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May 06 2005

Over the Moon in Miami. Some interesting behind the scenes "Buffy" Stories from Amber Benson at the "Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival" .

I introduce myself and realize I'm talking to Amber Benson, the unjustly murdered Tara of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Ungh. I've always hated that attitude. In fiction, doing something in service of the story is never unjust.
Heh, she should have said "cliche murder" instead of unjust, can't argue with that.

In any case, damn lucky to "bump into" Amber! At least she realized and appreciated it...
Without wishing in any way to start an oft-raked over argument, I don't and never have seen Tara's murder as a cliche, because the character of Tara, her relationship with Willow, and the ongoing plot line were none of them cliches. Sure, one can swoop down and pick out one facet of a narrative and label it a cliche but, stepping back and viewing the whole picture, I think that label does Joss, BtVS, and the performances of Amber and Aly a major disservice.

On a happier note: I love the "lesbian fun fact," which I'd never heard any inkling of before, that the team conspired to submit really raunchy scenes of Willow and Tara kissage (and more?) in order to get their tamer stuff through. Cool.
Which only begs the question, is anyone justifiably murdered? I mean, isn't murder by definition unjust?

Interesting comment about the additional footage killed by the censors. Funny how dailies of nearly nude James Marsters are all over the Internets, but this stuff has never turned up.
I guess it depends on how the word "unjust" was being used by the author of the article, wren. I assumed she was using it in reference to the "Dead Lesbian Cliche" complaint regarding Tara's death, but it's possible she was speaking from within the storyline, in which Warren murdering Tara was most certainly unjust, as all murders are.
It's my (perhaps mistaken) impression that Willow going dark in season six was planned by Joss years in advance, and was to be precipitated by the unjust death of the person closest to Willow. Had it not been for Seth Green departing for feature films that person would have been Oz. Should Joss have avoided the lesbian storyline altogether and given Willow another (boy)friend just to avoid the "Dead Lesbian Cliche"? I would hate to have missed having Tara altogether.
Now, I'm not the most experienced person when it comes murdering lesbians, but I've never considered what happend in season 6 to be a cliche. This is not for the reasons that SNT stated (though I do agree), but for the simple fact that I don't know much fiction with lesbians in it.

Could somebody who knows more than I do list some examples of the dead lesbian cliche?
A quick Google search turned up this, Caleb.
I am not sure if the murder of a beloved character is cliche.
Tara was a great character. Her only flaw was her anger at
Willow for the "magic addiction". Other than that, she was
cool and she was instrumental in saving the Scoobies on several
occasions. I found the loss of that character quite tragic and
unexpected. Poor Willow....Sucks to be Warren.
Thanks ringworm...

I always feel like such an idiot when somebody responds that that :)

Ick. I read a portion of that text, and I no longer care about the origins of the cliche.
Well, I'm not going to get into the argument here. It's been rehashed many times, and I've read it all before (the link you provided gives a pretty good rundown of the main issues, Ringworm), and I understand the points and think some are valid, but I still don't buy that it was a cliche. W/T lasted SO much longer - and happier - than any other relationship on the show. And I note that the writers went out of their way to give Willow a healthy, happy lesbian relationship in season 7.
But – I loved the little trivia point in this story :-). Very sneaky of the writers (and actors) to stick in far more graphic stuff in the episodes than they needed, so that they could get the bits of physicality they were allowed. I personally think the end of "Under your Spell" is one of the most graphically sexual (and beautiful) bits of a same-sex relationship shown on network television. I laughed when, on the DVD commentary, Joss called it blatent pornography.
Never having become embroiled in the "cliche" argument(s) before, I can't resist adding my two cents now. I don't believe Tara's death and its unleashing of Willow's dangerous fury fits at all into the "dead lesbian cliche."

