liz_marcs (liz_marcs) wrote,

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Stalking the fanon Xander...

I don't know if it's because of Walk With Heroes awards or if it's because people are just suddenly stumbling over these stories, but I've gotten some amazing FB this week for both Whisper and Living History.

Either that, or someone out there has been recc'ing me to just about everyone they know in Buffy fandom. I already know of one case where that's happened *waves to daniidebrabant*, but it makes me curious where my name is showing up.

Frankly, I remain both grateful and amazed when people take the time to send me long FB. Often I feel dumb-struck. How can you say more than "Ummmm, thank you. I'm speechless. Thank you." I feel like such a dork because I have no idea how to say thank you properly when someone takes the time to give detailed, constructive FB.

But that line that always bowls me over: "I love your Xander."

My Xander? He's owned by Fox, played by Nicholas Brendon, written by ME. By no one's stretch of the imagination is he mine.

That's usually my first reaction when I read that. Usually this compliment comes right after the fact that they're happy I'm keeping Xander (and by extention the other Scoobs) in character.

Which is why I'm always taken by surprise by the line.

That said, I think I know what people mean when they write it, even if I have a WtF moment when I see it. It means they appreciate and enjoy my take on the character. I can't imagine a higher compliment than that.

To an extent, you could argue that all the Buffy and Angel characters have crossed into fanon territory. The shows are off the air. Anything taking place after S7 Buffy and S5 Angel by definition has to be fanon. I'd even go a step further and argue that all fanfiction is fanon to an extent, no matter how close to canon you keep your story. Your story did not happen on the television shows, ergo, fanon. If you are tying it to an actual episode, you're doing an alternative take, if you will. That means it's still fanon.

I admit that I'm a bit of a canon-whore. I try to keep close to canon but still put my own twist on it. Therefore, I may have the basic "facts" of the Buffyverse and Angelverse right, but it's still fanon no matter which way you slice it.

Which has lead me to thinking: In many ways, when I read any story that is Xander-centric, I am looking for a certain kind of fanon Xander, or I'm reading for a certain fanon version.

There does seem to be a little bit of a bias against Xander-centric fics because the perception is that most fics that feature my favorite character aren't that good. Sadly, I almost have to agree with blanket statement and assessment, even though I know damn well it's wrong in the details

That perception is slowly changing because a lot of very good writers are adopting the guy. There are some amazing writers (both het and slash) that have taken Xander and run with him, expecially post-S7 Buffy. One look at the Xander category on Walk With Heroes and you'll see it. And by no means was that category a complete list. Shipper writers weren't included. A lot of non-shippy stories from some superior writers weren't on the list. Some older stories from some good writers weren't there either.

Yet, for all the quality Xander-centric fic that's out there, there have been far too many Xander!Marty Stus on both the het and slash side on fandom that it's hard to dig out from under it. Many of those stories are poorly written, poorly conceived, or just not original in any way, shape, or form. The latest plague of Xander!Marty Stus are coming from those endless "Halloween (S2)" retakes that seem to be everywhere like cockaroaches. The challenge actually started on the XanderZone fanfiction list and now seems to have spawned a subgenre of Xander!Marty Stus.

Now, let me be fair here, the challenge was meant to be a fun quickie challenge, if I remember the original post. Just a series of one-shot jokes and drabbles where you're supposed to guess what costume Xander picked this time. It was fun, quirky, and clever. It quickly mutated so that not one aspect of any corner of fandom escaped. Once it moved beyond the intent, I gave up reading because I was drowing in Xander!Marty Stus. Now I actively throw holy water at my computer screen when I see one of these damn things.


Obviously, I'm not the only one annoyed, because I'm starting to see legitimate complaints about that little buggers cropping up everywhere I look. I'm sure there are some good Halloween challenge stories, but they're getting lost because 99% of them are utter crap and people don't want to wade through the crap to find the nugget of gold.

But the Halloween challenges are just the latest. Not to pick on specific writers, but I still don't get the appeal of the Wanderer-verse, the Journey-verse, and the Lost Warrior-verse which are the very definition of Marty Stu!Xander. I understand they're supposed to be AUs, but I can't even bring myself to get through the first stories. I spend a lot of my time going, "Who the hell is this Xander guy they're talking about? I don't recognize him at all." On the slash side of things, I'm still trying to figure out the appeal of Repossession, which isn't so much Spike and Xander as it is two characters who are completely different but just happen to have the character's names. The other Buffy-verse and Angel-verse characters don't fare much better.

Depending on who and what you read, Xander is:

1) A bad-ass
2) A wimp
3) A gun-lover
4) Hides behind people who are stronger
5) Superhero
6) Victim
7) Has solider and hyena memories to recall at his command
8) Doesn't have the brains to tie his shoes
9) Militantly straight
10) Oh, so very gay
11) Regularly engages in threesomes of any gender
12) A complete slut (I actually read someone who claimed that this was the case and it turned out that the speaker had never actually seen the show itself)
13) A complete prude
14) Narrow-minded asshole and racist (for the anti-vamp thing)

I can go on and on.

Granted, these are extremes. There are a lot of stories that fall somewhere in the middle on het-slash divide, or should I say, the XanderZone-NummyTreats divide, since one is militantly het and the other is militantly slash.

Now that I've probably offended everyone, let me tell you what I think is a good fanon Xander, regardless of whether you're writing het or slash:

He's a little more complicated than that
Even before the bizarre characterizations of all Buffy characters in S7, Xander was never consistent in his point of view on a lot of things. It doesn't necessarily make him hypocritical (though he can be), but it does make him "normal." Very often I think most people carry contradictory ideas in their heads about a single issue. Xander's no different. I don't think he's straight down the line, "All demons are evil," for example, but I think he's got some hard and fast rules he goes by until he's proven wrong.

