My fictional role models share many qualities—petite, blonde, total badasses. Leslie Knope and Buffy Summers have shaped me to a perhaps unhealthy extent.
When my mom took me to Party City and told me to pick out anything I wanted for my high school graduation party, I promptly walked over to a life-sized Buffy cut out and said, “Done.” My mother did not find this nearly as awesome as I did and proceeded to buy me 2006 confetti and rubber ducks in graduation regalia. I proceeded to use my hard-earned Auntie Anne’s money to buy me a Buffy.
When I encountered Leslie Knope years later – in both cases, I was very late to the party – it was the same instant feeling of, “I want to grow up to be her.”
While they have some surface differences – one has slayer strength, the other an intimate knowledge of government and its functions – in the end, it’s their relationships with men that set the two apart. While Leslie had her share of romantic mishaps, she and Ben have what is arguably the healthiest portrayal of a romantic relationship ever to air on television.
This much cuteness should be illegal.
We can’t say the same about Buffy. (Though considering the man behind the slayer, real-life fuckboy Joss Whedon, can we really be that surprised?)
While I first considered a compilation, one fuckboy stands out above all the rest: Agent Riley Motherfucking Finn, as portrayed by one Marc Blucas. (Fun fact: Blucas hails from Butler, PA, land of Bret Michaels.)
If you haven’t watched the Riley arc in a while (it’s been 19 years since the Season 4 premiere, in case you were wondering), you might be thinking, “Sure, Riley was terribly dull, but wasn’t he nice?”
That’s what he wants you to think! #ClassicFuckboy
In reality, Riley Finn is a Nice Guy as long as expected gender roles (and his idea of the world in general) aren't challenged. As long as the Army plays the role of hero and women are damsels in distress, he’s polite as pie. Upset that apple cart and he’s violent, controlling, jealous and manipulative.
When we first meet Riley, the bar is really low. The audience survived three seasons of Angel-drama and kicked off Season 4 with scumlicker Parker Abrams. When Riley strolls into the bookstore for a classic meet cute, the floppy haired Iowa farm boy with Morals and Values seems like a dream.
He makes smart jokes and saves Willow from being hit by a car. He’s a Nice Guy who doesn’t think of girls as “mattressable” and punches Parker when he says, “The difference between a freshman girl and a toilet seat is a toilet seat doesn’t follow you around after you use it.”
This motherfucker deserves worse than a punch in the face.
While his goodness can be grating (he actually says things like, “I’ve never courted anyone like Buffy before,” and “She is the truest soul I have ever known”) he’s charming in his own way. He hangs banners for the Lesbian Alliance club and invites sad Willow to join their date.
At this point, you may be thinking that I’m doing a terrible job convincing you that Riley is a fuckboy.
But what is this? Dear Riley has a secret. He and his Initiative bros go out at night in camouflage (how is that inconspicuous on a California college campus?) to hunt demons and bring them back to a lab. At the end of “Hush”, his secret is revealed as he and Buffy come face to face as commando and slayer.
When they sit down to talk, Buffy tells him everything. He is reluctant to do the same, and swears her to secrecy, despite immediately going to ask his soldier boys about slayers. They take space to think about what this means, and she concludes that their occupations are not compatible for a romantic relationship. Rather than accepting this, he tells her that she is self-absorbed, has a doom-and-gloom mentality and stays in the dark place because it’s safe down there.
You know, the normal things you say when you care about someone. Apparently it works, though, and they give it the old college try. They fight demons together. They have hot sex. They’re two beautiful people in love.
But soon enough, it becomes clear that with all of his church boy charms and chivalry comes an overwhelming amount of testosterone-fueled fuckery.
This excellent article in the Mary Sue discusses Riley's abusive tendencies.
