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…

Can’t get enough vampires? Download my books now:

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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

🧿

Writing Collab #16: Passing By

Writing Collab #16: Passing By, Aspasia S. Bissas and Peter Wyn Mosey
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I took part in another writing collaboration with Peter Wyn Mosey:

She saw him. She hadn’t been expecting it. He was walking along the street, hands in his coat pockets, face turned up to the bright autumn sun. He looked happy. Happier than anyone should look. Happier than anyone had a right to in this world.

Read the rest: Writing Collab #16: Passing By

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

8 Reasons Why Indie Bookshops Need to Support Indie Authors

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Although some insist that independent bookstores are doing just fine, I think it’s safe to say that, for many, keeping the lights on in the last few years has been– and continues to be– a struggle. At a time when people seem to be reading less, and those who do can buy books cheaper and more conveniently at a certain online retailer, indie shops are left in an ongoing precarious position while they try to find new ways to increase (or maintain) sales. I have a suggestion for them: support independently published authors.

Indie authors fall through the cracks with bricks-and-mortar bookstores for a number of reasons. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Seeking out and featuring the works of indie authors is a mutually beneficial– and smart –practice for indie bookstores to adopt. Here are a few reasons why:

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1. It sets you apart.

When Michelle Obama’s book came out, every bookstore’s website or Facebook page I visited had it plastered front and centre. More recently the same thing happened with Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments. Your store is selling these extremely popular books? Great! So is literally every other store. I’m not saying don’t offer the guaranteed sellers, but what does your store have that others don’t? How about a specially curated section of indie works? If customers are going to go to the trouble of actually visiting a shop, you need to offer something new and interesting and different. Worried indies won’t sell? An informed and engaging staff or a little extra promo can make all the difference.

2. It’s a new revenue stream.

While books may not be anything new for bookstores, indie books and authors are. These are books most customers may not have heard of, simply because the promotion isn’t there for indies. Don’t underestimate the power of introducing something new to customers, or the appeal of an underdog/unconventional author.

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3. It helps you be truly local.

Does a famous author live or work in your store’s neighbourhood? No? Chances are an indie author does. Why not connect with your community by supporting the authors in it? Your customers would probably love to know about the talent living down the street. Local authors also provide great opportunities for in-store events and signings.

4. It creates diversity.

The truth is traditional publishing is not known for its openness to diversity. It’s getting better, but the focus still tends to be rather narrow. Many indie authors eschew traditional publishing for that very reason. By supporting indie you’re contributing to much-needed diversity in literature– something customers, especially younger customers, appreciate.

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5. You could discover the next great read.

Excluding an entire category of books from your store ensures that not only are you missing out on something fantastic, but so are your customers. It’s impossible to predict what will strike just the right nerve with readers, but the more books your customers can access, the more chances for one to take off. Imagine the bragging rights (and marketing opportunities) when you can say “we loved this author first.”

6. Indie publishing is here to stay.

Indie publishing was the original publishing and it’ll be here long into the future. The truth is, traditional publishing is not serving authors well, which is why so many authors choose to go the indie route. As publishing houses consolidate (or disappear) and publishers care more and more about big names rather than new talent, indie authors will only increase in number. Booksellers can choose to support these authors, or they can be left behind.

7. Authors buy books too.

It’s wise to remember that authors are also potential customers. Any store that carries my books has an instant fan. Not only will I make a point of shopping at that store, but you’d better believe I’ll also tell everyone I know about it. Margaret Atwood might appreciate that you carry her books, but she’ll never encourage anyone to shop at your store.

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8. Indie should support indie.

Several indie bookstores offer Love Lies Bleeding online (you can see the list here). As an independent author, I want to promote my fellow indies, so I post about these stores on my website, blog, and social media. But it can get a little cringey when I see indie bookstores asking people to support them, and then turning around and looking down on/ignoring indie authors. If you truly care about indies, you need to support all indies; otherwise, why should anyone support you?

 

Love Lies Bleeding is a dark fantasy novel about delusion, obsession, and blood. Love Lies Bleeding (ISBN-13: 978-1775012528/ISBN-10: 1775012522) is available in paperback and e-book and can be ordered wholesale from Ingram and other distributors. If you’d like to find out more about my books, click here.

7 ways to support indie authors, aspasiasbissas.com  free short story by aspasia s. bissas Tooth & Claw, free short story by Aspasia S. Bissas

What do you think? Should independent bookstores make a point of supporting independent authors, or should we just stick with the status quo? Share in the comments.

 

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

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