willow, sad
I Blame the Dutch mpoetess
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On the smacking of Xanders


So, I love pipsqueaky's Willow/Xander vid Ordinary with a strong and fiery passion. Ok, a somewhat soggy passion because I cannot watch it without crying. Ever. For Willow, for all of the Scoobies in their long-lost innocence, and for high-school me, who -- aside from the skinniness and the evil-fighting -- was Willow.

That stated up front, I tend to feel like an alien when I listen to comments on this vid, and on that relationship in general. The comment was made during the vid review panel (discussion of premiering vids) at vividcon that we've all been Willow (right with you there) and we all think (no matter how much we may love him in general) that Xander needs to be smacked. Er? Not so much. I thought of raising my hand and saying so, but at that point most of the commentary on the vid had played its course and I thought I'd be digressing too much to say "Really no. Xander needs to be smacked for many things, but his high school relationship with Willow (pre-clothes-fluking) is not one of them."

Vague disclaimer being nobody's friend, I'm a major Xanderista, so this can be taken with as large a grain of salt as anyone cares to -- but I had a Xander in high school. All through high school, in fact. Four years, same guy. He wasn't my best friend, we didn't grow up together -- it was more a situation of worship-from-anear. Join particular school activities largely because he was in them; feel sad when I didn't end up sharing the same class with him for any given subject. Make sure I had his favorite kind of candy at the props table when he stopped by so I could help him with his costume. If there's an equivalent of 'fag hag' for straight men (presumably; I haven't seen him in ten-plus years), I was his.

He knew; I know he knew. Maybe not all along but certainly by the time we graduated. In retrospect it's almost impossible to dream up a situation in which he could have been so stupid as to miss it. My subtlety was pretty laughable.

But -- what was he supposed to say? Anything besides "Miss Groggins, you've taken off your glasses and good lord, what have I been missing all this time? You're amazing!" would have left me in a pathetic, and more important, humiliated heap. Letting down easy? Being honest about feeling or not feeling a thing? Unless someone asks directly for the answer, it's highly overrated as a 'kindness.'

So Willow and Xander: did she ever ask directly? Did she ever come out and say directly, inviting an answer? I think the closest she came in the pre-Cordy days was turning Xander down for the Spring Fling in Prophecy Girl - and that was -- I think deliberately -- couched in such terms that it could be taken as "I love you; I can't go to the dance and watch you wishing you were with her" or "I'm your best friend and it's shitty to ask me to go to the dance with you as a second fiddle, while you watch some other girl." Which shittiness, in either interpretation, Xander understood when she pointed it out to him, and apologized for, I think to his credit.

I've never understood, when the argument was made that he treated her shabbily, what it was that he was supposed to have done. If the boy I was infatuated with came out and told me that there wasn't a chance in hell (no matter how nicely), without me having opened the floor to such an... intimate? communication, I would've curled into a ball and died of shame. The disappointment I'd have got over, and probably relatively quickly, though Willow had more years of buildup to deal with -- but the part where I'd have to look at him again, knowing he'd known all along, knowing he'd just been "kind" to me... gah. Now, it's amusing to admit that god, was I a dork, among many dorks. Then? In high school? I would've hated my Xander, and myself, with a passion at least as strong as that with which I now love this vid.

Because I was a teenage girl. And he was a teenage boy. Just like Willow and Xander. He would have to have been much more mature than I was, to somehow know that getting the truth out in the open was the "right" thing to do, if it even was -- because I'd also have felt like he was being condescending, to assume he knew what my feelings were -- no matter that he was right. It would've been such an invasion of emotional privacy, to me.

Likewise, Xander would have to have been more mature, or at least more of an emotional risk-taker, than Willow, to be the one to actually say the thing out loud, and I can't fathom why people expect that of him -- why he's smackable for not being more emotionally articulate than Willow, at the same age. I don't understand why that's a "boyz r stoopid" thing, and not a "teenagerz r stoopid; they were both incoherent twits back then" thing. Did Xander occasionally take advantage of her feelings for him to give him comfort when things like Ampata happened? Yup. Did Willow know that's what was going on and grab any chance to be close to him that she could? Yup. (Obviously with the disclaimer of "In my reading of the text.")

Are teenagers capable of doing the mature, brave thing, on occasion? Sure. Cited in evidence, Xander coming out and asking Buffy to the dance, saying straight out that he liked her as more than a friend. (Granted his reaction to disappointment and his ongoing Buffy-jealousy was less mature and not remotely brave, though it sometimes incited him to brave acts, like dragging Angel with him to rescue Buffy later in the same episode.) Also cited in evidence, Buffy being honest and not cruel in her answer that no, she just didn't think of him that way, no matter how much she cared about him.

