lettered: (Default)
[personal profile] lettered
Over the last few months, I've been rewatching BtVS and AtS, and during S3 of BtVS some things began to make sense to me that hadn't before. This stuff has kinda been brewing for a long time, and it all just burped on the page, so it might not really be an essay or great meta or whatever. I'm going for three things, here:

1. To explain some things about the character of Angel to myself which might've long been obvious to you.
2. To present a cohesive way of looking at the character. There are some threads which tie together or parallel that I didn't notice before, which present a major theme for the character: he always thinks he can get something, and that he needs outside forces to motivate him to act. I'm not sure I really believe this "theme" or theory or what have you, but it's a way of looking at the character. I'm interested in the flaws of the theory as well as the ways in which it fits.
3. To take Angel down a notch or two. Because I do love the character so much, I'm interested in seeing him for what he really is rather than some fangirl construct. The viewpoint above is a slightly less exalted view than I normally take of the character, which is I guess why I think it's interesting.

This is about Angel pre-AtS. I have some ideas about how this way of looking at the character plays out in his own series, but I'll write that up another time. I also have this really weird Angel and Xander meta I need to write which connects to this, but gah, this is long. So, here it is, a view of Angel from Liam to the end of BtVS S3.

*

PREFACE: Definition of "soul" in Buffyverse

I can't say what I want about Angel without explaining that I think Liam and Angelus and Angel are the same person. Many feel the same ([livejournal.com profile] a2zmom has great meta about it here); others feel that Angelus is a separate demon entity or that Angel's soul is not Liam's soul. But I think that Liam has the potential to be both Angel and Angelus within him. He has the power to be greatly evil and greatly good (respectively, of course, though how much good Angel actually achieves is a debatable point. But the material effect isn't so important here as the midset: Liam has the potential to be someone who sacrifices himself for others and tries to save the world a lot. And I'm going to be using the idea of Angel's potentiality for "good" in just that way. It's actually a potentiality for the Jossverse definition of "heroism"--doing right for right's sake without selfish motives. Or in the end it's a potentiality for Angel's definition of greatness--which for him is self-sacrifice. This is mostly material for another meta, though).

Most of that potentiality existed subconsciously. Most of that which was consciously evil would have been dismissed by Liam instinctively as immoral, indecent, and unnatural. A select few of those things, Liam acted on: sleeping around, alcoholism, shiftlessness. Along the same vein, that which was consciously good would have been dismissed as too much work, and almost as unnatural--it's not really an everyday thing to devote yourself to self-sacrifice and world saveage, to make that the purpose of your life. Some people try, but more people want to be painters. A select few good things he would act on: probably was nice to his sister, stuff like that. Out of the whole range of evil and good, most people operate in the middle. Liam may've fallen a little short of the "good" half of the spectrum, but I doubt he ever did anything terribly evil; I doubt he wanted to; I doubt he knew the evil of which he was capable.

When you get vamped in Buffyverse, I think two things happen. You get the demon aspect--vamp face, superstrength, bloodlust, maybe a few other things, but the aspect doesn't fundamentally alter who you are. You also lose your soul (someone did a great meta on the soul in Buffyverse in which these two changes are explained and related to Liam/Angel/Angelus. I don't know where it is or who wrote it!). I read the soul in Jossverse as a sense of morality, basic human decency, and an ability to feel remorse/guilt. With those things removed, the barriers between the evil you do and the evil you are capable of seem to collapse.

I always think about a story my mom told me once when thinking about the souled/soulless thing: she was holding my brother, who was a baby then, walking on the second floor of the mall. She got the sudden idea that she could just fling the baby over the railing down to the first floor. The idea scared her so much she hugged the wall all the way down and out and had a freak-out back home. My mom wasn't tempted. She didn't have to fight with herself not to kill my brother. She was shocked and horrified and sickened by this thought of what she coulddo that had flitted up from her subconscious. She never, in a million years, would've done that. Her vampire self might've. The instinctive horror hard upon the heels of a thought like that is removed with a soul, from what I've seen of Buffyverse, and the remorse that would normally follow if the action is carried out is gone, too.

However, a vampire can still feel love. Spike (and to a lesser extent, the rest of the Fanged Four, and some minor characters like John and Elizabeth) proves that. I view Spike/Buffy as an exercise in what love is: can it exist without morality, without basic human decency, without respect for fellow man, without remorse for actions taken? What is left after those things are gone? What is love, is it enough to make up for the lack of those things given time, is there that a spark of divinity in love? Shouldn't such love be selfish and destructive, but isn't love always to some extent selfish, where is the line between selflessness and selfishness that turns love into destruction and hate? Is love different for different people, is some people's love without that spark that might make it enough to overcome, and does that mean there are lesser kinds of love, or are the people who love that way lesser, or are we all capable of such a love that even with everything else good in us gone if we try hard enough we can exist without destroying the object of that love? So, I don't know the answer to the question whether Vamp!TKMom would through Baby!TKBrother1 over the rail, but I do think that instead of instinctively recoiling from the idea, she would have considered it, might've done it. Afterwards, she might miss him, but then again she might not feel bad about it. If she did decide that she wanted him to stick around, she's probably just as likely to vamp him (as Spike vamped his mother) as let him live, and so on.

The point is it's the nature of the living man that determines what that evil will be. Vamped, the things inside you (the "soul") which instinctively dismissed evil thoughts and impulses are gone, and you're more likely to act on them. Some vampires like turning their lovers; others like tormenting them. The nature of the living man also determines how far that evil will go: in acting on conscious evil thoughts, you open up new vistas; you mine the subconscious and tap the entire potential for evil within you. For some it's deeper than others: it doesn't occur to Darla as it does to Angelus to crystallize forever Dru's torment by turning her (AtS,). And the nature of the living man also determines how that evil will be executed: some are stupid and careless and ineffectual, others are meticulous and perfectionist and world-threatening.


PART ONE: Liam

Of Liam we actually pretty much see a tavern scene ("Becoming Part One" BtVS, S2x21) and some arguments with his father ("The Prodigal", AtS S1x15). From both we conclude that Liam was pretty much a deadbeat, but the reasons for his deadbeatliness are unclear.

Of course there's thousands of explanations and now I think we'll probably never know which one or several it was. Maybe he wanted to be a deadbeat; he was unambitious, never thought about who he was or who he would be, just lived from meal to meal and woman to woman. I think the reason I always used to think that this was how Liam was is it's such a different picture from Angel. Angel seems really self-aware and goal oriented (always striving toward something, which I'll go into more later). I liked that difference, myLiam being vastly "inferior" to myAngel, just as I like myAngelus vastly more evil than Angel. That way, the dichotomies highlight just what failings (shown in both Liam and Angelus) Angel has to overcome inside himself in order to be the guy he is. And that made who Angel becomes seem more heroic and strong-willed to me. Since I kind of put Angel on a pedastal sometimes, that was the explanation I went with.

But anyway, because myLiam's lack of ambition was so different from Angel (and Angelus), the idea now seems faulty to me, especially since I think the quality of being ambitious isn't something that would change souled or soulless (the direction of the ambition would change quite a bit, of course). That, that quality of being ambitious, would in fact be very important in determining the nature of a vampire--part of the difference between Angelus and the vamp Darla tries to get to turn her ("The Trial", AtS S2x9). Someone who wanted a lot out of life would want a lot out of death. So since I realized that, I've adopted [livejournal.com profile] a2zmom'sLiam, who had all kinds of ambition. I think Liam wanted to Become Someone. That is, his goal wasn't to be rich, or the best merchant ever, or a saint, or a farmer with a family and a dog. He wanted to achieve greatness. [livejournal.com profile] a2zmom'sLiam wanted to be a painter. I like that at idea, because it's more neutral than him wanting to be a saint or an evil mastermind, but it still speaks to me of greatness.

Now, there's also thousands of explanations as to why Liam didn't appear to be moving towards this ambition in the few flashbacks in which we see him. One reason is probably his father. In the two scenes in which we see Liam's dad, he's telling Liam Liam's no good. It's possible Liam's suffered abuse like that since he was small, even before he deserved it. It's also possible that before Liam got so damn big there was physical abuse (excellently portrayed in this drabble by [livejournal.com profile] lostakasha). It's also possible that the values/viewpoints of the town he lived in were stifling. Both his father and his peers might've scoffed at the idea of painting for a living, and discouraged him from it. While I doubt the whole village specifically made it clear to him he'd never make anything of himself, I do think they'd in general expect him to follow in his father's footsteps, settle down, be a normal Joe.

