Monday, 1 April 2013

BtVS - Halloween

I was working my Xander deconstruction series (Xander and the Fandom)* and a post about Super!Xanders. When looking at how this presents in YAHFs I got... a little distracted. Basically I took a step backward and looked at the episode totally separately from all fandom context. I just examined some key bugs I had in the arcs for each of the main trio.

Enjoy me complaining (for a change) (I'll write a positive (and detailed) post someday, I swear!)


Her relationship with Angel (and Cordelia):

Buffy is insecure in her relationship with Angel. She's prompted to that insecurity by Cordelia, but Cordelia is not really the problem in the relationship. The problem, as I see it, is that Buffy and Angel have not fully defined their relationship AND BUFFY IS NOT TALKING TO ANGEL. This is key. When Buffy feels insecure she doesn't talk to Angel. She steals books and then decides what Angel must like, based on the arbitrary idea that a woman around at the same time he was human is clearly ideal. Pushing aside the weirdness of that assumption, the problem is the not talking, Cordelia is merely a symptom. This'll become important later, once we get on to Xander.

Her costume:

Because of these relationship problems Buffy decides to dress as a noblewoman and thus loses her agency for the majority of the episode. That idea - a woman choosing to give up her own power for a man - is clearly a BAD IDEA. By the end of the episode we're supposed to see the whole thing as subverted. Angel likes powerful!Buffy! Yay!

As usual, it's more complicated. For one thing, it shows Buffy deciding to "be herself" BECAUSE ANGEL LIKES "HERSELF". If this trope were to be properly subverted the woman would have to own "being herself" INDEPENDENT of how that makes the man view her. For another thing we have Angel describing the "other women" being "simpering morons". Leaving aside this rather offensive historical inaccuracy, we're still left with the idea that a woman is to be valued BECAUSE she's different to other women. Most of those girls are awful, but Buffy's not a "girly-girl". She's a "man's girl", "an exception to the rule". This is a particularly harmful trope, because it can look, on the face of it, to be empowering.

It's disappointing to see it here because BtVS is usually so good about saying "a strong, independent woman can still be interested in typically "girly" things without it being some black mark on her record." I guess only if that girl is Buffy (just look how Cordelia gets treated over her prioritisation of fashion).


Her costume:

Willow's costuming is in many ways the opposites of Buffy's. I'm... kinda conflicted about that? Let's take a look. Willow wants to wear a not obviously sexy ghost costume. Buffy wants her to be "a dish". Willow ends up covering the "dishiness" with the sheet 'cause she's not comfortable with her Buffy's choice. I have mixed feelings.

On the one hand, Willow is asserting her right to not be decorative eye candy. Yay! Women have every right to chose clothing at their own comfort levels. But by the end of the episode it seems that we're supposed to think that she was just getting cold feet and she's really happier embracing her sexuality. Which... is a possible situation. But it just so happens that the "decision" Willow makes is the socially sanctioned one. She goes from saying "I'll wear what I want, even if my friends don't approve or ogle me" to "I will wear a skimpy costume on Halloween, like all women are told to do." It's not that the second choice is wrong. It's that the first one isn't either, but we're not seeing a lot of that around.

But I said earlier that it was the opposite of Buffy's. How? Buffy chooses her costume and has her agency removed. Willow's choice gets overrided (she has to go around in the outfit Buffy picked) and she... gains agency? (This is the only S2 episode where Willow has >20% of the lines) Is there a problem here? Yes and no. On the one hand, Willow making decisions, being an active member of the group (beyond giving info). But this is done by ignoring consent!?!?

One could argue, no, it's not. Her ghost costume is what's giving her power. And, I don't know. What would have happened if she wasn't wearing those clothes underneath? Naked willow!ghost? Generic sheet!ghost? But let's argue the sheet gives her power. It's also a depressing kind of empowerment, in many ways. The ghost outfit means she can no longer physically influence the world around her. Powerful!Willow is telling the guys what to do, but is unable to do anything her self.


Moving on.


His relationship with Buffy (and Larry):

Xander is insecure in his relationship with Buffy. He's prompted to that insecurity by Larry, but Larry is not really the problem in the relationship. Does any one else hear that echo?

Yeah, I'm drawing a parallel to Buffy and Angel. Is that valid? Well, let's see where it takes us and decide. Xander seems, to me, to have very strong ideas on gender roles (very possibly influenced by his family). From the very first he was unhappy with the power inequality between him and Buffy (Xander: I'm inadequate. That's fine. I'm less than a man. - The Harvest, emphasis mine).