Stories that Marty Stu!Xander into having a hard and fast code that goes beyond the basics (which I sum up as: "Hurt people I love, and I'll see you dead one way or the other.") drives me positively wild. Xander is right. Everyone else is wrong. He will show them the error of their ways. There is no room for compromise or for him to reconsider his views. Because he's right, in case you missed it. At the opposite extreme, we have Asshole!Xander who has that hard and fast code and should be punished because he refuses to budge or who should be belittled because he's clearly wrong and an idiot.

He's not always a victim and he's not always the hero
Xander can most certainly get in over his head. He can bite off more than he can chew. Yes, he had a sucky home life. Yes, sometimes his friends don't appreciate him. Yes, he can feel pretty damn sorry for himself. Yes, sometimes Buffy or someone else has to save his ass. But for all those times that happens to him, he's done his share of saving in return. With the exception of S7, Xander has had a key role to play in staving off an apocalypse. He's stepped in and saved just about everyone in the Scooby gang at one point or another, as well as Kennedy, and random bystanders. Sometimes it's played for laughs (as in the case of warning students not to eat the jello), sometimes it's dead serious (Kingman's Bluff).

I admit, Victim!Xander usually makes me cringe into the floor. I don't mind Xander being victimized (there's a difference) by circumstances, people, or even himself. I don't mind Xander feeling sorry for himself or feeling like a victim. But when we've got Xander throughout an entire story being nothing more than a victim so we can have "healing sex" or show how useless he is or to justify any bad treatment that gets thrown at the character in the story? Grates. Grates big-time.

The opposite side of this is the Revenge Fantasy!Xander who starts as Victim!Xander (usually victimized by his oh-so-mean-oh-so-not-understanding-friends), but gets even with all those people who've dismissed him over the years. (Poor Buffy gets the brunt of this.) Hero!Xander, or rather, uber Hero!Xander where he kicks ass and takes names all the time is boring and I hate this guy.

He's good with distance weapons and has some competent fighting skills, but he doesn't always win the fights.
The most Marty Stued of all Xanders is gun-love, badass fighter Xander. Frankly, Xander is someone who suffers by comparison on the street-fighter front, I think. He fights against things that are a lot stronger than him. He should be a smear on the sidewalk, but he's not. Personally, I think if Xander went up against a normal human, he could very well accidently kill them simply because he's so used to fighting with that disparity. That does tell me that he's a better-than-average fighter, but not as good as say, a Slayer. Let's be honest, Willow, physically speaking, is not as good a fighter, although she's got the mojo going for her. But I just don't see Xander being able to go toe-to-toe with a dozen vamps and coming out alive, not without weapons, help, or outwitting his opponents. Takin' 'em all on in a bare-knuckled fight single-handedly? Not going to happen. I don't care who writes it.

And the gun love. Yes, Xander has been shown to be profecient with distance weapons. He can use a tranq gun, he's deadly with a bow and arrow (the loss of an eye, in the long run, does not affect bow and arrow accuracy once you learn to compensate). But a gun collection he loves and uses all the time a la Anita Blake? *BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!* Sorry. It's just that there are so many of these stories floating around out there where I need to be a Tom Clancy fan to even get the idea. Don't get me wrong. There are some fics that make smart uses of guns and ammo or interesting AUs where Xander is shown to be using them, and I actually enjoy it when the author can give me a reason to believe that Xander's pulled an Ash with a boomstick. In those stories, he retains his "Xander-ness" (whatever the hell that means), but I just have a hard time buying that he's got more guns than brain cells.

Xander's distressingly human, even if he does develop a secret power or becomes something supernatural
Ooooo! Loooooook! More Marty Stuing for the masses!
Now, there are some great fics out there that play with this idea, but again, the key here is that Xander is still Xander. In my mind, Xander would be disturbed, upset, angry, or plain be confused if he developed a power or really was a demon or became somehow a magical creature. He'd probably learn to live with the idea, but embracing it whole-heartedly? I'm not sure. (The notable exception here is Cat Shadows which is an AU for S1 and is quite good, mostly because Xander is so completely 16-year-old Xander.) I've read far too many stories where Xander immediately starts showing people who's boss when he gets his cool powers. Cross-overs with the X-Men are the worst offenders in this category.

He's not perfect, goddamn it!
I'm bizarre. A lot of my Xander-lurve comes from his flaws. He can be petty. He can be cruel. He can be short-sighted. He has a temper. He can be narrow-minded. He can be wrong. He can be stubborn. He holds a grudge like no one's business. Sometimes he's not very nice to the people he loves. When he gets going, he can strip the skin off someone just using words. He refuses to talk about what's really bothering him to the people he should tell.

However, you've got fics that utterly ignore all these points. Because he's always right, damn it! Or, you have fics that only have these points in them, totally ignoring the good he does have in him. It goes back to my first point: "He's more complicated than that."

I know, I'm making blanket statements because there are fics in all of the above categories that I actually enjoy, even if I think Xander is OOC.

I think what I'm trying to say is, write me a human Xander (even if he's got powerz), write me a competent Xander who's sometimes a total dork, write me a Xander who can be wrong and right (even if it's at the same time), write me a Xander who changes and grows in the course of your story, write me a Xander who screws up but does some things right, and I am totally your bitch.

I have a feeling I'm gonna pay for this...

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