Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Josette & Angelique: A gothic Betty and Veronica?

Those were my thoughts the other day as I was watching episodes of the 1795 story arc. But moments after pressing the "Tweet" button I had another thought: Is the Angelique/Josette rivalry a riff on the Betty and Veronica feud from Archie comics?

I don't think these similarities are intentional, but that doesn't mean they aren't there. But in Dark Shadows' own perverse manner it transformed Veronica into the spoiled innocent, while Betty is made a corrupt bully.

I think it's safe to say that Barnabas is just as clueless as Archie (though Vampire Barnabas is more of a Reggie.) I don't know who Jughead would be.

The 1795 story arc is probably my favorite in the entire series and is where Dark Shadows becomes the show we remember. The 1795 story  is rich and complex, and only grows more complicated the deeper into it we get. The story also establishes one of Dark Shadows' favorite motifs: when all else fails, feed your dangling plot points to Barnabas.

It also has some of the show's best villains in Nathan Forbes, the Reverend Trask, Angelique and, eventually Barnabas Collins. But the story also features one of my least favorite characters in the entire series: Josette Du Pres.

This isn't a criticism of Katherine Leigh Scott, who I admire a great deal. Given the opportunity I'll watch pretty much anything she does, and the existence of Pomegranate Press is a testament to how smart and capable she really is. As far as I'm concerned KLS is a superhero.

But Josette was always an appallingly underwritten character and it's kind of shameful that she was more interesting dead than she ever was alive. It's never really made clear why Barnabas Collins is in love with her (a phenomenon that even Lara Parker struggled to explain in her Dark Shadows novels) and Josette sometimes seems like a character that's wandered in from another television show. She would have been much more at home on an episode of Bonanza. She certainly would have been happier.

I understand that Josette is supposed to be an innocent, and in that regard the character works. She is clearly out of her depth and is nothing more than a pawn in Angelique's campaign to conquer Barnabas. Josette is a child who is trapped in the middle of a very adult war, and if you were to remove the supernatural elements from the story she would still be at a loss to defend herself.

But Josette is further hobbled by the writers obvious love of Angelique, whose character is given the chance to develop through genuine drama and conflict. It's always a little ambiguous whether or not Angelique really loves Barnabas or if she just hates to hear the word "No" (it might be a little bit of both.) As the story begins to wind down, though, we see that Angelique is not nearly as corrupt as we were lead to believe. She's treated like trash by the Collins family and has the backbone to defy them on nothing more than moral principle. And, when Joshua tries to bribe her with a sum equal to millions of today's dollars, she still gives him the metaphorical finger.

Lara Parker was always baffled as to why Angelique became a feminist icon in the '60s, but when your competition faints whenever the wind changes direction ... well, Angelique is clearly the more independent figure.

Winner: Angelique.


Anonymous said...

Barnabas loves Josette because she is sweet and innocent - simple as that.

Angelique's love for Barnabas turned into obsession.

Anonymous said...

Jughead is easily matched to Willie Loomis/Ben Stokes


Melissa said...

It's been hinted at that Barnabas was a bit of a ruthless bastard even before his transformation. My theory is that Josette appealed to him because she was everything he would have liked to be, but wasn't; and that Angélique simultaneously appealed to him and repelled him because she was so much like he really was. Jeremiah really was a better match for Josette, if they had all lived long enough to realize it and forgive each other.

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