I'm looking forward to it. Because I've actually always loved AtS but never really engaged in discussing it all that much. My experience with fandom has always been Buffy-centric. Just that's who I gravitated towards because hello, favorite character, but it's also where there's more active discussion.
A truth I don't talk about much: Angel is my favorite character on AtS. Seriously. Is that weird? I'm a Spike/Buffy fan and I just love him on that show. He's why I watch.
So I'm looking forward to diving into this and really enjoying his story. Also, I love Lilah and I want to really pay closer attention to her journey. Plus, Wes. I love Wes. And I even like Fred (she doesn't annoy me the way everyone else is annoyed by her). And Gunn. Oh Gunn.
But here's my challenge. I want to love Cordy. I... don't. I sympathize with her at times. I find her funny. I can even find her brave. I can even think she's wonderful and admire her fortitude. I also think she's quite simply the most gorgeous human being ever. But I don't love her. So what? Lots of fans don't love characters. My problem with Cordy is that intellectually I can see why she's fabulous and why others love her so much. Emotionally, it's just not there for me. And I'm pondering why that is. Why intellectually I appreciate her, but I don't fully embrace her.
1. Confidence. Cordy is so confident. In "Birthday", Skip remarks on how odd it is that Cordy's astral projection looks exactly like her. This is a sign of her confidence. I think I just don't understand Cordy because I myself am not that confident. I understand Spike for thinking he's a loser and hiding himself. I understand Buffy for her massive guilt and the way she shoulders other people's burdens and suppresses her own feelings so others can feel safe (she can't breakdown because that scares the people around her who rely on her). I think with Cordy there's a fundamental part to her character I just don't understand. So it's not effortless for me to see her side of things.
2. Past Cruelty. I have trouble moving past who Cordy was as a teenager. When she and Buffy went at each other, I could understand Buffy's pov (of course, duh), but with Cordy, I've always felt that she was cruel to bolster her social superiority. It was a game--keep other people down so that she rises up. And I don't see how her cruelty is justified. Cruelty being justified? Let me explain. Buffy being cruel in "When She Was Bad" makes sense because Buffy is lashing out through trauma. I understand her cruelty. With Cordy, I don't see a reason for her being cruel except to be cruel because it benefits her. Because she's Queen C. She's the Princess. This ties back in to her confidence. Cordy is cruel because she's confident she's the best person so she deserves to be on top. Cordy explains that she feels alone and no one understands her in "Out of Mind, Out of Sight" so she might as well be popular because at least that's something. But the cruelty that comes from maintaining her social superiority--I hate it. Emotional insensitivity because you're wrapped up in being the best. I hate that. Emotional insensitivity because you're wrapped up in your pain? Yes. I understand. But with Cordy in the early seasons, her egotistical outlook magnifies her pain to the exclusion of other people's pain.
This is why I find it ironic that Cordy's growth happens largely in reaction to getting visions from the Powers That Be. In order for Cordy to grow as a person, the pain of others must become her pain so she can get it. Not only does one vision not really drive it home. She has to be overwhelmed with other people's pain in "To Shanshu in LA" before she really internalizes it.
I really want to embrace Cordy. I want to love her. But there's parts of her character I don't immediately understand, there's parts of her character I really really dislike (and sometimes hate), and there's parts of her growth that I feel are... unearned? trivialized by her own issues? Cordy fully embraces empathy because she's forcibly overwhelmed by it through supernatural forces. Angel got a soul because of a Gypsy curse. Cordy got a heart because of the visions (and yes, I realize they're not the same but I'm talking in broad strokes here). Both enable them to do great things and help others, but I think I value change more when it's self-constructed (e.g. Spike fighting for his soul, though I also see how Cordy earns her own growth in part). So when I watch Cordy in the later seasons, there's a part of her empathy that feels disingenuous to me, like it's not really a part of her true self. Like I don't trust that she won't one day turn around and be the cruel, self-involved teenager she once was.
This is my own particular challenge. Because empathy is like breathing to me. Up to a point, really, as I tend to emotionally dismiss people who I think are cruel (in that unjustified way). Cordy had that superior brand of cruelty that just flat-out repels me. The selfishness paired with confidence and carelessness. I have so many problems with who she used to be because I see NO REASON for it besides selfishness and cruelty for the sake of selfishness and cruelty.
I'm working on it. I think I even resent Cordy's growth because I don't feel her regret for who she once was. People talk a lot about Spike not regretting being evil or not sufficiently self-flagellating, but I personally felt his regret SO MUCH. With Cordy, I don't feel it. I don't think she really ponders who she is. She just lives in the moment and a lot of the time that's a strength, that's her virtue. (I also hugely value people who possess self-awareness.) But it means that she doesn't really regret her past self; in fact, I think she sometimes looks back on those times and admires being the Queen Bitch of Sunnydale. I think that selfish cruelty she possessed back then? It was a very human evil. It reminds me of Warren in that human evil (though obviously Warren is the extreme and I HATE HIM SFM). Was Cordy an evil person? No. But there were aspects of her character that I felt smacked of evil in how I define it: she caused other people pain, carelessly, selfishly, even deliberately and with delight.
It's been a while since I watched AtS in its entirety (and I've watched it a few times). So when I rewatch it now, I'm going to be looking for these signs of her growth. I want to try to understand her and appreciate her, but I also want her to be better than I remember. A part of me wonders if she's still inured to the pain she caused in Sunnydale because she doesn't have visions helping her to understand other people's pain from back then and she never really evaluates herself and contextualizes her past.
Cordelia: That is such a twinkie defense. Shylock should get over himself. People who think their problems are so huge craze me. Like this time I sort of ran over this girl on her bike. It was the most traumatizing event of my life, and she's trying to make it about her leg! Like my pain meant nothing.Maybe Cordy did regret those past cruelties and I wasn't really paying close attention or I didn't properly internalize it. But for me to really embrace Cordy, I need for her to regret those past wrongs. She atones for those past wrongs by helping others (and I imagine not many people think Cordy has anything to atone for, but I feel she does). She goes above and beyond in how she helps others and even sacrifices herself. But I need to understand that she understands and regrets.
I think a part of me doesn't embrace Cordy because her heroism relies on her learning empathy and I feel like that lesson was forced on her by the visions. And learning empathy? I don't think that should take supernatural intervention. And hey, there's a flaw in my own concept of empathy because it's not all-inclusive, but the reason I reject empathizing with people who don't possess empathy themselves is because it feels like a recipe for pain--I'll empathize with this self-involved person and never get anything in return. I've lived this and it's bad. To protect myself I've had to shut down my bleeding heart that wants to be understanding and empathetic and giving to everyone ever. So I am so incredibly leery of Cordelia (even though I do recognize that she possessed empathy in degrees before "To Shanshu in LA").
I'm working on it. So I'll probably be joining the Angel love train (even as I'm critical of him, too), but I'm going to be actively trying to embrace Cordelia even while I'm watching her like a hawk. Maybe appreciating Cordy for what she does for Angel will be my way in. Hmm.
ETA: OMG when I first tried posting this the post disappeared and I thought OMFG NOOOOO all of it is gone.
Adding A Note: Apparently some misconceptions abound. I didn't write this as meta. This is stream-of-consciousness writing about fandom funk, appreciating AtS and doing a rewatch to get back the love, then realizing a challenge I've been meaning to explore: re-examining Cordy's character. A large portion of this post is about the negative aspects of Cordy's character I have problems with. I'm not arguing that these negative aspects are the sum of her character or that she's a bad person overall. I'm focusing specifically on them because these are what challenge me and keep me from fully embracing her.