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happiness and vengeance - I am the fountain of affection
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clauclauclaudia
clauclauclaudia
Claudia
Mon, Jul. 1st, 2002 06:23 pm
happiness and vengeance

Buffy fans reading this will be interested to know this did not start out as a Buffy post. johnpalmer was musing on the subject of pain. And vengeance. And happiness. And Buffy fans probably know where I'm going with this. But read his post first to know where I'm coming from.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer has some powerful writing on this subject. Joss Whedon wrote it to get a bit of plotwise-sloppy writing past the viewers, and it worked really well. ;-) The idea is there's a curse, there's vengeance being enacted, by gypsies (bear with me, if you're not a fan of the show) against Angel, the vampire who killed one of them a century ago. The curse was to give him a soul--a conscience, remorse for all the atrocities he'd committed as a vampire. The vengeance part meant that if he was ever completely happy for even a moment, he'd lose the soul. (And be free to kill again, yes. It's not logical. But it was emotionally powerful when that moment of happiness came when he and Buffy made love, and the morning after he was monstrous to her.) He got the soul back, and can never be completely happy for fear of becoming a monster again.

Just to be clear, it's since been shown that having sex will not necessarily make him completely happy. ;-)

Anyway. The show very neatly puts vengeance and happiness into opposition. The gypsies spoke thus:


Enyos: You know what it is, this thing vengeance?

Jenny: Uncle, I have served you. I have been faithful. I need to know...

Enyos: (interrupts) To the modern man vengeance is a verb, an idea. Payback. One thing for another. Like commerce. Not with us. Vengeance is a living thing. It passes through generations. It commands. It kills.


Jenny: You told me to watch Angel. You told me to keep him from the Slayer. I tried. But there are other factors. There are terrible things happening here that we cannot control.

Enyos: We control nothing. We are not wizards, Janna. We merely play our part.

Jenny: Angel could be of help to us. I mean, he may be the only chance we have to stop the Judge.

Enyos: It is too late for that.

Jenny: Why?

Enyos: The curse. Angel is meant to suffer, not to live as human. One moment of true happiness, of contentment, one moment where the soul that we restored no longer plagues his thoughts, and that soul is taken from him.

Jenny: Then, if somehow, if... if it's happened... then Angelus is back.

Enyos: I hoped to stop it. But I realize now it was arranged to be so.

Jenny: Buffy loves him.

Enyos: And now she will have to kill him.

Jenny: (stands up) Unless he kills her first! Uncle, this is insanity! People are going to die.

Enyos: Yes. It is not justice we serve. It is vengeance.

Jenny: (exhales and grabs her coat and bag) You are a fool. We're all fools.



Joss started with the end on this. He wanted Buffy to have a miserable morning after, the epitome of "you sleep with him, and all of a sudden he's a different guy". And he came upon the idea of mucking about with Angel's nature as vampire with a soul. And a previously-unknown aspect of the curse. And, he says in the DVD commentary for this episode, it doesn't make a lot of sense to risk loosing this awful vampire on the world again, unrestrained by soul/conscience. But he was struck by the idea that "vengeance is a living thing", and it all came together. It may still be a rationally stupid thing for the gypsies to do, but it has an emotional weight and reality to it that cannot be denied.

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agrumer
agrumer
Avram Grumer
Mon, Jul. 1st, 2002 04:07 pm (UTC)

Angel's moment of True Happiness didn't come while he was making love to Buffy. It came afterwards, while he was looking at her asleep in his arms. The characters all get this wrong, fixating on the sex rather than on the emotional connection, which is pretty much spot-on characterization for high school students.


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clauclauclaudia
clauclauclaudia
Claudia
Mon, Jul. 1st, 2002 04:40 pm (UTC)

I could quibble about this. While they were done having sex, they were arguably not done making love. *grin*


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mamishka
mamishka
Mamishka
Mon, Jul. 1st, 2002 06:31 pm (UTC)

Hate to break it to you Av, but having just watched that scene on my DVD, he does not get the pang whilst looking at her. They are both peacefully asleep, there is a clap of thunder, and then he suddenly wakes up with a gasp. Even then he manages somehow to get dressed and outside in the rain (methinks that was a continuity error type thing ... who gets dressed for a soul divorce??) and is calling out Buffy's name in pain. It takes awhile for the soul to get ripped away, even once the process has started.

So the way I see it, the curse is a bit old and rusty .... takes some time before it kicks in. ;) I do think that having sex with Buffy, essentially his soul-mate, was the catalyst, it was just not a very fast reaction time.


