Here’s to the Gryffindors who can’t remember times, places, and dates, who feel a constant urge to just go, who feel like their nerves are electrical wires, who keep a rubber band around their wrist to snap when they aren’t focused, who don’t understand why it can’t just stop, who constantly say they need to throw something away or go to the bathroom or blow their nose because they need to move, who are accused of being lazy but in truth they just couldn’t remember or figure it out, who constantly feel the dense mixture of burning frustration, lukewarm regret and cold disappointment in their gut, who are fighting it as best they can.
Here’s to the Hufflepuffs who can’t sit through an entire movie, who have to actively tap their fingers to remember anything, who start making something for a friend but then get up and forget about it because they couldn’t concentrate, who are worried that whenever they spend long amounts of times with the people they love, they’re constant need to move will become annoying, who always feel the claws of self-hatred choking them, whose thoughts flit so quickly they say it’s more like a crash at an intersection than a train, who make jokes about their daydreamer tendencies that actually hurt, who just need someone to support and help and understand.
Here’s to the Ravenclaws who study for hours upon hours but can only remember what they crammed seconds before the tests, who start a project but never get around to finishing it, who know they’re smart but can’t help but doubt it because “ then why are their grades so low?”, who should have much higher marks but can’t remember more than 1/3 of the material, who feel humiliation and mortification and hopelessness whenever they look at their work, who find something new they’re excited to learn about, but forget to or can’t concentrate, who think that it’s somehow their fault, who are constantly looking forproof of their brain.
Here’s to the Slytherins who experiment with so many techniques for focusing that they lost count, who have to read one instruction five times before they get it, who fear that they’re a lost cause with no hope, who try working out while the study because maybe if they try to combine the problems, it’ll make a solution, who don’t understand how their classmates can just concentrate, who feel like they’ll never accomplish their goals or make anything out of themselves, who want to know more about their favorite subject, but also want to move and run and feel, who worry that failure is their only path, who can’t imagine a life where they accomplish their goals but feel like its the only possibility, who need help.
All of you are smart, talented, and so valuable, never forget that. You are valid, it isn’t your fault, just get help. I love and am here for you.
I think ‘The Zeppo’ was one of the most important episodes of BtVS.
“I laugh in the face of danger…and then I hide until it goes away.” -Xander Harris.
From the very first episode of, “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer”, there’s no doubting what kind of character that Xander Harris is going to be. He’s a tall, gangly white kid in somewhat shabby clothes. What he lacks in self-esteem, he makes up for with witty one-liners and a goofy sense of humor that seems to be put there to mask the real pain of his troubled home life and feelings of being unworthy. What does that make him?
The comic relief.
In most cases, the “Comic Relief” is a socially awkward outcast, who has few to no friends outside of the beautiful and powerful protagonist. They come with a veritable plethora of ‘flaws’, almost to highlight the superiority of the superpowered people they hang around and Xander Harris isn’t much different in the regard, only he’s lucky/unlucky enough to have an entire group of people who outshine him in their own, special ways.
The rest of the scoobies are unique. Buffy, with her super strength, stamina, and agility. Giles and Willow are both extremely intelligent and capable of magics. (Though Willow’s affinity for magic is stronger, and Giles relies on books where she uses to internet.) Oz becomes a werewolf, making him an unquestioned part of the supernatural. Angel and Spike are vampires, giving him strength, speed, and stamina in bounds. Anya is an ex-demon, Dawn is the Key, Tara is a witch, Kendra and Faith are Slayers, Cordelia becomes a higher power! The list goes on and on and the only one who never gets a magical destiny? Well, of course, it’s Xander.
When comparing Xander to the rest of them, it’s not difficult to understand why some fans think that they could have gotten rid of him or never had him at all, without changing much of the plot. Because he lacks superpowers, it’s easier for people to see his flaws and hold them against him, in ways that they don’t with Buffy, Willow, or Giles. They seem to share Cordelia’s view: That Xander is ‘The Zeppo’, and no one needs him. When, in fact, that’s what makes him unique.
