deird1: comicbook Xander, with text "Xander" (Xander comics)
[personal profile] deird1
I think I've finally realised why I disagree with Xander-shippers.


Intro-ish dissertation on the subject of shippers

There are, in my opinion, two main varieties of shippers. These are the Buffy/Angel shippers, and the Buffy/Spike shippers. Otherwise known as the "Soulmates are True Love Forever! Romeo/Juliet!" shippers, and the "Snarky Bickering is So Cute! Beatrice/Benedick!" shippers.

The first group is, broadly speaking, likely to ship Joey/Dawson, House/Cameron, Doctor/Rose, Bella/Edward, and Harry/Hermione. (To generalise wildly.) They are very into "true love", roses, sunbeams, and sighing "so romantic!" at the television.

The second group, on the other hand, comprises those who ship Joey/Pacey, House/Cuddy, Doctor/Master, Bella/Jacob, and Ron/Hermione. They are into fun, quippy scenes, prank wars, long and ludicrous arguments, and shrieking "just KISS already!" at the television.

It's a nice, logical, fifty-fifty split.

Then there's the Xander-shippers, who are something else entirely.


The genus Xandus Shipperus

The Xander-shippers don't necessarily ship Xander/Buffy, Xander/Faith, Xander/Spike, Xander/Dawn, or so forth, so much as they ship ♥♥ XANDER!!! ♥♥/random-person. Most of the Xander-shippers I've encountered will have written fics for multiple Xander-centric pairings - without much discernable difference between them.

The general formula goes something like this:
Xander has been a loyal, upstanding friend for years. After long disregarding this fact, Buffy (...or Faith, or Dawn, or Willow) finally realises how wondrous Xander has always been, and declares her love for him. Xander protests that he's only ever wanted to be a good friend... before realising that he is finally being offered the love he has always deserved, and sweeping his new soulmate into a kiss.


This same scene is repeated, with little variation, in every single fic that the Xander-shipper writes. It is, in fact, the whole point of shipping, from their point of view.

It is a style of shipping which is mainly concerned with the Good Old Friend, and them at last getting recognition for being the Best Friend Ever.


The point

The thing is, fic by Xander-shippers has always made me slightly irritated - but I could never figure out why. It's not that I dislike Xander-centric pairings. Heck, I've written fic pairing Xander with all sorts of people. But something about this particular kind of fic always struck me the wrong way.

And, today, I finally figured out what it is.

You see, if Xander is finally going to get recognition for being the Best Friend Ever, then he must, logically, having been the Best Friend Ever. Which means the Xander-shippers have to deal with... the Lie.

(You know the one. The one that gets called "The Lie" by the whole of Buffy fandom. The Lie that made me yell "you bastard!" at my television. That Lie.)

Fic by Xander-shippers tends to bring up the Lie out of nowhere. Purely so they can point out that, actually, Xander only told the Lie so that he could protect Buffy. And had nothing whatsoever to do with him disliking Angel. No - he was just helping Buffy. Like the Great Friend that he was, is, and always shall be. So, you see, it's perfectly okay that he told the Lie - and he's still just as wonderful as ever.

This... is incomprehensible to me.

The thing is, I ship Spike - who tends to horribly murder people. And Willow - who flays people alive. And Kennedy - who's a brat. And Darla - who kills unhelpful salespeople. And Andrew - who killed his best friend. And Lilah - who works for Evil Incorporated. And, as it happens, Xander - who has issues with jealousy.

Characters being occasionally horrible really isn't something that stops me liking them. Discussions of their past faults is pretty irrelevant to my shipping them with people. And, to some extent, explaining away their faults tends to come across to me as removing part of what makes them who they are. Bringing up the Lie in an unrelated fic looks, from my perspective, like a cross between "Xander loves the colour purple! So he's perfect for Buffy!" and "Xander isn't actually from Sunnydale! And he's not a geek! And his family aren't the Harrises! And his name isn't Xander at all!"

