Douchebag characters considered "Nice Guys" - example 1: Xander Harris

Discussion in 'Science Fiction & Fantasy' started by DevilEyes, Oct 29, 2010.

  1. DevilEyes

    DevilEyes Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    When I first watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I really couldn't stand Xander at all during seasons 1-3. I found him to be an amalgam of all the annoying, immature, sexist behavior exhibited by males of that age and a little older, but what made it worse is that I had the impression that I was supposed to like him. But then, with time, I started to tolerate him, and even like him - as a flawed man who is growing up and changing for the better, but still occasionally lapsing into his old immature, douchy behavior patterns. And even then, I thought that the show did a good job of showing us the reasons for his behavior (as in "Hell's Bells"), like his family situation. Then sometime halfway during season 7, he seemed to really have matured and gotten rid of most of those annoying traits.

    But then I started reading Buffy-related forums a bit too much and came to the startling realization that the character is considered an epitome of a nice guy in a large portion of the fandom. To make it worse, I came upon comments such as:

    (these examples are taken from this thread - it's an old thread and it's about season 8, so there's no point reviving it for an off-topic discussion)

    And this pisses me off on many levels. Let me count the ways...

    First off, just how ridiculous it is to argue that two characters should get together because A "deserves" B? And Buffy doesn't have to "get over" anything. I get the impression that Buffy/Xander is something that some male fans fantasize about (maybe there are some female Buffy/Xander shippers, but I've never met them; female fans, if they ship, they ship Buffy with Spike or Angel), because they want to think that an average Joe "deserves" to get the strong, extraordinary girl, as a reward for being her long time friend. Well, it doesn't work that way. If we're going to use the word "deserve", then Xander deserves someone who really wants him, and Buffy deserves someone she really wants. And a real friendship should be a real friendship, not a means to an end - getting romance and sex as the real deal one day. This idea just cheapens the friendship.

    But another thing that pisses me off is that Xander, IMO, is not a nice guy at all. (If you want an example of a nice guy on the show, it's Oz, when he wasn't going into werewolf mode.) And once I saw him treated as a nice guy, all my old annoyances with the character come back full force.

    Now, don't get me wrong, it's not that I don't like characters who act like assholes. Pretty much everyone in Buffyverse is a douche at some point or other, and my favorite characters, besides Buffy herself (who also has major douchy moments throughout the show) are Spike, Faith, Anya and Darla. But it's one thing when the show, the fans and the character himself/herself is owning up to it, and very different when people are not just ignoring douchy behavior and not calling it for what it is, but acting as if the character is supposed to be some sort of stand-in for the audience or 'everyman' moral arbiter, or 'nice guy'.

    Xander's credentials for the role of the "Nice guy" are pretty much these: he was one of those guys who think that the fact that they have stuck around as a friend to a woman who has - shock, horror! - rejected their romantic advances, makes them somehow entitled to constantly pass judgments on her sexuality and her choices (which makes him a lousy kind of friend - exactly the kind that the female friend can't really confide in). Or, you know, those kind of guys who whine how they are getting rejected because they're too "nice" and that there's something wrong with womenfolk who always go for "bad boys". What they don't understand is that weak, average, insecure doesn't equal "nice", and the reason they're getting rejected is that they aren't really that nice at all, they're douchebags just as much as those other guys, and that women might simply prefer other guys because they're sexier, smarter, stronger, more confident, more fun, etc.

    Therefore I was very happy when I recently came upon this Livejournal entry whose author has listed his reasons for hating Xander. I'll quote the parts that I pretty much agree on (and I'll add some that the author has forgotten about):

    Addition: possessed Xander also cruelly played with Willow's feelings, pretending to be about to tell her he has feelings for her, just so he could mock her "pasty face". Of course, he was possessed, so we can't hold it against him, but it shows that he knew about Willow's crush on him, which is interesting in the light of his later behavior.


    Addition: Xander has known about Willow's crush on him all the time, but he never showed any interest in her - he is more interested in bitchy, sexy and dangerous women. (Willow will eventually become the most dangerous of them all, but unfortunately for Xander, she'll realize she's a lesbian by that time....) Until she found a boyfriend, Oz. He is very disappointed when he realizes in season 2 finale that Willow loves Oz. And then in season 3, while he is dating Cordelia, Xander and Willow start secretly seeing each other. Where did this sudden interest come from? Xander really loves women he can't have, doesn't he. I don't criticize people for their romantic choices, but it is interesting in the light of Xander constant judgmental bitching about Buffy's love life. (Because, you know, she actually dares to choose other men over his wonderful self.) More about that later...

