My latest batch of Top Fives. I chose to tackle local_max Top Five Moments Where Angel Was a Dick and lokifan Top Five West Wing Friendships. More lists later!
Per local_max and my brief conversation here, I struggled a bit on how to define "dick". I ultimately came down on the side that "dick" is a diminutive term used to describe people or occasions where people are just nasty or stupidly mean in small but character-forming occasions. Angel is the most dramatically *monstrous* in his unsouled acts or his Twangel genocide or smothering Wesley or locking the lawyers in to die. However, it minimizes the monstrosity of the actions but also the potent emotions/cost benefit analysis to call it "dickish". It's something else. So, my list of Angel being a dick is Angel being stupidly mean and petty pretty much mostly for kicks without even a true motive to be a dick.
1. Xander: So, when you gave him my neck to chew on, why didn't you clock
him before he had a chance to clock you?
Angel: I told you. I couldn't make the first move. I had to see if he
was buying it or not.
Xander: A-and if he bit me, what then?
Angel: We would've known he bought it.
Angel tries to play this as a cost-benefit plan but it mainly felt like a chance for Angel to role-play at Xander's expense. I'm at sea on why Angel needed to play his unsouled self. Spike's plan was already set in motion- take over the school and kill Buffy. Since the plan was ongoing, it was already an emergency situation. Facially, it was a better use of Angel's resources in a genuine emergency for people for him to use his superpowers to kill some minions to sneak people out of the school and reduce Spike's army to make the fight easier for Buffy. Instead, Angel chose to pick the point where Spike was executing his plan to start with the recon behind enemy lines gambit- and he staked (pun unintended) Xander's neck on his desperate intelligence-finding mission at the most inopportune time. IMO, Angel saw his best role as any desperate attempt to get information on Spike to impress *his* slayer-girlfriend as protective instead of to rescue the people in an emergency. And Angel was cool sacrificing Xander to that end.
Then, Angel didn't even have the decency to say that he would have tried to clock Spike as Spike was leaning into Xander's neck but before he bought or to guiltily and sadly say that he only could stop Spike as Spike was biting Xander. Heck, Angel doesn't even make a commitment that he would have stopped Spike at some point before Spike drained Xander dry. Instead, he rather smugly stalks off with a "Whatever, Spike would have bitten you".
2. Angel: Fed on a girl about your age... beautiful... dumb as a post... but a favorite among her clan.
Angel: I hated the girls back then. Especially the noble women.
Buffy: (nods) You did.
Angel: They were just incredibly dull. Simpering morons, the lot of them.
These different quotes are basically in the same bullet point- Angel being a dick about the very women that he murdered, raped, terrorized. Big dick behavior to minimize multiple generations of women as morons- particularly when those generations of women were oppressed and made out to be morons by their sexist society. What does Angel believe- that the 18th, 19th, and early 20th century women were so stupid that they didn't need the right to vote or own property? When did the light bulb switch and Angel stopped hating women for being stupid?
3. Also in the same bullet point- Angel physically menacing people for no reason. We can file Angel menacing Cordelia over a damn book that he could have just asked to borrow or paid for, Angel knocking Lorne's hat off violently for Lorne basically just doing what Angel asked and tailing Illyria surreptitiously, Angel torturing Merle when Merle would give him information for a low price bribe, Angel grabbing Wesley and putting Wesley in a chokehold for Wesley suspecting Angel of the Somnabullist murders right before Angel condeded...yeah, I think I've been sleep-murdering, Angel offering to hold Lorne down if Lorne didn't want to read Cordevilia's singing, etc. There was no benefit to any of this junk- Angel's stronger than his team and informants and he needs to show that off constantly at their expense. Multiple dick actions for the price of one entry! Whadda bargain!
4. I didn't cover Angel mindwiping everyone who ever met Connor and murdering the real Connor to make an entirely different Connor because it's both so huge that it dwarfs the dick label but also I see the emotional compulsions that drove Angel to do it that puts it out of the simple "dick" zone. That choice deserves more words than "dick"- for good and bad. However, Angel putting a W&H employee to tail Buffy but Angel putting no one on Connor is big time dick behavior for both. Buffy is *the* Vampire Slayer with years of "taking care of herself and everyone else" experience and an army of slayers and devoted friends and family behind her. Buffy repeatedly told Angel to cut it out with the stalking throughout their relationship- and that's when it was *Angel* and not one of Evil Inc.'s flunkies spying on Buffy constantly. Meanwhile, Connor, The Miracle Child who's had multiple enemies gunning for him since day 1 (even if he's currently hidden by magic) and no knowledge of his dangerous Miracle Child status or how he can defend himself doesn't get "spying for protection". Angel's ex-girlfriend who just might bake and be the cookies that Angel can...eat >>>>>>>>>>>>> Angel's prodigal son that Angel basically gave up on (partly because Connor was a romantic and physical rival).
