'Buffy's' Willow out of the closet
BY MIKE MCDANIEL
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
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
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."