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View Full Version : Which mind-rape was worse? Willow's or Angel's



bespangled
02-12-18, 01:38 AM
Willow had a pretty skeevy reason for making Tara forget. She had a less skeevy reason for trying to make Buffy forget her time in heaven so she could be happy. She ended up making everyone forget who they were - but the spell broke and she had to suffer the consequences.

Angel made the decision to wipe everyone's memories before they agreed to take over W&H. Even if they had planned to agree, that means they no longer had all the facts. Fred was destroyed. Gunn became what he had once despised;someone who accepted W&H interfering with his brain, someone who took the easy way out knowing that another person would pay for it. Wesley went nuts. In the end they decided to take an action that would result in mass death in LA.

ghoststar
02-12-18, 02:58 AM
Willow had a pretty skeevy reason for making Tara forget. She had a less skeevy reason for trying to make Buffy forget her time in heaven so she could be happy. She ended up making everyone forget who they were - but the spell broke and she had to suffer the consequences.

Angel made the decision to wipe everyone's memories before they agreed to take over W&H. Even if they had planned to agree, that means they no longer had all the facts. Fred was destroyed. Gunn became what he had once despised;someone who accepted W&H interfering with his brain, someone who took the easy way out knowing that another person would pay for it. Wesley went nuts. In the end they decided to take an action that would result in mass death in LA.
If you're looking in terms of "reasonably foreseeable consequences," then the scale of the rewrite easily makes Angel's decision worse. However, from a perspective of culpability, I think that Willow's is far worse. Angel was in Hell for possibly centuries, a term that ended only months before his show starts; even if it's downplayed in his conversations, it still happened, unless we're completely discarding BtVS canon from our consideration.. On AtS itself, he spent years being personally stalked with the purpose of sending him over the edge; one of his found family kidnapped his child (with sort-of good intentions, yes, but the fact remains that Wes chose to prioritize prophecies over his personal knowledge of Angel); said child spent 18 years in Hell being brainwashed by a man who hated Angel; adult!Connor was, unsurprisingly, an ax-crazy dhampyr who captured Angel and trapped him at the bottom of the ocean for three months (something that Wes said might have caused brain damage); Angel reverted to Angelus as a Hail Mary, probably killing dozens if not hundreds of people, whose deaths he now remembers; and, after turning heel due to a demonic possession and trying to create an apocalypse, his main love interest is in a coma. The final blow is Connor moving from personal archenemy/son to heavy-hitting terrorist. People generally have a limited reserve of self-control-- it differs in size from person to person, but eventually, just about anyone will snap. For people with ordinary lives, the stakes are things like eating too much dessert, screaming at their children, or having unprotected sex. When you're a Champion, the stakes are mind-rape, murder, and global political corruption. While these things are terrible, I don't think the stakes of his choices make Angel a worse person than most. He's still just a broken guy, who unfortunately happens to also be an important link in the inter-dimensional order. I think he needs to be stopped, maybe even killed if there's no other way; I don't feel that he would deserve retribution after the fact.

Willow, on the other hand, is afraid of... her girlfriend breaking up with her, and of being responsible for Buffy's pain. Now, actually taking responsibility for Buffy's pain would not have been a bad thing. I think it would've been OK for her to ask Buffy if Buffy wanted her to look for a safe way to erase the memories of her time in Heaven. The show periodically floats the idea that any serious magic disrupts nature at a dangerous level, but, if that were true, then the amount of magic worked by other Sunnydale residents would've already destroyed the world several times over. So I do think that Willow's idea about wiping Buffy's memories had enough merit to discuss it with Buffy.

By contrast, avoiding this conversation and performing the spell anyway is the opposite of responsibility, and of several other virtues. It's selfish and cowardly. If it had been about Buffy, then Willow would've let Buffy make the call. Willow is very brave against external threats, yet horribly weak against the threat of disappointing people or losing connections. She isn't broken by having had to kill her loved ones; she just doesn't want them to leave her (or, in Buffy's case, drift away from her) on their own terms. As excuses for immoral actions go, Willow's motivations are considerably less sympathetic than Angel's, and the fact that it's ~mystical~ in both cases doesn't change that. Imagine that one person robbed a bank to impress their S.O., and another robbed a bank because the villains were holding their family hostage. IMO, there's no comparison between the guilt of Robber 1 and Robber 2, not even if Robber 2 stole a thousand times as much money.

