by Neil Faulkner (from Altazine - 2)

For many fans, especially female ones, the central item of interest in B7 as a whole is the Blake/Avon relationship. Everything else pales beside it. It explains almost everything that Avon does (but not so often what Blake gets up to). Is it really that crucial? I'm not so sure.

Niel Faulkner (21K)
For one thing, I can't see this all-dominating Blake/Avon relationship. Maybe I'm blind, but where is it? What does it do to the characters it supposedly involves? And if it is there, where does it come from?

I'm not suggesting there is *no* relationship between Avon and Blake. Of course there is. How could there *not* be? But I can think of several reasons why it might appear to gain undue attention.

Blake and Avon are the two most deeply written characters in the series (with the possible exception of Vila). Consequently any interplay between them will be at a more sophisticated level than interplay with or between other characters, and will thus seem to be of greater importance.

I concede that some higher level of importance might be precisely what contributes to that correspondingly higher level of character development, so we get a chicken-and-egg conundrum. This might have come about because Blake/Avon is the only relationship (in the first two seasons) that takes *conflict* as its focal point. Avon also conflicts with the rest of the crew, but far less so than he does with Blake. Vila in particular is rapidly cowed by Avon. Jenna doesn't argue back, she just says 'No' and walks out.

Avon is a focus of viewer attention. His is the sole contrary attitude to the uniformity of acquiescence to Blake. He is more interesting to script writers than Blake is. His charisma effectively outstrips Blake's, so we get a tension between the two characters, a competing demand for attention. We are, in effect, asked to take sides.

So the B-A relationship assumes greater significance than it actually has, because other relationships are undeveloped to the same degree. This can delude us into thinking that the B-A relationship *is* the most important and most interesting, when in fact it need not be. I would admit it is the most important in a narrative context, since it influences the overall direction of the series and provides a number of plot devices, but it is a functional rather than an actual significance. Other actual relationships (such as Jenna/Cally, Soolin/Vila, Gan/Jenna, Tarrant/Dayna) are relatively unexplored and underdeveloped.

Having adopted the B-A relationship as the most important (and most interesting), fans then proceed to exaggerate it. The conflict between the two assumes greater significance than it is in the series. The conflict is generally one where Avon is Right, and Blake must be defeated, or (less often) one where Blake is Right and Avon must be converted. Overlaid on this are some staggering assumptions about Avon (especially) that are not terribly well supported by the series. Avon, apparently, is an emotional wreck who pretends to be unemotional, has a horror of being touched, and comes to perceive Blake as the Magic Lozenge that will somehow cure him of all his psychological ills - if only he can summon up the courage to take it.

I'm going to stick my neck out a bit and suggest that Avon's confused mental state is a direct result of confusion in the fan mind regarding the role that Avon is asked to play.

Avon is tough, dresses in black leather, shoots people. He is Mr Macho.

Avon is also cold, logical, calculating and supremely competent. He is also a suppresser of his emotions, which apparently means he's got emotional problems and can't communicate emotionally. This strikes me as something of a wishful-thinking extrapolation but a lot of fans go for it. Avon, therefore, is also Mr Spock.

At the same time, Avon is brooding and satanic, and a bit of alright. With many female fans, at any rate, Avon is Mr Stud.

On top of that, he freely suffers on behalf of those he loves. He is, therefore, Mr Romantic.

Avon is a rebel, a challenge to Blake's authority, an outsider. Mr Wild.

These are essentially male roles.

But Avon is also taken to be emotionally inhibited/confused/dysfunctional. In fan fiction he is frequently abused, mentally or physically (or both). I interpret this as Avon the Wounded Child.

The most interesting (and most putative) role I can consider revolves around his supposed obsession with Blake and his dependence on him. This love- hate tension is actually a quasi-*female* role, suggestive of the heroines in slushy romance or Modern Gothics. I know this sounds chauvinist, but we live in a culture where emotional dependence is traditionally the province of women. Male emotional dependence, which is actually abundant, goes unacknowledged. An emotionally dependent Avon might be read as such male dependence, but I'm not so sure. How many female fans claim to identify with Avon? Quite a few.

