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March 08 2003

Sci-Fi Characters We Hate to Hate or why Xander Harris earns our acceptance and Jar Jar Binks doesn't.

Yep. "The boy has clocked more field time than any of you combined." (Sorry. I just saw "Checkpoint" again recently, and I love that moment.)

I not only have never hated Xander, but upon recent reflection, I've realized that he's definitely my favorite Buffy character. I've been frustrated with him, disagreed with him, but he never loses my affection. And I've never seen Stargate, and am admittedly behind in the Star Wars prequels, but I have a feeling that we love Xander also because he's complicated in a way that the other characters mentioned never have been.

And, well, also, because he's Joss-like.
"Xander lives in his parents' basement and is considered a geek"

since when is Xander a geek? i thought geeks were supposed to be smart and obsessive about something.

and Xander isn't totally useless, he saves the world in season 6, ha-llo?
Nerds are smart. Geeks are out of touch with what's cool. As it's been shown several times this season, Xander finds himself excited about the same thing as, definite geek, Andrew. The only difference between Xander and any geek I know, myself included, is that he's a little too pretty to be a real geek.
Babylon 5 collector's plates? C'mon, that's pretty geeky.
CPR-ing Buffy to life, saving the world from evil Willow, and endless comic relief. A trifecta of utility.

In the words of Stuart Scott: "Holla!!"
I've always liked Xander, lots of people complain he 'hasn't had a storyline' and feel his character has been sidelined, but I don't see that at all. He's there. That's Xander. He's always there. Struggling with his own problems, trying to cling on to friendship, fixing things. I wouldn't mind a Xander in my daily life.
The Xan-Man is 'every man' in the Buffy-verse. That's why we love him.
Whatever happens involving any type of spinoff, I hope that Nick Brendon is involved with it.
And whether the spin-off does or doesn't happen, I still hope he does a guest spot or two on Angel.
Whedon's often admitted that "Buffy" is his take, though exagerrated and distorted, at looking back on his own high school life. When Buffy said to Principal Wood in a recent episode that high school is like a war, that is in a nutshell what I think Whedon was trying to convey not just in that moment, but in the first three seasons of "Buffy." And if "Buffy" is Whedon's take on high school, it's not much of a stretch to assume that Xander is Whedon's take on himself.

Xander is Whedon's eyes and ears in Buffy's world. Sometimes he's hard on his image. Sometimes he's glorifying the memory, but Xander is the one who has nothing special about him. He just observes. He tries to help where he can, but he's got nothing physical or metaphysical about him that stands out among the crowd, and when you're in a crowd where everyone else is standing out, NOT standing out is, well, still standing out.

An episode like "The Zeppo" is clear evidence of Whedon's connection with Xander as a conduit to that surreality. Not knowing where you fit in.. What American who's lived through high school life couldn't empathize with that? What human being on this planet hasn't at one time or another felt so disconnected and while surrounded by people still felt so alone?

Xander's lovable not because he's sometimes geeky or sometimes saves the world or sometimes says the right thing or does the wrong thing. Lady Pele said "Xan-Man is Everyman." That's spot on. He's Whedon's connection to the BuffyVerse, and by proxy he becomes ours. All around him his friends are super powerful or special in one way or another, and he compares himself to them and finds himself lacking, but what he doesn't see is that it's who he is that makes him just as special as all the others. This means that every individual on this planet is special, because of who they are.

I could barely muscle up a single sentence about what Jar Jar Binks would mean to an audience, but I could write a book about Xander's place in the Buffy storyline and how he helps a viewer understand the outrageous and the sublime in the environment where the story takes place. That's why people hate Jar Jar and love Xander. Xander breathed life into the story he was written into. Jar Jar sucked life out of the story wherein he was placed.

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