Dipstick
02-12-18, 04:41 AM
In terms of scale, I think Angel's was far worse. From what we can see, Willow successfully wiped one fight between her and Tara. That fight wasn't even a break-up of their relationship or a fight so serious that anyone was exiled from their common bed. We don't know for sure what Willow attempted to wipe in Tabula Rasa but I would wager that it was the contents of her then fatal-to-their-relationship fight with Tara, Buffy's memories of heaven, and the Scoobies' learning that Buffy was in heaven. By contrast, Angel wiped memories of Connor- the originator of the most important and impactful events for the last year for AI. Like, Willow wiped a verbal fight out of Tara's head; Angel wiped his attempted murder of Hospitalized Wesley out of Wesley's head. The scale is just incomparable. Moreover, Angel didn't do a clean re-set. For Connor, Angel created an entirely new Connor where he lost every true memory and it was replaced by purely false memories. He wiped essentially 18 years of truths and replaced them in with lies. Angel also corrupted the memories of the innocent, stranger Reillys and essentially raped Ms. Reilly into a forced delivery of a child that she didn't actually choose to have. For his own gang, it appears like Angel delegated to Veil to rewrite their lives for the last year and a half and replace it with other drama. We never learn the alternative history for AI but like, I always have a sneaking suspicion that Wesley having some mysterious alternative memories where he still lost his nominal leadership of the gang and still had a sexual relationship with Lilah ended up f*cking up him more than just a clean reset to the beginning of Offspring.

In terms of motive, Angel's mindwipe is more sympathetic but that's more complicated than first appearances. When you get the root of what was featured on TV, Angel wanted to help his broken son while Willow didn't want Tara to be cross with her and then, break up with her and she didn't want Buffy to be sad...at her. I'll even cosign there's some truth in that, even if you dig deeper. Beyond first appearances, I think Angel genuinely thought Connor was unfixable and I think Angel's fraught history (chronicled by ghostar supports why Angel is so fatalistic.) However, there's so much that they didn't try with Connor. S4 is compressed in actual time. Connor didn't get a lot of time to recover from Quor-Toth on his own. Connor got even less time to recover from Quor-Toth without apocalypse raging around him and Jasmine!Cordelia manipulating him and abusing him. Angel kicked him out of the hotel without any provision of money or resources so Connor only knew the barest of security for three months with Gunn/Fred and a few weeks with Jasmine. Connor never had one session with a psychiatrist or social worker. To some extent, I think Angel just didn't want to do that hard work of raising a f*cked up kid who may never recover. The mind-wipe was an easy out. I think that's pretty borne out by how he didn't try to preserve the memories of his gang or educate them on what was done them. I see no Connor-reason why his gang had to be in the dark. IMO, that's why Angel had W&H personnel stalking Buffy to "keep her safe" but never extended that "protection" to Connor.

With Willow, it's never spoken of and made into a story but the end of S5 would have logically given Willow tremendous PTSD. Willow and Tara fought for the first time and then, Glory brain-sucked Tara. Willow was looking at a lifetime of Tara being a tortured lunatic. Then, the world nearly ended and Buffy died. Willow actually lived out the consequences of being separated from Tara in living color when she was fighting the crowds to get to Tara on the bench and try to save her from Glory but she got there too late and Tara was already brain-sucked. The end of S5 would very understandably turn any conflict into Tara into a red flag in front of a bull to Willow drowning out rational thought. However, it's very hard for me to make this a sympathetic explanation because it's completely absent in the S6 text. It's in some excellent Willow-meta on the 'net but it does not live in the S6 scripts. S6 seems to just say that Willow mind-wiped Tara the first time because she'd happily destroy the integrity of Tara's mind to avoid an unpleasant evening because she just SUX now. (The age old question. How do I write about S6-7 without bitterly complaining about them?)

I agree with ghoststar that there could be merit to Willow wiping Buffy's memories on heaven, as long as it was done with Buffy's consent. Actually, I think that would be a better "last resort" to take with Connor as long as he consented- for Angel to wipe memories of Quor-Toth and Holtz but not replace them with lie-memories and essentially raise Connor again on Earth at the Hyperion. However, by Tabula Rasa, I see why Willow didn't feel like she could come to Buffy with such a suggestion. Willow actually is more frank regarding Mindwipe 2 than Mindwipe 1 because she proposed the idea of wiping the heaven-memories to Tara/Xander/Anya. Tara was completely disgusted with such an idea, no matter what. So, I could see how Willow thought it was a no-go to discuss the idea with Buffy/the group. But I do end up giving a big wet raspberry to that excuse- Willow shouldn't have destroyed her credibility by using Lethes Bramble for her convenience as opposed to solely for psychiatric medicine.

I highly rate the importance of motives in all things. So if we remove Angel's and Willow's complexes, whether it's Angel's deeply textually explored nihilism or Willow's underwritten to non-written PTSD, Angel has considerably more understandable and better motives.