In this episode he is unhappy that Buffy rescued him because she (a girl) saved him (a boy). (Xander: ...when my rep for being a sissy man finally fades!). Now is this consistent with his characterisation? I would (under caveat) argue no. Despite often seeming to wish HE was the Big Tough Man, Xander does seem aware that Buffy is the strong one, and has made his peace with that. Certainly she rescues him a lot, without him offering complaint. I do have a caveat though, being that although is is generally out of character, it's no in this instance. That is, it's not OOC, in front of other people (who are not in on the secret).

So Xander fine with Buffy saving him as long as the rest of the school is unaware? That... seems hypocritical and kinda gross. It reminds me of a girl at my school who was in a class where I was arguing about domestic violence with a couple of jackwagons, in what was ostensibly a class discussion. She didn't say a thing at the time, but came up to me later and gushed about how marvelous I was. To which I feel like saying "It's great that you agree with me, but couldn't you have come to the bat when it actually counted?"

Xander "supports" Buffy being a strong fighter, stronger than a man, stronger than him. But only so long as no one knows about it. I've considered that perhaps he could expect more beatings now that Buffy has made him seem weak. But Larry, seems contemptuous more than anything when he sees Xander later. So what Xander seems to be afraid of is verbal harassment and bullying. Which is no small matter. But he doesn't seem to consider that by perpetuating the idea that women aren't (or shouldn't be) stronger than men, he's upholding a patriarchal structure which degrades women in much worse ways.

Like my classmate, he's happy enough for progress to occur (well, debatable, but that's a different discussion I won't get into here) but he's not going to be doing any of the hard yards.

This is a position the narrative seems to support (Xander: Beating up that pirate gave me a weird sense of closure). Although Willow and Buffy "grow" (in, arguably deeply problematic ways) Xander doesn't. Or if he does it's only in learning that being the Big Damn Hero and rescuing the damsel is so much more satisfying than reversing the situation and letting a girl be strong.

That's a very unhelpful message, BtVS. Although I can see glimmers of possibility in Willow's story line, you have long ways to go in order to redeem yourself! *Is stern*

Anyway, that's my take. Obviously there's other stuff going on here, but this is what stuck out to me . The way this episode is used by the fandom is another issue, and I'll get to it later in Xander and the Fandom.

Oh! BTW, another interesting thing about this episode is the Super Feminine Buffy v. Super Masculine Xander v. Super Masculine Larry. I don't know how I feel about this either, but it's interesting to note. Is this all totally unhelpful (Guys duke it out in a fight for possession of the chick) or kinda good (Buffy v. Larry shows harm in these gender "ideals") with a wonky metaphor (because of Xander). Is it something else all together? I don't know!

*Won't be working on this for the next two weeks due to exams. I'll try to get the next post out soon after that.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

The Many Faces of Xander Harris

Okay, let's get this series underway! But where do we start?

I have decided to split this series into two main sections: 1. Facets of Xander's character, behavior and portrayal and 2. fandom reactions, including meta discussions and fanfic.

Each post in the first section of the series will analyse one aspect (or, sometimes, group of aspects) of Xander's character or behavior in a variety of lights. A basic template would like something like this:

Topic of discussion for the post.

Examples throughout the show of this attitude (especially how (or if) it presents in Xander's six main female relationships - Buffy, Willow, Cordelia, Faith, Anya and Dawn). Including study of how the behavior is treated in-text. I will also bring up things many may say are "trivial" or "jokes". I will note if I believe a comment or action wasn't meant seriously but I don't believe that discounts sexist or otherwise discriminatory behavior.

Discussion of how attitude has/has not changed overtime.

Examination of real world implications.

I'd like to make a few other points clear. I will be disregarding comics, as I have not read them, I know many others have not read them, and I don't want canonical debates to spring up. Also: if the only criticism/defense of a character to be found is in a text created years after the main series I don't think if hold much weight.

I'm also not trying to condemn people who like Xander. It is okay to like problematic things. I happen to LOVE BtVS though I admit it is VERY problematic. I also like specific features or characters of BtVS that I see are particularly problematic. The point is to recognise the problematic elements.

Xander Harris and Me – A Background

I hate Xander Harris. Let’s just get that out of the way in the beginning. I find him the kind of person I’d hate to spend time with. I also find him the kind of character that presents a lot of harmful views without receiving much (usually any) criticism, explicitly or implicitly, by other characters, the narrative or the writers.

But although I came to the first conclusion very quickly (by the end of S1, which was ~3 weeks in real time for me watching) it was much later that I figured out the second. To dislike Xander as a person, to find him irritating was easy, natural. I automatically liked Buffy and Willow and found Xander frequently disrespecting them in a way I couldn’t articulate or deconstruct at 12. I also immediately liked the Buffy/Angel relationship (which, yes, I realise now is problematic in many ways, though I still appreciate a lot about it) which Xander was (in my view) unfairly hostile.