    Addition: "Into the Woods" - once again, Xander offers his amazing advice on Buffy's love life (because he has proved to be such an unbiased party when this subject is concerned), giving her a condescending speech about how awesome Riley is because he is a "long-haul guy" and how badly Buffy has treated him (by not being totally madly in love with him and not making him the center of her universe while she was worrying about her mother's illness). While I could sympathize with Riley's frustration (he didn't have a job anymore, his life started revolving around Buffy, he felt he wasn't needed, etc.), what Xander completely forgets is that the immediate reason for the breakup is that Riley has just been caught going to vamp whores for suck jobs. But he's too busy over-identifying with Riley. If you haven't chosen me, at least choose someone who can act as my stand-in! Well, sorta. 'Coz he's human and you're not really that into him. (It's hinted that it's because she has a thing for vampires. Which she does. But then again, it may also have something to do not with Riley being a human being, but with Riley being such a dull, traditional and closed-minded human being, with the lack of any chemistry between the two of them, and with the fact that he can't deal with his girlfriend being stronger than him.)

    (to be continued...)

     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2010
  2. DevilEyes

    DevilEyes Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: Douchebag characters considered "Nice Guys" - example 1: Xander Ha

    (continued)


    Addition: And then, in "Crush", to quote another LJ user, "HE FREAKS ABOUT HER ~POTENTIALLY TRANSFERRING HER AFFECTIONS~ TO SPIKE, BECAUSE HE IS THREATENED BY ALL OTHER MALES EVER. BECAUSE SHE'S FOURTEEN BUT, YOU KNOW, WOMAN-SHAPED AND THEREFORE SYMBOLIC OF SOMETHING HE SHOULD BE ABLE TO CALL DIBS ON. because, you know, they're not worthy. and all the women are his. all the women. every woman. because he's obviously put so much effort into them. by existing arduously in their vicinity. it's what he ~deserves, and all those pesky other people in the universe are just getting in his way."

    Addition: And let's not forget about trying to kill someone for the horrible capital punishment crime of... having consensual sex with Xander's ex-girlfriend (yeah, the one that Xander previously dumped at the altar). Taking an axe and going all through the town with the intention of killing, that looks like a premediated murder attempt. (So, maybe it's not treated as such as Spike is a vampire. But Anya is a demon again at this point, and does Xander think that her life is worthless as well?)

    And speaking of Xander as the arbiter of female sexuality - I was disappointed that the author of this post didn't include the moment from the next episode, "Seeing Red": Xander proving once again to be a judgmental hypocritical ass and shaming Buffy about her sex life. I was glad she finally told him it was not his business, but then he says "It used to be" and they act like this is what it should be like. When he starts dissing her for turning to Spike instead of his wonderful self and saying "I've had my share of mistakes, but I didn't slaughter half of Europe", I get the urge to tell him "YEAH, BUT YOUR EX-FIANCEE DID!" Now, I love Anya, but we're talking about standards set by Xander here: fact is, Xander almost married an ex-vengeance demon who had been killing and torturing people for a thousand years, and never expressed any remorse for it - and he had no problem with it, and none of his friends told him he was a sick bastard and that he should be ashamed of himself for it. And when you look at Xander's love life, he was always willing to jump straight into bed with every sexy, dangerous woman who came onto him - most of them proved to be demons (Insect Lady, Ampata, the one in S7 "First Date") and quite a few tried to kill him (including Faith, who despite not being a demon, tried to rape him and then smother him), with Buffy having to save him over and over.

    But apparently, different rules apply to Xander and Buffy - because she is a hero, or because she is a woman?
    Which reminds me of a poster who wrote in the Buffy season 6 thread that "Buffy lost all credibility as a heroine when she started sleeping with monsters". I guess quite a few fans share Xander's views. The old double standard - we hold our women to higher standards, so we give them less freedom! Buffy is, apparently, supposed to stand still on the pedestal that Xander put her on, and isn't allowed to choose for herself who she is going to sleep with, in order to remain a "good girl"!

