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November 05 2003

"Methadone for 'Buffy' Addicts." Salon.com review: "This season of 'Angel' is methadone for 'Buffy' addicts in withdrawal…"

I totally disagree that Fred is "the poor man's Willow" and that Wesley is "the poor man's Giles." Yeah, she's geeky, and he was a watcher once, but the similarities pretty much end there. They've served rather different purposes on their respective shows.

I also don't think that Gunn is an "Oreo," (which I think is a really problematic term to begin with -- is Gunn any less authentically black because he's full of legal knowledge now?) nor do I think that he chose to work with Angel because he thinks that's necessarily the "bigger" cause; it's much more complicated than that. I'm spoiler-free, but I would bet that in due time, he's going to be expressing some concern about having lost the hands-on involvement in the community that he once lived to serve, as he has before. It's kind of early to be complaining that he's not talking about the change in his identity just yet. Even looking back at the character's early days, it's clear that Gunn's always been concerned and torn about where and how and with whom he can best honor his personal mission, and I think ME's tackled those issues well.

I think it's kind of sad that a lot of writers can't seem to resist constantly comparing Angel to Buffy. And even with Buffy over now, I guess the fact that the show went in a different direction and has had four full seasons in which to create its own identity just isn't enough.

Sorry. Defending the underdog is my hobby. ;-)
This article is so patronising. I just don't even know where to start. It really pisses me off when Angel gets described as a second-banana series.
Note that the author isn't Stephanie Zacharek (sp?), the Salon writer that previously championed Buffy.

I wonder what her take would be?
"It's not Xander or Willow or -- heaven forbid -- the slayer herself, but it'll have to do until the real thing comes along."

Geez that article was whiny(and that photoshop work shoddy).
You know, I miss "Buffy" as much as the next guy, but I move on and I DON'T put down other shows because they are not my dearly departed Buffy.... "Poor man's willow, poor man's Giles" Gimme a break...ever since its first season, it was evident that Angel(even as part of the Buffyverse) was a totally different show that appealed to different audiences.
So to go into Angel with a mindset of "Just a Buffy hack" is silly.
Yet another condescending, poorly researched, and mean-spirited article from the Salon.com crew. Gah.
I've been watching Angel from the beginning since they started the syndication on TNT and I was thinking much the same thing that this author did about Gunn after watching a recent episode. In the ep, Gunn told his old friends and acquaintances that he would never forget them or leave them completely, and I was struck by how Gunn now has absolutely no connection to his old neighborhood or black people at all. He has no black friends, no black love interest, nothing. He seems to be the very definition of a token character -- representative, but isolated.

As much as I appreciate having a minority character on the show, enjoy the evolution of the character, and am looking forward to the possibilities of him being the intellectual heavy rather than the physical one, I believe this is a legitimate criticism. It is not a deal breaker, however. Just like Friends in New York, I believe that Angel in L.A. has the opportunity to incorporate the diversity of the city into the show, but I can still enjoy it without it. It is just a wasted opportunity and a shame not to do so.
Must confess that the wife and I avoided Angel...figured it couldn't be anywhere near as good as Buffy,and we didn't want to be disappointed...we bought Season 1 in August...then 2, and got copies of 3 and 4 (don't ask, and don't worry, we will buy all the others on DVD--have already paid for Season 3, in fact) and speed-watched them so we could be current for Season 5.

Agree totally with Simon et. al. The character development has been astounding and yet totally plausible...Season 4 is a towering masterwork...some standalones have been simply amazing...and the entire conceit of the devil's own law firm, which could be hokey, is at once deliriously delightful and utterly terrifying.

New Angel tonight...I have begun to love Wednesdays!
Ah, reminds me why a stop reading the Salon stuff.
Salon love baiting fans. Don't be taken in.

That said, I'm watching the reruns on TNT now, and it's striking how much the show used to be about LA. There was lots of talk about the city, lots of external night shots, lots of local characters. LA was almost a character in the show. Maybe they were just trying to define themselves outside of Sunnydale, but they just don't talk about the city anymore and I kinda miss it. This season, they could really be anywhere.

[ edited by fraying on 2003-11-06 19:10 ]
They haven't got the money to do a lot of exteriors this season, so maybe that's why they're avoiding even mentioning the outside world.
brother_grady, Gunn is one of the few black characters on TV who isn't a black stereotype. But if you must, they could have an episode where he sits around with his homeys playing dominoes, drinking a 40 and eating fried chicken, that should make Angel legit in your eyes and might attract that young urban black demigraphic the advertisers are looking for.
A 40? Puzzled Northern Irishman here.
A 40 oz bottle of malt liquour. Stereotypical "black" beverage.
It's a fine line, and heaven knows I'm not black, but I'm much more interested in seeing a wide assortment of three-dimensional black characters on television, including Gunn, than I am in seeing Mr. One-Note Stereotype From the Projects. I agree, what makes Gunn interesting is that he's not a stereotype. He's an important character who just happens to be black. Which, frankly, I think is a lot better than a black character who still manages to be important.

