The Battle of the Great Ambivalence

Have you ever warred with your own apathy?

Apathetic cat feels… it doesn’t matter.

As some of you may remember, I’ve been trying to read The Wheel of Time and to watch Angel.

I haven’t really succeeded at either. I get excited in individual chapters or episodes, but somehow I reach a stopping point and never go back. It’s kind of getting to the point where I wonder why I’m even bothering.

It’s not the characters, because I like some of them… though definitely not all. And it’s not the plot, at least not entirely, because sometimes I enjoy it. But feeling like I should read or watch something just isn’t cutting it anymore.

What’s your breaking point? How little can you care before you just can’t carry on?

Why Don’t I Like Angel?

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a huge Buffy fan.

Obsessed might be the better word for it.

I didn’t grow up on the show, which, incidentally, started airing when I was 12. I only discovered it about two and a half years ago, after my love of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog and Firefly convinced me to give Joss Whedon’s girl-superhero a try. (Patrick Rothfuss’s love letter to Joss Whedon didn’t hurt, either.)

Now, I’ve watched the show through more than a few times, I’m reading the Season 8 graphic novels, and I’ve seriously considered having a husband-and-wife dance at my wedding to this heinously inappropriate song:

(May the Piracy Furies decline to smite me for embedding this video.)

So you would think I’d be all over Angel. But we’ve tried watching it, and haven’t gotten further than the first episodes of season 2. So why don’t I like Angel?

1. The show’s premise isn’t all that great. Brooding vampire goes to L.A. to fight evil in his quest for redemption? Okay, well, when I put it like that, it does sound interesting. Trouble is, it just leads to Angel saving young women and/or children in every other episode. We frequently get to say, “Tonight, on a very special Angel…” as they treat topics like drugs, gangs, and single parenthood. It’s just… too earnest.

2. Individual episodes aren’t that gripping. If I find I’m looking at my blog stats or surfing Facebook while I’m watching a show, I know it’s just not doing it for me. I actually started writing this blog post last Friday when we were attempting to give the show another shot. Too many episodes are “monster of the week,” but those monsters don’t get me biting my nails. Which leads us to…

3. The villain is too ambiguous. One of the great things about Buffy is that every season has a real, visible villain, someone we can see and hate (and/or think is kinda awesome, like Mayor Wilkins). The fight is present in almost every episode. But Angel (at least so far) doesn’t have this. A law firm just doesn’t get my love-to-hate juices flowing.

4. The characters don’t inspire much love. I never cared much for Doyle, and then he just disappeared. And Cordelia got his power through a kiss? Um, weak plot device, guys. Wesley is the goofy sidekick, and Cordelia is the “pretty face with an empty heart” who has room to grow—and there just hasn’t been much development of either. But it’s not just the sidekicks. Angel himself is too brooding (though David Boreanaz does portray his whimsical side with great glee), and I don’t feel compelled by his quest for redemption. He chooses to be miserable, which does not make me feel sorrowful on his behalf.

5. I hate Darla. I hate her voice, I hate her attitude, I hate her outfits, I hate her face, I hate her anachronistic American accent in the vampires’ deep past, I hate every single thing about her. I. Hate. Darla. And yet she’s a major player in season 2—and, I’m told, several seasons thereafter—which is almost enough to drive me completely away from the show.

At this stage, I’m limping along through Angel because I feel like I should watch it. I want that added facet of the Buffy-verse. But… is that “should” enough to overcome my dislike?

Can you convince me to like or at least keep watching Angel? Give it your best shot.

Freudian Friday: Faith Lehane, Part 2

Angel knows what it is to hate yourself more than anything in the world.

If you recall, when we left our dubious heroine last Friday, Faith had gone slightly round the twist and, hating herself, committed to a suicide-by-Angel assassination plot. In a touching moment, Angel offers her the forgiveness she needs (if not necessarily from him), and she agrees to turn herself over to the police. For the rest of the series, it seems Faith is seeking redemption, often coming close to throwing her life away in an effort to save others.

She returns to Sunnydale in the final (television) season of Buffy to join in the battle against the First. For the most part, she causes few problems, and most of them are “problems” only from Buffy’s point of view. Buffy, trying to prepare the Potential Slayers for the almost inevitable painful death that awaits them, treats the Slayers with a cold detachment, while Faith tries to help them keep their spirits up and embrace their potential.

When the Potentials vote Buffy out, Faith leads them into a trap. Although my instincts are constantly to side with Buffy (I mean, come on! She’s the true Slayer!), Faith never sought to replace Buffy or even to undermine her. Faith is who she is, and she and Buffy are two sides of the same coin: the “I fight because I can and must” Slayer and the “I fight because I can and want to” Slayer. And Faith nearly dies in the trap with the Potentials.

And as much as I will side with Buffy (I have a strongly ingrained sense of responsibility myself), she doesn’t always treat Faith fairly. After Faith kills a civilian, Buffy keeps it a secret until it starts eating away at Buffy herself, and it’s too late for Faith by then. Instead of helping Faith, Buffy rats her out. She also never fully trusts Faith again, even though Faith saves the love of Buffy’s life more than once. I have to look at it from Faith’s side: she admired Buffy, even envied her, and Faith gets to see firsthand the revulsion that do-gooder Buffy has for Faith. Faith feels that disgust and turns it against herself rather than her upbringing and actions. The low-points where, as Buffy, she beats herself up, and later tries to get Angel to kill her, are the climax of Faith’s education in hating herself.

We could argue that she’s just being selfish, trying to “buy” redemption with reckless attempts to make her life more worthwhile, but I don’t think that’s the case. After getting a taste of how it feels to have a life full of love and true worth to those around you, she realizes how much her devil-may-care attitude was hurting people she cares about–and herself.

Faith suffered abuse and horrible trauma in her past, and she watched people she cared about die. A girl she briefly called friend killed her father figure. She saw a Watcher she cared for die brutally at the hands of a monster, and felt she failed to protect that Watcher. By the time we meet her, she’s pushing people away and trying to control her life in the only way she knows how: by destroying it.

 

Angel’s treatment of her makes her realize that she can’t always drive people away. Sometimes others are willing to love us more than we love ourselves, and we have a responsibility to those people, to live up to that love and to protect it.

I could probably write a thesis about the Faith-Buffy relationship, but I won’t do that here. Instead, I’ll turn it over to you readers: How does Faith turn her rage into remorse? How does she decide to turn her life around? Will she ever forgive herself? Is she trustworthy? What’s your favorite aspect of this truly nuanced character?