Spoilers: Very vague spoilers for Ats season five: Destiny and The Girl in Question
A Drusilla Character Study
Step One: Open Word.
Step Two: Organise thoughts into a logical sequence.
Step Three: Fail miserably.
I love Drusilla, and I have some very definite reasons for it, so when I started writing this essay, I tried to organize it into some very definite categories - keeping in mind the different reasons that she appealed to me. However, as I started writing, I realised that it wasn’t working - the categories were too rigid, and really pretty useless. Furthermore, it occurred to me that the idea of categories in relation to Drusilla was totally contradictory to her as a character, so I scrapped that idea, and instead, found myself jotting down a series of impressions that I got from her. Here’s a few of them:
Insane, ethereal, pretty, mad, crazy, creepy, otherworldly, childlike, innocent, vicious, evil, sexual, obsessive, psychic, melodramatic…and the list goes on.
After reading through my list, I realized two things:
1. Our picture of Drusilla is built up on a series of impressions, either derived directly from her actions and behaviors, or her history and interaction with other characters.
2. Drusilla is a creature of contrasts.
So, let’s start with number one. The more I thought about this idea, the more it seemed to fit the way I - and other people I’ve talked to about the character - perceive her. I think we tend to come away with not so much a complete picture of Drusilla, but a collection of impressions and imagery - which, a lot of the time, contradict each other.
Drusilla isn’t an extremely developed character compared to many characters in the Buffyverse. Characters such as Spike and Wesley have gone through amazing transformations over the seven plus years of the series, while Drusilla hasn’t changed all that much - her biggest departure from the norm was probably leaving Spike and going it alone. However, over the time she has been a part of the show, the writers have explored her character and we have received quite a bit of insight about her, especially considering that she is essentially a minor character.
So, our girl hasn’t just been floating around the Buffyverse getting Miss Edith her dinner, but what has she been doing? Well, she’s made a quite a few important appearances and a few not so important ones. But for the most part, she’s been a pretty versatile character - she’s helped move a lot of storylines along, and other times she’s been around to draw attention to aspects of another character’s journey.
For example, in Reunion (Ats, 2:10) and Redefinition (Ats, 2:11), she arrives with the sole purpose of revamping a newly human Darla, thus destroying (ironically) Angel’s chances of saving his one time Sire.
She also acts as a symbol of Angelus at his most evil throughout both shows, and Angel himself backs this up in Lie To Me (BtVS, 2:07), when he admits that his treatment of Drusilla was by far the “worst” thing he did after he became a vampire. For Spike - at least up until season five - she acts as a benchmark to which he compares all his relationships with women. After all, she was not only his Sire, mother-substitute and partner in crime, but also his lover and companion for over 120 years.
While a lot of the time any foray into Drusilla’s past or personality has been used to support another characters' story, such as Angel(us) in Becoming (BtVS, 2:21) or Spike in Crush (BtVS, 5:14) and Destiny (Ats, 5:08), these journeys do make her one of the most explored minor characters. One could argue that we are given a far greater understanding of Drusilla, than of other minor characters such as Tara, at least in terms of how much insight we are given into their history and motivations.
Drusilla has some very important relationships to some very major characters in both BtVS and AtS, and I think that this is one of the reasons that we have been given so much of her history – that, and the fact that there is just so much to work with; so many interesting aspects of her persona to explore. So, without further ado…
“Pure Innocence”, “most impious, murderous child” or “Some cheap queen of the damned”?
My first introduction to Drusilla was at the time of her entrance with Spike during School Hard (BtVS 2:03). Spike arrives in town, and lays on the tough guy act. Shortly thereafter, we are introduced to Drusilla and things start to get a little bit…well, weird. During this first introduction, a few things are made very clear, not only about Drusilla, but also about her relationship to Spike. Drusilla is clearly very important to Spike, and as soon as she enters the room he makes her his first priority, and she in turn expects this behaviour from him. With one, whiny “Spike? I’m cold.” (School Hard (BtVS, 2:03)), she is instantly enveloped in his coat. For me, this exchange set up one of the strongest themes of the relationship between Spike and Dru - Spike as the giver, and Drusilla as the reciever. This exchange also lets us in on the fact that Drusilla is sick, apparently affected by some sort of vampiric ailment, and in need of Spike’s TLC, which he provides without a thought.
