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Xander's toxic masculinity

Cheese Slices

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@sosa lola I was addressing the "delivering hard truths" part of the message, since I don't believe it's what he really does. He does have a right to voice his opinion as much as the next person, though in these cases I'm not fond of what that opinion ends up being. ;)
 

Bluebird

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Black Thorn
So Xander is clearly a character who doesn't age well in terms of behavior. Many viewers coming to the show now often use the term 'toxic masculinity' to describe Xander (and pretty much ONLY Xander as far as I can see) in the way he acts and says.
Do these people have a point?
No, because like others have said, he isn't the only one, and I don't think he's the worst. He just has an inappropriate (to some) sense of humour that comes from a place of defense. Because to be male and not a 'real man as defined by society' is a big no no in this world. The shame and fear that young boys feel over expressing emotions is immense.

Is Xander a good example of this?
I'd say he's a good example of a victim of toxic masculinity and how it runs off male insecurities. To me, Xander comes across as a try hard, who wants to fit in in some way. Especially if you consider his upbringing - I imagine it wasn't full of hugs and support - and for some people that's hard to understand how it would affect you later in life.

Are other male characters guilty of this?
Not particularly. I didn't notice it enough to see it stand out, but then Buffy was never really about gender differences and their definition according to the wider world, but a more humanist show that dealt with universal themes. It didn't get bogged down in the differences between the sexes, or gender roles in society. A patriarchal society is represented by the Watcher's Council, and that's a pretty cool idea, but it's not used to tell you how to think.

What parts of Xander's character manifest in this way?
His defensiveness stems from the standards society expects him to meet, as a man. This was mostly when he was in school too, at a time when a lot of people are trying to prove themselves or find out who they are. I forgive Xander. People like to completely gloss over the good parts of Xander's character, and to immediately dismiss him just because he's the male friend (as I've seen elsewhere) is equally as problematic as toxic masculinity.

And; Are 'inappropriate jokes' inherently a masculine thing?
Um, no, not at all. I don't think anything is inherently masculine or feminine, other than biology.
 

sosa lola

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@sosa lola I was addressing the "delivering hard truths" part of the message, since I don't believe it's what he really does. He does have a right to voice his opinion as much as the next person, though in these cases I'm not fond of what that opinion ends up being. ;)
I agree. I'm not fond of his way of delivering that opinion. Xander does need to learn how to argue his point most of the time. He's so prawn to anger and his choice of words tend to cut deep. I've always said his tongue is his weapon. Sometimes he uses it for good (The Zeppo, The Freshman, Grave) and sometimes for "evil" (Becoming Part 1, Dead Man's Party, Entropy).

There was a maturity in how he presented his argument to Buffy in "Into the Woods" that was not there when he was a high school kid, but he failed to see how his speech ended up making Buffy blame herself. He won't realize that until I Was Made to Love You.
 

thetopher

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Of course Xander has a right to speak his mind, like any damn character.
Maybe he pisses people off by doing it but he's not the only 'truth teller' that ends up inadvertently hurting Buffy with 'their truth'. Spike and Anya both do this far more seriously. If Xander was a Briley cheerleader, so what? His rather blunt emotional language was because Buffy was very angry (valid) and therefore didn't really want to listen to anybody; Xander was trying to get her to realize 'what she about to lose' in time so she wouldn't come to regret it, that's all.

Also I find that Xander treats Anya pretty well in S5 actually, especially compared to the previous season.

He's so prawn to anger
This made me laugh for some reason. :) I imagine Anya saying it after talking about the world without shrimp.
 

DeadlyDuo

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If Xander was a Briley cheerleader, so what? His rather blunt emotional language was because Buffy was very angry (valid) and therefore didn't really want to listen to anybody; Xander was trying to get her to realize 'what she about to lose' in time so she wouldn't come to regret it, that's all.
The problem with that is that Riley's behaviour towards Buffy in Season 5 was awful. That was not a relationship Buffy would want to find herself stuck in long term and she did absolutely the right thing calling Riley out on it, especially after he tries to blame her for him going to the vamp whores then tries to emotionally blackmail her into getting over it immediately.

