1st Anniversary Character Posting Board Party - Jonathan
Maladanza - October 4, 2001

Jonathan - Through Earshot

Buffy: Besides, prison, you know, it's a lot like high school, only instead of noogies - (Earshot)

From the earliest episodes of BtVS, particularly episodes like "The Pack" and "Out of Mind, Out of Sight", up through "Earshot", Joss' vision of High School life has been clear. In SHS, the law of the jungle prevails - the most powerful, most brutal members of the student body dominate the weaker members. There is a definite social hierarchy and each student knows his place in it. Jonathan's place is at the very bottom.

But perhaps hierarchy is not quite the proper word. Caste might be more appropriate. There is very little mobility between the different levels - as we see in "Welcome to the Hellmouth" when social philosopher, Cordelia Chase, explains the rules to newcomer Buffy.

Cordelia: You wanna fit in here, the first rule is: know your losers. Once you can identify them all by sight (glances after Willow) they're a lot easier to avoid. (Welcome to the Hellmouth)

Downward movement is certainly possible. Buffy began her Sunnydale existence in the upper echelon - with Cordelia taking her in hand - but Buffy quickly found herself relegated to the lower caste after continuing to associate with the untouchables of SHS.

Buffy: Why don't we start with, 'Hi, I'm Buffy,' and, uh, then let's segue directly into me asking you for a favor. (sits next to her) It doesn't involve moving, but it does involve hanging out with me for a while.

Willow: But aren't you hanging out with Cordelia?

Buffy: I can't do both?

Willow: Not legally. (Welcome to the Hellmouth)

Cordelia does try to warn Buffy about violating the mores of SHS:

Cordelia: (to Buffy) I don't mean to interrupt your downward mobility, but I just wanted to tell you that you won't be meeting Coach Foster, the woman with the chest hair, because gym was canceled due to the *extreme* dead guy in the locker. (Welcome to the Hellmouth)

Buffy ignores Cordelia's warnings and continues to associate with Xander and Willow. Cordelia understands SHS society very well and, even when she is drawn toward Buffy and her friends, she is sure to distance herself when her reputation could be at risk.

Cordelia: Look, um, I didn't get a chance to say anything yesterday with the coronation and everything... but, um, I guess I just wanted to say thank you, all of you.

Xander: That's funny, 'cause she *looks* like Cordelia.

Buffy elbows him in the chest.

Cordelia: You really helped me out yesterday, and you didn't have to. So, thank you.

Buffy: It's okay.

Willow: Listen, we were gonna grab lunch in a minute if you wanted to...

Mitch: (comes up behind Cordelia) Whoa, whoa. You're not hangin' with these losers, are you?

Cordelia: Uhhh! Are you kidding? Heh! (takes his arm and leaves) I was just being charitable. Helping them with their fashion problems. Heh. You think I really felt like joining *that* social leper colony? Puh-leeease! (Out of Mind, Out of Sight)

While Willow is momentarily confused by Cordelia's overtures and thinks that Cordelia's civility is a sign that she and her friends have moved up in society, she is quickly disabused of this notion. But no matter how far a person sinks in the SHS hierarchy, it is always possible to sink further.

Cordelia: You know, we've never really been close, which is nice, 'cause I don't really like you that much, but... you have on occasion saved the world and stuff, so I'm gonna... do you a favor.

Buffy: And this great favor is...

Cordelia: I'm gonna give you some advice. Get over it.

Buffy: Excuse me?

Cordelia: Whatever is causing the Joan Collins 'tude, deal with it. Embrace the pain, spank your inner moppet, whatever, but get over it. 'Cause pretty soon you're not even gonna have the loser friends you've got now. (When She was Bad)

This episode is not the sole instance of Buffy's regret for the popular world she left when she became the slayer: periodically, she reveals that she is just as conscious of social distinctions between herself and the people beneath her, as in this incident when Joyce suggests that Buffy work for the yearbook:

Joyce: I was, uh, photo editor. I got to be on every page, made me look much more popular than I was.

Buffy: And have you seen the kids that do yearbook? Nerds pick on them. (The Witch)

Buffy also attempts to reclaim her popularity in Homecoming and reminisces with Cordelia about when she was popular in LA. But even Cordelia must live and die by the rules she helps to enforce. She moves downward - by dating Xander (and, later, by her fall from affluence) she forever loses her treasured place at the top of SHS society.

