Oedipal themes in ANGEL

Regular visitors to TVWriter™ know how much we love when people overthink about their favorite TV shows. We’ve even been known to do it now and then ourselves. (The horror!) The other day we found this particular example of overthink on the web, and we love it even more than usual. Cuz we love ANGEL even more than we love so many other shows:

angel and friendsby Juliette

There’s something inherently Oedipal about modern romantic vampire mythology. When Byron’s friend Polidori wrote about a sexy, beautiful ‘vampyre’ who preys on the protagonist’s sister, he paved the way for later stories to depict vampirism as a metaphor for lust and the act of a vampire biting a victim as a metaphor for sex. Once the concept of the vampire sire had been developed, what you end up with in several modern vampire mythologies is a depiction of vampire ‘families’ consisting of ‘parents’ (the sire or sires) and ‘children’ (the vampires they’ve sired) in which the ‘family’ has been created by a process of the ‘parent’ having metaphorical sex with the ‘child’ (often accompanied by literal sex). The entire set-up revolves around the idea that the ‘child’ and ‘parent’ are sexually attracted to each other.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel play up this theme even more than many modern romantic vampire series, partly thanks to the presence of Drusilla in Angel’s vampire ‘family’. Drusilla’s madness is depicted largely as making her child-like, fond of dolls and parties (and, er, children), so while Spike refers to the sire/offspring relationship as ‘you were my Yoda’ early on, implying more of a teacher/protegee relationship, Drusilla always comes across as the child in a twisted ‘family’. She also refers to herself and the others that way more than most, explicitly calling Angelus ‘Daddy’ while cheating on Spike (later revealed to be her ‘son’ rather than, as initially implied, her ‘brother’) with him.

Later, when Drusilla appears on Angel to re-sire Angel’s now human ‘mother’ Darla, Gunn again makes the relationship explicit by commenting on how weird it is that Darla’s ‘grand-daughter’ is becoming her ‘mother’. Meanwhile Drusilla buries Darla in a flower nursery, just to really drive home the mother/daughter point, before they embark on a killing spree so full of sexual tension between the two of them it’s hardly surprising when a later flashback in season five reveals they have had a sexual relationship at least once, when they had a threesome with the Immortal. With season five also implying pretty strongly that Angel and Spike have got it together at least once, the whole ‘family’ is more twisted and incestuous than anything seen on HBO.

Read it all