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20 October 2003 @ 12:13 pm
I remembered!  
I remembered the gist of that scene I'd written and lost! Ha ha ha ha! The brain cells cling to the tree like leaves--dry and flapping but tenacious in the face of a chilling wind!


The concept was my attempt to explain Wes's personality changes over time, how the stiff British watcher-geek could morph into rogue demon hunter and then *back* into geek, and then become Wes 4.0, the new, improved, scruffier version with the deadly competence at guns and the deep sexiness, a Wes who has the mellow bitterness of a good whisky. I can't really figure him out (setting aside meta issues of writing and plot expediency and such). I'm not sure I know what makes people change. I don't have experience with people who adopt personas or who exhibit that kind of fast, erratic personal development, though I can believe they exist. It says to me that Wes is layered and volatile. He seems reliable, day to day, and yet he shows a willingess to make major life changes on short notice: he gives up watcherhood, hits the road to slay demons then joins up with a vampire, takes Connor and is ready to disappear forever, sleeps with the enemy, sets up his own operations, keeps a woman locked in a closet, etc.

He has all those father issues; when we see him on BtVS, the ultracorrect watcher in the pristine suits, he was probably following his father's role model, or trying to meet his father's expectations. But was he always like that? It's hard for me to see it, because of how he blossoms later; Wesley of Sunnydale is all artifice and picky manners, trying to carry out traditional watcher duties. I tend to think that all personality is veneer most of the time, but if you were going to compare early Wes with late Wes, Watcher Wes with Dark Wes, and ask which is truer and which is falser, I'd say that the more affected role is his watcher role, whereas his dark cynicism and competence after leaving A.I. isn't affected. He's just living in his skin there, getting by as best he can, trying to impress no one.

It's interesting to compare his show-offy, puffed-up exposition on BtVS--at a time when his knowledge was purely theoretical and bookish--to later developments, where it's *still* theoretical and bookish a lot of the time, but he's obviously come to realize the limitations of that knowledge. Also, though, he knows how to use it more effectively for what it is, and he's got a lot more experience under his belt as the years pass.

Anyway, all this is to say that darkness and complexity like that doesn't just grow out of nowhere; it makes Wes's Sunnydale watcher days seem suspiciously like the aberration, a role adopted as camouflage, out of necessity and fear--it's his first assignment, of course, and it must be a prize, considering that there's usually only ever one active slayer at any given time, compared to dozens if not hundreds of watchers. But if I were to imagine backstory, I'd imagine him operating here under paternal pressure, puppet strings being pulled, threats levied. Watcher Wes has the high, buffed shine of someone who is trying to redeem himself from *earlier* disgrace, failed rebellion. He also has the anxiety of someone who needs to prove to himself he's something other than what he fears. So, what happened? He tried to break away from his father and the career he'd been fated to, and things went bad. He didn't make it on his own; tried another career and made a hash of it. Or, like Giles qua Ripper, tried another lifestyle and nearly self-destructed, came close to the edge, scared himself straight for a time. Literally or figuratively.

Annnnnnnnyway. That's just a lot of contextual frill around a paragraph's worth of awkward dialogue in which I reduce all of Wes's problems to Sordid Sexual Trauma:
Wes rebeled against his father when younger and explored his sexuality by going out to clubs. One night he got into an ugly scene; wasn't raped so much as pressured to submit to group sex. He recounts what happened and says, "They weren't forcing me physically, but their persuasion was...forceful. There came a particular point when I thought, 'I could strike him, I could try to get away.' But I was afraid...it wasn't even that I might lose in a fight. I was afraid to find out that I'd need to fight. If there was no struggle, then surely I was making the choice to stay. I didn't want to find out that the men I'd been drinking and laughing with might go that far. I wanted to believe in their better natures."
After all that, in the cold harsh light of day--like Ted on "Queer as Folk"--a guy might drop a certain lifestyle of drugs, clubs, and excess and return to the straight and narrow, or try to.