Theoretically, upward movement is possible. Had Amy or Buffy become cheerleaders, they would have joined the elite. When SHS swim team begins to win meets, the swimmers enjoy a sudden increase in popularity:

Xander: I mean, look at that. (indicates them) Dodd McAlvy. Last month he's the freak with Jicama breath who waxes his back. He wins a few meets and suddenly inherits the cool gene?

Similarly, when Xander joins the winning swim team, he becomes more desirable in Cordelia's eyes. Social climbing is not without its risks, however, as Jonathan discovers when he fails to qualify for the swim team in "Go Fish" because he's asthmatic. At a beach-front party Jonathan is punished for his presumption with a little poetic justice from his would-be teammates:

Jonathan: Somebody help me!

Buffy and Cameron both turn to look. Cut into the drink tub looking up through the ice floating on the surface. Jonathan's face gets pushed into the water and shaken around. Cut to Dodd harassing him. He pulls Jonathan's head back out of the tub and holds him back by the hair.

Dodd: Come on, Jonny, you gotta hold your breath longer than that if you ever wanna make the team! Hey, somebody time him! (Go Fish)

But it is Jonathan's activities that draw the attention of the predators to him; had he been content with his place in SHS society, he would not have been attacked. While these High School distinctions cease to matter in the real world, College can act as an extension of High School - as Willow discovers in "Fear, Itself." In spite of her cool boyfriend, new haircut, burgeoning supernatural powers and new clothes (not from Sears) she remains "Captain of the Nerd Squad."


Xander: Well, every school has 'em. So, you start a new school, you get your desks, some blackboards and some mean kids. (The Pack)

Why are the "mean kids" allowed to run amok in the public schools? While Principal Synder actually lends his support to the elite jocks, he does try to eliminate some of the miscreants. Consider his treatment of Sheila (who stabbed a horticulture teacher with pruning shears and was smoking in 5th grade - School Hard) and Buffy - the students who had the worst records at SHS. He was unable to expel them. Buffy's crimes go far beyond merely being tardy as the result of her slayer duties - she frequently skips class altogether (as we see in "Bad Girls" and "Bad Eggs") for no good reason. Additionally, during her stay at SHS, she is accused of murder (Kendra and Ted), she gets into physical confrontations (like her attack on Larry in "Halloween") and is on the scene of the "drug bust" in GD1. Principal Snyder does expel Buffy after she trespasses on school property, crosses a police line and takes a sword from the library (with which she briefly threatens Snyder). In spite of deserving the expulsion she receives, Buffy is back in school the next fall. Principals have no real authority - lawyers and politicians (like Joyce's friends on the school board) make the final decisions. Even a well-meaning principal (like Principal Flutie from season one) cannot make the school safe. There is little incentive for a member school body to report miscreant students to authority figures who can do nothing about the problem students. Indeed, reporting the "mean kids" would only bring further abuse upon the heads of the victims. So, it is not surprising when Lance fails to report Kyle and his friends (and, in fact, covers for them) to Principal Flutie in "The Pack." Additionally, there is the perception (at least in America) that an informant is worse than the people upon whom he informs. When Buffy and Angel physically abuse Willy and Merle, we are not shocked; the informants get what they deserve. In public schools, the disrepute of the "tattletale" begins early - perhaps as early as kindergarten. By High School, students fleeing to the impotent authorities would quickly find themselves at the very bottom rung of the social ladder, ritually abused by their superiors, without even the sympathies of their fellow victims to sustain them.


Jonathan: Somebody help me! (Bad Eggs & Go Fish)

Jonathan has bit parts in several episodes. Whether he is being used to humiliate Cordelia:

Cordette: You know what you have to do. Start dating. Get back on the horse.

Cordelia: Oh, absolutely! I am ready to ride!

Harmony: Then I have just the stallion. He's *so* you.

She leads her over to the outside stairs where Jonathan is sitting, nursing a soft drink. He is taken aback by the sudden attention, and looks around to see if they didn't really mean someone else, but there is no one else. Cordelia realizes she's been had.

Harmony: (giggles) I'm pretty sure he won't cheat on you. At least not for a while. Plus, he's got a kill moped. (Wish)

or is being held hostage by a rogue cop,

Patrice grabs Jonathan as a hostage, pulls out a short blade and threatens him with it. The two girls watch her slowly back toward the door at the end of the hall with the boy in tow. Halfway there she drops Jonathan and makes a dash for the door...