I would note, incidentally, that emotional dependence largely seems to be Avon's on Blake. Blake's dependence on Avon tends to be more practical, centred around Avon's indispensability to Blake's cause. Avon, therefore, *belongs* to Blake, whether fan opinion rallies around Blake or Avon. Blake is not indispensable to Avon in this way, since Avon has no use for him. This sense of belonging effectively fills out further the quasi-female role I've already suggested for Avon.

I propose, therefore, that Avon is asked to fill, simultaneously, the roles of Man, Woman and Child, and things naturally get confusing. Hence Avon's relationship with Blake, operating in all three spheres, is likewise confused.

That the B-A relationship is not only the most developed and most significant relationship in the series, but also one between *two men*, means there is no attractive female role offered to the female viewer. She must therefore insinuate one into the inter-male relationship by ascribing traditionally female role qualities to one of the male characters. (This is extremely putative, and I expect people to loudly disagree with me. Still I've got to provoke you into contributing somehow. This also suggests that female viewers are short- changed when it comes to getting TV that meets with their demands - somewhat less controversial, perhaps?)

How does this distort the Avon-Blake relationship? Well, I can only report it as I see it, and it doesn't fit in too well with common fan opinion.

Neither Blake nor Avon are emotionally dependant on each other. In fact they are both quite self-sufficient in that department (as are, indeed, all the major characters. There isn't one who couldn't live without another.)

Avon and Blake do not struggle for leadership. Instead they express, argumentatively, differences of attitude and approach. Avon does not challenge Blake's leadership, but his methods. The commands he issues, rather than his right to issue them. Avon does not want leadership, but neither does he wish to be seen as being led. Both contravene his individualism.

Despite their differences of opinion, Blake and Avon recognise each other as educated, intelligent men of shared background. They can regard each other as social equals. There are many occasions in the series when they have perfectly reasonable conversations with each other, but these attract less attention than the arguments. When Avon sees Blake as being right, he readily agrees (but often expanding further on the subject - Avon likes to have the last word). Blake, likewise, doesn't challenge Avon on principle. They can, and do, work together quite voluntarily.

Avon is not an emotional wreck. He may have emotional problems, but he can handle them (whereas many fans see them as being out of control). He knows what he's feeling, and he only lets it show if he feels like it. If he turns it into sarcasm, he knows what he is doing. He does not need Blake to sort out his emotional confusion.

Blake is not a woolly-headed idealist come heartless fanatic, but a politically astute and tactically shrewd revolutionary with what he considers to be a perfectly reasonable agenda. He has no desire to sort out any problems Avon might have, because he knows Avon can manage by himself. He does not depend on Avon's technical expertise, but regards it as an asset to be values while it is there. He is quite prepared to lose Avon if that's what Avon wants (_Horizon_'s "Avon might run" strikes me as more of a fear of losing the Liberator, not a fear of losing Avon).

Because Blake can work easily with Avon when they need to, he has no real fear of Avon, only a nagging doubt that makes him cautious. His "I've always trusted you" in _Star One_ doesn't ring true. It sounds more like an indignant retort to Avon's jibe of "Can't you bring yourself to trust me?" - a repudiation of the accusation of paranoia implied by Avon's remark. Avon several times (particularly in _Horizon_, also _Redemption_ and _Trial_, amongst others) illustrates that Blake is wrong in trusting him completely. Blake is smart. He would realise this.

So the B-A relationship as outlined above is a lot less exciting than fan consensus would have it. It is one of two equals who have a common cultural understanding but disagree on some fundamental points of personal philosophy (Blake's crusading zeal, Avon's self-interest). They each know how the other ticks, but (and I think this is an important but) in regard to *direction* and *goal* and *immediate actuality* rather than to *origin*. They each want to know *how* the other is, with no real interest in *why*. Knowing *how* is immediately useful, *why* is of secondary interest. Fans, on the other hand, show a great deal of interest in *why*, especially where Avon's concerned. Their attitude to Avon is, therefore, radically different to Blake's.

