Written by Zinna
Cordelia Chase is the most stylish, most popular, most beautiful, most bitchy girl in Sunnydale High school or so we are led to believe at the beginning of the series. She's a cheerleader, crowned May Queen, and all-around most-loved hottie at Sunnydale High. In the early episodes, we see Cordelia belittle Willow because of her clothes (Welcome to the Hellmouth), threaten Amy because she fell on Cordelia during the cheerleading tryouts (Witch), and tell all of her friends via cell phone that Buffy is a complete lunatic and attacked her at the Bronze (The Harvest) (when Buffy had actually saved her from being vampire food). For this reason, it would appear that Cordelia is just a bitch character to add drama, spice, and fashion tips to the Scoobies' lives.
It isn't until Cordelia is targeted by an invisible girl, who is only interested in making her suffer, that Cordelia's character dimensions become more apparent. For this is the first time, Cordelia willingly consorts with Scoobies. Granted she's being stalked by supernatural freak, but it's still remarkable that she would turn to the Scoobies for protection. In conversation a that occurs as Buffy and Cordelia look for clues revealing the identify of Cordelia's invisible attacker, Cordelia admits that sometimes she feels lonely even though she has the most friends of anyone at Sunnydale High. This of course leads Buffy to ask why then is Cordelia so interested in maintaining her popularity if Cordelia still feels alone. Cordelia in Cordelia fashion explains that the only thing worse than feeling alone is actually being alone. An oddly profound statement for such a shallow girl, wouldn't you say? I mean we could always tell Cordelia has a sharp intellect, primarily demonstrated through her quick her delivery of the most effective and biting comment at any given moment, but deep? Cordelia thinks about things is abstract terms? She looks at the big picture? There is no evidence of this until this episode. This is the precise moment that we know there's more to Cordelia than meets the eye.
This episode also pinpoints Cordelia's induction into the Scoobies. The cat's out bag now, Cordelia knows Buffy's the slayer and everything that goes bump in the night really does exist. Don't get me wrong, Cordelia doesn't consent to be a part of the Scoobies just yet, but from this episode on Cordelia becomes more integral to each episode plot. Either she just happens to be around when trouble starts brewing (like in Prophecy Girl - Cordelia goes to library for book to complete a paper and she walks in the Scoobies discussing great impending doom, you know, the usual) or some kids are trying to cut of her head off and put it on their Frankenstein cheerleader (like in Some Assembly Required). After a while Cordelia just resigns to the fact that she's a Scooby, whether she likes it or not. At least, hanging with the slayer she's less likely to turn up dead or worse - a really pale vampire.
In What's My Line Part 2, a new side of Cordelia reluctantly bubbles to surface, as her weakness for Xander comes to light. Prior to this episode, Xander and Cordelia spend all their time cutting each other down or basking in the glory of being everything the other hates - Cordelia, self-centered and obnoxious, and Xander, seriously uncool. Though they appear to be the most unlikely couple the hellmouth has seen since the slayer got a bad case of the hots for a vampire, it makes sense that the heat these two generate with their bickering eventually gives way to making out. How could a girl like Cordelia be seen with likes of the seriously unpopular, anti-stud, like Xander? She can't and she tells Xander they have to keep their romantic trysts under wraps - she has a reputation to uphold. Xander consents because he doesn't want to explain to Willow (his best friend and someone who obviously has had a crush on him for years) and Buffy (his other best friend and someone he's harbored major feelings for since the first time he saw her) how he ended up in numerous lip locks with his archenemy.
Numerous lip locks turn into serious feelings, but Xander's the only one mature to acknowledge he genuinely cares for Cordelia. Cordelia shows signs of having reciprocal feelings, but those are quickly repressed when Cordelia's friends berate her after she reveals her relationship with Xander(Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered). As Cordelia sees her popularity in serious jeopardy, she realizes she must make a choice. Sadly, but not surprisingly, Cordy picks popularity. She decides to break this news to Xander on the very night (Valentine's Day, no less) he gives her a beautiful necklace. Needless to say, Xander's heart breaks and Cordelia resumes her throne as bitch queen of Sunnydale High, especially in the eyes of Xander and his fans (I had some sympathy for her, but not much, because it was apparent that it hurt Cordelia to hurt Xander so much). Xander has a hard time dealing with his pain so he enlisted Amy (a witch) to put a love spell on Cordelia. The spell backfired and made every woman within the general vicinity (including Buffy, Harmony, Amy, Joyce, etc.) fall for Xander except for Cordelia. Hijinks ensue. Cordelia and Xander end up locked in Buffy's basement trying to fend off hoards or angry frustrated women and just as their affair began (Cordy and Xander's first kiss happens when they are locked in Buffy's basement, hiding from a demon) it is rekindled. Cordelia realizes the spell was for her and she realizes that she'd rather try things out with Xander even if it means her popularity. Cordy has a heart after all. The next day at school Cordy show great strength of character when she tells her friends that she will date who she wants, when she wants, and where she wants even if it is Xander (it is nearly impossible for Cordy to say things that don't insult someone). Even though Xander could take offense to the implications of the statement he is so happy to see Cordy stand up to her friends, namely Harmony, and acknowledge him out in the open that he doesn't care.
