Controversial Characters: Buffy’s Dawn vs. Angel’s Connor

SPOILERS AHEAD

Whenever a show has a devoted fandom there’s always going to be something that, right or wrong, the fans aren’t happy about. The big controversies on Buffy and Angel were the late additions of two new characters, namely Dawn and Connor. Now that I’m re-watching both shows, I’m looking at both characters with fresh eyes, wondering whether they deserved the hate.

Dawn

Dawn was introduced at the end of the first episode of Season 5. “Buffy vs. Dracula” (a great episode, by the way). Her introduction was really well done, first with hints and foreshadowing going back as far as Season 3, then with her unexpected appearance in the episode. After years of being an only child, Buffy suddenly has a sister, and everyone acts as though she’s always been there.

Controversial Characters: Buffy's Dawn vs. Angel's Connor, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com. Vampire, Vampires, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, BtVS, Angel, Angel the Series, Buffy gif huh

After some perfunctory hinting that Dawn is this season’s Big Bad, it comes out that she’s actually a mystical, dimension-unlocking Key, put into human form by some monks with too much time on their hands, and given to the Slayer as a sister for protection from the Hell God (Glorificus/Glory), who needs the Key to get back to her hell dimension before her window of opportunity closes. Got all that?

Yeah, it’s a lot.

I really believe all the planning around Dawn went into the character’s concept, and very little into the execution. Dawn is supposed to be fourteen when she shows up, but she’s written like she’s eight. It’s both painful and annoying to watch this teenager smiling with her mouth plastered in ice cream. Or interrupting Buffy’s training sessions because she’s “bored.” Or threatening to tell their mom that Buffy slayed in front of her. At fifteen, Buffy, Willow, and Xander were fighting monsters, trading quips, and hanging out at the Bronze. Their characters were funny and interesting. But somehow at fourteen Dawn is too young to be left alone without a babysitter.

And yet by season six Dawn manages to get worse, alternating between whining that no one spends time with her, and screeching for everyone to get out of her room. Maybe this is a realistic portrayal of teenagers (I have my doubts), but nobody watches TV for realism. If we’re supposed to sympathize with Dawn, the writers made it really difficult, especially when she shows no empathy for what anyone else is going through.

(I want to add that none of this is the fault of Michelle Trachtenberg, the actress who played Dawn. She did a decent job, but just didn’t have much to work with.)

By the seventh and final season, Dawn’s over her annoying phase, and even proves herself useful and capable– but she also fades into the background. Season five was supposed to be the show’s last season, but since it ended up extended for another two years, I don’t think they really knew what to do with her once she was no longer The Key. Overall, I think the Dawn character had a lot of room for improvement, and the writers/producers repeatedly dropped the ball. The show could have been just as good, or better, without Dawn.

Also, she killed Miss Kitty Fantastico.

Controversial Characters: Buffy's Dawn vs. Angel's Connor, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com. Vampire, Vampires, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, BtVS, Angel, Angel the Series, Angel and Darla

Connor

Connor’s origin story begins in season 3, and is almost as convoluted as Dawn’s. When two vampires hate each other very much (after spending centuries together as a couple), and unknown forces conspire to get them back together for a night, sometimes the mommy vampire finds herself nine months later going into labour in a back alley, where she finally just stakes herself to get the whole thing over with.

Connor is the human-ish son of Angel and Darla, both vampires, one with a soul. His existence is cause for much excitement, mostly by nefarious cabals who generally want to kill the kid. Despite Angel and co.’s best efforts to protect baby Connor, he ends up in the hands of Angel’s longtime enemy, a vampire hunter named Holtz. Stuck between letting Holtz take the baby or watching Connor fall into the hands of those who will definitely kill him, Angel chooses the lesser of two evils. Holtz escapes with the baby by jumping through a portal to the darkest hell dimension: Quor’toth. The portal is then sealed behind them with no way to open it.

Angel tries to get Connor back, but realizes it’s impossible. Once Angel accepts that he’ll never see his son again (it takes only a few days, apparently), another portal opens and out comes an armed teenager wearing a skin suit and trophies made of body parts. I’m not gonna lie– it’s pretty epic.

Controversial Characters: Buffy's Dawn vs. Angel's Connor, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com. Vampire, Vampires, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, BtVS, Angel, Angel the Series, Connor hi dad

We soon find out that not only did Connor survive Quor’toth, but he can kick some serious ass. Besides impressive fighting skills, he has super speed and strength. He can easily jump on a moving bus and he’s got a vampire’s sensitive hearing (but none of the drawbacks, like a need to consume blood or intolerance to sunlight).

I thought he was an excellent addition to the show, but a lot of people disagreed. Connor was so hated by some fans that when rumours started about bringing Spike to Angel, people started urging (there may have been a petition– I can’t remember) the producers to kill off Connor and bring on Spike. Note: none of the characters actually had to die to add Spike to the cast. It should also be noted that the dislike of Connor spilled over into people specifically targetting Vincent Kartheiser, who played Connor. The actor did an awesome job and deserved none of what was directed at him. This is why fandoms have a bad reputation.

