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October 27 2009

Willow and Tara and doors. An interesting blog post about the use of doorways throughout the Willow Tara relation. Fascinating stuff!

Interesting. I think this is mostly on target (M.E. are very careful about the spaces they choose for characters to occupy), but I think that the author glosses over some of the complexities in order to make the desired point. For example:

Similarly, in “Family” Willow thinks that she hears Tara outside the Magic Box and opens the front door, suggesting that Tara could not have opened the door herself. In "The Real Me,” Tara even has to leave a space that had been familiar to her when the Scoobies begin to occupy it in a meaningful way. Tara says she comes to the Magic Box a lot, and only she knew the dead shopkeeper's name. But as Willow and Buffy investigate the murder scene and Giles begins to contemplate buying the store, Tara leaves the shop and joins Dawn outside, saying that it's "Best non-Scoobies like [them] stay out of the way."

I don't think the implication in "Family" is by any means that Tara couldn't just walk in--it's that Willow really wants to see Tara at this point in the episode, and just hopes that any stray sound might be her. Similarly, Tara doesn't stay in the Magic Box primarily because it is a murder scene, and not because it is now a Scooby space; she is not (yet) a Scooby, this is true, but the murder is the operative change, not Willow's relationship. The second point is debatable and I do think I understand the point, even though I'm not sure I agree.

When Willow and Tara visit Giles' apartment in "Primeval” the morning after Willow outs their relationship, Giles must open his front door for them. Where they could barge into Giles' apartment in “Who Are You?” as an anonymous couple, after their relationship has been revealed they no longer have that power and privilege.

I think it's true that Giles is uncomfortable with the Willow/Tara relatioship, but all four original Scoobies have fallen out with each other the previous night, and I think this is a much more significant cause for the difference in Giles' openness.

Anyway, overall I am impressed by the essay. The passage on Oz in "New Moon Rising" is particularly impressive and thorough; as with the best Buffy episodes and metaphors, there is more than one thing going on here. I think that Buffy, Xander et al. casually accept Oz as a (potentially) better partner partly because of heteronormative prejudice (the parallel with Riley's bigotry is important here), but they also genuinely know and like Oz, and in spite of the roughness of Oz' departure do have reason to. Tara is arguably more liked (if less understood) than Anya is in "NMR," but no one has made the effort to familiarize themselves with her, the way they had with Oz.
This was a particularly interesting essay, but the video montage of every moment Tara and/or Willow were in the same shot as a door made it seem a bit ridiculous...
That was a wonderful read. And actually does remind me of all the "hovering near space" Tara did, as if she were an outsider. It was interesting to see my shallow observation delved into and fleshed out into something that pretty much rings true from what I remember.

Watch the video at the end if you need a memory joggin'.
I had to quit reading it. It bothered me way too much. I'm not going to start anything here, but I will say two things:

I object to the use of the term "queer" - I have always heard it used in negative context, and a friend of mine who happens to be a lesbian said: "My friend guy isn't fond of it...and I'm not overly fond either...Queer tends to be in 'it just ain't right'... 'queer as a 3 dollar bill'."

And I see their relationship as perfectly healthy & fine; the reason it rattled the Scoobs wasn't because it was same-sex, but because Willow felt she had to hide it from them because she was afraid they wouldn't understand/accept it. When she finally "confesses" the relationship, it's in the middle of a heated argument where everyone is saying hurtful things - Willow accuses Buffy of shunning her relationship with Tara, and essentially lying about being all right with it:

Willow: Well, they certainly haven't been right, since Tara. We have to face it. You can't handle Tara being my girlfriend.

Xander: No! It was bad before that! (he steps out in between them again) Since you two went off to college and forgot about me! Just left me in the basement to-- (turns on Willow in shock) Tara's your girlfriend?

Giles: (from upstairs) Bloody hell!

So the next morning, when Giles is hungover and opens the door to Tara & Willow, his awkwardness isn't so much the fact that they're in a relationship (Although, yes, he was surprised by that) but more the fact that they'd all realized they had left things unsaid between them too long, and it all came out in the heat of the moment. Plus the fact that he's standing there in nothing but his robe; he's always been somewhat of the authority figure for them, and he's caught literally with his pants down.
ShadowQuest, I was thinking the same thing about the 'queer' thing. I don't know why some people think its the preferred label, whats wrong with just 'gay'.
ShadowQuest and Progressive_Stupidity, while I certainly don't want to start anything either, and the usage of the term "queer" is controversial, I don't think that "queer" need be negative. "Queer" has a particular usage in the context of GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered) that refers to a broader category of non-heterosexual orientations, whereas "gay" just means homosexual. So if you subscribe to the "Willow is bi" theory, then she wouldn't be gay, but queer. (But of course she identifies as gay, so....)

Here is the Wikipedia entry.

(Sorry about the soapbox!)

