exactly that

Posts tagged ‘Angel’

No Good Deed (Part II)…

Cordelia Chase, as portrayed by Charisma Carpenter, a pale woman with dark brown hair, standing on stairs holding a long, slightly curved sword.Angel seems to be a neverending arch of consequences and well-intended deeds that just can’t go unpunished. Angel is constantly making decisions that seem like the right thing to do at the time but always seems to turn up with another twist later. It’s probably a nice effect of that curse.

In “I Will Remember You” he fights a demon and becomes mortal. Everything seems to be hunky-dory and sex and ice cream until it turns out that he has been taken out of the fight for Good, and that Buffy will spend the rest of her (now shortened) life trying to protect him. He makes a choice (without consulting Buffy) to take the day back and trade in his mortality. The consequence is that Buffy loses that memory while he carries it. In “Hero” Doyle sacrifices himself to save a group of half demons, like himself, and with a final kiss, passes his only valuable possession on to Cordelia — his visions from The Powers That Be. Something he was never supposed to do, or so we are lead to believe. That point is still up for debate.

But have them Cordy does. And destroy her they almost do, but not quite. Doyle’s sneaky little transfer (because it was, in all regards, a violation of Cordelia’s autonomy to have them shoved on her) builds in Cordelia like a ticking time bomb, slowly killing her over time. Yet she holds on, and no one notices. Cordelia, prior to becoming a demon or a higher being, is strong without being supernatural. Eventually she is given a choice, and though we later discover that this choice is really a setup for the mass catastrophe that is going to be Season 4, Cordelia chooses Angel and his mission after seeing how it would destroy anyone else to have them. She chooses the visions that have been killing her, and asks to be made part demon so that she can keep them without them killing her. While this undermines the idea that a woman can be strong without being supernaturally imbued, we get to see Cordy being strong for Angel because she has grown as a person, emotionally, and physically.

The results of that choice, are something that can be discussed ad nauseam, and have been before. Cordy being hijacked is a point of contention with me, and I watch S4 just to get from S3 to S5. See s.e. smith’s posts about Cordelia for further explanation. My favorite character deserved to a better ending than that. And even though I have written about her before, I need to revisit this. I don’t want to go into this at length now.

Angel is forced to free a man, by Wolfram & Hart, in order to save Cordelia, and it turns out that he is pretty much misogyny personified.

Wesley’s choice to betray Angel and steal Connor opened the path for Connor to grow up on Qor’toth, and made him the angry and hurting person that he was. His entire life was a result of manipulation, first by ancient powers to create him, then by Holtz, then by Jasmine. Connor’s anger was the weight on one side of the fulcrum that convinced Angel to take the deal with Wolfram & Hart, eventually resulting in the alteration of everyone’s memories, and prolonging Cordelia’s life, allowing her time to come back to him in the 100th episode, “You’re Welcome”.

Faith, whose choices and consequences deserves a whole post of her own, makes some important choices on Angel that viewers of Buffy alone never really see, and that Buffy really neglects to give her credit for. Faith, with Angel’s help learns to take responsibility for her poorer choices in Sunnydale and is a model prisoner until she is attacked by someone paid to off her by those killing Potentials. When Wesley comes to her because Angelus is loose and the Beast is trying to provoke him into helping he and Cordelia-Goddess-Vessel, she makes the choice to bust out of the Pen and help. She uses a vampire drug to bait Angelus into drinking from her, knowing it could very well kill her, but hoping it will do what must be done. For the first time Faith goes all the way as a Slayer, and winds up as the Guide in Angelus’ dream sequence (or whatever). In the end, she stops Connor from dusting Angel after his soul has been put away, and she is able to return to Sunnydale with Willow for the Big Finish, a redeemable player.

When Fred first touched Jasmine’s blood she saw the Goddess who forced her way into the world for what she really was. Fred couldn’t stop until someone else saw what she saw. She needed Angel to see that their free will was being taken away. In the end, she enabled Team Angel to stop Jasmine from taking over the world by peaceful force. It wasn’t until Lilah showed up to reward them with the LA branch of Wolfram & Hart that she realized that what they had actually done was, indeed, as Lilah had said, traded World Peace for Free Will. That moment revealed in Fred’s character just how much she believed that what they were doing was right, and how much she believed that she was on the good side until she saw the consequence. It was the first time she doubted their mission.

