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April 06 2010

"Look Where Free Will Has Gotten You" - an Angel essay. An interesting look at the Angel Season 4 Jasmine arc and Aldous Huxley's Brave New World.



[ edited by Frick on 2010-04-06 20:34 ]
So the essay didn't work for you?
Interesting piece. I've actually not read 'Brave New World', but there certainly seems to be many parallels. I also feel that they were borrowing from 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers' quite heavily, particularly when they become fugitives in a world filled with Jasmine worshipers. The piece also made feel stupid for not connecting Angel's decision to erase everyones' memories with the brainwashing from Jasmine; kind of obvious really.

I do find peoples' hatred for the Jasmine arc slightly strange. For me, the main problems in Season 4 lie with the well known issues surrounding Cordelia. Really, her arc fell apart around season 3 when Angel and her started having feelings for each other, or at least when it started to become anything more than sexual tension. Evil Cordelia and sex with Conner were just the last straw of ruining the character. I found the final episodes of the season to actually be very strong, mainly because all of this was all past.

The Beast was pretty cool though.
I loved this essay! I read 'Brave New World' my freshman year of college and I was fascinated. It is not really a fun read, but it really looks into the ideas behind free will and government control. I also love the end of season 4 of Angel (excluding how gross it is to watch possessed Cordy - even though it is supposed to be unsettling), especially for the conversation Jasmine and Angel have at the end of 'Peace Out.' It brings up so many deep questions and ideas. One of my favorite lines is when Angel said "I never said we were smart, but it's our right." I definitely see the similarities between these two stories. This article helped remind me of why I like the unpopular 4th season of Angel so much.
@Vandelay: I was thinking Heinlein's "Puppet Masters" instead of IotBS. It is easier to see the bad guys in that book, because the parasites eventually spoil every society they encounter. But then again, Heinlein liked the phrase: "You can't control a free man. The most you can do is kill him."

I think there were two points not discussed but applicable to the essay:
1) Conner always had free choice, as far as Jasmine was concerned. I'm sure it could have deeper meaning to this essay, but I haven't figured it out yet.

2) Angel's decision for the mind wipe was not the same as Jasmine's. Angel made a choice to do it once, and his intention was to put Conner outside of Angel's control/influence. (Angel could have asked for happy memories where Angel was still his dad.) I think that makes it fundamentally different than the tyranny described by the author. Kind of like Asimov's "End of Eternity", which examines what would happen if a society could purposefully change history.

(I like season 4. It is much better in concentrated doses from DVD, instead of being spread out over months during its original broadcast. As far as ruining Cordelia's character, that wasn't Cordelia. Complain, if you like, about the absence of Cordelia that season, but it just happened to be a different character played by Charisma Carpenter.)

[ edited by OneTeV on 2010-04-07 00:12 ]
This essay was incredibly well written and provocative! More please :) And I also felt kinda dumb for not realizing the obvious parallel between Jasmin's mind control and Angel's action to tamper with his friend's memories thus bringing about another version of that which he had been fighting...an illusory dystopian reality. Deep. Did Whedon and Co. do this on purpose (that is, reference Huxley?). Hmm.
Wow. Good essay.

I missed the parallels between Jasmine and Angel's conditions on Wolfram & Hart, too -- very good catch.

(And yeah, my main problem with S4 is the lack of Cordelia... and the fact that Charisma wasn't quite up to handling pure evil. Snarky/bitchy, yeah, but something about her manipulation of Connor just didn't have the same appeal of even S1 BtVS Cordelia.)

(Of course, it makes "You're Welcome" all the more awesome by having the real Cordy back.)
Wow, good essay. Not read "Brave New World" since school but quite a few points of similarity it would seem (many are common to all dystopic fiction I reckon but BNW is as good an example as any - it's quite early for one and better known than e.g. "We" for another). I also managed to miss the parallel between Angel's deal with the devil and Jasmine's attempt at "world peace" but like all good ideas, in hindsight it seems really obvious.

The only point I disagree with much is the author's "optimistic interpretation" of the end of the series (i'm assuming she's not including the comics). To me the Fang Gang don't take "decisive subversive action", it's made very clear in the show that it'll throw a spanner in the Senior Partners' works only in the very short-term. In fact i'd say the entire point of their stand in the alley is that it's NOT decisive or even particularly meaningful in the grand scheme (and it ends that way because Angel discovers that, ultimately, an individual can't change the system from within and it will eventually corrupt you if you let it, not, IMO, because his decision to alter reality is being vindicated). Don't get me wrong, the end of "Not Fade Away" is uplifting but not because they're actually going to achieve anything, more because it's all about continuing to swing away, whether you're going to win or not - it's "If nothing we do matters, the only thing that matters is what we do" writ large and taken to its most noble conclusion.

(where she thinks the conclusion is troubling I see it as interestingly ambiguous - without the parallel between Angel and Jasmine it's a fairly clear-cut affirmation of the worth of autonomy over peace and happiness but with it it becomes much murkier, as if it's saying "Freedom isn't inherently better, doesn't necessarily lead to a happy ending, it's just - as Angel says - what we choose")
I want that book...
Hello folks, I just got onto Whedonesque when they opened up reg last week, and I wanted to make sure I got back here to thank you all for reading my essay and commenting on it. It means a lot to me to being on here exchanging ideas with you all : )

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