Sunday, September 12, 2010

Was the Angel/Angelus a representation of Dark Male sexuality?

I'm going to be talking extensively about the tv shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. Tread carefully.

In case you didn't know I'm a fan of the Buffy/Angel universe. Every once in a while I head over to Random Babble (the owner is a big time Buffy fan) to chat things out. From that I've been meaning to take time and do some examining of the Buffy/Angel universe myself. I'm gonna kick it off by hitting something that's been on my mind for a while.

You ever get the feeling that when writing out Angel/Angelus that Joss Whedon was also writing about male sexuality?

As a bit of a background Angel, before being turned into a vampire, went by the name of Liam and was a lad with a bit of social status that pretty much "drank and whored his way through life". Until one night he meets a vampire by the name of Darla. By drinking his life and sharing her own life with him Darla unleashed a terror that would strike fear in the populace of Eastern Europe for over a century. After years and havok, carnage, and mayhem (and bringing Drucilla and Spike into the fold) Angelus, his new name given to him by his "mother" Darla, finally got hit back by karma.

In one of his engagements of torture, violence, and death he rapes and kills a young Gypsy girl. That young Gypsy girl's family retaliate not by burning him, staking him, or cutting off his head. No they punished him in probably the worst way possible. They gave him his soul back.

You see in the Buffy/Angel universe when a person is turned into a vampire they lose their soul. One's soul also serves as their conscience. Its what causes them to feel guilt, regret, and remorse. Without it a vampire is able to commit the most horrible of crimes and not think twice about it. But when the soul returns the memories of all those crimes become a more powerful weapon than any physical instrument.

When Angelus got his soul back he suddenly felt remorse and guilt over the things he did (and also took the name Angel). However the effect is not absolute. In addition to giving him his soul back the Gypsys that gave him his soul back put a curse on him. The curse states that if Angel were to experience a moment of true happiness he would lose his soul and Angelus would rise once more.

That's the part that has me thinking.

During S2 of Buffy she and Angle are a couple and at one point they take their relationship to a sexual level. In that moment Angel loses his soul and Angelus returns. Without his soul Angelus immediately goes back to the manipulative and evil ways he once employed (as a side note bear in mind that while they share the same body Angle and Angelus are treated like two individual entities).

One thing I noticed is that throughout the rest of the runs of Buffy and Angel's own show there is a running notion that in order for Angel to keep his soul he must never have sex again or else. Now of course I think this was supposed to be more fleshed out to mean that he can never get close to anyone like he did with Buffy but there were plenty of "if he gets some he'll go on a killing spree" jokes to go around.

Now as you know current cultures understanding of male sexuality pretty much limits it to the idea that men want sex with women all the time and will do anything to get it. Add that to the two ways the loss of Angel's soul come up but don't actually happen after S2 (in S3 of Buffy when Angel has sex with faith and season 2 of Angel when he has sex with Darla) and its pretty evident that his soul (and by extension his conscience and humanity) are tied to sex.

Next take a look at how Angel/Angelus are when it comes to sex. Angelus was very sexually active (and it wasn't always non consensual). He was also literally a soulless monster that killed at a whim and tortured for fun. On the other hand Angel seemed to avoid having sex (in fact in between both shows he seemed to only have sex when it was part of a plan or when he was about to cross to the dark side). And as we see he is a champion of justice and right. Good guys don't have sex and bad guys do.

Oh and one more thing. Mmmmmmmmm.....Angel.