As soon as Drusilla opens her mouth, we are introduced to the third and most prevailing characteristic of her - she is, as Spike tells Joyce in Lover’s Walk (BtVS, 3:08), “Out of her mind,” and the more she talks…and does…the more apparent it becomes.
DRUSILLA: (to Collin) Do you like daisies? Hmm? I plant them, but they always die. Everything I put in the ground withers and dies. (gazes at the sky for a beat) Spike? I'm cold.
SPIKE: (puts his jacket around her) I've got you.
DRUSILLA: I'm a princess.
SPIKE: That's what you are.
-- School Hard (BtVS, 2:03)
Drusilla’s metal state and subsequent actions are an ongoing theme during her tenure in the Buffyverse, and the most prevailing impression that many people take away with them. Ask any fan of BtVS to give you their take on Drusilla, and ten to one, the first thing they will say will be ‘insane’ or ‘crazy’. And Dru’s…er…condition has certainly been a point of much discussion in both BtVS and Ats. In Destiny (Ats 5:08), Spike likens her disposition to that of a child, while Angelus prefers to think of her as “A bit dotty and brain addled”. In What’s my Line? Part One (BtVS, 2:09) Giles refers to her madness making her more dangerous than not having a soul does, and there is repeated reference to Angelus having made her this way.
There’s no doubt that the abuse Drusilla suffered - at the hands of Angelus – is the main cause of her insanity. Drusilla wasn’t exactly the most stable person before she met Angelus, as her visions were causing her a lot of stress and heartache; however, she wasn’t what one would call insane. Angel tells us in Lie to Me (BtVS, 2:07) that he “Visited every mental torture on her [he] could devise.” And there’s no doubt that his abuse would also have been sexual in nature.
If you think about Drusilla’s behaviour in relation to this, a lot of what she does is explained. For instance, she often has her version of panic attacks if things aren’t following routine, such as in Surprise (BtVS, 2:13), when the poor arrangement of her flowers causes her to fly into a rage.
I’ve also always thought that her preoccupation with her dolls - especially Miss Edith - is reminiscent of the dissociative behaviour that some abuse survivors display. Drusilla often refers to Miss Edith, or talks about doing things for Miss Edith when she’s distressed or wanting to avoid something:
DRUSILLA: Spike, come dance?
SPIKE: (snaps) Give us some peace, would you? Can't you see I'm working? (Drusilla pouts) Oh, I'm sorry, kitten. It's just this manuscript. Supposed to hold your cure, but it reads like gibberish. E-even Dalton here, the big brain, he can't make heads or tails of it.
DRUSILLA: I... I, I need to change Miss Edith. (bends over in pain)
Also, the dolls are more often than not blindfolded, especially when they’re in the bedroom. Another trait that some abuse survivors exhibit are “maladaptive sexual behaviour” and “relationship problems, such as overly sexualized or overly conflicted relationships” (http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hppb/familyviolence/html/nfntsconsequencevio_e.html#Psychological) And I’d say that Drusilla’s relationship with Angel(us) is nothing if not maladaptive and overly conflicted.
This impression of Drusilla is not wrong, she is crazy and not a “nice, quiet kind of crazy” (Fredless (Ats, 3:05)) either. She’s a vicious, evil kind of crazy and quite open about it too, but as we are taken deeper into the history of her character, she evolves into something more contrasted and complex. Although Drusilla is over 140 years old - turned into a vampire by Angelus in 1860 - many of her actions are childlike, such as playing with dolls and reciting nursery rhymes, and when we are first introduced to her in School Hard (BtVS, 2:03), she appears almost ethereally innocent. It’s not until later on in the episode that we start to realise that she’s not just a harmless, or slightly odd, character. She shows her affection for Spike by lovingly cutting open his cheek with a sharpened fingernail and licking up the blood. Later on, we are treated to an even darker portrait of her, when in – as many fans might agree – one of her most disturbing scenes, she feeds on Sheila with snakelike precision and ice cold detachment, right after admonishing her dollies for misbehaving.