But figuring out the more complex, real world, social issues with Xander took longer. I had to grow up a bit. I had to read feminist essays on not only Xander but the Nice Guy trope, misogyny in a huge range of texts, sexually predatory behaviour, slut shaming… basically a lot of different things around feminism. I had to really learn what it meant to me to be a feminist – something I had previously identified without understanding exactly what I meant.

I see people arguing about Xander a lot. Some pick up on the same things I did without being able to fully express it. Others have expressed, very cogently. Some claim Xander is a great example of character growth from a very flawed individual to one who is much less sexist and self-centred. Others insist he didn’t need that kind of growth at all – his behaviour may have been bad but he was just “insecure”. A number feel he was the injured party in the narrative.

I don’t get into these arguments. I can’t. I always feel I have too much to say on the topic and seeing people trivialise legitimate points or get backed into corers is enough to turn me off the whole idea.

I am now planning a series of post deconstructing various areas of Xander’s behaviour – positive and negative – and larger connections to societal themes. Once I go through all those I will start to discuss different views on Xander’s behaviour and character I have seen across the fandom. I rough outline of posts would look like this:

   1.     Xander Harris and Me – A Background
   2.     The Many Faces of Xander Harris (An overview of how I plan to break up and deconstruct the first collection of posts)
   3.     But Xander’s such a Nice Guy!
   4.     The Stealth Protagonist
   5.     Madonna/Whore/Xander
   6.     Xander Harris - Protector of Female Virtue
   7.     Xander on Gender Roles
   8.     Xander Harris… Sexual Predator?
   9.     A Split Fandom (An overview of how I plan to break up and deconstruct the second collection of posts)
   10. Yeah, but…
   11. It’s all about the Arc!
   12. Everyone has their Flaws
   13. The. Most. Underutilised. Character. Ever!
   14. Super!Xander (and YAHF)
   15. Xander bash!fic
   16. Supporting Cast

This list is subject to change at my own discretion (order and titles, particularly). Questions, suggestions and comments are all very welcome. Lively debate is actively encouraged, and may inform later post (with credit to ideas).

I will note that much of this will have been inspired by others to a degree that I can’t mention or link everyone, but I will where I feel enough of an influence has been exerted to be relevant.

Finally I'd like to come back to my first sentence. I hate Xander Harris. But this series doesn't have to be for people who hate Xander. If you do it's likely you'll agree with a lot of what I have to say. But what I'm trying to do here is come at a topic I feel very emotional about and be analytical about deconstructing it. So maybe, if you like Xander, you can understand a bit better where some other people are coming from. Anyway, I hope this project will provide some interest to every one.

Oh, and Happy Easter!

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Introversion and Stress

The thing is, I'm pretty introverted. This is a factor of my personality I should have considered before deciding to go on exchange. But I didn't and now here I am, constantly having to "get involved". Which is, ironically, the reason (or one of the main reasons) I came. So I only discovered I didn't really want it when I got it. And now I've got 3 and a half months of trying to involve myself in the lifestyle here.

So maybe that'll be healthy for me. Who knows? But, here's a hot tip. When something has gone wrong with a situation? When you're involved with a person who isn't being happy or social enough? Don't have the big sit down talk and finish by expecting them to suddenly start laughing and joining in. Firstly, changes like that take time. Secondly, those big talks ARE STRESSFUL. One doesn't finish one of those talks and suddenly feel like being happy and engaged. One finishes one of those talks and feel STRESSED.

So give them a bit to recover, okay?

Tuesday, 11 September 2012


I have returned! Hopefully with a less erratic updating schedule (hey, I can dream, right?). Anyway, I'm leaving the country today for a 5 month long student exchange in Spain.

Yeah, that's pretty much it. I have quite a bit of preparation left, so I'll have to skedaddle.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Return (with a dash of Photoshop)

Sorry I haven't posted for a while. (I am aware that that statement implies a belief that people are actually following this blog, a delusion that, I assure you, I am totally free of. I am merely indulging in a web convention of apologising for any gap in updates that may have inconvenienced anyone, regardless of the number, or, in cases as pathetic as mine, the existance, of such people.)

Anyway, I don't really have anything to say but I felt guilty about reading instead of doing homework, but didn't want to actually do the homework so I decided to end my hiatus here instead.

Anyway, thought I might share some images I photoshopped recently. Enjoy.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Wild Thing 9/9

So, this is the last section... Now, I am both aware of a) how few people have actually read this blog and b) how much time and effort would be involved to comment on everything you read. So, I'm not asking/demanding/extorting comments. However, if people could find it in themselves to just tick the response boxes, which will just take a couple of seconds, that'd be golden. Thanks!

