Buffy the Vampire Slayer broke the norm in many ways and delivered stories that meant the world to the fans and had a lasting impact on television. One of those stories was the relationship between Willow and Tara, one of the first same sex relationships ever depicted on network TV. If it's regular business today to have series like Sense8 and How to Get Away with Murder filled with LGBT characters, it's because of TV shows that dared to tell the tales of those characters when it wasn't popular, when it was a risk, when they didn't really have the network's blessing nor could guarantee the audience's approval. And I'm so glad Buffy the Vampire Slayer is part of that conquering story.
Although Buffy was a series about the outcasts from the beginning, it took them awhile to tackle the issue of homosexuality. That topic first gained some serious — and metaphorical — attention when Buffy came out as a vampire slayer to her mother in season two. It's one of my favorite moments of the series because it perfectly captures what a lot of young people go through when they tell their parents they are LGBT. "Do you have any idea how lonely it is, how dangerous?", questions Buffy to a disbelieving Joyce. Joyce's initial reaction — kicking Buffy out of the house — mirrors the unfortunate reality that a lot of "out of the norm" teenagers face. The much happier other side of the coin — a parent coming to terms with who their child is — also gets some attention later after Buffy returns home.
It was only on season 4, though, that the writers decided to portray a homosexual relationship and they couldn't have done it more beautifully. Willow, who previously identified herself as straight, met the newly introduced character Tara, and their connection was immediate. As Billie said in her review of Hush, "there was almost a click between them, as if something had fallen into place". At first, the nature of their partnership was unclear, but as the season progressed it became evident that it was a romance, even if the actresses weren't allowed to display much physical contact.
It must seem odd to a lot of people who watch Buffy today that it took longer than one season for Willow and Tara to kiss onscreen. But back then a same sex kiss on television was a big taboo and most networks didn't allow them to happen. Joss Whedon and the writers went around the censorship as much as they could to show any physical interaction between the two witches. One of the brightest examples was the "spell" Tara and Willow performed together, which was for all intents and purposes a disguised sex scene that ended with Willow having an orgasm.
I appreciate all the respect and love that was put into the development of Willow and Tara as a couple. It was never exploitative nor objectifying. There was never a promo saying "tune in to see two chicks making out". When they couldn't kiss, they floated above homophobia. When they finally kissed, it was beautiful and tender, just like their relationship. In a way, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is an audiovisual record of how the treatment of homosexual couples changed and progressed on television. As a fan and as a gay person myself, I feel represented and proud.
One of the highest points of their relationship for me is when Tara becomes temporarily insane near the end of season five. Not that I enjoyed Tara becoming a victim of Glory, but Willow's decision to take care of her no matter what, even if Tara never regained her sanity, melted my heart. This was a commitment for life, made by a woman who was only twenty years old. "She is my everything", explained Willow and we knew just what she meant.
In season six, it's Tara's turn to take care of Willow, and she does that by leaving her. She understands that Willow's destructive behavior isn't good for either of them. The breakup is one of the things that pushes Willow to reevaluate and correct her path, and the hope that she might resume her relationship with Tara pushes her to try and become a better person.
Tara reminds me of Melanie from Gone With the Wind. Religious practices aside, both characters have a heart of gold and see the best in people. They are loving, caring, and where Tara is the superior person during season six, Melanie is the wise one in Gone With the Wind. Also, they both died before the story was over.
Willow and Tara were happy. They were just back together when a stray bullet hit Tara right in the heart and took her away from Willow. And from the fans. Those were not easy days to be a fan of Buffy, let me tell you. Many of us were angry and upset, some stopped watching the show. It didn't matter if every damned couple on the series had a sad ending. The LGBT representation on TV was too little and now a beloved character was gone.
I understand the anger. I too wish it hadn't ended like that. But I don't think Tara's legacy was tarnished by her death. Buffy and Angel didn't have a happy ending, but there is no denying their relationship lasts in our memories. Buffy and Spike had a dysfunctional affair, followed by an emotional non-affair, and then they also did not have a happy ending. But their complicated relationship still matters, still has meaning.
One day, when Willow is old and blue-haired and she finally travels to the afterlife, she will turn a corner and find Tara singing on a bridge. The two lovers will reunite, cry, laugh, overcome with happiness. They will live happily ever after, naming constellations and stars. I can dream. And I can live with that.
Lamounier, who is still looking for The Big Pineapple in the sky.