What is a hero/champion?

3 May

This is a potential topic for my website, and I’m thinking about it because ljash said something interesting under one of my posts (I’m not going to link to it because it’s in the spoiler post from last Friday):


they keep raising questions and they’re not yet giving us the answers. On purpose, I’m sure. What’s a hero, what’s a champion, is W&H a total mistake no matter what they manage to do there? Is the big picture or the little picture more important? How much wrong can they do in the name of doing right?

We’ll get those answers even if they don’t give them to us, just by what happens. But since they’ve been deliberately asking the question over and over, I think they’ll have to answer it.

It seems to me that ME has already answered this question, in Deep Down, and again in Underneath:

“Nothing in the world is the way it ought to be. It’s harsh, and cruel. But that’s why there’s us. Champions. It doesn’t matter where we come from, what we’ve done or suffered, or even if we make a difference. We live as though the world was what it should be, to show it what it can be.” –Angel

“You’re playing for the bad guys. Every day you sit behind your desk and you learn a little more how to accept the world the way it is. But here’s the rub. Heroes don’t do that. Heroes don’t accept the world the way it is. They fight it. …The world keeps sliding towards entropy and degradation. And what do you do? You sit in your big chair, and you sign your checks, just like the Senior Partners planned. The war’s here, Angel.” –Lindsey

In short, a hero is someone who doesn’t accept the world the way it is. Easy to dismiss the second quote because it comes from Lindsey and how did he get so wise all of a sudden?, but I think this genuinely is ME’s philosophy.

Does that mean the Angel gang can’t be heroes at W&H? Well, not if they spend their time accepting the world as it is, turning a blind eye to their client’s evil deeds and compromising, winning a good by purchasing it with a compromise with evil. That’s breaking even at best. That’s accepting that they must make compromises to get what they want (which is the pragmatic thing, but maybe true heroism isn’t pragmatic). That’s accepting the world as it is.

It’s interesting, then, that Illyria makes a big long speech about not adapting and not making compromises** last week, and it’s that speech that gets Angel jumping on some new plan. Of course, she’s lecturing him about How to Rule the World, but maybe that’s the point.

This is definitely an idealistic model of the Hero/Champion, rather than a pragmatic one. Angel says as much in Deep Down:

“It doesn’t matter… if we make a difference.”
“We live as though the world was what it should be, to show it what it can be.”

So in short, ME has answered the question, and Angel has had another epiphany (remembering what he seemed to know back in early season 4 and forgot in season 5 like so many things were forgotten) and now it’s time to act on that knowledge.

PS. I’m thinking about posting this on ATPo, but I’m thinking it’s already the topic of several threads that I haven’t read all the way through. Would it be redundant?

**dlgood, it occurs to me that this might be the reason Buffy displays such a puzzling stubborness in “The Gift” we were talking about, e.g., not even being willing to say she would kill Dawn even if she was ultimately not asked to do so in the episode. In ME’s “no compromise” model of the hero, the true hero would never even say they’d be anything less than heroic, much less do it. Or, in another example, it takes the slightly-less-heroic/more pragmatic hero (Giles) to kill Ben in that ep because Buffy refuses to compromise on her values.

