and Spuffy

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So there’s a conversation going on here about the origins of “Spuffy” as a fannish term, and I was wracking my brains trying to remember when it first showed up, and under what circumstances. If anyone else who was around back then can add to or correct my failing memory, please do.

This is how I remember it: when I first got into fandom in late S5, no one used smushnames. There was some debate between Buffy/Spike – B/S and Spike/Buffy – S/B as the correct form, with Spike/Buffy winning out for a while, due to the fact that some extremely mature Buffy/Angel fans mocked anyone who used Buffy/Spike as “BS = bullshit!” My recollection is that “Spuffy” appeared on the scene at some point in S6. Other pairing smushnames (Bangel, Spander, etc.) started appearing around the same time. It’s also my recollection that at that point, many fans thought that all smushnames were silly and juvenile. Buffy/Angel shippers would derisively call Buffy/Spike shippers “Spuffies,” and Buffy/Spike shippers would call them “Bangels” just as derisively back.

During that time period, the number of Buffy/Spike shippers increased dramatically, as the pairing gained canon support. And with the increase in the number of shippers, there was an explosion in the amount of fic of all types. I do remember there being an association, for a while, between “Spuffy writers” and fluffy romantic fic in which Spike’s lack of a soul was ignored or deemed of no consequence by Buffy and/or the author. Stories of this sort were perceived in some quarters as out of character by definition - by fan factions who disliked Spike/Buffy as a pairing, certainly; mostly B/A, but also Angel/Spike and to some extent Spike/Xander shippers. * But a number of Buffy/Spike fans used it in this sense as well, mainly those who saw themselves as writing more serious or realistic takes on the pairing.** Granted, the fans who disliked the pairing were more apt to tar all Spike/Buffy shippers with the “Spuffy” brush.

There was also a certain generational split: older (in the sense of having started shipping pre-S5) fans tended to use Buffy/Spike, while newer ones tended to use Spuffy, and use it in a non-perjorative sense. Within a fairly short period of time, the latter use prevailed, helped no doubt by the increasing popularity of smushnames across the board. By the end of S7 (May 2003), Spuffy was normative. Still, as one of those older fans, though just barely, even today I sometimes have a faint sense that I’m using Spuffy ironically.

An interesting thing: from my perspective, post-S6 Spike/Buffy fic is no less likely to feature romance, or even the dreaded unrealistic marriage and children, than pre-S6 Spike/Buffy fic. If anything, I'd wager it's more likely - while this is just anecdotal evidence, I distinctly recall a number of older, more 'serious' Buffy/Spike writers quietly decamping from the big S/B fic mailing lists for LJ in late S6/S7, precisely because of the explosion in what they felt was cookie-cutter, OOC fluff. (Which in retrospect, I can't help but think was prompted in part by the excessive grimness of canon.) And there is certainly no lack of fluff at the big Spuffy archives to this day. So I have to wonder how much of the 'realism' of post-S6 fic is a real phenomenon, and how much is fandom trying to justify itself in its own eyes?

I’m not even sure what the point of this post is, other than that I read the quoted passage and thought to myself, “Boy, is that a gross oversimplification!” Partly it’s because I’ve never thought of either B/A or B/S as inherently more realistic than the other – I think both of them are unrealistic in different ways, and realistic in different ways, and I happen to prefer the tropes in play in B/S. (With the standard caveat that I ship them more for their potential than because I’m a huge fan of what actually played out in canon.)

The article in question also overlooks the fact that Buffy/Angel, as a ship, is home to just as much romantic fluff as Buffy/Spike is – indeed, for many years the BA_Fluff Yahoo Group (formerly eGroups, formerly Onelist, meeeeeemories...) was one of the largest mailing lists in fandom. And there’s a huge unspoken assumption here on all sides that stories featuring romance are inherently unrealistic, and hence unworthy of consideration. But that’s a whole nother essay.





*I’ve been told that at the same time, there was a feud going on between S/A and S/X shippers as well. S/X was also experiencing a flood of new writers, and an increase in fluffy or domestic fic which was redemptionist in tone, even if the authors would have strenuously denied any association with the Buffy/Spike redemptionistas. Older, ‘darker’ Spike/Angel and Spike/Xander slash writers often looked down upon the newcomers.
**Whether or not they were really always more serious or realistic is open to debate. “Serious” Buffy/Spike fic covered everything from earnest meditations on the nature of good, evil, and redemption to plotty epic adventures to NC17 BDSM featuring a submissive Buffy dominated by a manipulative, evil Spike.


