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(Meta) What people were saying about Willow/Tara back in 1999...

31st August 2009 (16:43)
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gabrielleabellerecently posted on the oh-so-subtle "let's do spells together!" metaphor of Willow and Tara in Season 4, and wondered if anyone was actually fooled. And since I wasn't around in fandom at the time, I got curious, and searched around in the Google Groups archive for alt-tv-buffy-v-slayer for 1999/2000 to see what the fans were saying back when Season 4 was first broadcast.
Here are some extracts:

Some people were seeing the subtext the moment 'Hush' was aired:
It's not just that they held hands. It was the entire scene -- Willow is startled by Tara's touch, Tara's hand slips underneath hers, they lace their fingers, Tara has this "dare I hope?" expression on her face. The lesbian claims are not just wishful thinking. They might not be right, but neither are they completely without basis.

Particularly since they were being chased by freaky floating guys. I'd have thought they would have been a lot more anxious. (If that were the main emotion to convey, I would have had Tara forcefully grab Willow's hand, shake it a couple of times as if to say, concentrate! But they didn't stage it that way.) The only non-sensual explanation I can come up with is that Tara was tentative; the slow groping expressed hesitation about using her power and not something sensual. Personally, I'm going with the sensual explanation until the show demonstrates to the contrary. It fits the staging, it fits the final conversation between Tara and Willow, it fits with alt.Willow.

(I assume 'alt.Willow is a reference to vampire!Willow from 'Doppelgangland' and the whole "I thnk I'm kinda gay!" controversy. I'm also a bit boggled by the idea of Tara, of all people, forcefully grabbing Willow's hand and shaking it and saying "Concentrate!". *g* But this was her first appearance on the show.)

That doesn't mean Tara's a potential love interest, of course, but my first thought after they slammed the drink machine against the door was "climax". I'll take the subtext even further and point out the same thing I did with Spike earlier this season. If Willow IS attracted to Tara, notice the girl she's attracted to is a powerful blonde?

(Spike/Harmony, Willow/Tara, Xander/Anya... everybody subconsciously wants to sleep with Buffy.)

Others saw the subtext, but thought it was only on Tara's side.

I believe the scenes between Willow and Tara were ambiguous, giving Joss leeway to explore a lesbian attraction or not. FWIW I saw more indications of lesbian interest on Tara's side than on Willow's. Willow seemed more interested in the witch-power, whereas I do think I detected "crush" in Tara's eyes. If Willow doesn't reciprocate, it will be Buffy/Faith all over again.

(See, I'm not the only one to have seen Buffy/Faith subtext. I'm not delusional and obsessive.*g*)

Now, I would not be terribly surprised to discover that Tara (or whatever the new witch's name is... I think Tara) is bisexual or homosexual, judging from the way she acted around Willow (then again, she might just be really shy, especially given her apparent awe of Willow's power). But Willow didn't seem interested at all. Of course, this could lead to potential plot lines in the future -- Willow stalked by a love-obsessed witch?

(There was a persistent rumour that went around that Tara was actually a projection of Amy (her name spells "a rat" backwards) or Amy's mother.)

But not everybody was convinced:

Is this the wetdream of little Buffy fanboys? I watched "Hush" last night and didn't derive any lesbian hinting whatsoever. Willow found a "kindred spirit-witch" and a good friend, that's all. Ok fanboys, here's a lesson on women...just because they hold hands, hug, or even kiss does not mean they are lesbians.

Why are you so eager to see a lesbian Willow? It seems that you are the one who is reaching here. This is the 4th season for Gods sake, don't you think it would have come out by now. My prediction is that this is going to be debated until the final episode of the last season. If Joss wanted Willow to be lesbian then don't you think he could manage to write this into a script? The only way Willow is going to turn out to be lesbian is if the ratings get so low that they think this would boost them up. And right after that they would probably kill off the Willow character.

But you know, any intense scene between 2 women MUST mean they're budding lesbians.

Which got other people annoyed:

I'm just curious why some people seem *SO* desperate to see no subtext whatsoever between Tara and Willow. Some people seem just as evangelical in their determination NOT to see anything remotely readable as subtext, as those who preach for it. I'm seeing lots of posts starting along the lines of... "I have nothing against Lesbianism... BUT..."