My theory about what turned Liam into the slouch he appears to be in the flashbacks is that he never tried. He let himself get beat down and stayed there, feeling sorry for himself, seeking pleasure instead of fighting back. Angel says in "Amends" (BtVS S3x10), "I was young. I never had a chance to..." He doesn't get to finish, but maybe he's talking about Liam's ambitions--or ambitions Angel knows he should have had. Either way, he's making excuses, the way I see it. He wasn't that young. He was old enough and big enough to stand up to his father. He could have left town, gone to Europe, Paris, Rome, where all the big things were happening. Don't get me wrong. I understand that at that time and possibly in Liam's particular circumstances, doing those things might have been extremely difficult. It wasn't as easy back in the day to make your way on your own, to cut yourself off, to establish yourself somewhere new. Also, child abuse can have long term psychological effect. Some people move past it and become successful, but not all. And we have no idea how severe Liam's father was. But my take on this is that Liam's father wasn't exactly atypical for the era. Other people of the age did come from horrible beginnings, and also provincial beginnings, and also both, to be great people and do great things.

The way I choose to view Liam's situation is that things were hard, and Angel will always have Daddy Issues, but that it was primarily Liam himself holding himself back. Sure, he wanted to do something great, paint maybe. As I've said, he certainly has the potential, and he believes that, or even maybe senses it. But his believing he's special is his biggest drawback of all: his biggest fear was trying and failing, of finding out everything his father said was true, that he's not special at all. If he did make the effort and failed, his father and his peers would only laugh at him. He didn't want try something for nothing. What he wanted, I think, was someone or something that could prove he has all the potential he secretly suspects he has, someone who tells him he is special, or something that assures him his efforts won't be for naught. So all that while, I think he was waiting for a big break, for fate to fall in his lap, and when it didn't, he began to believe the world was against him. He began to believe that he never could get a chance because no one would ever give it to him. He was a child, stamping his foot and saying, "It's not fair!" He would end up and old and wasted saying things like, "I never had a chance"; I could've been great if other people had let me. He didn't want to work at being the man he could be. He wanted someone else to do it for him.

Hello, Darla.


PART TWO: Angelus

I always thought it interesting that a point was made of Angel not liking the rich, classy girls of his era, and then to have him be so obviously drawn to Darla in that alley--so obviously rich and classy. What Liam was drawn to was the dichotomy of course: rich classy girl in dirty ill-reputed alley. And of course, when she said she'd show him the world, she was his big break, fate falling in his . . . neck.

I don't think Liam ever wanted to be one of the most evil murderer/rapists that ever pillaged and burned kind of great. Nor did he want to be a self-sacrificing guy who tries to save the world a lot kind of great. As I said above, a lot of our potentiality for both good and evil is subconscious, and those thoughts that do occur consciously are often instinctively dismissed. As opposed to what we are capable of on our personal spectrums of good and evil, the things we actually consider acting on, much less act on, tend to be middle of the road.

However, vamped, Liam becomes aware of his potentiality for evil, and fulfills it. In a way, he fulfills the ambitions he had as a human, too. He doesn't become a painter, but I would imagine that when he realizes the true evil of which he is really capable, Liam/Angelus realizes he's actually more talented at that than art. Torment was like an art to him, he was a perfectionist about it. He'd never be a better artist than the true greats, but he sure could torment better than anyone else, according to the Watcher's Guides: In "Just Rewards" (AtS S5x2) Angel is the "worst vampire recorded". This way he achieved "greatness", really became someone. A lot of his faults as a human: shiftlessness, laziness, inability to act, to lead his own life, have been overcome. He goes from waiting for fate to hand thim a written invitation to becoming--excuse the phrasing--like unto fate itself. He became all he could be. No wonder he threw it back in his father's face: "You said I’d never amount to anything. Well, you were wrong." (Angel morphs into vamp face.) "You see, father? I have made somethingout of myself, after all" ("The Prodigal").

But the Daddy Issue is important here because I don't think it was just the loss of his soul, just being vamped, that helped Liam fulfill his potential. It was Darla herself. The first time I saw them, I felt the flashbacks in episodes like "The Prodigal", "Five By Five" (AtS S1x18), "Dear Boy" (AtS S2x5) and "Darla" (AtS S2x7) were a bit contrived. They showed Angelus and Darla as a team when we hadn't seen that at all before. In other flashbacks, such as "Amends" (BtVS S3.10) and "Sonambulist," (AtS S1x11) Angelus was portrayed as doing his evil deeds independently of her. The flashbacks were open-ended enough that ME never contridicted themselves (that's a small miracle) in showing that Darla was a larger element in Angel's life than we had previously been left to believe, but it seemed obvious to me they were showing that because they had decided to bring Darla back in S2. I especially felt the scene in which Darla picks out Drusilla for Angelus in "Dear Boy" smelled of retcon, as Angelus seemed a bit surprised by Drusilla being there in the Aus/Dru scene in "Becoming Part One". So I think that on first viewing I was kind of dismissive of Darla's influence over Angelus. While "Becoming" highlights the fact that both Buffy and Darla created Angel/us and set him on his path, I read it more as once the lightbulb (in the form of seeing Buffy for the first time, and getting vamped by Darla) popped on overhead, Angel made his own way from there.

Now, I think that Darla was far more instrumental in forming who Angelus became. It's obvious that her instruction showed him the way to draw out tormenting others, as "The Prodigal" shows. Her encouragement was something Liam needed, the something he never got from his father, or probably his peers. Not only that, Darla was a big believer in her fundamental superiority, in her godliness among humans. This would've really appealed to Angelus, because she would've had faith in his secret ambitions of greatness, would've been the proof he needed that great effort was woth the time. She tells him he's special; she's the person holding him by the hand. Because no one had ever done that before, he was reluctant to try, for fear he might fail and come up short-handed. If only someone had encouraged him, if only someone had given him a chance. Darla did and behold the "success".

Darla didn't make Angelus everything he was, as Spike accuses Angel of making him. She "opened the door, and let the real [him] out" ("Destiny" (AtS S5x8). Angelus exceeded Darla. But her shock at how far he goes, how much he exceeds her epectations, how impressed she is with him: these are exactly what Liam thought he needed to be the man he wanted/thought he could be. Without of her, Angelus still would've been a mean, nasty vampire. But I doubt he would've tried as hard to be as evil as possible, doubt he would have been so incredibly artistic and exacting about it, doubt he would've succeeded in becoming truly great. That look on Darla's face, when Angelus told her he wanted to make Drusilla's torment eternal--Darla's shock, horror, and almost awe--that's what he lived for. Or, you know, died for.


PART THREE: Angel, pre-1996

A gypsy and some thigh-biting and a curse later, Angel finds Evil Greatness is not so easy any more because of that soul thing. It's a conflict he never would have felt as a human, because as I said before, Liam rarely was consciously aware of the evil of which he was capable, and when he did consciously think of it his soul most of the time naturally rejected it, without so much as a blip on the radar. But now, re-ensouled, that evil is a constant thought in his mind. And Angel remembers what Angelus was like: free to act on his every whim, in control of his own fate, great.

Now, he is nothing. He is lost, and it's no wonder that he clings to the one person who showed him the way before. What he wants from Darla now, I think, is comfort, someone to feel sorry for him, someone to tell him he is special and too bad no one gave him a chance, to bad that big mean nasty world is against him, because she knows for a fact he's greatness personified when someone lets him be.

Failing with her, it's no surprise that he makes no effort to make something else of his life. If he has ambition at all, it's the exact opposite of greatness. It's the middle of the road, to be what Liam was when Liam was busy not caring about anything, to be shiftless and lazy, unable to act, to lead his own life. He'd been a failure then but at least he hadn't hurt anyone (as he had when he was such a success), at least he had been human.

I had once thought that Angel's ambition now would be to do good, to be a hero. But I don't think at this point that those things would ever occur to him, just as it had never occured to him before Darla to fulfill his potential for evil. And even if it did occur to him, I doubt he'd think real heroism worth the effort. I think it was [livejournal.com profile] a2zmom (no surprise there) who told me once that before Buffy, Angel had never considered redemption possible, and now I totally agree with her. Again, Angel didn't want to try something for nothing. The only thing he thought he was "special" for was evil, and he was prepared to accept that truth because he was too much of a loser to take the chance himself, and there was no one to show him otherwise, who'll assure him his efforts won't be for naught. So he sits around feeling sorry for himself, a person who has ended up saying things like, "I never had a chance"; I could've been great if other people had let me, and he has an excuse, now. He has reason to believe "it's not fair", and the world is against him. He made a last ditch effort with Darla at being the man he could be, and he failed miserably. All he thinks he can be now is nothing. There's no one to give him a chance.