Xander's lecture to Buffy paints Buffy as in the wrong rather than Riley's actions throughout Season 5. Riley has an obsession with wanting Buffy to need him and he shows some quite controlling behaviour in regards to her. I can give examples if necessary. Riley demonstrates some massive "red flag" behaviour yet Xander's speech is essentially telling Buffy she should tolerate that behaviour from Riley and that he is the man she should want to be with. That is wrong on so many levels.

Regardless of whether Xander has the whole story or not, the wirters still had one of the main characters lecturing the female lead that she should want an unhealthy relationship, and worst of all, they had Buffy agree with him and chase after the guy that quite frankly needed to be kicked to the kerb. Put it this way, Season 6 Buffy would've been Riley's perfect Buffy because she would've "needed" him to help her cope with life after her resurrection.
 

sosa lola

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This made me laugh for some reason. :) I imagine Anya saying it after talking about the world without shrimp.
Damn you typos! :D

Xander's lecture to Buffy paints Buffy as in the wrong rather than Riley's actions throughout Season 5.
I don't think that was Xander's or the writers' intention. He was saying that if Buffy loved Riley, even with his mistakes, then she should ask him to stay and work things out with him. But I agree with you that Xander's speech had harmed Buffy more than helped her.
 

DeadlyDuo

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I don't think that was Xander's or the writers' intention. He was saying that if Buffy loved Riley, even with his mistakes, then she should ask him to stay and work things out with him.
But therein lies the problem. You're right in that it probably wasn't the writers' intention to send that message, however, that is the message that was sent. Riley's behaviour during Season 5 was starting to verge on emotional abuse (I don't think it had reached the stage just yet where it could be classed as out right abuse, but shades were starting to show). You say "He was saying that if Buffy loved Riley, even with his mistakes, then she should ask him to stay and work things out with him", but the issue is that Riley's "mistakes" were borderline emotionally abusive behaviour. Therefore it becomes that Xander is saying "if Buffy loved Riley, even with his mistakes borderline abusive behaviour, then she should ask him to stay and work things out with him. " Do you see what a terrible message that becomes for the writers to send?
 

sosa lola

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You say "He was saying that if Buffy loved Riley, even with his mistakes, then she should ask him to stay and work things out with him", but the issue is that Riley's "mistakes" were borderline emotionally abusive behaviour.
I guess the difference between us is that I don't see Riley's behavior as emotional abuse. Riley was lost without a purpose and felt insecure about the Slayer/vampire connection, jealous of Buffy's connection with Angel, and believes Buffy doesn't love him because of that and tried to understand her dark side by getting bitten by vampires - akin to Buffy's experience with Angel and Dracula.

The whole mess was his fault. He didn't handle things well and he didn't communicate his concerns with Buffy. I guess he needed to have a purpose. He was like a bored housewife without a hobby who wanted her husband's constant attention.

But those problems aren't impossible to figure out. I feel had Riley stayed, things would have worked out between him and Buffy.
 

Cheese Slices

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I guess the difference between us is that I don't see Riley's behavior as emotional abuse. Riley was lost without a purpose and felt insecure about the Slayer/vampire connection, jealous of Buffy's connection with Angel, and believes Buffy doesn't love him because of that and tried to understand her dark side by getting bitten by vampires - akin to Buffy's experience with Angel and Dracula.

The whole mess was his fault. He didn't handle things well and he didn't communicate his concerns with Buffy. I guess he needed to have a purpose. He was like a bored housewife without a hobby who wanted her husband's constant attention.

