shadowkat: (Default)
[personal profile] shadowkat
The above was a joke of a sort. What happens when a Fatelist and an Extentialist walk into a bar..I'm guessing they'll share a bottle of scotch, and debate the odds of the universe ending tomorrow.

Difficult day. But beautiful. So there's that. Even if it was spent inside a cubicle.

The following meta - you can blame or thank [profile] atp_omn (aptomn) who wrote a meta on the latest Whedon Buffy comic - from an existentialist/athesist perspective (which by the way is Whedon's). I'd link to it, but his journal is locked. But he did inspire this - so I'm giving credit where it is due.

Existentialism as defined by wiki, because the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy's definition was so couched in academic speak, it gave me a head-ache. But you are free to go there if you wish. This is the Modern view - established in the 19th and 20th Centuries.

Existentialism is a term applied to the work of a number of 19th- and 20th-century philosophers who, despite profound doctrinal differences,generally held that the focus of philosophical thought should be to deal with the conditions of existence of the individual person and their emotions, actions, responsibilities, and thoughts. The early 19th century philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, posthumously regarded as the father of existentialism, maintained that the individual is solely responsible for giving his or her own life meaning and for living that life passionately and sincerely, in spite of many existential obstacles and distractions including despair, angst, absurdity, alienation, and boredom.

Presdestination also known as pre-determinism, although slightly more religious in aspect, is a 18th Century concept. It's religious connotation separates it from free will and determinism.

Predestination is the Divine foreordaining or foreknowledge of all that will happen; with regard to the salvation of some and not others. It has been particularly associated with the teachings of St. Augustine of Hippo and of John Calvin. Predestination may sometimes be used to refer to other, materialistic, spiritualist, non-theistic or polytheistic ideas of determinism, destiny, fate, doom, or adrsta. Such beliefs or philosophical systems may hold that any outcome is finally determined by the complex interaction of multiple, possibly immanent, possibly impersonal, possibly equal forces, rather than the issue of a Creator's conscious choice.

Joss Whedon is an interesting writer, I do not always like him, but I will grant that he is interesting - because he melds his philosophical beliefs into the fabric of his writing. In an interview - he stated that he first realized he was an existentialist when he read Sartre's Nausea.(Firefly DVD commentary) He also said when asked if there was a God: "no," but "I don't believe that's the end of the story - it's an important and necessary thing to learn." (The AV Club Interview) And in one of the Buffy DVD commentaries, Whedon comments: "I don't believe in the sky bully" referring to God. And with fans in Sydney, Australia - he identified himself as an atheist and an absurdist. Whedon also identifies himself as a humanist. In April 2009, the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard presented Whedon with the 2009 Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism.

In the Buffy and Angel series, Whedon does something interesting he creates two male vampires - with the same name - William. But one goes by the full name William or Willy and as a nickname "Spike", while the other is called Liam, until he becomes a vampire then never anything other than "Angel" or "Angelus" unless he's talking to Spike, who calls him "Liam" in Angel S5, Hellbound.

The nicknames are also interesting - because the name Angelus, according to wiki again means:

The Angelus (Latin for Angel) is a Christian devotion in memory of the Incarnation. The name Angelus is derived from the opening words: Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariæ ("the Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary...") and is practised by reciting as versicle and response three Biblical verses describing the mystery; alternating with the salutation "Hail Mary!" The Angelus exemplifies a species of prayers called the prayer of the devotee.

The devotion was traditionally recited in Roman Catholic churches, convents, and monasteries three times daily: 6:00 am, noon, and 6:00 pm (many churches still follow the devotion, and some practice it at home). The devotion is also used by some Anglican and Lutheran churches. The Angelus is usually accompanied by the ringing of the Angelus bell, which is to spread good-will to everyone on Earth. The angel referred to in the prayer is the Angel Gabriel, a messenger of God who revealed to Mary that she would conceive a child to be born the Son of God. (Luke 1:26-38).

