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ABANDON ALL HOPE, YE WHO ENTER HERE. (Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate)

It should be no surprise to those who have been on my flist for a while that I love talking religion. For the record, I am not a believer in a higher power. At all. I also do not denigrate those that find comfort and peace in their belief of a higher power, so please know that you can be candid with your thoughts on religion with no fear of retaliation, snickering, or attempts to convert from my end. And I'll hope for the same. (OMG, no Watchtowers of BoMs, please!)

I'll state first what (imo) are Joss' thoughts on religion, and try and support that with moments/themes from the show. It's my opinion (and was glad to hear someone else say this at WC) that God and religion failed Joss Whedon in his life, and he has a rather sour outlook on them both, but maybe a part of him wants to believe. I also think that he's sensitive enough (and intelligent enough) to see the value in not preaching atheism (i think he approaches from an agnostic viewpoint) to the viewer, and while he tends to revere the dark more than the light, he still lets the viewer make the final decision as to how they see the god of their choice, or the lack thereof.



"Gosh. I love a story with scope." ~Skip, Inside Out

Here's a shout out for the Trinity, which is a holy number in Christianity (esp. early Christianity). With the dynamic of Holtz, Connor(Stephen), and Angel(us), you have a bastardization of the Trinity, with each of them becoming at some point both the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit - with the exception of Holtz.


HOLTZ
Even though the time frame is wrong (Holtz is from 18th Century England) he represents a Dante's version of the Church, or the beginning Middle Ages time period (12th Century to 15th, say), in which vengeance and justice were the common themes taught. The Church ruled with fear; this is the time of the Spanish Inquisition. "Hell" is clearly defined in the Inferno, and obviously the writers of ME know their Dante, and made a point of reminding the viewer with Lilah giving Wesley a copy of the first book in the Divine Comedy. We first meet Holtz in "Offspring" where he finally gets his hands on the beast that killed his family with the help of an excommunicated Monsignor, and lets Angelus know their methods are "the old ways." For the record, they're in Rome, as Darla wanted to get a good look at the frescoes on the Sistine Chapel. (She probably enjoyed all the bloody imagery of torture and suffering.)

Holtz's entire mindset with regards to Angel is to see if a completely evil being (as he believes Angel to be Angelus still) can be made "to pay" for their sins. The Church at the time of the Inquisition was not concerned with ethics. Morals were defined in far different terms than they are today. While I would see Holtz as an instrument of evil - he uses an innocent baby to hurt his enemy, just like Jesus did! Wait... - according to the church in the middle ages, he was exacting the Lord's justice on the wicked. He is the Holy Father exacting justice/vengeance on those who would seek to destroy him.

He is the Old Testament: a wife turning to look at her home and becoming a pillar of salt. A son telling his brothers that their dad was drunk and naked in his tent and then being marked as a servant for all to recognize him as a sinner. A recently freed people being forced to wander in the desert for 40 years because they wanted a nosh. A man who must sacrifice his beloved son, a miracle child given late in life, to prove his love and complete adoration to his god. This is the god and teachings that Holtz follows.

He also plays the part of the Holy Spirit, who makes way in man's heart for the Son. But boy, does he put his own spin on that. He makes way in the Son's heart for Angel. He lies with the truth, never flinching, and raises up a child to hate his father, to honor HIM. What's interesting to me, is how strictly Holtz adhered to his Malachi (the very last scripture of the Old Testament): "and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse." He was obeying god by turning Connor(Stephen). And then, when the unthinkable happened, CONNOR LIKED HIS FATHER, even a little bit, Holtz SAW that, and was STILL able to use this passage to his advantage. Stephen would obey his father (Holtz) and destroy the monster.

I've gone on and on in my LJ about the duality of Stephen/Connor, and it's important to the themes of Christianity: Jesus, who is the obvious first instinct when comparing characters to religious themes, had DUAL natures. He was both the divine and the mundane. Connor, both demon and human. The Son is the Word of God: the potential for both good and evil. And how.

So let's get the Jesus themes out first.

CONNOR
Quick run down of the Jesus story: for generations spanning back to King David, some would argue to Adam, a holy blood line was maintained. (Order of Aurelius) Now, while it's easy to say that Connor's miracle birth = Jesus', I'm going to say it's that, and also Elizabeth's birth of John the Baptist (the one who prepares the way for Christ), and JASMINE = Jesus' birth. But we're talking Connor, so I need to focus. Heh. Connor is at various times in his story arc the Son (duh), the Father (Jasmine - and boy does that story arc better represent the Jesus story than Connor's does), and the Holy Spirit, who is also known as The Comforter. (The Destroyer)

For me, as a person who once fervently believed in the Christian mythos, the most important aspect of that was Christ a) being tempted with all of world's pleasures by Satan (he will show you many things, bright things, Connor) and b) the Garden of Gethsemane where - again, arguably - the price for mankind was paid. (It didn't matter the METHOD in which Jesus died, only that he did. He made his choice in the garden.) This is PERFECTLY mirrored in the episode "Inside Out," but with Joss obviously going for the darker aspect, the inverse of "goodness" in the Bible's tale. Who is the devil showing Connor the "many bright things?" It's easy to say Cordelia, but is that true? Broken down, it looks terrible, what she's asking Connor to do:

Kill a virgin/innocent person so their baby will live. (sacrificial lamb clean and unmarked - unblemished - because that is pleasing in mine eyes.)

