I’ve never sympathized with any other character in regards to Faith because despite her mistakes she’s the only character who’s made be cry with simplest scenes and its incredible especially because her scene time on the show was pretty minimal.
I feel like Buffy is an important feminist icon, but she also often felt like your cliche Hollywood “Strong Woman” (i.e. relatively little depth beyond “literally strong/could kick your ass”); and she traipsed into several other other boring, even annoying tropes along the way. (I was personally most annoyed by the almost Mary-Sue-ish heroine acts like an asshole for a long time, but it’s all okay, because she ended up being right! And look! Now everybody else has seen the error of their ways and are apologizing to her for her assholery as if it were their fault” storyline in the latter seasons. (See: the reason she got kicked out of the house). Separate and apart from whether or not you think the whole kicking out thing was an overreaction, it was some BS that Buffy really had no other repercussions for her control-freak-who’s-clearly-lost-any-sense-of-perspective period than “leave, kick some ass solo for a while/have a good cry, come back to an apologetic Faith, and have virtually everything resolved in her favor.”
Faith’s sexual assault and attempted murder of Xander in Consequences parallel Spike’s attempted rape of Buffy later in the season. Of course, because sexual assault of men isn’t taken as seriously as sexual assault of women, the writers treat the latter with much more gravitas than the former, which is a shame because it misses a big opportunity to explore the reactions of Xander as a character.
Xander goes through a fuckton of pain and sexual humiliation in this episode. He’s lost his virginity to a woman who, Buffy bluntly informs him, treats her sexual conquests as “a big joke”. The Scoobies all scornfully dismiss his idea that he and Faith share a connection, and shoot down his intentions to reach out to her. What’s more, when he does resolutely reach out to her, she proceeds to taunt him, mock his maleness, sexually assault him, and finally try to kill him.
And what’s the fallout? Not only does he get zero screen time to express his feelings about the assault, but his best friend defends his would-be rapist and enlists the others to protect her from the authorities.
BUFFY: So - we head them off at the airport. Stop them. Willow, looking tentative, pipes up again. WILLOW: Can I- I’m just wondering. Why? Everyone looks to her. She’s definitely got their attention. WILLOW: I’m not the most objective, I know. I kinda have an issue with Faith sharing my … people. (then) But - she murdered someone and accused Buffy. Then she hurt Xander. I hate to say it, but maybe she belongs behind bars. Now Xander tries to add something - but his voice is completely shot. He falls silent, embarrassed and frustrated. Buffy is sympathetic, but resolute. BUFFY: She’s out of control, I know. But Angel was getting somewhere with her.She was opening up. If we can just stop Wesley-
Willow’s the voice of reason here, but she doesn’t get more than one line, and the bit about Xander trying and failing to speak is edited out of the ep entirely -
his character is never allowed even the slightest chance to express the emotional results of his victimization. Buffy’s support of Faith after the incident with Xander is totally unacceptable. If Xander had defended Spike with full knowledge of his attempted rape of Buffy, that would rightly have been viewed as heinous apologism. The double standard here is sickening.
(By the way, amidst all of this, he handles himself with extraordinary aplomb: rising above Faith’s taunting to try to reach her with compassion, joking about his own physical weakness to set her at ease, prioritizing friendship and selflessness over his own pain. This display of character is one of the reasons my heart hurts for Xander in this ep.)