bonny_kate: (kaylee)
On why Angel is not as good a show as Buffy (containing spoilers as to the nature of Angel, but if you don't know what he is, I really don't know why you are reading this post anyway).

I think there is one primary reason why Angel is not really as good of a show. I don't think Joss Whedon has a very clear idea of the nature of the soul, or what a vampire is. Now, this is not nearly so important in Buffy because (nearly) all vampires are bad, and the show isn't centered around vampires in any case. But with Angel, the show is centered around not just a vampire, but a vampire with a soul, and it starts to cause major problems with the show.

Why is this so important? Well, take a simple question as an example. Is someone without a soul morally culpable for their actions? This is dreadfully important to Angel's character, because if he is not in any way responsible for his actions as a vampire without a soul, then he shouldn't be feeling any guilt nor trying to atone for anything. Of course, if the reverse is true, then he should be feeling the guilt that we so often see. But the show is unclear as to whether Angel is responsible for his actions. When he is evil, it is implied (and I think stated), that anything he does, it isn't really Angel that is doing it. In other words, Angel, without a soul, is not morally capable of acting with virtue. But on the other hand, much of the show is about Angel trying to atone for his actions. See the problem?

Based on the show (and Buffy), I would say the definition of a soul in Buffyverse (a word that the dictionary does not recognize, though it should) is that essential part of yourself that is capable of making moral choices, has the possibility of an afterlife, and is distinct from your body. But the problem of Angel's culpability makes me give up entirely, because it is so contradictory.

Since I can't manage a working non-contradictory definition of a soul, I shall attempt a definition of a vampire. Vampires are always evil, unlike demons who can sometimes be good (it would seem that demons only differ from humans in appearance and powers, not in morality). Vampires used to be human, but are now no longer human, and no longer have a soul. So far, this is simple, and hopefully obvious. The problem comes when we try to understand the relation between the evil vampiric Angel (hereafter called Evil Angel, to simplify matters for myself), the good vampiric Angel with a soul (hereafter called Angel) and the human Angel before he was turned into a vampire. Angel retains all his memories, powers, and limitations as a vampire that he gained while he was Evil Angel. But Angel has an ability to choose between good and evil that Evil Angel never shows.

If Angel is morally responsible for his actions as Evil Angel, I do not think it would be the full responsibility he would have if he had committed those actions while human. When he was human, he had a soul, and therefore the ability to make moral decisions (probably, see above). However, there is perhaps an argument that Angel is indirectly responsible for his actions as Evil Angel, for the potential for evil is directly related to Angel's own potential for evil. Some vampires are not very evil because as humans they were not very evil, and the vampire is dependent on the human for its inherent capabilities. But some vampires are very evil, because as humans they had great potential for evil (not, mind you, that they necessarily were evil, but the potential existed through their own soul). I am not sure, however, that the show makes this argument. It seems to me that the show tries to make Angel fully responsible.

It is at this point, gentle reader, that I give up. I cannot untangle this web, and I think it the fault of the show (though I would be glad to be shown otherwise). This, then, is why I think Angel is not nearly as satisfactory a show as Buffy.

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Kate Saunders Britton

October 2017

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