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Playing Fair, the Bangel edition

I’m not a Buffy/Angel shipper. However, I read something recently that compared the Buffy/Angel relationship to the Bella/Edward one. Just as I thought, “Well, that’s not right,” I realized that it was a concept I may have entertained subconsciously. That’s really not fair of me.

For one thing, I’m not familiar enough with the Twilight series to really know what Bella and Edward are about as a couple. For another, I’m guessing people who ship Buffy/Angel don’t see Buffy as any kind of wilting violet damsel, which is what I assume is Bella’s deal. I haven’t read much fic for the B/A ship, but that can’t be what’s going on, is it? I mean, why would anyone bother to ship Buffy with anybody if they’re going to be satisfied with a super traditional romance heroine? Wouldn’t it be easier to just ship some other character?

I like Spike with Buffy in part because he seems to really appreciate her fierceness and strength. But doesn’t Angel also admire those qualities? Like, a lot? Or, is it the Bangel fandom consensus that he’s more attracted to her goodness and mercy?

Maybe the ship seems more heteronormative on its surface, and that’s why the Bella/Edward comparison is out there. But how deep does that heteronormativity ever go with Buffy? Not very with Spike, I’d say. Not successfully with Riley. Is it really so different with Angel?

I do see Buffy and Angel as two Alphas (as reductionist as that term is) and figure that’s an issue that’s got to come up in post-S3 Bangel shipping. I mean, if the ship is going to float on, she can’t stay 17 forever, so right there things are going to change, amirite?

Can anybody enlighten me about the kinds of issues that are unique to or typical of Bangel fic? Particularly later season or post-series fic? I’d love to know the kinds of things that set it apart from other ships in the Buffyverse fandom. Without, you know, having to read a bunch of it. I’m probably asking the wrong crowd, but y’all have Vast Knowledge, so I thought I give it a shot.

This entry was originally posted at http://rebcake.dreamwidth.org/24693.html. Please comment here or there using OpenID.



( 43 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 28th, 2012 12:24 am (UTC)
I like Spike with Buffy in part because he seems to really appreciate her fierceness and strength

Hrmm... I rather think Riley Finn fits that bill better, with the stipulation that his love for Buffy was more about achieving wholeness (the tearing down of the barrier between his personal and professional life) then about a primal urge. Spike and Buffy seems like a combination of the other two big relationships (Riley and Angel) to me, simultaneously more ethereal and more mature in their particular spin on the Doomed Romance trope, playing out large themes of redemption and renewal while still hewing to the more earthly line of compromise and acceptance.

I'm no expert on Bangel fic -- or on shipper fics in general -- but as far as the series goes, it seems to me that Buffy's romance history generally (but not exclusively) follows a three-act structure:

Youthful naivete and the yearning for a storybook ending rubs up against the harsh reality of a May-December romance, with disastrous consequences for everyone involved.

A passionate workplace romance between young adults, wherein the couple struggles (and ultimately fails) to find common ground with their very different worldviews, histories and life goals.

Unlikely lovers find each other in the midst of their darkest days. Mature and world-weary, they have learned that love is really all about standing side by side in those dark moments (thick or thin, sickness or health, etc), and teach the lesson to each other in a hundred different ways before fate tears them apart.

Maybe that is the connection between Bangel and Bedward (do they call it that???). Maybe it's the yearning for that innocence of first loves that they have in common, which I imagine a lot of people romanticize well past the point they logically know it's bulls***t. It's pure fantasy, but fantasy has its own merits. There's a whimsy about fairy tales that persists and probably will never go away. The fact that the canon Buffy/Angel relationship is a "Fractured Fairy Tale" (bonus points to everyone who picks up on that reference) probably doesn't matter to the Bangel fic writer. in fact, I would guess the central tactic of writing Bangel would be to consider canon as the middle act of a three-act play, where all hope seems lost, and then to write the "happily ever after" part.

Then again, maybe I'm too hung up on future fic to grasp the appeal. It's possible there are depths that Bangels explore in the canon. Also, I only know Bedward from the hilariously bad TV trailers and one aborted cable-watch of movies I will never see.

