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May 15 2012

'Victim Triumphant' - an Angel essay. This originally appeared in the "Five Seasons of Angel" anthology.

It's interesting, but I think when you compare Angel to Buffy on the hero factor, it's important to keep in mind the respective universes that each inhabit. Each show has a very different thematic center. BtVS is about defining your path and taking ownership over your destiny. This was established in the pilot, re-affirmed in the Season 4 finale, and reached new levels in the series finale. Buffy walks, she talks, she shops, she sneezes. She has a support system that sets her apart from the slayer legacy. She changes the rules.

Angel, on the other hand, is restricted. Because he's a vampire, because of the atrocities he's committed, and because he has a soul, he's bound to fight for redemption and never actually reach it, much like the myth of Sisyphus - the man condemned to push a boulder up a hill, only to see it roll back down again once it reaches the top. And yet, Sisyphus continues to push it. Angel continues to fight. He loses people he loves. He learns that the Senior Partners gain their power from humanity, the very source of evil. He loses the hope of an ultimate reward when he signs away his Shanshu prophecy. And he knows, that no matter how many people he saves, he will never be able to make it right, never be able to make up for any of it. But he keeps fighting anyway.

This is the core philosophy of Angel. We don't know how much of the world we control. We can't know. We live each day as if though we decide, and even if we only treat the world's symptoms without curing the sickness behind it, we must continue to do something. It is our job. And because none of it ultimately matters, everything we do IS what makes all the difference.

Angel is not victimized. He is manipulated, he is bound, he is thwarted, but he is not victimized. Within that space, that small yet precious space where our free will lies, where we make choices, he is free.
Well put, WhatsaStevedore. I love and respect both of these characters. I have heard some people express some scorn for Buffy, but as a sixteen year old she sacrifices everything, even her restored lover, to save the world. She suffers loss after loss and still endures and conquers.So many people also criticize Angel, but he is more than admirable in how he struggles to do what is right given the hand he has been dealt. He once said, "If nothing we do matters, all that matters is what we do." He is heroic in how he approaches his life, how he tries to help others, often even those who have harmed him like Darla.

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