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velvetwhip
Apr. 10th, 2013 09:50 pm (UTC)
I started out in UC fic so my awareness of Spuffy or Bangel from those early days is minimal at best, I'm afraid.

I do, however, remember some truly cavity-inducing W/A and Spillow fluff. Even a very fluffy Willow/Angelus fic involving a slumber party and a puppy. (Don't ask. Just don't.)


Gabrielle
rahirah
Apr. 10th, 2013 09:52 pm (UTC)
Oh, man - there's another blast from the past: UC. No one calls it that any longer. Even by the time I got into fandom, that was kind of an archaic term, and the big split had become slash vs. het.
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bogwitch
Apr. 10th, 2013 09:58 pm (UTC)
I only use Spuffy as a term as it's quicker to type.

My memories of the time question yield nothing useful to this argument.
rahirah
Apr. 10th, 2013 10:11 pm (UTC)
True, B/S has fewer characters, but the slash throws off your groove.
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ericadawn16
Apr. 10th, 2013 10:34 pm (UTC)
I remember Spuffy as coming from JLo and Bennifer and all that mess which was definitely around in 2000 because we started nicknaming our English teacher GRey.

Let me consult a book or two and see if that has anything.
rahirah
Apr. 10th, 2013 10:44 pm (UTC)
Yeah, smushnames started showing up in fandom shortly after they started showing up in the news.
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tripleransom
Apr. 10th, 2013 10:43 pm (UTC)
NanDibbble and I had some philosophical discussions about the 'ships back in the day. [Remember her OC Mike, who was in love with Dawn? Mawn or Dike are both just too silly to contemplate.] I'm pretty sure we always said B/S, not Spuffy.
rahirah
Apr. 10th, 2013 10:46 pm (UTC)
Well, it's not like Mawn is much worse than Spawn... or Spred... or, or - hey, if you were doing a Buffy movie crossover, what would you even call Pike/Spike?
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lokifan
Apr. 10th, 2013 11:09 pm (UTC)
there’s a huge unspoken assumption here on all sides that stories featuring romance are inherently unrealistic, and hence unworthy of consideration.

Not too mention the 'silly fluffy romantic things = stupid fic for stupid women'. My rage over the denigration of romance, it is boundless.

Interesting post! Personally I really dislike smushnames. It's one of the things that made me go 'bzuh?' when I got into Buffy - in HP smushnames aren't that common outside of Snape pairings.
eilowyn
Apr. 11th, 2013 12:18 am (UTC)
Not too mention the 'silly fluffy romantic things = stupid fic for stupid women'. My rage over the denigration of romance, it is boundless.

I'm doing a history of fandom for a paper, and pretty much media fandom came about when 'silly fluffy romantic things' began being written about the Star Trek fandom. Sci-Fi fans didn't want the silly women getting their romance in their sci-fi, so the first Star Trek convention happened because some Kirk/Spock shippers felt unwelcome at the bigger cons. So yeah, there would be no fandom as we know it without stupid women and their romance!
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kikimay
Apr. 10th, 2013 11:15 pm (UTC)
I came in the fandom very late, when Buffy was over. In Italy. So I didn't saw the whole war between Bangel and Spuffy and I didn't knew anything about the starters. (Unfortunally I still had to face my share of war, but that's another story) It's interesting to know the story of nicknames and fandom. I've always thought that Spuffy was too fluffy name for the 'ship!
I also agree about the two pairings being realistic and unrealistic in different ways. My brain is all for unrealistic Bangel but mostly because all the things I've read from Bangels are about soulmates, eternity, hearts and souls combining and all of that stuff ... which I personally think it's too vague and argueable (Like: soulmates are real? Do the soul even exist?) while the things I've read in the Spuffy corners - at least, in *some* Spuffy corners - are about sexuality, depression, rejection ... things I classify as "realistic", more solid.
rahirah
Apr. 11th, 2013 02:23 am (UTC)
I think Rebcake was spot on in the post I linked when she points out that Spik is a different kind of fantasy - the guy who's endlessly loyal no matter how he's treated.
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enname
Apr. 10th, 2013 11:19 pm (UTC)
Oh god I have been shipping them since the end of season two, when that was the wacky fringe. Sounds right to me though about the timeline. Will never be able to take smush names seriously.
rahirah
Apr. 11th, 2013 02:21 am (UTC)
I don't trust my own memory entirely - I'm getting on, after all!
ljs
Apr. 11th, 2013 12:02 am (UTC)
'Spuffy' was a term in use by the end of Season 6, yes? Because the smushname for my own OTP had to have happened 'round then, I think....