It's a similar gripe I've heard against Dennis Haysbert's character on "24" now that the writers have dared to give him a white love interest. Why does it matter? What I like about both shows is that, while they never ignore race, it isn't the sum of who the characters are.

But anyway, in all, a pretty lousy whiny article.
Thanks for the offensive post, vpecoraro.

At least you're the only one who's addressed the issue. No, Gunn doesn't need to do anything more to remind viewers that he is black, and my post didn't suggest anything like that. Obviously the extent of your knowledge of black culture is limited to stereotypes. I can understand a character like Pete on Smallville being isolated -- it is quite possible that he and his family are some of the only black people in the area, a small town in Kansas.

But to have us believe that Gunn is in a similar position is just silly. No, rather than using stereotypes, simple acknowledgements of Gunn's uniqueness would be sufficient. For example, Fred is from Texas, and in an earlier episode we saw a Dixie Chicks poster prominently displayed. Again, this doesn't mean that only those from Texas like them, or that ALL from Texas like them.

Being black or any minority isn't just embracing the tendencies and stereotypes that one sees on television, it is about having a shared culture and experiences. It's not like Gunn was introduced as a character who was completely isolated from other black people and minorities -- no, when he started on the show, he was part of a neighborhood, a community.

I can't believe that vpecoraro is the only other person who has thoughts on this.
I don't understand. I thought we were all sharing our thoughts on this. Gunn was part of a larger community, and it would be nice to see that played out and referenced again. But that means he can't have a white love interest? That means he has to be continually reaffirming his "blackness" (which, on most shows, is really just a means of keeping those characters separate, not a means of developing them)? He's a three-dimensional character. Not a perfect one by any means, but an "Oreo"? Please.
"I can't believe that vpecoraro is the only other person who has thoughts on this."

If the show ever misrepresents Dutch/Indonesian women, I might speak up. Since I know sweet F.A. about the portrayal of black men in American TV series, I'll choose to abstain from commenting.
I think the show misrepresents Irish men. Especially their accents.

But regarding Gunn? He actually has a interesting story this season. Something I think he hasn't had since when he first came onto the show. Last season I wasn't thinking "I wonder what Gunn will be upto this week?". This season, however, I am.
... it used to have the best Irish accent in the Whedonverse. R.I.P. Glenn Quinn.
Yet another condescending, poorly researched, and mean-spirited article from the Salon.com crew. Gah.

Don't forget the spotty writing/editing. Since Spike "can't through a punch".
Yo, Prolific, righteous props to you about our vision-boy Doyle, RIP for sure (sob sob)...how 'bout you and me next time I'm near the Rijksmuseum grabbin' some bami goreng, yo?

American TV is largely ridiculously cliche-ridden, especially as regards what is charmingly referredt to as "minorities". It is a colossal embarrassment.

Gunn has been a marvelous and thankful exception, from the get-go. Another example of the folks who inhabit and enliven the Jossverse just getting things right.

And, a Riis Tafel would do nicely, too. Yo?

(I get enough cliches and stereoptypes in?)
One thing about Los Angeles which "Angel" has made a few stabs at, but not really enough IMO -- but will do again tonight -- is that L.A. is an extremely diverse area where whites and blacks are both shrinking groups, while Asian and Latinos continue to become more prominent. Maybe one of the luchador characters from tonight's show will hang around for a bit....

Another thought. If it were realistic and typical L.A. law firm, Wolfram and Hart would probably be about 30% Asian and 40% Jewish (the rest being typical Heinz 57 whites and a smattering of Latinos and African-Americans). Since it's an evil law firm, I guess it would 25% Asian, 30% Jewish, and 25% demon or Satanist.

Gavin was a start, but he was a -- rather stereotypically typical for the depiction of Asian-American men in the media -- wholely sexless, pretty much the opposite of Lindsay.

Anyone who caught "Better Luck Tomorrow" knows there's an ample assortment of talented and attractive young Asian-American actors. If they want to evoke Los Angeles, they really should cast a couple of them. (Actually, I'm sure the characters from "Better Luck" would be darn good W&H employees, come to think of it.)

