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Was Xander a brutalized child ?

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  • Was Xander a brutalized child ?

    I've been re-watching Restless and considering that Joss hid some key elements, pieces of scoobies past, present and future life, I've been asking about Xander cause of the creepy scene with his father at the end and Xander frightened reaction, the fact that he always comes back to the basement and Snyder calling him a "whipping boy", is it possible that Xander's been brutalized by his father? Wouldn't be that surprising considering Xander's father's personality in Hell's Bells and the fact that Xander doesn't have deep feelings for his family through the all Buffy eps.
    So, what's your opinion?
    Last edited by Pandora's_Box; 14-09-07, 05:40 AM.
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  • #2
    Your analysis of "Restless" is very good, particularly of his dream of the basement and his father. I think his dream of being called a 'whipping boy' had much broader implications, though.

    In "Hell's Bells", I think his *primary* concern was about knowing that his father's example of marriage is basically a lousy one -- and that he didn't want to be in a position of becoming abusive to Anya. It suggests things about Xander being abused, but doesn't take them straight on.

    The most direct evidence that he was abused comes from "Nightmares". If you'll recall, when they are in Billy's hospital room and the kid is talking about his abuser, before anyone else in the room, Xander figures it out, saying "I get it" quietly. Later, Xander makes the observation that "it's usually one of the parents" that would be abusing Billy rather than the coach. Xander doesn't show a lot of outward signs of serious abuse, but clearly he, as a lot of boys have, has been punished with fists before.
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    • #3
      I do believe Xander was hit was a child by his father, even at least once. His father seems to be an abusive drunk and it's weird to assume he had never hit him in a drunken state. Plus some of Tony's personality was there in Xander, especially after Hell's Bells. He started drinking, he yelled harshly at Anya calling her names, and he hit Spike who can't fight back. That's Xander's father. The reason Xander didn't want to marry Anya.
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      • #4
        That's a really interesting point that I had never considered.

        I think it is entirely probable that he was "reprimanded with fists" as a child, but not necessarily brutalised. That kind of abuse would have more far reaching consequences and I think if Joss had intended that it would have been shown less subtly.

        However, even being "slapped about a bit" or watching his mother getting the same treatment would explain a lot about early Xander - his unwillingness to stand up for himself whilst being bullied for example. It's always bothered me slightly that Xander was portrayed as this boy that was picked on when it was clear from the start that he was capable of defending himself. If he had suffered or watched violence in his home from a young age that could easily make him be worried to become violent in case he turned into the "monster" that his father was. We know that turning into his father was a real worry for him, so it would make sense that he would try to be the complete opposite of him.
        Also, it is common that people who tell lots of jokes/funny/make everyone laugh are the type who are hiding the pain behind the humour. Even Anya mentions it in Entropy - "No, the mature solution is for you to spend your whole life telling stupid, pointless jokes so no one will notice you're just a scared, insecure little boy!"

        Nice post Pandora - got me thinking about something new!
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        • #5
          He may be brutalized,
          We have usually seen how Xander feels for his family eg. After Joyce's death he decides to see Willow's mum instead of his, and has a nice explanation for that actually funny of course.
          Xander hadnt spent much time with his family though, even if he did (that would be rarely), I dont think that these were full of necessary and ideal-family speeches.
          Xander wasnt used to his family IMO, and its possible for him to be be brutalized.
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          • #6
            You could be right and I love that analyzation! It was very creative However, I think maybe it also meant the quintessential "stand up and be a man"-type statement and maybe just got tired of his father telling him he'd never amount to anything, he was lazy, he'd always be the submissive/passive person, etc. Stuff like that will make one distant from a family. He may have also gotten punished in a not-so-right way when he was younger, but I'm not entirely sure that he was necessarily brutalized.

            I've never heard this before actually - in Spike's words, good on ya, mate!

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            • #7
              I think that he was. In every episode features his parents, we hear shouting and drinking we may not know what kind of abuse he have been through but there are signs.

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              • #8
                IMO, the obvious signs of psychological abuse shown by Xander are much more serious than the physical abuse which probably happened.

                Signs of parental neglect and/or abuse:

                1. Starting with season 1, his clothes are so badly selected that surely the bright colors, strange patterns, and uncoordinated outfits bring on problems with other students in high school. Remember Cordelia's sarcastic comments about Willow's ugly jumper? "Glad you've seen the softer side of Sears----no wonder you're such a guy magnet." What did these horrible clothes do to Xander socially?

                2. Xander spent every Christmas Eve in the back yard in a sleeping bag to avoid his family's drunken Christmas fights. How bad does it have to get to drive a teenage boy right out of the house for the night? In Amends, season 3, it starts to snow and he still does not go back into the house. How bad does it have to be to make a teenager stay out of his own home in bad (bad for Southern California) weather?

                3. In The Replacement, we hear the sounds of Xander's drunken parents coming in having a vicious verbal fight to the sounds of crashing and hitting. Do we really think these people hit only each other, and not their son, who was also living in the house? Do we really think they only cut each other apart verbally, and not their son?