Yeah, I'm a cheap and evil girl.
Chasechase820 on October 20th, 2003 01:14 pm (UTC)
I think you could wank a really fascinating backstory on how Wesley Wyndam-Pryce got the plum assignment of Faith's watcher at the tender age of twenty-something. Did Papa Wyndam-Pryce pull strings and call in favors and perhaps resort to a bit of blackmailing to get his son the job? Was there a big old under-the-table brou-ha-ha over his machinations? Was Wesley aware of this, and ashamed of it? Not just ashamed of having his appointment rigged by his father, but also that he let his father put him in such an impossible situation? Submitted to his father's will and toddled off to America like a good little boy?

That would explain his extreme nervousness in Sunnydale, as well as his determination to do everything by the book: his father might have cheated to get him this job, but by gum, he was going to do his best to prove that he was worthy of the position, however he obtained it. Imagine his extreme humiliation when he was subsequently fired from a job he never really deserved in the first place. (Although this, too, might well have been a political move by his father's adversaries on the council, meant to humiliate the father more than the son).

How does the Watcher for the Slayer get elected, anyway? Is it like the pope? Is there a college of watchers who scheme and lie and cheat to get their guy elected? This would fit in with the greyness of the WC in general. I can imagine all kinds of Borgia-esque shenanigans going on over the years.
daddy's not done talkingros_fod on October 20th, 2003 01:20 pm (UTC)
I'd say that the more affected role is his watcher role, whereas his dark cynicism and competence after leaving A.I. isn't affected. He's just living in his skin there, getting by as best he can, trying to impress no one.

I love all of this, but that quote above rings so true, I think a lightbulb actually went off somewhere. Not anywhere in my vincinity, but still.

Wes, when not indebted to anyone, when working purely from his own motivations, who is the person that he really is under those circumstances. He keeps surprising me again and again, and it's testimony to the believability of his volatile nature that I think we swallow those surprises. Justin in his closet? WHOAH, we say. But we don't actually question it, it doesn't seem false. At least not to me. I'm not sure we've seen exactly where his limit is; and man, GOD, that's sexy.
twi: Eyetwistingflame on October 20th, 2003 01:30 pm (UTC)
I love this recent influx of moments from your brain. They're so insightful.
Dio: dio's faith (mouseincanada)diachrony on October 20th, 2003 01:44 pm (UTC)
Your brain deserves much petting and admiration.

Sadly, I did not get to see the dark-Wesley episodes, not having been an AtS viewer since S1 up till now, but I crave them based on the delicious tidbits I glean from your LJ.
Minim Calibre: WesNewminim_calibre on October 20th, 2003 01:56 pm (UTC)
Note to self: dig up my long, half-finished Progression of one Mister Wesley Wyndam-Pryce, (ex)Watcher, finish, and post.

(I'm attempting to convince myself that other people may perhaps be able to benefit from my overwhelming obsessive overthinking, you see.)
The Larch: suck it (by lovebytez)the_larch on October 20th, 2003 01:57 pm (UTC)
I love Bree Sharp
Yeah, I'm a cheap and evil girl.

Yes, you are. But that's why we love you.
gwynnega on October 20th, 2003 02:07 pm (UTC)
I've said it before, I'll likely say it again - I love your Wes ponderings...
Lumenara Dhahm: geeklumenara on October 20th, 2003 02:09 pm (UTC)
Mmm, character exploration. This kind of thing is the reason I really love fandom.
flaming june: Kiss_flaming_june_ on October 20th, 2003 03:24 pm (UTC)
Me too, me too! I'm loving your Wes-ponderings, and I'm so glad you've turned your attention to him recently.
Malkin Greymalkingrey on October 20th, 2003 03:53 pm (UTC)
What I've never been sure of, myself, is whether Wesley, when he was first sent off to Sunnydale, was being deliberately set up to fail. Even if he was somebody's fair-haired boy, it's hard to imagine the Council seriously thinking that he was up to conducting an undeclared turf war on top of an active Hellmouth with the likes of Rupert Giles, not to mention wrangling not one but two volatile and non-Council-indoctrinated Slayers.

