The “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” 20th anniversary is bringing back some powerful memories. One of the best is the love story between characters Willow Rosenberg and Tara Maclay.
There weren’t very many LGBTQ characters on television in 1999, and an entire generation watched when Willow found love with Tara on the fourth season of “Buffy.” As a part of a reunion put together by Entertainment Weekly, Alyson Hannigan and Amber Benson ― who played Willow and Tara, respectively ― rehashed the impact of their love story.
“There were a lot of young people who felt isolated, and to see two characters on a television show be accepted by a group of peers changed the game,” Benson said in an interview for Entertainment Weekly and People magazine’s streaming network, PEN.
“Buffy” creator Joss Whedon told PEN that the Tara storyline came from a void left by Seth Green’s character, Oz, leaving the show. The idea didn’t come from trying to make a statement, but from Whedon’s belief that finding a girlfriend in college was common. He wasn’t thinking about the audiences that might need to see themselves represented.
“As much as I wanted to make a feminist show, I really missed a lot of what was going to be important about the show,” Whedon told PEN. “We just did it because we thought that’s just what you do.”
Over the course of 20 years, the show’s themes sparked so many different discussions and one of the most valuable may have been this particular storyline. Teens at the time felt empowered by Willow coming out to her friends and felt her storyline was authentic to them, according to a study published in the American Communications Journal in 2007.
Benson and Hannigan recall getting letters from fans and realizing the impact they had on young adults.
“To see somebody that they have been watching for so many years, to get to not feel so alone, it was such a gift to be a part of that,” Hannigan told PEN.
Many fans felt upset, and even offended, when “Buffy” writers decided to kill off Tara in the sixth season. Benson addressed the issue, saying it was never supposed to be hurtful.
“It was never intentional to be offensive to anybody,” Benson said. “It was very much about Willow’s addiction storyline and hitting bottom and being like, she lost the most important person to her.”