Why would I care if a character had done something ages ago? And why would I want to ship someone with a totally different personality from the character I watched on TV?

Xander-shippers get very caught up in defending Xander - which I really don't see the need for. And that defence is the reason I disagree with Xander-shippers.


Glad I've finally worked that out. It's been bugging me for months now.

Date: 2012-10-30 08:54 am (UTC)
velvetwhip: (Tasty)
From: [personal profile] velvetwhip
Interesting.

While I've written a smidgen of Spander, an even more smidgeny-smidgen of Xangel, and an even MORE smigeny-smidgen of Xander/Willow/Angel, I can't say I'm a Xander shipper, so this was a glimpse into an unfamiliar world for me.


Gabrielle

Date: 2012-10-30 09:29 am (UTC)
ruuger: Giles from Buffy with the text "Librarians do it by the book" (BTVS: Librarians)
From: [personal profile] ruuger
And, to some extent, explaining away their faults tends to come across to me as removing part of what makes them who they are.

What you said. I like my characters flawed, and retconning their mistakes makes them less interesting to me (a canon example of this is the partial retconning of Evil!Willow in S8).

And I've said this before, but I think this comic describes Xander to a tee :)

Date: 2012-10-30 11:17 am (UTC)
verity: buffy peeks between the blinds (Default)
From: [personal profile] verity
YUP.

Date: 2012-10-30 11:55 am (UTC)
londonkds: (Default)
From: [personal profile] londonkds
I dunno, it seemed to me that a lot of the most militant Doctor/Rose shippers in 2006-8 had been Spuffy shippers in the past. Although the type of Spuffy shipper who simply loved Spike unconditionally and thought canon Buffy was an unspeakable cruel evil bitch for not just devoting her life to him unquestioningly forever.

Date: 2012-10-30 02:40 pm (UTC)
rahirah: (Default)
From: [personal profile] rahirah
To be fair, I have seen plenty of Spike shippers who go to great lengths to defend him, and Willow shippers who go to great lengths to defend her, and Buffy shippers who... well, you get the idea. I think that's just one of the pitfalls of having a favorite character. I'm not sure it's tied up in having any particular favorite character. We just tend to notice it more when people who have a different favorite character do it.

Date: 2012-12-04 04:13 pm (UTC)
red_satin_doll: (Default)
From: [personal profile] red_satin_doll
I think that's just one of the pitfalls of having a favorite character. I'm not sure it's tied up in having any particular favorite character. We just tend to notice it more when people who have a different favorite character do it.

Very true. I do think there's at least a shade of difference (and maybe I'm making a rationalization for myself here?) between liking a character and recognizing why they do things in the larger scheme of the story, and whitewash/bashing? (These are not opposite IMO but two sides of the same coin, just as Xander's slut-shaming and hero-worship are, IMO.) One of the things about whitewashing/bashing is that one particular event or action tends to be either forgotten entirely or emphasized over everything else over that characters entire arc.

I've certainly seen a LOT of fanfics that also paint the Scoobies as evil evil evil as horrible friends to Buffy and terribly mean for absolutely no reason to Spike. Which is not what we see on the show, at least in Buffy's case, and whatever unresolved issues they have with one another there's nothing on the show to indicate they don't love and value one another. they sometimes behave badly towards each other and make mistakes - like honest-to-god human beings do in RL. (Show me the person who claims to have never ever hurt a friend or loved one even intentionally, and I'll show you someone who is deeply delusional or a liar.)

Date: 2012-10-30 04:05 pm (UTC)
snickfic: (Default)
From: [personal profile] snickfic
I agree with Barb. I've noticed Spike shippers in particular (mostly because that's what I've read by far the most of) of whom this entire post fits to a T if we just substitute the character names. In particular the elements of "Spike is the Best Friend Ever and ~deserves romance with the fic's person of choice" and of being not so much a Spike/Character A shipper as a Spike/everyone shipper.