But those problems aren't impossible to figure out. I feel had Riley stayed, things would have worked out between him and Buffy.
I'm a bit on the fence because I don't think his behaviour is full on abusive, but I tend to be really ticked when characters make their shitty behaviour the other's fault and the narrative seem to agree with them.
That said, I don't think it would have worked out, because Buffy can't force herself to feel what she doesn't feel. From the beginning she wasn't passionate about Riley and never developped a deeper connection with him. While I don't think every relationship needs to be all fire and blood, I do think that Buffy, being the slayer, needs that : she needs someone who understands and loves everything about her : her human/lighter side and her slayer/darker side. Riley only wanted the former and balked at the latter.
 

DeadlyDuo

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I guess the difference between us is that I don't see Riley's behavior as emotional abuse. Riley was lost without a purpose and felt insecure about the Slayer/vampire connection, jealous of Buffy's connection with Angel, and believes Buffy doesn't love him because of that and tried to understand her dark side by getting bitten by vampires - akin to Buffy's experience with Angel and Dracula.

The whole mess was his fault. He didn't handle things well and he didn't communicate his concerns with Buffy. I guess he needed to have a purpose. He was like a bored housewife without a hobby who wanted her husband's constant attention.

But those problems aren't impossible to figure out. I feel had Riley stayed, things would have worked out between him and Buffy.
I guess we will have to agree to disagree. I think when Riley is accusing Buffy of letting herself get bitten despite her very clearly stating it was against her will, when he's accusing her of sleeping with Angel with no proof whatsoever, when he's repeatedly grabbing her despite her telling him to let go and when he's trying to emotionally blackmail her and blame her for his indiscretions , that is borderline abusive behaviour.

I
While I don't think every relationship needs to be all fire and blood, I do think that Buffy, being the slayer, needs that : she needs someone who understands and loves everything about her : her human/lighter side and her slayer/darker side.
But isn't that what Spuffy professed to be and look how that turned out.

I do agree though that Buffy needs a balance, she can't have a "normal" romance with a human so she needs someone slightly supernatural (which is why she'd be better off with a werewolf than a vampire) who understands her desire for normalcy but still has their foot in the supernatural door so to speak.
 

Tome

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So Xander is clearly a character who doesn't age well in terms of behavior. Many viewers coming to the show now often use the term 'toxic masculinity' to describe Xander (and pretty much ONLY Xander as far as I can see) in the way he acts and says.
Do these people have a point?
Xander does display toxic masculinity every now and then during the show, but it does not define him.

Is Xander a good example of this?
Sometimes he is. However, like other characters in the show, it just means he is not flawless. I think that if anything Xander's behavior reveals the way the writers of the show themselves regard masculinity, femininity, etc.

Are other male characters guilty of this?
Toxic masculinity? Yes, of course. It would be harder to find a male character on Buffy-or on television in general-who does not display toxic masculinity. These behaviors are often applauded, accepted, or excused. As somebody pointed out later in this thread, the phrase ''boys will be boys'' pretty much explains everything you need to know about why society in general accepts or excuses toxic masculinity, at least to a degree. Social constructions are what they are. Men are expected to act and be a certain way, and the same is true for women. We all deal with these pressures.

What parts of Xander's character manifest in this way?
Well, let's take each element of what is usually considered to be part of toxic masculinity and see which one applies to Xander.

1) Hypercompetitiveness -> While Xander sometimes enters into competition with a fellow dude (e.g. Angel) for the attention of a woman (e.g. Buffy) or simply to prove his manliness (e.g. joining the school swimming team, the entire episode of 'The Zeppo', etc.), the occasions are rare where hypercompetitiveness could truly be used to define him as a character. It is interesting to note, though, that Xander has less occasions to ''compete'' as the seasons progress because there are less and less men in the Scooby Gang (and I cannot remember a time when he actually competed with Giles xD).

2) Aggression -> I would say Xander can show signs of aggressivity sometimes (probably connected to his upbringing and his father), but he never went to the level of The Pack!Xander on that front. After the first few seasons and his petty jealousy toward Angel (and anger toward Buffy), he mellows out and is quite tame during the rest of the show (save a few occasions, like that whole episode with Anya and Spike having sex).

