Buffy And Angel - Cute Or Creepy?
Is the romance between Buffy and Angel really any good?
Buffy the Vampire Slayer wasn't just a good show, it was a great show. It appealed to teenagers and adults alike both in how it was written and the issues it tackled, though teenagers appeared to relate with it more so than adults. A lot of that had to do with the romance aspect of the show, namely, the main character's relationship with the vampire Angel. A lot of people see it as the show's ultimate romance; the one everyone remembers and adores.
But when you really think about it, is the romance all that great?
I recently re-watched the show, namely the first few seasons, and do you know what I discovered? Buffy and Angel's romance is Twilight hidden in a better story.
How? Well, let's see if this sounds familiar. A young girl moves to a new town with a single parent, finds herself being stalked by a dark and mysterious male who turns out to be a vampire who may or may not be evil, who then proceeds to follow her and stalk her and show up in her room without asking, and eventually the girl decides that she's in love with him despite the blatant warning signals that tell her this is a bad idea.
Immediately you all start shouting "Twilight!" But the romance between Buffy and Angel happened pretty much in the same way. It's almost like Stephanie Meyer saw the show, decided "I can make that ten times creeper" and wrote a book about it. Don't get me wrong; Twilight still sucks and Buffy is still a good show, but it made me wonder why Twilight gets all the flack while the romance on Buffy is let off the hook. It could even be argued that Buffy and Angel actually started teenage girls' obsession with this kind of supernatural romance; in which brooding male creatures of the night stalk underage girls until the girl falls in love with them.
So is Buffy and Angel's romance just as bad as all the others?
First off, let's take a look at how the romance started. When they first met, Buffy didn't know it because she was a fifteen year old girl sat on the steps of her first high school, and Angel was watching her from the shadows of his car. We're really off to a good start with this one, aren't we? Seriously, if people don't see an issue with this, then I really can't help.
Though while there's definitely a problem with the set up in itself, what makes this especially problematic and insulting is that the show tried to excuse itself. In a later season three episode they attempted to take away the creep factor in Angel explaining his reasons for falling in love with her. But saying that she was "holding her heart in her hands" is a stupid reason (which doesn't even make any sense, as Buffy was supposed to be a shallow cheerleader at the time), and if anything, made the whole thing even creepier than it already was.
But let's move on to when she actually met him in person. Honestly, her encounters with Angel were pretty limited in season one. He didn't even appear in some of the episodes, and when he did it was for maybe a few minutes at most, and all they really said to each other was "you're in danger, go save the day", and that was it. Buffy even made a joke about it in one episode. They only really start to talk about other things in the episode "Angel", when the titular character mentions his family and they share a short moment.
This is also the same episode where Buffy decides that she's in love with him. Yep, right out of nowhere and with little to no development at all, Buffy decides that she's in love with Angel. Considering the fact that he's barely appeared at this point and how little conversation they've shared, that's like me announcing I'm in love with the guy I bump into at the dry cleaner's every other Thursday. What's more is that even after she decides this and after it's hinted that Angel feels the same way, they do nothing about it. They say that it can't be anything more, but then Buffy starts complaining about how Angel doesn't give her the time of day and Angel himself still goes around stalking her. It makes no sense.
And if Angel was really in love with her, why didn't he do more to save her in the episode "Prophecy Girl"? Xander had to bully him into tagging along on the rescue mission, and the whole 'no breath' thing doesn't work because if he didn't have breath then he wouldn't be able to talk.
When we get into season two they do interact more, and you'd think that their relationship would start to develop. It does, sort of. But at first all that happens is a mixture of jealousy and playing 'hard to get'. Buffy is constantly jealous of any other girl who shows interest in Angel, namely Cordelia, and Angel gets jealous himself when one of Buffy's old friends shows up out of the blue in Sunnydale. They don't do anything about it; Buffy gets jealous, but instead of taking things into her own hands by asking out Angel herself, she just whines and complains about why he doesn't appear to be interested in her. Angel doesn't help in playing hard to get; he gives Buffy signs and shows her that he's interested, but then the next minute he turns around and says that she should stop hoping for something to happen. Talk about mixed signals.
The episode "Halloween" is the only early episode that gives us any sort of development. They've planned to go on a date – which gets interrupted anyway by Cordelia, but still – Buffy shows interest in who Angel was before he was turned into a vampire, and then Angel tells her what kind of girls he's in to. It's decent development. But then all that appears to be forgotten in the next two episodes when, like I mentioned above, Angel gets jealous over some guy from Buffy's past, and then spends the episode after that avoiding her. If you really think about it, they don't start officially dating until the two-part episode "What's My Line?" when Buffy talks to Angel about how she used to like ice skating – she tells him this after she finds him in her room, ugh – and he offers to take her to a rink after hours. It's more development.
