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'Buffy's' Willow out of the closet
BY MIKE MCDANIEL
Houston Chronicle

PREVIOUSLY, on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer": Buffy: What guy could resist your wily Willow charms? Willow: At last count? All of them. Maybe more.

Willow may have been joking when she uttered those words in an old episode of "Buffy." Yet they've proved somewhat prophetic.

Today, she is one of the few characters on television who has revealed an attraction to the same sex. So far this month, Buffy's best friend, Willow (Alyson Hannigan) declared her love for a fellow spellcaster, Tara (Amber Benson) and on a later show Willow shared with her dumbfounded friends the fact that she and Tara are now a twosome.

While Willow and Tara have had close contact in playing college dorm mates and casting spells, talk of lesbianism and contact of a sexual nature has been more suggested than seen.

And yet, the relationship has not gone unnoticed by the "Buffy" faithful, some of whom have expressed their displeasure on "Buffy'' Web sites.

"I was very upset by (Willow's) so-called alternative lifestyle," wrote one viewer. "I have been a 'Buffy' fan since the beginning and will no longer watch the show."

The posting boards have been far from totally negative, says Joss Whedon, creator, writer, producer and occasional director of the cult hit series.

"For every (negative) post, there's somebody saying, 'You made my life a lot easier because I now have someone I can relate to on screen,' " he said.

Nary a ripple

Placed in perspective with the huge number of comments posted regularly on the "Buffy" Web site, Willow's sexuality has barely caused a ripple.

Compared to the pre-"Ellen" days, when homosexual characters were as common as a hurricane in the Sahara, Tara and Willow's same-sex relationship has become more like a four-day downpour in Los Angeles -- an infrequent but not unheard-of phenomenon. In the case of a show like "Buffy," which is popular among teens, it is not even unprecedented.

When the 1993 ABC series "My So-Called Life" introduced Richie Vasquez (played by Wilson Cruz), he was the first gay teen depicted on a broadcast network series. Since then, gay cast members have appeared on MTV's "The Real World," and Jack McPhee (Kerr Smith) came out on the WB's "Dawson's Creek."

Today, they are joined by Will (Eric McCormack) and Jack (Sean Hayes) of "Will & Grace," John (Bill Brochtrup) on "NYPD Blue," and Carter (Michael Boatman) on "Spin City."

For Whedon, the development of Willow into a gay character "seemed like a natural progression. . . . I was shocked that everyone made such a fuss."

When he was developing the Willow and Tara relationship, "I never thought of it as lesbian story line," he said. "It's kind of a meaningless concept because it's very similar to any romance we might do. . . . Ultimately, when you're writing people in love, you're writing people in love."

"Buffy," he says, "is very much about emotion. It's not an issue show. What I wanted to show was a love story, and as a story I think it's working."

'A little thrown'

The WB, he said, "was a little thrown" by the story line "because I never actually told them I was going to do it." He hinted about it, though, in an episode earlier this season in which Willow and Tara conducted an erotically charged spell.

WB executives "made a call and said we're watching this, and we want to be careful here," Whedon said. "But they never said don't do this, that this is going to be a problem."

And what is Whedon telling people who say his show is aimed at a younger audience and that this topic may be inappropriate? "I'm telling them that people fall in love and not always with the most convenient person," he said. "If anyone remembers the first three years of this show, where Buffy was in love with a dead guy, I don't think this should come as so much of a stretch."


The Usual
The Usual

Random Quotage:

Must we have this noise during your calisthenics?
It's not noise! It's music!
I know music. Music has notes. This is noise.
I'm aerobicising! I must have a beat!
Wonderful. You work on your muscle tone while my brain dribbles out of my ears.
-Giles and Buffy (The Dark Age)


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