65 Responses to “What is a hero/champion?”

  1. bhadrasvapna May 4, 2004 at 10:47 am #

    It would be nonproductive for you and me to discuss Angel’s motivation because you see him as a hero without flaws who is a victim of circumstances and I see him as a tragic hero with a tragic flaw whose circumstances have causal relationship with his flaws.
    That’s isn’t how I see things. I see Angel as an essence or heart that can’t be touched. Circumstances can pile lots of crap on top of this and he can do things because of this, but I don’t define him by this. You on the other other hand define Angel by these flaws, rather than what lies under them.
    Angelus said in “Release” I know how it feelsforced to be someone you’re not. Hurts to the bone. You try to bury the pain, but you can’t get the hole deep enough, can you? No matter how much you dig, it’s still there. Broken shards stabbing every time you breathe, cutting you up inside. You know, there’s only one way to make the pain stop. Hurt someone else.
    I focus on who Angel is and the pain. You focus on the someone he is forced to be and the lashing out.
    At his core, Angel is a hero. The story is getting to that core. Ultimately he will do the right thing. As Joss said, “that is who he is.”
    Angel could choose to be who he is but he’s too ambitious for that-he wants to save the world in one big showy gesture to prove his own worth, instead of save the world one person at a time, and let those people save others.
    You mean like Willow and Buffy did with the Scythe Spell? I don’t think it is about proving his worth. He wants to save the world because he doesn’t think people should suffer. If it was about his own worth, he would be Angelus right now (or a big pile of ashes) because Reprise/Epiphany would have been very different.
    “Each act of kindness is the greatest thing in the world.”
    As my fingers are tired of typing, that is only half the epiphany.
    It is an everyday thing, not a one-time thing.
    Except in the case of Connor and Doyle and Cordy.
    You are still back in season 2. Angel has moved on. There is a big picture. The world CAN be changed. It HAS been changed. Joss is playing in the big leagues. So are his characters. We can’t lose the big picture any more than the small picture or there is no place to put those little mosaic pieces.
    We’ll see in a few weeks which way Joss goes.

  2. arethusa2 May 4, 2004 at 11:15 am #

    An essence that can’t be touched is static, unchanging. It can’t grow or develop, and therefore is not on a journey. Angel’s flaws determine the course his journey takes, because his journey is to overcome them and complete himself. Nobody is forcing Angel to be anything, his actions are the result of his decisions.
    Do you not see the contradiction between calling Angel a hero yet saying he only does wrong things because he’s in pain and lashes out against others? A hero doesn’t punish others because he’s in pain, he uses it to understand others. I agree Angel will ultimately do the right thing, but it will be because he understands the nature of his pain and releases himself from it.
    Buffy and Angel are dealing with different issues and therefore their situations are not directly analogous. Think about what you just said: He wants to save the world because he doesn’t want people to suffer. I would be far more comfortable with Angel’s hero status if he wanted to save people because he thinks people should not suffer. Save people, and you’re saving the world, bit by bit.
    Connor-dead-then saved himself by walking away. Cordy-dead. Doyle-dead, but saved himself by accepting his demon side.
    No, I’m not back in Season 2. I’m merely pointing out that Angel will continue his loop of ephiphany, destruction, epiphany until he stops being self-destructive.