[ edited by WilliamTheB on 2009-10-28 07:54 ]
"Use of the word queer was meant to be confrontational and reappropriative, to fling back at America an ugly word that the country had used to oppress non-straight people for decades. Queer activists were angry and demanded to be recognized as part of American culture and have their concerns addressed. As one famous activist protest chant proclaimed, "We're here, we're queer, get used to it!" While queer activists were demonstrating in the streets, something called Queer Theory began to be discussed in universities across the nation and in Canada and Europe."

I didn't even blink when I read "queer." Its such a commonly used term in film theory. But I suppose if you didn't know that it'd sound really bigoted or negative.

I agree that "queer" is still a little weird (seriously no pun intended).

I understand this usage and I'm familiar with it, but it's still hard to wipe away an entire Texas childhood of hearing it as a slur. Heck I still hear it as an insult word. Bravo for the community taking the word back, God knows we could use less hurtful language, but I think a lot of people like me are always gonna flinch at it a little bit.

Anyhow, it sure is awesome that we are still analyzing Buffy. Seriously.
Queer is also a term well accepted within academia. And that is where this essay comes from. One can certainly take classes in queer theory, which is an active area of study. I find nothing offensive or wrong in the use of the term for this discussion. "Queer space" has been debated in critical theory for 20 years and longer now. As haarp says, it is a common method of film analysis, and I have several books on this subject. This is about context here.
Yeah great article. I'm homosexual and I self-identify as queer as do a lot of my non-heterosexual, non-monogamous friends, it certainly isn't a negative term anymore in the social and academic circles I move in.

Also, ShadowQuest I feel you're being a bit disingenuous about the scoobies reaction to Willow and Tara's relationship, I'm sure there was surprise that Willow had hidden something from them their but let's not pretend like it wasn't also a surprise that Willow was deviating from her previously assumed heterosexuality.

All in all the whole essay really resonated with me and made me kind of sad, especially the point about how Tara never came into Willow and Buffy's dorm room because it was a heterosexual space. Like korkster says, Tara being on the peripheral physically was noticeable before but I really like this interpretation.

I certainly won't be looking at doors the same way again.
I wonder how "Man on the Street" fits into all that. I think it's the door-heaviest ep of the Whedonverse. Ever.
Very insightful essay, and fairly strong points.

I would love to see this reasoning extended both linearly (to the basically serious relationship between Willow and Kennedy and the overtly casual one between Buffy and Satsu) and also laterally (to Tara's emerging but curtailed very close friendship with Buffy and to the very different spatial relationships accompanying Tara's murder.) It can't be applied to the gay men because Larry is far too peripheral to the gang and Andrew, whatever his affinity, is too non-sexual in his actions and motives for it to come into play very much.

I do have to agree with the author on the way the other Scoobies were portrayed as initially uneasy about Willow's relationship with Tara and how Tara herself was only accepted more gradually than most of the other romantic partners in the show. That was real.

How I saw it was (and remember I am not educated as a critic) in the context that almost all fictional characters by necessity reflect stereotypes. With a few exceptions* the stereotypes behind the Buffyverse characters are usually and traditionally associated with a liberal political view, in varying degrees. (However the characters played out in action; this is a starting point.) In this they correspond to, for example, Matt Drayton in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. They have embraced and acted out an open-minded view of the world which, when some unexpected aspect of it comes into their closest daily lives, they initially fumble it (I even address this in my fan fiction.) This has happened in othr cases, as well, before and since Tara. And , like Matt Drayton, they eventually come around.

*Riley's stereotype is traditionally consevrative, Anya's is Janus-faceed, and Cordleia and Harmony's is conformist or chameleon-like, taking their views from their surrounding milieu of the moment but without fundamental convictions of their own. I don't think any of the stereotypes I've seen qualify as (in the purest senses of these words) either apolitical or contrarian.

[ edited by DaddyCatALSO on 2009-10-28 17:52 ]
Reclaiming the insult is a fine old tradition. I'm Quaker -- but that was originally a very insulting term for the Religious Society of Friends. Now nobody even knows it was ever derogatory, we've reclaimed it so well.

But it's worth remembering that queer doesn't always mean the same thing to different people. And what you meant to say doesn't matter quite as much as what is heard...
On the subject of people taking offense, I'll note there are words, the interpretation of words, and the intent of the author behind the words. The intent of the author can only be surmised in the full context of the original work.

In this case, the intent behind the use of the word "queer" did not convey anything offensive, so any reasonable person should not take offense.

Some people take offense at the word "geek", but as a self-styled geek, I embrace it. There was a time when I took offense, but I've mellowed.

I now take this approach: Another person's opinion of me only matters when I respect the person having the opinion. If I don't respect the person, then obviously they are beneath respect, and thus relegated to the dull roar of background noise.
Queer has definitely been reclaimed by the community even though like any term of identity it still gets used in a disempowering way by some people in some situations. But by and large it gets used in an empowering way. I associate it with the vanguard for LGBT rights actually.
Also not a scholar of gender-role studies but "queer" as a synonym for "non-heteronormative sexuality" does appear,a s poitned out, to be a generalized term, however uncomfortable it makes me or anyone else. And unlike n****** there isn't really another all-encompassing word for it until soembody invents one like "gilbit" and it catches on

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