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Oh, this is a neat comparison I wouldn't have thought to make, but yeah, they're both characters who interact with gender norms in interesting ways.

that there’s a real concrete problem where large swaths fandom treats Xander like shit because he’s a man with man parts with opinions and human failings

UGH YES. When I first got into fandom I probably would've said that I was indifferent to frosty on Xander, but the fandom ~vibe on him has changed my mind completely. Because it's not just that he's a man - people who hate Xander rarely also hate Spike and/or Angel - it's that he's a "weak" man, a man who's not normatively masculine in a brutal, dominant way.

most Buffyverse males have been driven to crazy danger based on their guilt; Xander is the only one with the self-awareness and mental health to verbalize it and identify this instinct as a problem.

oooh, great point.

UGH YES. When I first got into fandom I probably would've said that I was indifferent to frosty on Xander, but the fandom ~vibe on him has changed my mind completely. Because it's not just that he's a man - people who hate Xander rarely also hate Spike and/or Angel - it's that he's a "weak" man, a man who's not normatively masculine in a brutal, dominant way.

Yeah. I think a lot of it comes down to the Nice Guy thing (especially since Xander is often labelled a Nice Guy), that not being a serial killer is just a hypocritical device to lure ladies into his web of exploitative neediness.

Which, I think there is a certain thing going on about complexity, that Xander has some asshole traits in a package of mostly good and heroic traits makes him difficult to process. And Xander's very insecurity and weakness is used as proof that he can't do anything right or good because the fact that he is insecure and sometimes nakedly so "proves" that he is acting out of self-interest. Which indirectly supports the supporting-machismo narrative all over again, where it's better to put on a front of super strength than show weakness.

I have some thoughts on this, which are not really Xander-specific (and let's be honest, they're probably more about Willow) (and then probably about me), but when people get the message that displaying insecurity or weakness is proof of loser-dom they eventually get to viewing insecurity or incompetence or even *sadness* as a moral failing that they have to work against, especially in a world that values strength and decisiveness. This is a problem, to put it mildly, because often the only real options are to do something genuinely morally wrong or to admit weakness, and if the latter is disincentivized to the point of seeming like an even worse evil, well, you know, the former starts to look like the lesser of two evils. And I even get the impulse to discourage displays of weakness or helplessness to a degree, because "asking for help" often glides into "forcing other people to deal with your problems," and even "forcing people to themselves feel bad about your problems," but I think that "society" as a whole (and fandom within that) is probably swinging too far into the other direction.

Which, I think there is a certain thing going on about complexity, that Xander has some asshole traits in a package of mostly good and heroic traits makes him difficult to process. And Xander's very insecurity and weakness is used as proof that he can't do anything right or good because the fact that he is insecure and sometimes nakedly so "proves" that he is acting out of self-interest. Which indirectly supports the supporting-machismo narrative all over again, where it's better to put on a front of super strength than show weakness.

Yup. I've read vile, awful fan posts attacking Xander for going to talk to Faith in Consequences and pretty much blaming Xander for Faith's attempted rape/attempted murder/assault like "how dare Xander try to *control* and *manage* Faith when Xander doesn't know what's the what and can't physically defend himself against Faith/doesn't know what to say/wants more sex with her.

Thinking about, fandom/the surface read of the story re: how the guys of S3 dealt with Faith is entirely regulated by confidence. Angel and Giles were whitewashed/presented as wise because Angel *confidently* barreled down his "We're both murderers! Stuff in common!" direction and Giles maintained his staid confidence in not touching the whole Faith-situation with a ten-foot pole even though it was mostly his moral responsibility to Watch her post-Helpless and career-responsibility to Watch her pre-Helpless. (But I think Giles pretends confidence but deep down, knows that he has no solutions so he hides behind his Buffy and how he's getting huffy because he knows that I know....)

Meanwhile, Xander and Wesley lack that fundamental confidence and thus, come in for more disproportionate criticism for not knowing how to deal with Faith. Although, in fairness, Xander admits his lack of confidence in a solution straight off the bat as Xander pursues a mild, cautious solution in just having a conversation. Wesley fakes confidence because he had the Watcher's Council behind him and sent a team for a drastic solution of taking Faith *away*. But then, Xander didn't have a protocol requirement/tool like the Watcher's Council men and judgment panel to refer back to. Still the "How dare Xander think he can handle Faith! He was asking for whatever Faith did to him because he stumbled in there with pure judgment. Don't judge awesome ladies- feminism!" and the later, "AtS showing Wes's guilt and Faith's torture of Wes and how it all affected his life is manpain and I'm offended by that because of feminism!" comes from the same cesspool of thought.

Edited at 2014-01-16 06:25 pm (UTC)

I really agree that Angel and Giles' pretend-confidence with no doubting or stammering (as opposed to Xander or Wesley, or, for that matter, Willow in non-Faith-related matters) is treated with respect, as if confidence was always a sign of rightness and righteousness. I think that, interestingly, some of this is just age bias -- older men have had more time to build their confidence AND have more time to develop the emotional manipulation skills AND have more time to ideally have realistic risk-assessment, all of which combine to make Giles and Angel somewhat expertly-seeming, sometimes for good (those two both know a lot of languages and are more tested with that than Wesley or also-linguist Dawn) and sometimes just because it's easy to believe them because they seem like they know what they're doing when they clearly don't.

