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Was Cordelia's backstory sufficiently developed?

Mrs Gordo

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We were talking about this on @GraceK 's profile the other day and I thought I would throw this out there. Do you all feel that Cordelia's back story was sufficiently developed?

We know somethings about Cordelia, obviously. Her dad was rich, her mom had epstein bar, her dad got in trouble with the IRS and somehow she lost it all. She never really talks about her parents on AtS outside of the City of ... about having a big house that was not so big as Russell's.

Wesley and Angel's backstory was examined extensively. Angel for obvious reasons he is the titular character and his life is very much shapped by the actions of his past. But Wesley and Gunn's back story is also really well developed and we know about their life at home, Wes' dad, Gunn's sister, Wes' time as a watcher. We obviously got to know Fred's past and her parents well.

Over on BTVS, we got to meet Willow's mom and we know Xander parent's and his difficult home life. And of course we know Buffy's back story.

Could they have done more with Cordelia's backstory? Why do you think they hesitated to show us her parents or give us exposition about her childhood outside of rich-ish girl turns poor?
 

thrasherpix

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Hmmm...I think it was sufficiently if minimally developed, but the character and shows could've benefited from adding more family and personal background (I'd say the same for Xander and Willow as well).
 

slayer730

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The big thing about Cordelia as a character wasn't necessarily who she was but what she who she grew into. I don't think there would be a need to go in depth to her backstory because she was just rich and it honestly doesn't sound all that interesting or like there was much there. I do think thee was room to have her parents pop up like Fred's did however though.
 

Mrs Gordo

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The big thing about Cordelia as a character wasn't necessarily who she was but what she who she grew into.
And I can appreciate that. But isn't that also Wesley's story and to some extent Angel's? And yet we have a rich exploration of where they are from and how their history shaped them. Could Cordelia's character have become more dimensional if we would have been shown some type of family dynamic? Or perhaps they felt that her background as token mean girl was sufficient to have as base line for the growth they wanted to show for her?
 

slayer730

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And I can appreciate that. But isn't that also Wesley's story and to some extent Angel's? And yet we have a rich exploration of where they are from and how their history shaped them. Could Cordelia's character have become more dimensional if we would have been shown some type of family dynamic? Or perhaps they felt that her background as token mean girl was sufficient to have as base line for the growth they wanted to show for her?
Well Angel has years and years of history to tap into so ti makes sense for him.

As far as Wesley, my memory could be hazy but I don't remember them going super extensively into his backstory. There were bread crumbs here and there that implied he had issues with his father but thats all I remember.
 

Mrs Gordo

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Well Angel has years and years of history to tap into so ti makes sense for him.

As far as Wesley, my memory could be hazy but I don't remember them going super extensively into his backstory. There were bread crumbs here and there that implied he had issues with his father but thats all I remember.
Well there is a whole episode about Wesley and his dad Roger "Lineage" and its brought up a number of times, IGYUMS and Belonging. So I think its explored significantly. And we know alot about Wesley and his time as a watcher.
 

Ethan Reigns

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We got enough of her story that we understood what we needed to know. There could have been the reveal that her parents were going to go from riches to rags and we could have seen the shock and the five stages of grief for lost money: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. But I think the writers made the correct choice to not get wrapped around the axle with family ties in Cordelia's case. We never meet her parents or even have descriptions of them. Perhaps meeting them would add to our understanding of the origins of the "mean girl" syndrome but if they went with that, it would be more interesting to make her parents nice, pleasant people like Fred's parents on Angel with no clue as to where the mean girl came from.
 
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WillowFromBuffy

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Cordelia, Xander and Willow's "backstories" are all fill-in-the-blanks and connect-the-dots. I find that I know a lot of stuff about Willow and her relationship to her parents that other people just missed. I wish there was more, but sadly there isn't :(

The writers seem to consider the characters backstories in their writing, which is good.
 

