Charles Gunn

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Character
Name: Charles Gunn
Occupation: gang leader, turned member of AI, turned lawyer
Title/Rank:
Location: LA
Status: unknown
Relationships: Alonna (sister); Winifred Burkle (girlfriend)
Fandom: Angel
Other: portrayed by J. August Richards
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Charles Gunn is a secondary character from the Angel fandom, perhaps best known for informing the debate around characters of color in the Whedonverse.

Canon

Gunn is introduced as a vampire-fighting gang leader, who (as it turns out) has sold his soul for a truck. His sister Alonna is turned in a vampire attack and he has to stake her. He collaborates with Angel and later joins the AI team, largely supplying muscle under the leadership of first Angel, then Wesley. He has a canonical relationship with physics genius Fred that founders after he kills someone for her, and a brief fling with electrically charged Gwen. He becomes close friends with Cordy and especially Wesley, but his hatred & suspicion of vampires prevents him forming a close bond with Angel.

In season 5, he undergoes a mystical upgrade, becoming lawyer-Gunn, who for some reason also spouts Gilbert & Sullivan. This leads to him being partly responsible for Fred's death, when she's consumed by Illyria.[1]

Fannish Opinion

One thing that attracts me to the character of Charles Gunn is his humanity. He is the normal/regular person of the group. Gunn has no special talent for magic or scholarship, and while he brings muscle and strength to the group it is that of the human variety. Gunn is loyal, loving, and a fighter. He is also stubborn, selfish and a pragmatist. ...
First and foremost Gunn is human. He is a good man, and he is one of the Good Guys - a White Hat. Gunn is a lot of things to a lot of people. I first saw him as a warrior, a fighter, a friend, and a guy with a smart mouth. And as the episodes progressed toward the end of S4 I saw a man with a deep-seated desire to be more than he was - more than the fighter and follower that he and others believed him to be. To reach his desires, Gunn made a choice at the end of season 4 that turned out, well you know - not so good. (blueswan9)[2]
At first I must admit I found Gunn just slightly 'token'. He was the cool, streetwise, real character needed to keep AtS from being just another series featuring pretty, well-off 'kids' and their drama (fairly, it involved more complex themes then most, and so already had a leg-up on other Dawson-esque series, but still...) Slowly, over the course of a few years, and most notably during season five, Gunn came into his own and I was able to gain a whole new respect for him as a character. Most specifically his mistakes and then redemption in the end made him into a real man, and not just 'the muscle'. (laufeyette)[3]
Gunn falls into the Xander parallel of the mere mortal without anything extraordinary. Cordy fills this role pre-Gunn, but the visions change that by giving her a special power that provides her baseline. ... Gunn, however, gets the switch-hitter job and serves as jester, grumpypants, and cabbagehead as needed. {inlovewithnight}[4]
When not killed off, characters from marginalized groups can be written in stereotyped ways. Need a drug dealer? Black man. Need a lawyer? Hey, this isn't an ethnic part. And don't even try to be the protagonist. The character Charles Gunn's gang background was stereotyped, and when, later in the series, he became a lawyer, it was not though the traditional avenue of study, but rather due to magical intervention. (Betty writing in Fanlore)[5]

Fandom

A lot of discussion around Gunn in fandom relates to him being a character of color in the Whedonverse, where such characters notoriously die young, or are underutilised and/or stereotyped. Though Gunn is still standing (just) when the final credits roll, many fans consider he falls into both underutilised & stereotyped in canon. He might also be underutilised in fanworks, though it's hard to tease out how much of this is a consequence of the canon weaknesses and/or the fact that – unlike Angel, Cordy & Wesley – he has no history with the more popular Buffy the Vampire Slayer characters. This debate sometimes finds its way into fanfiction, for example Yahtzee's Them Mean Ol', Low-Down, Lando Calrissian Blues (link), a multifandom crossover that satirises the plight of the Sidekick of Color, and Jessica Harris's Wesley's Liberal Guilt, which puts fannish issues relating to race into Wesley's voice in his thoughts about Gunn.

In slash, Gunn's most popular ship is with Wesley, his most frequent pairing and one of the major AtS slash pairings. Other slash pairings include with Angel, Spike and Lindsey McDonald. He's most commonly shipped in het with Fred, Cordy and Gwen, and occasionally with Illyria and Faith. The Gunn/Wesley/Fred love triangle in canon results in occasional threesomes, and a few Angel/Wesley/Gunn threesomes that merge Wesley's two main ships have been written.

Little gen fanfiction focuses on Gunn. Occasional stories explore his backstory and relationship with his sister Alonna, and a few S5 works explore his angst over his role in Fred's death. There are also friendship stories for him with Wesley, and occasionally Cordy. He's often found playing a subsidiary role in AI teamfic, but he's rarely foregrounded in these stories.

Gunn is a relatively rare subject for fan art, though some depictions exist. He's occasionally pictured in compilations of black characters from a range of contexts. Digital manipulations of him, often with Wesley, are rather more common.

Example Fanworks

Examples Wanted: Editors are encouraged to add more examples or a wider variety of examples.

Fanfiction

Fan art

Vids

Meta

Archives, Fansites & Communities

Archives

Fansites

Yahoogroups & Lists

LiveJournals

  • gunn_friends (deleted)

Recs & Resources

References

  1. Though this arc could be considered an example of the Deadbrowalking trait to kill off or demonise characters of color, white characters Angel, Wesley & Cordelia all went through earlier Character Turns Dark arcs
  2. idol-reflection: Charles Gunn (accessed 18 September 2014)
  3. Comment by laufeyette dated 12 October 2004 in idol-reflection: Charles Gunn (accessed 18 September 2014)
  4. Character Roles and "Xander Harris Syndrome" (accessed 18 September 2014)
  5. Fanlore's article on Race and Fandom, edit by Betty dated 24 October 2008 (accessed 18 September 2014)