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 usefulAnd in individual terms, I mostly just don’t care about ( Read more... )

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

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Comments 22

angearia October 6 2010, 01:30:30 UTC
Haha yeah, the ways in which Xander's least favorite qualities add up--if eleusis_walks essays were used as a guideline (which totally isn't the point but I'm hypothetically connecting your fic observations with the essay), then that fictional portrayal of Xander would be totally offbase. That's why I don't hate him: the sum of his negative traits don't somehow tip the scale for me. And I guess my Nice Guy triggering is reserved for the more blatantly sexist jackasses I run across in real life. (I'm reminded of the time I worked with a sexist asshole who once referred to me as Tits while telling me to go do something for him because he was too lazy).

It's all about balance for me. Xander's Nice Guyness is balanced out by the good that he does. Warren Fucking Mears? There is no good there. And he's a real guy, he's a real enough character to count in my Least Favorite Character. Maybe it's because I don't think Xander dismantles the narrative, but rather helps build upon the narrative of complex individuals.

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penny_lane_42 October 6 2010, 01:41:42 UTC
I think he's so triggering for me because I haven't been around many blatantly sexist guys in my life, fortunately. Nothing like your experience (which is horrific!), at least not directed at me. Mostly it's guys who are drowning in their own privilege, who have entitlement out the whazoo, and who refuse to think of things from women's perspectives. So yeah, Xander triggers me in that sense.

Maybe it's because I don't think Xander dismantles the narrative, but rather helps build upon the narrative of complex individuals.

He definitely does, and I don't think I'd ever remove him from the text. But I have such a visceral reaction to him that I just can't like him, even if I can recognize what he adds to the narrative.

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snickfic October 6 2010, 02:48:01 UTC
That's why I don't hate him: the sum of his negative traits don't somehow tip the scale for me.

Yes. He isn't all bad qualities.

And he's a real guy, he's a real enough character to count in my Least Favorite Character.

That's actually something I like about him, that he's mysogyny as it is in the real world, as opposed to Caleb, who's OTT and down the other side. Warren is like Snyder: real-world evil.

Maybe it's because I don't think Xander dismantles the narrative, but rather helps build upon the narrative of complex individuals.

I... have no idea what this means. *feels dumb*

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angearia October 6 2010, 02:50:10 UTC
Ha! My fault for being pretentious. This is an extension of the discussion I was having with Gabs about how Xander is a guy who's sometimes a douche but who can still do awesome things. It's realistic. He can still do really great things even though he's very flawed. And I think that's part of the Buffyverse narrative structure.

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penny_lane_42 October 6 2010, 01:39:07 UTC

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.

Oh, I totally, totally agree with this. I hate character-bashing of the OOC variety. Like, Xander makes an okay antagonist in a fic about Buffy and Spike getting together (though I think it's overdone and I can't think of any fics where I really really love that) because he canonically is always getting his nose in Buffy's love life and being awful to vamps (eta: by which I mean the vamps, the ones who become characters--Spike and Angel). So that makes sense. But Xander torturing someone, etc.? Yeah, that's not going to happen unless you lay a whole heck of a lot of foundation that most fics never do.

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snickfic October 6 2010, 02:35:20 UTC
though I think it's overdone and I can't think of any fics where I really really love that

Well, yeah. I have almost as trouble with Xander causing Buffy relationship troubles as I do with him doing much more violent things, even though there's plenty of canonical evidence for it. I think it's partly because, as you say, it's awfully overdone, and partly it's because 'friends interfere with love life' is not a trope that interests me even a wee little bit. And using it with Buffy and Spike feels artificial, because it isn't like they don't have enough complications. Too often fic writers use Xander as a scapegoat for Spuffy difficulties and then sweep all the other, legit stuff under the rug. Which I hate! Spuffy is all about the complications, and the last thing I want is an easy resolution ( ... )

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penny_lane_42 October 6 2010, 02:38:20 UTC
And using it with Buffy and Spike feels artificial, because it isn't like they don't have enough complications. Too often fic writers use Xander as a scapegoat for Spuffy difficulties and then sweep all the other, legit stuff under the rug. Which I hate! Spuffy is all about the complications, and the last thing I want is an easy resolution!

Exactly, exactly!

And YES about ship-driven bashing. There's just no need for that, and I value IC a ton.

