Xander Rising: Why Xander Harris is the unsung hero of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
The powerless one. An incredible loser. Idiot.These are a few of the insults hurled at Alexander “Xander” Lavelle Harris.
The Character Xander Harris is introduced at the beginning of season 1 Episode Welcome to the Hellmouth where him and best friend Willow Rosenberg accidently stumble into a world where the supernatural is not make believe. During the course of season one, we find Xander and Willow social outcasts. As the seasons progress and we gain further knowledge, he is the child of alcoholic parents. He is highly intelligent but lacks confidence. Xander Harris is represents the everyday man. The ordinary man. It would seem that he has nothing intrinsic to offer however, Xander is the glue that holds the group together. He provides a common sense view of the world, balancing the superhuman strength of the slayer Buffy Summers and magical abilities of Witch Rosenberg.
First in this discussion I will discuss how Xander’s accidental presence in Buffy Summer’s life changes the course of history. Second in this discussion I will discuss how Xander does more then watch; he is vital to the team, however flawed in his own right making him a fully fledged character that errs. Last in this discussion, I will show that Xander’s informs the viewer that love conquers all. Xander Harris has no supernatural power making him the most fearless fighter of the Scooby gang. Xander’s ordinary ability lies in seeing and providing a common place viewpoint in a supernatural world.
Xander is the representation of what in historical terms would be known as the Jester. The jester was considered one who is of divine. Xander and fellow friend Willow ‘stumble’ onto this dark world that was all around them, yet they had always been situated in Sunnydale, California. Xander Harris’ character is modelled after the classic the Jester character of the Shakespearean era. Joss Wheaton, a notorious Shakespeare buff has taken the concept of the Jester, and modernized him. The Jester is a licensed fool, able to do or say things unbecoming of anyone else and getting away with it.
‘His characteristic idiom suggests he is a “natural” fool, not an artificial one, though his perceptiveness and wit show that he is far from being an idiot, however “touched” he might be.’
The Season Finale of season one, Prophecy Girl, it is foretold that The Slayer would be killed by the being known as The Master. Buffy, a young girl does not want to face certain death. Giles is helpless in stopping The Master’s ascension and hesitates to tell Buffy that prophecy is certain and cannot be changed.
Buffy: Don’t touch me! (to Giles) Were you even gonna tell me?
Giles: I was hoping that I wouldn’t have to. That there was… some way
around it. I…
Buffy: I’ve got a way around it. I quit!
Angel: It’s not that simple.
Buffy: I’m making it that simple! I quit! I resign, I-I’m fired, you
can find someone else to stop the Master from taking over!
Giles: I’m not sure that anyone else can. All the… the signs
Buffy: The signs? (Throws a book at him) READ ME THE SIGNS! (throws another one) TELL ME MY FORTUNE! YOU’RE SO USEFUL SITTING HERE WITH ALL YOUR BOOKS! YOU’RE REALLY A LOTTA HELP!
However, she cannot ignore the calling of the slayer. She is drawn to the layer of the master only to find that it is her who releases him.
Master: You tried. It was noble of you. You heard the prophecy that I was about to break free and you came to stop me. But prophecies are tricky creatures. They don’t tell you everything. You’re the one that sets me free! If you hadn’t come, I couldn’t go.Think about that!
Buffy then drowns in a pool of water. Angel is there but he remains helpless as vampires do not have breath, they are undead. It is Xander who is able to breathe life back into her. This selfless act releases Buffy from predestined slayer line to become her own heroine on her own terms from hereafter.
Now, lets talk about the time Xander helped Buffy get a kickass rocket launcher. In the events of Surprise, Buffy and Angel consummate their love. However, the gypsy curse that plagues Angel is broken turning him into ruthless killer Angelus. Xander, utilizing his acquired army knowledge helps the slayer get a weapon forged that could kill the recently unleashed Judge.
Buffy: Think I got his attention.
Judge: You’re a fool. (cut to him) No weapon forged can stop me.
Buffy: (cut to her) (lowers the bow) That was then.
Xander hands her the weapon from the box, and she raises the anti-tank rocket launcher to her shoulder.
Buffy: This is now.
Here, Xander is instrumental in stopping the judge who has the potential to destroy all of humanity. The slayer’s super strength would not have been enough to dismember the Judge.
The Zeppo. Is a seemingly stand alone episode in where Xander saves the day unbeknownst to the rest of the Scooby Gang. Zeppo Marx is the youngest and arguably most troubled of the Marx brothers. He was thought as the handicap in a group of talented actors and performers. (Side note, Frank Sinatra TOTALLY stole his wife). During this episode the Scooby Gang is fighting a monster so dangerous that they leave Xander out in fear for his safety. The title is taken from the ridicule he receives from Cordelia Chase.
Cordelia Chase, while ridiculing Xander says that he is the ‘zeppo’,
Xander saves the day. By himself. He is miscalculated and gives us the perfect one liner.
Cordelia: Ooo, I struck a nerve. The boy that had no cool.
Xander: I happen to be an integral part of that group. I happen to have a *lot* to offer.
Cordelia: (starts to leave) Oh, please.
Xander: I do!
Cordelia: (stops and turns back) ‘Integral part’ of the group? Xander, you’re the, the *useless* part of the group. You’re the Zeppo. (Xander glances at Jack) ‘Cool.’ Look it up. It’s something that a sub-literate that’s repeated twelfth grade three times has, and you don’t.
During the events of The Zeppo, Xander discovers a plot to destroy Sunnydale high by a group of zombies led by Jack o’ Tool. Ironically, it would blow up in the events of Graduation
Xander: I know what you’re thinkin’. Can I get by him? Get up thestairs, out of the building, seconds ticking away… I don’t love your chances.
Jack: Then you’ll die, too.
Xander: Yeah, looks like. So I guess the questionreally is… who has less fear?
Jack: I’m not afraid to die. I’m already dead.
Xander: Yeah, but this is different. Being blowed up isn’t walking around and drinking with your buddies dead. It’s little bits being swept up by a janitor dead, and I don’t think you’re ready for that.
Jack: Are you?
Xander: I like the quiet.
I like the quiet. Xander Harris. Licensed Badass.
Xander Harris is not a perfect man. He often makes mistakes, becomes the butt of jokes and makes terrible decisions. Magic is often used as metaphor that there is no quick fix to the everyday problems that arise out of life. In Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered, Xander is discarded by Cordelia Chase and mocked by the popular click at Sunnydale High. This action sends Xander fuming as it would anyone. He blackmails Amy Madison to help him put” her through the same hell” and action that backfires and has every women in Sunnydale after him. While it would seem that this would be the epitome of the teenage male, this botched vengeance scheme shows us the Xander’s frailty. These actions end up winning the heart of Chase.
Cordelia: I’ll date whoever the hell I wanna date. No matter how lame he is.
Xander’s hatred of Angel prevents Buffy’s knowledge of knowing about Willow’s cure. While created out of jealousy it allows Buffy to know that there is no cavalry coming to save the day.
Xander: Cavalry’s here. Cavalry’s a frightened guy with a rock, (holds up a large rock) but it’s here.
Buffy holds up a stake. He tosses the rock aside and takes it from her.
Xander: That’s better.
Buffy: You’re not here to fight. (starts walking) You get Giles out,
and you run like hell, understood? I can’t protect you.
I’m gonna be too busy killing.
Xander: (looks at the sword) Now, that’s a new look for you.
Buffy: It’s a present for Angel.
Xander: Willow. (stops) Uh, she told me to tell you…
Buffy: Tell me what?
Xander: Kick his ass.
Willow would not discover that Xander changed her message to Buffy until Season seven, Selfless
Buffy: Do you remember cheering me on? Both of you! Do you remember giving me Willow’s message — “Kick his ass”?
Willow (indignant): I never said that—
Season six’s overall thematic concept is that the ‘real’ evil is not supernatural. The ‘Big Bad’ is life itself. As corny as it sounds, season six is message is that we get by with a little help from our friends. Buffy, is struggling with being back from another dimension while Willow is struggling with magic, now used as a metaphor for drug abuse. Every Character is fighting an ‘ inner evil’. The Trio, the big bad of the season, serve as representation that anyone can choose darkness over light. Even sweet overall wearing Willow.
Willow’s intended to use her power to fight the forces of evil.
Willow: Actually, this isn’t about you. Although I’m fond, don’t get me wrong, of you. The other night, you know, being captured and all, facing off with Faith, things just kinda got clear. I mean, you’ve been fighting evil here for three years, and I’ve helped some, and now we’re supposed to decide what we want to do with our lives. And I just realized that’s what I want to do. Fight evil, help people. I mean, I-I think it’s worth doing. And I don’t think you do it because you have to. It’s a good fight, Buffy, and I want in.
Buffy: I kind of love you.
Willow: And, besides, I have a shot at being a bad-ass Wicca, and what better place to learn?
She, like the trio urge to be something more. Giles hesitated to help willow discover magic and his fears are actualized in season six. Willow turns down a dark path by using magic as a shortcut. Finally, the rage of having girlfriend Tara killed by The Trio, she looses control and becomes Dark Willow.
Willow: You can’t stop this.
Xander: Yeah, I get that. It’s just, where else am I gonna go? You’ve been my best friend my whole life. World gonna end … where else would I want to be?
Willow: Is this the master plan? You’re going to stop me by telling me you love me?
Xander: Well, I was going to walk you off a cliff and hand you an anvil, but … it seemed kinda cartoony.
Willow: Still making jokes.
Xander: I’m not joking. I know you’re in pain. I can’t imagine the pain you’re in. And I know you’re about to do something apocalyptically (glancing back at the statue) evil and stupid, and hey. (spreading out his arms) I still want to hang. You’re Willow.
Willow: (angry) Don’t call me that.
Xander: First day of kindergarten. You cried because you broke the yellow crayon, and you were too afraid to tell anyone. You’ve come pretty far, ending the world, not a terrific notion. But the thing is? Yeah. I love you. I loved crayon-breaky Willow and I love … scary veiny Willow. So if I’m going out, it’s here. If you wanna kill the world? Well, then start with me. I’ve earned that.
Willow: (upset) You think I won’t?
Xander: It doesn’t matter. I’ll still love you.
Willow: (angry) Shut up.
The world is saved by the ordinary man. The everyday man.
As a result of the actions of Prophecy Girl, the calling of other slayers, Xander’s actions inadvertently allow Summers to know that the Slayer Line, created by the shadow men can be tampered with. This allows the transfer of powers in the final episode, Chosen.
Buffy: In every generation one Slayer is born because a bunch of guys that died thousands of years ago made up that rule. They were powerful men. (Points to Willow)This woman is more powerful than all of them combined. So I say we change the rules. I say my power should be our power. Tomorrow Willow will use the essence of this scythe, that contains the energy and history of so many Slayers, to change our destiny.
In this discussion I have argued that Xander Harris is in part responsible for liberating Buffy Summers from the slayer line. This intervention is more than watching – he intervenes. I have discussed Xander’s character traits, including is bad ones making him a fleshed out character who errs in judgement. I have argued the frailty of his psyche in part caused by his upbringing. I posit that the true meaning of season six is overcoming your personal demons with the help of your friends. Linking the first and seventh season, Xander’s original intervention allows Buffy to know that the slayer line is flexible and bendable to human will.