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August 11 2006

Slayage, Number Twenty One. Once again, some more academic Buffyverse essays. The major highlights are the first piece which looks at the history of Buffy studies and the final essay which takes a critical look at the recent Slayage conference.

I really enjoyed the "Angie Burns".
I enjoyed all the essays but Burns' is my favorite, too. On another board I'm participating in a BtVS discussion group and we are currently tackling Entropy. I love how Burns' points out despite the fact Tara is the most grounded character on the show, she still is very vulnerable to romantic love and is willing to overlook the very serious problems she and Willow because she wants to be with Willow so much.
I'll third that recommendation for the 'Angie Burns' essay
Reddygirl, I do agree with that point to some extent, but although Willow and Tara definitely had some issues to work through (Willow in particular), I don't think Tara was overlooking them as such. She wasn't sweeping everything under the carpet to be forgotten about permanently. But she could see that Willow was working to stay off magick pretty successfully, and that she had realised the damage she had done to their relationship.

I think Tara thought that they had reached a stage where they could resume their relationship but it wasn't perfect, and that Willow would have to continue making positive steps. I'm sure, had everything not ended so tragically, they probably would have had to have several discussions to work through their problems.
Razor, I have to respectfully disagree with you.

Imo, Tara and Willow were just as dysfunctional and mixed up as any other couple in Jossverse. I don't think either one of them were dealing with Willow's real issues, power and control and how magic allowed her to have more power and control, and instead pretended Willow's only problem was she was *addicted* to magic and if she would just quit doing spells everything would be hunkydory. I believe Willow's need to control the situation led her to abuse magic.

I think it was too painful for Tara to face up to the fact she was deeply in love with someone who tried to control her just as much as her father did. Tara mentions how Willow's forgetting spell was akin to Glory's brainsucking but she shies away from bringing up how she struggled to break away from her controlling family only to fall in love with someone who also had control issues.

If Tara hadn't been murdered, I think eventually the two would have dealt with Willow's real problems. And either they would have faced them with honestly or broken up for good.

I love Tara and Willow and think they were never more interesting as individuals and a couple than in season 6, when we saw a much deeper and troubling side to their relationship. In a way, Tara enabled Willow by refusing to aknowledge the core of Willow's struggles with magic. By focusing on the spell side of the equation, instead of the power and control angle, she allowed both Willow and herself to ignore the elephant in the room.

One reason I find Dead Things such a brilliant epi is that Katrina and Warren are stand ins for Spike, Buffy, Willow and Tara. Imo, Katrina represents Buffy, Tara and Spike and Warren is a distorted reflection of Spike, Buffy and Willow. The "Katrinabot" references not only the Buffybot, but also Spikebot and Tarabot.

Burns is one of the few essayists I've read who addresses Tara and Willow's issues as a couple.
simon, would you say the linked material and its archives contain a comprehensive overview of essays over the years? I was just wondering based on what I've been seeing coming through in just three months here and thinking about all the work I'd have to do scouring through the archives here at Whedonesque (trying to avoid carpal tunnel through computer overwork as much as possible). It would be great if there was one main site that housed most of what's out there on the web.
Slayage is good for what it is but then I've seen essays on the likes of LiveJournal that are equally as well written but which don't get as much attention. Though those sometimes tend to be slightly biased towards one character or ship which can make the arguments less objective.

There really does need to be one central repository of links to essays.
Reddygirl, I do agree with you to some extent. In my last post I was looking at Willow's magic problems through the eyes of the show rather than my own, because we know that Willow's obvious lust for control and power were explained as simply an addiction to magic rather than a flaw within her psyche.

I do think that the more interesting and darker parts of her "addiction" were hinted at, with Tara comparing Willow's memory altering spells with Glory stealing her sanity, and through the Dark Willow arc we get more clear examples of why Willow used magic so much, as Dark Willow mocks her former self. I think for the most part of season six the show itself did not really state that the problem was a dangerous part of Willow, instead choosing to use it as a very thinly veiled metaphor for drug addiction. In many ways I was more satisfied with how the last few episodes of the season dealt with that because it was more consistent with Willow's behaviour and more interesting than Willow simply being a junkie.