Fool for Buffy

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Her parents definitely could have popped up, and her experience being rich could have been further developed in order to add to the effect of her ending up poor. Although I think the most important backstory we get with Cordy is Out of Mind Out of Sight. It's just a couple flashback scenes, but paired with her present day feelings, it really aids in the understanding of her character in ways that flashbacks do for characters like Spike.
 

thetopher

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Yes. Cordelia was purposefully shallow in terms of background; her story only really begins when she enters Buffy's orbit and that's what changes her and her outlook.
There isn't much in her backstory that is needed to tell her particular story; she's rich, spoiled, her parents aren't really in her life much (like most BtVS characters) and that's it. She's meant to be Buffy's 'shadow self' after all; the road not taken.

Then just take away her background crutch- wealth and privilege- and send her off to LA, and we see her personality develop even further.
 

Taake

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The big thing about Cordelia as a character wasn't necessarily who she was but what she who she grew into. I don't think there would be a need to go in depth to her backstory because she was just rich and it honestly doesn't sound all that interesting or like there was much there. I do think thee was room to have her parents pop up like Fred's did however though.
Yes. Cordelia was purposefully shallow in terms of background; her story only really begins when she enters Buffy's orbit and that's what changes her and her outlook.
There isn't much in her backstory that is needed to tell her particular story; she's rich, spoiled, her parents aren't really in her life much (like most BtVS characters) and that's it. She's meant to be Buffy's 'shadow self' after all; the road not taken.

Then just take away her background crutch- wealth and privilege- and send her off to LA, and we see her personality develop even further.
What we once were informs all that we have become - Darla said once to Angel. In terms of Cordy it's more like - backstory? What backstory?
The whole - she was rich and that's what there was to her, she was Buffy's shadow self, only really works for season 1 or the movie, after that... nah, not good enough for me ;) Truth is they got lazy and relied on Cordy being pretty and snarky and nothing more.

Being rich doesn't mean not having an interesting back story. Kennedy was rich, she'd been training to be a slayer for some time which is interesting (god help me I've spoken well of Kennedy twice this week, this is some @Blaze witchcraft!). Not saying that should've been Cordy's backstory, just saying that being rich and spoled doesn't mean there can't be more to her. Why is she such a bitca, e.g.? Is she hiding something? She's a clever girl, explore that more maybe? Demon parents? Wouldn't be the first time in ol' SunnyD... made some bad investements through an evil snake demon in a frathouse? Also, not new stuff for the verse. Just saying. If they had wanted to flesh out Cordy, they damn well could've.

I just don't think that she needs to be made poor for her personality to develop. I mean, it obviously did within the context of the show, and that the one backstory she really got was "my dad cheated on taxes so now I'm poor" was super trite and a let down from a show like Buffy.

The whole - Cordy's rich so she's a bitch, now she's poor so she's nicer, now she's got visions so she's helping people, oh now she's a higher being btw, is just throwing different things at the character to see what sticks. It has no real resonance because she has no real background. Even if it's boring, let us in on it. Like said quoted above, have her parents pop up. Fred's parents were pretty boring in terms of the supernatural, but they informed her character. Cordy never got that. She's just whatever the other characters need her to be. A disservice to her own character, if I may say so.
 
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Spanky

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Yeah, I never got a whole Cordy backstory vibe. But there wasn't much of a Harmony backstory vibe either. Honestly wasn't much of a Faith backstory vibe either. Not really. You've a rich daddy and a dead watcher. That's about the extent of their backstories. Three characters and not one real backstory between them.
 

Mrs Gordo

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Being rich doesn't mean not having an interesting back story.
Why is she such a bitca, e.g.? Is she hiding something?
This is very true. And this isn't exactly a new trope either. How many movies/shows/books have we read where we meet this uber bitch and then you see them go home to absent parents, or parents who drink or don't care about them, or who expect perfection from them, or just generally have deep seeded insecurities etc. They dance around some of the "I'm just protecting myself" trope but they never really dig deep, especially not as deep as is necessary for a character that you are going to transform from rich, bitch mean girl to all holy saint in a matter of 3 years...or so.

And think of how much they could have done if they would have shown a side to Cordy we never saw in flash backs. Like how her mother was mean to her or put her down. Or if her dad was never around or never present but just bought her things but didn't want to spend time with her. I mean I can think of so many waspy things to give her character that would've shaped her into needed to put up a mean girl persona and that would've cracked once she was on her own or once she is forced into a humbling situation - such as losing all of her parent's money.