Cordy has also killed untold hundreds in her quest to bring about the birth of her child. Evil, right? Think about how much evil was done in the name of God. And I'm not talking the Crusades. I'm talking Noah. "Well, nothing good here, so let's flood it all and start again. Except for you, your kids, their wives, and a bunch of animals, and we'll not talk about the implausibility of the whole two-by-two thing, mm'kay? My will be done, yadda yadda." Not enough? Lot and Sodom and Gomorrah (and I'm not even going to GO to the place where Lot offers the crowd to rape his daughters so he can keep talking with the angel.) Joss hits us over the head again and again how "generals" have to make cold decisions. Buffy, Angel, and Connor both have to sacrifice the needs of one for the needs of many. (Spock shout out!) So if you believe in the Christian god, then you accept that some people have to die in His name.

And I love how Joss reminds us that the Bible isn't all sunshine and puppies. Because it isn't. He magnifies the old ways, the old beliefs that got us here with our current religious mindset, and takes away the comfort of pleasant hymns that soothe (I know that my redeemer lives) and the holding-hands nature of the modern protestant church, and shows us the darkness of an All-Powerful being (Cordy). The ego (Illyria). The need for worship and adoration (take your pick.)

"Thou shalt have no other god before me, for I am a jealous god." Look at Cordelia's reaction to Connor when he shows interest in Faith. But again, getting ahead of myself. Still with the Trinity and now it's Angel's turn.

ANGEL
The obvious parallel is with God the Father. He is the Source, the Way (the sex), the Beginning and the End. "God loved us, and so he gave His Only Son." But here's the twist: (brilliantly mentioned in the WC panel discussion) instead of sacrificing his son so that Man Might Live, Angel sacrifices The World so that the SON might live. For me, the most heartbreaking (and again: non-believer) sentence in the entire bible is the following passage when Christ hangs on the cross: Eloi, Eloi lama sabacthani? (Father, Father, why has thou forsaken me?) That is EVERY MOMENT of Connor's life. But which father is he crying for?

"If ye love me, keep my commandments." All of those that work for/with Angel learn very quickly that they have to obey. Oh, they question. They rail. They argue. But ultimately, it's Angel's will that will be done. Kingdom come. And woe unto those that stand in his way. A reoccurring theme on Angel is that ultimately, the Higher Power representation fails. They all make mistakes, they all have flaws, they're all... human. Esque. Immortal NEVER means untouchable, unbreakable, un-killable. And I think Joss shows us - through Angel and the others - that "god," or the modern Christian definition of god, made BIG mistakes. But how did it affect the grander picture? Angel has been working towards redemption for over a hundred years. Wolfram and Hart fostered evil for millions of years. Angel's time span is short in the grand scheme of things (and the reign of the Christians has been short, too.)

The difference between Angel and other rulers/supreme beings/immortals is that he doesn't think he's better than anyone he's working to help. Hell, even Buffy - who I love, no character hate here, people - felt she was better than the rest. Which made her inferior. Nice superiority/inferiority complex there. But not Angel. Angel is no different in his quest for redemption than any other poor sot schlepping on the pebble we call earth. And I think that's the god Joss WISHES existed. That's the kind of superior being that's worthy of our love - one who doesn't want it, but helps us regardless, because he SHOULD.

Angel is the moral of most bible stories, as well. He is the Good Samaritan. He is Lazarus. He is Job, my GOD is he Job! The PTB are constantly using him as a pawn to test his devotion to the task, to see how far they can push him and have him still remain faithful to "the mission." When he slits his son's throat so that Connor can be born again into a New and Pure life, he is Jesus giving up the ghost. He is god allowing his Son to suffer at the hands of man, which he is, as well. He is Jesus betrayed by Judas (Wesley). The difference with Angel, and the god of the Bible, is Angel doesn't believe in the pearly gates, the sunshine forevermore, the reign of peace.

So why does he fight? The Christian lives their life if not for the promise of Glory in the afterward (*cough* shanshu) but because they have been commanded to. And also because things are Better In The Next Life. That's never not a factor. Angel - and man, does that scene hurt - signs away his eternal glory, his chance at redemption (physical proof at any rate) and sacrifices HIMSELF. He continues to fight because he HAS TO. Because it's right. Because first and foremost, he believes in balance. For every evil that rises up, he'll strike back. Sure, he wants to tip the scales towards good, but he also recognizes that it will never happen. It will never be finished. This is a completely new concept in Christianity, and this is where the character moves beyond the mores of the Bible and becomes something else. Which - for me, at any rate - is what makes Joss so damn wonderful. Joss brings in the mindset of Buddhism, of yin and yang, and applies it to the "morals" of the Bible. And I totally, COMPLETELY believe that Joss would use finger quotes on the word "morals." (See: all the examples above)

Joss took the stories, the lessons of the Bible over and over again (as most Western culture does when telling a story, and let's not forget that it all came from the polytheistic religions that came BEFORE the time of Christ, hello Easter! Yeah. Not what it claims to be.) but pulls away the shiny veneer of "God loves you and harps! And gold streets!" and turns the rock over and shines a torch on all the little "throwaway" stories that riddle the Old and New Testaments, because they don't fit in with the current picture of god.