3) Violence/Intimidation -> This could rarely be applied to Xander (and, yes, I do not count the rape-y version of himself in 'The Pack'). As an outcast (or so he is depicted in the show), he was obviously more the victim of intimidation and violence than a perpetrator of them. I would go as far as to say that the fact he never decided to learn some form of self-defense or martial art during the course of the show proves that he has little attraction toward causing violence.

4) Emotional detachment -> This goes hand-in-hand with the previous section. While Xander routinely tries to show off and look ''manly'' in the eyes of his-mostly girl-friends, he rarely does display this particular characteristic of toxic masculinity. Instead, he tends to be quite close to his-and others'-emotions, and he is often described as the heart of the Scooby Gang because of it. There would be too many scenes to mention here to prove this point, but for example sake just think of his intervention with Buffy when Riley is about to leave or of his discussion with Dawn after she found out she had not been chosen as a potential. To do a quick comparison, Buffy fits quite well with this characteristic, at least when it comes to her own emotions.

5) Sexual objectification/Sexual predatorism ->This is without a doubt where Xander displays his most toxic attitude. Some of his typical humour and behavior (at least during the high school years) constantly revolves around his objectification of women, including some of his girl friends in the Scooby Gang. There is also his neverending berating of Cordelia which only get excused by the show, and by most viewers I would believe, because she is said to have been the bane of his and Willow's existence for many years. While he does not always insult her based on her gender, his jokes and comments are often gender-based. It has always bothered me that the writers decided to pair these two up. It gives and reinforce the notion that being shitty or acting terrible toward the other sex somehow is desirable and a good thing to eventually develop a bond. Bullshit, I say!

Xander also sexually objectify Buffy for a while (again, this pattern seems to mostly disappear in the later years) and repeatedly shows unhealthy obsession over her and over who she should or should not see (*cough* Angel *cough*). I think that when most people who hate Xander think of him, this is what they remember the most about his character (well, that and leaving Anya).

--
So yea, overall Xander was quite toxic in the early goings of the show, but his character slowly grew and became better in the last seasons. I think that, just like with some of the other characters, the writers learned to make him more complex as the story moved ahead. Buffy and Willow, for example, were also quite stereotypical at the beginning and it is over time that they became full-blown relatable human beings.

Personally, Xander is not my favorite character on Buffy, but I can still relate to him and understand him. He is a flawed man, just like Buffy is a flawed woman. I think that expecting perfection from every fictional character out there is a pipe dream. Instead, I believe we should learn and gain something from our observations of such flawed characters.

This could go on forever, but I shall stop here.

TLDR: Xander can be a sexist prick, but usually he is a good, caring friend.

And; Are 'inappropriate jokes' inherently a masculine thing?
Well, first you would have to define what an ''inappropriate joke'' is for you. But if you mean sexist jokes, then no. It is not a ''masculine thing''. Women use them too, including against each others. This issue is to blame on the patriarchal system we live in and not on individual men--most people participate in this system in one way or another (and, yea, I include myself in there).
 
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thrasherpix

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A lot of the above applies to female characters as well. Buffy was often aggressive and violent (loved the "I don't always use violence...do I?" "The important thing is that you believe that"), hypercompetiveness (like Buffy vs Cordelia over that award where they both get hunted, though my favorite Cordelia moment is Cordelia defending Buffy from Gorch later on), and things like emotional detachment and objectification by Buffy happen in later seasons. And Cordelia being "slut shamed" by females is overlooked as Cordelia "slut shaming" others. That's on top to promoting toxic masculinity in Xander.

