Thursday, April 22, 2010

Someone To Look Out For Me - Sunnydale

I never feel like I can find the right words to describe the unique relationship Wesley Wyndam-Pryce and Cordelia Chase enjoyed in the Buffyverse. To say that they were "good friends" doesn't even come close to describing what they meant to each other. I try to cover up for my lack of quality in being able to express myself by going for pure quantity instead, as you can tell from the fact that, at this time, I now have 23 posts tagged as "Wes and Cordy".

As I hinted at in a recent post, there is one intriguing little recurring theme that keeps popping up, and that's Cordelia's sexuality. In "Wesley and His Women", I wrote,
I believe I might have posted something weird in the past like "Cordelia felt she was safe to experiment with her sexuality" around Wesley. A person could get kind of a wild picture of what I was trying to say without a more complete explanation.
I then realized that even though the very beginning of the relationship ended in, if we can stretch the definition a bit, sexual failure, it hardly ended Cordelia's exploration of her own sexuality.

From the very beginning, in Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Season 3's "Consequences", Cordelia came on to Wesley in a huge way, which shook him up immensely. From then on out, until the Season 3 finale "Graduation Day", their relationship consisted of a series of encounters where Cordelia flirted outrageously with Wesley, and he mostly reacted like a bumbling fool. I wrote this post, "Wes & Cordy: Not Quite a Love Story" fairly recently about how Wes and Cordy's days at Sunnydale affected their relationship throughout Angel. The post was quite long, but there were a few points I think I should have pushed a bit further.

One point I made in my previous post was how Cordelia was obviously on the rebound from her relationship with Xander. I also figured there may have been an element of coming onto Wesley as a way to get back at Xander, but I also thought Cordelia was still genuinely attracted to Wesley. I should have went on to say that she was more attracted to what Wesley represented rather than to Wesley as a person. Xander was a "loser" in her mind, and she wanted her next boyfriend to be as far away from Xander in personality and background as possible. Xander was an adolescent dork, where (we can laugh about it now) Wesley was supposedly a cultured, more sophisticated grown man. Cordelia was willing to overlook all evidence to the contrary.

Cordelia, as a teenage girl, from a wealthy family at that, was firmly caught in society's double standards. She couldn't have a sex life since she risked having all of her intimate details scribbled on the bathroom walls. However, she had to somehow find a way to develop her femme fatale skills so she could land and retain a wealthy husband, keep him sexually interested in her, and live the lifestyle she had become accustomed to and felt she deserved. We were only starting to learn at this time that her parents had been sent to prison for tax evasion and that Cordelia suddenly found herself in a much lower station in life.

It's hard to believe that the gorgeous Cordelia Chase could possibly be unlucky in love, but that's one of the things that made her appealing. Just because she had looks and (presumably) money didn't mean that everything came easily to her. I have not seen her in Season 1 of Buffy at all, and only caught sight of her a few times in Season 2. As a result, I've only really seen her in light of how she related to Xander. What I do know is that she probably sacrificed a lot of her social status by deciding to hang out with Xander and the rest of the Scoobies, and sacrificed even more when she and Xander broke up. What a humiliation to give it all up (relatively speaking) for Xander, only to have Xander cheat on her. His "cheating" on her was relatively mild (he and long-time friend Willow were caught kissing), and there was no reason why they shouldn't have been able to patch up their differences just like Willow and Oz. However, Cordelia was much more fragile than anyone realized, which she constantly tried to hide with her Bitch Queen persona. Having Xander cheat on someone as lovely as herself was just too much for Cordelia to handle.

So in came Wesley at just the right time for her, and perhaps the wrong time for him. What Cordelia got out of the relationship was a chance to repair her ego by flirting with Wesley and practicing some ideas she had in how she could turn a man into a complete bowl of Jello every time she said something mildly suggestive (with "mildly" being the key word.) Wesley was tormented by his impure thoughts of what he wanted to be doing with this luscious underage cheerleader, but it was a sweet kind of torment for him nonetheless. After a bit of gruff counseling from Giles, Wesley finally worked up the courage to ask the newly-turned 18-year old Cordelia to dance with him at the Graduation Ball.

I was disappointed that the audience really couldn't get a good glimpse of Wesley and Cordelia while they were dancing, but it appeared that, after a bit of awkwardness in the beginning, they were starting to nestle in quite nicely together. Presumably they broke apart and went their separate ways immediately after the dance, but both of them had achieved their important short-term objectives. Cordelia found that she could lure someone in to asking her to dance after she had waged a successful campaign, and Wesley was able to hold a beautifully winsome girl in his arms, if only for a little while. The next day, (I think), when they kissed in the library, the spell was broken. Wesley wasn't the sophisticated handsome prince; he was a bumbling twit. Cordelia wasn't the sexual enchantress of his fantasies; she was just an immature schoolgirl. That was why they gave up on each other so easily, since there was nothing of substance between them to fall back on.

One good thing that came out of their Sunnydale experiences is that, even though Wesley was obviously Cordelia's patsy, he provided a safe outlet for her romantic explorations. He was a perfect gentleman who would never betray her trust. I think Cordelia realized that deep down, and probably would have been quite shocked and dismayed if Wesley actually acted on his impulses with her right away. It would be a bit of a stretch to say that Wesley learned his lesson regarding the differences between infatuation and love. However, he still managed to mature a bit from his encounter, and gained a wonderful friend in Cordelia as a pleasant side benefit.

In my next post I'll focus on how Wesley's status in Cordelia's life changed from being the object of her infatuation to her protector.

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