I think partly this is just a sign of a writer not being very good, of them following the impulse to smoothe over the messy specifics of a character for some sanitized version. (At least, I call that bad writing.)

All that said, I avoid Xander shippy fics because I don't like Xander, and fic about him very rarely interests me. So. :)

Date: 2012-12-04 04:15 pm (UTC)
red_satin_doll: (Default)
From: [personal profile] red_satin_doll
I've noticed Spike shippers in particular (mostly because that's what I've read by far the most of) of whom this entire post fits to a T if we just substitute the character names. In particular the elements of "Spike is the Best Friend Ever and ~deserves romance with the fic's person of choice" and of being not so much a Spike/Character

And let us not forget a GREAT lover, with whom the other character of choice has MIND-BLOWING sex every single time out.

Date: 2012-10-30 04:35 pm (UTC)
rebcake: Joss is the employee of the month. (joss)
From: [personal profile] rebcake
I do think this can be applied to lots of character-shippers. Thing is, I like meta fic, but I don't really like apologist meta fic, if that makes any sense. Although I am certain that I am guilty of writing same. I mean, I don't like it when something horrible someone has done is repackaged as noble and selfless. It's...boring.

I don't really have a dog in the fight about Xander. Sometimes I like him, sometimes I don't. However, it does seem that he is more easily blanderized than some other characters. And that's not for me. It's probably why I am fonder of slash fic for Xander than for most other characters. The possibility that he has been hiding something huge (even from himself) makes him more interesting to me. But that's also a cheat, in some ways. IDK.

Date: 2012-11-01 07:31 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] farmgirl
I do think this can be applied to lots of character-shippers.

THIS. Depending on the quality of the writer, this can be true of MANY characters.

I will say that I think Xander suffers from the "Marty Stu" complex more than others because he is normal. He's more of a blank slate that people can really play with.

As for "the Lie" getting explained all the time -- again, I've seen this in what I would consider some of the poorer fanfic. These fanfics often are REALLY anti-Buffy or anti-Willow (unless they are the other member of the ship).

Conversely, there are some very good Xander shipping fanfics that don't fall prey to these trends (the need to talk about "the Lie", villainous Buffy or Willow, and never before seen superpowers).

I don't ready Spuffy fic but I'm curious, do they have a lot of fics that "explain" Seeing Red? I ask because I could see that as an equivalent trend. Spuffy fans are generally unhappy with that moment from what I've seen so I could see fics that "fix" that.

As for Bangle, IDK what would need "fixing" (except maybe fics written during the Riley years BEFORE the cookie-dough talk).

I guess what I'm saying is that while I agree, there are some REALLY poor fanfics that seem to need to be "lie-apologists", I'm not sure it's just limited to Xander.

Date: 2012-11-01 11:24 pm (UTC)
rebcake: Spike: What? (Spike: what?)
From: [personal profile] rebcake
I've read a ton of Spuffy fic, and I can honestly say that I have NEVER read a fic "explaining" the AR in Seeing Red. It's seen as indefensible, I'd say. I have seen fic that changes things so it doesn't happen, some which have Spike going for the soul for other reasons, some which skip the soul thing entirely. Another way I've seen it handled is that Buffy explains/downplays it, but in those cases Spike generally tells her she's wrong ("you like men who hurt you").

That's not to say that there aren't other common problems with Spuffy fic, the most egregious of which is that everybody but Spike is evil. I think Spike would be insulted, myself.

As for Bangel, if a person ships that through all time there are plenty of fixes that could be applied at strategic moments, but as Angel seems to think that his decision-making is noble and correct, his shippers do, too. I prefer petty, jealous, blinded by hubris Angel, myself. ;-)

Date: 2012-11-02 03:12 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] farmgirl
Another way I've seen it handled is that Buffy explains/downplays it, but in those cases Spike generally tells her she's wrong ("you like men who hurt you").