I'm really starting to wonder just how arbitrary the definition really is, that is we're trained to see it through language ("the first virtual reality" in the words of one man) and be blind to it in others because there isn't a word for it (like how a man interrupts a woman is seen as "manterruption" but not defined when he interrupts a man, nor when women interrupt men and women)...and I'm someone who has used the term myself (though much more rarely than many others today do).
 

thetopher

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The problem with that is that Riley's behaviour towards Buffy in Season 5 was awful. That was not a relationship Buffy would want to find herself stuck in long term and she did absolutely the right thing calling Riley out on it
By what measure is Riley's behavior towards Buffy awful? The whole problem with Riley's behavior in S5 is that he doesn't communicate with Buffy properly, and nor does she with him, and that leads to an emotional disconnect.
So instead of telling Buffy about his problem he goes and 'explores' his feelings in the worst manner possible.

especially after he tries to blame her for him going to the vamp whores then tries to emotionally blackmail her into getting over it immediately.
The only thing he does in the argument with Bufy (as opposed to being the cause of it) is that he puts the onus on Buffy to get over things right away by issuing an ultimatum; this is crappy and it stinks but it doesn't define their entire relationship. A bad ending doesn't mean that the whole thing was awful.

Xander's lecture to Buffy paints Buffy as in the wrong rather than Riley's actions throughout Season 5. Riley has an obsession with wanting Buffy to need him and he shows some quite controlling behaviour in regards to her.
This in hyperbole. Riley doesn't show an 'obsession' with Buffy needing him, he actually suppresses his own desires in order to seem more supportive; like when Buffy's mom is sick. Riley never inflicts his emotional needs on Buffy until the whole 'Into The Woods' thing, if he HAD then maybe they both would've sorted their problems out.

And what controlling behavior?
[automerge]1532501552[/automerge]
[/QUOTE] Tome I agree with the whole beta/alpha bullshit, but I disagree about him not believing being sensitive is inherently feminine. If a man has to point something like that out before speaking honestly, then he does believe in such stereotypical conventions. [/QUOTE]

I should clarify, Xander doesn't think this- not rationally- and has proven this in practice (which always matters more than any self-conscious ramble), he's just manifesting insecurity, which is about him, his personality, and the way he uses humor to deflect; that's not an exclusively masculine trait.
 

DeadlyDuo

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@thetopher

Is Briley abusive?
Is Briley abusive?

Here is the links to two of my posts in the "Is Briley abusive?" thread that feature examples of the transcripts of episodes that show Riley's controlling behaviour towards Buffy in Season 5 (It's easier to post the links than rewrite the same information.) It doesn't feature Goodbye Iowa though it should given Riley's temperament in that episode where he grabs Buffy and she has to tell him to let go. Riley seems to grab Buffy an awful lot during there relationship (Goodbye Iowa, Buffy vs Dracula, Into the Woods) and each time she tells him to let go (yet he keeps grabbing her repeatedly during their argument in "Into the Woods" despite know she doesn't like it). Also the word "need" comes out of his mouth quite a lot in regards to Buffy eg telling other characters what Buffy "needs", the vampire whores made him feel "needed", he only agrees to go to the doctor because Buffy says she "needs" him, during their final argument he tells Buffy that she "needs" to hear what he's got to say, etc.

I never used to think Briley was that bad, but the evidence is actually all there in the script, hence why Xander's speech to Buffy is a terrible message to send since he is telling Buffy she should tolerate that behaviour from Riley and that she should try and work things out with him.
 

sosa lola

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I like your post @sosa lola and must say bahaha, nice try Joss, you are such a Xander.
I feel that way too much attention is put on Xander being Joss, which IMO doesn't go past the wit and the sarcasm. Joss had admitted several times that Xander was based on him "before he got laid". I'd say it was mostly S1 and S2 Xander and not exclusively, but as Xander grows up, he's written less and less like Joss. I could see why he realized he was more Buffy than Xander in terms of emotional struggles. He writes Buffy with such raw emotions that I believe him when he says he was writing about himself.
 