"For I am a Jealous God." If I may draw from ST:TNG, "Love me!" Sacrificing children. And for those that may not be aware, the general consensus among Old Testament scholars is that Isaac (Abraham's son) was a GROWN MAN when he was bound to an altar to be sacrificed. Whoa. And how about those Egyptians? Did those all of first born sons deserve to be killed by God? Or all the elderly that most likely died of dehydration when the water was all turned to blood? That's some kind god, ya got there. And that is ONE book of the bible. The god of the Old Testament is a COLD god. A god of vengeance and fury and justice and a hint of a promise to something better. And His will be done, boy howdy.

Angel puts a human face (yeah, yeah, you know what I mean) to these horrible decisions, let's us see the pain in the choice, and thereby becomes a more sympathetic god than one who just sits on high smiting people who defy them. Which brings us to:

FREE WILL vs. PREDESTINATION
Man, is this the big theme of the series, or WHAT? And we're told this over and over and over again. Connor: "Good? Evil? They're just words." The entire season 4 arc is ALL ABOUT FREE WILL - does it even exist? Gunn and Skip in "Inside Out:"

Gunn: No way. We make our own choices.
Skip: Yeah, sure. Cheese sandwich here, uh, when to floss. But the big stuff...?


The best scene BAR NONE for the proof that we DO have free will (and how we make wrong choices, and are INFLUENCED to make those choices) is when Connor chooses to kill the virgin. Absolutely does he know that killing is wrong. He feels that he has no choice, but when he is talking with Darla, he begins to understand that he DOES. Only when his fears - and the physical presence of Cordevilia luring him to her wishes - take control, his face is wrenched in agony and he yells at Darla "You are not my mother!" And drags that crying child to the slaughter. God. That is some DARK stuff, there.

And that's a great explanation for why men does the evil that it does... do. Fear. What's Connor's fear? That he'll turn out to be as miserable a father as HIS. (Because as a child, he can't see the heavy sacrifices that his father DID make for him. He's still clouded with the lies of Holtz.) That a chance to make a family WORK will go wrong. (Family is his number one motivator. For both good and evil.) For his overwhelming need to be loved. God, does he just need someone to LOVE him. And not lie. (And there's another theme, but I am getting out of control.) "You are all my children now." From Freddie Krueger to Jesus, that line has brought more men to their knees to follow the wishes of someone more powerful than they are.

And what makes Connor submit to Jasmine? We find out later that he has seen her for the horror she is all along. (And why is he REALLY not bothered by that? Yeah, hell dimension, appearances don't mean much but it's more than that. Look at any picture of the crucifixion from the medieval times. Christ, sores and blood and gore all over him, his face contorted with agony... That's the message Holtz taught him from infancy. Pain and agony in the name of others is beautiful and righteous.) So Connor accepts Jasmine willingly and submits to Her Will because NOW... NOW he doesn't HAVE to make a choice. And given the last choice he made (oh, god his FACE when the blood splatters on him and ACK!), that has to be a lot of relief.

And there's a wonder at why ANYONE would choose to live in that world. Jasmine takes away all choice (and pain and suffering and...) and you just get to BE. "A slave state" Fred calls it. But... what on earth do you think the Christian view of Heaven is? No more sorrow, no more suffering... How on earth is that possible? You got it - no more choice. Just float and strum your harp. That's a horrible oversimplification, but then again: I grew up in the south. Sure Jasmine eats people. The Biblical God sacrificed people ALL THE TIME, psshh. But through Team Angel, Joss makes us really LOOK at that concept. Yes, a few dying so that billions can live seems a small price to pay. Unless your loved one is the price, you know? And even though the knee-jerk reaction is to call Jasmine evil, she does do some good. She gives people peace, hope... And some people go loo loo as a result. Just like today with Jesus and the whole killing doctors is justified because "they kill babies" thing. Loo loo.

Quickly, and then I am SHUTTING UP because I'm getting TEDIOUS, Jasmine takes Connor's "pain" at one point (like... she's all vampiric with need and creepy, too) and she feels HIS pain to grant him peace. THAT, my friends, is an excellent - yet creepy - allusion to the Garden of Gethsemane, too.

GOD I HAVEN'T EVEN GOTTEN INTO PROPHESIES!! Okay, this is the part where I shut up and YOU talk. :) cross linked to churchofjoss

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Comments

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shipperx
Jul. 28th, 2006 06:06 pm (UTC)
Apologies. I haven't read your essay yet (but I intend to). It will have to wait until after work.

However, I too find the subject fascinating. shapinglight and I once discussed how we both tend to use religion in our fanfics and yet neither of us consider ourselves to be Christian. I suppose that's why I've sort of understood Joss's attraction to and rejection of organized religion.

Anyway, I thought you might be interested in this lecture on the science of religion. I thought it was rather interesting.

(And I will read your essay tonight).
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altyronsmaker
Jul. 28th, 2006 06:41 pm (UTC)
heavens. This is a lot to think about, and while I don't immediately disagree on any one particular point, I'm gonna re-read this and engage it.

You. I swear, lady, you are teh bomb. You brong on the funny, then the BRAINS! and If you knew me at all IRL, you'd know: funny gets you the cool points and the 'hey she's my friend' but BRAINS? wins my devotion.

