We all have that fictional character that speaks to our souls. Usually we encounter that character at a relatively young age, but sometimes that character comes to us later in life. For many it's Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, Optimus Prime, Mr. Spock, Buffy Summers, or someone totally offbeat like Mr. Blond (by the way, I hope none of you think torturing police officers and slicing their ears off is fun in real life).
For me, it's always been a gargoyle. No, it's not one of those singing Notre Dame gargoyles from that Disney movie. It's one of those flesh and blood gargoyles from that Disney TV series. No it's not Goliath, nor is it Brooklyn, or even Hudson. My hetero man love for Thom Adcox aside, it's not Lexington.
Her name is Demona, and she is a complete fuck up.
Art by Jennifer L. Anderson
I was thirteen years old when "Gargoyles" first aired. October 24th at 4:00pm in 1994. Channel 11, WPIX New York. This was when syndication still existed, before the rise of these studios owning the networks. Before Cartoon Network, and Disney XD.
"Batman the Animated Series" had premiered two short years ago, and the studios were taking chances, and allowing more animated television shows to push the envelope and take chances. At least that's how it gets romanticized by people, in the case of "Gargoyles," Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg went to war and the most trusted inmate at the asylum got to run his show largely unsupervised. That inmate was Greg Weisman, and that show was "Gargoyles."
So, who is Demona? To some, she is a psychopathic ex-wife with a big gun. To others she is the unfortunate victim of the evils around her. And then there are those that think she is a lesbian who hasn't discovered herself.
Well, if you want the stone cold facts, everything in this link should tell you what you need to know:
Demona at GargWiki.
But, who is Demona to me? That's a fascinating question, and I'll do my best to adequately answer it. Well, she's got a terrific design, she was animated quite well, and Marina Sirtis was both brooding and intense when she supplied Demona with her voice, but it goes beyond all of this.
Demona was different things for me at different stages of my life. As an angry young man, she was a radical, a freedom fighter. Someone who had taken a lot of abuse and was finally giving some abuse back. Given my teenage years in life, that made an impact. As someone who often felt like an outcast, it was great to see an outcast taking vengeance on the world around her.
Then I grew up. Looking back on those days of my youth, I discovered that much of the hardships I endured were self-inflicted. I learned that I had to stop feeling sorry for myself, and take control of my own life, and take responsibility for my own actions. I had become an adult, it was time to behave like one.
So, where did that leave Demona? Well, I looked at her again through a fresh perspective and gone was the heroic freedom fighter, gone was the victim of that cruel world. I finally saw what I was meant to see, I saw a fuck-up. I saw someone who was the architect of her own misery. I saw someone who was so weak that should rather commit mass genocide than admit that she was wrong. I saw a walking contradiction who went to great lengths to absolve herself of any responsibility for her own sins.
They say that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. Well, what character sums that up better than Demona? I used to defend my mistakes by citing my intentions too. But the world does not run on intentions, it runs on actions. However noble she thought her intentions were, those intentions are what destroyed her clan.
We all, at moments in our lives, have made rationalizations to keep ourselves sane. Made a mistake that we were to proud to admit to, be it small or huge. How many of us, if given the chance would choose to take revenge for slights committed against us either real or exaggerated in our own heads?
Is she evil? Here's Merriam-Webster's definition.
So, yes, by any of these definitions, she is. She has committed cruel, and murderous acts against other living beings. She has attempted genocide on a global scale. And she justifies all this by saying the humans she seeks to annihilate are a threat to her kind. While she is not completely wrong, she also has no qualms about attempting to kill Goliath, or the rest of the Manhattan Clan. The one exception at the moment being her daughter, Angela.
Angela is an interesting wrench that gets thrown into the Demona machine. Many believe that as Luke Skywalker redeemed Darth Vader, Angela will redeem Demona. I disagree with that notion completely. It's too clean, it's too easy, and, frankly, it's way too cliche. Demona is a character who has avoided many of the obvious cliches, and I think she will avoid this one as well. If anything, Angela will become Demona's newest rationalization for the cruelty she inflicts on others. Many bigoted politicians hide behind the veil of God, country, and children as they act in manners that should be morally reprehensible to all three. Take God out of that trio and is Demona any different?
Why is Demona my all time favorite character? Because she represents a fundamental flaw that we all carry. The ability to do wrong and to justify it in our own warped minds. Sometimes, we are lucky enough to have an epiphany and realize just how wrong we are. Many of us hope Demona has that same epiphany, because if she can, maybe there is hope for the rest of us.
Demona is an endlessly fascinating character. We never saw anything like her in the realm of western animation before her debut, and I don't think she's been replicated since then. Why? I don't know. But lightning has been caught in a bottle, and I am rather happy that no one has attempted to imitate this unique and tragically flawed character.