Angel’s Fred and Post-Traumatic Stress

Spike and Giles... Together at Last

I’m in the middle of a re-watch for Whedon’s Angel, and I’m now on the last season where our plucky crew has taken the bait and are manning Wolfram and Hart. There’s a lot of great nuggets to draw inspiration from both as a writer and a fan of Whedon’s work, in particular the fact that this series, despite being on the air from 1999 to 2004, is still relevant and innovative for 2015. (And the show’s been off the air for more than a decade, so in my mind it’s safe to discuss it without fear of spoilers.)

While Fred (Winifred Burkle’s) character arc ends terribly and tragically, there is something remarkable about her introduction. Her evolution as a character deals with overcoming her traumatic and terrible situation after being sucked into a hell dimension. Py’lea introduced a tough topic, human slavery, which was something that the writers could address because their owners were demons. Breaking down Fred’s story is interesting, because she’s an escaped slave who finds coping mechanisms to deal with what she’s experienced, to survive.

What I was very interested in, is what happened to her when she returned to L.A. She didn’t magically “get better” and rush into her parent’s arms, the writers enhanced her character by allowing her to show a range of emotions, some of which were caused by post-traumatic stress. To me, this is brilliant writing because her character arc doesn’t keep progressing linearly until she’s totally moved on and one hundred percent better. She has bouts where she tries something new to get past the hurt, but then regresses before dealing with that specific issues. Each problem is different from the last, and she doesn’t necessarily move forward for each action. For example, she tries to go to Caritas, and the place is attacked. But, instead of cowering in a corner, she eventually stands up and grabs a crossbow. She has a sense of survival and that echoes through the way she deals with her trauma.

Her need to survive is something that is part of her nature, and that’s what pulls her through all of her bad experiences. Not because she’s physically stronger, but because she’s strong-willed and this is who she is. Her desire for self-preservation is what distinguishes her and sets her apart from the way other victims are often portrayed in television and other forms of media. When bad things happen to real people? We don’t give up and stand aside for someone else to save us, and Fred’s character reflects that truth.

Despite being enslaved, Fred escapes and finds a way to survive though she’s stuck in a demon world. Despite finding out the truth that she’d been betrayed by a mentor, she doesn’t freeze up with fear and let her professor victimize her again. She wants to do something about it, and that desire to channel her anger by turning the tables on him, a natural reaction, is the source of an argument between her and then-boyfriend Gunn, who wound up removing her free will to protect her from the consequences of her terrible choice. There are other, subtle clues written into her character as well in the way that Fred’s represented by Amy Acker, too, that brings deeper aspects forth. Like how jumpy she is, the way she walks and hunches her shoulders, her outbursts and clenched fists. It’s brilliant all around, and there’s even a slight shift in her character after Angel’s spell to remove all memories of Connor, too.

I’m hoping that by sharing these types of examples with you, you’ll be inspired to take a closer look at some of your favorite characters for inspiration either to appreciate them or learn from them. Lastly, if you’re not familiar with it, here’s how the NIMH defines post-traumatic disorder.

    Mood: I’d like winter to be over now. Thanks!
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: I’m so over-caffeinated I need to cut it out today completely.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: A walk. Remarkably. In the cold.
    In My Ears: Coffee is percolating, but I’m resisting it!
    Game Last Played: Ni-No Kuni Wrath of the White Witch
    Book Last Read: The History of Magic by Eliphas Levi
    Movie Last Viewed: Sabotage
    Latest Artistic Project: Ch-ch-ch-ch-chainmaille!
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Last Man Zombie Standing.
    Latest Game Release: Things Don’t Go Smooth
    What I’m Working On: Primarily tie-in games work, original comics, and novels.




Monica Valentinelli is a writer, editor, and game developer. Her portfolio includes stories, games, comics, essays, and pop culture books.

In addition to her own worlds, she has worked on a number of different properties including Firefly, Vampire: the Masquerade, Shadowrun, Hunter: the Vigil, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, and Robert E. Howard’s Conan.

Looking for Monica’s books and games that are still in print? Visit Monica Valentinelli on Amazon’s Author Central or a bookstore and game store near you.

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