Hello, Judy ("Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been", AtS S2x2), various, and sundry. Judy draws Angel into her world--it's important here that she seeks him, not the other way around. When Judy turns to him, Angel thinks someone has singled him out (yay! he's special! Angel needs to be told that so much). Judy is giving him a chance, and according to my interpretation, he doesn't see it as a chance for him to be a hero, but to be Liam again. Angel's been busy making as little of an impression on the world as Liam ever did, but he doesn't get to do it with the relative comfort and company Liam did. To have that warm tavern glow--enough to eat, people to talk to, a place to stay, without being concerned about the fate of the world or dying to save it, to live firmly in the middle of the spectrum between good and evil, as most people do--that's his great ambition. I think he thinks that helping Judy and the people at the Hyperion will get him something from them; he's not doing it because it's right but because he wants to be liked and accepted.

So it's no wonder when they lynch him that he gives up on them. He realizes that he'll never get anything back from these particular humans, so he doesn't bother. And I think that's always how he operates--he's always out to get something, won't do something for nothing. While no doubt Angel occasionally did good samaritainy things like save puppies and help his landlady with her garbage, I doubt greater good ever occured to him unless someone accosted him with their problems, which to him was someone giving him a chance. And once that chance to be loved and accepted and comfortable again was gone in his eyes, he gave up.

I bet it happened more often than with Judy and the government ("Why We Fight", AtS S5x13.) Big, mysterious, strangely otherworldly guy like him, bet he was getting people like Judy fairly often, or at least every few years or so. But Angel looks surprised when Judy forsakes him, which is pretty stupid of him considering she was under the influence of the Thessulac demon. But consider: Liam secretly believed he was special, but no one ever gave him a chance to be so. When Darla told him he was, he became an immediate success. I think some part of him still secretly believes he could be someone great, so when someone gives him a chance, it shocks him every time he fails. But instead of just getting back on the horse, he sulks. In AtS he proves that it is possible to make a life for himself, to run a business, to function in the human world and have human friends, but because he's unwilling to try anything on his own, Angel completely fails to fulfill his only ambition now: comfort, company, warmth. He convinces himself it's not him, it's fate, it's not fair, it's that the world is against him. So someone else comes along to give him a chance, and he's totally Fate's bitch again. It got to be a kind of routine with him, is my guess.

After he drank that diner guy, I bet less so. He got all dirty and stuff, and how many times do you run to a bum? Plus he was even more convinced no one would ever give him a chance, because he finally convinced himself he didn't deserve one. He'd hit the very bottom, further than Liam had ever fallen, far enough to almost believe that he's not special, that the world isn't so much against him as he's a great big old loser, that if someone gave him a chance to be great he'd just fail at in anyway. Which is why the first person to suggest otherwise gets willing ears, eager faith, and willing obedience, because no one wants to believe that kind of thing about himself.

Hello, Whistler.


PART FOUR: Angel, 1996 - BtVS Season One

Whistler is of course just the weird suit color requisite to make Buffy be Darla. Not that with a funny hat Buffy would look like Darla, but they try. No, I mean, Whistler is the vehicle (probably literally!) to get Angel to Buffy. I wonder if Angel had just happened to see Buffy getting called because he lived in L.A. or some such, whether he'd've gone the same way. No, I bet it takes this skeevy guy appearing out of nowhere, being all mysterious, the very miracle and mystery of it functioning as proof that Angel is special, Angel's efforts won't be for naught. Because Whistler hints Angel can Be Somebody; Whistler gives Angel his chance in the form of Buffy.

And I used to think, when Angel first saw Buffy, that he snapped that chance up, and began from that moment to be everything he could be on the side of good. I always thought he saw her and it was a BAM!, good now, just like I thought Darla is pretty much a BAM!, evil now. But over this last re-watching I decided Darla had more influence over time really influencing Angel to be the greatest of evil, and I've decided it takes a longer time with Angel, too. For one thing, he doesn't even get the kind of encouragement and hand holding Darla gave him from the start with Buffy; he just looks from afar. I think that the combined whammy of Whistler and Buffy, at this point, functions much more in the capacity of a Judy.

Whistler is giving Angel a chance, and Buffy is giving him incentive. He's still not jonesing to be a hero. He's hoping to get some smiles and pats on the back from Buffy, maybe her friendship. (Later, when he figures out he turns her on, he's hoping to get her love, and still later than that, he starts to think he can get even more, but that's another Angel). While I'm sure that Angel is completely convinced that he has a chance this time, he's going to succeed this time, he's special, to anyone watching--PsTB, us--there's really no more indication that he'll Become Someone in these circumstances than when he helped people like Judy. That is, he's not completely fulfilling his potentiality for "good" . He hasn't Become Someone; this isn't Greatness. (Again, "good" and "greatness" in this instance might be closer to the terms "heroism", or perhaps "self-sacrifice".)

There are several reasons I read it that way. One is that he's too chicken shit to help Buffy face the Master in WTTH and Harvest (BtVS S1x1-2). Another is he knows being with Buffy is bad for Buffy, but he kisses her anyway. He does manage to stay away for a bit when he says "I gotta walk away" ("Angel", BtVS S1x7) but in the meantime he gets involved with Giles and her friends, and isn't very careful about not bumping into her in "Prophecy Girl" (BtVS S1x12). Sure, I'm being harsh, but this inability to do what he thinks is right for Buffy (regardless of what is really right for her) is a theme which will return and explain a lot of S2-3, imo, and it says something about what his goals are S1. He's not trying to do what he thinks is right; he's trying to feel good and accepted and maybe loved.

He does kill Darla, which to me signifies he might be moving toward fulfilling his potential in the opposite direction in which Darla had led him, but there's a really big moment in S1 that highlights for me the fact that Angel isn't completely committed to that goal yet. That moment is in "Prophecy Girl": Buffy hears she's going to die; she gives up, and then . . .Angel gives up, too. Okay, so he doesn't say, "I give up"; he says, "we gotta figure out a way...". But Buffy throws his necklace on the ground; she rejects him. And what does he go do? Does it really look like he's figuring out a way? He's hanging out in his apartment, brooding. By IWRY Angel's ready to go out and slit his own throat with a Mohra demon's sword on the drop of a hat. Not this Angel. Sacrificing himself won't get him anything; he knows he can't win against the Master and so doesn't see the point in trying (again, he's not about something for nothing). What he really needs right about then is someone to come take his hand, tell him he's special, give him a chance.

Hello,--what the fuck? Xander?

Yeah, Xander. Xander goes to Angel and tells Angel Buffy's gone to face the Master. And what does Angel do? Bolt to his feet and run down to the Master to save her? Maybe he's thinking very quickly, planning very quickly how to save her, but I ain't seein' any very quickly walking or very quickly Buffy-saveage. I see some very slow staring at Xander, telling Xander he's nuts, telling Xander it's pointless for Xander to even try, because Xander can't get anything out of it. You have to admit that even if Angel's being very smart he's not being very hero-y here. Heroes are manifestly dumb, in fact; heroes put their pants on off-screen and follow Doyle to certain death just because they wants to let their girlfriends enjoy a post shag nap a little longer. Seriously!

But it's Xander who pulls Angel out of his post-Daddy, post-gypsy, post-Judy-and-sundry funk, that I never got a chance schtick, where the world is unfair because he thinks he might get a little sumthin' sumthin' and what do you know, the girl he loves is fated to die and there's nothing he can do about it. In a way, Xander is Buffy's voice here; he says, "Buffy's got this big old yen for you. She thinks you're a real person." That is, Buffy thinks he's special, Buffy's giving him a chance, Buffy's taking him by the hand (in that sense, Xander is also Darla's voice). But Xander also speaks in his own voice; he says, "right now I need you". And for the first time, the person who's grabbing his hand is someone who doesn't think Angel is special or superior or singled out by the powers, someone who isn't proof Angel will succeed, someone who can't convince Angel Angel's efforts won't be for naught. Xander could give a fuck less if his efforts are for naught or not (hee! Naughter knot!); he has to try everything he can (including enlisting the help of someone he doesn't even trust) anyway no matter what. Angel's never seen that before. Certainly never done it before, tried something knowing he can't succeed.

And for the first time, Angel realizes that maybe he should be after something higher than love or comfort. Buffy herself doesn't care if the world is against her, if she never gets a chance. She faces the Master even though she knows she'll lose, because people need her (which Willow shows her). Angel realizes it doesn't matter if people trust him or like him or accept him, they still need him (which Xander shows him). I think he seriously didn't realize that before. Again, if someone had taken him by the hand and told him: see, this is what is needed, this is what the world is, you can make it better, you are special--he might've bothered to try, but before that it never occurred to him, he never even saw it. In "Consequences" (BtVS S3x15), Angel tells Faith, "Time was, I thought humans existed just to hurt each other." And I thought he was going to say next, But then I met Buffy. Instead he says, "But then I came here. And I found out that there are other types of people. People who genuinely wanted to do right. And they make mistakes. And they fall down. You know, but they keep caring. Keep trying." Sure, he's talking about Buffy, but he's also talking about Xander. He's also talking about Willow and Giles and Cordelia and Oz.