The thing there though was that Xander was the one to open the dialogue. He laid his cards out and asked for a reading; he might not have liked the answer, but he made it okay for Buffy to be honest in reply. There was no way for it not to be awkward, but he made it not presumptuous on her part, to tell him how she felt and didn't feel. There was no such open table for Willow and Xander. They were both more comfortable (No, no, no, no. No speaking up. That way leads to madness and sweaty palms.) not being completely honest -- and it bewilders and frustrates me to see Xander frequently take the whole rap for that in fannish analyses of the situation.


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(Deleted comment)

mpoetess

2004-08-18 05:13 pm (UTC) (Link)

And I can't say that had there been somebody who wanted to be Willow to me, I wouldn't have done the same thing as you. The only thing that stopped me from being a bigger jerk than I was, was lack of opportunity, I suspect.

wesleysgirl

2004-08-17 10:33 am (UTC) (Link)

For what it's worth, I completely agree with you.

mpoetess

2004-08-18 05:13 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yay!

*pays you*

byrne

2004-08-17 10:36 am (UTC) (Link)

Nod nod nod

nod.

mpoetess

2004-08-18 05:14 pm (UTC) (Link)

*props up your head*

(no subject) - byrne, 2004-08-18 05:18 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mpoetess, 2004-08-18 05:40 pm (UTC) (Expand)

outofthisworld

2004-08-17 10:41 am (UTC) (Link)

That's a good point that I hadn't thought of. Thanks for the discussion--it gives me something to ponder. :)

mpoetess

2004-08-18 05:16 pm (UTC) (Link)

Some of the comments below brought out a few things I hadn't thought of too - like everyone who expresses annoyance with Xander in that situation doesn't necessarily think he's an asshole - sometimes it's "Wake up and smell the hottie, stupid!"

ladycat777

2004-08-17 10:43 am (UTC) (Link)

Yes.

mpoetess

2004-08-18 05:16 pm (UTC) (Link)

Ooh, an unqualified yes -- do I get to pick the question?

thebratqueen

2004-08-17 11:13 am (UTC) (Link)

Yeah, I'm pretty much right there with you. I mean I like Willow and all, but she pretty much actively tried to hide her crush (ice cream on the nose notwithstanding), and IIRC even said so on multiple occasions. This makes it hard for Xander to be aware of said crush without developing psychic abilities. Which, on the Hellmouth, isn't out of the question, but even still ;)

mpoetess

2004-08-18 05:19 pm (UTC) (Link)

I think even if he is aware of it - and I'm pretty sure he was on some level -- when she chooses to hide it in most cases, or not acknowledge it, it seems like it would come off kind of conceited/arrogant to say "So, let's talk. I know you have a crush on me, and I just don't feel like that about you."

Though I don't entirely disagree with Mer's suggestion that at some points he was using it to bloster his own (pretty fragile) ego.

(no subject) - mpoetess, 2004-08-18 05:20 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mpoetess, 2004-08-18 05:41 pm (UTC) (Expand)

Totally agree.

butterfly

2004-08-17 11:15 am (UTC) (Link)

Honestly, I don't get the smacking reaction unless that person also thinks that Buffy pre-Prophecy Girl should be smacked on Xander's behalf. It's exactly the same situation, as they make a point of illustrating in The Witch. It's just that Xander does have the honesty and, yes, courage to ask Buffy and be willing to risk the rejection. Buffy wouldn't have brought it up herself, any more than Xander would have with Willow.

Re: Totally agree.

mpoetess

2004-08-18 05:24 pm (UTC) (Link)

laurashapiro and sisabet both pointed out some variations on the smacking that make sense to me (wanting to smack him in that moment when Willow is being hurt, before the camera lens - or the vid lens - backs away and we remember the whole picture, or wanting to smack him in a loving "God, you idiot, look what you're doing" way.) So I'm understanding the direct reaction to <lj user=pipsqueaky?'s vid more, even though I didn't have that particular one myself. I have come across people in fandom who took an overall "Xander was a jerk to Willow" feeling away from the show itself, though, and I still land in the "Huh?" corner, there.

Re: Totally agree. - butterfly, 2004-08-18 11:21 pm (UTC) (Expand)

violetfrosting

2004-08-17 11:19 am (UTC) (Link)

Firstly - that vid *sob*

I didn't have a Xander at school because the object of my affections didn't want to know me, but teenagers are tricky - and any relationship where one person adores and idolises someone who doesn't like them equally will always end badly whatever age you are, but with teens it's worse because all emotions are amplified.

mpoetess

2004-08-18 05:27 pm (UTC) (Link)

Firstly - that vid *sob*

Isn't it just heartbreaking? And beautifully put together.

any relationship where one person adores and idolises someone who doesn't like them equally will always end badly whatever age you are, but with teens it's worse because all emotions are amplified.