Another notable trait of Drusilla's is her visions and psychic ability. More often than not, she seems trapped in her own world. She does indeed spend a lot of time lost in visions and memories, and yet, amongst her numerous flashes of prescience and sojourns into nostalgia can be found quite astute observations on the people and situations around her. While her madness, and flighty and poetic language, colour most of what she says, her words are relevant, and they usually foreshadow an event or give us insight into the future actions of a character. Dru doesn’t talk much, but when she does, you can bet it means something.
DARLA: In a perfect world we'd be slaughtering the innocent. Laughing as we rain destruction on this whole miserable town.
DRUSILLA: I see such pretty fire.
DARLA: Fire. Conflagration. In a perfect world there'd be nothing left here but ashes.
DRUSILLA: (laughing) And pain. So much suffering. The flames are lovely. They dance, and the fire licks like a cat. And the screams, oh, it's like star music.
DARLA: That's nice, Dru. Now hurry up. We can't be late. --Redefinition (Ats, 2:11).
It's a pity Darla hadn’t listened to Drusilla; if she had, they might not have found themselves on fire. This illustrates my point; the main reason as to why people disregard Drusilla as an unimportant or throwaway character is that they see her ramblings as poetic nonsense used to reinforce her madness and add a bit of colour to the script. And while the device of using poetic, heavily symbolic language to draw attention to her madness works well, it can mean she is thought of as just being there for decoration or shock factor.
In understanding Drusilla’s character, one of the best insights we’ve been given is when the writers took us back in time and showed her to us in her human state. Not only did this give us more understanding in to why she is the way she is, but it also highlights some fascinating contrasts in her character. So, what better way to explore Drusilla’s contrasted nature than to take the journey from her human self to her vampire self?
“I don't want to be an evil thing” – Drusilla’s journey from Human to Vampire
In Lie to Me (BtVS, 2:07), Angel describes a human Drusilla as “…pure and sweet and chaste”, and while these fundamentals may have been erased from her personality when he sired her, there are many aspects of Drusilla’s persona that have carried over and become darker versions of themselves after she was turned, and these contrasts are one reason that I find her so interesting. There are many instances where we see aspects of the person Drusilla was before she was turned shine through. In Surprise (BtVS, 2:13), the Judge makes reference to the remaining humanity that Drusilla possesses, saying that she and Spike “…share affection and jealousy.” And indeed, we are shown evidence of the apparent depth of her feeling for Spike on many occasions, such as her taking care of him after he is injured in What’s My Line Part Two (BtVS, 2:10), and let’s not forget that she’s spent over 120 years of her death with him.
Another thing that Drusilla retains from her human state is her preoccupation with the spiritual; however differently it manifests itself now. When she was human, it was Catholicism that probably engendered this love of spiritual and ritual, and she was devout, but after she became a vampire things changed a little. She was still very interested in aspects of the spiritual, although as a vampire it’s the occult that takes her fancy. For instance, we’ve seen her using tarot cards on numerous occasions, and her love of ceremonies still carries over, as seen in What’s My Line Part Two (BtVS, 2:10) (where we seeing her immensely enjoying Spike’s ritual words), and Reunion (Ats, 2:10) (when she chooses a traditional re-birthing for her dear Grandmum Darla).
For me, one of the most interesting characteristics of Drusilla – and another thing that was with her before and after she became a vampire - is her psychic ability. It is, I think, one of the best illustrations of how certain human traits have stayed with her after she was turned. In Becoming, Part One (BtVS, 2:21), we see a human Drusilla confessing to “Father” Angelus, and she describes the following vision to him:
“I had... I've been seeing again, Father. Yesterday, the men were going to work in the mine. I had... a terrible fright. My stomach all tied up, and I saw this horrible... crash. My mummy said to keep my peace, it didn't mean nothing. But this morning... they had a cave-in. Two men died.”
