In Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen’s book Gods in Everyman, she explains the myth of the Procrustean Bed . Everyone on their way to Athens was forced to lie on the Procrustean Bed and be measured and if the person was too short for the bed they would be stretched to fit. If, on the other hand, the unfortunate soul was too long, they would find themselves cut down to size.
Bolen says that patriarchy is much like the Procrustean Bed for men, in that if men don’t fit a certain ideal, they are in one way or another ostracized or are not able to achieve personal or professional success.
Xander, to me fits the persona of Hephaestus, god of the forge-the craftsman, the loner, the inventor. He had a club foot, was rejected by Zeus in Olympus as well as others and was unlucky in love.
Xander was the Wounded One. His family, as is well alluded to and finally seen for the monsters they truly are in Hell’s Bells (6.16), rejected him in one way or another and he finally found his family in his friendship with Buffy and Willow. He also found his calling as a carpenter and we even saw an example of his gifted craftsmanship in “Older and Faraway” when he presents Buffy with a beautiful weapons chest for her 21st birthday (and Anya made helpful suggestions from a safe distance).
Teacher’s Pet begins, though with a touching scene between Buffy and a teacher, Dr. Gregory, who instead of being condescending with Buffy about her not doing the reading, is actually supportive of her.
(Dr. Gregory) “You have a first rate mind and you can think on your feet. Imagine what you could accomplish if you actually did the…”
(Buffy) “The homework thing.”
(Dr. Gregory) “The homework thing. I understand you probably have a good excuse for not doing it. Amazingly enough, I don’t care. I know you can excel in this class, and so I expect no less. Is that clear?”
(Buffy) “Yeah. Sorry.”
(Dr. Gregory) “Don’t be sorry. Be smart. And please don’t listen to the principal or anybody else’s negative opinion about you. Let’s make them eat that permanent record. What do you say?”
(Buffy) “OK. Thanks.”
(Dr. Gregory) “Chapters six through eight.” (“Teacher’s Pet”, 1-4)
But, sadly, he is eaten right after this by Preying Mantis Lady, who immediately assumes the persona of Natalie French, substitute science teacher, and begins to prey on the virgin male students of Sunnydale High. This is, possibly, the very first instance of Joss making us love a character only to kill him off at the end of the episode. This was also the very first authority figure that actually showed Buffy any kind of support. Even her relationship with Giles at this point was more contentious than anything else.
Xander is one of the students that Natalie preys upon and he refuses to listen to Buffy when she tries to explain that he might be in danger.
This is also the very first mention of the word “shawarma”, which, as any true Joss Whedon fan knows, has had a long history with his projects.
(Natalie) “Martini? Oh, I’m sorry. Would you like something else? I just need to relax a little. I’m kind of nervous around you. You’re probably cool as a cucumber.”
(Xander) “I like cucumbers, like in that Greek salad thing with the yogurt. Do you like Greek food? I’m exempting shawarma, of course. I mean, what’s that all about. It’s a big meat hive.”
The fact that Xander was a virgin and this was what made him vulnerable to the creature, and was, in fact something to be ashamed of is a perfect example of how patriarchy can be just as constricting and damaging to men as it is to women. It was, and possibly still is, considered shameful for a guy to be a virgin at sixteen years old. As the opposite is true for girls who are pressured to both retain their virginity, and to be sexually savvy.
Fortunately, Xander is rescued by Buffy in the nick of time, as per usual and his fellow prisoner Blayne threatens a lawsuit if anyone tells that he is a virgin, so his secret is still safe. And he will remain a virgin until Faith does the deed in another Xander-centric episode, “The Zeppo” (3.
(Faith) “You up for it?”
(Xander) “Oh, I’m up. I’m suddenly very up. It’s just, um, I’ve never been up with people before.”
(Faith) “Just relax and take your pants off.”
(Xander) “Those two concepts are antithetical.”
(Faith) “Don’t worry. I’ll steer you around the curves.”
(Xander) “Did I mention that I’m having a very strange night?”