Xander, loyal friend, still stuck in his father's basement?
- by Shadowkat
Let's talk about poor Xander.
First my apologies for length and my compliments to the Board Mama for
allowing long posts. I have not seen any posts analyzing just Xander outside
of a ship. (Sorry if I missed them, the board appears to be obsessed with
Spike at the moment and ships.) Xander is an incredibly fascinating character
whose story is about to take off. Of the characters in BvTS - he is the only
one without special abilities or supernatural tendencies. And he has always
been one of my favorites.
Xander is the guy next door, the class clown, and the boy I had a crush on in
high school. Unfortunately he only wanted the popular girl or the one he
couldn't have. One of my favorite episodes - The Witch, shows Xander telling
Willow that what he likes about her is she's just one of the guys. This is
echoed by Buffy who tells Xander that what she likes about him is he's just
one of the girls. (Great Karmic moment! And says quite a bit about the old
Xander - he always wanted what he couldn't have when the best thing was right
beneath his nose.) Xander also had the lowest self-esteem of just about any
character on the show - he covered it with bravado, and quick retorts.
Often making fun of himself before anyone else can. His banter with Cordelia
in Season 1-3 was classic.
Xander is first introduced as the geeky guy on the skateboard. He is comic
relief. He tries to help the hero, often falling flat on his face in the
process. But he always comes through in the crunch. In Welcome to The
Hellmouth, Xander, against everyone's advice, shows up in the tunnels to help
Buffy rescue his friend Jesse. When Buffy asks if he at least brought a stake.
He says - "well no, the part of my brain that remembers that was too busy
reminding me of why I shouldn't be doing this. I did bring a flashlight."
Buffy: Turn that off!" Xander somewhat sheepishly does. He does, however, help
her out. If it weren't for him, she probably would have died. Buffy has never
been able to see when she's in over her head. This act of heroism is repeated
in countless episodes: Becoming Part II, The Freshman, Beer Bad, Primeval,
What's My Line, etc…In The Freshman - Xander is the one who grabs the others
to help her. He goes with her to the vamps lair. And Buffy does eventually
acknowledge this in Checkpoint: "That boy has clocked more field time than any
of you has." (- in
her speech to the Watcher Council.)
Xander's fears. We know he is afraid of being invisible: this is shown in Fear
Itself and also mentioned in The Zeppo. His friends often take his presence
for granted, treat him as a hanger-on or someone who needs to be protected. In
NA - Willow tells Buffy that Xander has gone to look for the demon, Buffy's
first reaction is concern: she doesn't believe he can handle a demon alone.
(She's right of course, but that's beside the point.)
Xander often accompanies Buffy when she tells him to stay behind.
(Interesting ironic twist here - instead of the dumb blond accompanying the
hero into danger and getting hurt, we have the dopey guy following the heroine
into danger. Not that Xander always gets hurt, sometimes he actually saves the
day. And he really isn't that dopey; he just thinks he is.)
In the Replacement and The Zeppo we get to explore Xander's fear of
inadequacy, that he is just a loser that everyone has to help. He can't
possibly be the confident self-assured man that finds a cool apartment, gets a
promotion at work, and deserves Anya's love. (See The Replacement). In the
Zeppo - he feels ignored, pushed aside by the SG. Both episodes end well.
Xander learns in the Zeppo that he can be a hero in his own right and does not
need the SG. He can stand up for himself and defeat the bad guy. (Before he
only fantasized about this - Halloween.) In The Replacement - he learns that
he is a capable man and an insecure goofball. He is both and that is okay,
because both are lovable in their own right.
What about the fears explored in Restless? Xander's biggest fear has not been
invisibility or inadequacy, but becoming his father. How many people fear
this? Isn't part of growing up - learning to separate oneself from one's
family? To be your own man or woman? All along - Xander's family has been
described as losers. Periodically characters refer to Xander's parents as
embarrassing or something Xander wishes to avoid. In Amends - Cordelia states
that Xander sleeps outside to get away from his loser parents' drunken
battles. (Is Xander an only child? We don't appear to know. I assume so. It
appears that this is something Xander, Willow and Buffy have in common up to
Season 5 - all three are only children. (Please let me know if I missed a
reference somewhere to siblings.) end of digression.) Later in Forever -
Xander tells Willow he'll go see her mom to get reassurance, he really doesn't
care if his parents live or die. Then Restless - Xander is stuck in the
basement. Every door or path he tries leads him back into it. The only one he
refuses to try is the one that leads upstairs to his parents. Have we ever
seen him use this path? In Restless he even states: "That's not the way out."
