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Thread: Are Willow and Xander Treated Equally?

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    Default Are Willow and Xander Treated Equally?

    I listen to a lot of podcasts and pretty much every single one of them hates Xander and find his behaviour unforgivable. I also find that most of these podcasters love Willow and easily excuse a lot of her behaviour.

    It's been raised on this board recently that Xanders spell in BB&B places him as a very bad light, yet Willow's use of magic on Tara is forgiven and Willow still apears lovable. Their affair in S3 seems to come down to what a terrible person Xander is, and Willow's participation is forgiven, as is her use of a 'de-lusting' spell.

    Is Willow less culpable? Why does Xander get more hate? Was Xander more 'acceptable' when the show first aired and times have changed so much he now seems somehow misogynistic?
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    I think Willow is definitely more popular than Xander overall but both of them have their fair share of haters. I do think Xander’s character probably hasn’t aged as well as the others but I think that even when the show was on the air, he was criticised for the same things then that he is now, so it really isn’t a new phenomenon.

    I like both of them but I admit to having liked High School Xander a lot more when I was younger than I do as an adult. Some of it probably does have to do with the fact that ‘times have changed’ but I think it’s mostly to do with the fact that I’ve just grown up and seen some of his behaviour in a different light. A lot of things I used to find “funny” I now find either annoying or pretty inappropriate. For instance, when I was a kid I would laugh at him in Surprise when he says “Buffy I feel a pre-birthday spanking coming on!” whereas now I think it’s just really weird and that he needs to back off. I still definitely like him in S1-S3 but I definitely prefer the man he becomes in S4-S7 and I think a big part of that is him both maturing as a character and getting over his feelings for Buffy, which I thought tended to bring out the worst in him. In fact, I always think Xander comes across as a way more endearing when he's just being a genuine platonic friend as opposed to when he's linked romantically to any of the girls in S1-S3.

    There are a couple of points I disagree with though based on my own personal experiences in fandom;

    It's been raised on this board recently that Xanders spell in BB&B places him as a very bad light, yet Willow's use of magic on Tara is forgiven and Willow still apears lovable.
    I’ve seen Willow criticized for this a lot. Like, a lot. Willow has been accused of raping Tara in OMWF and I don’t actually agree disagree with that interpretation. The text acknowledges it as well with Tara, literally, singing that she’s under Willow’s spell, whilst Willow performs oral sex on her. If Willow hadn’t altered her mind would Tara have still been angry with her? Probably. And if Tara had still been angry with her would she have had sex with Willow? Probably not. We don’t know that for sure but the fact we have to speculate on it is proof enough that her ability to consent had been compromised. I’ve actually seen very little pushback about this in fandom. It seems to be generally accepted that at best, Willow did something incredibly wrong, or, at worst, she was guilty of raping Tara.

    However, the difference is that Willow is actually punished for what she does. It puts incredible strain on their relationship and then Tara breaks up with her. Whereas, Xander actually wins Cordy’s affections by putting a spell on her and Cordelia takes him back. So I don’t really agree that Willow’s spell is forgiven because Willow actually faces negative repercussions for her actions, as she should, whereas Xander does not. I think most people’s issues (myself included) aren’t that Xander did something wrong but that he’s actually rewarded for it. I think overall Xander gets off pretty lightly in regards to BB&B. For all the most common critiques I see of Xander’s character, this episode is actually rarely brought up. Which I personally find strange because I actually think what he tries to do to Cordy is easily the worst thing he ever does in the series.

