Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Thirty Days of Buffy, Day 7: Least Favorite Male Character

I know a lot of you are expecting Xander, since he is kind of universally the most disliked and criticized male character on BtVS - and for good reason. I really despise Xander, for sososososo many reasons, and his eventual maturation near the end of the final season (It took him nearly seven full seasons to not be a prick??) is just too little, too late. But this post is not about Xander, alas. Instead, it's about Captain Cardboard himself, Riley Finn.
Now look he's gettin' huffy, 'cause he knows that I know.
Honestly, I didn't really despise Riley all that much in the beginning. He was a pleasant break from the brooding Angel, a little bright light in Buffy's otherwise dismal existence as a Slayer. It was quite obvious that he cared deeply about her, almost as obvious as the fact he was intimidated by her power, but he loved who she was. Plus, he punched Parker, so he couldn't have been that bad. 
Okay, it's blurry, but I tried like 972347 times to freeze it at the right moment and got frustrated.
Throughout Season Four, he's kind of meh, but it's cute to see a guy that's closer to Buffy's age who's happy-excited to see her and says his body hums when she's around. But then, in Season Five, Riley turns douche on Buffy, starting from the first episode of that season, "Buffy vs. Dracula*." He gets jealous of the dumbest interpretation of Dracula I have ever seen, which supposedly fuels his later decision to let vampires bite him? Whatever, dude. I recently rewatched Season Five, and I realized that, in kind of a parallel to them getting together in Four's "Hush", the reason they ultimately broke up was because of a lack of communication. Riley doesn't think to talk with Buffy about his feelings; he just bottles them up and sits there with his hands in his pockets, all dejected. Or, well, he talks about it with Xander (WTF, Riley? Xander? Of all the people on the planet, you choose to confess to Xander that you think Buffy doesn't love you? Again, WTF.), who just stands there dumbly. And Buffy, who to be fair is dealing with a lot of shit, just stops talking to him, period. There's even a point where she goes to the hospital with her mom and just doesn't call him. However, Buffy isn't aware that there's anything wrong. How could she? She can't read minds like she did that one time and almost went insane.
Fun times.
But that's not even my biggest problem with him. There's a bigger reason than Dracula's feeding on her for him to quit even trying to relate to her.  He says it's because she's pulling away from him - which Buffy totally does with everyone, but that's his cover story - but oh, no, he just doesn't like that he can't save her from the Big Bads of the world. He was depowered in the middle of Season Five, in exchange for, you know, actually living, but now he can't go on patrol with her or something. Because that's what Buffy wants in a boyfriend: a patrolling buddy. And that's when he ends up essentially cheating on Buffy with a vampire ... brothel? I guess? and saying that he felt ~~`**{ALIVE}**`~~ because they needed him. And then he has the gall to give her an ultimatum: tell me you love and need me (even though I dicked you over because I'm insecure) or else I'm going to the jungle with Army. ROMANCE.
Now, if only I could get some of Buster Bluth's plushie awards.
Which okay, I'm going to tell you a little story that has nothing to do with Buffy and everything to do with stupid relationship demands. In high school, a place that's ripe with bad romance stories, I liked this boy we'll call Patrick. He and I had a complicated relationship, mainly stemming out of hormonal needs that neither of us really understood and the fact that he did the verbal version of pulling my hair in class, just to get any type of reaction. Well, then we had this idea that, hey, maybe we could date? And we did, for, like, a day. And then he handed me this girlfriend contract. I'm not even kidding. It was printed out, and he expected me to sign the thing. "Thou shall not interfere with guy time." Yes, that was the first rule, and yes, he and his buds crafted this using Biblical styling. What did I do? I ripped up the contract and threw it in his face. Which is metaphorically what Buffy should have done to Riley.
Pretty much.
Instead, she listens to Xander, the trove of relationship advice that he is, who tells her that Riley is her Great Love and that she's just throwing it away because of her pride (um, do you think you're talking to Riley at this point, Xan-Man?), and then runs with sweeping romantic music in the background to give Assmunch a reason to stay in Sunnydale. Thankfully, she arrives just as Riley leaves on a jet plane helicopter, this somber expression on his face, and Buffy spends the next episode crying, for comedic effect, natch, because she's afraid that other relationships will fail. Namely, Xander and Anya's, which hahahahaha ends horribly in the following season.
I blame that on Riley, too.
When Riley returns in Season Six, he is married. Because of fucking course, he is. Now, his wife, Sam, is pretty cool, although I'm not sure even she believes that Riley is over Buffy in any way. She's the rebound girl who deserved way better than Agent Finn. Season Six was apparently the "Shit on Buffy" season - or according to Joss Whedon, the season where life is the Big Bad - and to have her ex come back to see how crappy her life was after sacrificing herself to save her sister and the world and then being ripped out of heaven by her ignorant friends seemed a bit of overkill to me. I kind of wish Riley had never made another appearance after disappearing into the night, both literally and figuratively. 
I have come to make your life that much worse. You are welcome.
I place responsibility on Marti Noxon for wanting to make him a more "tortured complex character," saying in Buffy the Vampire Slayer Magazine, "He's starting to fray around the edges ... this straight guy is starting to get a little strange." Which, okay, fine. Whatever. Take him to darker places. I get that as a writer. But did you have to make him into such a dreary asshole? He was even worse than sulky Angel. Blech. Honestly, it would have just been better to kill him off. You don't like having a kickass girlfriend? Okay, you can die, then, with your bravado in tact.
True fact: I actually really like Marc Blucas. 
* Can I tell you how much I hated this episode? It was horrible. HORRIBLE. Except for the part where Xander calls himself a butt monkey. That was excellent.
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