So, while it was Buffy's belief in him, Buffy's love which functions like the encouragement and praise he needs to get stunned out of his lethargy towards action in fulfilling his potential, Xander is a kind of turning point. Xander's the last straw in convincing Angel that Angel has potential for more than just existing--he might actually be able to do some good in the world, and the world was worth it.

X/Aers, go to town, please.


PART FIVE: Angel, BtVS S2

Okay, so that moment in "Prophecy Girl" convinced Angel he could be more, but what is that more he can be, what are his goals and ambitions now, who is he? Let's not get carried away with the whole Xander as turning point thing. While Xander has demonstrated that sometimes you should try even expecting you'll lose, I still think don't think Angel's motivations at this point are completely selfless. He's still not fulfilling his potentiality for "good" (heroism, self-sacrifice). He's not working according the Jossverse idea of a "hero" because he still thinks he might come out of it okay.

For one thing, a part of him still thinks being with Buffy could be bad for Buffy, but he ain't doin' a thing to fix it. He says in "Reptile Boy" (BtVS S2x5) that he wants to protect her, that "things could get outta control." He knows he wants to sleep with her, and that she eventually will want to back, and that that might not be good for either of them. But, well, "Surprise". What I think Angel is thinking there, and in the lead up to it, is that he's finally getting his due. He's trying to be a good man. He's trying to help out in Sunnydale, and it's not just Buffy but Buffy's friends who're making him feel useful, needed (see "Dark Ages", BtVS S2x8). He's trying to be patient and gentle with Buffy, loving her like he thinks she should be loved, and Buffy's making him feel like he deserves it. And he's doing a good job. So shouldn't he get something back?

Unlike Darla was, Buffy is making Angel everything he is at this point. Buffy's not telling him what to do, but Angel's not in control of his own destiny. He thinks she is his destiny. He does not go from accepting fate's written invitation to becoming like unto fate itself; he does not become everything he can be; he does not fulfill his real potential; he does not pass go. Okay, I don't know about the go part, but Whistler led him to her, Buffy loved him, Xander needed him to save her--and Angel thinks this is a chance not for what he secretly believes is Ultimate Good (self-sacrifice), but that these events and people are a culmination of a chance for fate to make things up to him. He thinks the world is fair, that he can have his cake and eat it too. He thinks it's his redemption.

[livejournal.com profile] a2zmom (again, no surprise. She's the other half of my brain. She knows all this stuff already and I'm just trying to make it work my way) once said that she thinks Angel's moment of Perfect Happiness in "Surprise" (BtVS S2x13) was a result not just of Buffy loving him, and wanting to share herself with him, but also of something bigger than just Buffy herself. He still believed at that point that he could be redeemed and Buffy was part of that redemption. I completely agree with that; like I said, Angel is trying to be a good man. Man. Angel thinks he can still be one. If a Mohra demon came along right now and gave him a heartbeat, I doubt he'd turn it down. Because he thinks being a good man is what he's cut out to do. He too wants the normal life she wants, which I kind of mentioned in my big B/A metarantsquee thing. He wants to help her and help her friends and hold her hand and kiss a lot and maybe feel her up and give her dumb rings like a freakin' eighth grader.

So, sex with Buffy is like proof he deserves it all. She makes him feel like a man. That's not something you can just forgive.


PART SIX: Angel, BtVS S3

Some hot sex, evil, Hell, feral!Angel (we know because there was quick heavy breathing and nakedness), Angel's kinda off the whole redemption high. I've always had a lot of trouble understanding Angel in S3, especially as regards B/A. I like its parts but overall they're on they're off again, he's bad he's no good she's confused they're together, he's leaving then they're dancing at the prom? I saw in one of the special features or on one of the commentaires Joss Whedon or someone say that Angel's arc in S3 is all about how he has to leave Buffy, and this confused me 'cause though there was some "I'm no good for you" in the beginning, and some "Kill me sunshine!" in the middle, there was all that "still my girl" cheese and I really couldn't make those things form a coherent thread that leads to "Prom" (BtVS S3x20). But on this re-watching, I feel I understood it better. Go me, 'cause now you get to hear my reading of it.

We definitely see from his early scenes in S3, that Angel's having a hard time of it. This is because he's recovering from Hell, obviously. But I also think he's recovering from Angelus, from his realization that fate was not finally repaying him. It wasn't the world working for him for a change; it wasn't fate in his lap; it wasn't his big break. It was an elaborate hoax to prove he might as well give up, because he's never gonna get a chance. And I think somewhere in there, which we see come out in "Amends", Angel no longer thinks he deserves a chance. His recent stint as Angelus has not only reminded him, but--coming on the tail end of what he thought was his due--proven to him once again that the only thing he's "special" for is evil. When he felt that way the first time there was Darla. This time there's Buffy.

And I really think that the Darla/Angel scenes in China in 1900 are very similar to the B/A scenes pre-"Amends". Angel turns to Darla because she's the only thing he knows, the only one who ever thought he was special, the only one to encourage him to become any "better" (I use the term in a relative sense, obviously). The same is true with Buffy. He knows it could be dangerous and hurtful to be with Buffy, just as he knows that what Darla would want him to do if he's to stay with her is wrong. However, the choice to leave Darla was easy enough: it was the highroad or baby killing. But because Buffy continues to accept him, he's even more lost than when Darla rejected him. He believes he can be more than deadbeat Liam, because here Buffy is, loving him. But he can't try to be human, supporting Buffy's friends who hate him now, helping and protecting Buffy whom it's difficult to be around now, loving Buffy when it's more wrong than ever to be in a relationship with her now. He really shouldn't even be near Buffy, probably. But then next thing you know, in "Revelations" (BtVS S3x7) he's kissing her, and I'm with Buffy--what the hell is he doing? But his answer is truthful: he has no idea. He's convinced himself he's nothing, and she's the one thing in the world that makes him believe he's something.

There's an obvious solution to Angel's turmoil, of course, and we get to it in "Amends". He's nothing without her and it's wrong for him to be with her? Hey, don't be with her, and be nothing. Say hello to the sunshine. Not sure even Buffy can stop him, then. Sure, she's doing what normally works--giving him a chance, telling him he's special, all that good stuff. But Angel accepted that in S2, and failed, and all "Amends" is is a really delayed response to everything that happened then. It is, in fact, his modus operandi a la Judy and sundry. He tried something, failed, and now he's given up. Though actually, the First torturing him is a lot closer to Angel drinking that diner guy: he's hit the very bottom, having that dream about losing his soul in Buffy and loving it. He's fallen far enough to believe that he's not special, that the world isn't so much against him as he's a great big old loser, that even though Buffy is giving him a chance he'd just fail at in anyway. Because hey, paradox, Buffy can't give him a chance when the chance she gives--to love her--is so very wrong to him. Which is why the first freak blizzard with a different idea gets willing ears, eager faith, and willing obedience.

Cue snow. Exit Buffy.

Seriously, exit Buffy. Once it snows Angel's bright shiny new opportunity isn't Buffy any more, isn't loving Buffy, isn't being a man for Buffy. And the thing guiding him--taking his hand, encouraging him, telling him he's special and is going to do great things--isn't Buffy any more either. Something like the snow showing up at a time like this convinces Angel there is another solution--he can leave her and not be nothing, 'cause this snow obviously proves he's something.

So, in that moment, I think he realizes for the first time that he's capable of real heroism, the Jossverse definition of "heroism": right for right's sake, without knowing you'll come out of it okay, self-sacrifice. Angel realizes he can do right, and the right thing to do then is to leave Buffy. Since Buffy is pretty much all he wants just then, he leaves her knowing he won't get anything for himself. He is doing right for right's sake. The judgment of the shows seems to lean toward this selflessness and this reasoning being what's "heroic" and right. Despite the fact that in S2, what he sought to get for himself isn't what I would call dishonorable by any stretch of the imagination, Angel still wasn't doing what he thought was right because he was trying to get something for himself. In Jossverse, a true "hero" has nothing, and will never get anything. I think Buffy realizes that when she goes to the Master in "Prophecy Girl"; she falters sometimes but she proves it again at the end of S2 and S5: she'll never get anything for herself; she exists to fight and die. In the ep after "Amends", Angel summarizes all of that: "We never will. That's not why we fight. We do it 'cause there's things worth fighting for" ("Gingerbread" S3x11). This was something that Xander already knew, too: he didn't come get Angel in "Prophecy Girl" because he thought he could succeed but because he loved Buffy.