While others thought Joss was just teasing the fans:

Will Will be involved in a lesbian relationship this year - unlikely
Did JW deliberately set up the scene to allow an alternate interpretation (subtext) - yes
Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, but sometimes writers/directors/actors will put a cigar in a scene just to tease the viewers (with no real intent to follow it up). If you really don't want to see subtext you won't, and it won't hurt following the show in the vast majority of cases, since most subtext is by nature an in-joke. Of course, JW may just decide to go the hot monkey love route.

(Read on for further references to monkeys!)

Then the season continued, and more hints were dropped. Some people saw the subtext, some rejected it, but all of it was discussed to death.

A New Man - floating the rose

Willow brought Tara a single red rose, the classic symbol of carnal love from the old Victorian language of flowers. Tara then helped to deflower it.

The 'I' in Team - Willow spends the night with Tara

Boy what suckers we are with the lesbian thing! Think back to college. Both Willow and Tara share a secret, they are different from other students (being witches). Many college students share such secrets. People seem to read something in the all night outing, which is typical for college kids to sit and talk all night.

Goodbye Iowa - Willow reassures Tara she doesn't only come over for the spells; Tara sabotages the locator spell

Their whole conversation is ostensibly about spellcasting, but the subtext is, shall we say, rather text-like. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more.

Could that scene have had any more double entendres in it? "I don't want you thinking I only come around here for the spells." "I couldn't stop thinking about that last spell we did." Or maybe I just have a dirty mind.
>>>Maybe just you and me, then. That wasn't subtext, that was SUBTEXT-O-RAMA!

The show tries to equate real world problems with the super-natural. There are things about Tara that she's not ready to reveal to Willow, for fear of rejection. The real world problem is that she's attracted to Willow. The super-natural problem is that she's (at least part) demon.

As far as we know, Willow hasn't even told Tara "by the way, I fight evil as a hobby," much less about the whole Slayer thing. So what's Tara to think when her new friend/crush Willow gets all excited about summoning Mothers of Darkness and finding demons? Tara could just be trying to protect Willow from dangerous experimentation (if you'll pardon the expression).


By now, many people were convinced that Willow and Tara were attracted to each other:

They are doing some MAJOR sexual subtext with Willow and Tara scenes. I noticed them from the start, as did most others. You'd really have to be blind and deaf not to notice them.

I've suspected that there is more there than just a passing common interest with Willow and Tara. It's almost like she is falling for her and they seem to be purposefully making the scenes between the two kind of semi passionate or something. Making us all wonder, or me anyway.

(Really? Really really?)


But others remained unconvinced:

I must be naive as hell, cause I didn't see any "bi" overtones to Willow and Tara. And I'm usually good at picking up those things, hehe. I just thought they were drawn to each other because of the witchcraft connection.

Count me in the one who saw no sexual tense between the 2 witches. Still, I dunno.

Man, are we EVER gonna be rid of that rumor or does Joss have to make it true just to keep y'all happy until the next crisis? Maybe Willow wanted to enjoy a new friendship in which she would be the center (remember that she's the one leading the spell) ... or maybe she was just afraid that it would hurt Buffy to know that she may be on the verge to find another new best friend... Why can't ppl come with simple answers and jump at sex related answers? 


Rumours started flying that the hinting was leading up to something concrete, but others remained convinced that it was all a tease leading nowhere:

It's getting so stupid and repetitive and it's not even subtle anymore now that it's obvious. I'm sure you'll see it every episode up until the season finale when they finally kiss.

I'm not saying they're giving W/T the "Xena" treatment yet, I've still got hopes Joss won't let us down. But if W/T stay indefinite indefinitely, to give "deniability" I will be just as angry as this poster.

On UK teletext last night there was a link that said something like 'Buffy/Lesbian episode shock' - what is all this nonsense? Surely, it can't be a desperate attempt to get ratings by showing the lovely Geller girl in bed with some other girlies? Or is it?
>>>Actually, in the just-aired US episode
[Goodbye Iowa, where the gang is all hiding out in Xander's basement], Buffy was in bed with both Willow *and* Anya at the same time! That's not what the news stories are about, though. If you really want to know, check out any thread with "Tara" in the title. Or don't, and be surprised.

