Recently a friend of mine mentioned that she was watching Buffy and Angel on DVD, and liking Angel better. I remembered that I had quit watching Angel in disgust sometime during the first season, but couldn’t recall exactly why. Then I remembered: they screwed Cordelia up, bigtime.
I loved Cordelia on Buffy. She was such a self-serving, nasty piece of work, and I got grief from a whole lot like her in junior high. And by the end of high school, I realized those girls were the way they were for the same reason we all are: products of our environment. Except for her family’s wealth, which was lost overnight in her senior year, Cordelia was a lot like Faith: they’d both grown up looking out for themselves. They didn’t know how to have friends, let alone be friends. Cordelia was unapologetically real, warts and all.
And she had her finer points. When Buffy was cursed with the ability to hear what people were thinking, Cordelia turned out to be the only one who always said word for word what she thought. And when it came down to it, she could be a team player. Especially if it involved her getting to whack a demon or something. She was fierce, and she could be loyal.
So they decided to make Angel, which was going to be a little more dark and adult than Buffy had been, and they transitioned Cordy on down to Los Angeles to work with Angel while she tried to make it as an actress. I couldn’t wait: I figured she’d become a bit more of a team player as she matured, but still retain her essential bitchiness. In fact, I thought that bitchiness would serve her well in Angel’s world. Not to mention the world of acting.
Instead, Cordy instantly transformed into the nurturing mother hen of Angel’s office. Yep, that’s right: a totally self-involved girl who’s still trying to learn loyalty suddenly starts nagging folks to take better care of themselves. What I never understood was how this served the needs of the show better than her being a grudgingly loyal, occasionally unselfish, always fierce brat on the verge of growing up. Some people – men and women – stay like Cordelia was until the day they die. I liked that she was changing and growing, but I didn’t like it when she turned into someone else entirely just because… well, why? What made them think they needed a Mommy figure on the show?
In case the mother henning wasn’t enough, one of Cordy’s first arcs on Angel was to be impregnated by some kind of monster-demon-thing, so we’d be absolutely clear on the fact that her nurturing abilities extended all the way to her womb. But wait, there’s still more: after I stopped watching, Cordelia went on to become mother of the Chosen One. Because that’s never happened in sci-fi before.
Head… desk… pain.
It’s validating to see characters that actually feel like people we’ve known. Particularly people we have unfinished business with – complex bullies, complex selfish people, complex assholes. When they get transformed just to serve some unfathomable goal of the filmmakers, you lose that drive to watch. There’s no validation of your struggle with them, no closure, no catharsis. No point in watching.
More importantly, Cordelia the bitch was fun. Cordelia the Mommy Figure was every bit as exciting as June Cleaver.
Angel,Buffy,Cordelia,Charisma Carpenter,women in sci-fi