The Long-Awaited Buffy/Angel Rant

This topic may seem to be coming somewhat out of the blue, but it has been on my mind a lot lately. I had thought that I would get to this topic with my Angel Investigations posts, but those seem to be on an extended hiatus, so when some of the comments over at Mark Watches Buffy struck the indignation chord I decided it was time to share my thoughts. And I have a lot of thoughts.

angel_and_buffy

The relationship between Buffy and Angel has an almost legendary status among sci-fi/fantasy fans such as myself. It is one of the great tragic love stories of our time, almost Shakespearean in its scope and passion and tragedy, and because of this it seems to be held among many people as a great example of true love, with people saying that Buffy and Angel “belong” together, accept no substitutes, etc.

This attitude makes me want to smack my head into the table. I hate their relationship. Is it true love? Sure. It is passionate? Totally. Is it beautiful and tragic? Heck yes. It is also unhealthy, controlling, and borderline abusive. And just so we’re totally clear on my position here, I blame Buffy for 90% of the problem.

Now, to be fair, I did not experience their story the same way most people did. I saw Angel the Series before seeing Buffy, so I knew of their relationship, but my only experience of the two of them together came from the episodes “I Will Remember You” and “Sanctuary,” which is not the most flattering portrayal of Buffy or of the two of them together. I grew to love the idea of Angel being with Cordelia before seeing him with Buffy (Angel/Cordy was the first romantic relationship that I ever really shipped), and I grew to love Angel’s more fleshed-out character on his own show so that seeing him as a more flattened character on Buffy almost seemed like a regression. So I’m not exactly primed to like them together.

But I also think that seeing who Angel is able to become and the relationships he is able to form away from Buffy before seeing him with her has enabled me to articulate why I think Buffy is bad news. These are my main complaints: vampire denial, idolization, the hot/cold factor, and the sense of entitlement.

It was probably not a good idea for Angel to kiss Buffy before telling her he was a vampire for many reasons, one of which is that she never really seems to be able to get it through her head. Oh, she understands he’s a vampire all right, but either she can’t accept it, or she just wants to forget about it. Every time Angel’s vampirism comes up, Buffy either gets uncomfortable or brushes it off or wishes aloud that things were different. She doesn’t like hearing about Angel’s past murders or his treatment of Drusilla or his relationship with Darla. She’s uncomfortable watching Angel drink blood, or even buying blood, and admits she never really thought about where he gets his food. She forgets that Angel doesn’t have mirrors in his house. She seems to have to remind herself that Angel can’t go out in the daylight, and those reminders are usually accompanied with wishes that he could. She seems weirded out by the age difference and the idea that she will eventually look older than him.

Now, to some extent this is all very understandable. I mean, who really (outside of Twilight and Anne Rice novels) wants their boyfriend to be a vampire? It’s a fairly awkward situation to be in, and one can’t really blame Buffy for wanting things to be different. Except that it means that she is never able to accept Angel for who he is, and by extension she is keeping Angel from accepting himself. Angel is largely defined by his past, his crimes, and his temptations, and so for Buffy to avoid hearing about them like the plague she is removing the possibility of knowing Angel on more than a surface level, and she is also making Angel even more ashamed of who he is (like he really needs that). Buffy is also guaranteeing that she will never be happy with Angel because she will forever be wishing that he were human (more on that later). That’s a pretty crappy relationship right there.

So why did they get together in the first place? Were they drawn to the other’s sparkling personality? Their inner essence? No, because they barely knew one another. Angel fell in love with Buffy before he ever met her by watching her get called. He was inspired by the idea of Buffy, and that idea triggered an inward change, and I think he loved her for instigating that change, but it never really went beyond that until they officially started dating. Similarly, Buffy fell in love with the idea of Angel long before she knew anything about him. He was the mysterious, handsome, strong, information-dispensing guy with an obvious interest in her, and so she returned that interest without knowing anything more. Angel idolizes Buffy as the sweet, innocent-yet-strong Slayer and Buffy idolizes Angel as the hunky romance dude. Now there wouldn’t necessarily be anything wrong with this if they were able to get past it and know each other on a more personal level, but I’m not convinced that they ever do. They hardly ever talk, and when they do it is more often than not about strategies for taking down some evil-doer, not about each other.

Okay, so their relationship didn’t run very deep, but what they had was good, right? Um, no. Please consider the following from “Reptile Boy”:

Buffy:  (exhales) I-I was... just thinking, wouldn't it be funny some 
time to see each other when it wasn't a blood thing. (smiles briefly) 
Not funny ha, ha.

Angel:  What are you sayin', you wanna have a date?

Buffy:  No.

Angel:  You don't wanna have a date?

Buffy:  Who said 'date'? I-I-I never said 'date'.

Angel:  Right. You just wanna have coffee or somethin'.

Buffy:  Coffee?

Angel:  I knew this was gonna happen.

Buffy:  What? What do you think is happening?

Angel:  You're sixteen years old. I'm two hundred and forty-one.

Buffy:  I've done the math.

Angel:  You don't know what you're doing, you don't know what you 
want...

Buffy:  Oh. No, I, I think I do. I want out of this conversation. 
(starts to walk past him)

Angel:  (bumps into her) Listen, if we date you and I both know one 
thing's gonna lead to another.

Buffy:  One thing already has led to another. You think it's a little 
late to be reading me a warning label?

Angel:  I'm just tryin' to protect you. This could get outta control.