    Their affair in S3 seems to come down to what a terrible person Xander is, and Willow's participation is forgiven, as is her use of a 'de-lusting' spell.
    Willow and Xander are both just as guilty as each other for the affair but I don’t blame people for thinking Xander comes across worse because, IMO, he absolutely does. For a start, I find Xander’s holier than thou attitude in Revelations to be extremely annoying given that he’s keeping hurtful secrets of his own. And the way he mocks Buffy for “falling on Angel’s lips” is pretty rich considering he was “clothes fluking” with Willow behind everyone’s backs. Whereas, Willow actually has enough self-awareness to acknowledge that she and Xander are also lying to the group and keeping secrets and that she feels too guilty to judge Buffy harshly. I also think that Willow comes across much better in the aftermath of their affair. Willow seems genuinely apologetic and remorseful for what she has done whereas Xander tries to shift the blame onto Oz/Cordy with his ridiculous troll logic (“this is really all their fault!”) and then tries to compete with Cordelia at The Bronze and prove how much he doesn’t care that he, um, cheated on her and broke her heart? Buffy actually expresses discomfort that he’s trying to make it into a “Them VS Cordy” thing given Cordelia is completely justified to have broken up with him and has had it really rough. Meanwhile, Willow sets firm boundaries with Xander about inappropriate touching because she’s determined to make things right with Oz and refuses to engage in petty fighting with Cordelia. For the remainder of the season she pretty much is willing to accept that Cordy hates them and says that “she deserves some slack” which I find much more honourable.
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    I think it depends on the fan circles. For example, I have come across a lot of Willow hate lately, on Tumblr and Elysian Fields, and a lot of their hate is because of S6 Willow and her misuse of magic for selfish gains.

    I agree with Vamps on why people are more willing to forgive Willow than Xander, except I'll have to disagree on this part:

    However, the difference is that Willow is actually punished for what she does. It puts incredible strain on their relationship and then Tara breaks up with her. Whereas, Xander actually wins Cordy’s affections by putting a spell on her and Cordelia takes him back. So I don’t really agree that Willow’s spell is forgiven because Willow actually faces negative repercussions for her actions, as she should, whereas Xander does not.
    But Xander does face negative repercussions in BB&B:

    1) The spell backfires and Xander doesn't get what he wants.
    2) He gets humiliated by Cordelia instead of humiliating her when he used to think the spell was working.
    3) He gets touched and objectified without his consent throughout the episode (even by older woman).
    4) He gets yelled at and kicked out of the library by Giles.
    5) He gets punched by Oz.
    6) He almost gets killed by Angelus and Dru.
    7) Every single female in Sunnydale attempted to murder him.
    8) Willow wasn't speaking to him by the end of the episode because of what he did.

    For all the most common critiques I see of Xander’s character, this episode is actually rarely brought up. Which I personally find strange because I actually think what he tries to do to Cordy is easily the worst thing he ever does in the series.
    I disagree on both accounts because I did see Xander get criticized a lot for what he did in this episode, and I don't really think what he does here is the worst thing he ever did (IMO he did much worse in Revelation and Entropy) because wanting to dump someone and hurt them the same way they hurt you is very understandable - even if it's wrong - especially since he stated that he didn't want her to be under that spell forever.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sosa lola View Post
    But Xander does face negative repercussions in BB&B:

    1) The spell backfires and Xander doesn't get what he wants.
    2) He gets humiliated by Cordelia instead of humiliating her when he used to think the spell was working.
    3) He gets touched and objectified without his consent throughout the episode (even by older woman).
    4) He gets yelled at and kicked out of the library by Giles.
    5) He gets punched by Oz.
    6) He almost gets killed by Angelus and Dru.
    7) Every single female in Sunnydale attempted to murder him.
    8) Willow wasn't speaking to him by the end of the episode because of what he did.
    He faces negative repercussions for doing the spell in the sense that the spell backfires, I agree. But in regards to Cordy, he is rewarded with her getting back together with him and finding the whole thing 'romantic.' Whereas, if you are to compare it to Tabula Rasa, where Willow puts a spell on Buffy and Tara and not only does the spell backfire and place them all in danger, but Tara then also leaves Willow as well, it’s really strange.

