Spike, sex and subtext: Intertextual portrayals of the sympathetic vampire on cult television

Williamson, Milly. 2005. Spike, sex and subtext: Intertextual portrayals of the sympathetic vampire on cult television. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 8(3), pp. 289-311. ISSN 1367-5494 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

The vampire Spike of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the latest in a long line of a mbiguous but sympathetic vampires which have caught the public imagination, stretching back to Polidori’s Byronesque vampire, Lord Ruthven. This article argues that the vampire image that circulates across contemporary vampire fan cultures is one that exceeds any individual depiction of the vampire; the sympathetic vampire operates as a metatext for vampire fans who draw on textual cues to interpret vampires sympathetically, even when the text itself does not. In the case of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the text overtly encourages a sympathetic subtextual reading of Spike by linking his glamour, sex appeal and rebellion to a hinted-at unseen suffering, which is easily recognized by fans. Fans read Spike’s bad-boy pose as symbolic of hidden pathos. Indeed, the text adopts conventions associated with fan fiction in order to encourage and sustain a surrounding fan culture.

Item Type:



Buffy, cult TV, fan culture, intertextuality, metatext, outcast, slash fiction, subtext, sympathetic vampire

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies


1 August 2005Published

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

13 Nov 2018 16:40

Last Modified:

13 Nov 2018 16:40

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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