I have a hunch that if *Giles* went to Faith's apartment to say pretty much everything that Xander tried to but in Giles's older Watcherly way- I'm still your friend, I'm on your side, however, your fighting style is uncontrolled and that leads to accidents- Faith would have responded MUCH better. It may have pulled Faith off her to track to evil. Giles's words would have meant more to Faith because it would have reassured her that an adult was on her side, that her Watcher was behind her. Faith would have taken criticism of her fighting style from her Watcher who is trained to monitor this stuff. See her ready acceptance of Gwen Post's pointers. Faith wouldn't be able to resort to her disrespect and objectification of the guys that she sleeps with that she turned to hyper-drive with Xander. I even think that Giles's status would have allowed him to get past the mistake of "I'll even swear to it in court, if need be" if Giles even made that kind of rookie mistake.

From Faith's POV, Giles inflamed the situation by pretending to believe Faith's accusation of Buffy, commiserate with the Scoobies on how Faith lying and then sent *Xander* to talk court appearances with Faith. Now, I think Giles had good intentions here. However, Giles went wrong in that he wanted to delegate this effort to reform Faith to Buffy. IMO, Giles called that Core Four meeting as a roundabout way of talking through how *Buffy* was going to approach Faith with input and support from Willow and Xander and himself. Note Giles's surprise and disapproval when Xander suggested being the one on Faith's one.

I understand Giles's thinking even though it was wrong-headed and he lost control of the intervention. Buffy is Faith's sister slayer, Buffy was there at Allen Finch's death and can speak the best on it, Giles has confidence in Buffy's interpersonal skills. In a lot of ways, Giles assumes confidence as the wise silver-tongued dude- but Giles thinks Buffy is actually better at him at interpersonal things.

Giles has a lot of older-man confidence in presiding over people and group dynamics that he knows and appears stable to him or people that everyone recognizes as totally inferior to him like Ethan Rayne or Snyder or Wesley. However, when someone like S1 Jenny Calendar or Maggie Walsh or Gwen Post come along to get in Giles's face and legit challenge him in unexpected ways or when Buffy and Willow don't act according to Giles's scripts for them, Giles flutters about and doesn't really know what to do. Giles pretended confidence with unknown quantity Faith by staying far, far away from her and having someone else deal with her.

UGH YES. When I first got into fandom I probably would've said that I was indifferent to frosty on Xander, but the fandom ~vibe on him has changed my mind completely. Because it's not just that he's a man - people who hate Xander rarely also hate Spike and/or Angel - it's that he's a "weak" man, a man who's not normatively masculine in a brutal, dominant way.

Some of it is protagonist privilege. Gunn and Xander deal with a similar challenge- how to feel special and valued as a normal from humble roots in a pack of supers. I feel like Gunn gets a lot more affection from fandom even though I think Xander deals with his issues with more grace and kindness and loyalty and like, 90 percent less inviting danger by making deals with the devil. However, Xander directs his anger and OTT snark at leading lady Buffy and future leading lady Cordelia. Gunn directs his anger at secondary characters Lorne and Wes and has a weird dynamic with Fred and Gunn is weirdly *subservient* to Angel.

Mad Men has really interrogated the concept brilliantly. I, for one, think Joan became better when she accumulated the confidence and position to yell at Don and Roger and openly roll her eyes at Pete and I think that's part of why Joan has had much less scenes of being rude to the secretaries. Joan can direct her anger to the folks upstairs who deserve it. And you know, something like with Buffy, I feel for Don in why he fired Jaguar as a client because the rep was *such* a pig and why he emotionally exploded all over the Hershey meeting. Yeah, Don is really in pain for good reason and he was dealing with hard choices. However, he made bad choices that really hurt the team that are counting on him so Joan's harshness in both scenes was totes justified.

Buffy is a squillion bajillion times better than Don- but she could stand to hear a "It's not about *I*, for one I'd like to hear "we" from you" Joan speech to Don after Don promised that *he'll* fix the Jaguar loss by getting a better client. And Xander does that in Dead Man's Party, Passion, Revelations, etc. Not gracefully, sometimes rudely, sometimes with another agenda- but pretty much always with an agenda to protect the team.

Edited at 2014-01-16 05:56 pm (UTC)

Really good analysis. I'm also reminded of Xander trying really hard to get help in "The Zeppo" rather than lone-wolfing it, and he eventually only lone-wolfs it when it becomes clear that everyone else is busy with their own apocalypse.

I don't know if you've heard NB saying that he was the original choice to play Mal Reynolds (and then the timing worked out so that Firefly started when Buffy was still on, and that got nixed), but that meant that in some alternate universe where that happened, "Our Mrs. Reynolds" (and "Trash") might feature NB and CH together, briefly a quasi-couple! I mean, I don't know what point I'm making. I wonder if something happened to make my IQ drop the past few weeks.

I don't know if you've heard NB saying that he was the original choice to play Mal Reynolds (and then the timing worked out so that Firefly started when Buffy was still on, and that got nixed), but that meant that in some alternate universe where that happened, "Our Mrs. Reynolds" (and "Trash") might feature NB and CH together, briefly a quasi-couple! I mean, I don't know what point I'm making. I wonder if something happened to make my IQ drop the past few weeks.

I didn't know that about NB! LOL. I could see NB playing a pretty good Mal, actually.

Your IQ seems fine to me! I'm still trying to come up with something worthwhile to your points on Don/Betty that goes as deep as your comments.

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