Let’s talk Xander, for a minute. Xander Harris, as a character is fantastic, but Xander Harris as a trope is amazing. AMAZING.
Each episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is an analog between dark, evil supernatural encounters and real-life issues of growing up. Each character takes a turn as a vehicle to discuss a particular aspect of life, and Xander’s issues, without a doubt, are some of the most entertaining.
I’m sick of being the guy who eats insects and gets the funny syphilis. As of this moment, it’s over. I’m finished being everybody’s butt monkey!
Through Xander’s awkward, and strangely relatable experiences, we see the difficulties of making poor relationship decisions, and through his interactions with the rest of the gang, we get a glimpse of just how difficult it really is to be friends with someone constantly making those mistakes. Xander, referred to as a “demon magnet” in season 4, consistently dates terrible supernatural girls, each of which is predominantly evil and hell-bent on killing him, if not destroying the world. The two exceptions to this are Anya, an ex-vengeance demon, which still kind of sticks with the tradition, and Cordelia the worst of all his counterparts: a socialite. The joke, of course, is that Cordelia might as well be a demonic hell-beast sent to destroy the earth. Or at least Xander’s meager social life.
I just, present company excluded, I have the worst taste in women of anyone in the world, ever.
All of these girls represent some kind of brash, aberrant, or crazed girl, each possessing some element that drives a wedge between Xander and the gang. Typically, it is some kind of horrid evil awakening a sleeping devil or something far, far worse: Cordelia Chase.
Xander spends a lot of time coping with the social isolation and general negativity this brings out of his friends, as well as dismantling the various nefarious plots of his demonic romantic counterparts. Through this story-telling, we’re given a window into our own lives as we see our friends, and probably ourselves, dating crazy people. It’s an interesting character study, and is a great opportunity for comedy.
You’re gonna die. And I’m gonna be there.
In most cases the episodes focus on either the group as a whole, a secondary story line, or The Slayer herself. In the case of The Zeppo, however, it’s Xander-TV. Xander’s character development takes the center stage as his quest for self-esteem has him befriending undead hooligans. Much like his romantic life.
Maybe it’s the syphilis talking, but, some of that made sense.
The unspoken reality of Xander, especially in the TV series, is that he’s the unsung hero. Despite his crass negativity and told-you-so attitude, he’s often right. Almost every turn, he’s the un-heeded voice of reason. It’s not until the comic books, season 8, that you see him really take shape.