For those people who were not obsessive Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans, this may not matter. But for those of us who grew up watching Buffy (and watching the Willow/Tara relationship as our positive model of queer women on tv), it bears noting that there was a great big Buffy reunion this past weekend. I was really excited to read about the cast and crew reminicing about good times until I got to this part with Amber Benson, the actress who played Tara (emphasis mine).
Benson said that what she loved was that with or without Tara, “Joss kept Willow as a lesbian, rather than saying ‘Okay, now she’s done,” I’m really pleased with how that continued on, that she had somebody else, that she continued to be who she was, she stuck by her guns. She wasn’t just a flip-flopper, you know what I mean?”
What the fuck Amber Benson, seriously, what the fuck.
This was the problem with the Willow and Tara relationship. Willow had attractions to men in the past and had a fully sexual and loving relationship with Oz for two seasons, but as soon as she met Tara that all got chucked down the continuity dumpster. The new story was the Willow was all lesbian all the time. Bisexuality was never mentioned as an option, much less explored as a viable one. Willow got shoved out one closet and into another. Her previous heterosexuality had to be so scrubbed from the show that Oz was never seen or heard from again.
And I am so disappointed in Amber Benson, because she was such a role model with this part, with appearing in gay films like Latter Days, and with directing her own film with gay characters. I guess I had this mistaken idea that she understood something about gay culture, but apparently it doesn’t matter how many queer subjects you play, you can still be prejudicial and mean.
Benson clearly believes that bisexuality doesn’t exist or if it does, that it is somehow less good then lesbianism. That the only love between women that is real or worthwhile occurs between lesbians, that bisexuals are not capable of real love. Or that if Willow had a subsequent relationship with a man that would somehow invalidate her relationship with Tara, as though people are only really capable of loving the last gender to win the race. I don’t think anyone ever wanted Willow to run back to heteroland after Tara’s death, but she could have just as easily been a bisexual who looked back on all her relationships with integrity and forged an identity that accepted all parts of herself. The fact that Benson doesn’t understand that some people can and do have real loving relationships with both genders is mind boggling.
The older I get and the more I get the joy of experiencing the rampant biphobia that passes in tolerant and progressive circles in our society, the less favorably I look back on Joss Whedon and all the writers on Buffy. They had this well-established bisexual character, and they re-closeted her into a lesbian and patted themselves on the back and presented that as as though it were progressive and good. Thats just not cool. The message to young bisexual women was pretty clear: You can be confused (aka bi) for a while, but you better scrub those ex-boyfriends out of your reality and come out as a real lesbian because anything else just isn’t real, acceptable, or good. To be bisexual was presented as being “just a flip-flopper”, not as being a real human being worthy or respect and capable of love.
In the season 8 comic, Joss has kept with this “Willow=100% lesbian” motif and it is frustrating as hell. I don’t think anyone believes (after two girlfriends and an affair) that her gayness is transitory, but still bisexuality is never mentioned. Buffy even had sex with a girl in the comic and since then Joss has done a slew of interviews talking about how she isn’t really gay, just “open minded” or “experimenting”. I’m just praying that this isn’t the bi storyline, some sort of cliched “oops I slept with you because you love me but I am 100% hetero and not capable of loving you, just doing you to fulfill my curiosity and fix my clear emotional issues”. Not only is that a hideous anti-bisexual trope, but we already went there with Spike.
Joss has introduced new queer characters, such as Satsu, who I’m just praying could turn out to be bi and break this mold. And I guess Andrew could be bi, but I’m pretty sure they are playing up his effeminate traits because it is like this industry rule effeminate men MUST be gay and never bi. You are only allowed to be a bi male if you are so straight acting that no one in the audience can ever imagine a dick in your mouth.
But as a bisexual, it is hard to look back on Buffy, like the cast and crew did at Paley, and not see the prejudice and biphobia in the aftermath of what was a great depiction of a loving wonderful queer relationship. And it is hard not to be pissed at Benson for being such a biphobic bitch.