Lots to think about and debate.
altyronsmaker
Jul. 28th, 2006 06:43 pm (UTC)
oh shit. that's supposed to be THE bomb and BRING on the funny. Damn fingers!
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a2zmom
Jul. 28th, 2006 07:26 pm (UTC)
You are a genius. This is very interesting for me, because it's such a Christian viewpoint and as a result isn't my automatic reference point. Do you know dlgood? he's got to read this and comment, cause he's way smarter than me.
stoney321
Jul. 28th, 2006 07:32 pm (UTC)
Oooh, you should know all the old testament stuff! Err... the first five books, at any rate. :)

And Dave? He's one of my FAVES on LJ.

When all else fails: you shoulda used Cohen's nails.
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tx_cronopio
Jul. 28th, 2006 07:32 pm (UTC)
Wow! Just when I start thinking of you as a sexpot, you remind me that you are smart! :) This was great, really. I've skimmed over it, I want to read it again with more attention.

You do know I'm teaching a Religion in America class this fall? WAnna come talk about Mormons?
stoney321
Jul. 28th, 2006 07:36 pm (UTC)
OoooOOOooooh. There is no greater example of "American Religion" than the Mormon church. (You've read Krakauer's book "Under the Banner of Heaven," right?? That would be a must for your class, I would think!)

The time of the great religious uprising in the US at the beginning of the 1800s is SO fascinating.
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willowgreen
Jul. 28th, 2006 08:25 pm (UTC)
This was SO interesting! I really can't begin to comment now, mostly because I need more time to absorb it all... but I hope you'll go on and talk about the prophecies because, really, not tedious at all!

More later, promise.
stoney321
Jul. 28th, 2006 08:29 pm (UTC)
Oooh, I'm hoping you come back with some points and refute my ass! Or support, either. Heh.

(Seriously, harmonyfb couldn't have made a better community, IMO. This is one of my most favorite topics EVER.)
spiralleds
Jul. 28th, 2006 09:05 pm (UTC)
Interesting. No immediate reaction other than a lot of yes... and no. *g* I'll be mulling over here for a while.
stoney321
Jul. 28th, 2006 09:05 pm (UTC)
Oooh, I await the no's!
spuffyduds
Jul. 28th, 2006 10:24 pm (UTC)
Whoof. Somethings to think about for, like, weeks.
stoney321
Jul. 28th, 2006 10:28 pm (UTC)
*drags you back*

Points to make? Disagreements? Revelations of your own? *bats eyelashes*
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moosesal
Jul. 28th, 2006 10:45 pm (UTC)
Wow. All I can say is that this is why everyone should be worshipping me.
stoney321
Jul. 28th, 2006 10:50 pm (UTC)
CLEARLY.

And can it be a world of shrimp and margaritas, your worshipfulness?
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irishrose1
Jul. 28th, 2006 11:47 pm (UTC)
Oh, can I just say that I love you for the Judas/Wesley parallel?

That's a whole other discussion, but you are absolutely spot on with that line. Most people here the betrayed part and don't think past it. But (oh boy am I stretching back to my catechism class), Judas' betrayal wasn't an act of impulse, or retribution, or any other malicious intent. Jesus bid him to do what was necessary, just as Angel instructs Wes to "betray" him. It was a very specific means to achieve an end. Judas really got the short end of the stick, but christian history. But Wes, doesn't. We know he wasn't betraying Angel for spite or power. He was doing what was necessary and asked of him.
stoney321
Jul. 28th, 2006 11:58 pm (UTC)
Oh, yes, yes. AND!! If Judas hadn't betrayed Jesus, the prophesy wouldn't have come to pass, and it was necessary. (Just like Eve and Adam and the apple - if they didn't eat the apple, the world could not have gone forward)

Wesley fulfilled the bigger picture of Connor/Cordy/Jasmine by furthering them on their path, which Skip indicated had been orchestrated long before.

Oh, and please to be reminding me (I've soaked up SO MUCH in the past few days, I can't recall the ep) about your comment: "Just as Angel instructs Wes to 'betray' him. *props chin on fists*
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elucidate_this
Jul. 29th, 2006 01:20 am (UTC)
fascinating. will return with comments after some processing and a re-read.
lisalamona
Jul. 29th, 2006 01:43 am (UTC)
Holy crap. This was awesome. I'm actually re-watching Season 3 right now, but I've been unable to move forward recently. Watching Angel experience the loss of Connor is just too hard for me these days. I need to re-read this and look up your references in order to comment with any intelligence. I just wanted to mention that I'm the one in the panel who commented that I felt Joss writes/creates as if he has been betrayed by God. I was so glad to hear your take on it as well. I'm also friending you. Theological discussions are my crack.
stoney321
Jul. 29th, 2006 01:46 am (UTC)
*CLINGS!!*

YES YES!! That statement of yours was the fan on the fog, so to speak. You cleared up the nebulous thoughts I'd had and made it make sense, so THANK YOU!!

(Oh, how I love theological discussions. I'm not the smartest, but I make up for it with my punch and pie. *g*) The Connor arc KILLS me. I didn't get it the first go-round, but now I can't help but think it's some of the best damn storytelling on TV, period.