  3. bhadrasvapna May 4, 2004 at 11:20 am #

    Re: Just so we are clear for future discussions
    Yes it can
    You can’t be a definition by going against a definition. You can be a hybrid or a modified version of something that ultimately branches off and becomes something completely new. Evolution of schools of thought mirrors the fossil record. Whenever anyone considers something beyond the practicality of national interest, they are not following realpolitik.
    The Scoobies are a legal class. They’re an extrajudicial, non-state, law-enforcement organization. With no codified law.
    Let me get this straight. They are a legal class with no codified law. The are a law-enforcement organization with no law. And how does this work? How can one be a legal class or a law-enforcement organization with no law?
    I wasn’t aware that anyone passed laws against demons.
    Xander: I motion that vampires cannot feed off of humans.
    Buffy: Anyone opposed? So we have general consent.
    Willow: Um… Buffy. We don’t have any vampires here.
    Dawn: What about Spike?
    Willow: Spike doesn’t count…
    Xander, Anya, and Dawn: He has a soooooul now.
    Buffy (glares at them): What does that have to do with anything
    Willow: Everyone has to be represented, including soulless vampires.
    Buffy: Why?
    Giles: I think it was some idea a while ago about a government of the people, by the people and for the people.
    Xander: They aren’t people.
    Willow: doesn’t matter. In order for our legislative body to have validity, it has to be representative of them
    Buffy: Why?
    Willow: Because we are making laws about them.
    Buffy: Whose idea was this any way?
    Xander: Some fan. He said we were an extrajudicial, non-state, law-enforcement organization. That means we need laws.
    Dawn: I thought democracy was supposed to be fun
    Anya: Who elected Buffy leader any way?
    Buffy: Do you want to go out and Slay? I’d be more than willing to stay behind and do my nails while you go fight vampires.
    Dawn: Can we fight vampires?
    Buffy: You can’t.
    Dawn: I mean, if we don’t have them represented here, how can we say what they can and cannot do?
    Xander: Maybe our fan can tell us.
    So Mr. Fan. We have an extra-judicial group that has no legal basis for what they do. No government of the people, by the people, for the people. We have one group of people who are taking away the sovereignty of another. No treaties attempted. No contracts. No nothing. That has to be addressed before we can talk about how the Slayers should govern themselves. Their very function has no legal basis on a theoretical level.
    That isn’t what Joss is writing. You can think about the wonderful political process and how effective it is at stopping abuses. You can talk and write about it all you want. It isn’t relevant to the story that Joss told. That sort of stuff takes place off screen for a reason.
    And Buffy just created a large number of superpowered individuals to carry out further enforcement.
    Enforce what? They don’t have any laws to follow. We compare them to the police because they serve and protect. The police do this by enforcing laws. Buffy has no laws to follow, so what is she enforcing?

  4. bhadrasvapna May 4, 2004 at 11:41 am #

    It can’t grow or develop, and therefore is not on a journey.
    The journey is to the essence. The essence doesn’t change. The crap on top of it does. His essence gives him a place to always come home to. “In the end, we all are who we are, no matter how much we may appear to have changed.” In 8 years, even with all the growth and changes, the characters are all who they are.
    I agree Angel will ultimately do the right thing, but it will be because he understands the nature of his pain and releases himself from it.
    But you don’t ever see him doing this. All you comment on are his flaws. Angel makes mistakes and he lashes out. That doesn’t make him not a hero. That makes him human. A hero is one that finds his way back home, finds his way back to that essence that makes him who he is, Angel and a hero.
    A hero doesn’t punish others because he’s in pain,
    At that time he isn’t being heroic. This isn’t a permanent state and he eventually finds his way back to the light. That is what makes him a hero. Angelus doesn’t have a soul, so he can’t do good and find another way out of his pain. A hero realizes the way to release the pain is to help others. He realizes that the pain of the world hurts him and he works to fix it. Angel is a hero. Angelus is not.
    You see Angel as a cycle of failure. I see him as a cycle of success. Even when he is lost, he will find his way back. I have complete confidence in that.
    He wants to save the world because he doesn’t want people to suffer. I would be far more comfortable with Angel’s hero status if he wanted to save people because he thinks people should not suffer. Save people, and you’re saving the world, bit by bit.
    People have to live somewhere. The world is harsh and cruel, hard and bright and violent. You keep putting down the big picture. I have a bumper sticker that says “Think globally, act locally.” There is nothing wrong with thinking globally or focusing on the bigger picture. I care about things like the US refusal to sign onto the ICC or Kyoto, not to mention the Geneva Protocols. When I can act globally I do. There are compromises that are made on the world stage, such as how the US treats China.
    Angel’s epiphany is about the wrong reasons to fight, “For redemption, for a reward – finally just to beat the other guy.” He wasn’t fighting for the big picture. He didn’t even believe in the big picture. He wasn’t effective on that level.
    Doyle:”It seems unfair, you know?  You gotta save all the helpless types around here and now you’ve got to fight the apocalypse as well?”
    Angel gets up:  “It’s all the same thing.  Fight the good fight – whichever way you can.”
    Doyle:  “Tell you what, you fight – and I’ll keep score.”
    Save the helpless, fight the Apocalypse. Both are important. Both are fighting the good fight which ever way you can. I like how this season is correcting the view that the big picture doesn’t matter or will take care of itself. Giving one person a sandwich isn’t going to feed the starving people. It is going to take changing the world, ala the Scythe Spells to stem the tide of evil.