Word. The Willow/Xander/Buffy cycle, where everybody (except Buffy) is pining after someone who doesn't want them back in the same way, is hard to watch.

(Deleted comment)

mpoetess

2004-08-17 11:56 am (UTC) (Link)

You're right, and I didn't think of that situation. I think for people who didn't see the whole X/W 1st season relationship play out, it would look from the vid like he was being much more jerkish than I see him being in canon. My befuddlement is totally directed towards fans who have seen all those eps and still think that the blame for Willow's unhappiness is all on Xander, instead of more squarely on them both being teenagers.

FWIW, I think canonwise we're meant to believe he knew, at least at some point. And I suspect we're meant to believe Willow knew he knew, and they were both dancing around actually admitting it, up to the point in Season 2 where she finds out accidentally that he's been making out with Cordelia.

mireille719

2004-08-17 11:55 am (UTC) (Link)

No, I completely agree with you (then again, Xanderista, me, yeah - but I also love Willow, particularly highschool-aged Willow). There's *no* good way to handle it, and I can't imagine most teenaged guys (and I think Xander's a fairly typical teenaged boy, in most ways) being emotionally mature enough to be able to bring the topic up.

Ice-cream-on-the-nose aside, Xander didn't lead Willow on, or anything like that. (And that was... a weird thing. Weird things happen. *g*)

There are things you can argue that Xander should be smacked for, but in general, they fall under the category of "being seventeen," not "being mean and heartless to his best friend whom he loves very much, just not in the 'right' way."

mpoetess

2004-08-18 05:30 pm (UTC) (Link)

I think one of the saddest bits in Season 2 is the ice cream on the nose. (Not to put down Jenny's death or the end of Becoming, obviously!) Because there was a moment there, just a moment, where things could have clicked, if Buffy hadn't inadvertantly shown up right then and shifted the balance back to the way it was. I'm a Xanderslasher, and even in canon think he could easily have been interpreted as bi-but-in-denial, but even so that missed opportunity to find out without pressure what he could have had with Willow, definitely twists the knife to watch.

stakebait

2004-08-17 12:17 pm (UTC) (Link)

I was annoyed with Xander at the time for the back and forthness of it.

Sometimes it seemed like he knew about it and was taking advantage, which was a little sketchy but as you say, she was not objecting.

At other times he seemed to be clueless and therefore inflicting accidental wounds with every other act and sentence. Which was a shame, but not really his fault. Or no more than any other cluelessness ever is, and forgiveable in a teenager without much experience to have learned better.

Except for those other times when it seemed like he knew. With four seasons of distance, I can say that was probably mostly inconsistant interpretations by different writers.
But at the time it looked to me like he ALWAYS knew perfectly well -- because why would he forget from one episode to the next? but was sometimes pretending not to in order to get away with saying things which were really hurtful to or in front of Willow.

If he pretended that he didn't know he was hurting her, he therefore wasn't responsible. And that, to me, was low. I'm not saying be honest, although that would have been a fine solution from my perspective. I'm saying be honest or be tactful, pick one. But don't be passive-aggressive.

And that's how he read to me back in the day. Like he was feeding his ego with the Willow worship, not to mention keeping his backup options open, but didn't want the bother of actually considering her feelings and refraining from saying stuff that would hurt her, so he was faking Stupid Boy Syndrome and hoping no one would call him on it.

But then I wasn't likely to cut Xander much slack. I am so not a Xanderista. I was never a huge fan, and I lost what respect and patience for him I had when he lied to Buffy about what Willow said. I eventually regrew some fondness for him, but it took years and it's never been quite the same since. So in season three especially I would not have been giving him the benefit of any doubts.

mpoetess

2004-08-18 05:37 pm (UTC) (Link)

Hmm - I didn't really look at it as him pretending he didn't know so he could say things in front of her that might hurt her, so much as him not knowing how *much* she cared about him, or that those things would hurt her. Like, he could very well have Stupid Boy Syndrome on what sort of things he shouldn't say in front of someone who has a crush on hm that he doesn't return, while being smart enough to know the crush exists.

But I agree that it was very unevenly played out -- and I come from the viewpoint of having watched mostly-post-crush Willow and Xander *first* (actually my first full ep was a rerun of Consequences) before seeing seasons 1 through 3, and knowing the plotline of them in advance before I watched them. So the rawness of seeing that relationship and his behavior as it unfolded, is something I don't entirely have. I don't know how I'd have read it if I'd watched the show from the beginning.