Edited at 2012-05-28 12:27 am (UTC)
May. 28th, 2012 12:49 am (UTC)

Also: FFT was never finished! :(
May. 28th, 2012 01:06 am (UTC)
Heh. I'd hum the Fractured Fairy Tales theme for you, but this isn't the medium for it. (Here's comes the final wand wave, watch out!)

Good point about that first love innocent yearning thing. So many of our culture's stories are about that, probably because nearly everybody has a first love. It's not the most interesting story to me, so I tend to forget that it's so pervasive. That Bangel worked on the show as that AND the subversion of that is the bit that I like. Not enough to keep me interested in or after S3, but still.

I think that Angel, Riley, AND Spike probably all appreciated her strength and fierceness. If they didn't, all those relationships would have never got off the ground. ;-)
May. 28th, 2012 05:56 am (UTC)
Not enough to keep me interested in or after S3, but still.

Yeah, for the most part, their scenes after the S3 goodbye became less about nostalgia and more about mindless pandering. While I generally like his writing, I still think of Doug Petrie's Angel-Buffy scene in "The Yoko Factor" as the most risible pap in the entire series. There's a moment when they are standing in the hall outside Buffy's dorm room when they share a laugh, and it comes off as so completely fake and dishonest that it almost ruins the episode.

I don't generally mind the idea of leaving the door open to rekindling your high school flame, since there's a lot of real world angst to be mined there. But continually (and clumsily) revisiting that basic theme amongst much headier stuff felt more like a money decision than an artistic one, and got worse with every crossover episode IMO.

(Again, not a shipper, so I might be missing something crucial here)

Edited at 2012-05-28 05:57 am (UTC)
May. 28th, 2012 06:41 am (UTC)
I hadn't really broken down the crossovers that much. I just know I prefer them to stay on their own shows. ;-)
May. 28th, 2012 02:41 pm (UTC)
Aw, I rather like the Buffy/Angel scene in The Yoko Factor because it's that awkward moment when a couple realizes that they're so over. They as much as say so.

The subsequent crossovers feel much more fan service-y to me. I can fanwank them into some sense-making, for the most part, but The Yoko Factor signals the final nail in the B/A coffin for me.
May. 28th, 2012 03:43 pm (UTC)
...it's that awkward moment when a couple realizes that they're so over.

Oh, no doubt. I just think was ham-fisted in the way it was written, staged and performed. Plus, I think they intentionally left that coffin door open a crack on purpose with their last exchange:

ANGEL: "Oh... and Riley?"
BUFFY: "Yeah"
ANGEL: "I don't like him."
BUFFY: "Thanks."

If Angel had smiled and said, "I like him," they could've put the romance to bed. But with this outro, I could almost hear the Bangel theme song from "The Zeppo" playing in my head.
May. 28th, 2012 05:55 pm (UTC)
I can see that interpretation. It's certainly ambiguous enough to leave a crumb for the B/A shippers (and for the show to give them more B/A scenes later).
May. 28th, 2012 12:55 am (UTC)
I've found, in my attempts to read Bangel fics, that the worst Bangel fics are nearly interchangeable with the worst Spuffy fics. They fall back on the same romantic cliches and warp the characters to fit the author's whims. They both end up being massively heteronormative and probably resemble canon Bella/Edward (I can only guess, as I haven't read/seen any Twilight).

The better Bangel fics, though, do take into account the actual characterization. This does mean that early season Bangel fics will have a lot more youthful and vulnerable Buffy, which tends toward a more paternalistic relationship (as we see in the show), but Bangel fics set in later seasons have Buffy as she develops and matures, so...

Yeah, I think it depends on the quality of the fic for any pairing you look at.
May. 28th, 2012 01:11 am (UTC)
Yeah, there are plenty of Spuffy fics that are ridiculous and bashy, so I'd assume it was also that way for Bangel fic. But I figured that couldn't be ALL of it.

So, does a mature Buffy/Angel fic look different from a mature Buffy/Spike (or Buffy/Faith) fic? I actually think that the Buffy/Spike and Buffy/Faith fics could have a lot of the same themes, but I wonder if that's true for Buffy/Angel?
May. 28th, 2012 01:24 am (UTC)
Hmmm...well, I think post-series B/S can sometimes resemble post-series B/A. Not always. Mainly just the one-shots. But I have read some B/A fics that I could probably have just swapped out "Angel" for "Spike" and gotten a Spuffy fic (and I'm sure vice versa, but I never really notice that stuff when I'm reading my OTP). Maybe it's the souled vampire aspect that creates the resemblance at that time?

I don't read Buffy/Faith so I can't speak much to that. :)
May. 28th, 2012 01:52 am (UTC)
I actually think that the Buffy/Spike and Buffy/Faith fics could have a lot of the same themes, but I wonder if that's true for Buffy/Angel?

In my opinion, no. Buffy/Angel as a ship just doesn't seem to have the same opposites attract/mirror images/the enemy of my enemy is my friend vibe to it. At least, I don't think so. It should but it just doesn't.
May. 28th, 2012 02:26 am (UTC)
Yeah. The main thing I've seen in Bangel fics is the "star-crossed lovers" thing in early seasons fics and the "reunited (FINALLY) lovers" thing in later-settings fics. They don't really play on the same tropes at all.
May. 28th, 2012 02:41 am (UTC)
No, they don't.

That's not to say that I think "star-crossed lovers" or "reunited lovers" can't be written well; it can.

May. 28th, 2012 02:57 am (UTC)
Most definitely. After some reading, I concluded that the Bangel dynamics just aren't my thing, so I don't bother reading B/A fics anymore. But that isn't a slam on their quality. Tastes vary in most things.
May. 28th, 2012 09:28 am (UTC)
I wrote only one Faith/Buffy and, yes, in many aspects I notice that Faith was similar to Spike (that I could shift Faith and Spike) but in others totally different. I think that, as a ficwriter, you should always take care of the characters' peculiarities. In Faith's case, for example: her rivality with Buffy (Spike wasn't like that. He was an enemy, right, but never in competition) her jelousy and the peculiar chemistry between two women in love (Which is different, I think, from a woman and man and two men in love) Giving Faith her space, her characterization, I think I made her different from Spike. I don't know.
May. 28th, 2012 03:20 pm (UTC)
Certainly Faith and Spike are very different characters, even if they share a few qualities. Good point about the rivalry aspect between Buffy and Faith. In some ways, Buffy and Faith's relationship has similarities to the Angel and Spike relationship. ;-)
May. 28th, 2012 03:48 pm (UTC)
Yes! I think that Spike and Angel have this hate/love-brotherly relationship much similar to Faith and Buffy's one. Faith is the shadow self of Buffy and, in many ways, Spike works as shadow for Angel, especially in Season 5 (Of Angel). Except that, for me, Spike is the most complete character in BtVS (much more complete than Faith) and so, when I wrote about Faith with Buffy, I went in a total different way (from my Spuffy fics)
May. 28th, 2012 02:08 am (UTC)
I can't tell you much about B/A fic, but my impression of the appeal of the ship (from a few folks on FL), is the whole "star-crossed lovers" thing - brought together - and torn apart - by fate.

Whereas, we Spuffy shippers seem to be more enamored of the "enemies who become friends who become lovers" thing. Buffy and Spike aren't exactly meant to be - they really have to work at it! ;-)
May. 28th, 2012 06:49 am (UTC)
That make sense. I guess it's tied in with that whole "fate vs. free will" thing that people are always talking about. ;-)

Still, I know there are good writers and intelligent fans of the Bangel ship, and I figure they've got to have interesting things they want to explore in the relationship.
May. 28th, 2012 04:35 am (UTC)
The destiny thing gets a lot of play in Bangel. Sometimes in a straightforward and unironic manner; sometimes, in the darker stuff, in the sense that even though both of them know that it's a terrible idea for them to be together, they are drawn so strongly to one another that they just don't care. That stuff in S8 that Twangel was saying about how the universe itself intended them to be mates and neither of them could ever be truly happy with anyone else, that seriously could have come right out of a Bangel fic.

Even later season Bangel often comes off as a tad paternalistic to me, but even at his best, Angel is a tad paternalistic, so that may just be accurate characterization. OTOH, I think Bangel writers may be more likely to see that trait of his as a good thing, and interpret it in positive ways: Angel is protective, not paternalistic. He only has Buffy's best interests at heart, and that makes his unilateral decision-making on her behalf not just acceptable but laudable - he really does know what's best.
May. 28th, 2012 04:54 am (UTC)
What Barb said. Pretty much nails the tropes I've seen in the Bangel fic I've read. I've been working my way down a Bangel friend's rec list, and a lot of it is the uncontrollable urge to be together, like it was the universe's intention the whole time. There's a complete lack of agency involved - they just can't help themselves - so free will goes out the door.
May. 28th, 2012 05:02 am (UTC)
Although to be fair, I think this is a really common trope in romances in general - maybe not in such a literal sense, but the idea of soulmates, of the perfect match who really is meant for you is a really, really popular fantasy. (And heaven knows there are enough Spuffy writers who co-opt the trope and write fuck-or-die prophecy fic, so I'm not even sure it's limited to Bangel fic, albeit there's more canon support for it in Bangel fic.)
May. 28th, 2012 06:58 am (UTC)
Angel is a tad paternalistic, so that may just be accurate characterization

Heh. Okay, I can definitely see that. If the writer is doing it like on the show (AtS, mostly) that would be the thing that would be played with. Buffy could have lots of fun making him trip over his "daddy knows best" ideas in later/post season fic. But it doesn't sound like that's a common approach. Now I am sad.
May. 28th, 2012 06:15 am (UTC)
Dunno about fics, but as for B/A and Edward/Bella comparisons, then it's in many respects the same story, except Buffy does it right (Buffy calls Angel on his bullshit, and - on the whole - Angel's creepiness is shown for what it is), whereas Twilight panders to the story, and equates love & obsession.
May. 28th, 2012 07:02 am (UTC)
That is a good point. I guess what it boils down to is that Angel could be Edward-esque or Edward could be Angel-lite, but Buffy will never be Bella. Does that sound about right?
May. 28th, 2012 10:07 am (UTC)
I guess what it boils down to is that Angel could be Edward-esque or Edward could be Angel-lite

I don't know--Angel never stared at Buffy as if he were totally constipated and/or holding back a fart:


I do, however, think that Edward was meant to be the of the most bootleggiest carbon copy of Angel, in the most stereotypical manner possible.
May. 28th, 2012 09:21 am (UTC)
Recently I quit reading an Italian Bangel forum for the things they said in that: like, for example, Angelus does love Buffy, he was sooo romantic watching her sleep ... .___.
So, yes, I saw Bangel fics worst than Twilight, but I can tell the same about many Spuffy fics. In this case I simply believe that the authour went OOC: Angel may be like Edward, but Buffy isn't definetly like Bella. In english, I've read Bangel fics more IC, in which Buffy is still Buffy and I've loved them.
May. 28th, 2012 03:33 pm (UTC)
Interesting. One of the Bangel things I do read fairly often is a drabble series in which Angelus and Buffy somehow made it work, those crazy kids. I'm still a bit fuzzy on how it happened, but the writer has built a series that runs for years into the future. I think they end up in Cleveland...

Angelus watching Buffy (and Joyce) sleep was genuinely terrifying, but then I'm fairly sure Spike climbed up on the roof a time or two, even if we didn't see it. With him I don't worry so much. I guess it comes down to whether you think the stalker in question has dangerous intentions. ;-)
May. 28th, 2012 08:56 pm (UTC)
The beginning of that series has Buffy deciding that the burden of Slayerness is such that she deserves a shiny new Australia Angelus. She does angst about him eating people to some extent, but her basic attitude is that her life is haaaaard and Angelus is the only one who understands her. So she lives a double life for a couple of years, pretending to hunt Angelus while carrying on a secret affair.

Eventually, towards the end of alt S3, it comes out that she and A. are a Thing. Giles and the Scoobies are understandably unhappy. Something happens which makes her force Angelus to bite her - not sure what; a lot of the important stuff seems to happen offstage in this series. In any case, by this time Buffy has come to accept Angelus's view that the Scoobs and Giles are leeches and betrayers who are only dragging her down, so she and Angelus move to L.A.

At some point between S3 and S4, Buffy apparently threatens to leave Angelus unless he agrees to stop eating people, or at least not eat so many of them. Again, this seems to happen offstage, so I'm not sure why it suddenly becomes an issue.

Alt S4 has them setting up Angel Investigations, sort of. Buffy returns to Sunnydale and gets captured by the Initiative, and then rescued by Angelus. I think. Again, most of it's offstage.

Alt S5 on, no clue - by this point it's all drabbles, and the storyline's so far removed from canon I have no idea what's going on. Though the First does seem to show up again in S7.

May. 28th, 2012 11:03 pm (UTC)
I guess it's not too much of a jump to say that this is a kinder, gentler Angelus? And look, Scooby bashing isn't just a pastime of certain Spuffies! Who knew?

I figured that S7 must've happened, if they ended up in Cleveland. I only see tiny bits, but it's full of good humor, so I enjoy it when it pops up. And it seems like Buffy is more-or-less in charge, so that's a good.
May. 28th, 2012 11:15 pm (UTC)
Yeah, there's a definite shift in tone in the series around alt S4. The earlier ones are all very dark, with Buffy helpless before Angelus's sinister attraction.
May. 29th, 2012 05:31 am (UTC)
May. 29th, 2012 06:22 am (UTC)
I'm drawing a blank, but if you go to open_on_sunday and use the "angelus" tag you'll find them!
May. 29th, 2012 06:31 am (UTC)
This comm seems to be awesome; just read an Angel/Dawn drabble that was most excellent, so thanks :D
Jun. 6th, 2012 02:51 pm (UTC)
Edward and Bella are nothing like Angel and Buffy. The comparisons are made by people unfamiliar with Buffy and solely based on the fact that they're both vampire/human couples. The similarity ends there.
Aug. 10th, 2012 04:40 pm (UTC)
Sorry for the late reply. I appreciate your thoughts.
Jul. 2nd, 2012 05:41 pm (UTC)
I just discovered this. I'm not a Bangel girl (I've only written one story where they are the central ship), but I think comparing them to Bella and Edward is both silly and intellectually lazy. I have read only the first Twilight novel but even from that, there are so many differences between Buffy and Bella and Angel and Edward that it's impossible to analogize ANYTHING they do, let alone their relationships. Bella is, in many ways, an empty vessel, looking for Edward to give her meaning and value - does that in any way sound like Buffy?


Edited at 2012-07-02 05:42 pm (UTC)
Aug. 10th, 2012 04:46 pm (UTC)
I missed this 'til now. I can't really compare the two ships because I don't know enough about Twilight. I bow to your superior knowledge. From what little I do know, Bella doesn't sound like Buffy at all, except for the "female high school student" part. *shrug*
Aug. 10th, 2012 04:55 pm (UTC)
You're very lucky you don't know more about Twilight. Really. I promise.

Aug. 10th, 2012 12:42 pm (UTC)
A bit OT - It's interesting to me that I in reading the comments I see more people interpreting "Bangel" from outside the 'ship rather than Bangel shippers, or am I misreading the comments? Are Bangels and Spuffies not "mix-y things"?

(I'm all about the late seasons myself, so I know what relationship I found most interesting, but I even liked Riley for what he was. And I've read some horribly OOC Spuffy fics. It's all about the writers personal fantasies anyway.)

Aug. 10th, 2012 05:04 pm (UTC)
Are Bangels and Spuffies not "mix-y things"?

Not so much. It seems that one or the other relationship has more appeal for people. I enjoyed Buffy/Angel for the first two seasons, but not enough to be motivated to write fic about 'em. Yet. For people really invested in Buffy/Angel, Spike — and to a lesser degree Riley and Cordy — messed up their ship, which they can't forgive. I understand because I feel distinctly uneasy about later or post-season Buffy/Angel fic, with a few exceptions.

I sail many ships, primarily Spike/Dru and Spike/Buffy. Since I am more focused on the Spike side of things than the Angel side of things, I don't get much traffic from Angel fans, though I do occasionally hunt down Angel meta to get insights. Some is very enlightening, but much is not convincing to an Angel skeptic, as it were.
Aug. 11th, 2012 10:07 pm (UTC)
I found that gabrielleabelle's metas on the subversive nature of Bangel really helped me "get" that pairing, and what the intentions were (a subversion of romance tropes). Beyond that, not a lot of interest on that from from my end.

I actually quite liked Riley when I was watching - he seemed good for Buffy at the time, and I don't think for a second she didn't love him; he simply wanted something she couldn't give. (Or at least I liked him until the writers decided to suddenly make him a jerk.)
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