As the couple face an apocalypse, patrolling in Buffy's absence (Buffy left town when she had to kill Angel to save the world Becoming Part 2), and various other monsters of the week, their relationship grows. It isn't long before Cordy begins to think about the L-word. Before we go into that let me point out another exceptional Cordy-driven episode, Homecoming.
In Homecoming, Buffy and Cordy go head-to-head for the crown of homecoming queen. For awhile it seems that Cordelia stopped caring about her popularity, what with all the fighting demons (well, getting out of their way) and making out with Xander, but this episode puts us back in our places. Cordelia very much wants the title of the homecoming queen and her passion for campaigning is further ignited when Buffy announces she will run against Cordy. Actually, Buffy's decision to run is partly due to Cordy's insensitivity and self-centeredness. It was Cordy's job to get Buffy for yearbook pictures. Cordy gets distracted and forgets to tell Buffy. Buffy misses picture day and as a result will not be in yearbook at all. Buffy is more than perturbed by this. All Buffy used to care about was being popular and having the nicest clothes. Since taking on her slayer duties, she's become a school outcast. If anyone would be able to understand what Buffy must be feeling it would be Cordelia. Cordelia, however, chooses to focus all her deep thoughts on ensuring her reign as popularity queen remains supreme, which infuriates Buffy. Buffy decides to take Cordy down a notch and show her what she's made of. Thus, Buffy and Cordy fighting for the same title (bet you never thought you'd see the day). Buffy and Cordy's campaigns clash. Many quotable catfights occur. This puts a tremendous strain on the rest of the Scoobies, who are caught in the middle. So, the Scoobies devise a plan to mend the cat fighters relationship - they make them ride in the limo together so they can work out their problems. In hellmouth fashion, Mr. Trick hijacks their limo and reroutes the girls into his Slayerfest '98 (lots of devious and evil meanies pay Mr. Trick to hunt the slayers - Faith was originally suppose to be riding in the car with Buffy, not Cordelia - while he watches on closed circuit TV).
Buffy and Cordelia run and fight their hunters together. During a poignant moment in shack that the girls have chosen as their temporary hideout, we see why Cordelia is so daft about Buffy's feelings when she asks Buffy why she cares about being homecoming queen when she does things like save the world. Buffy tells that she just wanted to be known for more than being a slayer, especially since a slayer isn't supposed to be known and Buffy is definitely more than just an ordinary slayer. Cordelia begins to understand how Buffy feels but there isn't much time for bonding, since they are being hunted. So, Cordelia does have to ability to think about someone else. Another Cordy talent brilliantly displayed during the hunt, shines when we see her intimidate a vampire from killing her merely by telling him off. After the hunt and the contest, we know that Cordelia is strong enough to take on the slayer in battle of wills and stand her ground. She is definitely a force to reckon with. And just in case you're wondering who won the homecoming queen: it was a tie. Two other girls, not Buffy or Cordy, won, but they both took in stride.
Back to Cordy and Xander… Cordy begins to realize that she may be in love with Xander. She at least knows she's never cared for someone in the same way before Xander. She's just about ready to tell him when Spike holds both Xander and Willow captive until Willow figures out a spell to get Drusilla (his long time girlfriend and sire) to love him again (Lover's Walk). Oz and Cordelia set out looking for their love ones and find them in a sensuous embrace, i.e. making out. Cordy is devastated and top that off when she tries to run away from the sight, she falls through the floor and is impaled on metal beam. Very very painful.
Xander attempts to win Cordy's affections back (he apologized profusely), but Cordy could not forgive Xander's indiscretions. In fact, she completely dissolved her relationship with all the Scoobies and tried to resume her relationships with old friends like Harmony and such, but Harmony and various others that considered themselves the "in crowd" at Sunnydale High could not forgive Cordy's choice of an uncool boyfriend. They were all exceptionally cruel, teasing her about being dumped or cheated on by an "loser" with a "nerd" (Willow). The only person that would commiserate with Cordy's plight was a new girl, Anya, whose interests turned out be demonic in nature. Anya was a vengeance demon at the time. Anya came to Sunnydale to grant a vengeance wish for Cordy, the stilted lover. Cordy wished that Buffy Summers never came to Sunnydale (The Wish).