Jonathan: W-was that a demonstration? (What's My Line, part 2)

he is typically a victim (and a clueless victim, at that). But why Jonathan? What makes him different from any of the other victims? Most of BtVS social outcasts have an after-school-special feel about them. We see Lance being picked on by the mean kids and we see Marcie ignored, but we also discover that they are both sensitive artists - if only they had been given a chance. What separates Jonathan from the other victims is that he is an unsympathetic figure. He has no special abilities that we can admire. He is not smart, like Willow, or funny, like Xander. He is also ungrateful when Buffy rescues him from the Jocks in "Go Fish" (Xander was, as well, when rescued from Larry - but Xander hadn't been screaming for help). He has a mercenary streak:

Buffy: You know, Jonathan, I've always felt a special bond between you and me.

Jonathan: (with his mouth full) Cordelia gave me six bucks. (they stop walking) That buys a *whole* lotta cupcakes. (takes another bite) (Homecoming)

He sells his vote to Cordelia, but is willing to listen to a counter-offer from Buffy. When Jonathan isn't shown as a victim, we are invited to laugh at him. He is the only person at SHS who Willow can intimidate as we see in her interrogation scenes:

The room's dark, except for a desk lamp. Jonathan sits alone near the front of the room. Willow sits on the edge of her desk, and stares at him for several beats.

WILLOW: So, you tried out for the swim team twice and never made it?

JONATHAN: I'm asthmatic. I couldn't keep up.

WILLOW: You resented it, didn't you?


WILLOW: You hated being pushed around by Dodd and the others.


WILLOW: You wanted revenge, didn't you? Didn't you?!

JONATHAN: Yeah. Okay. I did!

Willow smiles from ear to ear, a little cocky. Now moving in for the kill. (Go Fish)


Jonathan, utterly confused, sits in the darkened room at the table facing a desk lamp.
Willow stands up and turns the lamp head toward him. He pulls back and squints into the light. The scene becomes a reprise of the interrogation in "Go Fish".

When Giles suggests to Buffy that she might go out on a date with Jonathan to improve his self-esteem after his near suicide, she is incredulous:

BUFFY Oh come on! What am I, Saint Buffy? He's like three feet tall!

GILES I'm glad to see you've recovered from your psychic encounter more or less intact.

Even when he is seeking revenge, Jonathan is ridiculous - there is a bit of Dostoyevsky's Underground Man in him. His revenge seems significant to him, but goes unnoticed by the people he is revenging himself upon:

WILLOW: So you delved into the black arts and conjured up a hellbeast from the ocean's depths to wreak your vengeance.

JONATHAN squints at her.

WILLOW: (weakly) Didn't you?

JONATHAN: What? No, I snuck in yesterday and peed in the pool.

Willow's smile slowly fades.

WILLOW: disappointed) Oh. (then, disgusted) Ew.

Although Jonathan is easy to laugh at and hard to sympathize with, there are moments when he reveals how bad his life at SHS is. He desperately wishes to be part of a normal high school life, yet cannot find any clique that will accept him. He hangs out at social gatherings (we've see him at The Bronze, at a beachfront party and at Buffy's welcome back party), but always alone. Buffy is the closest thing he has to a friend, yet she cannot even remember his name:

Buffy: Great. Thanks. Anybody else want to weigh in here? (sees Jonathan) How about you by the dip?

Jonathan freezes in the middle of bringing a chip laden with dip to his mouth and looks around nervously at everyone suddenly staring at him.

Jonathan: No, thanks. I'm good.
(Dead Man's Party)

This sentiment is highlighted in "Earshot" when Buffy runs into Jonathan in the lunchroom and "hears" him thinking "she doesn't even know I'm here." For Jonathan, Sartre is right, "Hell is other people" - at least in High School, so it is no great shock that he ends up armed and suicidal in a tower overlooking the school. Buffy confronts him, using her recent insight into the psyches of her fellow SHS students:

JONATHAN: You think I won't use this?

BUFFY: I don't know Jonathan. (takes a step forward) I just-

JONATHAN (Lurches back from her, aims the gun straight at her) Stop doing that!

BUFFY: Doing what?

JONATHAN: Stop saying my name like we're friends! We're not friends! You all think I'm an idiot! A short idiot!

