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"Helping the Helpless: Medieval Romance in Angel"

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Grace Newman
Chosen One

Joined: 18 Jan 2017
Posts: 511
Location: Washington, DC

PostPosted: Fri May 12, 2017 3:27 am    Post subject: "Helping the Helpless: Medieval Romance in Angel" Reply with quote

I recently read this essay by AmiJo Comeford in "The Literary Angel" and I thought I would share a couple of excerpts that I liked.

"When Buffy's cross burns Angel's chest, as she moves close enough to kiss him, she physically marks him as hers. From this point on, he will never be free of Buffy or his connection to her, and the same is true for Buffy, as she never loses her scar from Angel drinking her blood in Season Three's 'Graduation Day,' significantly the only wound she incurs that never heals."

"The restraint that makes Angel worthy of Buffy's love, his capacity to keep fighting to make amends, is exactly what he has to renounce in order to be in a position to keep making amends -- he has to drink her blood. His renunciation in order to be worthy of her affection must itself be renounced if he is to be faithful and keep earning her love -- he must not die but keep living in order to prove his worth. The difficulty that this presents for the knight, Angel in this case, is summed up by Xander's harsh chastisement on finding out that Angel drank Buffy's blood, 'Well, it's just good to know that when the chips are down and things look grim you'll feed off the girl who loves you to save your own ass.' Angel's obvious distress in this moment and characteristic inability to articulate the situation effectively contributes to the audience's awareness that love and duty are not especially compatible."

One of the arguments the author makes is that the B/A relationship is better understood through the lens of medieval romance and courtly love than through comparisons like Romeo and Juliet.

"While the Angel/Buffy pairing could easily be seen as a Romeo/Juliet star-crossed lover relationship, the problem is more complex than that. Angel's role as fighter and champion literally prevents him from having a relationship with Buffy. Consider the Shanshu prophecy: If he fights valiantly, he will be rewarded with humanity (and if she is still available, presumably he gets Buffy in the bargain). Though he cannot fight valiantly and be a champion unless he is other-than-human (the source of his estrangement from Buffy in the first place). We can see the terrible cycle here."

Whether Angel could still be a champion as a human is debatable, I think, but in the context of how the show presents the dilemma, I think this take makes sense.

It was fun to read an academic treatment of the B/A romance!
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 04, 2017 1:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just spotted this, and I have to say, that a parent who protects his child from exposure and starvation by holding a job makes a fusion of love and duty just fine, even as does a firefighter or "warrior" (engaged) person doing both just fine for others.

The trick here is that Giles gave the answer. Mercy is indeed a huge part of what love is about, for the self and for the other, and it is not in "deserving" that love makes the gift (and, granted, torment if the beloved suffers for any reason) it is.

"Worthiness" is a personal sense of self that allows the ego to stand and make his own "word" believable to his own ears. (Or some other "measure" is used for comparison, whether religious or socially defined as "the good.")

That another considers another "worthy" is a kind of "mirroring" in "value judgment' in notions of a "comparison" to self: from abject humiliation: see Angel, to recognition of a superior, as in worship and near abnegation of self.

And that, in a nutshell, is why "amends" as some pure division of love and duty is actually a non sequitor, (and why comics now bore me witless) for love cannot be removed from duty, if one is so inclined to define a life choice thusly. To one's duty and speak to hating to do it, shows the notion of a fine line between love and hate because of this very mistaken "conflict."
Be well
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