But while I do think Angel believes what he's saying about not winning, I'm not sure that's the guiding star of his actions. I still think he makes the decision to leave Buffy based on the snow. And the snow is proof he's special and supposed to do something great, an assurance his efforts won't be for naught. And that's the difference between him and Buffy, I think. Buffy knows her job is eventually to die; the nature of a Slayer is just to keep the world in balance, to keep it from going belly up, to keep it from being destroyed, not to make it a better place. But my impression of Angel is that the snow convinces him he has a part to play, and he doesn't see why a higher power would go to the trouble if he can't actually make the world a better place, if he can't actually Be Someone. Maybe he doesn't think he can win, but he does think he can tip the balance. It's still about what he can get, even if it isn't for himself.

Okay, if Angel decides in "Amends" to leave Buffy then and there, that doesn't really show well in the B/A in the following episodes. But I think that the eps that follow can be read as him gradually figuring out what the snow was about, gradually deciding, gradually seeing it's not going to work. He's still weak. He still can't bear to leave her yet; he still wants to protect her. Every life threatening crisis he's kissing her or has her in his arms, and every doubt she has in his love he assuages. But on his own, he's figuring out what to do with himself. And I think the eps do make a point of Angel doing more things on his own. One moment I especially like is in "Consequences" (BtVS S3x*), when Wesley tells them all Faith escaped from his custody. Buffy tells Giles, Xander and Willow what to do to look for Faith. Before she says anything to him, Angel has his own plan. Maybe he and Buffy are just in sync and work together really well. But to me it speaks to him starting to realize he can do the hero thing on his own.

As always, it takes an outside force to get his ass in gear. The last couple eps of S3 do a pretty good job of having a confluence of events point toward Angel leaving: the charade with Faith, what the Mayor says, Joyce, and finally Angel biting Buffy. But I think it really started with the magical snow, telling him his ass in gear could do something, and that he's Someone.

*


If you bothered to take the time to read this long boring wordy viewpointy metay thing, open to all discussion, questions, disagreements, "but that's just stupid"s and "what the hell were you thinking"s. In fact, it's open to that even if you didn't read because hey, free place here, but I'm really interested in what other people think about this.

(no subject)

Date: 2006-08-02 09:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kita0610.livejournal.com
I wonder if you read my Angel essay for the Idol Reflection community? Cause I wanna TALK this w/ you, and I need to refer to some of those ideas...

Damn, why don't you live close enough to do this over tea???

(no subject)

Date: 2006-08-03 10:20 pm (UTC)
ext_7189: (Default)
From: [identity profile] tkp.livejournal.com
I wonder if you read my Angel essay for the Idol Reflection community?

Just did (perhaps obviously). Is that on StA? I feel like I read the first part and not the rest. I know you wrote it forever ago, but (of course) it still holds true and it's a really good overview of Angel.

I'm not so sure this one is--I'm not so sure I agree with all my points, like I said in the very beginning. I think the main thing I wanted to explain to myself was this (taken from your Idol essay):

"Angel has never been shown to hesitate when sacrifices need to be made; he will take on insurmountable odds for a good cause, and he will give up everything in order to save those he loves, or the world at large. But Angel has a great deal of difficulty accepting the consequences for those kinds of choices. He is, as stated earlier, a perfect martyr, willing to suffer for his sins and the sins of mankind. What he cannot stand, however, is to be called on his choices, to have them debated or declared wrong."

I think the question I was asking myself when I came up with this is the question the Jeeves-PTB-guy asks in "The Trial": 'is it really worth it to die for Darla? What good will saving Darla do for the world as a whole? Can't you do more good if you stay alive?'

Angel realizes in "Epiphany" that you can never Win, that the point isn't to Win, but do What You Can. And yet, if a "small act of kindness" is the most meaningful thing you can do, why is he so given to grand gestures? Shouldn't he be trying to survive as long as possible to perpetuate those small acts of kindness, instead of throwing himself into annihilation every chance he gets? Especially when such self-sacrifices might not even be a kindness at all?

One the one hand there's an Angel who understands that in the long run, nothing he does is going to matter, so he might as well do his damnedest to save everyone he can, no matter the price, because there is nothing else--which I think is the Angel in your essay. OTOH there's an Angel who might understand, but refuses to accept, that nothing he does matters, because there are things like Darla, Whistler, Buffy, snow, Doyle, Shanshu, et al that his part in apocalypse does matter. And that Angel does his damnedest to save everyone he can because he really thinks he can save him, and a part of him thinks he can even save himself--and that's the Angel I was going for here. OTOH the whole idea of the "nothing we do matters" line is obviously paradoxical and debating about what he means by it is perhaps an exercise in absurdity.

OTOH, I've grown so many hands that now I'm Tevye.

(no subject)

Date: 2006-08-02 09:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] stoney321.livejournal.com
DUDE. Let me pour myself a drink, get the kids settled and in bed, and I'm all over this like Spike on a cock.

*rubs hands together with GLEE*

(no subject)

Date: 2006-08-03 10:22 pm (UTC)
ext_7189: (Default)
From: [identity profile] tkp.livejournal.com
Or you can be all over Spike being all over a cock. 'Cause the world always needs more porn meta.

(no subject)

Date: 2006-08-02 09:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jgracio.livejournal.com
Just a few things...

I don't really agree with Angel/Angelus being Liam, no more than I agree with any other vampire still being the person they were. IMO, they're based on the person, but once they get vampy the person is gone, replaced by something that isn't and can never be human (not unless they change back somehow, Shanshu, whatchacallit demon blood, whatever).

If you add a soul to the vamp you get something new, something that still isn't human, it's something more or less, something different, with the same capacity for good and evil, but not human.

I do agree that Angel/Angelus are prety much the same person though, the soul doesn't create a new separate entity.

An excellent meta analysis for Angel. A sidenote, heroes in the Buffyverse get nothing out of it, but they do get loads of people, usually people they care about, dead. It doesn't pay to be a hero in the Joss series.

(no subject)

Date: 2006-08-03 10:25 pm (UTC)
ext_7189: (Default)
From: [identity profile] tkp.livejournal.com
I don't really agree with Angel/Angelus being Liam

Yeah, and lots of people hold that view. I don't think it's something that can really be argued either way. I mean, it can be argued, but not universally decided. One of the reasons I prefer to view it that way is I think it makes Angel (and also Spike) a deeper, more interesting character.

A sidenote, heroes in the Buffyverse get nothing out of it, but they do get loads of people, usually people they care about, dead. It doesn't pay to be a hero in the Joss series.

Definitely agree. I think "Chosen" was supposed to be about Buffy finally catching a break, finally not being alone, finally not having to die young having done nothing but fight evil, but I'm not sure I believe it. Everything in Jossverse up to that point indicated that such relief would never be possible for someone like Buffy. I like the answer in AtS better: Angel would never ever get to catch a break. But Connor could, and that was enough for Angel.

(no subject)

Date: 2006-08-02 09:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bashipforever.livejournal.com
I always always adore your meta discussions. There is so much here that I believe is so true. So much in fact I won't actually point it out 'cause that'd pretty much be me pointing out the whole discussion. The most interesting point to me (who is rabidly NOT a A/X'er) is the Xander point. You're absolutely, completely right. That is Angel's turning point. He needed to have someone that didn't like him, didn't think he was special or hot or better or any of those things NEED him. He had to realize that as horrible, unworthy, and worthless as he was (in his opinion) he was still needed and he could still do something good.

Of course we know it didn't quite work out that way. He ended up being worthless to saving Buffy's life anyway but that idea had been planted and that was what was important.

(no subject)

Date: 2006-08-03 10:29 pm (UTC)
ext_7189: (Default)
From: [identity profile] tkp.livejournal.com
the Xander point.

I'm not an A/Xer either. I mean, it could be an interesting 'ship, except for the fact that neither one of them would EVER EVER NOT IN A MILLION YEARS be interested in one another ;o)

But yeah, Xander and the snow were the two peak points I wanted to get to with this. I always had a problem with Xander wanting to go save Buffy and Angel seeming almost reluctant, since Angel is the one whom Buffy loves, since Angel is the one who becomes a hero on his own show, all that. But it makes sense when you think about it.

(no subject)

Date: 2006-08-02 09:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ex-dovil323.livejournal.com
What do I think? Well, I'm the wrong person to offer up an arguement because I agree with your premises on what a vampire is and your assessment of Angel's character. And this is one of the best well thought out analysis I've read.

I run off to rec and I stick this in memories.

(no subject)

Date: 2006-08-02 11:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ex-dovil323.livejournal.com
Oh, and another thing that I loved about this - I got the Angel/Darla thing but I never GOT the Angel/Darla thing and this sets up a lot that's fallen into place for me. Plus even though I've never been a Angel/Buffy shipper (though I'm a Angel/Buffy/Spike shipper - I don't get that one either), this was another one of those posts where I can suddenly see the viewpoint of someone else and going 'Ohhhhh, NOW I get it'.