BUFFY (matter-of-factly) I don't. I don't think about you much at all. Nobody here really does. Bugs you, doesn't it. You have all this pain, and all these feelings and nobody's really paying attention.

JONATHAN You think I just want attention?

BUFFY No. I think you're up in the clock tower with a high-powered rifle because you wanna blend in. Believe it or not, Jonathan, I understand about the pain.

JONATHAN Oh right. Cuz the burden of being beautiful and athletic, that's a crippler.

BUFFY You know what? I was wrong. You are an idiot. My life happens to, on occasion, suck beyond the telling of it. Sometimes more than I can handle. And it's not just mine. Every single person down there is ignoring your pain because they're too busy with their own.

Jonathan lowers the rifle more. Buffy steps toward the window. She looks down at the Quad below.

BUFFY The beautiful ones. The popular ones. The guys that pick on you. Everyone.

Jonathan slowly moves up behind her to see what she sees. He steps up right next to her.

BUFFY If you could hear what they were feeling. The loneliness. The confusion. It looks quiet down there. It's not. It's deafening.

Buffy defense of the popular crowd resembles Cordelia's comments from Season One:

Cordelia: (stops Buffy) Hey! You think I'm never lonely because I'm so cute and popular? I can be surrounded by people and be completely alone. It's not like any of them really know me. I don't even know if they like me half the time. People just want to be in a popular zone. Sometimes when I talk, everyone's so busy agreeing with me, they don't hear a word I say.

Buffy: Well, if you feel so alone, then why do you work so hard at being popular?

Cordelia: Well, it beats being alone all by yourself.
(Out of Mind, Out of Sight)

In the Buffyverse High School is an awful experience no matter who you are; however, it is it is not one of the popular crowd that is up in the tower, ready to die. But Buffy has made an impression on Jonathan; he understands for the first time that he is not alone.

Jonathan - Superstar

After Earshot, Jonathan is a changed man. He is the one who gives Buffy the Class Protector Award and makes a short speech thanking her for making "the Class of '99 [have] the lowest mortality rate of any graduating class in Sunnydale history." (The Prom) He is also on hand during GD2, to help with both the battle preparations and the actual battle:

Oz and Willow are hoisting a sack of fertilizer, handing it over to JONATHAN and LARRY. They put it in a shopping cart with a bunch of others.

OZ: Put these with the others. And don't touch anything.

LARRY: We got it.

JONATHAN: What do we do then?

OZ: Nothing.

WILLOW: Just relax, have a good time.

JONATHAN: (nervously) Uh, okay...

(and later)

Amidst the carnage, we see our kids: Willow, Oz, Cordelia, all engaging. Jonathan also managing to hold his own.

And then everyone goes off to college or out into the real world to work. So where does this leave Jonathan?

WILLOW Fantasy's are fun, aren't they Jonathan?

JONATHAN Uh... I guess.

WILLOW We all have fantasies that we're powerful, more respected. Where people pay attention to us.

JONATHAN Uh... maybe.

WILLOW But sometimes the fantasy isn't enough, is it Jonathan? Sometimes we have to make it so people don't ignore us. Make them pay attention. You know what I'm talking about, don't you?

(Note: all remaining quotes are from the shooting script for Superstar)

Jonathan uses an augmentation spell to make himself "the best of everything, everyone's ideal." While it is interesting to see what Jonathan wished for, it is also of interest to note what he did not wish for and to see the difference in the manner in which Buffy is treated by her friends and enemies.

Jonathan is rich, famous, athletic and brilliant - all the things he wasn't in High School. He is also the de facto head of the Scooby Gang and a special consultant to the Initiative. He is actually a better leader of the Scoobies than Buffy or Giles has been - before attacking a nest of vampires, he has Giles verify that nothing unusual is going on. He also researches the vamp nest to find out all the entrances before entering. As an Initiative consultant, he quickly figures out how Adam works (the nuclear supply) even though "the design attempts to hide it." And he is always working to boost the morale of his troops with encouraging little remarks:

(to the Initiative soldiers) "This is a well-trained group and I believe in you. Trust me, we're just about ready to take this guy by surprise."

(to Buffy) You got two of them and that second one was ready for you. You should feel pretty good

(to Giles, Re: Chess Game) The Nimzowitsch Defense. Let's see if I remember...(moves a piece) Uh-huh... mate in four. You almost got me, Rupert.

