Wednesday, July 16, 2008

And Yet More Angel

Sorry, I keep watching these episodes and I keep finding things to talk about. It's no accident that I got my start being annoyingly opinionated on the internet via Buffy. Anyway, we're onto the Connor episodes right now, and of course I recall the vehement hatred that kid got from pretty much all sectors of the fandom. I'm pretty sure I hated him too. But it got me to thinking about another instantly loathed Whedon teen, Dawn Summers.

No two main characters, arguable, were more collectively loathed than Dawn and Connor, and the similarities aren't hard to come by. Both were pouty, angry teenagers abruptly thrust upon a show in a role adversarial to a protagonist who offered back infinite patience to the point of looking like a sucker. The way I saw it, the characters were being written well, or at least realistically -- of course Connor and Dawn were angry brats. Connor spent his formative years in a hell dimension while Dawn found out she was a manufactured ball of energy and subsequently had her mother, sister, and surrogate lesbian caregiver die on her. All that plus they were fifteen and thus given to surly snottiness by nature. Of course they'd act like that!

The problem becomes: does the fact that fifteen-year-olds are brats as a rule mean you should perhaps not focus so much of your show on them? Were they good characters on paper who were just performed poorly by Michelle Trachtenberg and Vincent Kartheiser? Would we have reacted better to them if they'd been around all along?

The fact that I remain curious about this tells me I've yet to get a satisfactory grip on an answer. Why were Connor and Dawn so loathed? Discuss!


OleNelson said...

Why were they loathed? I blame Robbie Rist.

As the actually loathsome Cousin Oliver on The Brady Bunch, RR established the idea that cute(-ish) younger characters added late onto popular shows were the death knell of creativity on said shows.

This line of thinking is a truism that we've come to accept, so my off-the-cuff theory is that we all feared what Dawn and Connor represented to "our" shows more than we hated what the characters themselves were doing.

Or perhaps Dawn was just a brat.

Lis said...

See I never really got that either. I mean I do think Dawn was kind of annoying sometimes, but so was every other cast member on that show, at one point or another. I have yet to watch Angel (I know, it's unforgivable of me) but I feel like the whole Connor was more general distaste of the way the plot was going... I could be wrong though.

Grunt said...

As someone who came to the Buffy/Angel party a bit late (well, actually, after they both were cancelled) I found that the idea that Dawn never actually grew up to be the problem. She wasn't so bad in season 5, but by season 7 I was confused. How could Buffy, at the age of 17, be such a well rounded character and yet Dawn be such a one note character. I always thought she was poorly written. Although she was involved with one of the only good scenes in season 7, the one where Xander is talking about what it's like to be ordinary when one is surrounded by extraordinary and how that is an okay thing. I loved that scene and Brendon knocked it out of the park. Trachtenberg was kind of lump-like.

On the otherhand I always liked Connor. I mean Dawn thought she had it bad, but her deal was nothing compared to Connor...son of Vampires, kidnapped as a baby and forced to grow-up in a hell dimention with a crazy-ass guy as a dad and, even worse from a teenagers point of view, nothing to keep his hormones in check(seriously, poor kid, there were no girls around). No wonder he was such a prick. Connor actually cooled up by the end there, and I was actually sorry to see him go in season 5, and then happy to see him return for the finale.

Melissa said...

In partial agreement with olenelson's point, my annoyance with both Dawn and Connor was less about the characters or the actors (though I did think that Kartheiser kid had below average acting ability)and more about the storylines that brought them there.

Dawn mostly stopped bugging me by the time The First hit Sunnydale though because she became more of a Scooby instead of just "the bratty little sister." Connor never stopped chapping my ass though. I think it might have been the "sex with Cordy" thing that made my distaste for him irreversible.

Rinaldo said...

I'm kind of surprised to read that it's a given, everybody knows, that Connor was universally loathed. (I have no strong feelings one way or another about Dawn.)

Because my memory of Angel discussions is that there was worry in advance about adding in this sort of character... but when he arrived, he was pretty much enjoyed. And there was even some sentiment to the effect that, some weeks, Vincent Kartheiser was doing the best acting on the show. Which is largely what I thought.

But no doubt I don't hang out in the right circles.

homeslaughter said...

Dawn was a fantastic dream, she represented all of the pain that was being a youngest child.On Connor, I have no use for anyone who had sex with Cordelia.

Jenn said...

I didn't like Dawn because she was such a stereotype - the bratty little sister who always wanted to tag along. She didn't contribute anything but whininess. I also hated the way they introduced her.

I never felt strongly either way about Connor, but then again, I didn't start watching regularly until the fifth season, then went back and watched the first four seasons, so I knew most of his story before I ever saw his episodes.

Grunt said...

You know, the only problem I ever hard with the "sex with Cordelia" thing was that:

1) Even though Connor was supposed to be 18 and Cordelia was supposed to be 20 or 22 or something, since Charisma Carpenter is, like, my age and Kartheiser looked like he was about 16 it actually had a creepy vibe to it. Truth was the Connor/Cordelia pairing was a lot more age-appropriate than the Angel/Cordelia pairing.

2) Angel, it is entirely creepy to WATCH the girl you love doin' the deed with your son. I don't care how long-lost he is.

Joe Reid said...

Good comments here. I generally liked Dawn, or at least felt for her. By those last couple seasons, almost everyone except Giles and Anya was acting like a jerk or a moron, so I understood Dawn's crappy attitude around them.

Connor I wanted to like, and I was glad he got the happy (ish) ending he got, but man, that shit with Cordelia was the point of no return on so many levels. For one, grunt is completely right that Cordy looked way older than her years (she was supposed to be 21!), so it looked very LeTourneau even on the surface. It also marked the absolute tipping point -- the moment when once and for all you realized the writers didn't care about Cordelia as a character anymore. That sucked.

But I think the main problem for both Connor (and to a lesser extent Dawn) is that you can only take a regular character being adversarial to the hero(ine) for so long without them being either a villain (Lilah, Faith) or funny (Anya, Buffy-era Cordelia. It just gets tiresome.

Rachel said...

My biggest problem with Dawn was that she felt the character was written to be about 5 years younger than she really was. Comparing her to Buffy and the gang when the show started (I think the ages are about right), and she really does seem like an obnoxious small child. And it wasn't helped by Buffy treated her like one (which was the point, that Buffy was protecting her little sister, but it felt off).

In general, though, I think neither one fit into the tone of the show - it's always hard with new characters, especially new characters who are dramatically dropped in like these two, and I feel like the match never really worked.

Tom said...

I never had strong feelings for Dawn either way. I always just thought that Connor was a really awful way to end a really good storyline.

Then the direction they went... with him being SO easily manipulated and always making the wrong decision just got really, really old very quickly. I can roll with any character pretty easily... I start to hate them when they're just stupid.

What DID cause them to jettison the Cordelia character so thoroughly?