BTW -- I'm not Asian (Jewish, what else?). I just grew up in L.A. and took honors classes in high school, which means about half of my good friends are Asian-Pacific.
I didn't think this was quite worth its own post, but I thought those whose interest and/or ire was piqued by the original article might want to read some of the letters that Salon received in response to Miller's piece.
kishi - You misrepresented Ms. Miller's writing/editing above. It does say "Spike can't throw a punch" not as you have typed it. Salon is the most respected news & entertainment site on the net so disparaging their copyediting probably won't get you anywhere.

BTW, really liked the article. Well-written & fun, as most everything from Salon is. Weirdly, you would swear from the posts above that the article is some kind of rip on the show rather than an article praising this season of Angel. Don't agree with everything in the article but it's a very good article from the point of view of a Buffy fan, which considering only 25% (according to the WB) of those who watched Buffy actually watched Angel last season is a good point of view to have. Ms. Miler writes with skill & wit which I always appreciate, and is in short supply these days

Loved the letters they got back. Nothing like empty-headed, pissy diatribes from the cult of the Spike, and I love Spike. Really enjoyed how the one letter writer makes Spike's attempted rape of Buffy the equivalent of forgetting to wipe his shoes before entering Case De Summers. I will always find it odd that Spike's biggest fans seem intent on destroying the ambiguity that makes him such a great character in the first place.
Very good point Prolific, I'll amend it to "misrepresenting Irish vampires".
After last night's episode I was thinking the same thing, Bobster. Here in Southern California the majority of our population is Hispanic, Asian, and Multi-racial people. The diversity that exists here is amazing. I myself am Filipino/Irish, raised by my Irish-American mother and Black step-father, I married a Mexican-American and my best friend is a gay man who was born in Colombia. On American television it is hard to see "minority" characters portrayed in non-stereotypical ways. Which is so blaringly obvious to those of us who know or are minorities because these characters are not like us or our friends.

In my opinion, Gunn was more stereotypical back in season 1 & 2. Now he is a unique character that keeps us wondering what he will be up to next week just as Simon said. Although I find it funny that in “Conviction” they had him carrying a basketball around the W&H office and last night he went hunting the Aztec demon in a designer suit. I found both cases silly.
Mmmn. Riis Tafel. Aggggh.
Yeah a whiny crappy artcle. But then it's Salon isn't it? I agree it seems to be an attention grabber by stirring up some dust.
Oh and Rijksmuseum? Tafel met Bami Goreng? Some folks here are dutch! You're making me homesick!
Ed, how about Jenever or three? To toast Buffy and Angel, of course!
Rijsttafel. Jenever...

*giggles*

(Fraying knows what I'm talking about.)
Hehe, well not crazy about jenever but I do miss the rijsttafels en the bamihappen and shoarma with knoflook saus!

And don't even get me started on a patatje pinda.
Karen -- yeah, the world you describe is hardly unusual here in SoCal. I actually get nervous if I look around a room and notice that everyone else is white, even though I am! (And that goes double if I suspect that everyone is Jewish, which I also am.) And -- while the fangsters do include one gay green-skinned demon (and when will Lorne come fully out anyway?), it's clearly time for Wolfram and Hart, being less evil, to up the diversity factor.

Re: Gunn. I've always had vague feelings about the character. On the one hand I think J. August Richards has some real charm. He was very good in his boyfriend-girlfriend scenes with Amy Acker last year (and there was that episode with Gwenn last season where he got to act like James Bond and he really seemed to come into his own.)

On the other, his "street cred" or whatever you want to call it has never been particularly convincing. I'm not saying they should have cast Snoop Dogg, but he really does seems more like the kind of guy who would have grown up in Baldwin Hills ("the black Beverly Hills") or a nice part of the Crenshaw area or even West L.A. and gone to a Cal State or UC school, not a guy with (maybe) a high school education -- which is probably closer, I suspect (though I know nothing about his actual bio), to J. August Richard's actual background. Making him a lawyer kind of makes sense in that context and follows the ME pattern of slowly evolving characters to become more like the actor's real-life personality. I'm open-minded about what they're doing with him this year.
Personally, I think it's entirely believable for Gunn to be a lawyer and to still have a connection to his old neighbourhood. Actually, in a way, I think that Gunn's excitement over the contracts he's arranged, such as starting a foster care program for kids whose parents have been killed by vampires is a way of him getting back to his community. When he said that, I immediately thought back to season one. But it's been a long time since we've been reminded of his past.

Wesley's stuffy Watcher-ways are an important part of his character, even though he's changed a lot in the last four years. Why wouldn't the same hold true for Gunn's past; his sister and his old gang forever in his thoughts?

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