Why would Cordy blame Buffy's presence for Xander's infidelity? Well, Cordy befriended Buffy when she first came to Sunnydale, instantly recognizing Buffy's potential to be "in-crowd" material (Buffy transferred in from LA, which is 10 times cooler than living in Sunnydale. Buffy exhibited good and trendy fashion sense and was undoubtedly a "hottie". Didn't you know hotties travel in packs?). Buffy wasn't as receptive as Cordy had hoped. Later, Cordy caught Buffy hanging out with Xander and Willow and that squashed the life out that friendship right then and there (Welcome to the Hellmouth). Regardless of their differences, Cordy also held some respect for Buffy. Buffy always proved to be a formidable adversary where boys were concerned. Buffy, on a number of occasions, attracted men Cordy had set her sights on (Angel and Owen). Buffy got Cordy invited to a college party (the boys would only invite them as a pair - Reptile Boy). There was no way for Cordy not to notice Buffy's undeniable "cool-factor" and Xander became infinitely more cool just by association (at least in Cordy's eyes). So, the fact Cordy fell for someone like Xander must have been Buffy's fault. In fact, Cordy says that she never would have considered Xander if it hadn't been his friendship with Buffy.
Of course, Cordy's wish didn't turn out like she thought it would. Buffy's absence only made Sunnydale a haven for vampires. Since it was Buffy who saved Willow and Xander from being vampires, in this bizarre world Willow and Xander were vampires and to Cordy's added dismay they seemed to be lovers, as much as vampires can be lovers, that is. They killed Cordy before she had a chance to really suffer, but not before she realized the error of her wish. Cordy quickly found Giles and told him to get Buffy there because, as much as she hated to admit it, Buffy made Sunnydale a better and happier place. It was Giles the restored things to there natural order and this never would of happened had it not been for Cordy's willingness to look like a lunatic in effort to fix her mistake.
Unfortunately, she doesn't remember any of this back in our reality, and Cordy's softer side doesn't appear. She is often seen berating or belittling Xander (and all those associated with him) in the halls. It isn't until graduation that we get see to Cordelia's provide more than just witty and biting remarks. A particularly interesting but miniscule thing to note about Cordelia is revealed in Earshot. Buffy is suddenly able to listen in on people's thought (a power retained from a slain demon who bled on her open wound). So, we are privy to the Scoobies' thoughts. Cordelia, in particular, says out loud everything she thinks.
Cordy is only hanging out with the Scoobies because of her interest in Buffy's new watcher, Wesley. She finds Wesley to be very sexy in an English-James-Bondsie sort of way (not that Wesley resembles the suaveness of James Bond, Wesley just wears a suit well). And we can kind of see that part of her flirting is meant to dig into Xander. For small instances when Xander was not worried about prevalent evil he did seem a little annoyed in Cordy's interest in Wesley.
Besides Cordy's interest in Wesley, something else happens that tests Cordy's character. Her father is indicted for tax evasion and all his assets are seized. As a result, Cordy has to get a job just to pay for her prom dress. She also has to give up her dreams of going to a good college (she was accepted to many good schools). Cordy doesn't whimper or allow anyone to know that about her devastating news. She continues to attend school, decked out as stunning as ever, so that no one is the wiser. She never asks for anyone's pity. In fact, part of the reason she takes a horrible retail job is so she can afford a knock-out dress for prom and disallow anyone the opportunity to see her defeated, though it is obvious she feels this way. Xander was the only one to catch her working in the store (he was shopping for a tux) and she reluctantly let him in on her secret. She was very pleased to find out that Xander, who probably still feels bad for betraying her trust, never told a soul about Cordy's predicament. Xander even finished paying for Cordy's dress (she wasn't going to be able to work enough hours to pay for it in time), so that she could wear it to the prom. Cordy graciously thanked Xander in way that only he would know what she was thanking him for (The Prom).
Cordy's final days on BtVS are spent helping the Scoobies go up against the Mayor at graduation and trying to sneak a kiss with Wesley. The kiss turns out to be spark-less and she does her part to bring the Mayor down (Graduation Day Part 2). Sadly, this is last time we see Cordy in Sunnydale. After graduation she moves to LA to pursue an acting career since she can't afford college. She ends up becoming an essential part of evil-fighting team headed up by Buffy's ex-beau, Angel. You can now see Cordy as a completely evolved, loving, intuitive, caring, nurturing human being/powerful demon (possibly a deity) on Angel. Check out how she's changed, read her quotes from Angel at Flights or read Kristina's column: The Evolution of Miss Chase.