Monday, April 26, 2010

Someone to Look Out For Me - Los Angeles

Alexis Denisof and Charisma Carpenter
as Wes and Cordy

This is the second and final blog post where I discuss how Cordelia Chase found a safe environment to explore her sexuality when she became friends with ex-Watcher Wesley Wyndam-Pryce. In my last post, I talked about their relationship in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where it was revealed that the romantic feelings they felt for each other turned out to be fleeting infatuations.

Their first encounter in Angel, (a deeply passionate kiss between Cordelia and rogue demon-hunter Wesley in "Parting Gifts") was really quite successful, at least from Wesley's point of view. Unfortunately they never followed up on it, mostly because Cordelia didn't realize she was kissing Wesley at the time. From then on, their interactions in Season 1 (and, to a lesser extent Season 2), mostly consisted of Cordelia being bitchy and sarcastic with Wesley, with Wesley alternating between being extremely irritated to being genuinely hurt by her behavior.

Expecting. Someone made a convincing case on a forum somewhere that Cordelia lost her virginity to Xander. I certainly didn't find any evidence of that in my limited viewing of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so if anyone cares to enlighten me, please do so. Regardless, if Cordelia wasn't a virgin when she had sex with the handsome photographer-turned demon surrogate in Season 1's "Expecting", she was close enough to being one for our purposes.

It was therefore quite a shock for Cordelia to wake up from her evening with the romantic photographer and find herself nine months pregnant! From this scene, it was clear that, although it was bad enough that she was pregnant, what was almost worse for Cordelia was the fact that she might as well have rented a huge billboard that said "I HAD SEX LAST NIGHT!"

When Cordelia didn't show up for work on time, Angel and Wesley showed up at her apartment to find out what happened to her. Wesley started sniping a bit about her work ethics, but the sight of Cordelia softened him up considerably. Cordy, the ultra-confident Bitch Queen, had all of a sudden revealed that she was a badly frightened young woman.

Angel was magnificent as he went out to interrogate and terrorize the bad guys, but Wesley had an important part to play as well. He was so sweet to Cordelia when he reassured her that she was not being punished for her behavior. There was also a nice element of "let's pretend we're married" when Wes and Cordy were masquerading as Mr. and Mrs. Pangborn at the hospital while she was getting her ultrasound. For most of the rest of the episode Wes tenderly cared for an increasingly unstable Cordelia as she started getting taken over by her little demon babies. (And, Wesley being Wesley, had to of course get knocked out cold by Cordy while she escaped from Angel's apartment.)

The final scene of the episode is well-known for Cordy's cute little fib about agreeing to allow a producer to impregnate her with demon seed and her equally famous "sex is bad" statement. But my favorite part marked a rare occasion where Cordelia was actually able to acknowledge her appreciation for everything her good friends Angel and Wesley had done for her. When she said "Okay. I learned that I have two people I trust absolutely with my life. And that part's new.", I almost needed a tissue for my "allergies".

David Nabbit. From the point of her maternity on forward, Cordy almost literally had nothing more to hide from Wes (and Angel, of course). For her, sharing a big intimate secret was a liberating moment. Cordy knew she could rely on Wesley as a trusted sounding board as she continued on with her exploration of her own sexuality.

Nabbit, or course, was the Bill Gates-like nerdy multi-millionaire (billionaire?) in "War Zone" who made his money in the software industry. Nabbit was everything Cordelia normally hated. It took Cordelia a distressingly long time to stop her golddigger ways, since it was love at first sight for Nabbit's money. For her, it was not a matter of "could I learn to love this rich man", but more like "could I ever have sex with this geek?"

In this scene Cordelia's Freudian slip was showing in a huge way when she informed Nabbit "I like David. It's such a strong, masculine name. It just feels good in your mouth." Thankfully, gallant Wesley was there to rescue her when he firmly took hold of her arms and gently guided her away while simultaneously hissing "Feels good in your mouth?"

And what about this scene where she babbled inartfully about "prostituting" herself in order to get closer to Nabbit's money? I've often said that Wesley was non-judgmental of Cordelia as she explored her sexuality. Of course Wesley was mildly disapproving of Cordelia's talk of prostituting herself, but it was interesting to see how she dropped the idea almost immediately afterwards. Cordy could bring up the subject with Wesley, safely knowing that she couldn't possibly say anything that would drive him away. Wes wouldn't let her get too carried away, and would eventually put her back on the safe path. It almost seemed like it wasn't so much that Cordy was testing her boundaries, but taking satisfaction from affirming that Wesley still cared enough to keep providing her with the strong boundaries. Similar to my last post where I guessed Cordelia would have been dismayed if Wesley had actively chased after her in Sunnydale, she might have been equally disappointed if Wes advised her to go all out in hooking up with Nabbit.

Wesley had sex? I always make a big deal about this scene in Season 2's "Dear Boy" where it was revealed that Wesley had sex with a bleached blonde. There are a number of ways you can interpret Cordelia's reaction when she told Wes, "That's unbelievable. I didn't think you ever had sex." Angel probably couldn't have cared less what Wesley was up to since he probably knew every time Wes slept with a girl. Was Wesley trying to keep his lifestyle hidden from Cordelia, since it might have brought up issues of double standards? (I go into more detail about his presumed secret life here.)