    Now, I have to say something positive: in season 7, for the most part, Xander stopped being a douche, and realized that his female friends have the right to make decisions for themselves. (It was time for Giles to start acting like a patronizing controlling douchebag.)
     
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2010
  3. Ethros

    Ethros Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Douchebag characters considered "Nice Guys" - example 1: Xander Ha

    Jesus. I'm not reading all that. You've thought about this too much. It's a TV show, one that hasn't been on the air for over seven years. Xander is the comic relief. He's a funny guy, and lucky him, he mostly gets off with hot chicks too. End of.

    I always liked him anyway.
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2010
  4. DevilEyes

    DevilEyes Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: Douchebag characters considered "Nice Guys" - example 1: Xander Ha

    Well, I copy pasted most of it (all the quoted stuff). But I agree with it.

    And it beats another one of Joe Washington's endless "Late seasons of Buffy sucked and let's discuss how we could hypothetically have done them differently" threads. ;) :p :lol:

    (No offense, Joe. :) )

    Besides, as I said, I don't have a problem with the character. I used to dislike him at first, I grew to accept and like him later. I just hate it when people take him as an example of a "nice guy".
     
  5. iguana_tonante

    iguana_tonante Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Douchebag characters considered "Nice Guys" - example 1: Xander Ha

    That's... a lot of text.
     
  6. Re: Douchebag characters considered "Nice Guys" - example 1: Xander Ha

    lol my reaction exactly. However, you can read it up to the point where the show-transcript quotes begin and get the overall point, which is that yes xander is kind of sex-obsessed douchebag.

    Who Xander deserves is........ Anya. She actually wants him, and is a little loony, and sexist (the other way), and occasionally very douchy herself.
     
  7. Admiral Buzzkill

    Admiral Buzzkill Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Douchebag characters considered "Nice Guys" - example 1: Xander Ha

    I never liked Xander - yeah, he was a self-absorbed, self-pitying douche whose redeeming quality was supposed to be "loyalty to his friends."

    Okay...so?

    That said, one of the things I love about Whedon's writing is that it's possible for people to enjoy his shows while having really different feelings about various characters - most of the characters have enough rough edges and shortcomings, as well as the rather more generic good qualities shared by most protagonists, that few of them are going to suit every viewer. I dislike Xander in almost the way I might dislike an acquaintance who someone else I know is very fond of.
     
  8. label

    label Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Douchebag characters considered "Nice Guys" - example 1: Xander Ha

    Let's also keep in mind that most of the time he was being that sex-starved, immature guy he was in a high school...his first couple of years he would have been between 14-16 years old....of course he was those things you claim. If he wasn't, it wouldn't have been particularly realistic. As someone who has a sophomore in High School, I can attest that most of the kids at that age do have an immature attitude towards sex, relationships and life in general.

    Granted, by the time he's a senior in High School he can realistically start to be held a bit more accountable for starting to have a bit more enlightened attitude towards women/sex, but even then in this culture/day and age there's no guarantee he'd be capable of that.

    Yes, he's guilty of some of the things you documented in your original posts, but I'd argue that at his young age,it'd be unrealistic for him to act in any way other than that until he does get towards season 5-6..........
     
  9. Dream

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    Re: Douchebag characters considered "Nice Guys" - example 1: Xander Ha

    I'm a big fan of Angel, so I've never been a fan of Xander since he treated our vampire so crappy.
     
  10. RoJoHen

    RoJoHen Awesome Premium Member

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    Re: Douchebag characters considered "Nice Guys" - example 1: Xander Ha

    I have always liked Xander and grew to like him more throughout the course of the show. I absolutely loved the end of Season 6 where, after many years of thinking himself worthless, he is the only person capable of saving the world.

    I do have a question about Xander, though. What the hell is a Zeppo?
     
  11. Lonemagpie

    Lonemagpie Writer Admiral

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    Re: Douchebag characters considered "Nice Guys" - example 1: Xander Ha

    Youngest of the Marx Brothers, usually the straight man, and generally the forgotten normal guy of the group of comedians.

    The scary thing about discussions like this thread and the other quoted one is that Whedon has always maintained that Xander is meant to be the audience identification figure, and his idea of a perfectly normal male....
     
