The iPod Wedding & The Missing Character Arc
"What are you a part of? Where do you belong? Who are you connected to? How do you fit in? Sorry to fire all these questions at you, but now is a good time to be looking for the right answers; ones that really make sense, not just ones that sound good. When you think about an organisation that you are involved with, you see yourself as peripheral; at best, a small cog in a big machine. Yet, in many ways, you are a key player – a vital component. It is time to recognise how much influence you have, and to use it."
I forgot to mention something of some great importance to someone who reads this with regularity. I may not be worried about you-know-who anymore. That doesn’t mean I like it- I’m never going to like it. That doesn’t mean I’m comfortable, and I’m not sure I ever can be, now. I know that’s not what you wanted to hear, but at least it’s the truth.
As an introduction, you are all aware that I recently started playing GuildWars, which I am actually quite enjoying (and I didn’t expect to, so awesome). Here are my characters (I want Inara’s hair, and the outfits from Yvaine and Aisling):
1) Inara Amalthea (Ranger, Level 4)
2) Yvaine Pania (Mesmer, Level 1)
3) Aisling Quicksilver (Elementalist, Level 1)
John and I are in a Guild right now, in Ashford Abbey. We just finished equipping my character with better armor. It’s actually a lot of fun once your character has some weapons, spells and a pet and you’re not practically defenseless. I accidentally wandered into The Catacombs alone. The place was absolutely crawling with nasties. It isn’t so bad when you’re not alone, but I wandered in without Alysia Zedtwo (John’s character). It’s pretty great not having two elementalists in one guild, because where his character is weak, mine has more brute force power. I’m also training to be a monk, so I have some pretty great spells. John doesn’t know it, but I have two short resurrection spells too. One for me (20%) and one for a target (100% H, 50% E). I have encountered a number of limitations because I’m a trial account, but if and when I can afford to buy it, it’s on. And in case you’re wondering: yes, I am somewhat trying to keep my characters accurate. They’re all very tall (:D) and brunette.
After John jailbroke his 2G iPod Touch 8Gb, he lost all of his music (or rather, most of it) so I restored the playlist I made him, and put Dr. Horrible and the Transformers on it. I’m currently finding all of my Bridal and Wedding-Themed movies right now and ripping them to my iPod. Color me girly, but I am imposing my own Bridal Shower. If I have to celebrate privately, then so be it. But I’m in the mood to bloody celebrate. I’m engaged, I’m happy, and in 8 short days, it will be my 24th birthday. So happy friggin’ birthday to me! HA! So far I have:
-Made Of Honor
-The Wedding Date
I’m also working on some material for my podcast, which is cool. John and I are watching the Buffy series right now, and we’re midway into season 2. I’ve been trying to catch things as best I can. Strangely, despite the fact that I don’t find it the most interesting point of debate, I keep running into reasons to discuss Xander at length. Though the show is about Buffy, her life and her mission, Xander is a pretty pivotal character, since his role is meant to respresent the viewer participation within that reality. It was argued by a podcaster and his listenership forum that Xander never experiences a true character arc: he is presented with an opportunity to grow as a character and never really seizes the opportunity to learn from the lessons he is presented with.
We first meet Xander Harris outside at the front steps of Sunnydale High, falling at the feet of our heroine (literally) on her first day at a new school. Note that he rides a skateboard in that episode ("Welcome To The Hellmouth"), hwich he never does again. Is it that he grew out of it? Is it just one more thing to add to the list of challenges that Xander fails to overcome? Joss whedom answers this question simply: filming someone on a skateboard was simply too difficult to repeat. It was scrapped out of a need for convenience.
Joss has often said that Xander is the character he identifies with most, the one that is most representative of himself within the show (and to reiterate, representative of us, the viewers, also). Xander never possesses any powers, special abilities, important lineage, genetic bonuses or incredible talents. He is simply as we are: caught up in the world of demons and monsters that Buffy introduces him to (though we well know that this world was very present before she showed up, she just removed the veil of denial). This presents a uniquely important purpose to Xander’s character arc, or lack thereof. Xander is given his first major lesson about the world Buffy lives in in the first two episodes. Joss took a character, believed to have been part of the core group (Willow & Xander) and turned him into a vampire. Jesse was essentially a pseudo-Xander wannabe, and it was necessary to kill off his character right away, for two major reasons:
1) To establish an understanding of the show’s mission statement "Nothing is as it seems" and to show you that no-one is safe.
2) To show Xander and Willow the seriousness of this new world, and establish an understanding of death between characters and viewers.
An interesting theory was posited, that Jesse’s death was somewhat of an established contract between the writers and the viewers to suspend their beliefs in the seriousness of death. This is suggested for several reasons:
1) Jesse was supposedly a long-time friend to both Xander and Willow (possibly since infancy), and yet their grief over his death is so short-lived that it barely endures the first two hours of the series, and then Jesse is never so much as mentioned again. This, in and of itself, suggests that the grief experienced was not over what was lost, but what was learned, and the consequential loss of innocence stemming from knowledge gained.