The amulet given to Angel by Wolfram & Hart by Lilah, I believe, was indeed intended for Angel to wear in Sunnydale in the case that he didn’t choose to take their deal. The way that it captured Spike and tethered him to the firm demonstrated that they intended to have Angel one way or another. Angel gave the amulet to Buffy to use as she wished, to allow it to be worn by a champion. Buffy insisted that Angel leave, to be the second defense, just in case. She gave it Spike, who wore it proudly, but who, in doing so, was wrenched into a hell devised by W&H to hold onto the wearer. Instead of redemption it brought more work at the hands of the Senior Partners in their production.

Gunn’s brain modifications give him confidence that he really, IMO, didn’t need. Gunn was more than a hired brute, but the modifications made him feel like he was more than he had ever lived up to being, that he was giving more to the team than in the past. When they went away, he panicked, and allowed himself to be manipulated by the doctor into signing papers to help import his illegal artifacts. One of those was an ancient sarcophagus requisitioned by Knox, unbeknownst to Fred. When it ended up in her department, her innate curiosity got the best of her and Illyria was set loose upon her. Gunn set off a chain of events that allowed Knox to fulfill his plan to bring Illyria back in Fred’s body so he could worship them both together. I honestly believe that he death is what ultimately causes both Wesley and Gunn to be so saddened and able to allow themselves to die, Wesley in “Shall Not Fade Away”, and Gunn later in S8 in the comic, when he is changed to a vampire.

Perhaps another re-watch would reveal more overlapping themes. I actually enjoy catching the moments where the two shows arc into each other. The thought that there is often not a clear-cut Good or Bad choice, that many times what seems like the true path to doing the right thing could result in harm somewhere along the way, even if you never see the end result yourself.

No Good Deed (Part I)…

 

Advertisements

No Good Deed (Part I)…

 

Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers, a pale woman with blonde hair. She looks on with the beginning of a smile, as if a great weight has been lifted. A pale brunette woman (Eliza Dushku as Faith) is blurred in the background.

Final image from "Chosen", Season 7 and Series Finale

It happens to be that one of the thing that I adore about the shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel is that they have a knack for spinning out the long-lasting effects of the consequences of the actions of their characters. While Buffy certainly gets much credit for, if perhaps at some points too much, and Angel is not exactly drowning in, feminist messages, I think that the theme of visiting upon the importance of understanding that all actions, even actions taken under with the best of intentions, have long abiding consequences is an important one for anyone interested in social justice to understand. These consequences might not always be what we imagined or envisioned when we set out upon our mission, and they may not always be shiny, happy, results.

 

The concept that “No good deed goes unpunished” is certainly not lost on Whedon, or, it seems, any of the many writers who helped to bring these stories into fruition. We start as early as “Prophecy Girl” in S1 of Buffy, where Buffy herself, knowing full well that her prophesied fate was to meet the Master and die, embraced that destiny full on to avoid allowing anyone she had come to care about to have to go in for her. As noble as that was, the end result was an upset in the lineage of Slayers, awakening Kendra, a second Slayer, and changing the flow of the distribution of power. As Faith says at the end of S7, they were never meant to exist together in time, and perhaps that is why the dynamics between Faith and Buffy were always in a constant state of upheaval, even though in the end they were able to pull together and discover that they were able to work as a team after all.