  12. RoJoHen

    RoJoHen Awesome Premium Member

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    Re: Douchebag characters considered "Nice Guys" - example 1: Xander Ha

    I dunno, Xander always seemed pretty normal to me.
     
  13. Holdfast

    Holdfast Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Douchebag characters considered "Nice Guys" - example 1: Xander Ha

    tl;dr to everything past the first paragraph, so forgive me if I mention a point you later cover in your thesis. :D

    Xander is considered "a nice guy" because he says some pretty funny things, and doesn't have superpowers. You'd have a beer and shoot the breeze with him for a half an hour or so, which is about the limit of how many people (especially - dare I suggest it - many guys) decide whether they like someone.

    How he behaves over the longer term, or in more intimate settings, doesn't really come into it all that much, unless he does something directly harmful/annoying. The "nice guy" tag is a quick, instant superficial reaction, not a detailed critical response after a character analysis.

    Or, to put it another way, you're probably overthinking things just a wee bit here.
     
  14. Wereghost

    Wereghost Part-time poltergeist Rear Admiral

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    Re: Douchebag characters considered "Nice Guys" - example 1: Xander Ha

    In Xander's defence, that's largely because Angel/Angelus killed a lot of his friends etc etc.

    BTW, DevilEyes, is this going to be a series? I could nominate one or two guys and gals from various franchises.;):)
     
  15. DevilEyes

    DevilEyes Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: Douchebag characters considered "Nice Guys" - example 1: Xander Ha

    That's exactly what bothers me. Especially with the whole 'he's the one who sees' thing. :wtf:

    I have no other candidates in mind so far, but I was hoping someone else might, I'm sure there are plenty of douchy 'nice guy/gal' characters out there. So, yes, please do nominate! :bolian:

    (Though you've just reminded me that one huge example of moral dissonance with a hero(ine) is Athena in S4 of BSG. But that's more about S4 and less about the overall development of the character.)
     
  16. Wereghost

    Wereghost Part-time poltergeist Rear Admiral

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    Re: Douchebag characters considered "Nice Guys" - example 1: Xander Ha

    I agree completely; Athena wasn't the only one run over by season four's treadmill. My avatar's Boomer, though.

    Okay, douchebags considered nice guys/gals:
    Rupert Giles (Buffy).
    Angel (Buffy / Angel).
    Roslin, Adama, Tyrol, Helo, Cally and practically everyone else from BSG.
    The Doctor from Doctor Who, notably in the first year.
    Professor X.
    Tony Stark from the Civil War / Planet Hulk era of Marvel Comics.
     
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2010
  17. Jetfire

    Jetfire Guest

    Re: Douchebag characters considered "Nice Guys" - example 1: Xander Ha

    Clark Kent (Smallville) :lol:
     
  18. Wereghost

    Wereghost Part-time poltergeist Rear Admiral

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    Re: Douchebag characters considered "Nice Guys" - example 1: Xander Ha

    Riiiight.

    Actually, I almost posted Superman in Superman Returns.
     
  19. DevilEyes

    DevilEyes Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: Douchebag characters considered "Nice Guys" - example 1: Xander Ha

    I know. But you can see why seeing Boomer makes me think of Athena, esp. since they were treated so differently in seasons 3/4, with the show apparently trying to hammer in how baaaad Boomer is, and how wonderful Athena is. And I remember from your comments from the BSG forum that you feel the same about S4 Athena.

    I knew that there would be characters from BSG on the list. :lol: I was never sure if we were supposed to think of them as nice, though - except for Helo, he was always set up as the white knight.

    Is Angel generally considered a nice guy? I always find it a little unclear... One thing I am certain of is that too many people seem to treat Angel and Angelus as if they are not the same person, which doesn't make any sense and has been contradicted lots of times on both shows. Although that's probably partly the result of the writers not having properly worked out the whole soul issue in season 2 (no, it didn't make any sense back then, either; it was pretty obvious he was the same guy, only "gone bad").
     
  20. Wereghost

    Wereghost Part-time poltergeist Rear Admiral

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    Re: Douchebag characters considered "Nice Guys" - example 1: Xander Ha

    Wilhaus Tarkin from Star Wars. He actually is nice, but boy is he a douchebag. "You're far too trusting, my dear.":rommie:

    (Edit: And Obi-Wan, of course, for lying though his teeth to Luke about his father and then pretending that it was true "from a certain point of view").
     
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2010