That was the kind of riff I was expecting. Not that his actions were justified but that Buffy forgives him and downplays it. In the Xander case it's often Xander telling Angel and he forgives him quickly. Or the really egregious ones have Buffy beat Xander near to death for it (making her look petty and he look more sympathetic).

Again, it's just "apologist" fic IMO versus accepting the character flaws as intended.

Date: 2012-10-30 07:51 pm (UTC)
pocochina: tvd: tessa campfire story (darla scales)
From: [personal profile] pocochina
There's something weird about needing to sanitize a character for/through shipping generally? Like "this relationship is a prize you get for being a good dog!"

explaining away their faults tends to come across to me as removing part of what makes them who they are. Bringing up the Lie in an unrelated fic looks, from my perspective, like a cross between "Xander loves the colour purple! So he's perfect for Buffy!" and "Xander isn't actually from Sunnydale! And he's not a geek! And his family aren't the Harrises! And his name isn't Xander at all!"

lol! I can't speak to Xander specifically because I have such mixed feelings about him as to end up largely neutral. (Not because of the Lie, though. I have no issues with the Lie.) But yeah, I gravitate toward characters that are challenging, philosophically as much as anything else, and so backing away from character flaws is bizarre to me.

That said, I am way more likely to OTC/everyone-ship than I am to OTP something or other, so I can sympathize with the <3<3Xander<3<3/random person shippers.

Date: 2012-10-30 07:56 pm (UTC)
lliira: Fang from FF13 (Default)
From: [personal profile] lliira
To be honest... I don't like any "shipping" of any kind.

I love romance and sex in writing. I write lots of fanfic that revolves around it. But I think of "shipping" as something different. And I think you've pinpointed at least part of where I see the difference. It's this idea that the person or persons who are boinking are doing so as some kind of reward, or because one or both of them is perfect. It doesn't only come up in fanfic, just more in fanfic than other things I read, and I hate it with the burning of 10,000 suns.

Date: 2012-10-30 08:16 pm (UTC)
eilowyn1: (Spike - with cigarette)
From: [personal profile] eilowyn1
This made me laugh hysterically, because I recognize people, factions, and myself in your descriptions of shippers (though I don't do Xander-shipping. I actually don't have someone I ship him with. I've decided I like the guy - it was a hard decision made with pro and con lists on tumblr, but I don't ship him with anyone). Anyway, the apologist fic. I've probably read some. I've probably enjoyed some. I've probably hated some. But all the same, I still like the more well-rounded characters who have faults - and who own them. I think this is why characters like Spike and Damon appeal to me, because they know they can be dicks but occasionally rise above their baser nature (or indulge in it, usually fueled with plenty of alcohol).

Date: 2012-10-30 10:41 pm (UTC)
snowpuppies: (Default)
From: [personal profile] snowpuppies
Interesting points, hon. And…I have to say that I've seen a lot of that as well. It's weird how many people apparently like flat characters. /:)

Date: 2012-11-01 11:19 am (UTC)
kudagirl: kuda on dripping heart (Kudaheart)
From: [personal profile] kudagirl
Xander is the only character I truly dislike in Buffy verse. I think it's because he reminds me of my ex-husband. Xander is full of jealousy and more than a bit mean. And it's not just his fans who defend him. The characters defend him and ignore his actions as well.

I get gray characters. Buffy, Giles, Angel, and etc all have both been heroes and done damage. Even to those they love. Xander is just mean spirited and hides behind being a good guy.

And the *Lie*...well there was more than just one lie with Xander. Maybe that is why I have a problem with him.

Date: 2012-11-10 06:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jl_in_the_lane.livejournal.com
You wrote it! You wrote our theory!

*squeals a lot*

*has nothing to say about Xander*

But I lovelovelove the Destined Soulmates / Sexy Snarkers / Best Friends distinction.

Anyone else you reckon tends to fall into category 3?

Any other ship-types out there to categorise?

(I'm sure there ought to be 4.)

Date: 2012-11-10 06:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jl_in_the_lane.livejournal.com
Got one.

