Ya know, I've finally put it into words.
I like antiheroes-turned-saviors because I relate to them.
Ya see, being very ashamed of a less-than-appealing past myself, I understand where characters such as Angel, Xena, and Anya come from.
I think being bit by a vampire is a little bit like being molested the first time, in fact--once you've been bit, you're bit, and there's no going back.
Suddenly you find yourself a member of a fairly exclusive club to which you have absolutely no desire to belong for the rest of your life. Unfortunately, you also have very little choice in the matter.
Someone "chose you," picked you out as being especially prone to manipulation and decided that you would make the perfect target for their charms--and their violations. The entire time they spoke to you about the possibility of becoming "like them," they watched to see whether you liked the idea of being "special," super-human--powerful.
For the sort of constant and extreme terror that comes from being betrayed and attacked by someone in a position of extreme power over your life does cause a brief sort of strength. You do experience a euphoria, a hyper-vigilance and even an imperviousness to pain.
Terror numbs you out emotionally while making you feel physically stronger than you ever have before. For a while, you can start to believe that you are superman--better and badder than everyone else out there.
If you are attacked on a regular basis then that adrenaline boost continually gets updated. You forget you ever felt any differently.
However, eventually something happens for the few who are lucky enough to get a second chance at life that jolts them back into reality.
These few are offered a chance to try to make peace with ourselves and to make the things we have done wrong in the name of pursuing that adrenaline high right again. For a while, we are like ex-addicts, wandering around the streets lost. We want to feel safe again, but we've forgotten how to identify what safe is. We can't remember having felt anything other than high off terror. We want to change, but we don't know how.
We don't know what to look for except anything that feels different from what we experienced for the past time immemorial.
If we try, eventually we will find a way to live with the guilt of what we have done to those around us while keeping the secret of what was actually hurting us. We begin to tell the truth, and in doing so find within ourselves a deep compassion for the helpless and the innocent.
We realize that although we cannot go back in time to return for the people we once were, nor rescue ourselves from events long past, we can forgive ourselves and move on. We can rescue the people who are now in the same position we once were, lost and alone with no one to tell.
We can help the hopeless, like Angel did, and defend the innocent from marauders and raiding warriors, like Xena. We can find love, like Anya.
Soon, if we try, we can take our past hurts and make something glorious and joyous and truly heroic from them. We will never cease to be a vampire, a warrior, or a vengeance demon. We will never stop being what our pain has made of us. However, instead of being beaten down by it we can use that strength and determination to change the world for the better. We can become the heroes that were nowhere to be found when we needed them most. In rescuing others, we can save ourselves.