I do think Willow altering Tara's memories was completely devastating for Tara, but what was probably worse was her failure to understand how badly she had violated her girlfriend, and how she then continued to try it again and didn't even make an effort to give up magic as she had promised (most of which can be seen in Tabula Rasa).

However, I don't think these problems were insurmountable. Of course, no couple in real life is perfect, either individually or together, and that certainly holds true in the Jossverse. I wouldn't have wanted them to resume their relationship exactly as it had been before, not at least before Willow's issues with power, control and self-identity had been addressed and examined. But I suspect that the only reason Willow and Tara were reconciled in Entropy and Seeing Red was because Mutant Enemy decided to kill Tara off, and this made the story all the more tragic and to act as a catalyst for the creation of Dark Willow.

Had they not decided to kill off Tara, I'm not sure that we would have seen her so quickly jump back into bed with Willow without resolving their difficulties. I think it's open to interpretation whether Tara was actually punished for her display of passion and unwillingness to firmly address the underlying problems in her relationship, but I personally don't think so.

I actually think it's a pretty fascinating topic. Season six is probably one of those that is most open to interpretation and where even our good characters do bad, or selfish, things. In the "Seven Seasons of Buffy" collection, there was an essay arguing that the Willow/Tara relationship was the most fulfilling and genuine on the show, and another arguing the complete opposite, that it became unhealthy and ended up being more destructive than anything else.

Paradoxically, I ended up agreeing with both as I could see where the writers were coming from. And that's the reason why Buffy is so great, because you can't definitively say one way or the other. Even when the show appeared to be ignoring the evidence towards Willow's problems, there was still room for the audience to take what we had seen and what we knew about the characters to make a more informed conclusion.
Razor, great post. One reason I love W/T is because the relationship was as complicated and multi-layered as any on the show, which meant it wasn't always in a healthy place.
Thanks, your other post was great too. I had never picked up on Warren/Katrina mirroring the other characters but it actually makes perfect sense. Fascinating.

Having said that, I do think Willow and Tara's relationship was one of the strongest on the show. Regardless of which characters you felt should have ended up with who, many of them had fatal flaws.

The Buffy and Angel relationship could never be physically consummated again, because even if Willow's version of the curse didn't have the no sex clause, Angel wouldn't be able to take that risk again. Spike and Buffy's relationship, although it ultimately redeemed Spike, orginated in a dark, destructive place. In season seven I think we were shown that although Buffy now respected and trusted Spike, she just couldn't love him the same way he loved her. At least not at that time.

I think Xander and Anya's relationship could also have lasted in the long-run, although I don't think it would ever have been stable. I think their relationship probably needed to undergo such difficulties in season six in order to really challenge both characters. Up until then, their relationship had lasted since season four, beginning with lust and developing into love, but they never really faced the same difficulties that other Jossverse characters faced.

I do think Xander's decision to leave Anya on their wedding day was wrong, not only ill-timed but the fact that he was the most loyal and committed member of the Scooby Gang demonstrated that he was quite capable of maintaining a loving marriage. But his early family life laid shaky foundations for his ideas of family and marriage. I think in season seven Xander was able to become more mature and possibly capable of committing himself to Anya (although unfortunately both characters received much less screen time so this was a much more subtle development). Again, I think had Anya lived (and the series not ended!) then we might have seen the pair finally tie the knot.

I think Willow's problems were similar- very dangerous and although they had been implied for years (from the insecure, shy wallflower we first met, through her irresponsible use of magic) it made more sense dramatically to leave them unaddressed by the characters right up until the last possible moment, much like the fears revealed by Xander and Anya in "I'll Never Tell" were swept under the carpet. But I do think that essentially, at her core, Willow was a loving and kind person who, in season seven, did try to recover her stability. I think by then we realised that Willow's problems had moved beyond some of the more trivial insecurities that we saw in Restless (over her appearance) and into her need to exert control having finally gained power.
I've really appreciated this discussion. Thanks!
Simon asked for a central repository for links to essays on the Whedonverse. Here it is:
Buffy Studies Bibliography, including not only "scholarly" essays in print & online journals like Slayage.tv, but also conference papers (you can often get a copy by e-mailing the author) and many fan essays.

