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Good for the Soul

Tuesday 24 June 2014, by Van Quynh

Keywords:  |  angel  |  buffy  |  essay  |

The point here is to discuss the nature of Vampire, to address the What.

So what is a Vampire in the Buffyverse? It seems Vampires are a particular sub-genre of demons and Demons appear either to be considered as a species which can tolerate mix-breeding or as an infection which transforms humans into demons.

Many examples show the latter: Anya is a shining example of a human becoming a demon then becoming a human again (then again becoming a demon then becoming a human), Oz after being bitten by his baby cousin becomes a Werewolf, Cordelia to be able to sustain her visions acquires a demon part as well, it was voluntarily at first but it later allowed a demonic being to take possession of her body (an entity that in the end gave birth to itself), in the same way Fred’s body is channeled and transformed into a demon in the last season of AtS  .

On the other side of the fence, rare are the instances of relevant demons brought out as a species, for that matter only Allen Francis Doyle is one instance - he is half Brachen.

Additionally and from the beginning of the show, we have been fed the line that demons who are present on Earth are not full fledged demons, their blood/essence has been diluted with that of humans. In the end all demons are amputated by design or made less in order for their continuous existence in our dimension - a fundamentally human dimension.

De facto, Vampirism is an infection at its very roots, an infection which is perpetuated by Blood & Death. Death is about the crossing of a threshold from which one cannot come back and really symbolizes a true rebirth into a Vampire life.
So from one original demon who bit a human and infected him with demon Blood, making the latter into a vampire and from this first vampire to all vampires on Earth.

This is how the canonical story has been presented and no, it does not dismiss the possibility that at the beginning there were several demons or even several types of demons. It would lay claim to the existence of clans and/or orders such as the Order of Aurelius.
Because Blood is everything and bloodlines can be traced back to the original vampires, additionally, it also can shed some light on the particular relationship between Sire and Childer, blood ties being the most powerful especially for Vampires.

Good "because" of the Soul, that seems to be one of the starting principle, but then this a-soul issue seems to solely concern vampires. How do you reconcile this definition of demons with the soul principle?

In fact you just can’t, it is because of the nature of a show - not one consistent vision but a series of patches that gives out a disjointed overall picture. What stands In the Buffyverse is that it seems there are be good demons and bad demons and the only good vampires are the one with souls.

Are demons bad when they do not possess a soul? Is evil nature not nurture? This is never really answered nor really addressed in the series. Anya is an odd human by any means but her possessing a soul was never questioned when she was human and consequently nor when she was a demon, she was only targeted as a vengeance demon because she did harm to people and only because it involved slaughter and not solely mayhem, in the end she was dealt with more as a means to stop her from doing harm than true punishment for her crimes. Human or demon, at all times Anya did seem to possess a conscience and a soul.

What can be extrapolated from that? In the Buffyverse there seem to be no enforcement of the law, it is like only order matters; as long as you atone, as long as you are useful, you are not dispatched and being rid off. Faith and Spike are if not exactly welcomed at least tolerated right in the fold. And Buffy is the typical leading figure of redemption in that she often withstands judgment and gives people a chance to prove themselves, that’s what she did with Angel.

In a lot of ways, doing good or maybe not doing evil takes precedence on being good i.e. having a soul. Maybe because having a soul does not prevent humans from doing evil, the soul is not the beginning and end all miracle, it only gives humans the potential for a conscience. On that matter, Spike’s chip serves the same function, sure it does not bend his nature but it does restrain his actions. It does not prevent him from feeling the urges of a demon but it does stop him from actualizing them. By doing so, it also creates a maelstrom of resentment and frustration, because there is no possible way for Spike to resolve his issues and those repressed urges explains the beating he gives Buffy when he finally can do violence to her. In the end, it does not change his very vampiric nature, what does is a soul though.

For it appears that possessing a soul goes against the very nature of a Vampire. We are thus to conclude that the curse (of a soul) is for Angelus whereas the clause (happiness) harms Angel. Let’s examine the workings of this particular case.

Many fanfictions stage a divided personality core to Angelus and Angel who both exist or coexist as separate identities - thing that can be vindicated (slightly or not) by the goings in the show. David Boreanaz (the actor) portrays a very different Angelus from Angel which strikes all the more the viewer each single time Angelus appears on screen. It is such that I picture Angel as an elephant in a porcelain shop whereas Angelus is like a wolf in a chicken-house - two seemingly very distinct sets of individuals. But that’s it, I am not quite sure this separation is very legitimate.

I think there is a very common core to the two of them. My best guess is that both soul and demon are an intrinsic feature of one essence and as a consequence Angelus and Angel cannot really coexist which would invalidate their being different individuals. How so, let me explain...

If one were to follow Angel’s chronology, one cannot miss that each occurrence of Angel’s identity succeeds one other; there was Liam who became Angelus after being sired by Darla who in turn became Angel who lost his soul with Buffy and became Angelus who was re-ensouled and became Angel and let’s stop here because you can see the pattern already. If Angel and Angelus, or Liam and Angel, or Liam and Angelus were different sets of individuals then they could exist at the same time as different individuals but then as you can see they only came one after the other - successively.