From the Catholic Encyclopedia - the Angel Gabriel (the Angel referenced in the Angelus) or Angel:

in the Bible, Gabriel is, in accordance with his name, the angel of the Power of God, and it is worth while noting the frequency with which such words as "great", "might", "power", and "strength" occur in the passages referred to above. The Jews indeed seem to have dwelt particularly upon this feature in Gabriel's character, and he is regarded by them as the angel of judgment, while Michael is called the angel of mercy. Thus they attribute to Gabriel the destruction of Sodom and of the host of Sennacherib, though they also regard him as the angel who buried Moses, and as the man deputed to mark the figure Tau on the foreheads of the he elect (Ezekiel 4). In later Jewish literature the names of angels were considered to have a peculiar efficacy, and the British Museum possesses some magic bowls inscribed with Hebrew, Aramaic, and Syriac incantations in which the names of Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel occur. These bowls were found at Hillah, the site of Babylon, and constitute an interesting relic of the Jewish captivity. In apocryphal Christian literature the same names occur, cf. Enoch, ix, and the Apocalypse of the Blessed Virgin. --

Angel is given the name by his sister, who asks if he is an "Angel" since he is dead. He says, yes, Angelus (the latin form, also the latin verse mentioned above) before he kills her and everyone in his house. His sister has let him in, little knowing she has let in the Angel of Death.

Angel the character from his initial introduction in Buffy, S1, Welcome to the Hellmouth through issue 36, as well as all the Angel comics, continues to be the poster child of Predestination, which is fitting considering the name he chose - Angel, God's right hand man, no free will. He does not believe in free will per se. Everything has been foretold. The future cannot be changed, and when he attempts to change it - he only succeeds in bringing it about. He is cursed with a soul (through a religious ritual or Gypsey curse, ancient) - he does not earn or request or choose it. And when he loses the soul - it is not by choice, but rather by accident. He sought comfort in the girl he loved. Also note - he does not find Buffy by himself or fall in love with her by choice, but rather Whistler - an agent of the PTB takes him to her and suggests that he help her. He pursues her because he is told to.

When she goes up against the Master, Angel states that she can't win, she will die - because it is foretold. He brings the Prophecy to Giles that tells Giles what Buffy must do to free the Master. When she follows it...Angel is resigned to her fate.

Xander: Buffy, she's gone to fight the Master.
Angel: He'll kill her.
Xander: Rumor has it. Only we're not gonna let it happen.
Angel: Well, what do you propose we do about it?
Xander: Look, I know you can find this Master guy. He's underground,
right? Take me to him.
Angel: You're way outta your league, kid. The Master'll kill you before
you can even breathe. If you're lucky

Later, when Angel comes back in S3, newly re-souled and fighting the First, he decides to kill himself and no one can stop. Until it snows. The snow is a sign from God that makes Angel believe he has a purpose. Buffy doesn't change his mind, nor does her pleas that he live and atone for his sins. No, it is snow.

When Angel enters his own series - Doyle convinces Angel to do good works - via "visions" that he receives. And takes Angel to visit the Oracles - an Adam and Eve brother and sister couple, who can literally turn back time, and tell Angel that there are various futures but all are pre-ordained. Everything has already been set. Angel will shanshue after he has either saved or destroyed the world, it's not clear which. The main villain, Wolf Ram and Hart - a law firm, well-schooled in the ability to interpret prophecies - uses the Shanshue Prophecy to manipulate Angel.

Angel's friends - Wes (the keeper and interpreter of the prophecies but unlike Giles, as was already shown on Buffy, is a devout believer in prophecies and is not a skeptic), Cordelia (also a devout believer in prophecy, who after Doyle's death is cursed with visions, she also becomes the virgin mary of the story - giving birth to a goddess that brings about salvation for the worthy (depending on your pov),) while Fred (the scientist) and Gunn (the street fighter) remain skeptical. )

In S2-S3, Angel does the impossible he impregnants Darla, a vampire, who gives birth to a super-powered child - Connor. Connor then in turn impregnates Cordelia - who gives birth to Jasmine.
Darla and Cordy, light and dark, are a twisted take on the old Angelus prayer. Darla a vampire - stakes herself to give birth to a boy who is part human, while Cordy, human, gives birth to a monsterous goddess - both savior and devourer. The nightmare mother.

The ending of the series - results in Angel turning LA into a living Hell in his attempt to overthrow the prophecy and follow the vision that Cordelia gifted him with. He never once questions why Cordy comes back one last time or why she gave him that final vision. Any more than he questioned why she got the visions or the up-grade to begin with. Or where she went. Or why she went there. He takes it on blind faith that she ascended. And when she returns he takes it on blind faith that she is Cordelia, enabling her to manipulate him into becoming Angelus once again.