In a similar vein, and following with the theme of “Buffy dies a lot”, bringing Buffy back from the dead in the beginning of S6 certainly had the best of intentions. After knowing one person who went to a hell dimension in a sacrifice to save the world (albeit, unwillingly), it wasn’t a far stretch for Willow to imagine that Buffy was in a similar predicament after her own sacrifice in “The Gift” at the end of S5. In an intended noble gesture, Buffy’s friends fiddle with dark powers they didn’t fully understand, wrenching Buffy back from what we later learn is Paradise where she was at peace. What they accomplish is the creation of a malevolent spirit who must destroy her to remain in the world, and, as we find out, awakening Buffy right where they left her — in her coffin under ground. Buffy as to dig herself out to a loud and harsh world where she thinks she is indeed in a hell dimension. Finally, in S7 we find out that this one act, intended to rescue a warrior from an untimely and unnatural death weakened the Slayer line enough to allow The First to act out and attempt to wipe it from time.

When Buffy and Willow, along with Faith and all the other Potentials decide to awaken all Slayer Potentials in order to give enough power to the Potentials in order to fight The First, they succeed in stopping it from succeeding. The idea is that the power of The Slayer should be shared, not doled out to one girl in each generation simply because a group of men generations ago were too weak to fight and resorted to horribly violating a girl. For a moment I am reminded that the violation of young women by men is about power, and in my mind, the power of a Slayer, in this series is intended, however well it is delivered, is about taking that power back. The speech Buffy gives in “Chosen” still makes me cry each time I watch it, because it has a lot of not-just-television relevance to it. But that act of incredible power, while allowing them to Save The World (again) had the consequence of giving Slayer powers to people who, due to circumstances beyond their control, were not capable of handling them, such as Dana.

Dana, we meet mid-season in S5 of Angel in “Damaged”, a very disturbing episode that I have written about before and should re-visit. She has been heavily abused by a serial killer as a child. This, in addition to the dreams and visions that potential Slayer experience throughout their lives, are presumed to have made her “insane”. When her Slayer potential is awakened by Willow’s spell, power that, arguably, she probably would never have received otherwise, she breaks out of the mental hospital where she is, and is unable to control her powers because of the way her mind is coping with that abuse. This episode is one of the most difficult for me to watch. But all the same, Buffy and Willow probably never envisioned a Slayer who was not ready to handle the powers given to her. I am not sure how I feel about the exploitation of an abused women with a disability to make this point. I strongly feel that Steven S. DeKnight and Drew Goddard could have perhaps found a better way to get this message across than continuing on with the Crazy Brunette meme, or perpetuating more harmful stereotypes about mental illness. But here it is, Dana, and this story of a woman who must now be forcibly sedated for her own good because of what Buffy and Willow did.

Tomorrow I hope to continue this discussion by analyzing instances on Angel where the consequences of their well-intentioned decisions went awry, but feel free to have at it in comments. I may be laggy in approving or responding to individual comments.

 

The Hellmouth Presents: Dead Guys On Ice

a pale woman with blonde hair in a grey tank to with her arms cross across her midd, and a darker complexioned woman with black hair in a purple long-sleeved shirt in the same pose stand back to back. The both have their "serious business" faces on. They are Sara Michelle-Gellar as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Bianca Lawson as Kendra the Vampire Slayer.In the way you would expect a two-part episode to be, Buffy, Season 2’s “What’s My Line” parts I and II have a lot to unpack in them.

In the beginning of Part I it is Career Week at Sunnydale High, and Principal Snyder, in all of his infinite glory has decided that his project of the week is to make sure that Buffy participates. Of course, like we have seen already, the future planning portion of life as a Slayer is filled with many things: doubt, cloudiness, uncertainty, and possibly (another) death. How is a girl supposed to plan a career around all of that?

Even Giles seems a bit grumped out that Buffy isn’t as studious or book smart as he would like, and as expected, Buffy gets a little up in his card catalog about that. She reminds him just how he could get another Slayer that might be more to his liking: She could die and he could just watch the next one.

Buffy is painfully aware of both the fragility of her current situation and the what is to come. And what most people write off as whininess (something that irks me to NO END), I see as a well deserved side effect of the bitter pill of being very self-aware. Buffy fully understands that every time she goes out into that graveyard she could never come back, and that she only need to slip once and the burden she carries on her shoulders would slip to the next person. While, yes, she is “The Chosen One”, she is but a tool of The Powers That Be (even if we haven’t met them yet) and a person the Watchers’ Council only care about for the moment; the next moment she could be dead and their biggest concern could be the next Chosen One. I imagine being both So Important and at the same time Hardly At All is an odd balance on a fantastical fulcrum.