Stoney
02-12-18, 06:18 AM
I think the complexities of the motivations and histories leading into them have been well discussed already. Both characters are coming into the problems with layers that feed their choices and affect their motivations. Both are being driven by a selfish need to fix these problems more effortlessly than a harder, more time consumptive path which doesn't promise success could take. The emotional weights that come from what we know of their histories is always at play in understanding the actions characters take and I think the writing fairly expects that the viewers will bring their knowledge with them to see these layers and so they play their parts in making me sympathetic to both. I think that perhaps my sympathy as to why Angel takes the choice is probably higher because of how much more immediate a lot of the emotional pressures on him are, heightening a belief that there's a time pressure to act within. Connor having literally just been so damaged and suicidally broken down by what his life has dealt him and needing some sort of plan forming to help him. But Angel is also knowingly contradicting his own points to the season big bad he's just defeated in reducing the ability of his team to make an informed choice of what they are about to do, falsely presents his own reasons for taking the deal which adds to misleading them and distorts their view of the example he's setting as the leader of the group, he makes no moves to seek an alternative to achieve the same result with people more trustworthy and he agrees to the red flag of the bad guys' wish for the lives of all those around him being recreated/covered to some unspecified degree too (and by those very evil people themselves as well), feeding into them being ill informed about all the choices they are making thereafter.

Willow makes a selfish choice for less noble reasons, but she doesn't sell herself to the big bads and sacrifice so many others to erase what she has done. Tara's spell in Family puts others lives at risk and has a more potentially dangerous aspect to it in the aim of protecting herself than Willow's. Again it's an act that I can understand and sympathise with the character over, but putting lives in danger as an acceptable fallout of your choices is a different level of 'wrong'. I don't think Tara had for a moment considered how her spell could disadvantage the others in a way that would be life threatening, whereas I think that Angel is knowingly putting the dangers to the others secondary to his goal. Although the consequences of what Angel does I have to concede I believe helps Connor immensely. That he is given some emotional stability to counter the horrors he has experienced throughout his childhood ends up being a positive thing and something that means he doesn't hate his father for what he did. But I don't believe it was the only way to deal with the situation, even if I can also accept that because of the emotional heft of everything that has happened that Angel felt hopeless and that this was the best solution immediately available to him for Connor. And at the end of the day I do think what Angel did leads to Fred and Wes dying. It also feeds into Gunn and Lorne being corrupted by their own insecurities too. Basically Angel decided the degree the others were to be drawn into the solution was just an acceptable price for what he wanted to do which devalues these people and their right to their own autonomy being fully informed by their own histories and that negatively impacts their lives. The cost and negative fallout for the others around Angel that he also took the decision were acceptable is far worse than what Willow did.

Dipstick
02-12-18, 07:41 AM
But Angel is also knowingly contradicting his own points to the season big bad he's just defeated in reducing the ability of his team to make an informed choice of what they are about to do, falsely presents his own reasons for taking the deal which adds to misleading them and distorts their view of the example he's setting as the leader of the group, he makes no moves to seek an alternative to achieve the same result with people more trustworthy and he agrees to the red flag of the bad guys' wish for the lives of all those around him being recreated/covered to some unspecified degree too (and by those very evil people themselves as well), feeding into them being ill informed about all the choices they are making thereafter.

This is a very good point. It comes up very vividly in Origin when Angel is successfully blackmailed by Veil threatening to break the Orlon Window. So, Angel manipulates a soft, civilian Connor who doesn't ever remember fighting into doing Veil's bidding by having a to-death fight with Sahjan without looking any other alternatives to save his son (who all of this was for) from risking his life. As it turns out, Wesley went rogue and broke the Orlon Window and that was actually necessary for Connor to beat Sahjan because he needed his hard-fought memories of how to fight. This, among other things in S5, negatively colors the nobility read of "Angel had no other choice!"

That's hard to compare to Willow because, Rack aside, she doesn't really have to contract with baddies. Generally, Willow's power is hers. So, she's not challenged with being blackmailed and she certainly wasn't in the context of the mindwipes. Willow has other challenges because her powers is hers, for starters exercising the self-control to sit on her magical hands when things go badly.

To add a bit of point in Willow's defense, Willow doesn't get a specific alarm from realizing the mindwipe was wrong. However after she hurts Dawn in the car accident, she gives up magic until the end of S6. Hurting Dawn was her wake-up call. This wasn't a good or sustainable solution either. However, S5 Angel never really has a run of episodes or even a moment where he tries to pull back on the destructiveness because he felt guilty about what his actions wrought even in Willow's extremely misconceived way. And S5 Angel had lots of wake-up calls from Lorne giving up sleep to his Soul Purpose dreams to some of what Cordelia said to Fred's death to as above, Veil blackmailing Angel with the fraudulent memories. For obvious reasons, I don't count Angel's NFA plan as puling back on the destructiveness.