DAWN: They can handle it.
XANDER: Yeah. They're special, no doubt. The amazing thing is, not one of them will ever know, not even Buffy.
DAWN: Know what?
XANDER: How much harder it is for the rest of us.
DAWN: No way. They've got?
XANDER: Seven years, Dawn. Working with the slayer. Seeing my friends get more and more powerful. A witch. A demon. Hell, I could fit Oz in my shaving kit, but come a full moon, he had a wolfy mojo not to be messed with. Powerful. All of them. And I'm the guy who fixes the windows.
DAWN: Well, you had that sexy army training for a while, and?and the windows really did need fixing.
XANDER: I saw what you did last night.
DAWN: Yeah, I? (embarrassed) I guess I kinda lost my head when I thought I was the slayer.
XANDER: You thought you were all special. Miss Sunnydale 2003. And the minute you found out you weren't, you handed the crown to Amanda without a moment's pause. You gave her your power.
DAWN: (shrugs) The power wasn't mine.
XANDER: They'll never know how tough it is, Dawnie, to be the one who isn't chosen. To live so near to the spotlight and never step in it. But I know. I see more than anybody realizes because nobody's watching me. I saw you last night. I see you working here today. You're not special. You're extraordinary. (stands, kisses her forehead, starts to walk out of the room)
DAWN: (tears welling in her eyes, calls after him) Maybe that's your power.
DAWN: Seeing. Knowing.
XANDER: Maybe it is. Maybe I should get a cape.
DAWN: Cape is good.
XANDER: Yeah. (leaves the room)
(Dawn goes back to work)
Nice scene isn't it, Xander talking about not being chosen, and buffing up Dawn's ego. One problem with it. It's utter bullshit.
Yes Xander wasn't chosen, but neither was Willow, or Gunn or Spike or Giles or Wesley or Oz or...
Now no matter how much I like the idea of being special even despite noone picking you out for it. But that doesn't take away the fact that all these other characters became special because they worked at it.
Willow wasn't a witch when the show started, she learned about magic, she took the effort to find things out about magic, to find out how it worked and how to use it.
Giles and Wesley spent years, possibly decades in Giles' case learning everything they could to be watchers. They went to school for it, they put in the effort to become watchers.
You don't just wake up one day and wham, suddenly you have the knowledge of a watcher. They studied for it. Kinda like you study to be a doctor or an architect or...
Or take Spike, sure he's a vampire, but there's noone concentrating on him being special. Where vampires are concerned he's a regular guy, only a regular guy who trained himself, who took risks and who fought to become someone that's noticeable. It took Spike 20 years before he killed his first slayer, but he still managed it. Making something special out of himself because he put in the effort.
Nobody had to curse him, he put in the effort to regain his soul.
Nobody made him a champion, he had to fight for it.
Or Gunn, nobody told Gunn "here's a pack of powers, now see what you do with it." He trained himself to become the best fighter he could be. And yes he was still insecure at the end of it, but he never just gave in to the idea of "that's all I'll ever be, so why bother trying for more"
Xander on the other hand...
See, one of the reasons I prefer regular non-powered Xander is because it fits in with canon that Xander never put in an effort to become more than that. Not because he couldn't, but because he didn't ever work at it.
I remember this one scene in season four, where Xander is looking in one of Giles books and reads what it says and it flames up. With Giles saying:"Xander don't speak latin in front of the books"
Sure that book could have been extremely volatile, but if it were, why was Giles letting Xander mess with it to begin with...
Xander could very well have potential for magic, but he never did anything with it. Xander could have learned how to fight, but he barely bothered to learn what he needed and ignores any fightingskills otherwise.
Sure, Giles was never as interested in Xander's skills as he was in Buffy's, but if Xander had really wanted to, he could have bugged Giles till the guy did teach him some things. Hell, he could ask Riley for training.
He lets any soldier training he remembers from the halloween ep just slip away, never bothering to use the knowledge he got magically to learn about that kind of thing for real.
The only reason Xander didn't become more powerful, is because he never bothered to learn anything to make himself more useful and powerful.
Now I like Xander (most of the time), but the fact remains that when it comes down to it, he had a lot of potential, only he never ever bothered to explore it. Might have been because he didn't think he'd ever get as good as the others so it wasn't worth to even try it.
Xander does have a tendency towards insecurity and selfdeprecation. Which probably didn't help him in trying to improve himself, but that still doesn't take away his own responsibility. It's not Buffy's duty to make Xander train, or Willow's duty to force Xander into learning about magic, it was Xander's and he was very much a slacker in that regards.
Well Xander and Giles', but then again, Giles was preoccupied.
And yes, Xander did have to worry about a fulltime job, but that job didn't happen until s4, he had plenty of free time during highschool to try and learn, esp. since he mostly failed highschool for the same reason that he failed becoming a better fighter. A lack of effort and thinking too low of himself. (he would have almost given up his job in
'the replacement' because he just doesn't realize how good he is at it)
Just look at Xander's job, within four years he goes from selling hot dogs on a stick to foreman, that's four years to become the boss at a job that actually requires math.
(just look at the fact that he has to go to meetings and has to handle
the architects plans)
If you're stupid, you don't get that high a position, esp. in a job that occasionally requires you to wear suits to work. No matter how high the death rate around him. (just look at his co-workers, several of them are older than Xander is and probably more experienced)
It's not that he lacks the intelligence, he just lacks the drive.
Now I can understand the meta involved. Joss stopped being interested in Xander somewhat around s4-s5. And he wasn't a fave of one the other writers like Jonathan was for Jane Espenson. There's even the logical reason that they needed a diverse cast, so they couldn't all be witches.
(in fact, if Xander had started at witchraft, there's no real reason why Buffy wouldn't learn about it as well and if that were the case, all too soon there wouldn't be a demon that actually stood a chance against them)
But textwise, the one thing that really matters, Xander's a slacker. So really what he's telling Dawn in Potential is the equivalent of some unemployed slacker complaining that he didn't get into college when he never put in the effort to get good grades to begin with.
Now don't get me wrong, Xander does do a lot for Buffy. So maybe he's more like the construction worker complaining he didn't get to go to college. Hell I don't have a college degree either. But like Xander, I could have gotten one, if I'd put more effort into it.