So, while Buffy is whinging trying to imagine balancing her duties with a future she can’t grasp, Angel offers to take her ice skating to help her forget about being cosmically chosen for a bit. During all of this we see that Buffy has been stalked by the Order of Taraka, magically imbued badass assassins and Angel has been stalked by… a mysterious Black Girl who rides in the cargo bay of airplanes and beats up on preppy looking white boys, and who accidentally sees Buffy kissing Angel, clearly misunderstanding their Cosmically Forbidden Romance for, well, sexay vampire love because who would… OH NEVERMIND!

This dark and curious stranger with the deadly moves gets the jump on our Vampy Heart-throb, (NO NOT HIM! STOP LOOKING AT ME EDWARD!), and when Buffy can’t find him, she comes all forlorn to his bed for a nap.

Where she is jumped! By none other than…

Kendra, the Vampire Slayer.

As much as I love Joss Whedon, he has a problem with non-white people in his shows, and Kendra is only my first taste of many. I loved the idea he went with here, of Buffy dying for only a minute, and that being long enough to awaken the next Potential, but there were so many faily things to unpack with Kendra’s character.

First off, is the back story of Kendra being whisked off by her parents to nobly give her as a babe to her Watcher to be raised, because some faraway exotic tribe would have some greater sense of duty, as opposed to clueless Joyce Summers, who can never be told. Why would Kendra’s parents be more in-the-know? Because they are closer to The First? Remember how exotic and savage she was?

Everything about Kendra was exotic, from her accent to her “only shirt”, to her not being permitted to talk to boys. She was raised in a funny culture far away with funny customs, and WOW IS SHE ODD, AMIRITE? But don’t forget she IS HOT! Whooo! You can even talk to her in any language! Buffy does this, using “amigo”, or other words ending in “o” as if that makes them easier to understand because Kendra has dark skin and a funny accent, she must understand this funny language you ARE MAKING UP!

In many ways, she was constructed as the anti-Buffy. It is hard to convince me that it is a coincidence that a non-white woman was chosen for this role. The dark to the light, the unemotional, perfect form, well-learned, no-shades of grey Slayer that Kendra is. I felt that she was to be the Yin to Buffy’s Yang (if you knew that in Mandarin one means, almost literally “sun” or is part of many words meaning “light” and the other the same in many words meaning dark, it gets even more interesting a comparison).

Even at the end of the episode, Kendra gets a moment to be a wise woman to Buffy, letting her know that being a Slayer isn’t just a job that she does or is fired from. She has wise words for her to set Buffy back on her way (but don’t forget to NOT hug her, because Kendra is a BAMF, and do not touch her, HELL-O). Oh, and ha ha! Buffy explains to her to make sure to use the seats on the plane! Oh that funny Kendra! We’ll see her again. The exotification of Kendra the Vampire Slayer isn’t over.

Another interesting thing I feel I need to discuss is the torture turn made-for-TV-sexy-time that keeps turning up in everything. OK, it isn’t like I am watching reels and reels of Cinemax after 10 PM or, but after watching what the Mord’Sith do in Legend of the Seeker, and reading more about it in The Sword of Truth series (of which I should blog soon), now I am watching on Buffy what Drusilla is doing to Angel (pouring holy water on him as he is restrained w/ his hands tied above his head, etc) as an hor d’orve to the ritual that will restore her to full power and, I am a little overloaded w/ this imagery right now.

Is there no other way to make the point that these people enjoy inflicting pain on beings who are morally good? None?

Practically every representation of Vampire sex is violent (See: Breaking Dawn, True Blood, the entire Darla story arc on Angel, or even “The Fanged Four”). It is always angry and/or it always hurts someone or destroys buildings or furniture.

Every representation of pain for pleasure is advanced by an “evil” entity onto a “good” entity.

It is kind of ridiculous.