I never understood why people found Connor annoying. Yes, the character did a lot of questionable– and some downright wrong– things (same as pretty much all the other characters, I might add). What haters didn’t seem to get (or care about) is that Connor is a deeply traumatized kid. He was raised in a hell dimension, by a man who (rightfully) hated his father and manipulated him into wanting to kill Angel. And that’s only the start of what Connor went through. He’s a tragic character who manages to never be boring. He also undergoes a fair bit of character development, and a redemption that continues in the comic books (meanwhile Dawn in the comic books goes back to being annoying, but with added recklessness). Watching these episodes again, I’m finding I like and sympathize with Connor even more now. It’s too bad he was hated– he could have pulled off his own show.

In the end, my opinion on these characters hasn’t really changed. Dawn didn’t improve Buffy, even though her initial season included one of the best villains ever. Meanwhile, Connor, despite having one of the cringiest storylines (him + Cordy = ew), was a great character and a solid addition to Angel. But what did you think of Dawn and Connor? Share in the comments…

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If you prefer paperback, use this link to order Love Lies Bleeding from Bookshop – a portion of each sale goes directly to independent bookstores, as well as to myself. Thank you for supporting indie! ♥

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

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Quote of the Day + Update

Quote of the Day + Update, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com. Quote "October was always the least dependable of months... full of ghosts and shadows." Quote by Joy Fielding, autumn, spooky season, October, quotes

Happy October, everyone! I think I’ve mentioned before that this is my favourite time of year, from the changing leaves to the crisp air, right down to the shadows and ghosts. By the way, have those of you with pets noticed they act odder the closer it gets to Hallowe’en, or is it just me?

In other news, you may have noticed a I’ve been posting a bit less lately. That’s because I’m trying to focus on finishing my novel (fingers crossed). Not to worry, though- I still have plenty more to share, including some thoughts on controversial characters on Buffy and Angel (I’m also happy to take suggestions for posts you’d like to see– share in the comments).

While you’re waiting for my new book, download my other books…

Aspasia S. Bissas books: Love Lies Bleeding, Blood Magic, Tooth & Claw, book, books, free book, free books, freebies, freebie, free ebook, free ebooks, vampire, vampires, dark fantasy, dark romance, historical fiction, gothic fiction, gothic fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, horror, dark reads, indie author, indie fiction, strong female protagonist, aspasiasbissas.com

Love Lies Bleeding: SmashwordsBarnes & NobleKoboApple Books, Amazon
FREE Blood Magic: SmashwordsBarnes & NobleKoboApple Books
FREE Tooth & Claw: SmashwordsBarnes & NobleKoboApple Books

If you prefer paperback, use this link to order Love Lies Bleeding from Bookshop – a portion of each sale goes directly to independent bookstores, as well as to myself. Thank you for supporting indie! ♥

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

🧿

The Problem with Angelus

The Problem with Angelus, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com. Angel, Angelus, Buffy, vampire, vampires, gif

I’m still (re-)watching Buffy and Angel, and there’s something that’s been bothering me about Angelus…

Spoilers Ahead

First, we need some backstory.

in Buffy and Angel mythology, a vampire is made when a vampire exchanges blood with a human before killing them. The human’s soul leaves the body (presumably going off to the afterlife), and the soulless shell reanimates, inhabited by a demon that looks like the human, and has their personality and all their memories, but with an aversion to sunlight and a thirst for blood.

Angelus started out like any other vampire, but after killing the wrong girl he was cursed with a soul. Suddenly his body housed a demon and a human soul. This unnatural combination led him to spend a hundred years wallowing in guilt and remorse over what he’d done as a vampire, before finally deciding to become a broody, but useful, member of society. Oh, and he also started calling himself Angel.

But the curse had a loophole. If Angel were to ever experience a moment of true happiness, the soul would go and Angelus would return in all his murderous glory.

Over the course of both Buffy and Angel, we get to see both Angel and Angelus, and much as I enjoy the dichotomy, something about it bothers me. Angel is solitary, reserved, and thoughtful, but ready to kick ass when necessary. Angelus, on the other hand, is cruel, revels in violence, and is as meticulous in stalking and torture as the most evil serial killer. So how is this the same person?

The shows simply claim that it’s the difference between soul and no soul, but I’m not sure I buy that. The presence (or lack) of a soul doesn’t completely change your personality. At one point Angel claims he was a bad person as a human too, but from flashbacks we see he was mostly a shiftless, carousing layabout and terrible son. That’s pretty far from a cold-blooded killer (not to mention the other major personality shifts we see between Angel and Angelus). The Buffy episode “Doppelgangland” even tacitly confirms that a vampire’s personality is basically the same as the human they inhabit.

When vampire Spike gets his soul back (earned, not cursed), his personality doesn’t significantly change. He might be less likely to finish off a mortally wounded human once he gets his soul, but if you watched an episode featuring him without knowing which season it was from, you wouldn’t necessarily be able to tell whether he has a soul or not. Another vampire, Harmony, never gets a soul, but shows no significant change in personality before and after becoming a vampire. She even loves unicorns.