Dora

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Of course parts of Xander are toxic ....Wasn't Xander based on Whedon, Whedons treatment of both CC and SMG mirror's how Xander behaved in Buffy
 

Bite-me

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@DeadlyDuo,

I like how you spelt out this perspective in our explanation. It is a turn around on the "Brilley" was a bad relationship because it was boring view, that ergo, since Riley was boring must mean what Buffy really wants and needs is some one who creates high tension and drama in her life, which, probably not.

Because there was a lack of desire on Buffy's part does not necesstiate that the correct relationship for her is high toxicity, as we got to see with Spike (As they put it on how I met your mother, the phenomenon where the next person one dates is 180 personality of the previous, a rebound "overcorrection"), Riley is antidote to Angel, as Spike is to Riley, haha

Sometimes relationships with two perfectly decent people do not work out because of basic incompatibility. In Buffy and Riley's case the issue was communication, which I think might have been foreshadowed or prefigured in the episode "Hush" where the two find a incompatibility to progress in their relationship but losing their voices is the barrier removed that catapults their relationship to the next step, their physical chemistry & compatibility is off the charts they have no trouble in that department, as we will see again in "Where the wild things are" yet after this development, notice they still spend the rest of the episode misunderstanding one another, perhaps juxtapositioned with Tara & Willow's more seamless ability to cooperate without words.

Without the interference of the events of "Hush" paraphrasing Buffy: "Words just get in the way" might the gentlemen removing language, have been a redherring, that sent them on the path of mistaking their larger incompatibility. By making things easier for them (in the sort term) and sending their stalled romance in motion, might they otherwise have discovered this larger incompatibility a lot sooner? to qoute Maggie Walsh ""Language and communication, not the same thing." one can see where they mistook their problem cause physical chemistry alone is also not communication, the communication of understanding is still important.

I agree with the opinion that Xander likely gives Riley the benefit of the doubt because he looks up to Riley and see's him as a superior version of himself thus wants him to "win" and Buffy to choose him. Xander does get credit for caring for and I think genuinely loving Buffy, just this is where his bias is at when it comes to Riley and it shows in his into the woods speech. The script however did not as fairly give the floor to Buffy's side or the anti Riley side so Xanders speech as side effect unfortunately seems to be accepted uncritically by the episode. Implying that Xander is right about their relationship (And he is not, we have seen things he hasn't) We usually see things from Buffy's perspective and here we don't, its Xanders. (The problem people have with the uncritical acceptance of this speech) to reiterate, the problem is not ill intention on Xanders part. A few episodes later Xander does give a very nice pick me up speech to Buffy's feelings regarding Spike's crush.


I really like what you have to say about their relationship. I can see it in your light now that you mention it, which is funny twist on Riley is so boring, that in actuality he is just a really, really lousy, bad boyfriend, as opposed to Mr. Good guy but I suppose when your last one tried stalked you and killed your friends... we all have stockholm syndrome and are seeing this through the lens of Angel lol, how funny would be it if we just failed to notice Riley's problem isn't that he is boring (or a subpar job on the writers to distinguish between boring and normal) but that he is just a crap boyfriend and we all failed to notice. One caveat to sway others, not on board with "abusive" is that perhaps we might have lost the terminology we use to possess, to be able to talk about bad behavior without automatic rounding up to abuse, because we do need that language available in order to be able to discuss reality and lived experiences, even with regards to skeevy predatory behavior without automatic rounding up to abuse. ha sorry, if I am getting a field a head here.
 
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Altoz

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Sure, Xander is immature, early on in the series, but he never (a) kills someone, as Angelus did with Jenny Calendar, breaking Giles' heart- and as Warren did with both Buffy and Tara) (b) tries to rape someone (as Spike almost did with Buffy) (c) has an abusive, unhealthy inability to relate properly to women (Warren); (c) puts down women and weaker men; (e) tries to control others (Angelus, Warren, Spike); (d) abandons friendships (Angel, with Wes); and (f) he's not homophobic- he expresses honest grief for Tara, is startled when Larry comes out to him and actually even bonds with Andrew. He grew as a character as the series went on.
 
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