Angel/plus any blond/e going 4 EVA!

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] tkp.livejournal.com - Date: 2006-08-03 10:33 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

Date: 2006-08-02 09:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] anelith.livejournal.com
I love, love, love the idea of Liam/Angel/Angelus being the same person. I will hasten over to [livejournal.com profile] a2zmom's essay as well since you say she also has some thoughts on this. There is so much inconsistency in the Jossverse about vampire origins, to my mind, that would be explained by this.

Your story about TKMom was so apt. This has happened to me as well. Horrible flashes going through my mind? Yes. I shudder thinking about them right now.

Going back to your paragraph on whether vampires can love, have you heard the pious saying that love isn't true love if it doesn't put the welfare of the beloved above all else? So much crap, in my opinion. I don't think many relationships would qualify as true love if that were the case. Yes, I think love is always to some extent selfish.

I think that this essay is completely wonderful, and I love it all the more because you approach Angel from the standpoint of taking him down a bit from his pedestal, as you said you would. Angel is my favorite character in the Jossverse and all the more so because he is imperfect.

(no subject)

Date: 2006-08-03 10:44 pm (UTC)
ext_7189: (Default)
From: [identity profile] tkp.livejournal.com
[livejournal.com profile] dlgood also has good meta on the Liam/Angel/Angelus stuff, here. I know there was another essay about it, as I mentioned, that really clarified things for me (esp. the "aspect of the demon" detail) but yeah, still can't remember where it is.

love isn't true love if it doesn't put the welfare of the beloved above all else? So much crap, in my opinion. I don't think many relationships would qualify as true love if that were the case. Yes, I think love is always to some extent selfish.

It just depends on your definition, and again boils down to the question: what's love, what makes love love, what is the essence of love? In the end, I don't think those questions can ever be answered. I once had a really long debate with [livejournal.com profile] dlgood about whether Angelus loved Buffy--I thought no, he argued yes. But in the end, it seemed like just a question of semantics: what he feels for Buffy is selfish--how selfish does it have to be before we stop calling it love and start calling it hate? It's cliche, but the line between love and hate is thin, and in this case, pretty indecipherable. What he does NOT feel, as Willow points out, is indifference.

you approach Angel from the standpoint of taking him down a bit from his pedestal, as you said you would. Angel is my favorite character in the Jossverse and all the more so because he is imperfect.

Right. I started with a couple thoughts that seemed to point to a premise that kinda makes me cringe, even in the way it applies to the wonderful things Angel has done for other poeple. That doesn't change the character, though--doesn't change what a loser he was as Liam, what a horror he was as Angelus, what beautiful, heroic, love- and life-affirming things he did as Angel. It just opens up a new way of looking at those same things he did, and understanding him better. So, I'm glad that worked for you!







(no subject)

Date: 2006-08-02 10:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] spuffyduds.livejournal.com
Terrific. I especially like the bits about Xander, and the snow--that had never occurred to me.

Reading the Buffy and Darla bits made me think about Spike. (Well, linoleum makes me think about Spike. But this time I actually have a point.) Spike's always portrated, by Joss and fic writers, as "love's bitch"--a reed bending to whoever has his heart this season. But I'd never thought about how much Angel is the same way. Although the loss/restoring of a soul goes some way toward the becoming evil and becoming good, you make the point that in large part, he's evil for Darla and good for Buffy. So he's as reactive as Spike to his romantic interests. When you also look at Xander as a main character, and at Giles whose entire job/calling/existence is meant to be All About the Slayer--you have an entire group in which the men are, for the most part, reactive, and the women more proactive. I'd never really sorted that out before. Cool. Go you!

(no subject)

Date: 2006-08-02 10:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] spuffyduds.livejournal.com
Portrated? Sigh. Portrayed.

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] dlgood.livejournal.com - Date: 2006-08-03 12:30 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] tkp.livejournal.com - Date: 2006-08-03 10:55 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] jgracio.livejournal.com - Date: 2006-08-04 05:38 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] tkp.livejournal.com - Date: 2006-08-05 01:46 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] jgracio.livejournal.com - Date: 2006-08-05 10:51 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] dlgood.livejournal.com - Date: 2006-08-05 03:16 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] tkp.livejournal.com - Date: 2006-08-05 06:51 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] jgracio.livejournal.com - Date: 2006-08-05 08:23 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] tkp.livejournal.com - Date: 2006-08-05 06:55 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] jgracio.livejournal.com - Date: 2006-08-05 08:58 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

Date: 2006-08-02 10:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] 43100.livejournal.com
OMG - I swear I saw a link to a thingiemabobber on the soul and what it means in the Jossverse etc. not too long ago but now I can't find it, or I'd link you to it! :/

(no subject)

Date: 2006-08-03 10:57 pm (UTC)
ext_7189: (Default)
From: [identity profile] tkp.livejournal.com
I know! I wish I could find it! There are actually a lot of metatations and essays on it, but there was one in particular that separated getting vamped into two events: getting the demon aspect and losing the soul. It was a really good way to explain what I thought.

(no subject)

Date: 2006-08-02 11:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ba4ever.livejournal.com
Just stopped by to say, I read it all. No it wasn't boring, it was all very true.

And now I'm bowing down to you. Thank you for that.

(no subject)

Date: 2006-08-03 10:58 pm (UTC)
ext_7189: (Default)
From: [identity profile] tkp.livejournal.com
Thanks! I had a couple points that I wanted to make, but it seemed to take forever to get there, so I was kinda worried. Glad it worked for you.

(no subject)

Date: 2006-08-03 01:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lynnenne.livejournal.com
Hmmmm. I agree with some of this; not so much other parts. I agree on the "moment of perfect happiness" theory--it wasn't just that he loved Buffy, but that he thought, for the first time in 200 years, that he could be a man. At that point in his life, Buffy was his "Shanshu," so to speak. If they met up again now, I don't think that would hold true anymore.

As for the rest--I disagree that Liam/Angelus/Angel was ever that self-pitying. I doubt Liam had any ambitions to be an artist, and I don't think he was shiftless because he had failed to "become someone." What Liam wanted more than anything was to piss his father off, and he did it spectacularly well. In that sense, he was never a failure. He was a huge success. He continued being a huge success after he was vamped; as a human, he confined himself to acts that wouldn't get him thrown in jail or swinging from the hangman's noose. Once vamped, he was freed from all human and moral constraints, and he could be as cruel, evil and sacreligious as he liked. Angelus was all about mocking God, no doubt because his father would have been horrified. Darla certainly encouraged him down that road, but I think he would have taken it with or without her prompting.

Once re-ensouled, Angel is filled with self-loathing, but I don't think he wanders for a hundred years because he thinks he's a failure. I think he does it out of a fear of failure--failure to control himself. Humans are a constant temptation to Angel. He's afraid he might give into his demonic urges and begin feeding on them again. He isolates himself, not because he feels sorry for himself, but because he doesn't trust himself around humans and doesn't feel a part of their world. There are moments, as you say, where he starts to believe he might be able to put his soul to good use and do some good in the word--but he slips (leaving the hotel to the Thessulac, feeding on Diner Guy) and decides that no, he's not safe around human beings and must get as far away from them as possible.

It's only when he starts keeping company with Buffy that he realizes he may actually be *able* to do good, because she'd stake him the minute he bit someone. *g* Angel eventually realizes, as you point out, that having friends around to help keep you in line can be a powerful way to live, and allows each of us to put that soul to good use. It's also why he leaves Buffy--because she's a constant temptation to him, and if he's to hang onto that soul and keep from hurting her, he has to begin relying on other people (as Doyle points out, in the first episode of AtS). Angel is in a constant battle against his own nature. He fights on the side of right, but he is not a righteous man.





(no subject)

Date: 2006-08-03 03:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ex-dovil323.livejournal.com
I could be in heaven, two big Angel brains discussing things and I get ringside seats - yay!

What Liam wanted more than anything was to piss his father off, and he did it spectacularly well.

Here's the dialogue from that scene:

http://vrya.net/bdb/clip.php?clip=4556

The bit where Darla talks about approval makes me think that this is what he most desired from his father, not some kind of victory, and I think that's what added to the emotional punch of Angelus killing him. Besides the bit where he, you know, became a blood sucking fiend and murdered his father. Opps.

I also think your interpretations might not necessarily be either or but instead maybe a mix of both?