It got to the point where the WB were issuing official denials that there were going to be lesbian scenes in Season 4:

WB officials deny that the intimate scenes on "Buffy" will get that far. "There is no sexual relationship between" Willow and her new friend, a WB spokeswoman said. "They're witches and they're friends and they get along."

- but as someone immediately pointed out:
Note, IS no sexual relationship, not WILL NEVER BE.

But then the writers started teasing the fans:

And about Willow and Tara... are you asking what they do in private? We don't write those scenes, so I guess you could say we don't know either. What you see is what there is. (Jane Espenson)

And finally, in late January 2000 (after the broadcast of 'A New Man'), Joss let the cat out of the bag with a post on the Bronze Posting Board, which I'll quote in full:

Well, we meant it to be SUBTEXT, but you guys have obviously worked it out. Yes, Willow is becoming a Monkey-owner. I just hope we don't get a lot of protest from Christian Right Groups over this.

Marginally more seriously, Willow and Tara's relationship is definitely romantic. Thorny subject; the writers and I have had long topics about how to deal with the subject responsibly, without writing a story that sounds like people spent a long time discussing how to deal with it responsibly. To me it feels just right. ALL the relationships on the show are sort of romantic (Hence the B Y O Subtext principle) and this feels like the natural next step for her. I can only promise you two things for sure: We're not going to do an ALLY or PARTY OF5 in which we promote the hell out of a same sex relationship for exploitation value that we take back by the end of the ep, and we will never have a very special Buffy where someone gets on a soapbox and... oh, I nodded off for a moment there. I just know there's a sweet story there, that would become very complicated if Oz were to show up again. Which he will.

As will Faith. I'm shooting an ep with the irrepressable Eliza now and it's great fun. She's gonna shake things up.

Even then, not everyone was convinced:

Joss W likes to tease; that may be what he's doing with W/T. I wouldn't rely too much on anything he says.

Ha! It's really a diversion so that we'll all be surprised what Tara turns out to be a bisexual succubus!

While others were angry and confused, and the hating began:

Damnit! This is going to ruin the show and make me look at past episodes dealing with Willow with some questions. How are we going to take the Willow/Xander affair seriously if she was gay all along? How can we possible feel sorry for her after Oz's departure if she is gay? I will try to keep an open mind but this is a bad storyline and I don't like it already.

For the record, I'm not crazy about the whole Willow/Tara thing, mostly because Tara, as a character, doesn't do anything for me...and because I think there are other non-Oz possibilities she ought to be exploring. (The name "Spike" comes to mind...)

Willow will never be gay for me. Watch Innocence and see how she reacts to Xander. And I don't buy her being bi either. This whole storyline reeks of a cheap soap opera.

Then came New Moon Rising:

They came out!!! They came out!!!! Conga Cocktails on me!!!!

And fandom has, basically, never stopped arguing ever since.
Although it found new subjects to argue about soon enough... 


Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 31st August 2009 16:43 (UTC)

Did you notice how all the anti- quotes seemed to be much more aggressive in tone than the pro- ones? Maybe I'm just imagining it, or filtering it through my own prejudices, but it does seem that the term "haters" is justified.

Apparently this person doesn't realize that it's common for lezzies to not come out until college. Duh.

To be fair, I've known well-meaning liberal sorts of folks who didn't know that either. I mean, I knew girls turned me on from when I was about 13, so why did it take Willow until she was 19 to realise the same thing? Okay, I know the reasons why intellectually - and I know Willow's experience is realistic because I know at least three people in real life who've had a similar epiphany - but it's still difficult for me to get my head around the hows and wherefores, and to understand how Willow thought and felt in seasons 1-3. I can imagine it would be even harder for someone without that experience to really understand. (Someone who's never been to university, for example...)

Posted by: The One Who Isn't Chosen (gabrielleabelle)
Posted at: 31st August 2009 17:05 (UTC)

Did you notice how all the anti- quotes seemed to be much more aggressive in tone than the pro- ones? Maybe I'm just imagining it, or filtering it through my own prejudices, but it does seem that the term "haters" is justified.