Yeah, I never got a whole Cordy backstory vibe. But there wasn't much of a Harmony backstory vibe either. Honestly wasn't much of a Faith backstory vibe either. Not really. You've a rich daddy and a dead watcher. That's about the extent of their backstories. Three characters and not one real backstory between them.
But Harmony and Faith were not basically the female LEAD on the show. Cordelia was marketed as THE female lead - especially going into Season 3. She was a main character on the show the entire time. So I can forgive them for not fleshing out Faith/Harmony whereas I can't really forgive it for Cordy.

And I think they probably did a better job fleshing out Faith's backstory than Cordy. Bit by bit, talking about ex lovers, difficult childhood, and dead watcher.
 
Cordelia, Xander and Willow's "backstories" are all fill-in-the-blanks and connect-the-dots.
I think we get a good dose of Xander's back story. Not just in Amends (sleeping outside), side bar comments regarding fights with his parents but in a major way in Hells Bells.

I wish we would have had more for Willow as well. But I think that Gingerbread was very insightful. Her mother clearly ignored her and reduced her problems to academic arguments rather than connecting emotionally with her. I wish we would have seen more about her dad.

But I think both of these, again, is more than we got from Cordy's life growing up, which was nothing.
 

Spanky

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Cordelia was marketed as THE female lead - especially going into Season 3.
But on Angel Buffy's Cordy WAS her backstory. Her backstory became Sunnydale. Because she had no backstory in Buffy, they figured why give her one in Angel.
 

Carrie Hopewell

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Yeah, Cordelia does not have much of a backstory. I get that BtVS was her backstory, but the same could be said about Angel and Wesley, and their pasts were further explored on AtS. Wesley had episodes like Lineage, Spin the Bottle, Sanctuary to explain his past a bit. Fred's backstory was the Pylea Trilogy and she still had episodes dedicated to her past like Fredless, Supersymmetry, AHITW/Shells. Gunn had a backstory episode, War Zone, to introduce the character but they still explored some of his past in Double or Nothing, That Old Gang of Mine, and some season 2 episodes involving Anne and friends he used to have.

Cordelia, on the other hand, is the only character that doesn't have one episode dedicated to her past. All Cordelia-centric episodes like Room w/a Vu, That Vision Thing, and Birthday are dedicate to current problems, and not her previous life coming to bite her in the ass, for example. Even Spin the Bottle with teen Cordy doesn't tell us anything we didn't already know.
 

Ethan Reigns

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Although I see the point in what @Taake said, when you are a writer, you have to "kill your darlings". You have realize that time spent explaining one thing takes away from time spent on other parts of the story and it is even more important in a TV series because the amount of time is fixed. You could expand a novel by 50 pages to add backstory but you have 22 hours, more than a quarter of which is ads, to tell an entire story of a season. You could make the point that some of the filler episodes in the first two seasons could have been deleted or modified to allow time for the backstory, but what kind of tack do you want to take here? Either Cordelia is a bitch because of how she was raised or in spite of how she was raised but how much do we really care?
 

Mrs Gordo

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Either Cordelia is a bitch because of how she was raised or in spite of how she was raised but how much do we really care?
Honestly, I kinda care. Maybe it would've changed my personnel perspective on her.
 
Or maybe we would've had some perspective on why she seems to come down so hard on other women, or has some interesting and significant positions regarding what it means for a woman to be strong.
 

Spanky

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I get that BtVS was her backstory, but the same could be said about Angel and Wesley, and their pasts were further explored on AtS.
That's because their pasts were explored in Buffy, weren't they? I mean, I know Angel was of course, but wasn't Wesley's also somewhat? Cordy never needed a backstory in BtVS and she didn't need one in AtS.
 

Spanky

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But... why? Why didn't she need one when everyone else, arguably, got one?
Because it wasn't necessary for the character and the stories they told with her. They obviously didn't care about the character to expand on her perfunctory backstory and deemed it not necessary. Why waste time on it if it didn't matter? Because if it mattered it would have been on screen.
 
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