By Margot Le Faye
It was everything happening between Buffy and Angel that, to my mind, took the show out of the realm of TV entertainment and put it up there with the best that classic literature has to offer. S/I made me realize just how mythopoeic the story unfolding on BtVS each week truly was. For me, at that time, and still in the B/A story, Joss Whedon is nothing less than a mythmaker extraordinaire and the B/A saga is every bit as mythic, epic and timeless as Romeo and Juliet or Achilles and Penthesilea or anyone else you please.
The B/A saga unfolds like the best Greek tragedy, with a gorgeous inevitability: his destiny is to help her in her fight against evil, to be redeemed by her; and yet, he cannot do so without falling in love with her; and he cannot fall in love with her without wanting to make love to her; and he cannot make love to her without destroying himself in the process, reverting to the monster within him which he has tried to subvert to his own will. He sees her, falls in love, and they must inevitably make love. And that love is both his salvation and damnation and of course, it is his love for her that redeems him again, calling him back from hell with the sacrifice of her claddagh and restoring him to sanity after subjective centuries of torture. And how in the freaking hell do you get more mythic than that his salvation and damnation and triumph over his damnation are all the same thing, his love for Buffy?
Romeo and Juliet were enemies because of their families. But, as Juliet said, what's in a name? Jack and Rose were barred from being lovers by social class. Achilles and Penthesilea were fighting on opposite sides of the Trojan war. Most tales of such star-crossed love involve feuding families, countries, religions. But, with Buffy and Angel, it was their intrinsic natures, the very essence of what they were, that made them enemies. She wasn't just someone brought up to hate vampires, she is uniquely qualified to hunt and kill them, called forth for that very purpose, and designed to be stronger than they, as quick, as deadly. And, she is built to be able to sense them, internally, recognizing when one is near. Angel is designed to be a predator to humans. He can smell their blood, their fear, their mortality. The Slayer is his greatest enemy and truest danger. And yet, despite their own flesh and blood screaming at them that they must be enemies, their souls triumph over this nature, and demand that they love. Does it get any more mythic or epic than that? “Love isn’t brains children, it’s blood, blood screamin’ inside you to work its will.” What could be more true of Buffy and Angel? Show me any other ship that has come close to overcoming what they have overcome in order to love each other.
They can feel each other. And it is never over.
We all know that Angel sacrificed "every drop of human happiness he has ever known" to save Buffy’s life, causing one of the Oracles to recognize that he was not a lower being. But, there is more to it even than that. Because Angel didn't just give up his happiness, he willingly took up a burden he had wanted to rid himself of for over 100 years. From the moment that Angel was cursed with his soul by the Rom in 1898, he hated, loathed and despised what he had done, and what he was. As he told Buffy in Earshot: "Immortality. I'm dying to get rid of that." As we first learned in The Dark Ages, Angel has had a demon in him that's been spoiling for a good fight, and the person it fights against, on a daily basis as was hinted in Amends--and as was reinforced as recently as Orpheus on Ats-- is Angel. So, when Angel gives up his day with Buffy, he doesn't just give up being with Buffy, and he doesn't just give up being human; he willingly takes up the burden of a constant, daily struggle with the most hated and despised aspect of his own existence, a burden he hates passionately, a burden that has come near to destroying him, and a burden that he has been more than ready to set down for decades. Resumed, because the one thing more burdensome to him than the beast gnawing away at his will and his sanity and his soul is the burden of letting Buffy die “sooner.”
None of the above would be remotely possible if they were not soul-mates, and if the love between them was anything less than heart-felt, all-encompassing, mythic, epic. True love, and truly love.
For this reason, I have never been able to buy into either of them falling in love with someone else, and for this reason, I have never had a problem believing that years could go by without them seeing each other, and the minute they met again, all the love and passion and joy and desire was right there between them again, no matter what things had happened in their lives in the meantime.
And, for this reason, I cannot remotely see anything in C/A or B/S to compare. Cordy and Angel boils down to the trite, cliched and frankly boring story of two co-workers drawn together because they are both attractive and they go through a lot together. You can see that worn plot enacted on just about any long-running sitcom or dramatic series. Sooner or later, folks decide to put the two leads together, no matter how unsuitable they are as a couple. It isn’t their suitability that counts, but their popularity. Such pairings may satisfy a handful of longtime fans, but it is almost always an act of artistic masturbation that destroys whatever credibility the original storyline and the original relationship between the characters possessed. It isn’t even jumping the shark, since by the time such a plot device is tried, the show is usually teetering on its last legs and shark lies gasping on the beach where dwindling ratings have cast it. Anyone here see C/A any differently than that?
B/S has a tad more going for it in that it is the tale of a fallen man redeemed by love. That's a bit more along the lines of classic literature and a bit less along the lines of a soap opera. But, B/S suffers because it repeats the broad outlines of B/A, without getting to the truly unique and mythic aspects of the original story, or, more importantly, without offering its own unique mythos to replace the myth already made. And, it suffers because B/S was never, ever about love, at all. It was about making bad choices. It was about how even the worst sinner can be redeemed by love. But it was never about being in love, because they never, for a single moment, ever were.
I'm in the decided minority here that loves Spike and is thrilled that he finds redemption. My first fanfic was a B/S piece and I'm sure I'll write more B/S fanfic in the future. But, even in my fanfic, I never want Buffy to fall in love with, and end up with Spike, because it would be wrong on every single conceivable level. Because it would not be B/A, and B/A are eternal.
So, yes. B/A are mythopoeic. Mythmaking. The rich, poetic, universal, archetypal and extraordinary storytelling from which myths are birthed and which people carry in their souls.
When I was in an Off-Off Broadway theatre company, one of the actresses said, with utmost sincerity and humility, that the theatre was her temple and acting was the way she worshipped God. The root of all art goes back to such worship. As an artist, I think her statement was nothing less than truth at its most profound and meaningful. When we make art, we celebrate the creative powers gifted to us by God.
Joss Whedon is an atheist. He does not believe in God, so I cannot call his creation of B/A an act of worship.
But God moves in mysterious ways and JW has also said that he cannot help but be influenced by Christian themes, and he has no objection to his work being seen in those terms.
What I believe, truly and profoundly, and without labels of Christian, pagan, non-Christian or anything else but the simple existence of some beneficent, nurturing Power beyond us all, is that in creating B/A and their inimitable story, JW was touched by, and touched upon, the Divine.
And for those reasons, I can define B/A as nothing more, and nothing less, than mythopoeic.
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