Scoff scoff! Willow's totally not gay! She loved the menfolk! Xander and Oz! Xander and Oz! Why do you insist on seeing gay people everywhere just because two women are sensually holding hands and partaking in suggestive spell-making together!! Pervs! Joss wouldn't dare make Willow gay! The shark! It has been jumped!!!!

Anyway, yeah, I think there is an important distinction for gay people between "realizing they're gay" and actually "coming out". For a lot of queer youth, the first realization comes fairly early, but is confusing and frightening and unwanted. So the actual coming out may not come until years later when they've reconciled their sexuality. Straight people typically don't have that process because their sexuality aligns with the society default so it's not something they have to give much thought to.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 31st August 2009 17:27 (UTC)

I wish I were that shark. I'd love to be getting jumped all the time...

For a lot of queer youth, the first realization comes fairly early, but is confusing and frightening and unwanted. So the actual coming out may not come until years later when they've reconciled their sexuality.

My only problem with that scenario (which I'm otherwise fine with) is reconciling it with Willow's worried "I'm evil and skanky and I think I'm kinda gay!" comment to Buffy. Surely if Willow already knew that about herself but was unwilling to admit it, announcing her concern in front of the whole Scooby gang would be the last thing she'd do? It comes across to me more as if she'd never considered the possibility before.

(Of course, like we said in the last thread, this is the problem with retcons...)

(And I can certainly imagine her going away thinking "Evil vampire me was all gay and stuff... maybe I am too? Maybe that would explain my feelings for Buffy, and Ms Calendar, and Cordelia, and Faith, and... No! no! That's crazy talk. I'm in love with Oz! I have long hair and wear dresses and like goofy hats with felt flowers on them, I can't be a lesbian!" But that would be after Doppelgangland, not before.)

Posted by: Beer Good (beer_good_foamy)
Posted at: 31st August 2009 18:00 (UTC)

I always thought that a lot of the inconsistencies worked simply because Willow was always written and acted as a very self-conscious character. She wears her "official" identity on her sleeve, which would make it perfectly in character for her both to be very heavily in denial about some things, and very outspoken about them once she stops denying them (hence all the "gay now" affirmations in later seasons). It's fitting that Willow is the one who gets to explain the concept of subjective reality in "Life Serial." She is who she tells herself she is.

Posted by: The One Who Isn't Chosen (gabrielleabelle)
Posted at: 31st August 2009 18:18 (UTC)

^^ What he said.

Also, I've found it common for questioning/not-quite-"out" youth to test the waters, so to speak, with their friends to see how they would react. So while they don't come out as gay, they may making comments about gay issues or celebrities to see if they're met with disgust or acceptance. That's kinda what I saw Willow's statement as. A mix of self-conscious "Wow...I thought I might be, but she really is, so does that mean I really am...?" and probing "If I am, then what would my friends say? Do they think it's gross? Would Buffy think I liked her?" (A common worry upon coming out is that your friends will freak out and think you're attracted to them).

So I don't have much problem reconciling that statement. Seems par for the course.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 31st August 2009 18:27 (UTC)

Actually, that works really well. I can imagine a Willow who's nervous and in denial about the subject seeing that vamp!Willow is all into girls, panicking (as she does), and deciding to forestall any dangerous speculation on Buffy's part by bringing the subject up first, in a calculated "Oh, she's so horrible and nothing at all like me!" kind of way.

You've solved my difficulty. :-)

Posted by: The One Who Isn't Chosen (gabrielleabelle)
Posted at: 31st August 2009 22:11 (UTC)
pwnz you

You've solved my difficulty. :-)

I'm handy like that.

Posted by: mr_waterproof (mr_waterproof)
Posted at: 31st August 2009 20:28 (UTC)

No! no! That's crazy talk. I'm in love with Oz! I have long hair and wear dresses and like goofy hats with felt flowers on them

But what about the dungarees?

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 31st August 2009 20:40 (UTC)

Possible, but Willow's dungarees always made me think "toddler in a romper suit" rather than "big butch lesbo". She may have been trying for the second, but I don't think she pulled it off...

(Deleted comment)
Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 1st September 2009 10:47 (UTC)

It makes you sound so intellectual and witty! :-)

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Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 1st September 2009 10:49 (UTC)

She might not be evil and skanky, but she is callous and strange. :-)

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