    I used to always love the ending of BB&B but now I just find it to be a bit of a sham. Cordy gets back together with Xander under total false pretences. She never finds out what his true intentions were or that Xander was willing to totally forget about her the moment Buffy hit on him. It just really undercuts what, I assume, is meant to be a happy and positive moment.

    I disagree on both accounts because I did see Xander get criticized a lot for what he did in this episode, and I don't really think what he does here is the worst thing he ever did (IMO he did much worse in Revelation and Entropy) because wanting to dump someone and hurt them the same way they hurt you is very understandable - even if it's wrong - especially since he stated that he didn't want her to be under that spell forever.
    Well, I can agree with you somewhat as Revelations (and Dead Man's Party to some extent) is the only episode in BtVS where I just 100% dislike Xander as a person/character/whatever, but I actually still find his actions in BB&B worse (he's just more likeable throughout the episode). I think the reason I consider them to be the worst is because I think it's the only time where I think Xander is actually deliberately, calculatingly and callously cruel. Like, as far as I'm concerned, what he planned to do to Cordy is something I'd expect from Warren Meers (aside from the fact that Warren would probably go one step further and sleep with her) not Xander. As much of an ass I think Xander is in Dead Man's Party, Revelations or Entropy, I can at least see that he was mostly saying or doing things in the heat of the moment.
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    Oddly enough, think Xander did his most objective wrong in "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered" of the episode cited (followed by DMP, and Entropy, and least wrong in Revelations).

    Two ways to be "treated equally", by the audience, and by the author. That Willow is more popular is a foregone conclusion, but is she also held less accountable for her wrong deeds by the audience? Which is chicken and egg in that scenario? I do think that Willow has a bit of Stanley in her, which is to say, actions are judged more favorably solely on the basis that she is the one who took them. I think on the whole she did just as many dumbass, irresponsible things as Xander and in many ways hers were more invasive or potentially dangerous given the power with which she operated, and that most of hers come when she is like 20-21 and his when he's 17-18 fwiw.

    What of equal treatment, authorially? I tend to think that the answer is 'no', or at least a downward arc to 'no' that begins... well, midseason 3, but really takes hold for sure in Season 4, which is when he becomes pretty consistently an ancillary factor in the major plots, "the heart" notwithstanding. He factored heavily in the major plot resolutions of Seasons 1 and 2, and in Season 3 they made the head-nod toward him being "key guy" nominally because his ad hoc soldier memory would let him devise a battleplan for the students. After that, naw. "Equal treatment" from an authorial standpoint, IMO, can't be measured in many units other than "relevance to the central plot". Like, I mean, I love him in "Revelations" muchly, vampmogs not at all, but it's also one of the last episodes that holds Xander at being of a plot significance tier as Buffy or Willow (or Faith or Giles by extension) precisely because he has all this agency and causes events to advance. Equal treatment by authors could be argued as doing things that are important to be liked or disliked for doing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by vampmogs View Post
    He faces negative repercussions for doing the spell in the sense that the spell backfires, I agree. But in regards to Cordy, he is rewarded with her getting back together with him and finding the whole thing 'romantic.' Whereas, if you are to compare it to Tabula Rasa, where Willow puts a spell on Buffy and Tara and not only does the spell backfire and place them all in danger, but Tara then also leaves Willow as well, it’s really strange.
    I don't think Xander was rewarded in the episode because Cordelia already had feelings for him, before the spell. She didn't ditch her friends right after she learnt about the spell "being for her". It was Harmony's attitude that made her feel fed up with her old friends and decide to go for what she wanted. The reason she dumped Xander was because her old friends rejected her because of him, and the reason she picked him in the end was because she realized she didn't need her friends' approval to go after what she wanted.

    I do wish Cordelia didn't romanticize Xander's "intentions" - which weren't what she thought at all - but I think Cordelia and the show at the time were very immature about these things. Unlike S6, the characters and the tone of the show have grown up and issues like consent and rape are taken more seriously. (For example, Teacher's Pet clearly shows Xander about to get raped, but it wasn't taken seriously at all, neither was Xander being possessed by a hyena, and it's because S1 and also S2 dealt with these issues lightly.)