As he learns that the Initiative is evil, he grows more and more angry. It’s almost as though institutions built on toxic masculinity and cultish loyalty are somehow unhealthy 🙄. In “Goodbye, Iowa,” while going through withdrawal from super soldier pills, he pulls a gun on an innocent woman and attacks Willow. In “Who Are You,” he fucks Faith in Buffy’s body, despite her totally concerning and abnormal behavior. In what may be his own guilt manifesting, Riley then immediately assumes that Buffy slept with Angel when she went to visit him and suffers from a severe case of what she aptly deems “testosterone poisoning.” Nothing says Nice Guy like assuming his girlfriend wants that Bad Boy, am I right?
Okay, you might say, but this dude's going through withdrawal and a dealing with a shattered worldview, all over the course of one week. Doesn't he deserve some sort of break? Fine. Let’s be overly generous and wipe clean the Riley slate clean and start again in Season 5, when Dracula arrives in town.
Still not one to trust Buffy, he grabs her and rips off her scarf to prove his suspicion that she was bitten by the Dark Master(bater). If your partner ever physically takes hold of you and removes an article of clothing because they’re feeling insecure, call that shit off. Maybe it was because he was right and she felt guilty, but somehow, he manipulates her into apologizing.
Her scary encounter leads Buffy to ask Giles (who plans on abandoning her because he doesn’t feel needed enough, the general MO of Buffy fuckboys and a great insight into Whedon’s own character) to be her Watcher again. She commits to studying and training, much to the dismay of a suddenly Dean-esque Riley. He teases her and asks why she can’t leave the work behind, huffing and puffing because he feels neglected.
Imagine if Dean Forester and Riley Finn were in a relationship.
Despite not having soldier strength, he can’t stand to stay at home and insists on going out and getting in the way. When they realize that he’s sick, he refuses to have surgery and blames Buffy, telling her that if they make him normal again, she won’t love him. This, despite the fact that he already knows she doesn’t love him, having told Xander as much a few episodes prior.
As Buffy’s mom gets sick, he openly resents that she isn’t leaning on him enough. He storms out when he doesn’t feel needed, muttering, “Every time I think I’m getting close to you ...” before going to a bar and flirting with a pretty lady vamp, who he later allows to bite him before staking her.
Just when it seems like it can’t get worse, he starts skipping patrol duty to go to a vamp-house where he pays to have his blood sucked. He even leaves Buffy’s bed to pay a visit to the house of whore-ers. When she catches him (with the assist from an in-love-with-her Spike), his solution isn’t to chase after her or apologize, but corner her when she says she’s not ready to talk and issue an ultimatum: decide to forgive him and be in the relationship by midnight or he’s leaving town with the Army.
Throughout the entire conversation, he continues to grab her despite repeated warnings not to and throws out melodramatic lines like a homecoming queen on a parade float.
“They made me feel something, something I didn’t even know I was missing ... they needed me. When they bit me it was beyond passion, they wanted to devour me ... but the fact that I craved it, even if it was fleeting they made me feel like they had such hunger for me.”
You know you have a serious fuckboy on your hands when their main goal is to get you to apologize for their own wrongdoings. Does Buffy love him? No. Does she sometimes treat him like shit? Totally. Is sulking, playing mind games and cheating on someone the way to handle this? It is if you’re a fuckboy.
Have I fully baked the Riley sucks cake for you? Great. Time to ice it.
He returns in the middle of Season 6 to find Buffy working at the Doublemeat Palace. He has a scar on his face now and a broody expression. She is literally dumbstruck as he drags her off on a demon hunt. Mid-fight, they pause for a moment of long, drawn out sexual tension. It’s cut abruptly short, however, by the arrival of his wife.
Riley does not deserve Sam, his badass wife.
Riley plays the I-totally-meant-to-tell-you card. When, Riley? The entire car ride wasn’t enough time? The moment you saw Buffy you couldn’t have said, “My wife and I are tracking a demon”? Of course not. He wanted to see how she would behave around him when she thought he was single, like a total fuckboy. Well guess what? I’m onto you, and I hope your wife gets wise soon, because she seems like a boss bitch.
So, there you have it, folks. Riley Finn isn’t only the the human incarnation of the color beige, he’s the ultimate fuckboy.