*waits patiently for more discourse*
lynnenne
Jul. 29th, 2006 02:41 am (UTC)
I think Joss shows us - through Angel and the others - that "god," or the modern Christian definition of god, made BIG mistakes.

I could not agree with you more on this. Like you, I think Joss is agnostic, and has very pessimistic views on religion in general, and the Christian god in particular. I think that's why the idea of the soul plays such a huge role in AtS. The soul represents the human conscience, which Joss views as the only higher power that really exists. For him, the choice whether to do good or evil is the only spark of divinity we really have.

I disagree with you on one point, though, and that is that Angel gave up the promise of Glory when he signed away the Shanshu prophecy. I firmly espouse the idea of Connor as Shanshu, because it's the most human (and humanist) metaphor on the show. We fight to make the world better, so that our children can live in a better world. They are our future, our humanity and our heaven. The Son dies so that the World might live again.

I *love* the idea of Jasmine's world as Heaven on Earth. I've never thought of the Christian idea of Heaven in those terms before, but you're absolutely right--in Heaven, no one ever has to make their own decisions or choices. Everything is taken care of for us, and we can rest at last. Unfortunate for all those poor souls who are burning in hell--but hey, what's a few hundred souls when billions can achieve eternal bliss? They made their choice, and now they can never be forgiven. Old Testament, indeed.

*loves your brain*
stoney321
Jul. 29th, 2006 01:17 pm (UTC)
The whole concept of agnosticism is very interesting - it's not just "show me, and I'll believe." It's "well, there could be, but even so, does it really matter? I'm still living the way I'm living."

And you know, re: Connor and the shanshu, that's a very cool idea - and one that a lot of parents think of with their children: it's your legacy. I don't want to take out any significance from Angel signing that document - I really believe that was a strong moment for his character (and it GUTS me), but I can totally see your point about Connor, which is why Angel tells him as much at Wolfram & Hart when they've defeated Hamilton.

*loves yours, too*
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lettered
Jul. 29th, 2006 04:23 am (UTC)
OMG so yay! I love this post! I'm glad you put it up! Your thoughts rock my brain. But not with stones. Because that would be very 0th centry of you.

The difference between Angel and other rulers/supreme beings/immortalsis that he doesn't think he's better than anyone he's working to help. Hell, even Buffy - who I love, no character hate here, people - felt she was better than the rest. Which made her inferior. Nicesuperiority/inferiority complex there. But not Angel. Angel is no different in his quest for redemption than any other poor sot schlepping on the pebble we call earth.

I have a minor quibble here. I don't think Angel sees himself as any other poor sot, and I think his thoughts on that particular matter in fact tend to make him less like the "common man". Angel sees himself as worse than all/most other sots; the rest of humanity doesn't need to earn the redemption he feels he needs to earn because he thinks the rest of humanity hasn't sinned as he has (er, that is to say, he might believe they need redemption. But not like he does.) Out of that inferiority comes an almost overwhelming need for sacrifice (to make up for what he's done), i.e. martyr complex. Angel is the one who must give up humanity, Angel is the one who must sacrifice his son, Angel must defeat the Senior Partners. Which is really a superiority complex (just like you mentioned with Buffy, except the other way around).

Somerset Maugham wrote: The devil came a fourth time to tempt Christ, "and said, 'if thou wilt accept shame and disgrace, scourging, a crown of thorns and death on the cross, thou shalt save the human race, for greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.' Jesus fell. The devil laughed till his sides ached, for he knew the evil men would commit in the name of their redeemer. [. . .] No wine is so intoxicating, no love so shattering, no vice so compelling. When he sacrifices himself man for a moment is greater than God, for how can God, infinite and omnipotent, sacrifice himself? At best he can only sacrifice his only begotten son." (in The Razor's Edge, I think).

So if you look at it that way, Christ turned down three chances to prove he was Lord, God, and Savior in order to prove he was man, the one thing God can't be. And I know I'm being an utter English major brat, annoyingly referencing random obscure things no one will relate to, but the part I just read in The Brothers Karamozov was this part where the Inquisition interrogates Jesus Christ (No one expects the Spanish Inquisition! Stoney, I think you would like this book), and the Inquisition points out that had Jesus made stone into bread, had angels catch him off the cliff, or ruled the kingdoms of man, he would've made things easier on everyone. Accepting the Temptations would have proven Once And For All that Jesus was Lord God, and people, thus assured, would at last be able to agree on One God to which to bow down. Okay, just one quote: Jesus didn't give in to the temptations because he didn't "want to enslave man with a miracle and because [He] thirsted for a faith that was free, not miraculous. [Christ] thirsted for a love that was free, not for the servile ecstasies of the slave before the might that has inspired him with dread for once and for all."

(cont'd in next post. Jesus I didn't know I wrote so much.)
lettered
Jul. 29th, 2006 04:27 am (UTC)
Of course, I'm really talking about Jasmine, who was all about servile ecstasies, who did work miracles and ruled over the kingdoms of man (or started to). And you point out that Connor submits to her because she takes away his choices, but at the same time, Connor is the one with the free will--he knows who she really is, what she really does, and has faith in her anyway. Sometimes I wish they'd made Jasmine a little more subtle--without the oh so obvious pretty/ugly thing. The way it is, the "free will" question seems over-simplified--once Jasmine's "unmasked," everyone's disgust causes them automatically to revile her, thus exalting the "free will" idea, when really I think it's a more complicated issue. Which you nicely discussed above with the questions about the extent to which Jasmine is really "evil."