So that’s the whole story. If you were expecting it, you’re sicker than me. And hey, I’m a murderer!
Or not even a murderer, really. I mean I didn’t shoot her or stab her or poison her. All I did was swerve a bit into her lane. It’s scary really, how easy it was. All I had to do was turn a wheel and I snuffed out my best friend’s life.
And everyone is talking about it, comforting me. Trying to help me, reach me, when I don’t even know if there’s a me to reach. I feel like part of me will always be stuck in that moment. Like part of me died with Rach.
And you want to know the funny thing? All these people, they want to help me. I mean they might not know me, their efforts might be clumsy and ineffectual, but they are trying. I act all superior, I openly despise them, but if they knew… they would hate me. Despise me. Feel superior.
But I won’t feel guilty. I don’t feel guilty. It was self-defence if you think about it. She called her boss to arrange to have me killed. What else could I do? So I blackmailed her first. That’s not a crime, is it? Or… maybe it is, but not a hanging offence, surely? Not something that gives a lifelong friend an excuse to try and kill you.
I guess there is one question left. Why’d I start it all? Why did I blackmail my best friend? Here’s the thing. I was going to be there at the drop. Just a little disguise and she wouldn’t even recognise me. I didn’t want any money. That’s not what I blackmailed her for.
All I wanted was for her to kiss me.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Wild Thing 8/9

Okay so now you know almost everything. The operative word being “almost”. See, there’s just one tiny detail. Hardly worth mentioning really. The thing is, I know who killed Rach. I wouldn’t exactly call it “murder”. Self-defence maybe?
But the reason why I know who killed Rach, the reason I’ve been thinking about suicide and death, the reason why I started writing this damn thing at all was that I was there. Right there when it happened.
I was there because I drove my car into her lane and caused her to turn and smash.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Wild Thing 7/9

I don’t know where to start. Well, I lied to the police. If that shocks you, then you better leave. That’s the least of it.
I told them a few of fibs. Remember I said I didn’t know she was a drug dealer? Fib. And I said I only saw her in school? Fib. I also said she hadn’t been acting oddly. Half-truth. Almost anything Rach does could be classified as “strange” but recently she was acting extra, I don’t know, nervous?
I also might have mentioned something about this new creepy guy she was hanging with who, one could argue, doesn’t exist. And never has. And I kind of just made him up.
What? You think that’s more serious than “a few fibs”? I’ll tell you what fibs are, they’re lies, only posher. So that’s all it was; a few fibs.
You want to know why I said those things? Well, I guess there’s a little more I should tell you first.
As well as knowing Rach was a drug dealer I also had a vague idea she was a murderer.
And she could have known that I knew. But only ’cos I gave her some anonymous letters that could’ve given the impression I was blackmailing her. If you’re extra paranoid or something. And thought it was suspicious to mention incriminating photos and drop-off points.
Okay in one entry I’ve gone from grieving best friend to traitorous bitch. Yay!
You’re appalled, wondering how I could be so cruel to my best friend. She’s the murderer, remember?
The night she died she was at a bar. And a guy was talking about blackmail. He was saying the blackmailer usually knew the victim personally. Was often even trusted. And that’s why they aren’t suspected and often how they obtain the blackmail material in the first place.
I was sitting there spying and I watched, as they say, the penny drop. See most of the stuff I had on Rach I got from her computer. Only she and I know the password (we share it) and from a secret draw in her room which only she and I know the location of.
It was really kind of obvious. But she didn’t want to believe it, I guess. People see what they want to. Anyway, I watched the shock, disbelief, pain, anger and resignation cross her face. Then her look turned cold and she excused herself. I saw her call someone saying they had a “problem” and she thought that once they arrived and gave the details they should “take care of it”.
Yeah. And I’m the betrayer.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Wild Thing 6/9

I know I’ve missed two days. I just… I was thinking about suicide… again. And I know when I wrote about it last week I didn’t explain it very clearly. I wasn’t thinking of killing myself, I was just thinking about how easy it would be, all your troubles gone.
I guess I was considering killing myself. And I felt like that again. Wait, you don’t care about that. You want to hear about my sociopathic, drug lord best friend. Yeah, I heard the rumours. They’re not that far off though. So far no one’s said “murderer”. Doesn’t mean they don’t know. Man this is screwed up.
I feel sick. The police think Rach was getting scared and her bosses had her “eliminated”. What a euphemism. You probably use worse ones though? I’ve heard the old biddies going “Poor Danielle, what a way to lose a child”. Please. If Rach weren’t dead she’d die from indignation.
Sorry, was that callous? Awfully sorry. I just can’t keep this up anymore. I can’t keep lying. Starting tomorrow you’re getting god’s honest truth.
I swear.