The brutal death of a lesbian character alone does not a cliche make. In the Buffyverse, romantic love has been tragic more often than not. Loved ones die and often quite brutally. Jenny Calendar, anyone? Did her brutal death somehow fit into a "dead gypsy cliche?" Was Jenny being punished for her inherently Gypsy-like betrayal of Giles/Buffy/Angel? Okay, I'm being facetious, because as far as I know there has not been a pattern in movies and/or TV of gypsy characters being killed off tragically. (There might be, I suppose.) In fact, the Willow/Tara relationship was so sweet, so beautiful, so obviously approved of by its creators, and allowed to persist for so long that I can't see how anyone could interpret Tara's brutal slaying as punishment for either her or Willow for being gay. That's my rather ardent feeling, anyway. It fit the narrative plans. It spurred great, intense dramatic developments.

As for the little hilarious behind-the-scenes info in this article, I love it!
If lesbian characters were never being killed off, people would be complaining that writers were too fearful of reprisals to actually do so ;)
Odd timing....I just went to eat lunch and the Seeing Red episode was on FX...freaky!
I'd never heard the Dead Lesbian Cliche thing before, so pardon my objection. If one wanted to take a lesson from Buffy, the easiest one of all would be to NEVER be happy in a relationship at all. That never ends well. So the fact that one of these MANY relationships (Buffy/Angel, Buffy/Spike, Buffy/Riley, Willow/Oz, Willow/Tara, Xander/Cordelia, Xander/Anya, Giles/Jenny, Spike/Dru, not even touching the Angelverse) happened to be a lesbian relationship that ends badly seems only to smack of the fact that Joss represented a lot of relationships with only one constant: Horrible Tragedy.

Not saying that the cliche doesn't exist, but almost certainly not in Buffy.
Okay, my 2 cents: Tara was not murdered. Warren was trying to murder Buffy, and poor Tara got hit by a wayward bullet that was never meant for her. There needs to be malice aforethought toward the person killed, and had Buffy not survived, she indeed would have been murdered by Warren. But Tara's death was simply and horribly a mistake. Warren didn't fire that shot hoping to kill Tara. Hence, it wasn't murder.

Jenny Calendar was murdered, to be sure. But Tara wasn't.

As for the behind-the-scenes thing, it works on many levels, especially in business and politics. An advisor can offer the President three alternatives--abject surrender, nuclear conflagration, or, maybe, just maybe we could give up a few missiles in exchange for the other side reducing its presence in the Indian Ocean (Bill Safire used to write about this from time to time.)

Geez, I wonder if the more objectionable footage still exists...

I'll be in my bunk!
You're right, Chris. Jenny Calendar was murdered, but Tara was
as well. It's called manslaughter. Warren Mears made many bad
decisions during season six. (See Katrina)
With this said, your point of view is still most certainly valid.
I think I'll start a rant about the dead straight person cliche. Lets start assembling the troops. Come on, this stroy line has been played out many, many times with straight couples. I watched the Punisher the other night, straight guys wife and kid get murdered along with the rest of the family and he takes down all the people who did it. This is nothing new, and certainly nothing reserved for only gay and lesbian relationships. Come on. And Chris has a great point about Jenny's death in Passions, it was much more horrific (IMO) than Taras (which was painful), but nobody complained when he went after Angel...of course he didn't almost destroy the world and beat up his friends, but still, it was the same basic plot.

It seems to me, and I might be putting my foot in my mouth, I'm sorry if I offend anyone. But I'm thinking about Buffy's speach to Johnathan at the end of Earshot. I sometimes feel that Gay and Lesbian people feel like everyone around them is passing judgment and stereotyping them, looking for a way to bring them down, but I think the truth is that most people are so wraped in their own lives that they don't think much about other people who aren't directly invoved in theirs. I have a wife and a mortgage to worry about, I don't spend much time thinking about people with other lifestyls and I don't really think about how my life and actions are affecting them. I think this is probably what was going on with Joss on this one, he didn't think of Tara as a gay character, he knew she was a beloved character and that her death was necessary to take the show in the direction he wanted to go. When I think of Willow and Tara I don't lable them GAY I think of them as great characters who happen to be gay, there is so much more to both of them to be deffined by, that's what makes them such great characters. And what isn't reccognized is that Willow didn't die, she didn't destroy the world, she controlled herself, grieved her loss and continued her life, finding a new girlfriend (who is still alive)...anyway, you can all see where I'm going, I'll stop ranting and let my life continue on.
I think the truth is that most people are so wraped(sic) in their own lives that they don't think much about other people who aren't directly invoved in theirs.