Buffy:  Isn't that the way it's supposed to be?

He grabs her by the shoulders and pulls her closer. She draws a startled 
breath.

Angel:  This isn't some fairy tale. When I kiss you, you don't wake up 
from a deep sleep and live happily ever after.

Buffy:  No. When you kiss me I wanna die.

She pulls herself free and runs off.

[Later……………..]

WILLOW: What happened with Angel?

BUFFY: Nothing. As usual. A whole lot of nothing with Angel.

XANDER: Bummer.

WILLOW: I don’t understand. He likes you. More than likes.

BUFFY: The guy hardly ever says two words to me…

XANDER: Don’t you hate that.

BUFFY: … and he treats me like a child.


[Later………..]

WILLOW :(to Angel) Why do you think she went to that party?

Because you gave her the brush off…

(to Giles)

…and you never let her do anything except work and patrol and – I know she’s the Chosen One but you’re killing her with the pressure, she’s sixteen going on forty –

(to Angel)

— and you, I mean you’re gonna live forever, you don’t have time for a cup of coffee?


[Later…..]

ANGEL: I hear this place serves coffee. Thought maybe you and I should get some…

(nothing from Buffy)

…sometime.

(nothing from Buffy)

If you want.

Buffy considers him for a long moment, then:

BUFFY: Yeah.

Angel brightens.

BUFFY (cont’d): Sometime. I’ll let you know.

And she gets up and goes. Xander, Willow, Angel stare at her departing back.

It’s possible that I’m just especially dense, but I truly do not understand Buffy’s position here. She wants some ill-defined thing to happen with Angel, but balks when he suggests going out for coffee, then she tries to run away from talking about their relationship, then she as much as professes her love for him, then she does run away, then she complains that nothing happened with Angel, causing Willow to yell at Angel for not asking her out for coffee, then when he does ask her out for coffee she brushes him off and walks away again, and somehow this is all perceived as a great step forward in their relationship. That’s ridiculous. She does have a legitimate complaint about Angel treating her like a child, but, frankly, she’s acting like one. And this is just one example. I truly cannot tell if Buffy is really that hot and cold or if she just enjoys stringing Angel along, but her treatment of him is so wildly inconsistent that I’m surprised she doesn’t drive him crazy.

Which brings me to my final complaint: their relationship is entirely Buffy-centric. Admittedly, it is her show, so it is to be expected to some degree, and this is something that is true in many areas of Buffy’s life, not merely her relationship with Angel, but it makes for an extraordinarily crappy relationship. When do they ever discuss what is happening in Angel’s life? When does Buffy ever ask what Angel wants? When does Angel ever refuse Buffy anything? Angel seems to exist to do Buffy’s bidding (seriously, does he have a job? how does he pay for his apartment?), and Buffy is perfectly willing to take advantage of that. Why? because she is the Slayer, so that makes her the all-entitled one. So, okay, Buffy does have special needs and she is the leader of the evil-fighting brigade, so it makes sense that Angel would follow her orders when it comes to monster fighting, but it truly disturbs me that she carries that sense of entitlement over into their romance. Consider this dialogue from “I Will Remember You” that takes place soon after Angel has been made human:

Angel:  "It would be smart to wait a while.  See if this mortal thing takes."

Buffy:  "Exactly.  And even if it does, it’s still complicated."

Angel:  "You’re still the Slayer.  And I’m not sure what I am now.  I don’t know what my purpose is.  I can’t just wedge myself into your life back in Sunnydale.  It wouldn’t be good for either of us.  Not to mention the fact that you just started college.  And what about slaying?  I mean, if you had me to worry about, you might not be as focused."

Buffy:  "Are you going to pull out a pie chart on me now?  Because I get it, it’s not necessary."

Angel gets up with a sigh and moves to the chair next to her:  "I’m not saying I don’t want you.  You know how much..  I’m just saying it’s worth the wait to be sure this is right.  I need to be sure you won’t get hurt again."

Buffy gets up:  "You know it’s a good thing I didn’t fantasize about you turning human only about 10 zillion times, because today would have been a real let down.

Okay, so a vampire of 240+ years, with whom you are in love, gets made human, which is something you know he has wanted for decades. First logical reaction… complain that it isn’t living up to your expectations? Buffy, dear, let me say this as clearly as I can: THIS ISN’T ABOUT YOU! It is not your dream that has just come true. It is not your desperately-sought redemption that has just been achieved. It is not your future that has been forever changed. What right do you have to be thinking about yourself at this moment? Does it affect you? Sure. But the fact that you had dreamed about Angel turning human for your own sake, rather than for his, shows that you have got some really screwy priorities. Again, unfortunately, this is just one of many examples.

People talk about Buffy and Angel’s relationship as being a “doomed romance,” but they say so primarily because of the curse. It think it would have been doomed even without the curse. I simply cannot envision a scenario in which these two maintain a long-term, healthy relationship. Now don’t get me wrong—there were good elements to their relationship, and I think they truly did love one another, but it was such a warped and unbalanced love that it was bound to fall apart.

Here endeth the rant.

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~ by ntertanedangel on January 6, 2012.

One Response to “The Long-Awaited Buffy/Angel Rant”

  1. Thank GAMMA I’m not the only one who thinks this way! I loved watching BtVS but every time I watched a scene with Buffy/Angel, I’d think Angel was actually realistic and, I guess, romantic in some ways. Buffy, on the other hand, made me want to bash my head against a wall. Repeatedly.

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