But it comes only a few episodes before the infamous "Surprise" when they sleep together and he loses his soul.
Between "What's My Line?" and "Surprise" that's only two episodes of dating. And in real world time, that's at most, two months. Two months. And yet when we see them in "Surprise" they act like they've been dating for a year at least, which is especially puzzling since they haven't even known each other for a year. Anyone watching that episode before all the others would think these two have been in a committed relationship for a long time instead of the measly two months they've been dating. And in those episodes, "Ted" and "Bad Eggs", we barely even see them interacting. We don't see their relationship develop and evolve apart from a few kisses. Because showing kisses immediately equals a developed relationship.
But in a way, it sort of makes sense. The show has always been a metaphor for real life, and the relationship between Buffy and Angel is a metaphor for first love; it shows us how intense and out of control it can be for some who's in love for the first time, it shows us that first loves usually happen when people are young, round about Buffy's age, and it also shows us that young people always tend to rush when they start to feel these emotions. They don't care who the other person is or if it'll even work out in the long run; all they care about is the bliss they're in, and they believe that their love will last forever. But first loves don't last forever, and in the real world, they rarely work out. I also tend to see the romance as a cautionary tale, not only for how to handle a first love and that younger people shouldn't rush into it, but also that dating a guy who's been stalking you isn't such a good idea.
The whole set-up is definitely familiar for people who have been in a similar situation; a handsome man starts following you around, knows everything about you yet you don't know anything about him, he tells you he loves you, you fall in love with him, you sleep with him, and all of a sudden his true colours come to life and you realize that he's actually a psychotic psychopath who then proceeds to ruin your life. How daring would it have been if the show actually went down that road? It would've been heart-breaking and hard to watch, but so were a lot of other points during the show's run. But instead Angel got his soul back and the couple were treated as "star-crossed" lovers like we haven't seen that before.
One of the most insulting aspects about the relationship in season three happened in "Amends", when Angel tried to commit suicide just because he couldn't sleep with Buffy, and feared that he would force himself on her. Yep, you read that right; Angel tried to kill himself because he wanted to sleep with Buffy so badly that he felt he wouldn't be able to control himself and would end up forcing himself on her. Bull. Shit. If that isn't a big fat warning sign in a relationship, then I don't know what is. For teenagers reading this, if your ex-boyfriend tells you something similar, that's the sign you need to file a restraining order against him. What's worse is that Buffy actually gets back together with him after this. Our role model, everyone.
It also became clear that keeping these two together deprived them of any kind of character development, or any that was positive. Angel couldn't accept that their relationship was over until he said it was, and Buffy let him dick around with her heart and rarely ever stood up to him – both of which are probably the worst offences a show about female empowerment can make. It was a relief when Angel finally left to star on his own spin-off show, and once they were out of each other's lives, their characters developed and grew. Apart from when Angel came back in "Pangs" and stalked her, because he believed that she couldn't take care of a threat. You know, exactly like the ones she has to deal with ever day as the Slayer. And let's not even get started on the textbook emotional abuse that is "I Will Remember You".
Overall, how the romance happened and played out was pretty poor. Does that mean they have no chemistry? Well, no. The chemistry is definitely there, so much so that had the romance developed differently they would've been better off. Remember Spike's role in later season seven, when he became a lieutenant of sorts to Buffy? Now image if Angel had done that at the start. If he hadn't stalked her and had actively helped her far more than he did, then they would have spent more time together, would have actually gotten to know one another and their romance would have bloomed a lot more naturally. They may have even realized that they wouldn't have been able work out in the long run which could've lead to them breaking up before the curse even broke.
But instead, when you actually stop to think about it, do they know each other that well? The pair don't really have anything in common apart from the fact that they both hunt demons. There could be more, but the fact that they aren't obvious really speaks for itself. You could argue that opposites attract, but only if their personalities work off each other, and in my personal opinion their personalities are too different for this to work. They did talk about aspects of their lives, but not all that often. They could only meet up at night, so their time was already limited, and most of that time was spent hunting down vampires and saving the world. In all honesty they never really got time to talk to each other and get to know each other properly, because they rushed into the relationship too quickly. And in the end that relationship suffered because of it.
So if they don't really know each other, then why do they love each other? Physically appearance clearly played a part, but what else?
The only indication we get on Angel's part is when he describes Buffy as his "destiny"; the reason he decided to help the fight against evil in an effort to redeem himself. If someone like her could love him, then he knows that he's worthy of redemption. And that holds a lot of weight when you think about vampires and their ability to love. Right at the start of the series we were told that vampires were incapable of love, but then the show went on to contradict itself in many ways. We were introduced to Spike, a soulless vampire, who clearly loved his sire, Drusilla. Spike then went and fell in love with Buffy later on, and also cared about Buffy's mother and sister. Drusilla herself loved Spike in her own way. Harmony, stupid as she was, could feel love. There was also the vampire pair, James and Elisabeth, who showed up in the first episode of Angel season three. Heck, even Darla and Angelus appeared to love each other in their own twisted way. So, if vampires hold the ability to love, then why did Angel stop loving Buffy once he lost his soul and became Angelus?