But anyway, even if Christ hadn't accepted the temptations, isn't the world a better place with him in it? He could save so many people. I mean, sure, His martyrdom purged humanity of its sins or whatever, but what does humanity go do? Go on sinning. Humanity may be forgiven and everything, but it still goes on pretty much the way it did, even if now more people are fighting over Christ than how many beans so and so got in their porridge. But if you look at it the Maugham way, Christ wanted to make the big gestures, be a real hero, go out with a bang, fight the dragon. Huh. Sounds like someone we know.

The difference with Angel, and the god of the Bible, is Angel doesn't believe in the pearly gates, the sunshine forevermore, the reign ofpeace. [...] Sure, he wants to tip the scales towards good, but he also recognizes that it will never happen. It will neverbe finished. This is a completely new concept in Christianity, and thisis where the character moves beyond the mores of the Bible and becomes something else.

In light of what I said above, with this also, I have a little quibble. I guess I think it's important to highlight the fact that while Joss Whedon and his world demonstrate that Good will never Win, that I don't think that Angel accepts that. I think that in "Amends", "Reprise/Epiphany", "Peace Out/Home", and NFA Angel gets epiphanies each time about How The World Works (according to Whedon). That is: "Nothing we do matters, but all that matters is what we do [...] if there is no bigger meaning, then the smallest act of kindness- is the greatest thing in the world." However, even understanding this, even having it explicitly shoved in his face over and over again, it seems obvious to me that Angel is unable or unwilling to cope with a world like that. Angel doesn't work in small acts of kindness--sure, he says one should, and sure, there are the little everyday A.I. cases he and his team picks up, but when the dude in "The Trial" asks Angel, "Isn't the world a better place with you in it? You can save so many people"--Angel chooses to sacrifice himself instead. I mean, sure, his martyrdom could save Darla, but agains as Jeeves points out, what would Darla do with her salvation? Possibly nothing at all. But to Angel, the little things he could do aren't as important as One Big Act That Could Change The World--because hey, greater love hath no man than this. Instead of plodding along, keeping alive so that he can do the good he can, fighting a fight at a time and etching away at evil with those little acts of kindness, he's all for throwing everything he has against Wolfram and Hart and destroying himself. He's about the big gestures, being a real hero, going out with a bang, fighting the dragon.

(cont'd shut me up please!)
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stoney321
Jul. 29th, 2006 01:40 pm (UTC)
Ahahahahaha, I have been TOTALLY thinking of the Oral Roberts and Bob Jones schools, and their interpretation of the text, HEEE!!

(And yeah, as a raised Mormon, they are big on the Trinity as in NOT. It's three distinct beings - one of the few Christian faiths - some say cult - that profess that. However, my good friend went to CDCC on Wednesday nights, and I tagged along. I got one of the nuns to explain it to me. About nine times.)

Oooh, about the more interest in "the darkside..." How many people read The Purgatorio? Or The Paradisio? What do we all know like the back of our concentric circled hands? The Inferno. It's easier to rule with fear (and show/teach with fear) than it is with blessings and rewards. Which is a better show: Angel or that Angel one with Michael Landon?

Darla as Mary MAGDALENE? Because she definitely was the holy mother, but not. But.. Well, she can fit the role of whore turned good (hooker with a heart of gold!) an that scene in S2 with her and Angel going at it like beasts and she thinks she's turned him with love, and its the purest form of hate his souled-self has felt and that's what makes a baby and I smell a DaVinci code SEQUEL!!!!
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st_salieri
Jul. 29th, 2006 05:56 am (UTC)
GAH!

So much goodness here! And since I've got a visitor from out of town, I won't be able to get into a good, juicy discussion before Sunday night. I hope you're not bored of the subject at that point.

Lovely thoughts. I just want to touch on one for now, because that's all I have time for:

And what makes Connor submit to Jasmine? We find out later that he has seen her for the horror she is all along. (And why is he REALLY not bothered by that? Yeah, hell dimension, appearances don't mean much but it's more than that. Look at any picture of the crucifixion from the medieval times. Christ, sores and blood and gore all over him, his face contorted with agony... That's the message Holtz taught him from infancy. Pain and agony in the name of others is beautiful and righteous.)

This -- the revelation that Connor has always seen Jasmine for what she really is and loves her anyway -- is simultaneously one of the most creepy and beautiful parts of the entire season. (I love S4 with an unholy love, BTW.) I like how you linked that back to the image of Christ, particularly the Isaiah-image: "There is no beauty in him, that men should desire him...despised and rejected by men..." etc.

