Willow Rosenberg is a side character from the popular television series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The basic premise of the show centers around the life of Sarah Michelle Gellar in the titular role of Buffy, a “vampire slayer” (a girl chosen to fight vampires and other forces of evil). Willow (played by Alyson Hannigan) was one of “Buffy’s” friends who helped in her fight against evil, she was characterized by her intelligence and her practice of witchcraft to aid Buffy. Arguably the most important aspect of Willow was her bisexuality (she starts the series in relationships with men, but she is later shown in relationships with women). I am a big fan of the show and I found it interesting that Willow’s characterization was never centered on her sexuality, rather the storyl ines that focused on her highlighted her both her intelligence and vulnerability as an individual, rather than as a lesbian.

Portrayal of Willow’s relationship with Tara, another “witch” in the show can be seen through many different angles. On one hand, the relationship shows resistance to dominant media images of lesbians in that it does not portray either Willow or Tara as overly masculine. Rather than portraying a lesbian relationship through stereotypes and mockery, the show makes an argument that Willow and Tara are individuals who claim lesbianism as part of their identity(which also include students, “witches”, friends etc), instead of defining the two characters by their sexuality. In addition, the ascription of dominant male/female gendered roles in a relationship is minimal (if non-existent). While Willow is clearly the more powerful character, skill-wise, Tara tempers this by in her portrayal as being more staunch and less vulnerable to many vices that Willow falls into in the show. In the show’s portrayal of “magic” as an addictive drug, Willow might be more proficient in it’s use, but Tara is more resistant to it’s addictive effects. Therefore, I argue that because of these different strengths that two women possess, they are equals in the relationship; I don’t necessarily see a hierarchy between the two women that is can be seen in the dominant gender hierarchy, where the more masculine individual is the one who is in power.

Despite this, there are some aspects of the portrayal of the relationship that are problematic. The one that stands out to me the most is probably the ignorance of many experiences of a lesbian individual; basically the way that the show portrays a lesbian relationship seems too ideal, I think that it ignores many negative experiences that lesbians face in the real world. Professor Nakagawa stated during one of her lectures that the portrayal of diversity in science fiction might be more fluid because the sphere of reality in a highly fictionalized setting is more fluid. This might be why the show, which is highly stylized, unrealistic, and fantasy based portrays such an ideal relationship in which the characters face no discrimination.



One thought on “Willow

  1. I enjoyed reading this analysis of the lesbian relationship in “Buffy”–you did an excellent job of discussing how it challenges controlling images of LGBT individuals, but how it also presents a false ideal. Do you think the benefits outweigh the negatives in presenting a more “ideal” relationship? Did the relationship evolve throughout the show?

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