Because she was no longer his destiny. Angel only wanted to redeem himself with a soul. Once he lost that, he lost his want to redeem, and therefore, any love for Buffy left along with his soul. Albeit, it's only a theory, but one I think can be proven and has a lot of facts backing it up.
So then why does Buffy love Angel? Well, unless I've missed something, she never really says. But if I'm going to guess, it's for the same reason teenage girls go gaga over Edward and Jacob and every other hero of every supernatural teen romance novel ever. Angel's brooding and mysterious attitude drew her in, and once she found out he was a vampire trying to redeem himself, her inner teen rebel jumped at the chance. She only appeared to be in love with the idea of Angel; that he was something she should hate and hunt but was tortured and wanted to redeem, so that made it all OK. How many young girls have had the same fantasy of falling in love with a guy like that? Judging by the amount of novels with the same premise, I'm guessing a lot. And since Buffy is like most of those teenage girls, it isn't that much of a jump to assume the same about her. Again, it's only a theory, but one I feel holds a lot of merit.
With all that said, a lot of you might be wondering why this has never been brought up until now. There are three reasons for this.
One: Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a good show. Unlike Twilight and all the other similar novels that followed, all the other aspects of Buffy were great; the story, the characters, the metaphors… It was all wonderful. So either people don't notice just how poorly the Buffy and Angel romance was done because it's surrounded by so much awesome, or they can see it and just don't want to admit it. After all, the romance was such an important part of the show, so maybe people think that hating it would mean hating the show itself. It's like the equivalent of hating Han and Leia from Star Wars; something that's unthinkable. But honestly, you can still love the show and hate the romance. It's perfectly OK to like and dislike different aspects of a show.
Two: Shipping. If you thought the shipping wars in Twilight were bad, then count your stars you weren't around for the Buffy shipping wars, because they were horrendous back in the day. Obviously things have calmed nowadays, but even now people war against each other over who should've ended up with who. So on the one hand, people may not like to point out stuff like this because they fear they might start another shipping war – and let's face it, I'm probably starting one now. And on the other hand, people may have tried to point out these legitimately good points before but kept getting shot down by die hard shippers who think they're being personally attacked. It all honestly needs to stop, because it's getting us nowhere. First of all, people should be allowed to discuss a pairing without being accused of being from the "other side", and secondly, it's shipping like this which probably lead to the Buffy and Angel problem in the first place. I get the feeling that the writers didn't want to lay the pairing to rest when they should've done because they were afraid of the outcry they would receive. Remember, like candy and the Transformers films, what's popular and what you want isn't always good for you.
Three: Nostalgia. Remember when you thought the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film was the best thing ever? It may have been when you were a kid, but re-watching it as an adult, it's not as good as you remember it being, is it? And remember when you thought Romeo and Juliet was the greatest love story ever? When you were young, it was. But looking back on it from a more mature standpoint you may start to see it for what it really is; two young teenagers lusting after one another, mistaking it for love, and not being able to talk about it with anyone because their parents are too busy fighting one another to give them proper guidance and advice. Killing yourself over someone you've only just met isn't romantic, it's tragic, and not even in the romantic way; Romeo and Juliet never had the chance to explore where their relationship could go because they were too busy trying to hide it from the adults around them, which led to them rushing into it too quickly. The same thing is true with Buffy and Angel; from a young standpoint it's romantic and cute, but from an adult standpoint – or better yet, a parent's standpoint – it's immature, creepy and not something that should be applied to real life.
So is their romance just as bad as the one in Twilight? Well, yes and no. While Buffy had better characters and a better story, it also never told us that this kind of relationship is wrong, so in a way, it does make it just as bad. It's sad to think that teenagers watch this and start to believe that this is what romance is like in real life. Not all of them will be taken in by it and some will be smart enough to think for themselves, but the fact that Twilight and novels like it are so popular tells us that yes, there are teens out there who think this kind of relationship is one they should be looking for. And that's the reason why therapists are making a killing these days.
All in all, I think the romance needs to be put to rest. It's OK to look back on it and remember how addicted we were to them, but only so long as we realize that things were different back when we were young, and that we've both changed and adapted beyond that. If you like these two for this reason – that it reminds you of your own teenage days – then that's fair enough. But for those of you who still see it as the greatest thing ever and think of it as "relationship goals" I ask you a question: If you discovered that your sixteen year old daughter/sister was being stalked by an older guy who knew everything about her and appeared in her room while she was sleeping, would you let her see this guy, or would you call the cops?