He is an Angel in both name and deed. Angel's lack free will - they do what God tells them to. They are in a sense God's messengers, henchmen, and hitmen in the Bible. They act God's will. Puppets little more. And in Angel's series he is shown to be put a puppet to the prophecies he believes in. Wesley is easily manipulated by Holtz into giving up Connor by prophecy - he believes without question that Angel will Kill His Son - he never questions his interpretation or seeks guidance. Like Angel - Wes believes in predestination. He's unable to set his own course, even though he tries.

In the Buffy cross-over episode - I Will Always Remember You - Angel turns back time and erases Buffy's memory of events along with his own humanity based solely on a prophecy, something the oracles have told him, which never comes true. He believes that by doing so, he saves Buffy's life - but Buffy dies anyhow. Then is resurrected. Through no act of his own. He believes that the prophecy fortells his own heroism - yet never happens. He gives up what he has, which is everything, for a carrot promised by God. He wants God to remove his curse, he's not willing to remove it himself or to allow it to happen by accident (as it does here). He chooses to be the Powers puppet, once again.

All of this works characterwise, since Angel is a man of his times, 18th Century Ireland, Calvinist or Catholic, doesn't matter which, both were predestination at that time. He's a traditionalist. Not a modernist. He may read Sartre, but he doesn't buy it.

Enter, Spike, or William, the man from the late 19th Century, who came of age during the Industrial Revolution. Who uses computers and dies his hair white. The self-made man. Sensual, about the body and the mind. Believing that a person sets his own course - Spike always takes responsbility for his actions - the soul he got, the girls he killed, and things change - if you make them! Unlike Angel - Spike doesn't state that was someone else, no he tells Buffy - that was me. I've changed, true, but I also did those things. No one made me. Even with the first triggering him. Not so much interested in spirtualism and questions the need or even value of a soul.

Spike enters S2, by crapping on the ritual. Instead of attacking Buffy on the Eve of St. Vigeous, as tradition and ritual states - and he was ordered to do by the new leader, the Annoited One - Spike comes two days early, when Buffy and gang are not prepared. And when he returns, his first words to the Annoited One (who he has nicknamed the Annoying One) - Who am I kidding, I would have done everything exactly the same, except I'd have done this first (he burns him alive in a cage) - alrighty then, more FUN and less Ritual around here!" He uses ritual only as means to an end, he sets very little store by it.

While it appears he believes in God, it is negotiable...he seems almost ambivalent. He stares heavenward in Beneath You and askes isn't this what you wanted? But gets no answer. He burns himself on the cross, and is crucified on one, yet his god, if he has one is whomever has gained his trust. "She will come for me" he states - meaning Buffy, not magic snow or the PTB.

Spike is pragmatic to a fault. Prophecies...he's uncertain of. When he follows one to get Angel's goat, in Destiny, and fights Angel to drink the cup of misery/woe - he discovers it is Mountain Dew and scoffs. When he is brought back to life - he scoffs at Fred's view that it was for a higher purpose. He's not sure. He's the eternal agnostic.

And Spike states, half as a joke, Dru hated Paris, Satre made her nauseaus - Dru like Angel believed in Visions. Spike used Dru's visions to help and aid him. He believes in them, but I'm not sure he believes entirely in the higher power, and if he did - he seems set to follow his own route, and do his own thing. Manipulative, opportunistic, amoral - as Riley states. Controlled by a chip in his head - it is man-made. But he chooses the soul.
He's sensual to a fault, and as he states to Buffy at one point - he thinks with his blood not his head.

By the time we reach the comics...these character traits seem somewhat ingrained. When Whedon stated he always knew Angel was Twilight - he was more than likely referring to who Angel has always represented. It is important to note that Angel chooses to become Twilight, for the same reasons he chose to go to Sunnydale, or chose to overthrow WRH, or chose to believe in glowy Cordelia. He's consistent. The writers make it clear in both the Riley One Shot and Issue 36 that this was Angel's choice, he was not coerced, he was not under the influence, and he was not soulless - he chose to become Twilight, because of a prophecy, because that is what a messenger from his God's told him. Angel sees himself as Moses or perhaps even Jesus. The Savior of the world.

