Here’s me coming clean about my inspiration for this post: I’ve been watching a lot of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Now Angel, he’s clearly Byronic Hero. He’s a vampire. I think it is hard to be a vampire and not be a Byronic hero. His modern day subversion is that his “dark past” isn’t always behind him, and Buffy falls in love with him after he becomes good (initially). Also another part of his
subversion is that Angel is not always the dominant figure in the driving relationship of the first three seasons. Now what could be more subversive to the machismo archetype than if it was a little blonde girl who could just as easily be on the cheerleading squad?
- She has a ward. This is my all time favorite indicator of a Byronic Hero. Rochester has Adele. Michael Corleone has the family. Hawkeye Pierce has the sanctity of the medical profession in a desecrated scenario. Angel has Buffy. And Buffy has the fate of the world.
- A troubled past. Buffy has a past that troubles her, though not necessarily troubled. Definitely her current situation is more troubling, but when confronted with the possibility that her Slayer duties/powers might not last forever, Buffy beats herself up over the fact that she has nothing else to offer the world based on who she was before her calling was known.
- Struggles with personal conception of morality and society’s concept. Buffy often does things that she sees as moral and keeps her actions from others. Harboring and caring for Angel, dating vampires, and keeping information from her friends and mother.
- Exile from society. Buffy, who once was very popular before her Slayer days, is definitely on the fringe. In school and in her town.
- Most importantly, Buffy is independent. There is no doubting that Angel is a Byronic hero, more closely and literally than Buffy in the classical mode. Byronic heroes can’t really be in relationships with a modern woman so this provides proof that Buffy is a modern woman. Even Jane Eyre, who is heralded as somewhat independent, making a moral opposed to romantic decision to leave Rochester at least until it is moral to be with him, lives to care of the blinded Rochester. Angel and Buffy don’t end up together. And she moves on with her life.
I’m having a lot of trouble identifying other Byronic heroines. Based on a theory I had earlier that all TV doctors are Byronic heroes (Hawkeye Pierce, Doug Ross, John Dorian, Gregory House) I thought maybe Temperance Brennan from Bones might be a Byronic hero (are you getting that I really like David Boreanaz?) But that show is based around the fact that Brennan and Booth combine to make the hero, so they characteristics are of Byronic hero are almost split between the two protagonists.
*These are just the ravings of someone who has been rapidly intaking way too much Buffy the Vampire Slayer. They may or may not be valid at all.