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] dlgood.livejournal.com - Date: 2006-08-03 01:57 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] ex-dovil323.livejournal.com - Date: 2006-08-03 11:36 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] dlgood.livejournal.com - Date: 2006-08-04 12:55 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] tkp.livejournal.com - Date: 2006-08-04 01:11 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] dlgood.livejournal.com - Date: 2006-08-04 01:19 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] tkp.livejournal.com - Date: 2006-08-04 01:03 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] jgracio.livejournal.com - Date: 2006-08-04 05:55 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] tkp.livejournal.com - Date: 2006-08-05 01:43 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] tkp.livejournal.com - Date: 2006-08-04 01:17 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] dlgood.livejournal.com - Date: 2006-08-03 05:34 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] tkp.livejournal.com - Date: 2006-08-04 12:56 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] tkp.livejournal.com - Date: 2006-08-04 12:55 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: (Anonymous) - Date: 2006-08-06 04:33 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

Date: 2006-08-03 09:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ares132006.livejournal.com
You won't get an "That's stupid" and "what were you thinking" from me.

I found this fascinating and quite thought provoking. I have always thought Darla a huge influence in Angelus *life,* and of course she still affected Angel as shown in AtS. The similarities between Buffy and Darla physically, has always been obvious, but now after reading your thoughts on the whole Liam/Angelus/Angel thing I do see other things I hadn't considered before.

And the whole Xander showing Angel the way, so to speak? Blew me away. No way had I ever considered *that!* Food for thought!

This has been an enjoyable read and I love reading the comments that others left, some of which have valid points too.

This one from germain pet is a fine example. This is how I see Angel before he met Buffy.

Once re-ensouled, Angel is filled with self-loathing, but I don't think he wanders for a hundred years because he thinks he's a failure. I think he does it out of a fear of failure--failure to control himself. Humans are a constant temptation to Angel. He's afraid he might give into his demonic urges and begin feeding on them again. He isolates himself, not because he feels sorry for himself, but because he doesn't trust himself around humans and doesn't feel a part of their world. There are moments, as you say, where he starts to believe he might be able to put his soul to good use and do some good in the word--but he slips (leaving the hotel to the Thessulac, feeding on Diner Guy) and decides that no, he's not safe around human beings and must get as far away from them as possible.


I too will rush over to A2zmom's essay. She is your other half after all. *g*

Sorry about the non LJ user head thing for the two people I mentioned, unless I am posting and using Editor, I am hopeless.

Hugs for an interesting view, and for all that typing, it must have been hard work.

~Ares


(no subject)

Date: 2006-08-04 01:28 am (UTC)
ext_7189: (Default)
From: [identity profile] tkp.livejournal.com
And the whole Xander showing Angel the way, so to speak? Blew me away. No way had I ever considered *that!* Food for thought!

Yeah, I just never thought about it before either, but once I did start thinking about it, I started seeing all kindsa parallels I'd never thought of before.

I'm so glad this resonated with you and made sense to you.

Don't be sorry about the head things! Jo said the same thing and I pointed out how the head things cut off torsos and boobs and make me miss feet, so who needs 'em? ;o)

(no subject)

Date: 2006-08-03 01:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] girlpire.livejournal.com
i read it all! that is exciting to me, because this is the first time that i've managed to read meta this lengthy without barfing and clicking away as fast as i could. i usually disagree wholeheartedly with the thinky posts people post about my fandom, but this? this is excellent, and so completely true. or, well, true to my idea of angel, at any rate. the whole needing to feel special thing? omg, that is so right on. and it's so funny to me that he needs that constant reassurance thing. he's such a guy! guys are ALL like that. that's one of the reasons i love angel so much - because he's so human that way.

the only thing i would add is at the end... with the self-sacrificiness, and the doing right because it's what's right? i would also add that one reason he's so willing to be that way, to fight and even die for everything and everyone, is that he doesn't really feel like he has that much to lose. he knows he can never experience pure happiness, and i think that knowledge kind of gives him the extra incentive to run out and die for something - because he has nothing that great to stick around for. i think he has some kind of [subconscious?] death wish, to be honest, but he doesn't want to kill himself because either he doesn't think it will work (like in Amends) or he doesn't want buffy or anyone else to think that he's weak... or something. so he rushes headfirst into battle, and if he dies a hero's death then maybe he'll get the credit he's due.

in Fool for Love, spike points out that buffy has a death wish and that he thinks all slayers do. i think angel does too. and by the end of ats5, wesley does (although he tells illyria he isn't planning on dying). spike wants to die at the end of Chosen... i wonder if it's a champion thing. all champions want to die? or maybe the fact of being a champion means you can't have a lot of ties to the world, so you don't have that much going for you anyway, so you don't mind the thought of death. several times in btvs, there are references to buffy only having lasted as long as she has because she has friends who help and support her - which suggests that if she had fewer ties to the world then she would maybe be more reckless and get herself killed [more often]. angel doesn't have the kind of friends that buffy has. when he gets close to someone, the person either dies (doyle, cordy, fred) or betrays him (wesley, jasmine), and since he doesn't have those ties, he has no reason to come back after a battle. so, yeah, he does stuff that he thinks is right because he doesn't think people should suffer as they do, because the world is harsh and cruel and that's why there's champions, and all that... but also because what has he got to lose?

this comment was longer than i meant for it to be. but i really enjoyed your meta! and i wanted to meta back at you. :D

(no subject)

Date: 2006-08-04 04:15 am (UTC)
ext_7189: (Default)
From: [identity profile] tkp.livejournal.com
this is the first time that i've managed to read meta this lengthy without barfing and clicking away as fast as i could. i usually disagree wholeheartedly with the thinky posts people post about my fandom, but this?

I know what you mean. I've read some very well written stuff that I just plain disagree with, and some other stuff that feels like it should make sense but actually doesn't. But I have read a couple kick ass pieces of long meta, so I'm glad this was tolerable to you!

he needs that constant reassurance thing. he's such a guy! guys are ALL like that. that's one of the reasons i love angel so much - because he's so human that way.

I know! It startled me, when I thought about it that way, because Angel is so mythic and big and heroic...but in the end he does want hand holding and pats on the back just like everyone else.

so he rushes headfirst into battle, and if he dies a hero's death then maybe he'll get the credit he's due.

This is definitely one of the point that I wanted to get into when I started talking about AtS--and then I decided that was a whole 'nother ballpark and cut this particular meta short. Why does he rush to sacrifice himself so often, when he knows he can't ever be human, and knows he can't win? The ostensible reason is what you say--because there's nothing else to do, nothing else for him--but wouldn't it be better for the world if he stayed alive so he could fight? Is he in fact trying to go for some kind of humanity or victory, reward or credit after all?

i wonder if it's a champion thing. all champions want to die? or maybe the fact of being a champion means you can't have a lot of ties to the world, so you don't have that much going for you anyway, so you don't mind the thought of death.

I think it's a Joss Whedon thing. It seems pretty obvious to me that Whedon thinks the Ultimate Good is self-sacrifice: Buffy, Angel, Spike, Doyle. Even Mal's "go down with the ship" philosophy in Firefly is in the same vein.

angel doesn't have the kind of friends that buffy has. when he gets close to someone, the person either dies (doyle, cordy, fred) or betrays him (wesley, jasmine), and since he doesn't have those ties, he has no reason to come back after a battle.

Huh. That's an interesting idea. I would add that when Angel does have a tie that doesn't die or betray him, he severs it himself: Buffy, then Connor. And several people make a great case for Connor as Angel's humanity, as in Angel fights in the end because he knows he can never be human or have a good life, but he believes his son can. So in that sense, Angel has everything to lose if he doesn't fight; he fights so his legacy can live on. I'm still not sure that explains/justifies the sacrifice in NFA. Again, it seems like Angel could make the world a better place if he stayed alive to keep fighting; seems like the war he was waging in NFA was as likely to bring about apocalypse as make the world better.


this comment was longer than i meant for it to be. but i really enjoyed your meta! and i wanted to meta back at you. :D


I love long comments! So glad this meant something to you, and I enjoyed your thoughts as well. It's such an interesting discussion to me.

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] dlgood.livejournal.com - Date: 2006-08-04 07:14 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] tkp.livejournal.com - Date: 2006-08-05 01:40 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

Date: 2006-08-03 02:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dlgood.livejournal.com
someone did a great meta on the soul in Buffyverse in which these two changes are explained and related to Liam/Angel/Angelus. I don't know where it is or who wrote it!

Might be me. I had a big "Grand Unified Theory" post from way back.

Very thoughtful, thinky thoughts. I commented to someone else above and will repeat here... I think Liam was a very frustrated person in life, and that while he had some fun drinking, carousing, and pissing off his father - I don't think any of it made him happy. NOw, he could have actually gone to do things that made him happy - nothing was really in his way. But he had this depressive/faithless aspect, and without feeling a tug he wasn't going to try.

That's why Cordelia is there in AtS-1 - because without people pulling him, he's sooner or later going to get so depressed by a failure that he's going to crawl in a dark hole for a few decades rather than try and fail again.