And that's part of what makes Connor such a fascinating figure, because there's this interesting parallel going on that paints Connor as both divine and damned. Divine, because he's the one who can see the reality of Jasmine from the very beginning. (And hasn't it been a hallmark of the saints to be able to see things for who they truly are, to be truthtellers? I'm reminded of the story of the Cure d'Ars, who experienced visions of demons and reportedly had the ability to see into men's souls in the confessional.) Damned, because it goes back to the Garden of Eden: with his willing participation in the murder of that girl, Connor has lost every shred of his innocence. He can't go back to that state of blissful unawareness any more than Adam and Eve could. He could never fall under Jasmine's spell because he's lost all hope for himself. Even Angel, as messed-up as he is, still retains some subconscious sense at this point that a better life is possible, and that's why he's able to believe the lie. Connor has no such illusions. I wonder if Angel would so readily have accepted Jasmine in late season five? Would his loss of hope for personal salvation have saved him? (And here I get back to my thoughts on Angel's thoughts on his own redemption during season five.)

Which, again, makes Connor the Christ-figure in the story: carrying the sins of others (of Holtz, of Angel, of Cordy) and suffering for them. He's simultaneously the holiest and most unholy character on the show. (Of course, it's not a perfect parallel, because Connor isn't truly an innocent. He willingly chooses to turn his back on what's right, which I agree is one of the darkest moments of the show. I have to hold my breath during that scene where he's dragging the girl...gah.)

OMG, must go before I ramble any more. And I haven't even gotten to Holtz yet! I can't wait to talk more, and I can't wait to go back and reread this! Great stuff.
stoney321
Jul. 29th, 2006 01:48 pm (UTC)
(Yay, you're here!! And please, RAMBLE ALL YOU'D LIKE, you kidding me??)

Yes, yes to the Adam and Eve metaphor! Because while we read the story initially, we see sin for the first time. BUT. The system was DESIGNED for sin from the beginning and God knew this. "Multiply and replinish the earth, and do not eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge." Well, how were they to multiply and replinish when they were locked in a state of ignorance innocence? They HAD to bring about the fall of the garden to progress. We all knew watching that scene with Connor that he HAD to do it. He chose, obviously, but it was a choice you could see coming from a mile off. Which doesn't make it any less painful, but if he hadn't killed that girl, he would have been responsible for Cordy and their baby's death - in his mind.

Oh your thoughts on why Connor wasn't "charmed" by Jasmine is PERFECT. Oh, that boy with his complete lack of hope... (Which makes his fight even more poignant for me - the poor little machine.) And any time you want to carry on with your thoughts on redemption, you just go right on ahead. *sits at your feet like the men in the temple*

And yes, that scene with him dragging that girl - his FACE. There is nothing pure and childlike left in him AT ALL. It's all been crushed - it's like HIS soul has now been destroyed. Which makes the times we see him in S5 so wonderful - he's bouncy! He's filled with happines, and we've NEVER seen him like that. As much as it must kill Angel to not have him, that has to be incredibly gratifying.

HOLTZ! ANGEL'S REDEMPTION! Any time you can play, hit me. I am ALWAYS gonna want your thoughts. (Have a great weekend!)
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stoney321
Jul. 29th, 2006 01:50 pm (UTC)
Oh, yeah - that show!! I mean, even the drivel on PAX that is supposed to be inspiring? Look at what discussion is being borne from ONE SEASON of a television show! Brilliant. It was absolutely BRILLIANT. *cries with loss*

Go check out TKP and ST_SALIERI's comments - they are brilliant.

*massive hugs*
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makd
Jul. 29th, 2006 04:01 pm (UTC)
I've bookmarked this for later reading. Thanks - I do enjoy reading spiritual/religious analyses of Joss' works.
stoney321
Jul. 29th, 2006 06:33 pm (UTC)
In case you haven't checked it out already, a community was made to foster this very type of discussion: churchofjoss.

So far, so good! (And feel free to jump in anywhere and start talking!)
viciouswishes
Jul. 29th, 2006 04:39 pm (UTC)
You've just named all the reasons why I love AtS, especially S4, so much, and why I was always more (this is going to sound strange) comfortable with the Old Testament than the New one. Of course, now I'm a pagan and worship gods whose tactics were the inspiration for the Old Testament. I always find it interesting how the bloodshed is often looked right over. Those were always the tales that I preferred to read in my time at religious school.

A few years ago (during S4's airing), I wrote this essay, comparing Angel's journey to Celtic mythos. Which, of course, was written down by Monks so there's a lot of Christian similarities there.
stoney321
Jul. 29th, 2006 06:32 pm (UTC)
Oooh, thanks for the link! (And you should foster a discussion about the pagan elements at churchofjoss! Many of us would be fascinated to hear/read what you have to say!)

And I know what you mean about the OT. I used to teach a Gospel Principles in the Old Testament class YEARS ago (with a particular sect's slant, unfortunately) and it's AMAZING to me how people take this sunshine and puppies mentality of God from it. I mean, he's a HUMAN god, in a lot of ways - mistakes, bargaining, jealousies... SO different from the god of the New Testament.