Have you, like, looked at a newspaper lately? Apparently there is nothing people (at least most voting people) love more than telling gays and lesbians what they can and cannot do.
Well, CiV, actually Tara was murdered, from a legal standpoint at least.

The doctrine of Transferred Intent holds that if a person intends, with malice aforethought, to kill another, but in the course of attempting to do so kills an "innocent" bystander completely by accident, the perpetrator can be charged with first-degree murder just the same, as this handy little summary explains. C.f. People v. Bland, 28 Cal.4th 313, 320-21 (2002)("Under the classic formulation of California's common law doctrine of transferred intent, a defendant who shoots with the intent to kill a certain person and hits a bystander instead is subject to the same criminal liability that would have been imposed had the fatal blow reached the person for whom intended.")

Of course, that doesn't speak to whether it was "murder" in a moral sense.

Jinxieman: I hear where you're coming from. But first, one should always be wary of making rather sweeping generalizations. And second, I'm not sure that "lifestyle" is the appropriate term to apply to people who are homosexual. I don't believe sexual orientation is akin to enjoying a brisk hike or going bowling of a Friday night. Not so much a recreational choice, in other words, as part of an individual's persona.
I promise to stop flogging this deceased equine, but, The Master, that was my point: murder and manslaughter are different things: the law (the dictionary, too) makes a critical distinction. Each act results in a dead person, but to say somebody was murdered by a stray bullet not intended for her is simply incorrect. Murder requires malice aforethought resulting in the person toward which the malice is directed winding up dead. Manslaughter specifically is the killing of a person *without* malice, either expressed or implied.

Hence: it's incorrect to say that Tara was murdered.

And, you can be executed in most American states for murder, but in none for manslaughter.

As Casey Stengel might say, you can look it up.
Huh? This has gotten into a pretty off-topic divergence, and it's splitting hairs in any case, in terms of the story at least, whether it was technically murder. But CiV, I don't understand your post. Yes, Murder and manslaughter are very different things, but SNT's post makes clear that Warren could in fact be guilty of first-degree murder, not manslaughter. Manslaughter tends to be when something was an accident - i.e. vehicular manslaughter. Because Warren *did* have "malice aforethough," albeit not for Tara, her death, under most state laws, can be considered murder (under that doctrine of transfered intent that SNT so kindly cited).
I don't really want to get into the whole debate - but legal issues sometimes interest me in a weirdly geeky way, and I just didn't quite understand CiV's post. The point is that it *wasn't* manslaughter. It was murder.
"Hopping into the festival van, I introduce myself and realize I'm talking to Amber Benson, the unjustly murdered Tara of Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

I'm wondering if the writer means "unjustly" in terms of the show's continuity, or the fact the character was killed at all. I'm guessing the latter.

Anyone who's been watching the show from the beginning could have predicted Tara's demise. I'm just surprised it didn't happen in S5.
Murder vs. manslaughter? Warren may not have intended to kill Tara, therefore making it manslaughter...but this is a fictional universe, and Joss/God did intend to kill her, so in a way, she was murdered, and I think that murder is what the author in The Advocate was referring to.

BTW....I'm gay, and I'm glad that a lot of people don't give me/us a lot of thought...unfortunately the people who do give it a lot of thought often are evil and violent and just plain mean.

I don't know how to do links here, but if I did, I could link to many news articles about hate crimes against gay people in just the last few weeks.

And, btw, I was fine with Tara's departure (to put it nicely). In my opinion....whatever Joss says, goes!