I like how you note that a lot of his groth points revolve around him deciding to make the effort anyway.

(no subject)

Date: 2006-08-04 04:30 am (UTC)
ext_7189: (Default)
From: [identity profile] tkp.livejournal.com
That's why Cordelia is there in AtS-1 - because without people pulling him, he's sooner or later going to get so depressed by a failure that he's going to crawl in a dark hole for a few decades rather than try and fail again.

Exactly. That's why I like AtS S3, despite all the suckiness that season. Connor was a really big force pulling him, and again, despite the utter crap of most of those baby!Connor episodes, Angel's the happiest then we've ever seen him.

I like how you note that a lot of his groth points revolve around him deciding to make the effort anyway.

He does make those decisions realizing his efforts might be in vain, but I'm just not sure he ever believes that. He leaves Buffy, the one thing he wants--but the snow seems to suggest he has Purpose. He gives up his humanity--but he still thinks he can save Buffy. He realizes in "Epiphany" there's no big Win--but he still thinks killing himself and his whole crew in NFA will accomplish something? I don't know.

(no subject)

Date: 2006-08-03 05:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] aea.livejournal.com
Nothing constructive to add. When I got to the part about Xander, I was thinking, "This is brilliant!" (and I sounded like John Cleese in my head). Brilliant!

(no subject)

Date: 2006-08-04 04:31 am (UTC)
ext_7189: (Default)
From: [identity profile] tkp.livejournal.com
Okay, you can sound like John Cleese. But my uncle looks like him.

Glad you liked the Xander part! That's an idea that was really new to me, and something I hadn't heard before, so it was one of the reasons I wanted to write this essay thing. Thanks!

(no subject)

Date: 2006-08-03 10:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] violaclaire.livejournal.com
My immediate reaction to this is, "Yes! Exactly! Why didn't I see it before?" I need to think about it more before I get anywhere else. But wow, when you meta, you really meta. I bow down in awe.

I will say that I'd never thought of that need to be "special" as such an important part of Angel's character before, but thinking it over it makes perfect sense, especially given what we see in "Soul Purpose" and "Destiny".

(no subject)

Date: 2006-08-04 04:40 am (UTC)
ext_7189: (Default)
From: [identity profile] tkp.livejournal.com
Thanks!

I will say that I'd never thought of that need to be "special" as such an important part of Angel's character before, but thinking it over it makes perfect sense, especially given what we see in "Soul Purpose" and "Destiny".

It's something that's occurred to me in the sense of his martyr complex. I always see it especially in IWRY. It's such a noble decision he makes, and I'm always with him 100%--but why? BECAUSE NOW HE HAS HIS OWN SHOW. Because he's the hero, because of course he has to go on fighting, because of course we think he's special; the credits and DB tell us so! When I put myself in his shoes, I see myself wondering asking some questions that makes me ashamed of myself, but I can't help thinking almost anyone would ask: 'Why should I? Why does it have to be me? Why do I have to give up everything I ever wanted, just for the fate of the world? And isn't it colossal arrogance to think that what I do could possibly have any bearing on the fate of the world?' So in the end, Angel is colossaly arrogant.

But it's no suprise he got to be that way--from Darla to Whistler and Buffy to the snow to Doyle to the Senior Partners to Connor. And perhaps most of all from Liam's father--maybe in the end Angel's just trying to be the boy who proves his daddy wrong.

(no subject)

Date: 2006-08-04 01:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kita0610.livejournal.com
Liam is so completely the kernel of Angel(us) to me that I can't even imagine arguing the point. It would be like debating whether or not rocks exist.

You know what really hit home for me with your essay? Darla is Angel's Daddy. Think about it- she's the power behind the throne for a long long time; she encourages him, as you say, guides him, *approves* of him. She's not nurturing him, she's grooming him. And much like other father figures in Jossverse, she deserts him when it suits her own ends (see burning barn in France). I always wondered why he killed her so casually in BtVS S1 'Angel'- sure, it was to save Buffy, if one truly believes that Buffy needed saving. But it was also a case of "been there, done that"- he already killed his father. It didn't make him happy. My theory runs out of steam when she returns to him alive in LA, years later, because she is the epitome of Angel's small blonde archetype in that story arc. But hey, it wouldn't be the first time a character has played more than one role in Angel's mystery play.

(no subject)

Date: 2006-08-04 02:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dlgood.livejournal.com
It's the more than one role. After all, human Darla suddenly triggers Angel's "you have the chance to be human - which is something I really want except that I'm needed as a hero - and thus it cannot be sqandered" and plus "if you can't be saved, then how can I be?" which was an earlier part of his dealings with Faith. Though his dealings with Faith, IMHO, are colored by the clear similarities and kinships plus the "I had a little sister whose life I ended, and so I will save you as though you were my new little sister" ...

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] tkp.livejournal.com - Date: 2006-08-04 05:42 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] tkp.livejournal.com - Date: 2006-08-04 05:39 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] kita0610.livejournal.com - Date: 2006-08-04 06:18 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] tkp.livejournal.com - Date: 2006-08-05 01:38 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

Date: 2006-08-05 12:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] timeofchange.livejournal.com
Not only are the ideas in this essay brilliant, not only is the meta from your readers delicious, but (I realize my grammar has gone to hell here, but go with me on this) you are a wonderful writer. This goes into my memories.

*smooch*

That is all.

(no subject)

Date: 2006-08-05 06:57 pm (UTC)
ext_7189: (Default)
From: [identity profile] tkp.livejournal.com
Thanks! I didn't think exceptionally hard about how to write it because I just wanted to throw the ideas out there, so I'm glad my natural way of writing is appealing to you. You have no idea what a confidence boost that is. Thanks again!

(no subject)

Date: 2006-08-06 02:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] crazydiamondsue.livejournal.com
You have to admit that even if Angel's being very smart he's not being very hero-y here. Heroes are manifestly dumb, in fact; heroes put their pants on off-screen and follow Doyle to certain death just because they wants to let their girlfriends enjoy a post shag nap a little longer. Seriously!

That hit the meat of the essay for me. As an X/A shipper, let me add: so to speak. :)

I'm trying to think big thoughts about the rest of your essay - most of which I have to agree with, though I'd never though of Liam having ambitions of any sort, unfulfilled or no. I imagined him eventually falling into his father's business at some point, marrying the appropriate yet boring girl and becoming a right prick, but an oblivious one.

However, I can't stop thinking about Xander/Angel. Since I seem to be the only X/A shipper on this post - I'm going to indulge that.

I loved your thoughts on Xander going to Angel during "Prophecy Girl." And that moment always struck me, too. I'd seen parts of AtS at the time I first saw PG, so I couldn't reconcile the slowly staring Angel with the proactive Angel shown in most of AtS. I think your explanation is spot on.

The canon filled, post series Xangel story I'm dying to write (and about which we've talked) looks at that theme, too. Angel turning inward with inaction, and Xander going forth because he doesn't know another way than to try, even if failure is imminent. My feelings on Xander are summed up there with, oddly, a quote from Nick Brendon.

It's from the TV Arts & Sciences gig (on one of the Season 6 DVDs) as the cast is asked about the musical. Nick answers that he'd never had any theatre, much less musical experience prior to OMWF and that he just jumped into it because, "it couldn't be any worse than anything else [he] hadn't done." And while that's wildly OT, it still sums up a lot of Xander's motivations for me.

Which is one thing that draws me to the pairing - Angel's inaction vs his belief that he - and only he - can prevail and Xander's grin and bear it tactics.

Now, possible OTP thoughts aside, I want to see further thoughts from you on how you feel Connor, as well as the AI team and the possiblity of Shanshu, changed him. If you want. :)

(no subject)

Date: 2006-08-25 06:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lusciousxander.livejournal.com
Wow, this is an amazing essay, I especially loved the Xander and snow parts. As a Xangel shipper, the Xander parts made my day. Thank you! Can't wait fopr your Xander essay.

(no subject)

Date: 2006-08-25 08:05 pm (UTC)
ext_7189: (Default)
From: [identity profile] tkp.livejournal.com
Hey, glad this made sense for you! I didn't notice at first, but there really are a lot of interesting Angel-Xander parallels. The Xander essay isn't so much about Xander as about that, and it's just a few more observations about it--but thanks for reading!

(no subject)

Date: 2008-07-23 02:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] clevermonikerr.livejournal.com
Here from the [livejournal.com profile] su_herald. I thought this was a really amazing essay, and I thought the part about Xander helping Angel become someone was interesting.

Profile

lettered: (Default)
It's Lion Turtles all the way down

August 2014

S M T W T F S
     12
3456789
10111213141516
1718 19 20212223
24252627282930
31      

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags