The last few days have seen me curled up in bed alone after long days of work with only a book for company. I’ve been sick and sniffly and generally full of snot, so my husband has opted to sleep in the living room, where it’s more quiet and he doesn’t have to wake up with his face in one of my dirty tissues — the living room is also free of the pirouetting raccoons that live in our ceiling.
I’ve taken three books to bed with me this week: Kushiel’s Dart, the Buffy Omnibus, and a deliciously sturdy hardback compilation of Tales of the Slayers and Tales of the Vampires, just called Tales. The latter two are graphic novels, so I’ve had Buffy on the brain.
Which brings me to today’s Monday Man: Xander Harris
Xander is the very first of the Scoobies that Buffy encounters at Sunnydale High. He subsequently sticks his foot in his mouth, where it remains on and on for the next seven years. Xander’s character has always fascinated me. Of all the characters on Buffy, he is the one who most noticeably lacks any superpowers. It rankles him that he gets told to stay behind when Buffy and Giles and Angel (and progressively, Willow) go off to fight the baddies, and for much of the first few seasons, you can see him poking around looking for a place to call his own.
Xander is that awkward guy with an uncomfortable home life who the cool kids like to pick on, then pick on more when he stands up for himself. In other words, he’s me at age 13. He’s not super-student, nor is he into sports or anything that might make him stand out. The one thing that does make Xander a cut above the rest of the guys in Sunnydale though, is that he is an intensely loyal friend.
He saves Buffy’s life at the end of season 1, and he defends Willow when he thinks anyone is putting her in danger — even herself. He does discover his strengths later in the series and puts them to use, settling himself nicely with a career and a new home even though he didn’t go to college. He slowly evolves into a patient sort of person you want around after a crazed monster attack.
Xander also has some serious weak spots. He loathes Angel (founded a lot on jealousy), and he has a few big hypocrisies that he somehow manages to keep a blind spot about. (No pun intended.) Though he dates and almost marries Anya, an ex-vengeance demon who murdered hundreds — perhaps thousands — of people for pleasure for a thousand years, he remains staunchly critical of Buffy’s choice of men, to the point of insulting her about it and bringing it up whenever he has a chance. When Anya turns demon again, he berates Buffy for the choices she has to make until she has to remind him of the massive sacrifices she made to protect the world from the people she loves. It’s a fun little irony, his griping about Buffy dating demons — because throughout the seasons, it’s Xander who’s the real demon magnet in Sunnydale (in one episode, literally).
In spite of his prejudices, Xander sticks by Buffy and the Scoobies to the end, risking more than the rest of them because he lacks the power and experience that his friends have. In one of his shining moments in season 7, he tells Dawn that he sees more than everyone else does because no one is watching him. He is the heart of the Scoobies, and that’s why he is today’s Monday Man.
Xander: Yeah, I get that. It’s just — where else am I going to 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.
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