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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.

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( 43 comments — Leave a comment )
lostboy_lj
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:

Angel:
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.

Riley
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.

Spike
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)
norwie2010
May. 28th, 2012 12:49 am (UTC)
Yes.


Also: FFT was never finished! :(
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gabrielleabelle
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.
rebcake
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?
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cindergal
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! ;-)
rebcake
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.
rahirah
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.
eilowyn
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.
(no subject) - rahirah - May. 28th, 2012 05:02 am (UTC) - Expand
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elisi
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.
rebcake
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?
(no subject) - ms_scarletibis - May. 28th, 2012 10:07 am (UTC) - Expand
kikimay
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.
rebcake
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. ;-)
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joans_journal
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.
rebcake
Aug. 10th, 2012 04:40 pm (UTC)
Sorry for the late reply. I appreciate your thoughts.
velvetwhip
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?


Gabrielle

Edited at 2012-07-02 05:42 pm (UTC)
rebcake
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*
(no subject) - velvetwhip - Aug. 10th, 2012 04:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
red_satin_doll
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.)

rebcake
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.
(no subject) - red_satin_doll - Aug. 11th, 2012 10:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
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