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January 06 2012

"It's A Stupid Curse" - an Angel essay. Did the gypsies curse the wrong guy?

That's a really well written essay. And it brings up a good point, one which always bugged me a little bit (if I ever thought about it too hard). I can't imagine anyone would argue that the curse is pretty dumb and short-sighted, but it bothered me that sometimes on the show Angel and Angelus were portrayed as completely separate people, yet at other times certain characters would blame Angel for things Angelus had done. Whatever serves the story, I guess.
Let's talk about Angel curse indeed.
Why the old gypsy who cursed him, was bond with Angel as much to know he was becoming happier, and Willow wasn't bond to him? Didn't she used the same curse?
Shouldn't she feel his emotions too?
This aspect of the curse never bugged me. That the gypsies weren't entirely rational seems logical, as vengeance seldom is. And the curse wasn't that stupid, as Angelus seems to have experienced it as an almost unbearable imprisonment. Moreover, blaming and trying to hurt Angel also seems reasonable, if somewhat unfair, as a vampire's behavoir clearly is influenced not only by its demon part (though the demon is usually at the steering wheel), but also by its human aspects.

I think it's far more problematic that vampires and other demons were routinely killed, when a cure for vampirism was available and while vampires could reform themselves.
To be blunt, total mythology whiff by the author. I have this argument constantly it seems with people who have convinced themselves that Angel is Tom and Angelus is Joe and that they just happen to be stuck in the same body like Ben and Glory.

I could give dozens of examples from dozens of episodes to demonstrate that Angel's entire journey only works if he is Angelus. I could say that it's paper thin logic that he would refer exclusively to the events of his soulless existence in the first person if they were just someone else's memories to which he was privy. I could point out that logically there is no such thing as a journey of "redemption" for a man whose only crime is that he remembers horrible things that some other dude did. I could point out that when people refer to him as two people, they are basically being polite, but he and they both know that the truth is that he "(walks) a fine line", as Wes puts it.

But on this go round, I will simply play my favorite trump card -- Faith was inside the man's head, and Angel AND Angelus were there, even though the soul wasn't. That should settle this argument for anyone. No theory in which Angel and Angelus are different people forced into each other's presence by that curse can survive that unambiguous mythological fact.
Good speculation, disappointing conclusion. These shows are not their mythos; using their metaphysics to explain the apparent incongruities is missing the point. Don't hand wave Spike and Harmony by ascribing them with "weak demons". It makes just as much sense and is far more interesting to look at the different ways each unique individual is affected by the same evil influence.

As for Angel, he needs to atone for as long as the demon is within him (and as long as he's a vampire, it will be). Why? Because it's part of who he is, just like his soul. That's why his reward is permanent separation of the two.
Now for me Angelus is just an aspect of Angel. Otherwise his redemption arc wouldn't make much sense really.
Huh. KOC- so then, how does this work with Twangel? Was Angel responisble or not?
The author's whole argument lies with the idea that the curse punishes both Angelus AND Angel. However, I've always thought that while the curse punishes Angelus, it CREATES Angel. Having seen Liam in flashbacks, does anybody think that his soul would strive to help the helpless? As the author clearly points out, Liam "seems to have been a lazy, self-centered jerk." He wouldn't have cared about redemption, and therefore the arc of the vampire with the soul would have been short-lived. However, the curse created a new entity, that of Angel. The curse is rough for Angelus because it traps him in a body with a human soul, but the curse is made even worse for him because of the creation of Angel. Not only is Angelus trapped and unable to wreak havoc, but he is forced to watch as Angel fights for good. It's like being imprisoned and having to watch your worst nightmare for all eternity. So, the curse doesn't punish both Angelus and Angel. It just punishes Angelus in multiple ways.
Yeah, it was a contradiction, but I always felt that made it even more interesting.
Twilight/Angel and Angel/Angelus are two completely separate conversations with no overlap whatsoever for me. What we call "Angel" contains the entire parenthetical argument about Angel and Angelus, and it was that construct, "Angel" that was or wasn't controlled by Twilight.
I agree with all of what's been said by KoC through daylight. Don't understand how a whole essay could be written thinking they are two different beings; the soul being restored is just the buffer zone between a beast and a man who is still a vampire. Angel is still a killer and that's where the "fine line" KoC quoted from Wes comes in.
It does appear that Liam's soul + Angelus' crimes = Angel, essentially creating a new personality (along with a new name). I doubt Liam would have helped the helpless, but his soul -- once it was caught up to speed -- would have been revolted by the vampire's actions.

Or: whatever serves the story, as KnitWit said.