(no subject) - stakebait, 2004-08-18 05:47 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mpoetess, 2004-08-18 06:03 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - stakebait, 2004-08-18 07:26 pm (UTC) (Expand)

entrenous88

2004-08-17 12:18 pm (UTC) (Link)

Reasonable, well-said, and just darned right! Damn, I got all emotional at the end. :D

I'm mainly in the slash camp, though I also read het fic (what can I say, I'll read Xander in almost any situation?). It's less frequent that I read crit that het-focused viewers and/or writers lay out, but when I do, I'm always rather surprised to find anything from hints of to downright flag waving for a virulent anti-Xander atmosphere out there. I think it comes from different angles depending on their position (as shippers, or promoters/devotees of other characters, etc.) but I'm not sure why there seems to be, at the very least, more Xander-hatin' in the primarily het camp. I can in no way guarantee that my impressions represent an accurate picture of the views of the het reading/writing/crit-writing community at large in AtS/BtVS, but I just don't find those views...well, almost ever.... on the slashy side of the street. Huh.

mpoetess

2004-08-18 05:39 pm (UTC) (Link)

Actually, I've found a number of Angel/Spike shippers who don't think very highly of Xander; Kita isn't a big fan of his. It's something we've had fun (I think! At least I did) discussing, though I suspect we won't ever agree on our interpretations of him.

(no subject) - stakebait, 2004-08-18 05:49 pm (UTC) (Expand)

vylit

2004-08-17 12:27 pm (UTC) (Link)

You know that I have issues when it comes to Xander, but I do completely agree with you when it comes to this. Xander didn't do anything wrong. He didn't return Willow's feelings (except for a short period of time in s3), and there was no "right" way to handle the situation. Ignoring it allowed them to hold on to their friendship with the least amount of angst and embarrassment.

mpoetess

2004-08-18 05:47 pm (UTC) (Link)

Ignoring it allowed them to hold on to their friendship with the least amount of angst and embarrassment.

That's my take on it too -- definitely when I was Willow *g* I was happy to have it ignored, if the alternative was a negative acknowledgement.

djinanna

2004-08-17 12:53 pm (UTC) (Link)

>>I've never understood, when the argument was made that he treated her shabbily, what it was that he was supposed to have done.<<

Totally agree. Would've probably been dorky enough to say something at the panel (had I been there), because I remember watching that vid and, even while enjoying it, starting to get indignant because *it* was making Xander out to be the one at fault. Because I still don't very often get "POV" within a vidding context -- my default film POV of 3rd person slightly-limited omniscent kicks in.

And-and-and ... here's my thing. This is actually one of my *big* pet peeves. "I love you; therefore you are obligated to love me back." And GODS! does that attitude piss me off. Whether it's the obvious stalker or the shy sweet "deserving" friend who's being ignored for the slutty hottie, no ... there's no obligation to return *any* feelings.

Just - *argh*!!!

mpoetess

2004-08-18 05:53 pm (UTC) (Link)

I get that. I had a reserved section off in the left part of my brain somewhere going "Must. Defend. Xander!" while watching it, but mostly I could tell we were seeing things through Willow's eyes, not the Eyes of God, as it were. I really really didn't have a problem with the vid itself -- despite Pipsqueak having warned that Xanderlovers might be upset, when she first posted it on LJ. I didn't find anything to be upset about at all. Yeah, it was like that, yeah, it happened, yeah, that's very likely how Willow saw it -- but honestly I think in the vid, *Willow* isn't seeing Xander as someone she's angry with. She's still seeing him as someone she adores, who makes her sad. And when I'm in the vid, that's how I'm feeling too -- I think that's one of the reasons I feel kind of weird in my reaction to it, because I *don't* have even the "right here right now in this moment I am angry with him" reaction. Right here right now in this moment (watching the vid) I am Willow, and thus feeling sad and small. I'm not outside person getting angry for her. And once it's over, I'm me, who loves them both, and has perspective on what went on.

kattahj

2004-08-17 12:56 pm (UTC) (Link)

I didn't get the urge to smack Xander until season 3. Then I was very much, "Oh, so *now* you like Willow? You couldn't have decided to like her while you were both *single*!?" But season 1 Xander I have no problem with. In his situation, I would have behaved much worse (gone along with it just because it's cool to have someone in love with you, if you must know). I'd question his taste in women, but not his actual behaviour. And of course, Xander-who-is-an-asshole-to-his-own-girlfriend is also a later invention.

mpoetess

2004-08-18 05:55 pm (UTC) (Link)

Then I was very much, "Oh, so *now* you like Willow? You couldn't have decided to like her while you were both *single*!?" Oh, right there with you. Though I wanted to (lovingly) smack them both, at that point, because theyw ere both hurting their respective sig-others.

(no subject) - kattahj, 2004-08-19 01:52 am (UTC) (Expand)
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