Cordelia Chase was a regular character in Buffy The Vampire Slayer TV show and one of the protagonists in its spin-off Angel, portrayed by the amazing actress Charisma Carpenter. The character started as a self-important cheerleader and a queen bee of Sunnydale High, the leader of the clique named Cordettes, and a spoiled rich brat whose primary problem in life was the choice of outfit for a night out at the Bronze. Cordelia was brutally honest and tactless, which often came out as rude. The writers of the shows often used her honesty as comic relief and a point of breaking narrative tension, making the tone of the character come off as endearing rather than annoying. Cordelia’s ability to speak her mind no matter what is what made us laugh again and again, even if the situation wasn’t particularly funny.
In the beginning, Cordelia Chase was a character you thought you knew what to expect from. However, her character development led us to uncover layers beneath this seemingly shallow girl. She was never just a stupid self-centered popular girl. She was smart, had the power of critical thinking and actually cared for others, even when it didn’t seem so. In her later character arc, she became a heroine in her own right because she was the only one in Angel Investigations who never lost track of how to fight the good fight. In the end, her final good-doing turned Angel back on the right path and helped him defy the evil incarnate Wolfram and Heart.
Frankly, My Dear, Cordy Doesn’t Give a Damn
Whether talking about her willfulness, attitude, or confidence, Cordelia Chase always withstands scrutiny. She wears her traits with pride; She is opinionated and never reserves herself from sharing that opinion, wanted or not; She shares her opinions when they make sense and when they don’t make sense, when they are selfish and when they are selfless. If Cordy thinks it, Cordy says it. She doesn’t flinch, and doesn’t back down, she is who she is and makes no excuses for it.
Cordelia started as a stereotypical cheerleader, on top of the high school food chain, insulting anyone and everyone at her whim, especially the geek Xander. It all changed in the “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” episode of the second season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer when Cordelia stood up as a role model. After another barrage of insults her clique directed at Xander, her newly discovered love interest, Cordelia dumped them on the spot, even calling Harmony a sheep.
It took courage and self-respect to give up her spot in the high school society and pursue her unpopular love interest. And that self-liberation didn’t change her all the way. She didn’t lose sight of who she was. Cordy still dressed the same and behaved the same. She was still snobbish and carried herself with an air of aloofness. She still loved and respected herself equally as before.
This is why it was heartbreaking to see Xander cheating on her with Willow. After catching them in a compromising position, Cordy didn’t waste any time dumping him for good. Even if she knew that was suicide for her social life because being a part of a geek group was preferable to being a lone wolf. But, Cordelia Chase is not the one to sacrifice her self-respect for any reason, not even her own popularity.
Cordelia, the Awesome
Cordelia Chase was never the one to cower in the corner while others fight to protect her. In the episode “Homecoming” in the third season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy and Cordy got abducted and sent to a forest, where several predators were waiting to slaughter them. The plan was initially to abduct the two slayers and kill them, but, due to unforeseen circumstances, Cordy was mistaken for Faith and abducted along with Buffy. While the predators were besieging them in an abandoned cabin, Cordy refused to be hunted down like prey. She grabbed a spatula and started repeatedly hitting the bad guy on the head. Did it help? No. But points for trying.
Of course, she wouldn’t have survived the experience without Buffy’s expertise, and that’s exactly what was bothering her. How can someone else be better at something than Cordelia, the Great? That was a hilarious, yet intriguing, point in the early Cordelia Chase character arc. Buffy wasn’t a normal human, in fact, she was barely a human, a girl with abnormal mystical strength, speed and cunning. Buffy was the Slayer, one in a generation, she alone stands against vampires, demons and forces of darkness. The mere fact that Cordelia thought of herself on the same level as Buffy was endlessly funny, but also very insightful.
As Anya points out in season seven, Buffy can defend herself in a world where mortal danger lurks around every corner, but that doesn’t make her better than everyone else, just luckier. And that’s exactly what Cordy was trying to express the entire time, only to be shut down by Xander, Willow and Giles with their endless scrutiny. This brings me to the final moments of the “Homecoming” episode because, in the end, it wasn’t Buffy’s strength, speed or cunning alone that saved them. And no, it wasn’t the spatula either.
Cordy and Buffy made it back to the Library, only to be ambushed by the last predator. The vampire struck Buffy and knocked her unconscious. Being left at his mercy, Cordy once again refused to be prey. She stepped between him and Buffy and used her audacity to promise the blood-sucker a session in hell if he provoked her. And the vampire bolted right out of there. She is the unbreakable Cordelia Chase and nothing can stop her. Especially not some stupid vampire with no sense of fashion. Remember the ghost who was haunting her apartment in the first season of Angel? Yeah, she met the same fate.
The Heroine with Visions
The Visions first belonged to Doyle and served as a sort of mystical 911 call from the future. Doyle, in turn, served as a dispatcher and sent Angel, the Champion of The Powers That Be, to resolve the matter. When Doyle sacrificed himself to save Cordy, Angel and a bunch of other innocent people (correction: demons), he passed his visions to Cordelia with his last breath (correction: kiss).
But, the Visions had a completely different effect on Cordy. Doyle was a half-human and half-demon which allowed him to bear the Visions with no consequence. However, Cordelia Chase was only a human. Cordy could feel the physical and psychological agony of people in need; she felt like she herself was going through the same motions as the victims of vampire and demon assaults. The Visions, it was revealed, were a perfect telepathic and empathic link between the mystical dispatcher and the future victims.
That’s where Cordelia Chase showed what she was really made of. Even though the Visions were causing her immense pain and damaging her brain, she fought hard on many occasions to keep them. They offered her something she always secretly wanted: her own superpower. On the other hand, she was Cordelia Chase and that alone wouldn’t cut it. In truth, she kept the Visions because, for the first time in her life, she felt like the world was larger than her.
This ordeal showed she possessed an immense power of will. In the alternate timeline from the episode “Birthday” in the third season of Angel, Angel was the one who inherited the Visions. As a vampire with a soul, Angel had every predisposition to experience the Visions in the same manner as Doyle. Alas, that’s not what happened. The Visions utterly destroyed Angel’s mind and he was left a sobbing lunatic. The fact that Cordelia as a human could bear the Visions better than Angel shows her unbendable spirit as her true superpower.
Cordelia Chase is a character with great willpower, empathy and audacity. Her journey is that of a privileged girl to a selfless heroine. She is a representation of a stereotype as an actual living person, with fears, wants, needs and an ability to do great good. And Charisma Carpenter absolutely nailed it!