Jonathan does not abuse his new abilities; he does not become one of the jocks in High School who tortured him. He has the power to do good and he uses that power liberally. In particular, his relationship with Buffy is striking. He could have made Buffy his personal slave girl (like the statuesque twin Swedish girls he keeps at his mansion), but instead acts as her confidant and mentor. He is able to relate to her and advise her in a manner that her real friends cannot. Giles has taken a laissez faire attitude towards Buffy's personal life, Willow gives bad advice (she pushes Buffy into relationships, getting vicarious thrill from Buffy's fledgling romances) and Xander cannot seem to talk to Buffy about such matters without lecturing and scolding. Jonathan understands Buffy; he knows exactly how to help best (being omniscient doesn't hurt):

BUFFY: It's all Faith's fault. She's like poison. No, worse, like acid that eats through everything. Or maybe a bomb. The point is, everything's going great with Riley and then she comes along and messes it all up.

JONATHAN: Buffy, you know what I think? I don't think this is about you being angry with Faith. I think you're angry with Riley.

Jonathan holds eye-contact with Buffy while he quickly signs an autographed book for a FAN.

BUFFY: Riley?

JONATHAN: Sure. I mean, you have this amazing connection with him. And then at the one moment when it matters most, he looks into your eyes and he doesn't even see it's not you looking back at him.


BUFFY: Maybe I have been blaming him? How do I get past it? What, what if it's too late? What if, after all this, what if he doesn't want me anymore?

JONATHAN: He does. It may not be easy, Buffy, but you guys are special together. That's worth a little hard work.

He also speaks to Riley about the incident, effecting a reconciliation that lasts beyond the duration of his augmentation spell. Whatever his faults, Jonathan is a true friend to Buffy during Superstar; he genuinely cares about her problems and tries (and succeeds) to help. When Buffy reproaches him in the aftermath:

BUFFY: Jonathan, you get why they're mad, right? Not just the Monster. People didn't like being, you know, the actors in your little sock puppet theater.

Jonathan's response is genuine.

JONATHAN: You weren't! You weren't socks! We were friends.

The friendship with Buffy is more important to Jonathan than all the other gifts and abilities that came with the augmentation spell - he is ultimately unwilling to sacrifice Buffy to retain his position, and, in fact, help her to defeat the monster even though it means losing everything - and almost costs him his life:


Jonathan and the Monster are both carried over the edge, falling into the chasm.

Of course, Buffy saves him at the last moment.

Also in evidence is how badly Buffy is treated by her friends and enemies now that she's overshadowed by Jonathan. She is no longer THE Slayer - she's just one of Jonathan's "fluffy battle kittens." There is a decided lack of respect in her interactions with others:

SPIKE: Ooh. Semi-harsh language from Betty. You're feisty when the big guy's standing beside you.

Spike runs a finger down the side of Buffy's face, then runs it caressingly across her throat.

SPIKE: Someday, Sweet Slayer, I'd love to take you on. See you face the evil alone for once.

Jonathan SLAPS Spike's hand away from Buffy roughly, then PUSHES SPIKE up against the crypt wall. Spike twists, helpless against Jonathan's strength.

JONATHAN: That's enough creepy small talk. We're looking for a monster.

Also, Giles is considerably more rude towards his charge:

GILES: Yes, of course, I just -- I think you're a little out of your depth.

BUFFY: (hurt) But, I'm not --

And Anya, who now treats Buffy with as much disrespect as any other Scooby:

BUFFY: He knew something about that Monster. He was reacting to the mark-- Wait.

They wait a long beat as she thinks. Then another. Finally:

ANYA: How long do we usually wait for these things?

Superstar really is as much about Buffy as it is about Jonathan. In the new season, with Buffy back from the dead after a period of independence for the Scoobies, I expect some of the hero-worship her friends have had for her to be eroded. Buffy may end up being treated with less respect that she has been used to - in a return to the period during Superstar when she wasn't the only superhero in town. Certainly, Willow's powers now rival her own and Willow may not be anxious to return to her subordinate role after a period of leadership.

Finally, I couldn't figure out how to include this quote in my essay - but it's too funny to leave out:

BUFFY: I remember something. Giles, do you have a Jonathan Swimsuit Calendar?

GILES: No. (a beat) Yes.

He opens a drawer, pulls out the Jonathan Swimsuit Calendar.

GILES: It was a gift.

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