Conversely, during I Only Have Eyes For You (BtVS 2:19), she describes another vision:
DRUSILLA: There's a gate! It's opening!
ANGELUS: Incoming! I love when she does this.
SPIKE: What gate, pet? What do you see?
DRUSILLA: It's black. It wants her.
ANGELUS: Wants who?
DRUSILLA: The Slayer. It's time, Angel. She's ready for you now. She's dancing. Dancing with death.
To me, Drusilla’s visions - before and after she became a vampire - are neutral, in that they are neither good nor evil - they just are. It’s how she chooses to use the information provided that makes the difference, and this is why I find it so interesting. The purpose of Drusilla’s visions never changed (if they had a purpose, that is. Perhaps they were intended to be like Doyle and Cordelia’s visions. Perhaps our Dru was once destined to be on the PTB’s payroll, before Angelus turned up. Wouldn’t that be delightfully ironic?) However, with no soul and therefore no moral compass, Drusilla is bound to interpret these visions differently and act accordingly.
A further trait that she has retained from her human life is her relationship with family. When she was human, Drusilla was – we are led to believe – a beloved daughter who cared fiercely about her family, and how her actions affected them. Angelus used this devotion to his own advantage and to her demise, and interestingly, when she became a vampire, Drusilla carried with her a residue of love for her old human family - and not only that, but she developed a similar, stronger connection to her new family, Angelus in particular.
In a scene in What’s My Line, Part Two (BtVS, 2:10) Drusilla asks Spike if she can “have” Angel, and the following exchange ensues:
DRUSILLA: The lamb is caught in the blackberry patch. (approaches Angel with Holy Water) My mummy ate lemons. Raw. She said she loved the way they made her mouth... tingle. Little Anne. (pours some on him) Her favorite was custard... brandied pears.
DRUSILLA: Shhh! And pomegranates. They used to make her face and fingers aaall red. (more pouring) Remember? Hmm? Little fingers. Little hands. Do you?
ANGEL: (in pain) If I could...
DRUSILLA: (interrupts angrily) Bite your tongue! They used to eat cake, and eggs, and honey. Until you came and ripped their throats out. (pours the rest)
This is an obvious indication that she yet retains some feeling for her human family, because she is visibly upset when Angel tries to apologise. Nevertheless, it also shows that she cares deeply about her vampire family. At this point she doesn’t seem to like Angel, let alone care deeply about him, however that’s the point, she doesn’t like Angel very much, she treats interlopers very seriously. Angel is not Daddy Angelus; he’s an impostor who’s taken away a member of her family – arguably the most important one – so she punishes him for it, at the same time taking the opportunity to make Angel pay for a few of Angelus’ sins.
Of course, there are a lot of things that change completely after Drusilla is made into a vampire - for instance, where before she was “chaste” and obviously a virgin if she became a nun, after she becomes a vampire she is very promiscuous. Cheating on Spike whenever she feels like it and if The Girl In Question (Ats, 5: 20) is anything to go by, fun and games with Darla and anybody that crossed their paths was not a rare occurrence. Obviously, this stemmed from Drusilla being evil and having no inhibitions, however, one could argue that the abuse she suffered at the hands of Angelus went some way to causing this increased promiscuity; a behaviour some abuse survivors exhibit in later life.
Drusilla’s relationships with characters such as Angelus, Spike and Darla go a long way to defining and developing her, and this is where we get most of the information about her. But what do these relationships tell us about our girl?
“Me mum says... I'm cursed. My seeing things is an affront to the Lord.” – Human Drusilla, family and religion.
Canonically, we are given very little information about Drusilla’s human family. We know that they were working class, Victorian, and Londoners. We are led to believe that they were a good Catholic family and that Drusilla was one of three sisters. We are led to believe that she was very concerned about their opinions, however, this wouldn’t have been out of the ordinary for a young woman in the late 1800s, and she would have been very attached to her family, and therefore very affected by their opinions. The family was obviously very religious, and we are given evidence of this when she tells Angelus that her mother – quite cruelly, I’ve always thought – tells her that she is cursed and “…an affront to the Lord.” Becoming, Part One (BtVS, 2:21). We don’t get much information on her father, and she never mentions him - probably because Angelus took over that role so completely when he turned her.
