Xander Harris was the hilarious everyman of TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003), a relatable, awkward teen who could unveil model good looks with the lightest of makeovers. From day one, he was a fan favourite on a show that started as a series of demonic allegories for adolescence and evolved into a rich and complex story about humanity, mortality and power.
Xander became the emotional centre of the ‘Scooby Gang’, a role that was made explicit in Season 4, in which the Scoobies defeat the human-demon hybrid Adam by casting a spell to combine Buffy’s strength with Giles’ knowledge, Willow’s magic and Xander’s heart. On top of that, the show’s writers frequently gifted the character with some of the show’s best quips and monologues.
But am I alone in this, or is Xander actually the worst? He’s petty, jealous and irresponsible; he slut-shames the women in his life and treats them like garbage. As his friends become more powerful, Xander stagnates and is resentful of their success.
In the final season he reflects, “They’ll never know how tough it is… To be the one who isn’t chosen. To live so near to the spotlight and never step in it.” Except – as I screamed at my television – aside from Buffy, none of them were “chosen”. Willow, Giles, Angel, Anya, Cordelia, Spike and even sad-sack Riley all worked to be the best version of themselves, while Xander never really tried. Even when a spell turns him into a soldier, he doesn’t bother to hang on to all the military knowledge he’s instantly acquired for long.
Worst of all is his treatment of his love interest, the wonderful Anya. Xander constantly puts her down for being too blunt, too ambitious, too sexual. And after enduring all his whining and self-pity, she’s left at the altar!
The show inexplicably suggests that having a modicum of sadness in your family is justification for a man to humiliate his fiancé on her wedding day, leaving her bloodied in her gown to face the guests alone. If there were any justice in the world, the series finale would have seen all the women in his life realising what a deadweight Xander was and leaving him to perish in the Hellmouth… or is just me?