Occam’s Razor dictates a simple order of things, Angel, Liam and Angelus are not separate but the same person.

To see the flaw in the multiple selves theory one just has to submit to an exercise in logic. Let’s say it is true, that we abide with the double identities hypothesis, one has only to look to see the gap between Angelus and Angel, but if we do that we have also to agree with the triple identity - Liam, but then we have to validate the quadruple - the day Angel became human in which he existed without the demon, and then the quintuple - the chemically blissed Angelus who still possessed a soul even if sort of dormant... yeah et cetera.

Subsequently, the validity of the multiple selves leads to problematic questions such as where all of those separate entities go when they are no more because whereas it is easy to set an epic division between demon and soul, Angel is not solely the soul but he is the coexistence of soul and demon; but then there is such an instance as Orpheus in Season 4 of Ats   which, as a drama, I enjoy very much but which only makes the mess of this subject even more apparent.

Orpheus was the result of an overdose of magical drugs triggering a trance which brought to the fore an adventure of and in the psyche of Angelus and what a surprise, who do you find struggling with Angelus persona? Angel the soul, and the mess resides in the fact that he is not supposed to be within Angelus’ nightmare but in its glass bottle-slash-prison. There is not consistency or coherency to be found there.

What I think, in the end, is that each of these personalities shaped the over-whole individual in a significant manner, the same way that experience shapes one person through the living of it - as the (almost) unerasable memory it leaves behind. After all what is an individual if not this illusion of the continuity of the self, the blending of past and present and future (even if just projected) self. In the same way, all of these identities are but one, imprinting or merging with one another to form one essence.

The striking difference in Angel’s different identities can be explained in that the self changes. Even if that is sometimes debatable, people do grow, mature, change habits and opinions, the evidence can be seen in everyday life. Sometimes they even change dramatically, after traumatic events and most especially when they happen during childhood. In a lot of way, Liam is part of Angelus’ infancy whereas Angelus can be considered as Angel’s youth.

No wonder Angel feels guilty then because unlike those who have not experienced it from within, he intimately knows he is Angelus even if up to a point. It could also explain the lack of difference in Spike with or without a soul.

One additional point although not that much relevant (and probably a lot of mush) is that Buffy fell in love with Angel as the personality resulting from the coexistence and I would even say the merging of the soul and the demon, something that was brought out on the show mostly because for Buffy it is difficult to make out in her lover at which point one begins and the other ends - this encompassing love from Buffy vindicates a certain impossibility to separate Angel’s identities within Angel.

As you can see I like to think in terms of imprinting, one version leaving an imprint on an original common (always) core. This is a theory which coincides with other occurrences on the show, like in the amnesia episode of Ats  , Spinning the Bottle, Angel regressed to his 17 year old self and the Liam imprint is changing on screen through the influence of the demon inside. I believe there is a continuum between all the personalities that inhabit the body of Angel and no separate states.

Figuratively speaking, the demon inside a vampire is obviously meant as a metaphor of the urges of the Id but with the flavor of evil, meaning ten times more powerful and a hundred times less unconscious - giving the Id a conscious voice in the persona of the demon. The soul is obviously the Superego - the conscience, the knowing and embracing of the good rules of society and men. The individual itself is the Ego on which soul and demon and experience imprint to make up the Self. The Heart is not relevant of the soul but is to reside within the Ego free to love and hate.
For vampires are not devoid of human feelings, on the contrary, since only driven by the demon, they are plagued with unresolved feelings to be eternally relived, re-actualized, condemned to eternally repeat their emotional issues. Because they are vampires driven only by their urges, the Ego can never expect to change since within the Id there is no sense of time, no order and never closure.
As a matter of fact, as you can see on the series, Vampires are completely ruled by one core urge who defines who they are going to be, and it is an ambition they are doomed to never satisfy.

Angelus seeks recognition for his art (the art of killing people) mirroring the unrecognized talent that Angel has in drawing and will never find peace with it no matter how grand his accomplishments - it is that problematic since he killed his father from whom he needed the fundamental approval - ironically he killed the latter to prove his worthiness. Demons more than anyone are completely oblivious to their own turmoil.
William for instance struggles with his inability to entertain a love relationship, once made into Spike, what does he do? He enters a completely dysfunctional relationship in which his beloved, Drusilla, has eyes and heart for her sire, Angelus. The only reason he stands the situation is that Angelus while sadistically torturing him with his attention to Drusilla has no interest in her whatsoever once he was done with her and that happened a long time before Spike came onto the scene. But then Drusilla dumped him and what does Spike do? Yeah he falls in love with Buffy - an unrequited and doomed relationship on its own right. To prove his worthiness of her as a loving being, to fight against the "You are beneath me" fate, he got himself a soul and ultimately find some measure of peace and closure which yeah vindicates my theory as well as finding a true meaning of love.
Nest’s issue was about power, he wanted to rule over the world and ended up trapped and then killed in his hubris.
Darla is a courtesan always tying herself with the strongest player but always in the background, she is unable to stand by herself, for herself and that is probably her deepest ambition retrospectively.
Drusilla is a mad hat ruled by her visions, and it is difficult to read her because of it. The common vampire is all about hunger and subsequently survival - very basic urges but what about higher brain function such as love?