Drusilla herself seemed to be the most religious of the family, and was probably considering becoming a nun long before she had to flee to the safety of a convent to escape Angelus. This devotion to religion seems to stem partly from her fear of her visions - she saw them as wrong and evil and probably became more and more devoted in an effort to make up for the ‘sin’ that she felt her psychic ability was.
“Snake in the woodshed!” – Drusilla and Angelus.
The relationship that Drusilla has with Angelus is her most complex. Angelus is Drusilla’s sire, but he didn’t turn her into a vampire until he tormented her to the point of madness and beyond. After turning Drusilla, Angelus effectively installed himself as a father figure in Drusilla’s life and, in keeping with that relationship, she both loves and hates him at the same time. However, Angelus didn’t just treat Drusilla as a daughter – although she did fill this role in their family dynamic willingly – she also became his lover, or more accurately his concubine, taking second place to Darla.
Angel mentions in Lie to Me (BtVS, 2:07) that Drusilla was an obsession of his, but as soon as Angelus turned her, he became an obsession of hers as well. During the last half of BtVS season two, when Angelus returns, we see Drusilla instantly reoccupy her roles, hang on his every word and do pretty much everything he asks of her, even if it involves upsetting Spike. Drusilla and Angelus’ relationship was never equal - it’s always a patriarchal in nature, and whether they’re playing the father and daughter or they’re shagging, Angelus is always “The Boss”. However, Drusilla welcomes this - as a vampire she revels in his power over her… in fact, she hands it to him on a silver platter.
“It’s not Daddy. It’s never Daddy.” – Drusilla and Angel.
Drusilla favours Angelus over all others, even Spike, and even when he is Angel she is still obsessed with him - and sometimes still loyal to him over Spike. For example, in What’s My Line Part Two (BtVS, 2:10), Spike gets angry and tries to stake Angel, but Drusilla panics and tells him not to. Spike assumes that this is because she knows that they need Angel in order to perform the ritual; however, the jury’s still out on whether that was the real – or only - reason she persuaded him to spare her Sire. It’s not that she likes Angel, but she is preoccupied with him – however, it’s a different kind of obsession, more conflicted. She wouldn’t leave town when Angel asked her to (in School Hard (BtVS, 2:03)) for several reasons. Firstly, because she knew something was going to happen in Sunnydale, but also because she doesn’t feel she needs to obey Angel, and more importantly because she still wants to be around him, whether he has a soul or not.
While Drusilla is slave-like in her devotion to Angelus, this devotion does not carry over to Angel. It’s when Angel is ensouled that we see the complexities of the relationship really emerge. Drusilla seems to delight in tormenting Angel by dredging up the things he did to her when he was evil - in What’s My Line, Part Two (BtVS, 2:10), she tortures him for apparently two different reasons, and for what we assume is hours, telling him he’s been a ”…very naughty daddy.” She’s apparently enraged at his disloyalty to their vampire family, but at the same time, she is angry about his treatment of her when she was a human. Drusilla is still drawn to Angel when he has a soul, but a flip occurs at least on some level, because now Drusilla is “The Boss”, and Angel is the tormented.
“Look what I made, it’s called Willy” – Drusilla and Spike.
While Drusilla spent over 120 years with Spike, and while the canon implies that they shared a love that was passionate to the point of obsession on both their parts (Joss himself called them the Sid and Nancy of the vampire world), this does not mean that Drusilla made Spike her first priority. The first thing to remember is that Drusilla had “belonged” to Angelus for 20 years before Spike came into the picture, and from what we know from the Angel/Darla arc in BtVS and AtS, a vampire’s bond to their Sire is the strongest of relationships - “…being sired is reminiscent of the loss of virginity, and the resulting relationship carries with it an expectation of loyalty…” (Marinucci, M, 2003, p.70). Drusilla’s was particularly strong, due to the events of her turning, and this meant that Spike came second to Angelus almost all the time. We are even shown this in Destiny (Ats, 5:08), when it’s made clear that Spike always had to fight for Drusilla’s affection, and that she revelled in the attention.