  5. arethusa2 May 4, 2004 at 11:41 am #

    I can give you an example of Angel’s lashing out in pain-when Angel left the conference room in Timebomb, frustrated and enraged, he knocked off Lorne’s hat. That was a shocking (to me) display of bad temper and spite, and not in the least heroic. When I saw that I knew he was in for a mighty fall, because in no way could that action-or in my opinion many other of his actions-be misconstrued as heroic.

  6. dlgood May 4, 2004 at 11:45 am #

    Re: Just so we are clear for future discussions
    Whenever anyone considers something beyond the practicality of national interest, they are not following realpolitik
    Such a scenario immediately springs into existence when we ask one to define “national interest”, something that cannot be done in a value-free vaccuum.
    And how does this work? How can one be a legal class or a law-enforcement organization with no law?
    No codified law. They don’t have written laws, but they do function in that matter. Common law, is referred to as such when not specifically written down.
    Buffy has no laws to follow, so what is she enforcing?
    You might have to ask her, because she has argued that – in the absence of (codified) law, her judgement is the law. Among that common law: vampires, upon rising from the dead, should be destroyed. Just because it’s not codified does not mean it isn’t a law Buffy follows.
    That isn’t what Joss is writing.
    Except that he did write it.
    Your above paragraph does accurately describe Buffy’s group as they function within their own world. And Whedon wrote that. Functioning, which the show critiqued in the case of the Council of Watchers. A set of processes Buffy critiqued when, like former Mass Bay Colonists Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson, she turned her back and chose to lead her own political entity rather than being a part of a political entity she no longer wished to follow.
    Whedon wrote that story. He wrote a story in which Buffy accepted some laws (I don’t kill humans, I stake vampires when they rise) even if she didn’t write them down. And a story in which Buffy sees herself performing legal/state functions.
    It isn’t relevant to the story that Joss told. That sort of stuff takes place off screen for a reason.
    That’s your judgement. It’s not mine. It certainly seems to me, that if tell a story about a heroine who performs the functions Buffy does, debates about the ethics and legality of how she performs those actions are clearly relevant. Unless you believe “warm fuzzies” provide all the coverage one needs.
    It may not be of interest to you, but it’s certainly relevant to the story.

  7. arethusa2 May 4, 2004 at 12:10 pm #

    But it’ll feed that hungry person. And because we compromise with China to get cheap goods, they continue to mistreat the individual people in that country. (To put it very simplistically.)
    The scythe spell didn’t change the world, as we can see in AtS. It changed some people, who went out to help other people.
    You’re created a win-win scenario for Angel. He’s a hero because he was born a hero. Any mistakes he makes are not his fault and will automatically be rectified because he’s a hero. Anyone who tells him he’s on the wrong path is wrong because Angel’s a hero. And so on. And while debating the issue is entertaining, there is no point in continuing to debate because circular reasoning is a closed system. But I do enjoy hearing your point of view, so thanks for the discussion.