    Well, I can agree with you somewhat as Revelations (and Dead Man's Party to some extent) is the only episode in BtVS where I just 100% dislike Xander as a person/character/whatever, but I actually still find his actions in BB&B worse (he's just more likeable throughout the episode). I think the reason I consider them to be the worst is because I think it's the only time where I think Xander is actually deliberately, calculatingly and callously cruel. Like, as far as I'm concerned, what he planned to do to Cordy is something I'd expect from Warren Meers (aside from the fact that Warren would probably go one step further and sleep with her) not Xander. As much of an ass I think Xander is in Dead Man's Party, Revelations or Entropy, I can at least see that he was mostly saying or doing things in the heat of the moment.
    But the same could be said about BB&B. Xander asks Amy to do the spell right after he got humiliated and laughed at by everybody in school. It was a heat of the moment thing as well.

    I wouldn't compare him to Warren, who mind controls women to have sex with them. That was never Xander's intention. I'd compare Xander to Anya. He was seeking revenge, just like Anya was seeking revenge in Entropy (and the flashback in Selfless before she was turned into a vengeance demon.)
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    Quote Originally Posted by Priceless View Post
    I listen to a lot of podcasts and pretty much every single one of them hates Xander and find his behaviour unforgivable. I also find that most of these podcasters love Willow and easily excuse a lot of her behaviour.

    It's been raised on this board recently that Xanders spell in BB&B places him as a very bad light, yet Willow's use of magic on Tara is forgiven and Willow still apears lovable. Their affair in S3 seems to come down to what a terrible person Xander is, and Willow's participation is forgiven, as is her use of a 'de-lusting' spell.

    Is Willow less culpable? Why does Xander get more hate? Was Xander more 'acceptable' when the show first aired and times have changed so much he now seems somehow misogynistic?
    I kind of find it a bit funny to see so many fans of BtVS say that they used to love or like Xander the first time, but as they grew up or times changed, they realized he was awful in the early seasons - because it's the exact opposite with me. I absolutely hated Xander in seasons 1-3 when I first watched them. I really couldn't stand him - and I think it was because he reminded me so much of all the annoying, mature behaviors of many boys/young men I knew. I guess you could say I hated Xander before it was popular.
    But with time, I've changed my outlook on things. It's not that I don't find many of the things he says or does annoying or cringeworthy - but I can take a different and broader look at his character, and this is due to several factors:
    - Xander does gradually grow and change over the course of the show into a more mature person and better friend; his flaws are acknowledged by the narrative and it's something that he has to grow out of
    - Many of the in-depth analyses of Xander (e.g. by Sosa Lola) have made me see his character in a different light and consider all his complexities, his insecurities, background, development; I've also become more analytical in my views of BtVS through participation in the fandom, reading and writing meta, rather than just reacting viscerally, as you do the first time you watch something.
    - Many other people have been going so overboard with their hatred and criticism of Xander that it made me take a step back and go "Wait a moment, this is getting so biased it's ridiculous".

    Regarding the last point - yes, I do think there are a lot of people these days (and for the last few years) who are using double standards in how they judge Xander vs how they judge other characters, especially female characters. This is especially obvious not in big moments, but the little things - like the criticism of Xander's slut-shaming of Cordelia, which many bloggers and commentators seem to find absolutely unforgivable. Which is odd, since they don't have any of the same criticism for Cordelia herself, or Willow or Buffy, in spite of the fact that 1) Xander's sexist slurs against Cordelia are usually a part of the mutual game of the two of them insulting each other, and Cordelia's own insults and classist slurs against Xander get ignored, 2) female characters slut-shame each other quite a few times during the early seasons - Willow and Buffy also use slut-shaming language against Cordelia at various points, and Cordelia herself uses it against Faith (before she is even introduced to her),but this is ignored by the same fans. Many of those idolize Cordelia and excuse her tendency to behave in awful ways and use a variety of classist, sexist, racist, ableist insults against various people.
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    Quote Originally Posted by TimeTravellingBunny View Post
    - Many of the in-depth analyses of Xander (e.g. by Sosa Lola) have made me see his character in a different light and consider all his complexities, his insecurities, background, development;
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    Quote Originally Posted by TimeTravellingBunny View Post
    - Many other people have been going so overboard with their hatred and criticism of Xander that it made me take a step back and go "Wait a moment, this is getting so biased it's ridiculous".
    It depends on how the character is criticized. The way someone presents their argument really affects the readers. Passionate, attacking, NO CAPS LOCK arguments with outlandish statements I can't take seriously. I end up liking the character they dislike.