But it's still a stupid curse.
The writer acknowledged two things:
1) "To be trapped, helpless, within the body of a determined do-gooder like Angel must be the height of torment for a demon like Angelus."
2) "Jenny’s Uncle Enjos admits that the way they chose to punish the vampire who hurt them would not be considered reasonable by most people: “It is not justice we serve, it is vengeance.” "

So it is an unreasonable curse, but not a stupid one. As long as the gypsies got their vengeance, it did not matter to them how many other innocents suffered.
That the author can attribute motives by which their version of Angel's character could still make sense as a target of that curse is irrelevant -- the theory still has numerous irreconcilable conflicts with canon events. The most nonnegotiable obstacle is that in a mind which the author's version requires must necessarily belong to Angelus alone, Angel is still there. Not only there, but asserts his own will and starts giving Faith advice. There is no work around, or wank around, for that, and no way the character can be constructed as two separate people only forced upon each other by the curse.
But ManEnoughToAdmitIt, is it actually Liam's soul that Angel regains upon the gypsy curse? I guess I'm wondering, if people are differentiated by their personalities and those personalities are still present when they become vampires, what differentiates one soul from another? I think the soul acts more like a lens, projecting the personality but distorting morals.

Slightly unrelated, but it bothers me that Gunn killing his sister('s body) after she became a vampire barely ever comes up again. I wish we'd seen the fallout of his actions play out in his relationship with Angel and perhaps Fred. Am I missing something?
I don't know what a "Twangel" is, but since it's clearly comic-based, this is more fuel to the fire of my reluctance and resistance to the comic seasons of both shows. For me, when the shows ended, that was it. Nothing more.

Therefore when I see people complain about aspects of the comics and they just go over my head because I've never read them and never will read them, my only thinking every time is I dodged a huge bullet.

So I'm thankful for all the complaints, if that makes any sense!
Like With Pie, the gypsies tell Angelus it's "his" soul, so I'm guessing it's Liam, yes. But you could be right about souls being a lens.

And you're right that not much is made of Gunn's sister, although I think it gets mentioned in "Shroud of Rahmon."

Tangential question of my own: when Willow comes to restore Angel's soul in "Orpheus," why on earth doesn't she work out a way that doesn't involve the stupid vengeance-inspired trap door?
Realistically KoC, the reason that would never settle the arguement is because the entire arguement is based on which snippits of cannon people choose to be valid explanation and which is misunderstanding/metaphor. At this point, the Angel charecter has had so many "versions" as it were, that's a bit tricky. The entire Faith episode can also be read as two distinct entities present at the same time, yet nevertheless distinct. The "soul" therefore becomes, "who gets to drive." I'm sure Quotergal could give us the greatest hits version of past debates, but for my money that was never a resolved debate (nor will it ever be most likely.)

My personal view, is whether you view the soul as real in the context of the show (since it's given physical form in the show, it would be hard to argue), Angelus is an altered state of whatever Liam/Angel is. One can not simultaneously lack and possess empathy therefore I can not make Angelus and Angel the same without saying he's schizophrenic. Then that would mean vampirism causes shizophrenia which just seems ridiculous. 'Cuz we all know vampirism is real.

In the end, when I look back at Angel I see a coheasive narrative up until Season 4 (the Joss/Charisma schism). But that's the point where Angel really seems caught up in a mix of deus ex machina and deconstruction of growth (the Cordy non-relationship). By Season 5, Angel is a different show for network demands (as Joss says in the commentaries). So these jumps and stalls in charecter are, in my mind the result of external factors and so I don't excuse, but acknowledge that it is distinctly possible that the charecter simply doesn't make sense psychologically because external demands required changes that just couldn't be explained with existing canon.

Therefore, back to the original article, I can see the point. And the point actually supports KoC's assertion that the journey doesn't make sense unless they are the same man. But they take the opposite view, that the canon shows them as distinct and therefore the curse and the journey are illogical. I tend to agree with the article, because frankly Angel was not a seamless narrative. And it's still my favorite Whedon show.

[ edited by azzers on 2012-01-07 09:12 ]
The entire Faith episode can also be read as two distinct entities present at the same time, yet nevertheless distinct. The "soul" therefore becomes, "who gets to drive."

No, it really can't. You can't have an argument over who is driving with someone who isn't even in/getting into the same car as you. Angel and Angelus are both there, but the curse -- the only mechanism by which these two supposedly distinct people are being forced into each other's presence, isn't. QED. For them to still be separate people in that scenario would be the same as if, back in "Carpe Noctum", they had shown both Angel and Marcus together in Angel's mind, even though they hadn't met yet and Marcus hadn't done the spell to switch them.
KoC, KnitWit: Yeah, it is kinda what serves the story. But the soul is sort of a thing, not a personality.

Dana5140: I think the best expalantion is a case of DId; Angel, Angelus, the guy who torched Dru and Dar, original Liam, Twilight.

NFA110 : I always think of Liam to Angel as a vampiric analogue of how Rocco Barbella, a street thug headed for an early death, became Tommy Rocky Graziano, a retired boxing champ with a solid career in show biz. After his last fight, Rocky was sitting in the dressing room, thinking baout his next move, when he relaized he was a different person. All those years of honest training, winning, and losing had, in his words, "beat the Devil out of me." Angel is Liam with the literal hell scared literally out of him by his human conscience, weak as it was, contmepalting the things Angelus had done. (Which is why the gypsy curse would do nothing to change Harmony, for exmaple.)

Angelus is cursed by being stuck in there, watching "his" body "being Angel."

