If 'character bashing' and 'white-washing' rhymed, we could write a poem

Oct 05, 2010 18:21

penny_lane_42 was talking about how much she hates Xander Harris, and it got me thinking about character bashing in fic. As I told her, I don’t hate Xander; he adds a nice flavor to the narrative soup. He provides comic relief (even when it isn’t funny). He asks stupid-yet-necessary questions. He’s useful.

And in individual terms, I mostly just don’t care about him. However, I see intellectually a lot of the problems other folks have with him. I can sympathize. You’ve got your mysogyny, your patronization of the girlfriend, etc.

Yet I can’t deal with character bashing of Xander. Can’t. (This goes for pretty much every other character, too.) And thinking about it, I finally figured out for myself what I mean by character bashing: it means when a character is being nasty and that behavior is OOC. Warren Mears? I’m not sure it’s possible to bash him; he’s slime in the gutter already. Caleb ditto.

Xander lies, is mean and petty with most demons (especially Angel, whom he’s trying to compete with, and Spike, whom he just hates) and patronizing with Anya, and gets really nasty when he’s angry (see esp. Entropy). However.

However, I can’t see him torturing people, or even demons, without a whole lot more provocation than is usually given in fics of that type. I have difficulty imagining a personal crisis so intense that he would intentionally hurt Buffy or Willow or Giles.

I’m not saying it can’t be done. But I’m saying an author has to do a whole lot of work to get me there, and at the same time I need that darkening characterization to be leavened with the same humor and warmth and affection that I also see as part of Xander’s character.

rahirah does a great job in Necessary Evils of making Willow the villain: by pulling strings already present in the character - insecurity, lust for power, problem-solving skills, a determination to fix everything better - and twisting her motives into monstrous ones. At the same time, even while Willow’s plotting various horrible things, she still sounds like Willow. She still babbles and makes resolve-faces (all the more terrifying given the context). She’s our Willow, her evil all the more grotesque because of how much it still looks like her.

If you must make Xander (or Angel, or Giles, who, given his S7 characterization plus what we know from Ats S5, is IMO actually the easiest character to take this route if you want to) the bad guy, then you have to do the footwork, or else I’ll just wrinkle my nose at you and move on.

topic: fandom, ch: willow, entry: long thoughts, ch: xander

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