Whedon once stated in an interview or commentary that the worse villains, the most frightening are those who believe they have a just cause, a divine calling, that God has advised them to do this. The righteous man is a frightening one. The man who does not question. And Angel doesn't really, oh maybe to start. And no, it is not power that is controlling him. He does question what he does, he does state he hates this plan - he knows what will happen, he knows the consequences, but he does it anyway, because he believes the means justify the ends - that his cause, his "religious" cause is justified. And besides, if he doesn't do it - the other timelines are far worse. Note - he hasn't seen them, he doesn't know them. He is told this by Whistler, by a talking dog, and he never questions it. Never picks up a computer and never does research.

In the interview above - and other's Whedon states that it is very important to realize that God does not exist, that we are alone. That's scarey. We will die. There is nothing. We are the masters of own fate. (These are Whedon's words and views, NOT mine.)

In a panel comparing where Spike and Angel's back stories appear side by side in issue 36, Spike is shown researching and Angel is shown talking to oracles and Gods. Spike determines what is going on and figures out what to do about, Angel is told what is happening and is told what to do about it.
Even their entries show their two views on the world - Angel is thrown into LA through a portal and falls through the Hollywood sign, he's not navigating, he's not Captain of this ship. And when he looks down at LA, he still believes its gone, where-ever he popped in from, LA had been destroyed and he's been mourning it. Spike pops in fighting, he is navigating a ship, boss of creatures aiding him, and chooses more or less to ram Big Ben (compelled by the fun, which he gives into). (I wish I could provide the visuals).

Admittedly when I first thought of Twilight - I thought Hank Summers, fitting the pattern of bad parents in all of Whedon's tales - which can be seen as a metaphor for the sky-bully, or the nasty earth mother - sick and debilitated. He's fighting against the worship of the other, the god who beats and batters, and cares not for its creations. Just as Angel and Spike can be seen as metaphors for two separate belief patterns, the man who believes the prophecies and follows them, the man who hunts the way to upset them, who scoffs at authority. I know what is going on, I researched it. With buffy in S7, he tells her that she's right the scythe is there, in the vineyard. He researched it and it is hers. We can fight back, we're not through. Or Xander - the everyman, who equally scoffs at such things, or Willow who owns her own power and seeks spiritual guidance not spiritual absolution or definition or purpose.

This is by no means a new theme for Whedon. Dollhouse centered around a villain who was parental, who the heroine trusted, who manipulated her,
and who believed his cause was just and like Angel - they could go off together and create a better world, ditching the one they got. Be a sort of post-modern Adam and Eve, while the zombies destroy one another. The parents of a new breed. Man as God, is worse.

But as Whedon also states in his interviews, he's not completely certain of these things. He battles these questions within himself. I don't know. I don't believe in God...but? It's like the argument about the caveman and astronaut - who wins? The caveman, the existentialist/pragmaticist states. But we aren't certain, what if the Astronaut brought a bigger weapon?

An existentialist and a predestinationist walk into a bar and they argue who would win the fight, the caveman or the astronaut. My question? Which argues which?

(No time to proof-read, must make dinner, then veg, then sleep. So lots of typos and I'm certain errors. Also spoilers for all of BTVS and ATS, as well as the comics.)

Date: 2010-09-08 04:12 am (UTC)
next_to_normal: Cat poking its head out of the ceiling with text "Ceiling Cat frowns on these shenanigans" (ceiling cat)
From: [personal profile] next_to_normal
That's really interesting. I'd always thought of Angel as representing Catholic guilt and Spike representing Protestant grace, but this analogy works, too. (Although I don't usually associate predestination with Catholicism, but then, I tend to think of Catholicism as what I grew up with, lol.)

Date: 2010-09-08 12:05 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yes, yes, yes.

The thing that's interesting is that Buffy belongs to both belief systems: she is both chosen and choosing. She went to face the Master because she believed the prophecy; she was brought back because she had friends (Xander) who didn't. She kills Angel because she needs to, but she lets Spike sacrifice himself because he chooses to. She believes that she has no choice but to be the slayer, but she does so on her own terms. Hence the part of her that's attracted to Angel, and the part of her that's attracted to Spike.