And much more interesting, yes. :)
semby
Jul. 29th, 2006 04:42 pm (UTC)
Wow! I love your big, beautiful brain. And Joss's brain. This was so insightful, thank you!
stoney321
Jul. 29th, 2006 06:30 pm (UTC)
*puts ribbons and bows on brain*
*twitches and loses ability to walk left*

I ♥ Joss, yes I do. I ♥ Joss, how 'bout you?
luvxander
Jul. 29th, 2006 05:48 pm (UTC)
*stares in awe at your brain*

*loves*

I so need to get a dictionary so I can read these essay posts. I know next to nothing about religion, and I like it that way. But you did inspire me to have nasty christian related slashy thoughts.
stoney321
Jul. 29th, 2006 06:28 pm (UTC)
Hahahahaha!!! OH, didn't you know there's a BIBLESLASH comm?!? Jesus and Judas seems to be huge. Man, for every kink, there's a hundred people sekritly writing smut about it.
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girlpire
Jul. 29th, 2006 06:15 pm (UTC)
i read this. and i can tell you've thought about it a lot, which is great. you seem very excited and energetic about it.

i'm sure i would have more to say if i understood it. i'm a christian, and i know my bible pretty well, so i got your references... for the most part. but i kind of had a hard time following the discussion. i'll reread later and see if i can suss it out. :)
stoney321
Jul. 29th, 2006 06:27 pm (UTC)
Oh, what isn't clear? Again, there will be no bashing of religion in this post, only discussion of themes, etc. Feel free to question, contradict, whatever! I'd love to hear what you're thinking!
entrenous88
Jul. 30th, 2006 03:50 pm (UTC)
Really interesting thoughts throughout. I think in some ways it is Holtz that encourages Connor to see his relationships in the light of a perverted Trinity -- a perversion Holtz *must* know about, that he's visiting on Angel's son as a kind of sins-of-the-father thing, communicating it to him and then witnessing his adoption of it as proof of Connor's fallen nature. Because really, who is more of a Calvinist than Holtz? Connor is a tool to him, himself fallen, and not one of the elect (I don't know that in Holtz's view there's really room for anyone else besides him in that heavenly number). And as much as Holtz might appear to do good by Connor, everything he teaches him is a twisted version of gospel that Connor then reflects back at him, in a kind of skew of the modern transference/counter-transference of love/obsession/therapy in its demonic/religious context.

Similarly, I think Jasmine's peace-on-earth is a perversion of Heaven, even if we think of it in its simplified form (everyone being happy, no worries about making choices) because we see that the same unhappy behaviors go on, it's just that people don't realize their unhappiness -- it's a bit like the veiling of unhappiness that Buddhism warns against. Prostitution still happens, but no one feels cheapened by it, etc. (when we see Fred in the seedy motel, witnessing the happy-happy-joy-joy transaction between the john and the whore).

So really, Jasmine seems like nothing so much as an anti-Christ, who comes and reigns while people mistake her for the actual savior/messiah. In that way it isn't as much a skewing of Christian calendar as it is a fulfillment, since if we follow John then the anti-Christ has to come first to pave the way for the final age and Judgement.

Lots of great food for thought -- I'm sure people at the new comm cheered to see an essay like this they could dig into. :)
stoney321
Jul. 30th, 2006 04:22 pm (UTC)
reposted, for bad html
Oh, I am absolutely on board with Holtz being responsible for Connor's mindset. I think Holtz represents the Church in the middle ages, and Connor his captive parishoner.

Oh, I like the idea of Holtz as a Calvinist, although I think (with all the bloody imagery and violence it's more 13th century Italy, for me.) As for the heeeeeeaaaaaaven aspect, yes! [info]tkp and I have been discussing that very thing in her thread above.

OOOH! I love the reminder of the hooker/john bit! I completely glossed over that with my re-watching! Excellent point. So, if I understand what you're saying about Jasmine as an anti-christ, you're saying that Joss/ME isn't negating(forgetting) the Christ of our world, but Jasmine represents the anti-christ prophesied in the bible? (If we lifted up her maggot hair, we'd see 666?) Or just that she's a metaphor for that mindset FROM revelations?
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ex_dovil323
Jul. 31st, 2006 01:21 am (UTC)
This is why even though you've got a great rack and hair, it's your brain I love best.
speakingsilence
Jul. 31st, 2006 06:10 am (UTC)
It's interesting, too, to think about some of the place of Wolfram & Hart in all of this, because ostensibly, they're set up as the evil in the world. Yet they're quite willing to use religious imagery as well, not only with Lilah giving Wes a copy of Dante, but also in the whole idea of temptation and offering the "keys to the kingdom" at the end of S4. And Team Angel does 'fall' in a way by accepting -- good and evil become more convoluted.

Also, I can't help but think about Connor's return with S5 and his reconciliation of the two lives that he has. He now has three fathers to claim with Holtz, Angel, and his human family. As the son to these three, he even moreso seems to embody good, evil, and human, yet he manages to reconcile them in a more accepting and balanced way than any of the others. Of course, this, in the end, somehow means he can no longer participate at the very end in the last battle where it seems like good and evil once again become completely dichotomous forces.

Hmmm, thoughts on all this in my head are still quite muddled, but I very, very much appreciate the opportunity to be thinking about all this.
shadowscast
Aug. 5th, 2006 01:02 pm (UTC)
I just read your essay. Wow, that's a lot of really thought-provoking stuff.

I'm not sure if I'm going to manage with any sort of intelligent commentary, but I wanted to at least let you know I've read this and really appreciated your insights!
stoney321
Aug. 5th, 2006 01:48 pm (UTC)
Well aren't you a sweetheart for that! I appreciate it, and if you change your mind, or something pops into your head, comment anywhere you want here! I love discussion, so don't worry if it's a week from now, or a reply to another comment, okay?

:)
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