Maybe it is? At the end of Restless - it appears to be the only way out. And
what he's afraid of is not the vampires that he first mentions when he hears
someone at the door: " Hey I didn't order any vampires." It's his father - who
eventually bursts through accusing Xander of making his mother cry. "Why won't
you come upstairs - your mother won't stop crying, you have no heart, the line
ends here!" His father smashes his fist into Xander's chest, becomes the first
slayer and rips out Xander's heart.
But doesn't Xander eventually go upstairs? He gets the job, the apartment. He
proposes to Anya. Even sets up the wedding. That is until the demon appears
and shows him the nightmare. It's interesting that the nightmare is Xander's
life with his parents. The drunken useless father, the nagging mother, and the
violence. I felt like I was watching a scene from Bad Marriage 101. What does
Xander say to Anya when he tells her he can't go through with it? "It wasn't
you that I was hating…?" What does Xander say to the demon after the nightmare
has concluded: "Is Anya ok? What happened to Anya?" He is terrified of hurting
her. He tells Anya the wedding is off while he is watching his father abuse
his mother. For the first time, we actually get to meet Xander's parents and
family. And they are worse than we ever expected. They are worse than the
demons attending the wedding. Is it any wonder that Xander is terrified of
becoming them? Heck - he even looks a bit like his father in this episode, the
Now let's talk about Xander and Buffy. Interesting relationship. What is Buffy
to Xander? Or perhaps the better question is what has Buffy's presence done
for Xander? Before Buffy, Xander was a geeky guy who rode a skateboard,
cracked jokes, and flirted with
popular girls he couldn't have. After Buffy, Xander went on missions, fought
demons, saved the world, and found a purpose outside of his family home and
cracking jokes. Buffy has given Xander a purpose, a way of addressing his
inadequacy, a way of avoiding his parents' loser life. That is up until now.
Now they are out of high school and Xander has responsibilities. He can no
longer just fight the demon of the week. He has to work. Even without Buffy
present, he discovered this - see Bargaining Part I & II - Xander got pummeled.
So when he and the SG bring back Buffy - they are in effect leaving the demon
hunting business. They do not go out on patrol with her anymore. Spike does.
They aren't present when she's fighting the vamps in All The Way. Or in
Wrecked. Or Dead Things. Or AYW. We rarely see X/A outside of the Magic Shop.
Has Xander grown up then? Has he fought the hard real life battles without
shortcuts? (We'll return to this later.)
Does Xander love Buffy? Yes, I think so. I think he wants to save her. He
wants to be the hero but has learned that he can't. He found this out in The
Gift and to some degree in Becoming Part II. He can help her. But he can't
save her. He can't make her choices for her or give her a job. The battle with
the demons is essentially hers. He is a glorified brick-layer who can chip in
from time to time. And he is no longer ashamed of that. (See the Gift - "And
the glorified brick layer - gets one!") This must have been a tough
realization for him. If it weren't for Anya - it may have destroyed him at
some point, but by Afterlife and Life Serial - I got the feeling he'd accepted
his new role in SG. Then we come to HB - this scene surprised me, it's the one
that Anya says -" your back wouldn't have gone out if you hadn't exerted
yourself trying to help Buffy. I told you not to. And it didn't help. You
weren't able to save her." (Not exact but close.) His reaction? To pick up a
frying pan and hit her. So clearly Xander has not completely come to terms
with his inability to save Buffy. Or maybe he's just afraid that he hasn't -
it was just a nightmare after all. Not real.
So where does this lead us? There has been very little spoilage on Xander's
future. (Or I've managed to successfully avoid it, yeah me! Wish I could say
the same for the other spoilers. Dang me!) I think Xander's journey is
different from Buffy's and Willow's. Xander has to realize that he does not
have to become his father. He has to realize that Buffy, the SG, his father,
even Anya do not define him. That he is a good man in his own right and can
survive and live a good life on his own. In a way, Xander has to get back to
who he was at the end of The Replacement and The Zeppo. He has to overcome his
fears and not let his father or Buffy remove his heart. Otherwise he will be
stuck in his father's basement, heartless, and alone.
Do I think he will make it? You betcha. In many ways he's come further than
the others. He has a good job, he has friends outside the gang, before HB he
had the most stable relationship, and he did it all the hard way without
magic, without stunts. Now all he has to do is find a way of forgiving Anya
and himself, and accepting that even though he's not the superhero - he can be
a hero in his own right.
Thanks for reading. Be interested to seeing your thoughts.