I understand the role of the Mord’Sith in Legend of the Seeker, how they are created, how they are “bonded”, how they become redeemed, and even, possibly, how they are supposed to be meant to be read as “strong female characters”, and I will blog about that and the representation in both the books and the TV series later. I won’t engage in an in-depth discussion of them here, only a cosmetic one about how they apply to my point over-all.

I also understand the relationship and history between Dru and Angel; I understand what Angelus did to Drusilla when he created her (OH LOOK ANOTHER POST TOPIC!), but there is quite a bit of triggery sexy-time vampire relationship in this episode (and other times). It is dark, it is disturbing at some points (enough so that I will send some viewers away to refill a water bottle or for a bathroom break), I get what is going on here: Dru is having her revenge. But is this the way this type of sex play is always meant to be? Pain inflicted by the one in power, and always painful, never enjoyable for the one receiving it? I find that hard to believe, and yet it is always depicted as such. Especially in fantasy series like this.

Of course non-fantasy series’ seldom, if ever do it better (thinking legal/cop dramas, or even CSI with its “Lady Heather” arcs that made me so uncomfortable, as if she was a spectacle).

I think Joss does it just about as well as anyone else here, which I think is not well at all.

If anyone wants to discuss this, feel free; the idea of pain for pleasure as part of a healthy sex life is a little out of my AOE, and I don’t want to do it an injustice. But I get disturbed by the way it seems to turn up always displayed as a negative thing. Something that is always enacted by the depraved (those without souls, those tortured since early childhood, etc.). I don’t buy that it is the only way to depict such a thing.

Previous Summer of Buffy blogging conveniently archived.

The Cosmically Forbidden Romance…

a pale woman with dark hair in a white robe and a pale man with dark hair in a blue shirt and tan vest, the man is kissing the woman on the forehead.This is one of my favorite (and by favorite, I mean, really, I love a good romance story or sub-story, but do they ALL have to have apocalyptic consequences?) TV Tropes. The forbidden fruit.

Angel stalks into Buffy’s life in S1 Ep. 01 “Welcome to the Hellmouth”, and I don’t know how initial viewers reacted to him, because while I probably would have liked a show like Buffy if it had been on my radar it just really wasn’t at the time. I don’t know if anyone else was as creeped as I was by Angel, and given that I knew who he was, because I came into the Buffyverse via Angel the Series, that is saying something.

I am just saying that skulking around in shadows and giving cryptic warnings to a scared 16 year-old girl might not be the best way to warm her to your affections, even if you know that harboring those affections might be a bad idea. Other things to remember might include getting the words “hey, cupcake, I used to be an evil bloodsucking hellbeast, but now I’m a cuddly bloodsucking hellbeast thanks to a really old, sucky, curse”, (and I might be able to get “suck” into this sentence one more time if I try!) before you get your tonsil-hockey on. Just sayin’.

But still, Forbidden Romance or no, Buffy still managed to have what that Other Vampire Romance Story about a teenage girl and her vampire sweetheart had in it (OK, more than “a” thing): conflict. Real conflict. Beyond the “I shouldn’t like you but I can’t help it” thing.

But I am digressing again…

What is it about what we can’t/shouldn’t have that makes it instantly the Most SEXXAY Thing Evah?

Moving ahead in my Buffy Blogging a bit, those of us who have seen Buffy before (I know there are some of you who haven’t seen it yet, and it’s OK, I don’t judge you, I haven’t seen a single episode of Dr. Who and I am not ashamed…), eventually Buffy and Angel get it on and Hell On Earth breaks out. OK, well, Buffy has to kill her boyfriend in the World’s Worst Teenage Sex Metaphor Evah. But some of us want it. I am willing to bet if I Google it, there is a world of Fandom out there devoted to it. So, why are we drawn to it? Why is it that something that shouldn’t be makes for incredible storytelling, or at least makes fans scream for more of it?

But this is bigger than Buffy. (BIGGER THAN BUFFY!!??!?!?!11!?)