Drusilla asserted that Vampires can and do love but if they do, as far as I am concerned it is a love deluded by nature - a love that cannot be sustained says Buffy - mere passion, one that is so perverted from love that it is meant to burn out. Buffy’s beliefs are certainly colored by the actions and words of Angelus and on a certain level, she as well acknowledges that Angelus loves her - the only way he can love, with destructive passion; because it is all he is, destructive passion - eternally incomplete in attaining satisfying and satisfiable destruction.

As well, all vampires love incompletely, and if love is about completion, perfect completion is forever out of reach and love thus is just inherently lacking, never true. A love that failed to come through is the one between Spike and Drusilla introduced as the romantic love couple from the beginning. In Ats   3rd season, Heartthrob stages another vampiric couple, James and Elizabeth’s love who seems to stand to examination but equally ends up burnt out from sheer romanticism, this love is as well immature in nature. Maybe theirs is a certain conception of ultimate love but it is far from being the point of view of love in the Buffyverse.
Also Willow went onto a similar particular destructive path in season 6 of Btvs  , upping the ante with not only self destruction but that of the whole world, it was a long declining path begun a long time before and in which she just ended stumbling all bodily. The difference is that she had friends who stopped her fall whereas James and Elizabeth’s love was solipsistic as a rule, no one or nothing else mattered for them. The same happened to Angel who confesses feeling guilty of being able to go on living after Buffy’s death and here Cordelia tells him that he is not betraying his love, he is honoring it/her.
His love is a responsible one, a mature and maybe all the more for it significant love, considerate enough for him to leave Buffy for her own good. With his soul, Angel is able to sustain love, it is not because they broke up that this love has lost its meaning, again at the end of season 7th, Buffy confesses that she sometimes imagine a future with him.
Years apart and this love that they shared still hold meaning and still has potential and it is only possible because of the soul, wherein the soul is the ability for change, for rebirth, for rekindling love.

About the curse that gives Angel his soul, it seems to be targeted solely on Angelus by intent or wording (the former being more likely). As well it does not require Angelus to be present although it might need a certain proximity. Since we are to understand that the soul has previously left with the dying of the body, the soul is to be summoned into the Thesulah Sphere and then channel into the vampire where it is to be magically bound within the specificities of the curse that we know, that means until perfect happiness is reached.

First, I don’t believe that the soul can be switched on and off for dramatic purpose. Nothing just appears or disappears out of thin air, even magic has to obey the natural laws. And because the soul if it exists is of immortal integrity. So it raises the issue of where the soul goes to or comes from. Because the soul is not interchangeable and the soul does not remain with the vampire, it has to go somewhere in the meantime.
When Buffy died, her soul went to heaven, Tara even talked about a heavenish dimension. More traditionally speaking, souls are likened to the ether which is not a dimension (in terms of Buffyverse) but more like another plane of existence.
For sure Angel’s soul cannot join Buffy’s in heaven because one, it makes no sense and second because unlike Buffy’s vague memories of her afterlife, Angel has none, it seems that Angel’s soul made a temporal ellipsis from the moment it left his body and then when it came back, it experienced a sort of instant reliving of everything in a matter of an instant, completely overwhelmed by events he did not really live first hand. More likely, his soul has resided in a sort of purgatory not to be sentenced and redeemed but in perpetual limbo, existing blankly in pause.
And the re-ensouling is that much more traumatic because meant as a curse, the newly ensouled self is forcefully and powerlessly imprinted upon by the life of the vampire. But in this newly acquired configuration, Angelus is not a separate identity that observes at a distance, Angelus is Angel or maybe is repressed into the more unconscious Id it came from and although powerful and not that unconscious anymore, back in control of the Superego - i.e. the Soul. And Angel-slash-Angelus becomes the fundamental bearer of a crushing conscience that suffocates his every breath (if a vampire were to breathe at all) that much more because of the memories that are now his.

In the end, Demons and Vampires are treated differently in the Buffyverse, more than ever, because whereas Demons are metaphor of the evil outside of the Self, Vampires are a metaphor of the evil within the Self. Soul and demon come from within. That explains why Vampires have human appearance and why Demons are mostly treated as another species to make them more alien.

In some regard, Vampires are to be paralleled with Werewolves, the evil brought by Vampires is more high brain than base but it is true that in the eyes of civilization, animal savagery is as well a form of evil.

In the end, within the conditions of the curse, Angel’s Soul is not to be interpreted as an enabler of the Self, but really as chains, as a prison for the evil that is Angelus but as we have seen, the ties that bound Angelus are not the permanent type, the latter does not cease to exist and at any moment, within any condition, Evil can be liberated which makes all the appeal of Angel’s character and justify that much more his quest of redemption.

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