TV

A Hate Letter to Riley Finn, Worst Man in the Buffyverse.

Riley Finn is a big slab of white meat in commando gear with the personality of a second hand SUV.

Riley Finn Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Many words have been written about the main love interests in Buffy The Vampire Slayer: about Angel, about Spike. There’s also been many words about about female empowerment, and about Sunnydale being the whitest Hellmouth in California. But not enough words have been written, or can possibly be written in this lifetime, about how much Riley Finn fucking sucks.

Full apologies to Marc Blucas, a man whose name sounds like it was already spoonerised. You have a nice jawline and kind eyes, but I’ve thought about you being torn apart by a Fyarl demon in great detail, and I didn’t hate it.

If you need a Buffy refresher, remember a psychology teaching assistant who was a walking ‘slow cooker recipes’ Facebook page of a man?

A big slab of white meat in commando gear with the personality of a second hand SUV? Memorable for dialogue such as saying ‘negative’ when any normal person would simply say ‘no?’

Riley Finn.

What Do We Know About Riley Finn?

The first real conversation Riley has with Buffy reveals such riveting personal complexity as the fact he stays at his grandparent’s house for thanksgiving, and after dinner they take a walk down the river with their dogs. Riley knows what you’re thinking, smiling that his life sounds “just like a Grant Wood painting,” proving that he has either never seen or has never understood a Grant Wood painting.

Nobody in American Gothic is having a good time, my dude.

Riley Finn is the guy you date after you’ve just come out of a tumultuous and painful relationship, desperately seeking the kind of comfort only a loaf of soft white bread can bring. It’s warm, it’s inoffensive, it isn’t a vampire that loses his soul if you bone him. It’s a palate cleanser, a comforting bite of bland before the substantial course. But you should never fill up on bread, and you should never let a Riley Finn stick around for a season and a fucking half.

We’ve all dated a Riley at some point, and perhaps this is why Whedon’s painful attempts at expressing the non-existent sexual chemistry between the two is so jarring. There are constant strained allusions to the passion of fighting, sweaty missionary positions interspersed with scenes of Buffy and Riley sparring.

Haven’t we suffered enough? Hasn’t SHE suffered enough?

Riley Finn Is A Piece Of Shit

Am I unfair to single out Riley? Perhaps. Season by season, we climb the crescendo of garbage that is Buffy Summers’ devastatingly bad taste in men. If a man shows up and he’s got a strong jaw, huge upper body and a bigger head, looks great in a sweater and has the personality of a wet sponge, you’ve got yourself a Buffy love interest.

Remember Parker, the white man in a dark sweater who said some shit about his feelings, slept with Buffy and dumped her immediately? We know Riley is a good boy because he punches Parker after he makes misogynist comments about Buffy. This apparently doesn’t have anything to do with being disgusted with Parker’s treatment of women in general, rather it’s Riley’s big realisation that he ‘likes Buffy.’ Aww!

Which brings me what is most infuriating about a man like Riley — he’s not just boring, he has major ‘nice guy’ syndrome and a massive entitlement complex.

Riley makes Xander Harris look like a viable romantic option, and that says a lot. We all dream of dating the chiselled boy-next-door, when next door is the industrial military complex, who views all demons as subhuman and conveniently does not know the extent of his superiors’ inhumane treatment of people like Oz.

We all want to marry the man who doesn’t really believe us when we say his evil scientist boss tried to murder us. Get me a fella who manhandles me and refuses to leave me alone when I say it’s better for me if we don’t get involved! That’s romance, baby.

Why Is Riley Finn?

What is this man’s appeal? Well, in typical Buffy fashion, when Riley shows up she becomes a boring husk of a person and starts being shitty to her friends because she’s loved up, so we can reasonably conclude the dick IS that good.

Buffy and Riley’s relationship was characterised by his insecurity, his inability to deal with being the weaker half and his desperate attempts to assert his masculinity. Losing his mind when he learns about her history with Angel, he goes off the deep end and starts doing some incredibly lame thrill-seeking. He gets all ‘edgy’ and starts paying female vampires to suck his blood or something, a development that is super weird and also just deeply embarrassing.

Riley ultimately decides Buffy doesn’t really love him, flies off in a helicopter to be a super spy then marries some other poor woman, finally departing my television screen forever.

Bon voyage, bitch.

If the apocalypse comes, beep me so that I may spend my last precious hours watching Riley Finn burn.

Lucy Valentine is a freelance writer, political satirist, podcast co-host and all round Melbourne stereotype. She is extremely online and tweeting at @LucyXIV


All this week, Junkee is heading back in time to relive the greatest moments in pop culture from 1999. For more 1999 content, head here.