There is the (I really don’t want to spoil it for you peeps) Angel/Cordelia arch…which had all the makings of destroying the world again, when the need arose to tear out Angel’s soul in order to defeat The Beast…and that was just a dream (it’s a damned good thing it is only Perfect Happiness, huh?). Because the idea of having Cordelia, after the near miss of everything he wanted when she was, as s.e. put it, fucking RAPTURED when he was kidnapped by his son, we get the suspense of the forbidden love that we found ourselves cheering for. But there was something strangely enticing and perhaps even erotic about the thought of Angel achieving that moment of bliss, that thing that he had tormented himself without for years (and perhaps the things that finally got him to stop fucking brooding over Buffy…but I was anti-Angel/Buffy *ducks*)…that he could have it even if it meant unleashing evil in the world… To hell with the World, thinks the viewer, because we need to see this!

In Legend of the Seeker, we have Richard and Kahlan, the Seeker and Mother Confessor, who despite all the Warnings! that they can no possibly be together have gone and fallen in love w/ each other, and the writers of the TV series could not bludgeon us upside the head w/ this theme any more. But the setup was transparent: Man Seeker, Woman Confessor whose power is to touch people and make them fall in love with her, and who can conjure the truth out of everything. She is seriously badass, and despite the stiff acting (by other actors) at times, she is one of the best written female characters on a TV show I have seen in a while. But she and Richard can never be, because it would A) distract from his Mission to Save the World, and B) ’cause Kahlan to lose control of her powers and strip him of his soul, which would cause Richard to be useless for his Mission to Save the World. (This is resolved later, but for the point where I am now, it fits). But for some reason, in spite of this, or maybe partly because of this, Richard and Kahlan can not seem to stay out of situations where they find themselves falling more and more in love with each other. And even w/ the cudgel of bad writing* hitting me episode after episode, I know that there are people who find this shit hot. (OK, it’s a little hot). People obviously want it, because people keep writing it into their television series.

Anakin and Padme were doomed from the beginning, and while I have some WAY creepy feelings about the way that relationship was framed from the beginning, what with her being practically an adult and him being a child and it just being awkward and all…I still feel that you got the feeling (even if you were not familiar with the decades-old lore that was Darth Vader’s fall) that shit was Not Right here and that they were not going to be OK even though you were supposed to pull for them. That love was not going to conquer all or whatever the Power Ballads told us. It was against Jedi teaching. It was probably against good form for the Senate. But yet, in a secret way you have to admit that part of you cheered them on and hoped it would happen. We wanted it, evil outcome and all. And all the “Imperial March” strands woven into the score couldn’t keep us from holding our collective breath whenever they got close enough to touch.

Leo and Piper on Charmed. The White Lighter and his witch were forbidden by the Elders from being romantically involved, and doubly so when the prophecy told of the child that would be Wyatt. The Elders even tried to stop them from getting married in secret. In fact, one could argue that every relationship that happened on Charmed was in some way Cosmically Forbidden, as there was this running theme of Powerful Women charged with Protecting the World (AKA San Francisco) weren’t allowed to have any kind of regular lives a la Buffy. Cole (played by Julian McMahon) , the half demon, Jason (played by Eric Dane) the really powerful newspaper mogul, Richard, the Magic Addict…all of these were doomed relationships that seemed meant to tell them that they just should not be able to balance work and life…but Piper’s story was the special one, as she moved into the Mother stage of life on top of being the Elder sister. Her Extra Special Doomed Relationship was always the Cautionary Tale, taken away for disobeying, taken away so as not to be a distraction…you get the idea.

There are others that come to mind, though not all of them TV/Movie related. Joscelin and Ph├Ędre, the Casseline Brother and the anguissette, who aren’t really cosmically forbidden, but are really just so oddly paired that it frustrates the story…in a really good way, and Imri and Sidonie for that matter.

Any others that you can think of, dearest readers?

Discuss away!

*Um, it is a really good show. I feel like the writing is kind of shoddy at times, but the story is really great, and I really love this show. I plan to write more about it in depth later. But I love this show, bad writing and all.

Tag Cloud