Angel was pretty much in the open about his desire to vet all of Cordelia's dates ahead of time. Wesley wasn't as up front as Angel, but still let it be known that he didn't want Cordelia running with a fast crowd, particularly if it meant they would be running into each other! (Though admittedly Wes would have been hanging out at English-style pubs while Cordelia would have been hitting the clubs.) I'm not sure if I'm convinced of this myself, but I'd like to think that it might have been important to Wesley that Cordelia look up to him, or that he have the appearance of being somewhat faithful to Cordelia even though they didn't have a romantic relationship. For all of her bluntness about sexuality, Cordelia still seemed to have a few hangups (particularly concerning Angel and his sex life). Wesley might have also feared that she would have been stunned at some of his more adventurous revelations.

Regardless, it's probably closer to the truth that Wesley went out with women from time to time, and he just didn't want Cordelia to make it a steady topic of conversation at the Hotel. Also, let's not forget the obvious: Cordelia couldn't believe someone as dorky as Wesley was getting some while someone as beautiful as Cordelia was sitting home dateless on a Saturday night.

Cordelia again made kind of a big deal out of it when she found out that Wesley had slept with Virginia in "Guise Will Be Guise". She was certainly sending out mixed messages about the tabloid pictures of Wesley where he was "all over" Virginia, which Cordy and Angel both explained away as jealousy that Cordelia wasn't the one in the spotlight. I'd often wondered if Wesley was the neglected toy that Little Girl Cordelia didn't even think about until another Little Girl (Virginia) came along and took him away.

Couplet. I laugh at certain drama queens in my life (both male and female) who can't seem to do anything without informing the entire world of their every move. By the time Groo showed up at the Hyperion Hotel in Season 3's "Couplet", Cordelia was not only ready for sex, she was eager to share it all with her two cherished friends. Notice how Cordelia didn't share her intimacies with Lorne, Fred and Gunn. For better or worse, Angel and Wesley were the two trusted loved ones whom she could come to with her most intimate details, like her dilemmas about possibly losing her "visionity" and obtaining the supernatural prophylactic so she could have "comshuk" with the Groosalugg.

Angel and Wes were a bit flustered by her sex talk, but they allowed Cordelia to babble on. In a way, kind of how parents feel, there's something deeply rewarding about being trusted enough to be taken advantage of by someone who knows you'll always be there. However, even Angel had his breaking point, as he sent Cordelia and Groo away for a few weeks so he wouldn't have the privilege of hearing all about her personal triumphs with her brand new sex life.

Closing Thoughts. As far as I can remember, "Couplet" marked the last of Cordy sharing her intimacies with Wes. When she and Groo came back from their vacation, Wesley was estranged from the group. By the time he worked his way back into the group, Cordy had been taken over by Jasmine.

I debated about putting this in the main body of my post, and I even debated about including this in my post at all. But I did want to at least mention Wes and Cordy's conversation about the sexual "vibe" Cordelia was picking up from Bethany in Season 2's "Untouched". Wes, with Cordy's help, figured out that telekinetic Bethany had been abused by her father. There was no "Cordelia exploring her sexuality with Wesley" thing going on, but they were able to comfortably talk about the subject on a somewhat clinical level. I can't decide if Cordy would have been able to talk to Gunn about her suspicions if Wesley hadn't been around.

I've written a lot about Wes and Cordy's constant bickering. I've also discussed how it might have been a way to relieve some of the tension between the two of them. I like to focus on this scene in Season 1's "Five by Five" where Cordelia announced to Phantom Dennis (when he was stopping Wes and Cordy from entering her apartment), "Don't worry. Hell will freeze over before I have sex with him." (This was a reference to how the last time she had sex in her apartment she was impregnated with demon spawn). Wesley of course responded with "Thank goodness for small favors". I'm convinced that Wesley would not have minded resuming his Sunnydale relationship with Cordy, but Cordy probably had a "been there, done that" attitude towards Wes. Still, if I had been in her shoes and I was working with someone whom I had absolutely no romantic or sexual interests in, I would have behaved quite differently. We often talk about physical or romantic attractions in terms of fire and flames. I can't help but compare Cordelia's feelings for Wesley to a fire that's been mostly extinguished, but still smolders with a few glowing embers.

Wesley was obviously talking about Fred when he scolded Angel in Season 5's "Smile Time" by telling him "..... if there's a woman out there... who you find truly attractive, who you think about, let's say, most of the time, who represents even part of what you think makes the world worth fighting for and who doesn't view you as an entirely sexless shoulder to lean have to do something about it." However, Wesley could have just as easily been talking about Cordelia. He must have felt like her gay hairdresser at times.

It's hard to talk about the sexual aspect of Wes and Cordy's relationship without making it sound like Big Brother Wesley looking out for Little Sister Cordelia. He was not her boss and he was not controlling her behaviors. More than anything, I think their relationship was about security, with the two of them always knowing they could rely on each other. I didn't include any discussion of Wesley looking to Cordelia for guidance as described in these scenes here and here, mostly because I've blogged about the scenes before and because they didn't fit in the overall theme of this post. However, Wesley was just as capable of leaning on Cordelia for moral support, which is a subject I wish was explored more thoroughly on Angel. In some ways Season 3 marked the zenith of their relationship. We can only imagine how their friendship could have become even deeper if the writers hadn't felt compelled to split up the group.

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