5. Like #4, this dickishness is best represented as a contrast. Before AtS S3 when Angel's several-year ex-girlfriend Buffy died, Boss!Wesley gave Angel as much time as he needed to mourn away. And Angel grabbed that to abandon the mission and fragile!insane!Fred who only warmed to Angel for several months to go to a monastery. Not to the hellmouth to see how Buffy's friends and families were faring on the hellmouth without a slayer or to see if Buffy's minor sister needed anything. Flashforward to AtS S5, Boss!Angel was all "Get the fuck over it. Stop drinking and looking sad and tired! And figure out a way to kill Illyria STAT!" to Wesley like two weeks after Fred died. The dickishness is already profound beyond belief- but it's further compounded when you consider that Angel's executive decision complete with memory alterations put Fred in W&H and led to her death.
On a happier note for lokifan
Top Five West Wing Friendships
Five TWW Friendships
1. Jed/Leo: Bedrock friendship of the entire show! If Jed and Leo weren't friends, there wouldn't be a Bartlet administration and there wouldn't be a TWW. I will say that while Jed is my favorite character of the Sorkin years, Leo largely makes the friendship. Leo really sees Jed in all of his awesome complexity- his brilliance, his goodness, his temper tantrums, the fact that his moral calculus can be shallow but masquerades as deep, his charisma, his childishness, etc. It creates a terrific balance where Leo practically worships Jed and Leo tailors his conduct to best help Jed be the best POTUS possible, but Leo still keeps himself, he's not servile, he doesn't enable Jed and Leo challenges him every step of the way.
I also love the realism from Jed. I think Jed knows that he doesn't love Leo as much as Leo loves him- and a part of Jed is uncomfortable with that but a part of Jed is also smug that Jed has a wife, and three daughters that he's very close to and he's the leader of the free world and a mammoth figure so OF COURSE Jed can't reciprocate with the same room in his consciousness that Leo has for Jed. It does mean that Lord John Marbury can almost be forgiven for assuming that Leo was Jed's butler named Gerald- because that's a little bit the dynamic. However, it does mean that Leo has to swallow quite a bit of indignity because he convinced his then less wealthy, less famous, friend who never served in the military that he's the one who should run for president.
2. CJ/Toby: Richard Schiff and Allison Janney really make this friendship so interesting. It's not quite set up as thematically resonant as Jed/Leo or Toby/Josh. But Schiff and Janney are so gifted and their usual "in the top three snarkmeisters in a competitive pool of silver-tounged geniuses" dialogue is even wittier and sharper when they're sparing with each other.
I do love that they *really* respect the hell out of each other professionally, in addition to their potent personal bond. However, they are both very commanding and intimidating personalities that like things *their* way. It leads to fantastically-acted conflicts that mirror both of their respective tenures where they were the boss of the other. Boss!Toby respects CJ too much to micro-manage her and stand over her shoulder dictating to her. Compare how Toby deals with CJ vs. how he deals with Sam or Will, especially post-S1. He gives CJ a lot more independence. However, Toby will absolutely use his power as boss to order CJ around and he'll enjoy being in the loop and tolerate CJ being kept out of the loop- and it's fascinating how CJ gets taken aback by that and takes it as a personal betrayal. But then, when CJ was COS, CJ also treated Toby with tremendous respect and independence but gave a firm command when she felt she had to and then Toby was taken aback by that and treated it like a trespass on their friendship.
3. Toby/Josh: The appeal here isn't so much pure puppies and giggles friendship- it's the *frenemyship* because Toby and Josh fight interestingly and their conflict lines feel very real but they're also there for each other as friends. However, Toby and Josh's most potent moments of "being there for each other" are very twisty and sad. Toby found bleeding Josh when he was shot. Josh called Toby's dad to force a reconciliation and Josh rather unfairly put Josh's issues to guilt Toby into reconciling. Josh was the first person to contact disgraced!felonioius!Toby in S7 and Toby helped the Santos campaign- but they resented the hell out the experience.
