The Big Picture

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer was ahead of its time by subverting the idea that women can’t fight back, challenging societal norms.
  • James Marsters, who played Spike on the show, discusses the importance of subversion in art and how it can make people uncomfortable.
  • Marsters also talks about his experience on Torchwood, a sci-fi series that featured strong queer characters and showcased gay people as heroes.

There’s no denying that Buffy the Vampire Slayer was ahead of its time. Now, even 20 years after its series finale, the show still captivates audiences in a way that many others haven’t. Its staying power has been so strong that it’s even outlasted the horrifying allegations surrounding its creator, Joss Whedon, with fans putting him to the side and appreciating the art for what it was. Speaking with Collider’s Maggie Lovitt during this weekend’s San Francisco Fan Expo, series star James Marsters opened up about how proud he was to have done “subversion” work on not only Buffy but also during his run on Russell T. DaviesTorchwood.

Flipping through the years all the way back to 1997, Marsters said, “Back in the day, Buffy was offending people because basically it was subverting the idea that women can’t fight back. And, back in the day, that was actually a surprising thing to say – and now it’s kind of obvious.” Mocking some of the naysayers of yesteryear (and, honestly probably still today), Marsters said that he would hear a lot of comments like, “‘A girl that size could never fight back! She’d never be able to defend herself!’” Opening up about an argument that he had with an unnamed actor from the Star Wars universe, Marsters said that he broke it down in the simplest of terms. “I do a lot of my own stunts, so I’m fighting with the stunt doubles for Sarah [Michelle Gellar], every week, and the same size as Sarah – they have to be – and they’re triple black belts, and believe me, they can kill us within seconds.’”

Delving more into the idea of subversion, Marsters continues, “So, that’s subversion, where you’re divesting the audience of lies and falsehoods that we walk around with, and you make people uncomfortable when you do that. And, generally, Hollywood doesn’t do that because they don’t want to make the audience angry. So, there’s not a lot of subversion.” Throughout his career, the actor, who played the blonde baddie turned good guy, Spike, on Buffy and Angel, says that he’s been lucky to have a lot of subversive gigs. “I thought, ‘Wow! I can’t believe that I came down to Hollywood and actually got to do some subversive art.’ And then Buffy was over, and I thought I’d never be able to do that again, and I got on Torchwood.”

James Marsters’ Run on ‘Torchwood’

A spin-off of the 2005 revival of Doctor Who, the BBC delighted audiences with its sci-fi series, Torchwood, over a four-series run. Marsters would eventually step into the role of Captain John Hart on the second series for a handful of episodes, a part that he says he was “really proud of.” His character was the ex-lover and partner of Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) in the production which caught a lot of flack for featuring such strong queer characters. As Marsters said, “Torchwood is making the point that gay people are heroes – or can be. And, the lead character is right out there, and just like ‘I’m gay baby, deal with it,’ and he’s saving the world.” Having both Torchwood and Buffy under his belt has undoubtedly not only shaped Marsters into a better actor but that of a more well-rounded human being.

As for Marsters’ latest project, the actor can be heard alongside the likes of Buffy alumni including Amber Benson, Anthony Head, Juliet Landau, Emma Caulfield Ford, Charisma Carpenter and James C. Leary on the Audible series, Slayers: A Buffyverse Story.

You can check out Collider’s full San Francisco Fan Expo guide here.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV Show Poster

Buffy The Vampire Slayer

A young woman, destined to slay vampires, demons and other infernal creatures, deals with her life fighting evil, with the help of her friends. 

Release Date
March 10, 1997

Sarah Michelle Gellar, Alyson Hannigan, Nicholas Brendon, Michelle Trachtenberg, Emma Caulfield, James Marsters

Main Genre

Action, Adventure, Comedy, Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi



Joss Whedon

Production Company
Mutant Enemy, Kuzui Enterprises, Sandollar Television


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