At any rate, when he first shows up he is (at least to me) painfully young, and desperately afraid of humiliation, failure, and physical pain. The man we see now has supped full of all three . . . and while he acknowledges their power, he doesn't fear it any more.
Jane Bluestockingj_bluestocking on October 20th, 2003 05:03 pm (UTC)
What I'm going to say may be blindingly obvious, but I shall cautiously say it anyway. Wesley strikes me as someone who played a role until the role became real, in a deeper sense than he expected. And I actually find that realistic.

Superficial example: In my younger days -- throughout college and for a few years thereafter -- I was oblivious to fashion. I mean, really and utterly. Didn't know polyester from silk, what people were wearing even in the broadest sense, or what looked good. I just never paid any attention to my appearance. And one day I thought, "It's all very well to be the intellectual sort, but wouldn't it be nicer to be the intellectual sort who doesn't look like the underside of a mattress you find in the gutter?" So, as I said to a friend at the time, "I think I'm going to fake being normal."

I learned about clothes, experimented with what looked good, etc. One day, about three years later, I was commenting to a group of friends about a good deal I'd gotten on an electric blue silk shirt at Bloomingdale's. My friend said, "By the way, I've been meaning to tell you, you're doing a fabulous job."

"At what?" "Passing for normal," she said, and I looked at her blankly until the penny dropped. They were my own words, but I'd entirely forgotten. I wasn't faking anything any more; I'd formed my own taste.

"My god," I said, "I'm like one of those spies who goes undercover so long, he joins the other side."

Or when I was a little kid, I decided to zoom around underwater one day. "I'm pretending I'm swimming!" I announced. It took me a while to figure out that if I was propelling myself through the water unaided, I wasn't pretending.

The Watchers, to me, felt like a suit of clothes Wesley had put on. He hadn't yet grown into them. Maybe he would have, over time, but when we first meet him he's young and has a rulebook he's desperately trying to follow. He's pretending he's swimming, but it hasn't become real yet. (Hmm. I was going to reference The Velveteen Rabbit here, but I'll control myself.)

Then circumstances change. He's not comfortable on the road he used to travel, so he chooses a new template to follow -- rogue demon hunter! But it's so clearly a heroic role that he's half-trying to believe he can grow into, and half believing that he's faking.

And then that funny thing happens, that happens to all of us over time. You pretend long enough, it becomes real. A new recruit can pretend to be a soldier, but after a year on campaign, a year of uncertain food and seeing limbs blown off, he's just about forgotten it was ever a pretense. That's Wesley in LA, moving away from silly-ass Watcher. Seeing things and growing to fit, no longer looking for "what would Rogue Demon Hunter do now," but "how do I solve this crisis any way I can, without hurting people?" And thereby becoming Rogue Demon Hunter. When it's no longer a role, you are it.

And then there's Dark Wes. And delicious darkness comes in drama, as it nearly always does, from the bitterness of hurt and disillusionment. A reactive change, this time. The kind that happens when you have to throw out all nonessential moralities and worldviews, and go for what works for the burnt-out, hollow core. And what works is sheer, bloody efficiency that doesn't wring its hands over the pain of others, whether you feel that pain or not.

It's primal stuff, that kind of darkness; it makes criminals and saints. It's post-crucible: "I see the world differently -- the veil is gone, all is stark and clear." It's hard to judge, sometimes, whether a character gone that dark is insane or closer to reality, but in a literary sense we accept that they should no longer be judged by the same rules. That's why we're right there when the Count of Monte Cristo demands satisfaction, though we might object if someone else tried the same thing.

I don't actually find Wes that mercurial. Though a fannish writer could just as fairly decide that he had multiple personality disorder, I suppose. It's all in the interpretation.