The ones who ship (for example) Draco and Hermione.

Those two don't snark, they just hate each other.

(Or do you think that is just a Type 1/2 blend? and this is making everything too complicated?)

Date: 2012-12-04 04:06 pm (UTC)
red_satin_doll: (Default)
From: [personal profile] red_satin_doll
Pretty much a big yes to everything here. I know that everyone has a favorite character, who may or may not be their "alter-ego/avatar", the person they identify most with, or simply someone they find fascinating, and I'm guilty of it too (with Buffy).

The entire "he's the bestest, nicest, sweetest, kindest guy ever ever ever and Buffy is a bitch not to see that" really bugs me, although I usually try to just walk away whenever I see that theme in fanfic or meta/forum convos. I really dislike the amount of whitewashing that goes on - for any character - but I also dislike the amount of "bashing", regardless of character. I'm trying to be more objective in my thinking regarding Xander and Riley especially. (Easier in Xander's case, harder in Riley's.)

One thing that really surprised me is that I've seen so many meta and fan discussions on the internet that excuse The Lie, or claim that Xander in the early seasons (1 & 2) was not at least partly motivated by jealousy. Especially when it comes to Angel, the reason often given (besides he's a wonderful friend), is that he hates vampires because of what happened to Jesse. That really didn't enter my thinking when watching the show this year (and admittedly I crammed it into three weeks time) because the show itself never makes a point of it beyond WTTH/The Harvest. JW admitted he had the actor in the opening credits to throw the audience, and Jesse is never mentioned beyond those episodes. I forgot Jesse because the show itself does, beyond one brief mention very late in the series (S7?)

Of course it was a very different show by S3 than S1, when Xander is the one who mentions Jenny Calender on more than one occasion; so yes, by this point his motivations for hating Angel were far more complex than mere jealousy.

I really don't have any interest in Buffy and Xander as a pairing (again, except as ironically - example, there's a story I read, a post-Chosen AU, in which only Xander and Buffy survive but she's in a wheelchair and they get married so she can take his name and be protected by that. It's a marriage in name only however. There only interaction the two of them have is her observing him asleep at his desk. She clearly feels the sort of friendly affection for him she did on the show, and it's never indicated that he feels anything else in return although his POV is never explored. the story is really about Buffy dealing with despair.)

In any case, bashing and whitewash (two sides of the same coin) sort of miss the point for me. We wouldn't be talking about these characters ten years on if they weren't complex and difficult and fully-fleshed people. (Ironically that tendency towards extremes of whitewashing/bashing is something we see in Xander on the show a lot - slut-shaming and hero worship (of Buffy) are two sides of the same coin. But he's also kind, concerned about his friends, generous and loving. I can't dismiss those qualities in him nor do I want to.)

As I don't tend to read Xander-centric fics, although I can enjoy him as part of an ensemble in a story (which is what he was on the show - part of the supporting ensemble. Remember?) I wonder if the same sort of whitewashing goes on with Spander fics, or if, because it's two guys in the pairing, there's more complexity, or does one guy become the stand in for the stone bitch/emo girl.

I alos sometimes wonder if -dare I mention them? - the comics (*gets out knives*) are a commentary on fanfic tendencies, because I'm beginning to realize that a lot of what I see in fanfic is also in the comics, if somewhat exagerrated. (The spacefrak being a prime example of that.) So, all of Xander's positive traits are there, without the negatives; or at least from what I've seen he's the most likeable and accessible character, at least in S8. But then the other possibility is that the comics are fanfic and Xander really is the writers' avatar and they take the "Buffy doesn't see what a great guy he is until it's too late" theme seriously. (Perhaps taking revenge on all the girls who turned them down in HS?)

I notice that in RL, the guys who inform me that they are "nice guys" are usually anything but; genuinely nice people don't have to inform the world that they are nice because it's so innate in their own characters - and niceness is genuinely accompanied by humility or modesty - that they don't have to think about it or feel the need to advertise it.

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