Monday, May 21, 2018

Conversion from the Conventional: Buffyverse post 4

(post 4 of 5 exploring the conversion of Cordelia Chase in the BTVS&AI series)

In the first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in the episode titled “Out of Sight”, the mystical effects of the Hellmouth alter an average, shy girl who is ignored by everyone into an invisible menace. Outward invisibility releases inner forcefulness coupled with deep seeded rage. She initiates a campaign to attack the icon of her rejection – Cordelia. Realizing that she is the object of the murderous desire, in desperation Cordy turns to Buffy for help. She realizes that whatever is going on, it is the realm of strangeness and aggression – the two things she is sure Buffy has something to do with. Cordy whines loudly more than once that ‘the weirdest things always happen when you're around!’ 

When threatened by something she can’t conquer alone she comes seeking help and saying ‘I know you're very strong, and you've got all those weapons. I was kind of hoping you were in a gang.’ There are other incidents leading up to this acknowledgement and enlistment, however, Cordelia’s crisis is directly attributable to her physical and social context. When high school is hell, the threats become life and death and require the intervention of equitably extra-ordinary people such as Buffy. The immanent threat is the catalyst for Cordy to seek a more effective option than denial, and so to step over the divide she still isn’t prepared to completely acknowledge. The crisis itself leads to the quest for solutions – the third phase in the process of conversion – which leads her to need and trust the ‘loony fringe’ folks, always in weird situations Buffy and the dorky Scooby gang who seem to hang out with the school librarian.

Dr. Rambo's book about conversion states “human beings actively seek solutions to their problems and strive to find meaning, purpose, and transcendence.” This is a fair statement about much of human experience, although we can also acknowledge that this may not be as true as we expect.  Some people seek out lucid moments and find solutions, and some people seek solutions and find connection and something greater than ourselves in the process. This is a good definition of Cordelia’s quest phase – seeking remedies and finding both meaningful connection and powerful significance. While she may find herself in a consistent state of jeopardy due to her despised social location, she also is smart and assertive and so she knows where to look for a solution and is confident she can harness it. 

Unlike many of the other residents of Sunnydale, she seeks a self-preserving outcome with the people she deems able. Does she want to know why – the mystical, demonic why – of why weird things are always happening to her? Not on the surface. Cordy is through and through a pragmatist – she wants to remedy her troubles so she can get back to being popular and safe. It is the regularity of her need for solutions that involves her ever more deeply in the rituals of the Scooby gang, even when the crisis is not hers. It is with these people and their mission that she gains a complete picture of the mystical worldview, and the human potential in fracturing evil and opression. ‘Eww’s’ and ‘oh my gods’ punctuate her interaction with the mystical and demonic for seasons to come, but from the middle of season two, she will remain in the mystical worldview.

The encounter phase (the 4th) of conversion for Cordelia is her escalating involvement with the Scooby gang. She is regularly found in the library doing research and wheedling stakes to help the mission and she evolves into a somewhat core member until graduation. Despite her pragmatism and the damage done to her social status, Cordy is strangely drawn to serving the common good within mystical worldview. Her personal threats abate somewhat, so the continued reduction of pain may be one reason for staying 'in the library'. There is also the rush in the battle against evil that can only be waged from this acceptance of the mystical world. 

It is suggested in dialogue that the Scooby gang’s pursuits free her from the responsibility and isolation of her popularity. She has considerable reasons and history of self-interest to prevent the encounter from establishing her conversion. Lastly, while she has a more complete picture of what goes on in the world, Cordelia continues to prioritize conventional socio-economics. Why she remains in the encounter is not profusely clear, however, it does lead to her continuing process of conversion. In her storyline the conversion of her socio-economic responsibility to the mystical and communitarian come to fullest expression when she has moved to LA on the spin-off Angel. Her pursuant conversions and acceptance of vocation occur because following graduation the mystical world is the sphere where she has the most success, community and effect for the well being of others. Her encounter provides the community of interaction and meaning which continue to foster the process of Cordelia’s conversion.

Two connected communities are a vital element of cumulative nurture of Cordelia’s conversion process. As noted above the conventional social structure and Cordelia’s high status leaves her feeling both isolated and bored. She is followed, but she is not heard, she is seen but not known by the crowds who surround her and the folks who despise her. Within the mission of BTVS she establishes a romantic relationship and interacts with more intense levels of mystical learning and experience. It is this communal interaction that fulfills the 5th phase of conversion for Cordelia. She learns the rituals of battling vampires, the resources for disabling demonic opponents, and the internalization of a  communal paradigm. Cordelia emerges from the communal interaction as a well aware and worthy member of the mystical worldview. It is so formative of her life that when she meets up again with Angel in LA it is her idea to join in, to organize and to participate in the mission against demonic evil. She says to Angel, “I was just saying that if we're going to be helping people out, maybe a small charge. A fee. You know, something to help pay the rent. And.... my salary. You need someone to organize things and you're not exactly rolling in it "Mr. I-Was-Alive-for-200-Years-and-Never-Developed-an-Investment-Portfolio." 

The joint venture in pursuit of redemption is now for Cordy normative, it brings her feelings of accomplishment, service and contribution. The establishment of a small business – Angel Investigations - through which AI operates serves to integrate her skills in both worldviews for the mission in the mystical domain. It is in LA and with Angel Investigations that Cordelia demonstrates the commitment of her conversion – the 6th phase.

(post 5)

No comments:

Post a Comment