My complete, utter love of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was validated this month upon a re-watching of series 6. This is the first in a series of posts about 'stuff I liked in Buffy'. I'll be doing a bit of an introduction to the series and discussing the representation of a same-sex relationship.
For those not in-the-know, this is the series where Buffy has been brought back from the dead by her best friend, Willow. Buffy, contrary to her friends' beliefs, was pulled out of a 'heaven' dimension and suffers from depression throughout the series. She becomes self-destructive, starting a disastrous relationship with Spike, a violent vampire.
Alongside this, a trio of nerds from Buffy's high school band together to try to take over Sunnydale. The nerds' quest starts off quite naive and quirky but gradually gets more and more disturbing, to the point where Warren, the leader of the trio, shoots both Buffy, (who survives) and Willow's girlfriend Tara (who doesn't).
Willow's rage from the death of her partner sends her into vengeance mode, she goes on to abuse dark magic and ultimately tries to destroy the world, only being saved by her childhood friend, Xander.
In the DVD special features, creator Joss Whedon explains that the 'big bad' of the series is 'life'. In this series, instead of an evil super-strong baddie; it is growing up, life itself and all the associated baggage that has to be overcome.
So, with this in mind, lets talk about lesbians.
Willow and Tara
I love the representation of these two in Buffy. At my first viewing I was surprised that the show would do such a thing, I though it would be simply for shock value and didn't see how it would be relevant to the show. How wrong was I?
Creating a relationship between two women that doesn't sexualise the situation is a fantastic choice for a TV series: Buffy creates a positive image of lesbians and represents same-sex relationships in a natural way. Perhaps other women would disagree with me, but, personally, I find Willow and Tara very engaging as a lesbian couple.
Their relationship is represented in such a way that I feel comfortable using Buffy to introduce the concept of same-sex love to my young daughter.* I concede that the song 'Under your Spell' in the musical episode 'Once More With Feeling' is filthy in imagery and subtle meanings, but I also think that those meanings need an adult brain to decipher them.
Willow and Tara are rarely used for sexual effect, the only instance I can think of is a dream sequence in series 4 that focuses on Xander's view point. Thinking about series 6, the two women show affection, but nothing overly sexual. They are shown in bed a number of times and are shown kissing, but I cannot think of an instance where their relationship is represented for a specifically 'male gaze' purpose.
In conclusion, I love Willow and Tara, I love being able to explain to my daughter that Willow and Tara love each other like Mommy and Daddy do. Admittedly, she just gets excited that they make stars with magic, but hey, it's a start.
*I know some episode of Buffy are completely NOT child friendly, however, I believe three things:
- 'Once More With Feeling' isn't too gruesome
- euphemism isn't in her lexicon, and
- she loves the songs