  8. bhadrasvapna May 4, 2004 at 12:23 pm #

    Re: Just so we are clear for future discussions
    Such a scenario immediately springs into existence when we ask one to define “national interest”, something that cannot be done in a value-free vaccuum.
    National interests, opposed to international ones or something as broad as human rights, does exist in a vacuum. That’s my problem with it. I am a human being before I am an American. Realpolitik puts it the other way around. It deals with what is good for *my* citizenry. The values of my society apply to my citizens. When it comes to other nations, they are viewed economically as markets or resources and defensively as threats or assets.
    No codified law. They don’t have written laws, but they do function in that matter. Common law, is referred to as such when not specifically written down.
    What law is the military enforcing? There are times when it is used in this capacity as the UN Security Councils’ enforcers, but historically what laws are the military enforcing. Is national sovereignty a law?
    Buffy’s actions are defensive and she could better be compared to the military. Our country has laws on the books which specifically bar the military from
    “executing the law,” specifically the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878.
    We don’t view the military to be enforcing law. We view them to be defending us. We can play theoretical gymnastics and say soveriegnty is “common law.” We can say anything is common law. It doesn’t really hold up in court. Pretty damn hard to prove something is “common law.” That is why we codify things.
    You might have to ask her, because she has argued that – in the absence of (codified) law, her judgement is the law
    When she was in Generalisima mode and in a word, wrong.
    Among that common law: vampires, upon rising from the dead, should be destroyed. Just because it’s not codified does not mean it isn’t a law Buffy follows.
    “You’re confused, Twinkie. (smiles ironically) Let me clear you up. (points at Angel) Vampire. (points at herself) Slayer. (points at Angel again) Dead vampire.”
    Things aren’t so simple. Buffy isn’t killing vampires because of any law, codified or common. She is protecting humans. That is her goal and there are no laws with it. Her judgment decides what is necessary to do this, but she has the added advantage of Slayer history to help her figure this out.
    she turned her back and chose to lead her own political entity rather than being a part of a political entity she no longer wished to follow.
    But she didn’t set up her own political entity. She turned her back on the patriarchy. That is the important part.
    He wrote a story in which Buffy accepted some laws (I don’t kill humans, I stake vampires when they rise)
    I don’t kill humans is not part of the Slayer Code. It is part of human law and she accepts it as part of human society. She follows other laws as well. I’m sure she paid taxes when she worked at the Doublemeat Palace. I stake vampires is not a law. It is a job description. Is my husband navigating the ship a law? Not everything is a law. That is why common law is pretty much ignored.
    And a story in which Buffy sees herself performing legal/state functions.
    And a story in which Buffy was proven to be wrong. She doesn’t have to be alone, which takes away her authority. She may see herself that way, but Joss final message was this wasn’t what she was. Generalisima was wrong.
    if tell a story about a heroine who performs the functions Buffy does
    You do realize that this is symbolic and not real? Buffy is a superhero and one that is dealing with creatures that aren’t subject to the law.
    debates about the ethics and legality of how she performs those actions are clearly relevant
    That’s why the vampires are ugly looking and go poof. They may be relevant to you, but it wasn’t something Joss was interested in. He can’t even figure out what the heck a soul does to orient vampires to good.
    It may not be of interest to you, but it’s certainly relevant to the story.
    To the story you see or are creating, but not the one Joss told or wanted to tell or at least the one I saw. I’ll go with that one. If I didn’t see it, there was a reason. That reason was Joss didn’t find it relevant to what he showed. I’ll go with that.

  9. buffyannotater May 4, 2004 at 1:29 pm #

    Re: totally off topic
    But in return, I want to steal all your schmoozing with the babes of BtVS/AtS! Iyari, Stephanie and soon Julie? *green*
    Please, go ahead! I feel so guilty that I get to hang out with all these bodacious Buffyverse babes when you’ve been a fan longer, not to mention ATPo!! Just a tip, though, you’ll get more intelligent conversation out of Stephanie than Iyari. Not that Iyari isn’t very sweet and hot to boot, but she’s not quite as smart or experienced as The Lilah.

  10. neshaffer May 4, 2004 at 1:41 pm #

    Re: totally off topic
    Well, I’ll always have Kate, and Amber, not to mention Alexis, et al (although he isn’t a “babe”).

  11. buffyannotater May 4, 2004 at 1:43 pm #

    Re: totally off topic
    Was Amber as sweet in person as she seems on camera? Because she always seems so huggable on Buffy.