[ edited by Maeve on 2006-08-13 21:20 ]
Brag moment:

The final article on SC2 singled out my essay (in a positive light). I had to tell SOMEONE. My ego is very small, I promise. It's just exciting to see my name in print (in a place that is not a police report).
Congrats, Mosie!

Razor, I definitely think Willow is basically a good decent loving person. But, she had flaws like all the characters and that just makes her struggles more real. One of the reasons I think BtVS is the best TV show in the history of the medium is because after the intial shock of seeing Willow in Two To Go wears off, her actions seem completely logical and unsurprising. We can trace the trajectory of Willow's overall character arc and her violent reaction to Tara's doesn't seem to have come out of the blue.

For me, the same can be said of learning Spike's backhistory. After my first gasp of seeing William, I had no trouble accepting Spike's human self had been a shy, gentle poet who would do anything for love.

Joss's greatest genius is developing characters over the years in ways that are both surprising and logical.

Though I love Willow and Tara together and believe they shared a strong bond, I'm still torn about how long I think their relationship would have lasted if Tara hadn't been killed. Some days I'm of the opinion they would have worked through their problems, other days I believe ultimately Willow's need to be in control of the relationship would have been too scary for Tara in the long run because of her brother and father's dominance of her.

Part of the reason I also was receptive to Kennedy and Willow as a couple (though I only liked Kennedy and didn't love her the way I adored Tara)was because I could see Kennedy's in-your-face personality really meant issues would be dealt with as soon as they arose.
Thanks, Reddygirl.

Lot's of interesting ideas floating around here. I just wrote a long post and now have deleted it, as it got totally off topic. However, I do think that the darkness in all of Joss's relationships hinges upon individuals' flaws and emotional instability. I would never say that Tara (or Willow) was punished by Tara's death, but her death was necessary to the growth of Willow as a character and her ability to let go of some of her darker psychological issues.

Side note, a favorite season six moment is when Willow says "I love you baby, I love you" in Tabula Rasa. She sounds like a man who has just beaten the crap out of his wife and then tries to apologize.

[ edited by mosie on 2006-08-14 00:38 ]

[ edited by mosie on 2006-08-14 05:41 ]
Maeve, you have saved me from incipient carpal tunnel syndrome. You have my sincere thanks for posting the link.
Mosie, that's a great insight about Willow's words to Tara in TR. Imo, all romance in Jossverse exists to evolve the characters and as painful as it was to watch Willow smash up her relationship with Tara, it was necessary for her character to behave this way in order to finally confront her personal demons.
I definitely agree that Kennedy's honesty and upfront attitue was to her credit. Perhaps it was a fault of Tara's that she allowed Willow to get away with some of her behaviour for so long. I do think she knew when Willow had crossed the line, though. She didn't comment on her girlfriend's escalating use of magic, often to a dangerous extent, and when Willow deliberately played down the after-effects, throughout season five. But I think when Willow's behaviour began to become manipulative then Tara rightfully began to challenge her about it. But Kennedy probably would have addressed the issues as soon as they came up.

But after all, Buffy was able to forgive Spike for attempting to rape her. Even though he was soulless when he attacked her, he was still shown to be capable of love and goodness. So I don't see a huge difference in pre and post-soul Spike. I think before his soul he was capable of understanding right from wrong and consciously choosing to do the right thing, whereas the soul actually forced him to be a better man.

So I think if Buffy was able to forgive Spike for that and he was able to redeem himself, Tara could have forgiven Willow. After all, she did address her problems and even changed the mythology of slayerdom forever so she definitely redeemed herself in my eyes. And although Willow used memory spells to control Tara, she was able to have a more healthy and fair relationship for two years before that, so had she tackled her problems sooner then she may have been able to maintain their relationship without resorting to manipulation. But I can understand why she did it.

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