As to the escape clause, well, it's actually simple and has a certain logic. He's meant to suffer, so if he stops suffering the curse is "broken."

Or maybe the gypsies just didn't compeltely udnertsnad that by restoring a human soul they'd be creating another being, so it wasn't so much "stupid" as a misfire.
I always figured Angel has multiple personality disorder.
DaddyCat On the out clause, I think that's where I would get confused though. Unless The curse was never meant to be perpetual so much as punish the vampire up to an extent, but then let him go. If we think of the gypsies as flawed human beings out for vengence but not thinking clearly, this is possible.

redeem Probably. Angel was really the first "fleshed out" vamp, and as a result I think they created mythology for him based on the metaphors the writers wanted to use and didn't necessarily repeat. That tended to make him more night/day than Dru,Darla, or Spike.

KoC Again, as I said this arguement has been done. But specifically, the source of your current arguement is a the result of a "psychic" drug that take the user to "hell" per the text. The mechanisms of how that works are not actually specified, nor are they tested which means we're discussing a drug trip as absolute truth.

And specifically no one textually states the "curse" is gone, only that someone removed the soul. That might also mean, the curse is broken but active. You can bet that if Willow had the power to the restore the soul and leave the curse behind, it would have been done. Therefore, I can't buy your conclusion as proving anything. Rather, its a conclusion you made based on your assumptions (which is fine by the way.)

Add to that, in the drug induced "hell" both Angel and Angelus exist seperately until one is removed once Angel is ensouled. At that point, Angelus is sucked in to Angel with the Angel "state" becoming dominant. I see no particular conflict there. They share the same conciousness, thus that they share memories would seem a given.

Again, this is an arguement that breaks down along the lines of assumptions. There is ample text in Angel for this to be true. Mine are different than yours, hence we disagree on the conclusion.

[ edited by azzers on 2012-01-08 01:19 ]
Azzers, the distinction I've always made and will always make is that when I say "he wasn't cursed* and they were both still there", it is premised on known and objectively observable facts from the mythology. When others respond that Orpheus drug makes the light from venus reflect off swamp gas and that's how they were both there, they've already started relying on speculation that's not based on anything mythological whatsoever. None of what Orpheus is actually described to do is the same as what the two-people fanwank requires it to be doing; they are just speculating. Fact > speculation.

*Willow had to reensoul him by way of the curse once his soul was loose again. This strikes a pretty lethal blow to the idea that he was still technically cursed. Besides, we know he wasn't, because the curse was how they removed his soul in the first place, by giving him a moment of perfect happiness. If he was still technically cursed then, he must also have still been technically cursed in Season 2.
Willow had to reensoul him by way of the curse once his soul was loose again.

Where is this specified in the text that this was the mechanism she used in S4? It is clear she got his soul back. It is not specified she was forced to use the gypsy curse or could stop the curse. The entire Buffy/Angel plot resolution in BtVS S3 depends on that curse existing after S2. There is no dialogue in AtS S4 that indicates a change from this status quo. Are the curse and the soul one and the same? Are acquiring the soul and cursing it two individual acts? I don't know because its not cleared up. Spike doesn't seem to need a curse to possess a soul. So is it the soul departs but the curse remains intact? We are speculating on the amorphous metaphysics of a divine and capricious deity known as Mutant Enemy. An entity that has frequently admitted to sacrificing "laws" for "drama." But that said, you're making internally logical conclusions based on assumptions, not given exposition.

As for Orpheus, I'm simply using your perceived evidence. I make no claims about the "drug" nor make factual conjecture based on it. I simply play out the thought experiment based on the idea that it's real and using the text in the episode. It was shared "trip." Understand, I'm not making solid assertions other than to point out using that episode to prove your point is precarious at best. If a mathematician solves a proof on LSD, he at least retains a record of the proof that can be seen without the influence. That's not what we get here.

In the end, whether Angel is still cursed, whether Angel and Angelus are distinct, or what Orpheus does are conclusions based on best guesses. And those guesses are often contingent on previous guesses because Angel is not Murder She Wrote where Joss recaps everything that happened at the end of the show. If I can't convince you that guesses are subjective, then I just don't see the point.

[ edited by azzers on 2012-01-08 05:05 ]
Azzers, she reads the same curse she read in "Becoming". I think there may have been like a one word difference or something which can more reasonably be put down to production error.

And, no, I don't see any subjective component to the statement of fact that the vampire known as "Angel", with no soul present, still contained within its mind/self the souled "Angel" persona and the unsouled "Angelus" persona. That is objective, not subjective fact. People may like to dance a subjective dance around the significance of that fact, but there's ultimately not any wiggle room. The shared trip idea sounds like it has traction until you then must also account for the fact that it requires Angel to have been "tripping" from inside the jar, because the thing hadn't broken when he became a participant.

EDIT: Not for nothing, but it's amusing to me, having reviewed a transcript for "Orpheus", that even Angelus appears to reject the premise that he and Angel are genuinely different being, Joe and Bob -- he refers to them as alter-egos.

[ edited by KingofCretins on 2012-01-09 05:49 ]

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