When Buffy made the choice to empower the potentials all over the world, Buffy believed that she could choose her own destiny. Buffy first started her affair with Spike when she was ripped from heaven, and stopped believing in anything resembling the divine (or a purpose) on Earth. That's when she told Spike that she loved him. But in season eight Buffy has felt trapped by her slayer calling, completely unable to step outside the role of leader she feels that others have cast her into. And so she is of course mad for Angel, because she feels just as trapped as him, just as much the exceptional Chosen One (and not one among many who can choose to be exceptional).

Willow, like Spike, has "Will" in her name--she creates her own reality, by manipulating the world around her. But she is also like Angel in that she often seeks complete control of others around her, which is something that Spike does not do, as he doesn't believe that others can be so controlled. (Convinced? Perhaps. But not controlled the way Willow or Angel do.) In season eight, Willow chooses the trickster as a guide, because she plans not to follow her prophesies exactly (she'll know she's lying because she always lies) but she ends up repentant, on her knees, waiting for further instructions about when portals will open. For Willow it's more about physics and the integrity of the timestream, I think; but she is concerned about the inevitability of the future after she finds out that Buffy will kill her. Angel and Spike are the extremes on the spectrum; the other characters, I think, lie somewhere in between--though Willow ultimately is much closer to Spike than Angel.

I hadn't really thought before about Wesley vs. Giles as believer vs. skeptic. It's notable that Wesley is entirely Watcher-schooled, whereas Giles has spent some time away from the Watcher's academy, and in the real world; he has less rigid views of what people are capable of than Wesley does, at least before Wesley himself becomes darker than he could have thought. It's interesting that Wesley doesn't really learn from his mistake with Connor--in season four, he decides that they must release Angelus simply because Cordelia had a vision/"memory in the form of a vision" indicating that Angelus knew the Beast. But then he breaks Faith out of jail to make up for his mistake, and goes off the course charted by Cordelia's visions. Then in season five, after Angel wipes his memory, he believes again completely in predestination--Angel must believe the Shanshu, after all.

Lots more to ponder.

Date: 2010-09-08 12:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Woohhh...that entire meta is kinda amazing.

Date: 2010-09-08 01:08 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
VERY interesting. I will have to ponder.

Date: 2010-09-08 03:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
As you said, credit or blame, right? Nevertheless, thanks for the ref-- I'm glad to stir the pot a little.

Anyway, I figured out how to override the default friends lock, so the post should be visible to all now. Turns out it wasn't that hard. Live and learn. And then die.

( Ooops... )

Well, not yet. This is good.

Date: 2010-09-08 06:22 am (UTC)
ext_15439: (Default)
From: [identity profile]
Thank you.

Shadowkat's and now your post made me understand that the moment Buffy kissed Angel in #33 is the moment she choose to gave up her free will and start believing in the destiny thing.

Date: 2010-09-08 08:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
This is extremely interesting. I really enjoyed this, but I think I need to go to sleep (it's 3:30AM here) and re-read this in the morning 'cause it's giving me all kinds of thinky-thoughts. :D

Date: 2010-09-08 08:37 am (UTC)
liliaeth: (Default)
From: [personal profile] liliaeth
It's especially interesting when we remember that Angel mocked Spike for believing Lindsey when he told him he had visions that could help Spike protect the helpless.

Angel's so convinced of his own importance, that he doesn't realize that he fell just as easily for Doyle's line, as Spike did for Lindsey's.

Date: 2010-09-09 12:24 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I find this very interesting (as usual). I always associated Angel with the the inescapable wasteland of "Nausea". If what we do doesn't matter then all that matters is what we do is the best possible spin from that POV. Spike is more of a Deconstructionist, a pragmatist: in FFL he doesn't let Buffy belittle his experiences (even as he fudges parts of his history). In Season 7 he still doesn't deny any of his history and spends the season incorporating it.
Till reading this I never saw the comics as a destiny vs free will dichotomy. That is intriguing! This is a meta I can live with in terms of this mess of a story. Thank you!

Date: 2010-09-09 05:42 pm (UTC)
elisi: (spike prize by dtissagirl.)
From: [personal profile] elisi
Very interesting meta. Will mull it over.
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