They do have every reason to fight. In S1-4, they have a roughly comparable rank below Leo so they naturally jockey for influence over Jed/Leo. Toby has cause to resent Josh (and Sam's) "to the manor born" privilege with Toby's big chip on his shoulder. Josh has cause to consider Toby a loser who failed at everything before striking it right with Bartlet as opposed to Josh who won at everything and jumped off the front-runner presidential campaign to follow Jed. Toby tells hard truths and confronts Jed and Leo and suffers interpersonally from it; Josh tries to hew to what Jed and Leo want and is a little allergic to truth until Josh is practically forced to rant his truthful feelings. It's rather remarkable that they get along as well as they do- but I do think that they see similar drives and pragmatism in each other and they can respect that.
Plus, they're hilarious and fascinating at the same time:
[to Toby] Don't worry, I'll have Jews for the money stuff? You have an
inadvertant habit of putting down my Judaism by implying that you have a sharper anti-Semitism meter then I do.
You know, the Ancient Hebrews had a word for Jews from Westport. They pronounced it Presbyterian.
And by saying things like that.
I'm just saying I'm from Brighton Beach.
Well, Mohammed al Mohammed al Mohammend bin Bizir doesn't make the distinction when he suits up in the morning.
As long as you have a good grasp of the complexity of that situation.
What the hell are the two of you talking about?
I assure you neither one of us know.
4. Mrs. Landingham/Charlie: I like Jed/Charlie- but I also felt...like a performative fakeness to it. A bunch of their scenes were golden but there's a vibe of Jed treating Charlie like a son in law like just when Zoey and Charlie start dating to force an image that President Bartlet is really, really nice to his underprivileged black bodyman. Their interactions are all witty interactions based on Charlie being OOC snarky or Jed conferring some magnanimous gift or attention. Charlie/Mrs. Landingham was a friendship for a shorter duration but it felt much more real. They interacted like friends- Mrs. Landingham opened up about new big things in her life from getting a new car to suddenly opening up about her grief at losing her boys. Charlie shared his college plans with her. They're unlikely friends- but the show owns that with Mrs. Landingham somewhat patronizing Charlie like she would all young people (her "sounds like a good mystery, sweetie"; "What do you tote" "....groceries") when he wanted his props for locating the check from Abbey Bartlet that a battered woman framed. Or Charlie treating Mrs. Landinghma like a kind of odd person which she *is*.
I have never been camping.
Neither have I, and I was hoping you'd take me. I'd be sitting there fishing and listening to the Orioles on a transistor radio.
What would I be doing?
Warding off bears, that kind of thing.
5. Jed/CJ: Even before CJ became COS, I thought that CJ had a bit of a Leo-esque relationship with Jed- but without the history and with a different tenor as a younger female as opposed to a peer male. As I noted on Leo above, CJ see the whole Jed Bartlet- the magnificent and the annoying/horribly disappointing so CJ worships Jed but she doesn't enable him. CJ achieves a Leo-esque balance in how she deals with Jed. CJ doesn't suck up and hew her ideologies to Jed and mainly considers herself Jed's political hitwoman who gets her morals from protecting The Great Man ala Josh. However, CJ also doesn't look to constantly be in Jed's face to pressure him into bravely fighting every battle and never compromise himself ala Toby. CJ is somewhere in between.
Also like Leo, there's a conflict where Jed loves CJ but Jed knows that he's way more important to CJ than vice a versa. Obviously professionally. Also, CJ has huge Daddy-issues and I do think that she looks to Jed as a dad-substitute since her dad is disintegrating. Part of the emotional resonance of CJ staying behind to the end of Jed's administration is that it's her way of exorcising her guilt over not being with her real father in Dayton to stay through her physically ailing substituent father-boss's administration in the White House. However, the last thing that Jed Bartlet is looking for is a daughter-substitute. He's got three healthy and whole daughters who are all very much in his life- despite his griping about Ellie and Liz. Jed isn't as smug about the imbalance as with Leo because CJ isn't his peer, there's no competition or masculine-clashes. However, Jed does put CJ out of sight, out of mind quite a bit when she's really struggling (the public fallout from the MS reveal in Manchester, her efforts to deal with foreign crises as a new COS from the misplaced uranium to the fallout behind Leo's secret trip to Cuba, his admission that he hears things about her relationship with Danny but then tries to pretend he didn't). And Jed's behavior there can be personally cold at best and reckless as a leader at worst.
- Top Fives: Top Five Times When Angel Was a Dick and Top Five West Wing Friendships