Reflecting On The Willow-Tara Relationship And Why Giles Wasn’t Present For The Buffy Reunion

Credit: Entertainment Weekly

Buffy the Vampire Slayer premiered 20 years ago (on March 10, 1997), and to celebrate, Entertainment Weekly got most of cast together for a reunion. Unfortunately, Anthony Stewart Head (Rupert Giles) was unable to attend the reunion because it fell during the tech rehearsal for a play he’s in. However, they did make sure Giles was there in some way, by adding a portrait to the set.

Credit: Entertainment Weekly

Buffy was so much more than a show about teenagers fighting vampires. It was about young adults figuring themselves out and fighting their own demons, both inner and outer, and that’s what makes it resonate 20 years later. Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy Summers) described it as “The ultimate metaphor… utilizing the horrors of adolescence manifested through these actual monsters.” Buffy tackled some very real issues in a way that made the audience feel like they weren’t alone. Kristine Sutherland (Joyce Summers) talked about how the series started off very black and white, but “as Buffy grew up, the world became much more grey.” The audience got to learn that lesson with Buffy; that things aren’t always clear cut, there isn’t always a definite wrong and a definite right thing to do, that people aren’t all good or all bad, and sometimes the “good guys” don’t win.

The series did a lot of groundbreaking things, but one of the most important was the relationship between Willow (Alyson Hannigan) and Tara (Amber Benson). They were one of the first lesbian relationships on a major network. They were also one of the first lesbian couples that wasn’t a sweeps week stunt, but rather lasted multiple seasons. Unfortunately, Tara was one of the characters who fell victim to the “Bury Your Gays” trope. Tara was killed off to push Willow off the edge and make her a villain for the last few episodes, so she was essentially fridged. To make it worse, Tara was murdered after we saw her and Willow in bed for the first time, which sent a really awful message to LGBTQ viewers. That message, that queer people only have tragedy in their future, is still being sent 15 years later. In 2016, over 20 queer female characters were killed and one of them, Lexa, was killed in a way that mirrored Tara.

Amber Benson talked about Tara’s death and how it wasn’t meant to be offensive or hurt, it was just about Willow’s addiction. The problem is, when a minority group is repeatedly sent a message that they don’t deserve happiness, it’s not okay. It doesn’t matter if the original intention wasn’t to harm, it still did a lot of harm.

The reunion photos and interviews that flooded Twitter were the best surprise (You can check out the photos here). I love the little things, like the cemetery set, and Emma Caulfield posing with bunnies, they just screamed “Buffy.” The reunion also hopefully put the Angel vs Spike debate to rest.

It’s hard to express what Buffy means to me, what this show and these characters did for me, what they’ve done for so many people. This show has saved lives, it’s still saving lives and I’m so glad it was honored like this.