Friday, February 29, 2008

Family Of Choice

One of the things that comes up, again and again, in sci-fi/fantasy, is the notion of connectedness, the family you make. It is a thread that runs from Star Wars to Babylon 5, from Doctor Who to Buffy. In every case, teens or adults, generally without close blood family, come together under difficult circumstances, find their strength and their power together, and forge a Family of Choice. (This applies, often more strongly, to written sci-fi, but this blog focuses on filmed art, not prose.)

It is very true that when a group shares a set of experiences, especially if they cannot discuss those experiences with the wider world, they become close. But it can go so far beyond that when the group is a team, when they have a specialized set of skills that integrate well. Consider Buffy and the Scoobies. She is the fighter, stronger and faster than a normal human. Willow has the magical chops. Giles has a wealth of knowledge in their specialized field, and access to even more, plus the training to apply that knowledge and/or teach the others. Xander keeps them all grounded in the real world, reminds them that what they are truly fighting for is humanity, and the safety of ordinary people. Though they have had plenty of arguments, even blow-outs, in the end they are so close they can literally read each others’ minds.

Likewise, Han and Chewbacca are essentially blood brothers, and although Luke and Leia are siblings, they don’t know that when they forge their bond. Through the trials and tests, these four become as close as if they had grown up together, a bond that lasts the rest of their lives. Between them, they have the skills and contacts to move within any circle, interact with any strata of society, from smugglers, thieves and beggars to the heads of planets and empires, and the ability to persuade any of them, whether by money, force, or Force. This makes them an incomparable team for whatever needs doing, especially in the political arenas, both overt and covert.

While often in circumstances like these there are fleeting or unrequited romantic feelings (consider Xander for Buffy, or Willow for Xander, which resulted in a brief fling that stressed two established romantic relationships), in the end the feelings between members of the group are generally those of a more familial love. “You’re like a brother/sister to me” is one of the most common sentiments. The love is generally understated, or described in terms of trust and history; these are people who know the depth of feeling they have for one another, and feel no need to state it time and again.

Often, in life, the families we forge in adulthood serve us and support us better than our blood families ever could, and this is merely writ large in science fiction. It is the unique mix of talents, personalities, and circumstances, that makes a sci-fi team so much more magnificent than a single hero, and something so many geeks aspire to. After all, if you could find, not a single person that compliments you, but a whole group that elevates each other, and that loves you as much as you love them, what more could you ask for?

Monday, February 11, 2008

Whistler In The Dark

So I’ve watched an interesting spectrum of Angel episodes in the past few days, and I’ve come to an intriguing but depressing conclusion- Angel’s life is all about futility. Nothing he does is ever going to be good enough for him, or the Powers That Be. The Shanshu Prophecy is actually the best example of this. I rewatched To Shanshu In LA (1.22), and it talks about how the vampire with a soul will live and die, like a human. Now, add Spike into the equation. First of all, it could be interpreted to say that one will live and one will die, or it could speak to the fact that Spike sacrificed himself to close the Hellmouth and was recorporialized. Either way, things do not look good for The Broody One. Granted, he had no idea that he could become human when he started as hero for hire, but he has always been seeking redemption, and the two concepts become linked from that point onwards.

I also watched In The Dark (1.3), wherein Spike shows up looking for the Gem of Amara. Angel decides in the end not just to not use the ring, which would allow him to walk in daylight and stop fearing stakes, but to destroy it entirely. He is in essence saying that he will forever walk in darkness, that no matter what he does, he’s stuck helping girls with abusive boyfriends, kids trying to fight vampires, and the victims of evil law firms.

And yet he chooses to go on. He talks about it at the beginning of Season 4, when he confronts Connor about his little ocean voyage, about how you behave as if the world is the way you want it to be, and act to bring that about. He will keep fighting the good fight, whether or not it brings him any reward, for the sake of those who cannot fight for themselves. He has taken on a Duty, and he will see it through, no matter what, til the bitter end, because that’s the way the world should be. It should be full of hope, and people helping each other when the going is rough, and all Angel can do is lead by example, and keep trying.