    Quote Originally Posted by TimeTravellingBunny View Post
    Regarding the last point - yes, I do think there are a lot of people these days (and for the last few years) who are using double standards in how they judge Xander vs how they judge other characters, especially female characters. This is especially obvious not in big moments, but the little things - like the criticism of Xander's slut-shaming of Cordelia, which many bloggers and commentators seem to find absolutely unforgivable. Which is odd, since they don't have any of the same criticism for Cordelia herself, or Willow or Buffy, in spite of the fact that 1) Xander's sexist slurs against Cordelia are usually a part of the mutual game of the two of them insulting each other, and Cordelia's own insults and classist slurs against Xander get ignored, 2) female characters slut-shame each other quite a few times during the early seasons - Willow and Buffy also use slut-shaming language against Cordelia at various points, and Cordelia herself uses it against Faith (before she is even introduced to her),but this is ignored by the same fans. Many of those idolize Cordelia and excuse her tendency to behave in awful ways and use a variety of classist, sexist, racist, ableist insults against various people.
    I agree. I have talked about it in Tumblr.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sosa lola View Post
    I feel so special.




    It depends on how the character is criticized. The way someone presents their argument really affects the readers. Passionate, attacking, NO CAPS LOCK arguments with outlandish statements I can't take seriously. I end up liking the character they dislike.



    I agree. I have talked about it in Tumblr.
    "I also feel that lately people tend to root more for strong outspoken women like Cordelia, especially when she’s sassing guys like Xander. It doesn’t matter who starts that argument or who’s more vicious, everyone’s on Cordelia’s side because she’s a strong woman who speaks her mind, and Xander is simply a white hetrosexual male who needs to be destroyed. "

    Yes, and she's also a 'strong outspoken' rich woman who's sassing a lower class guy like Xander. She's a strong rich woman who speaks her mind, insulting those with a lesser social standing. Funny how that somehow gets overlooked by fans like that. Maybe because they're themselves probably well situated middle class US people, and they've learned that talking about male, heterosexual and racial privilege is very in in American progressive discourse, but they missed the memo that class privilege has always been one of the most important ones in every society. (It's a weird phenomenon I've noticed about the US social discourse for many years. Talk about every possible privilege, but ignore class issues as much as you can.)

    This was exactly the mindset of some people from a certain popular blog that shall not be named that did a Buffy watch several years ago, where one of the administrators in particular (and a group of others) kept hating on Xander for his insults against Cordelia, and when I asked her why the double standard when Cordelia is insulting him in all those same scenes, bringing up his lower class status, she admitted that for "some reason" Xander's sexist slurs registered more. Gee, I wonder why that is? Those bunch liked to say "Check your privilege" - but apparently they never tried to listen to that advice and check their privilege.

    Though I think things may have started to change somewhat, now? I see more people commenting on class issues on Tumblr now, and the term "white feminism" is quite popular now - it sounds pretty stupid phrased like that, but apparently it's supposed to refer to the type of feminism propagated by rich or middle class white US women who think their own 'empowerment' is all that feminism is and ignore every other social issue. Come to think of it, Cordelia would probably be the icon of "white feminists".
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