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Thoughts on souls, provoked by 'Awakening'

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For some time there has been an occasional fan fic convention that Angel and Angelus were somehow separate creatures inhabiting the same body. A sort of magical Siamese twin or vampiric multiple-personality disorder. There are fics out there where the two argue, or they reach occasional uneasy truces, or can even switch control of the shared body back and forth according to whim or the requirements of some three in the bed PWP.

Which can have its uses for a writer, I suppose, if you are willing to overlook the rash of assorted symbols you are always required to memorise at the start of the fic that are supposed to help you distinguish the thoughts of Angel, Angelus and occasionally Liam as well. But me: I have always hated the notion. Not because of any specific contradiction in the idea with anything I have seen in canon, but more prosaically because I feel it is an undermining of the whole notion of the gypsy curse – that Angelus was supposed to suffer for his crimes, and that whatever he may chose to call himself now that is precisely who is suffering. Not Liam, or some unfortunate off-the-shelf soul known as Angel, but Angelus. The original evil vampire who did all those nasty things, made to experience something no normal vamp can – namely a grasp of his full responsibility and guilt.

And I was perfectly happy in this belief. Cordy had said in Somnambulist that Angel and Angelus were different people, but really, what does Cordy know? Certainly Angel never confirmed it in any way, in fact his brooding seemed to imply something quite the opposite. So I put Cordy’s speech down to her finding the idea of separate creatures comforting rather than any inherent truth in the notion. I stuck to my guns that the soul gave Angel his guilt and that was all, it modified Angelus’s behaviour to the extent he appeared a different personality, not that he was one.

Of course such a standpoint bumps headlong into some people’s notions of redemption – if the soul gave Angel his guilt, then how could Spike be redeemed without one? That never worried me, because I have never believed that soulless vamps are incapable of showing compassion, empathy or honour (Spike, Harmony, Holden etc.) The soul is only required to permit them to experience full-blown guilt and a sense of responsibility for their actions.

Then along came Spike’s soul, and through the lunatic ranting it appeared to be doing something entirely in line with my existing beliefs. Spike with a soul had gone from having a sense of empathy for some humans and (post the bathroom incident) a sense that he needed to do something to improve himself, to having a full sense of guilt about his deeds. But he was still essentially Spike, and he clearly counted them as his own crimes, not those of some creature separate from himself. Fine and good, I continued to see the multiple personality theory as an irritating fan fic aberration and no more.

Then last week I watched Awakening and my jossyworld-view began to crumble. Because not only was Cordy speaking as if Angel and Angelus were separate, but Angel himself was.

Aaaagh.

No. Please no. Please let whatever is to come next straighten this out. Because if Angel and Angelus really are two separate creatures then could somebody please explain to me what the point of the flaming curse is? How does this bit of Gypsy reasoning go? ’Oh, well Angelus did something terrible to the most favoured daughter of our clan so lets conjure someone else into his body and then make him eternally suffer for Angelus’s crimes while Angelus sits back and puts his feet up on the inner coffee-table.’

Riiight.

And this makes sense because it is vengeance not justice? These gypsies clearly subscribe to the ’kick the cat’ school of morality.

Besides, it is lazy story telling, which is one of the reasons I have always hated it in fan fic. It is a get out of jail free card from having to address head on the nastiness of Angelus and what that means for Angel. Or from having to show common threads of personality. And the continuity of traits whether you are calling him Liam, Angelus or Angel has always been one of the strengths of the show, and one of the most fascinating aspects of the character. Up until now.

So here is my wish list for Soulless:

  • Clear similarities of personality between Angel and Angelus so that we can see a continuation not an artificial break.
  • An outright rebuttal of Cordy’s (and now Connor’s) belief that Angel and Angelus are separate. Tasty angst will thus ensue.
  • Some indication from Wes of how he with his Watcher’s training views the matter – the exact beliefs of the council on this point are currently rather unclear.
  • One intelligent and/or funny statement from Gunn. (Well all right, that one is clearly pie in the sky, but a peasant can hope.)

Because if they continue to go with the multiple-personality-vampire theory I am going to sulk. A lot.