Ah, hell, I cannot even remember. So long ago, in the mists of time. ;)
rahirah
Apr. 11th, 2013 02:20 am (UTC)
I think so - but yes, SO LONG AGO!
lady_yashka
Apr. 11th, 2013 12:09 am (UTC)
...indeed, for many years the BA_Fluff Yahoo Group (formerly eGroups, formerly Onelist, meeeeeemories...)

Ah, that does bring back memories. I was on a few Spike/Buffy mailing list back in the day. (One had the term Unholy Alliance in the title, I think.)

Then I left the Buffy fandom for awhile, and by the time I came back Spuffy was the term everyone used.
rahirah
Apr. 11th, 2013 02:20 am (UTC)
Yeah. I kind of miss the mailing list era.
eilowyn
Apr. 11th, 2013 12:20 am (UTC)
Fandom history! Yay! Now if I can just get you to give me a Ken Burns documentary on the Spike Wars my life will be complete!
rahirah
Apr. 11th, 2013 02:19 am (UTC)
:D
samsom
Apr. 11th, 2013 01:34 am (UTC)
Yes, I recall S/B and B/S being the usual terms but sometime after Chosen, Spuffy became more used. I normally do not prefer to smush names (I don't hate Cangel for other shippers but I don't like or use it myself) because I think it's a lot like Instant Soup - Just smush names and begin shipping immediately. Any two names, any two characters, no refrigeration needed. :)

But I never minded Spuffy because it sounds cute, like a pet that sits on a pillow and waits for treats. And it makes me think of Spike all chained to that cot in the basement...waiting for Buffy to visit. *cough*
rahirah
Apr. 11th, 2013 02:18 am (UTC)
LOL!
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dwyld
Apr. 11th, 2013 06:55 am (UTC)
I'm so old I remember when B/S was considered a UC relationship.

Also my memory is that I never saw Spuffy until the refugee lists started up, so that would have been quite some time after Seeing Red aired. I think Spander turned up shortly afterwards, but Spangel was unheard of for some while later, and we old hands fought it tooth and nail. I still think smush names are silly (though thanks for the term which I've never taken in before) and am probably the last person in fandom who tries to avoid using them.

My recollection is that the normal forms were: B/S, B/A, A/S, W/S, S/D and of course S/X (which they were very smug about). So Spike tended to get second billing in those days.

This makes me wonder if anyone still ships Willow/Spike. It was quite a big pairing back in the day.
rahirah
Apr. 11th, 2013 03:58 pm (UTC)
Oh yeah, there are still Willow/Spike shippers around. velvetwhip upthread is one (though I think she's primarily Angel/Willow, with Willow/Spike as a secondary ship?) snogged and purplefeen are also Willow/Spike types, and I know there are several others I'm forgetting.
hobbituk
Apr. 11th, 2013 07:36 am (UTC)
I don't remember when Spuffy became the name of choice - it slipped into my consciousness by osmosis, I think!

Personally I prefer to use Bungal rather than Bangel - why should Angel get his whole name in there? Also, Bungal looks more appropriate to my spuffy loving eyes.
rahirah
Apr. 11th, 2013 04:01 pm (UTC)
The question of where to put the break in smushnames is a difficult one. I mean, why not Bike instead of Spuffy? Or Anffy?
quinara
Apr. 11th, 2013 07:41 am (UTC)
The only thing I would query was whether S/B really ever did get traction as the best form - I remember the Bangel BS thing, but I don't think it actually affected very much (from my perspective as someone not directly involved in the flamewars and mostly floating around archives etc.). The BS Diaries site certainly didn't suffer!

I remember UC floating around and when that started to die out, but I have no recollection when/where I first started seeing and using Spuffy. Obviously there was showbiz news, but I wasn't really aware of that at the time. I feel like I started becoming familiar with it via FFN, and liked it because it was a straightforward search term, in the way that B/S or S/B or BS or SB really weren't, because they were (often? on FFN?) too few characters and you had to try all the variations (along with Buffy/Spike and Spike/Buffy and anything else you could think of). I can't even remember if FFN had character filters at that time, but you definitely wanted it if you were going to try and search crossovers. There were a lot more general archives at that time, along with prolific authors who'd write more than one pairing, so I spent a lot of time using Ctrl+F... (Argh, this brings back all the time I spent Ctrl+Fing pages of FFN with BS and just getting 'absolutely'!! I claim they were useless acronyms!)
rahirah
Apr. 11th, 2013 04:04 pm (UTC)
I think it may have depended on where you hung out - I don't remember enough of the details to be sure, but I think the people who were most annoyed about the B/S thing were the ones who consistently got into arguments with the BA types on multi-ship boards.