Xander stands out from other ‘comic reliefs’ in the media because, unlike most of them, he does get his own episode. His own moment to be a hero; his own character arch that makes him stand out in spite of the actions of his friends, not just because of them.
As most of us are aware, by now, in ‘The Zeppo’, Xander is alienated by his well-meaning friends and pushed to stay out of the fighting because of an injury he sustains. In the aftermath of his breakup with Cordelia- (something that was his fault; no arguments from me there)- he feels lost and uncertain about his place in the group and tries to find himself by making friends with a residential creep, leading to him having his own adventure while the rest of his friends are trying to avert another apocalypse.
Xander doesn’t lose his status as the comic relief, though. He still makes his one-liners. He’s still goofy. He doesn’t get a superpower to defeat his bad guys, and he doesn’t get any help from the friends who are too busy trying to keep him ‘safe’ by keeping him out of the way. In the end, he’s only able to rely on himself. Nothing about him changes but our view of him. Xander is the hero of the story and so he seems more suave. More confident, in the end, when he’s confronting ‘The Big Bad’, as shown by one of his most memorable one-liners,
“I like the quiet.”
And that’s it! He wins by showing no fear. By making the other guy think. All Xander did was do what he always does and shoot his mouth off and it worked.
The real kicker of the episode comes at the end. He has the chance to tell his friends what he did; to make them see that he’s more than a weak link, or even rub their noses in it and make them feel bad for seeing him as less. But he doesn’t. He doesn’t tell them, and slides comfortably back into his role among them, even offering to get them snacks. Nothing changes.
So, why was it important?
This episode showed us, the viewer, that there was more to Xander than met the eye. That he could be a hero without any supernatural advantages and without losing who he is in the aftermath. That ordinary people could still do extraordinary things under pressure. That just because he wasn’t as strong, or as smart, or as gifted didn’t mean that he wasn’t anything. It also showed us a humble side of Xander. He keeps his adventure to himself. It was an insight to who he was as an individual instead of who he was in the group.
There are many ‘Xanders’ in the world. Awkward kids who make jokes out of life because it’s easier to laugh than it is to admit when you’re feeling useless, down, or being hurt by the people around you. People who feel out of place in their group of friends, or in their school. People who get mixed up with the wrong crowd and whose cries for help are unheard. This was an episode for all of those people; proof that they could have the spotlight on them, for once, and that they were capable of making the right choices and being brave like Xander was.
Xander Harris is an important part of the scoobies. Not a flawless one; but important nonetheless. He’s ordinary, but that doesn’t stop him from trying to help. He gets up everyday knowing that he’s weaker than them and does all that he can anyway.
Seeing that side of him was the key to understanding that. That’s why I think ‘The Zeppo’ was important.
Willow: I wanted to tell you. But I was so scared… Buffy: You can tell me anything, Willow. I love you. You’re my best friend. Willow: Me too. I love you too. Buffy: Let’s promise to never not talk again - Willow: I promise. I promise…
Gregory towered over the two boys, the ones on the opposing team who’d gotten in Noah’s face, who’d called him a fag. A princess. “Daddy’s little princess who always gets what he wants.” protect him, protect him, falling, falling
Gregory glowered at them, hands balled into fists at his side, said, “Call him something one more time.”
One of the boys muttered something under his breath, before shrugging, saying, “Let’s get outta here, dude.”
They stalked off and Gregory kind of admired how their superficial confidence didn’t waver as much as he’d thought it would.
Noah watched from behind him, his mouth a tight line as they were left the only two people on the field. “Why do you always have to fight my battles? I’m a fucking man, I can solve my own problems,” he blurted, frustrated.
“I’m just tryin’ to help, man.” Gregory shifted his weight, stuffed his hands in his sweatshirt pocket to keep from grabbing Noah’s own shaking hands. you’re falling, falling, just tell him you’re falling
“Well… Well, stop. i can stand up for myself.” Noah turned around and began towards the locker room.
falling, falling, stop falling, falling Gregory waited a few minutes and followed suit, electing to ignore whatever feeling Noah always seemed to leave him with.