The Problem with Angelus, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com. Angel, Angelus, Buffy, vampire, vampires, Harmony, unicorns

In the Angel episode “Eternity,” Angel is drugged so that he feels a chemical high (which they call “happiness” for the sake of the plot), Until the drug wears off he’s right back to being Mr. Murder-Death-Kill, as though a switch were flipped. You’d think he’d still be able to exert his own will, at least a little, to keep Angelus from completely taking over. He didn’t even lose his soul that time. Yes, it’s a TV show about vampires and demons, but it doesn’t make any sense. Not to me, at least.

Maybe having a soul forced on him was traumatic for Angel, causing his personality to fracture. Maybe the demon inside him is particularly strong and malevolent. Maybe it really is only human guilt that keeps Angel from totally going off the rails. Maybe I’m way overthinking this.

What do you think about Angel/Angelus and his split personality? Do you have your own theories about the difference a soul makes? Share in the comments…

Want more vampires? Download my books…

Aspasia S. Bissas books: Love Lies Bleeding, Blood Magic, Tooth & Claw, book, books, free book, free books, freebies, freebie, free ebook, free ebooks, vampire, vampires, dark fantasy, dark romance, historical fiction, gothic fiction, gothic fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, horror, dark reads, indie author, indie fiction, strong female protagonist, aspasiasbissas.com

Love Lies Bleeding: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
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If you prefer paperback, use this link to order Love Lies Bleeding from Bookshop – a portion of each sale goes directly to independent bookstores, as well as to myself. Thank you for supporting indie! ♥

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

🧿

Buffy and Angel

Buffy and Angel, blog post by Aspasia S, Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com.  Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel the Series, vampire, vampires, the slayer, Joss Whedon

I’m a Buffy/Angel fan going way back. They’re shows I reference frequently and re-watch whenever I can. I’m re-watching them now.

Spoilers Ahead

For those of you unfamiliar, “Buffy” is the show Buffy the Vampire Slayer, as well as the heroine’s name. Buffy (the character) is one of a long line of exclusively female vampire slayers magically imbued with powers like fast healing and super strength. The show started out as an allegory for the trials of high school and got more mature, and darker, as the series went on.

Angel (the series) is a spinoff of BtVS. Angel (the character) is the rarest of the rare: a vampire with a soul. Unfortunately, he loses his soul if he experiences a moment of “true happiness,” which he does with Buffy. If any of you were traumatized when The Doctor and Rose got split up, just know that it was nothing compared to the scene where Angel gets his soul back. Then prepare yourselves for heartbreak #2 when, at the end of Season 3 of Buffy, Angel realizes he and Buffy will never work, so he leaves her for good. He ends up in L.A., starting a new life as a private detective/helper of the helpless. Angel arguably has a better cast than Buffy, and aside from a few hiccups along the way, ended up as the more interesting show (imo).

I’ve just started Season 4 of Buffy (her first year of college) and Season 1 of Angel. Parts of the shows have held up well over time, other parts not so much. Buffy is especially problematic, with fairly minor– but still there– homophobia, fat shaming, slut shaming, token diverse characters getting killed off, and outright sexist dialogue. In one episode Buffy herself says Wesley (an adult man) screams “like a woman,” and compares Xander and Angel to a pair of bickering “old women.” Part of that was the culture at the time. You probably couldn’t find a show in the 90s that didn’t include some cringe-worthy dialogue or storylines. And most of us didn’t even notice. We were steeped in it to the point that it didn’t stand out.

But part of it might also have had something to do with the showrunner, Joss Whedon, who– if you haven’t heard– has had several accusations of bullying/abusive behaviour levelled at him by actors, including some that worked on Buffy and Angel. I believe these actors– they have nothing to gain by coming forward. What sucks for the fans, though, is that Buffy was groundbreaking at the time. A female lead who…kicked ass? What’s commonplace now was new and awesome back then. Whedon claimed to be a feminist, and the fans thought he was an ally. We were wrong.

I don’t, however, think we should give up on these shows because of an association with an allegedly awful person. Besides, Whedon was far from the only person working on his shows, and to ignore everyone else’s contributions is basically throwing out the baby with the bath water. I know I’ll always keep watching. l now notice the problematic and cringey parts, but I’m still here for all the good parts (which are the majority). Because, even after all these years, Buffy still kicks ass.

Were/are you a fan of Buffy and/or Angel? How do you think they’ve held up? Share in the comments…

Want more vampires? Get my books…

Aspasia S. Bissas books: Love Lies Bleeding, Blood Magic, Tooth & Claw, book, books, free book, free books, freebies, freebie, free ebook, free ebooks, vampire, vampires, dark fantasy, dark romance, historical fiction, gothic fiction, gothic fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, horror, dark reads, indie author, indie fiction, strong female protagonist, aspasiasbissas.com

Love Lies Bleeding: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Blood Magic: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Tooth & Claw: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books

If you prefer paperback, use this link to order Love Lies Bleeding from Bookshop – a portion of each sale goes directly to independent bookstores, as well as to myself. Thank you for supporting indie! ♥

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

🧿
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