I'm pretty sure ff.net had character filters before Spuffy was a thing, but finding a pairing with them was always iffy.
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shapinglight
Apr. 11th, 2013 09:41 am (UTC)
I think I just absorbed smush names by osmosis too. It never occurred to me to not use them. I find them amusing.

I do think the B/S vs S/B thing impacted on me. I tend to use S/B to this day because of it.
caliente_uk
Apr. 11th, 2013 11:07 am (UTC)
Same. I only ever use S/B because of the B/S thing.
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red_satin_doll
Apr. 11th, 2013 03:38 pm (UTC)
Thanks Barb! I'll file this under: "Things I always wanted to know about fandom but were afraid to ask."

As I disliked smushnames among celebrities long before I got to this fandom last year, I respect that they're a tradition and can be useful, but I don't use them much myself except ironically as you do. But I'm not consistent about that either; I prefer Buffy/Spike or B/S (the BS thing never occured to me) in part because I hate the cultural notion that two people are supposed to "fuse" and become one ("You complete me" is bullshit and fucking unhealthy); a part of what the show says to me, over and over, is how harmful it is to try to lose yourself in another person. That is, it's what we do, and it's what a lot of us want - union, completion, etc - but it doesn't work in reality.

OTOH, I'll use Bangel, Bangel(us) or B/A(us) depending on my mood and the fact that in relation to Buffy/Spike I'm not interested in that pairing. Other than that, I use initials. I can't even write "Twillow" or "Wuffy" and still respect myself in the morning. (Or is it Wara and Billow? IDK)

Anyhoo, as a newbie I'm glad the wars are over (although now it's more like simmering fires that can flare up unexpectedly, or a gunshot out of nowhere. Clearly I suck at metaphors.) I enjoy reading about the history of fandom but I'm fast loosing any feeling of "oh I missed out."

Partly it’s because I’ve never thought of either B/A or B/S as inherently more realistic than the other – I think both of them are unrealistic in different ways, and realistic in different ways, and I happen to prefer the tropes in play in B/S.

I'll just copy-paste what I said at eilowyn's post ('cause I'm that lazy): As a newbie I find it interesting (odd) that "Bangels" and "Spuffies" think the other group wants totally different things or has completely different ideas of romance. That Bangels are immature or unrealistic, that Spuffies are...well, we know the drill. To be more specific, they may have different ideas in terms of canon romance, but in fanfic I see plenty of domestic, fluffy Spuffy fic and some very darkly sexual Bangel(us) fic that would make even pre-soul Spike blush, especially when it's Angelus + vampire Buffy.

The thing is it seems to me that people want what they want, and sometimes the stories are hard to tell apart - yeah, there's the difference in the language/voice of the vampires (one broods and reads poetry, the other is flamboyant and wears nailpolish, but the basic story templates can be found in each pairing.)
rahirah
Apr. 11th, 2013 03:53 pm (UTC)
Yah. Where it gets complicated, I think, is that people do have specific types of stories they prefer, but they also have physical or emotional types they prefer. So if someone (for instance) likes both soulmate stories and snarky bad boys, then they're just as likely to ship Buffy/Spike, but read or write fic where a spell or a prophecy gives them a telepathic soulbond or something which BINDS THEM 4EVAH IN LUV. Or they might write a Buffy/Angelus story where Buffy whips Angelus into shape. So to speak. *g*
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lostboy_lj
Apr. 12th, 2013 05:36 am (UTC)
Why can't it be "Bike"?
rahirah
Apr. 12th, 2013 03:27 pm (UTC)
I don't know! Bike is cute!
frelling_tralk
Apr. 12th, 2013 03:14 pm (UTC)
I came into fandom around season 6 I guess and I always used Spuffy to describe them. I do remember years later reading a comment with someone complaining about Spuffy shippers but adding that don't think she's including B/S shippers under that term. I asked what the difference was and she said she associates Spuffy more with people who ship them in canon, unlike the B/S shippers who just liked playing around with that dynamic in fic back in season 2-4 time and weren't as annoying to her

And I remember that Bangel wasn't as popular at first? Maybe it was just the boards I posted on, but most people seemed to happily use Spuffy, whereas a lot of B/A shippers complained that they hated being referred to as Bangel's. Maybe that was because they had been in online fandom for longer and weren't as keen on the smushed names fad.
rahirah
Apr. 12th, 2013 03:26 pm (UTC)
Interesting - I've always thought it was telling that a lot of B/A people were just fine with the idea of shipping Buffy/Spike until it became canon, and then all of a sudden people who shipped it were morally impaired weregoats. *g*
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