I think fandom at large really loves Xander, but you're right about Spuffydom, definitely.

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eowyn_315 October 6 2010, 03:38:27 UTC
Too often fic writers use Xander as a scapegoat for Spuffy difficulties and then sweep all the other, legit stuff under the rug.

Word. Also: "Intervention." How do you get from "No one is judging you. It's understandable. Spike is strong and mysterious and sort of compact but well-muscled" to "Xander would throw a violent temper tantrum if Spike and Buffy got together"? I mean, unless Spike also boinks Xander's girlfriend in the fic, I'm not really seeing it. :-P

I have just about zero tolerance for poor characterization due to a shipping agenda, even if it's an agenda I agree with.

GAH SO MUCH WORD.

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eowyn_315 October 6 2010, 03:40:15 UTC
You win the internets for making sense today.

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snickfic October 6 2010, 04:36:39 UTC
Yay!

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shapinglight October 6 2010, 08:31:36 UTC
Agreed. Was pretty taken aback by some of what I read yesterday. Xander's not my favourite character, but I think he's a pretty good depiction of a decent man floundering a little out of his depth, making mistakes, screwing up, learning stuff, not screwing up so badly next time while still being far from perfect etc.

I can't imagine hating him that much, even though the confrontation scene between him, Spike and Anya at the end of Entropy is the most upsetting, trigger-y thing for me in the whole of BtVS.

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snickfic October 6 2010, 19:33:09 UTC
Yeah. I frankly have trouble working up enough energy to feel anything for him at all. As a character type, he's necessary and useful, and there are occasional warm-fuzzy moments (such as the "What Would Buffy Do" speech). Beyond that I am meh. Meh, I say!

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shapinglight October 6 2010, 20:52:34 UTC
I have trouble working up that much of a head of steam about any fictional character, actually.

Well, Spike sometimes, but that's about it.

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brutti_ma_buoni October 6 2010, 17:34:38 UTC
I think I just can't deal with bashing in fic. Full stop. I still don't fully understand why people watch shows where a major, major unignorable character is someone they really loathe, though I can see why they might write meta about it if so.* But if there's someone they really loathe, why anyone would decide to write fic about that and expect other fans of the show to read it for fun... ??? It's somewhat like having a voodoo doll that you stab for the hell of it, while expecting other people to be entertained.

*That said, I do get that Xander is less central to your concept of the Buffyverse if you started watching in s6 than in s2. My own watching order (3/2/4/5/7/1 on video with 6 as a parallel timeline since it was on TV at the time I was discovering them) doubtless influences me on this one.

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snickfic October 6 2010, 19:38:03 UTC
See, to me there's a difference between bashing and scenarios where the character is acting badly, but in character. That's the distinction I was trying to draw above. But of course that depends on a person's definition of "in-character," and besides, as personal preference I mostly prefer that my Scoobs stay on the 'good guy' side of the line.

It's somewhat like having a voodoo doll that you stab for the hell of it, while expecting other people to be entertained.

I feel as though this is the basis for many political commentary shows, as well as probably several other forms of 'entertainment.'

That is, uh, definitely a nonlinear approach to watching the show. I cannot even imagine. I watched it on DVD start to finish, starting from S1. I'd never even seen a snippet of an ep before that. (What? Me, sheltered? Naw.) And I liked it that way - it let me appreciate how things built in a way that I don't think I could have done if I was always anticipating later developments.

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brutti_ma_buoni October 6 2010, 19:49:28 UTC
See, to me there's a difference between bashing and scenarios where the character is acting badly, but in character. Yes, definitely for me too. Some characters I am a little defensive of (Giles and Buffy, mainly), but if you can write a fascinating examination of an evil Willow or a Wesley who goes way too far in his misery, I'll certainly read it. And I wouldn't consider Council-Giles or rebellious Buffy to be bashing, they just aren't my preference.

Heh. Voodoo commentary. I suppose if your audience wants the doll to be stabbed too, it works. But it's not my style.

I actually saw Spiral to the Gift first on reruns - so good that even in my confusion I decided to get all the past seasons while s6 was showing. It was a little complex, but if you inhale seasons 2-5 in a couple of months, you work it out. (I was ill at the time, and VHS was going out of style, so box sets on special offer were exactly what I needed.)

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