  12. neshaffer May 4, 2004 at 1:55 pm #

    Re: totally off topic
    I think so… I forget. That pic was from Feb of 2000. My aged brain has trouble remembering that far back.
    Actually, I caught Amber as she was coming downstairs from the VIP lounge (this was at a Bronze Posting Board Party), and that deer-in-the-headlights look she has about sums up how coherent she was!
    I have a friend who managed to interview her at a convention once about some of her post-Buffy activities and my friend says she was a real trooper, ’cause I guess Amber was sick as a dog at that convention.

  13. bhadrasvapna May 4, 2004 at 4:10 pm #

    I could swear I responded to this
    Oh well. I’m sure Masq is bored to tears with all this talk about history and government. The 60some responses looks nice.
    I know what Common Law is. It is what someone resorts to when there isn’t an actual law. Kill vampires isn’t a law. It’s a job description. I don’t kill humans can be seen as both a law that humans have set down and a moral precept. I would venture that Buffy follows it more for the latter reason than the former. As Faith would say “because it’s wrong.” Job descriptions and morality are not laws.
    I had stuff about the seperation of military and law enforcement and the whatever Posse Act of 18whatever, but I’m sure you are familiar with it. Buffy is more along the military model of someone who defends others. Generals are not police officers. They are Generals. The military is not law enforcement.
    At this point you are debating why things didn’t appear. That wasn’t the story that Joss wanted to tell. I’m quite happy with what he did. If you didn’t like it, why waste even more time bitching about it?
    Joss’ work doesn’t need me to defend it and we are doing this in Masq’s journal. I’m going to end here. You can have the last word again.

  14. bhadrasvapna May 4, 2004 at 4:13 pm #

    That ties back to what I was telling Masq about how all this eats him up inside. I think that is why Wolfram and Hart brought him in. They are using his hero’s heart against him. They aren’t stupid. They aren’t going to overcome that. Instead, like Jasmine, they use who he is against him.
    Is this a fall? Maybe, but after it there will be a rise. Right now he might not be acting heroic, but he will find his way back. That is what heroes do.

  15. bhadrasvapna May 4, 2004 at 4:26 pm #

    But it’ll feed that hungry person
    So? For a day, maybe. Maybe our energy can be redirected so that hundreds of people are fed or that hunger itself is dealt with. Think Globably. I just did that patch with my Brownie Troop a few weeks ago. I’ll make little socialists of them, yet (hehehehe)
    And because we compromise with China to get cheap goods, they continue to mistreat the individual people in that country. (To put it very simplistically.)
    That is more than very simplistic. It’s wrong. Cheap labor isn’t the reason we compromise with China. We have cheap labor all over the world. There is something about over a billion people that is just staggering.
    The scythe spell didn’t change the world, as we can see in AtS
    So basically you are saying in Joss series finale, he had Willow lie. She made a point of saying the world was changed. She can feel it. I guess that was just a buzz from the Scythe Spell. Willow altered cosmic forces. That seems to me to be a pretty big change in the world, a world made up of cosmic forces.
    You’re created a win-win scenario for Angel
    The story does, because he is the hero. Eventually heroes always figure things out. That is just how the story works.
    Any mistakes he makes are not his fault and will automatically be rectified because he’s a hero.
    All mistakes, turns to darkness, yada yada will be rectified. That’s what the story does. Angel messes up, Angel figures things out, Angel goes onto his next mistake which will lead to his next epiphany. The mistakes are just vehicles for his epiphanies.
    Glass half empty or half full? Half empty, Angel keeps making mistakes. Half full, Angel learns from those mistakes, Angel will always learn from those mistakes. It would be a pretty lame story if he didn’t.
    Anyone who tells him he’s on the wrong path is wrong because Angel’s a hero
    Define wrong. Angel is on the path the writers put him on so that he will learn whatever they want him to. Wheneve he screws up, I get excited. That means he is going to learn something major.
    Have a nice night.

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