                4. What about Xander's having to live in the basement? What kind of family sticks their son down in the basement along with the laundry equipment and the tool shelves? I have known families severely pressed for space who built a ROOM in the basement or under the eves of a house for a child, but this alone is a powerful message. "We do not want you or care about you. We believe you are lower than us, so you can live on a lower level. Not only that, but you can live down here in wasted space for a wasted human being, not in a room like those we have." I don't think this was caused by lack of lumber, wallboard, and wallpaper. It was total lack of love, consideration, and family cohesiveness.

                5. In The Replacement, Xander mentions heating up canned food on the dryer or on a hot plate. This tells us he is not eating with his parents. He has received a powerful psychological or physical signal of rejection from them.

                6. As he is about to marry Anya, whom he loves, he is unable to go through the ceremony because of a deep fear that he will turn out to be like his father.

                I would say absolutely that this is a neglected, rejected, and abused child, and it shows in his lack of confidence and feeling of self-worth until very near the end of the series.

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                • #9
                  I have thought about it before, because of Restless and Hell's Bells, but I also think that Xander's personality, although submissive and 'weak', is not entirely compatible to what I think heavy abuse would cause. He is too flippant -- in Amends, it is too much of a joke... although the victims of abuse may turn to a joke psyche, I don't feel he would be so jokey and casual about his own parental abusers. And I think he refers to them as "those people" as part of the joke... I think parental abuse requires a dissociation of the parent from the child, but the child is still deeply connected and closely dependent on the parent. Xander is also much more civil to his parents in Hell's Bells than he might be. One might think that after escaping - in season 5 - from his parents he wouldn't have to deal with them or keep up pretenses to 'protect' himself. I personally think that the psyche reflected in Hell's Bells shows that the relationship he is worried about is not hurting one of his children (they appear to be in no danger in the visions, even when one is clearly not his), but his wife. He is still worried about becoming his father, but probably takes his meekness from viewing his mother and father's relationship, and sympathising with his mother. Perhaps the odd drunken threat from his father occurred, but the scarring occurred from the relationship between his parents.

                  That said, the point about Nightmares is very, very good.

                  Originally posted by vampcruella View Post
                  What about Xander's having to live in the basement? What kind of family sticks their son down in the basement along with the laundry equipment and the tool shelves? I have known families severely pressed for space who built a ROOM in the basement or under the eves of a house for a child, but this alone is a powerful message. "We do not want you or care about you. We believe you are lower than us, so you can live on a lower level. Not only that, but you can live down here in wasted space for a wasted human being, not in a room like those we have." I don't think this was caused by lack of lumber, wallboard, and wallpaper. It was total lack of love, consideration, and family cohesiveness.
                  This is also a great point, and really interesting. It actually reminds me of a film that is coming out soon, based on a true story, called An American Crime. It's about a housewife who, as punishment for whatever, imprisons a girl staying with her in the basement and abuses her until the girl dies.

                  An eerie little reference, although I think that Xander actually takes the basement because he knows he is still dependent on them until he becomes self-sufficient, but it is an escape from the lack of love, consideration and family cohesiveness.

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                  • #10
                    Buffy: I just can't believe a kiddie league coach would do something
                    like that.

                    Xander: Well, you obviously haven't played kiddie league. I'm surprised
                    it wasn't one of the parents.
                    This quote speaks a lot about Xander being physically abused. I don't think that physical abuse was a daily thing at the Harris' household, but I do believe it happened more than once.

                    Xander avoiding his home, especially on holidays, and prefers to go at night to slay with Buffy or stay in the library to research with Giles and sleep outside in a sleeping bag. Calling his parents "Scary people" and "Monsters" didn't really come out of nowhere. His visions in Hell's Bells didn't come out of nowhere.

                    I agree with Kold that the physical abuse may not be too common, simply because we didn't see much evidence to it. As for Xander's character, I think he was too flinchy and jokey that it is possible he was emotionally and physically abused as a child and a teen.
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                    • #11
                      I fully believe that Xander was abused, but I believe that most of it was psychological abuse. There may have been some physical abuse, too, but he shows the classic symptoms of a neglected child. We must remember, though, that there was even a time he invited Willow for dinner, and Willow had been in his room more than once I'm sure, so I think physical abuse was not a huge factor.

                      Emotional abuse, on the other hand, is even more damaging. Cuts and bruises heal, but the psychological effects of his parents actions last so much longer. Remember when he calls home and has to tell his mother who is calling (he's an only child, for goodness sake). There are many references to the neglect/abuse he's received.

                      I think the fact that he was constantly returning to the basement in 'Restless' was a reference to the fact that he felt stuck and unable to get away from his parent's influence in his life.

                      Okay, my mind is starting to turn to mush here and I know I've already rambled, so I will end this now by just stating that, Yes, I believe Xander was a victim of abuse.
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