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mamishka
mamishka
Mamishka
Mon, Jul. 1st, 2002 06:34 pm (UTC)
Clarification

Sorry, I should have said making love. It's quite clear that it wasn't just the sex, but the fact that he was making love to -Buffy-, his soulmate. True happiness. Can't help but recall when he's getting all happy over Connor how Fred pokes at him and hists, "Not -too- happy!" >;-)


ReplyThread Parent
agrumer
agrumer
Avram Grumer
Mon, Jul. 1st, 2002 07:03 pm (UTC)

Great, spells with a long boot-time.

Hm. If we assume a time-delay, then we can't resolve the question of whether it was the sex itself or the afterglow which did it. I think we are all agreed that sex with just anyone wouldn't have done it, though, and as I recall the characters all seemed to act as if any sex with any person would undo the curse.

Actually, now that Angel knows about the curse, that nagging worry ought to be enough to keep him from ever knowing perfect happiness.


ReplyThread Parent
mamishka
mamishka
Mamishka
Mon, Jul. 1st, 2002 07:12 pm (UTC)

This is why I changed it from "sex" to "making love" which does not involve just the act of having sex. But like I said, they were already asleep and by the deepness of Buffy's sleep, had probably had some time to sleep. Which kind of kills your afterglow theory which is more often than not shortly thereafter the act of sex.

Anywho, I think that we are arguing semantics and that it is was the love, consumated and enflamed, that lead to perfect happiness and thus the losing of the soul. Physical and spiritual bliss=perfect happiness.

That everyone assumed it was the sex was always, in my opinion, pretty silly. But having read the Joss spoilers that I've seen recently, it is clear that Joss likes to give the audience, and often the characters, one impression of what is going on when he means something else ... even to the point of deliberately manipulating things to make it appear different than it is.


ReplyThread Parent
agrumer
agrumer
Avram Grumer
Mon, Jul. 1st, 2002 07:28 pm (UTC)

Oh, I'll agree that it was more the love than the actual swiving.


ReplyThread Parent
mamishka
mamishka
Mamishka
Mon, Jul. 1st, 2002 06:55 pm (UTC)

I think the reason that vengence exists is because we cannot turn back time. We cannot stop the wrong, the harm, from being done. But as victims, or loved ones of victims, there is a need for -something- to balance the scale. Something to bring balance into our lives. The perfect balance is of course to eliminate the hurt. But in many cases that is impossible. I know from my own experiences that what I suffer from when I or someone I love is "wronged" is a need to have power and control over the situation in order to make it better. When that is impossible, it is even harder, leading to anger and vengence which are often easier emotions to follow. Anger is often and emotion of disguise. Often anger is in actually sorrow, shame, guilt. But anger is more acceptable than tears and grief, which are often perceived as weaknesses. Anger gives the illusion of strength. Power. And in situations where we have no control, we often crave having some sort of power to create change.

So we have the urge to make it better. The urge to set things right. The urge to have the power to make a difference. And since the harm usually cannot be undone, if there is a perpetrator, then vengence is something that -can- be done. It is a poor scale, the balance in the end meaningless, save for the fact that it gives us the illusion that we are not completely powerless. That we managed to do -something-.

We are imperfect creatures living in an imperfect world. Often we will take whatever it is that we can get, even if it is only an imperfect balance. I'm not saying that this is right or wrong, simply that it is, and more importantly that it is understandable. Not perhaps the best thing, or the most helpful thing, but an understandable thing.


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agrumer
agrumer
Avram Grumer
Mon, Jul. 1st, 2002 07:07 pm (UTC)

I'd have said Vengeance is a memetic virus propagating via cultural tit-for-tat social stability mechanisms myself, but it adds up to much the same thing, and your way is comprehensible.


ReplyThread Parent
ananda999
ananda999
Ananda999
Mon, Jul. 1st, 2002 07:30 pm (UTC)

I don't think it's weird that everyone focused on sex as the catalyst. It was the sex that did it. Not the physical act of intercourse, certainly, but that was the definitive act that took him from 'pretty darn happy' to 'ohboyohboyohboy'. I mean, he didn't lose his soul the first time he saw Buffy, or the first time they kissed, or the first time she admitted that she loved him.

Anyway, the gypsy curse never bothered me. I liked that Joss framed it as vengeance, which was not the same as justice. The gypsies' only interest was in making Angel hurt, not in protecting others or even protecting themselves. It's a really intense idea, and I think it was totally appropriate to the tone of the show. I mean, yeah, there's some sloppy writing in there, but it's some damn good sloppy writing.


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mamishka
mamishka
Mamishka
Mon, Jul. 1st, 2002 09:29 pm (UTC)

Here here! That is the point that I was trying to make exactly. :)


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