2) For a very long time, on the show, every death served a purpose (to either further the plot, or further a character arc).
It is argued, though, that a later death in the series ("Passion") violated this concept, as it was played very seriously and effected our core group. However, it still served an ultimate purpose. This "contract" is said to have remained intact until season 5 ("The Body"). I don’t believe such a contract ever existed. I believe in the mission statement, and any such contract would have undermined the concept that the first death was intended to establish.
Anyhow, after Jesse’s death, we do see Xander leap headlong into the line of fire to seek revenge for Jesse’s untimely demise, which is contrary to his line "I laugh in the face of danger, and then I hide until it goes away." And it isn’t the only time he does so. We can gather, then, that Xander is brave, at the very least. He is heroic by choice, not by way of a calling, or by way of force. He is not unwillingly bound to it by his social network, but bound by his desire to make a difference. That said, Xander doesn’t have the same coping mechanisms as our heroine. Though he participates, he is also aware that saving the world is not his ultimate purpose (though he manages to, and more than once). Xander has inadequacy issues. But being the most human of all of the characters, this isn’t a surprise. For the first season, and part of the second, he has a big crush on Buffy that he never actualizes (we first notice it when he vocalizes his most suave of Freudian slips to Buffy in the hallway: "Can I have you?"). This crush may have been his initial motivator for continuing to valiantly dash itno battle. By not asserting himself in that relationship, he earns his place in the group as ‘one of the girls.’ In ("Witch") season one, Buffy is stricken with a blood vengeance spell and tactlessly points out that he is also typical: he wants her but won’t do anything about it, just like everyone else- and she knows it. He turns out to be a coward in his more human aspects. We can assume then, that his bravery in Buffy’s world is also an overcompensation and a means to avoid the reality of his own life. How can you concentrate on the basic daily trials of adolescence when a praying mantis is trying to mate with you, or a man made of meal worms is trying to eat your girlfriend?
Xander is also very impressionable. He falls victim to that fault sevaral times throughout the series:
1) Miss French, the man-eating mantis / Science teacher, by whom he is seduced ("Teacher’s Pet")
2) The gang of zombies ("The Zeppo")
3) Being possessed by the spirit of a hyena ("The Pack")
4) Being enslaved as a vampire familiar ("Dracula")
5) The impersonating demon who feeds him false memories ("Hell’s Bells")
6) The demon that possesses him ("Grave")
And that isn’t even all of them. And after that, he is split into his strongest and weakest attributes by Toth later in the series, and learns that by killing either aspect of himself, the other half dies, he still fails to realize that his weaknesses are a part of who he is, and does nothing to grow from that information. Xander even presents the opportunity to grow in ("Dracula") stating, boldly: "No more butt-monkey!" (Ironically, to this point he still remains the bug man, only this time, by eating them, which I suppose is some form of vindication). Again, Xander is given many, many opportunities to face a challenge, prevail, learn from it and grow. The problem is that he tends to continually forget what he has learned and remains inexplicably unchanged. Fear seems to be the greatest motivator for his lack of progress.
In one of the most recently viewed episodes of Buffy ("Bad Eggs"), Xander is caught having cheated on an assignment given in Health Class by hard boiling his egg-baby for 8 minutes, as a means to avoid breaking it as a result of negligent care. He even cracks an unfortunate joke about giving his offspring the advantage of a thick skin. This catches up with him later in the episode when he cracks the shell, preparing to eat it as an afternoon snack and reveals the critter inside instead. Metaphorically this is major foreshadowing. We, the audience, learn throughout the show that Xander comes from a bad home life provided by a dysfunctional family, comprised of his violent, philandering drunk of a Father, his negligent wino of a Mother, and his drunk pervert of an Uncle. It’s an interesting thing that when Xander is presented with the responsibility of parenthood (even symbolically), he fails to take the task seriously and manages to symbolically continue the vicious circle and repeat poor Harris parenting history. And perhaps this is one thing that may have made him compatible with Anya as a life partner. She never really vocalizes a desire to have children, just to be married. She even makes a few tactless jokes about selling her "little pink plastic children" for more money in an episode where they are babysitting Dawn and playing ‘The Game Of Life’. (Anya is also extremely condescending towards Dawn and treats her like she is a tiny infant with no brains). The only time children in their relationship become a consideration is in the episode ("Hell’s Bells") when Xander is show flashes of a false future in which they have a son and a daughter (whom Xander believes to be the illegitimate offspring of an affair between Anya and Clem) and they are so dysfunctional together that it has had a very obvious negative impact on their children. –Anyway, more to come. This is simply an addition to an entire written podcast episode.