The second thing to consider is that Drusilla was Spike’s Sire, so from the very beginning there is a powerful hierarchy at work… Spike may have been devoted to her, but she wasn’t devoted to him, at least not in the early years. It wasn’t until after Spike killed his first Slayer that Drusilla started returning Spike’s affections with anything near the level of commitment that he gave her. This was probably in part due to Angelus’ absence, which made room for Spike’s increasingly powerful role within the family.
As the judge said, Spike and Drusilla shared affection, and they were together for over 120 years - however, Drusilla would choose others over him; she was often unfaithful and many a time she chose Angelus over Spike. This said, Drusilla is Spike’s Sire, and she does not take kindly when his attention is directed elsewhere - a prime example of this is Drusilla’s reaction to Spike's obsession, and later his relationship, with Buffy. This is where we see that even though she is willing to cast him aside, she expects nothing less than complete faithfulness from him.
“Don't be cross. I could be your mummy.” – Drusilla and Darla.
Canonically speaking, Darla and Drusilla never had much of a connection until the end of Ats season 2, specifically the episodes Reunion (Ats, 2:10) and Redefinition (Ats, 2:11), when Drusilla turns the newly human – but terminally ill – Darla back into a vampire, and from this point on we get a better insight into their relationship. In the past, Drusilla would have most likely viewed Darla as an obstacle to Angelus’ affection; however, according to the canon, her place as Darla’s subordinate was an accepted position - she never challenged it, but did express her sadness at Angelus’ head being “too full” of Darla for him to give Drusilla any proper affection. It is in Ats season two that their relationship evolves – now, they have a stronger bond, Drusilla is now Darla’s Sire, and they have a common goal. Causing as much trouble to Wolfram and Hart as possible, and, if possible, turning Angel back into Angelus along the way.
Drusilla’s siring of Darla did not introduce much of a power shift in terms of the hierarchical position of Sire and Childe, and this is probably due to the 140 years of Darla being in position as head of the family. In fact, Drusilla – who always seemed happiest following, rather than leading - slips easily back into her role of Granddaughter, letting Darla make the decisions, and even comfort her after the little fire incident.
As far as recs go, there isn’t a huge amount of Drusilla-centric fic out there, but there is some and the stuff that’s good, is really good.
- Charm School is the best place I know for anything Drusilla related. They have a quality fiction archive and an interesting collection of small essays on different aspects of the character.
Blood Screaming is an excellent ‘Fanged Four’ site, with lots of useful information such as timelines, etc.
And for the Spike/Dru shipper in us all, Love Lies Bleeding is a fantastic site to go to for all your Sid and Nancy needs.
General Drusilla centred fiction.
- Mare Nostrum by Rabbit - This fic is very dark and somewhat disturbing, but it’s a wonderful take on Drusilla’s insanity.
What It’s like For a Girl by Evette - I like this fic because it shows four different aspects of Drusilla’s persona - writing her as the widow, the daughter, the mother and the seductress.
And because her relationships are so important, my favourites:
- Dru/Angelus – Preludes by Doyle - I love the darkness of this fic and I think it illustrates not only the relationship between Angelus and Drusilla really well, but also how Spike fits in to the who freaky deal.
Dru/Spike - Gifu by Jess Walker - Spike’s POV, but still a wonderful illustration of the power they have over each other as well as the dynamics of their relationship.
Dru/Darla - Blossoms by Elisabeth - Drusilla is wonderfully well written in this story and the relationship between she and Darla isn’t romanticised and very realistic.
- Bad Poetry, Angsty Teen Archetypes, and the Great Rock & Roll Romance by Evette – Spike and Drusilla essay written for ship_manifesto.
The writing page at Charm School.
The Consequences of Child Maltreatment: A Reference Guide for Health Practitioners (http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hppb/familyviolence/html/nfntsconsequencevio_e.html#Psychological)
Marinucci, M. (2003) Feminisim and the Ethics of Violence: Why Buffy Kicks Ass. Open Court; Chicago.