But this interpretation leaves out two very important episodes: _Terminal_ and _Blake_. Avon, as I see him, would not be drawn towards Blake in the manner suggested by these episodes. On this point, I'm going to echo Susan Bennett's suggestion on her LOC this issue, and offer a reason external to the text. Both of these episodes end a season which has lacked its title character for the preceding twelve episodes. Blake, as a character, is a loose end which needs to be tied up, and *that* is why both of these episodes revolve around a hunt for Blake. Because Avon is the central character, it is he - rather than, say, Cally - who must be drawn to Blake. This irresistible attraction to Blake actually contradicts what we saw of Avon's relationship with Blake in the first two seasons. Because fans wish to rationalise things internally, they have to reconstruct Avon to fit. Hence his emotional dependence on Blake, his conception of Blake as his own absent idealism, his salvation, shameful obsession, or whatever. I believe this is a misfocus of attention.

Because there two episodes are so crucial to the overall narrative, they must be rationalised internally somehow. I would like to suggest that Avon's attraction to Blake was not so much personal as practical. The 3rd Season saw Avon in charge of the Liberator and realising he didn't want it. He certainly isn't want command of the crew, but who could he hand over the reins to? Tarrant? Unthinkable. Dayna? Unqualified. Vila? Totally unqualified. Cally? I think he might have handed over to Cally, if she had wanted that, but she showed no sign whatsoever of wanting that. Blake was the only real choice. To give Liberator to an outsider would be to give it away, but giving it to Blake would be to hand it back to a legitimate owner. This was not an actively pursued goal, but an opportunity taken up when it arose, i.e. it was not particularly over-riding. (Returning a borrowed ship carries far less damage to self-esteem than throwing it away, and also allows Avon to retain his own connection with the ship. I would also note that I can recall no point after _Star One_ where Avon declares any inheritance of leadership from Blake, or of any claim on the Liberator. Avon does grapple with Tarrant, but as far as Avon's concerned, He Was There First, and Tarrant is a bolshie upstart who ought to know his place.)

In the 4th Season, Avon continues to be the leader by default, and proceeds to make a right mess of running a rebellion. He therefore instructs Orac to actively seek out Blake, as someone to whom he can pass on the mantle of leadership. I would certainly agree that he singles out Blake, and not just any old convenient rebel leader. Handing the reins over to Blake, a known quantity, again allows Avon to preserve his self-esteem, allowing him to be seen as acting on behalf of Blake until Blake returns, rather than trying to take on Blake's responsibilities and failing.

This implies that it is a fear of failure, rather than trust and betrayal, that underlies much of Avon's behaviour. There is failure of knowing - "It's not my field," he says curtly, effectively blocking any further inspection of his ignorance. There is a fear of failure in outwardly-projected invulnerability, which in turn engenders a failure of relating. Avon shies away from deep relationships because he is unsure of his ability to handle them. This does not screw him up in other regards. In fact, through knowing his limitations, he is in more control o himself than someone who refused to acknowledge them. The invulnerability he likes to project is defensive, but I don't think it's a bunker for a wounded child. It's more like the armour of an unconventional thinker who's been forced onto the defensive through sheer weight of numbers. Avon's clarity of thought and realist attitude cuts through the hypocrisy and sham of social convention. He is an individualist, an outsider prepared to stick out from the herd and be rebuked for it. I could also add a fear of failing in leadership, a fear of failing in personnel management, and especially a fear of failing other people. The biggest risks Avon takes are to himself, and he actively seeks to minimise the impact of his personal failure on people around him (_Rumours_ and _Terminal_ especially).

Obviously, there has to be a *why* underlying all this *how*, but I don't think it's the (supremely motherable) traumatised child beloved of many fans. I think it's more likely an isolated, marginalised background, a state of being at least as unlovable as unloved. If this makes Avon a lonely man, then it also makes him one who can stoically accept loneliness and endure it. What lurks in Avon's background is not a tale of misery and woe (sadistically invented by doting fans) but one of boredom and frustration.

By misinterpreting Avon, the B-A relationship is likewise misinterpreted. It is nowhere near as intense and gutting as fans would like it to be, and it operates on a quite different emotional level. It hinges on ideas of pride and personal prestige, but agonies of trust. Because it is his relationship with Blake that is most dominantly written into the series for Avon, and Because Avon is, overwhelmingly, the most popular character in the series, the Blake- Avon relationship is the focus of over-attention. It is not what many fans would like it to be, nor is it as significant as they persist in making it.

Right, having slagged off 90% of fandom, I'll call up the question of male fans who dote on the female characters (especially Cally), But I'll leave that to you to retaliate with.

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Last changed on 26th of April 1998