Thanks to everyone for the great dialog on this!
Anyone else find it a stroke of genius to put in her in the opening credits for just that ep? ;)
Your point is certainly valid, Chris. However, Warren brought a
gun into Buffy's yard with the intent to kill her but killed Tara instead. I am not necessarily thinking in "legalese".
My opinion is steeped in the morality of the act. You see,
Warren wanted to kill Buffy but was a terrible shot. The Malice
was there, but the precision wasn't. Did he deserve to die for
this act? I think not. He did deserve to die for his cumulative
acts throughout the season. Murder was becoming a habit for him. First Katrina, then the attempt on Buffy, finally the axe
to Willow. It didn't stop there, either.
Think in terms of a "what-if" for a moment.
What if Warren succeeded in his "master plan"?
What would the future have held in store for Jonathan?
It all seems pretty bleak. I know that legally he wasn't
a pre-meditated murderer, but he was a life-taker nevertheless.
Thanks for the debate, it's interseting to find out other's points of view regarding the Buffyverse.
Take Care.
DearBoy: welcome and thanks for your post. You can get an idea of how to do links by clicking on the "How to" button above the comment box.

However, when you say "Warren may not have intended to kill Tara, therefore making it manslaughter," I am impelled, one final time, to state what is not a matter of opinion, but one of centuries of established doctrine that can be looked up quite readily. Warren did not have to intend to kill Tara to be guilty of murder. Likewise, The Master, when you say "legally [Warren] wasn't a pre-meditated murderer," with all due respect, you're wrong. Legally, that's exactly what he was.

Again: Warren did not have to intend to kill Tara to be guilty of murder. He intended to kill Buffy. He failed to kill Buffy, but "accidentally" killed Tara. His intent to kill Buffy "transfers" to his actual victim. Ergo, he can be tried with, and convicted of, murder in the first degree (assuming premediation is sufficiently shown by bringing a gun to commit the homicide, and by his words in raising his gun to fire). In California the law is quite clear that Warren could be charged with first-degree murder for Tara's death. It's not a matter for debate.

One more helpful citation: Duren v. Hopper, 161 F.3d 655, 660 (11th Cir. 1998)("Appell argued that Duren did not intentionally kill Kathleen Bedsole because Duren was aiming for Charles Leonard when he shot and killed Bedsole. Under the doctrine of transferred intent, however, Duren would have still been guilty of murder whether he intended to kill Bedsole or Leonard.")

acp: thanks for your clarification above. And I'm heartened to discover that "legal issues sometimes interest [you] in a weirdly geeky way." I know just what you mean. ;)
Wow, so paranoid in here... Just remember, nobody is safe in Mutant Enemy... Joss kills people off left and right...
All this legal stuff is kind of missing the point. Sure it might be 'murder' in the legal sense, but it's certainly not murder in the dramatic sense, which I believe is the more relevant. Of course, to Willow, it might as well have been.
I think that each one of you have excellent points, legally,
morally, and dramatically. If you want to know the whole story,
sometimes one must consider it from all angles.
Interesting stuff.

"Here endeth the lesson!"
Jinxieman, as a gay person, I find blase "whatever" comments like yours much more frightening than the rantings of a dozen gay bashers. The bigots and the bashers and the Republicans (and not Joss btw) are the ones that will beat me up and legislate me out of town, out of state, out of the country, but people like you are the ones who will stand idly by and let them, watering your lawn and worrying about your property values.

While you "let your life continue on" you might want to pick up a newspaper and find out what is going in the country you live in.

Just as a "fer instance", let's say what if maybe the government was, among other things, threatening to pass a law amending the Constitution of the country you grew up in that nullified your marriage to your wife? Would you maybe feel "everyone" was passing "judgement" on you and looking for ways to "bring you down"?

And for the record, the Dead Lesbian Cliche is real, but imho, I don't think it applies in the case of Willow and Tara. I think Joss had a little more on the ball than that.
I think we need to cool the discussion down a touch. I take my fair share of responsibility for driving the conversation off-topic, but let's not address personal comments at one another, OK?
Jeebs, It is highly doubtful that you would be legislated out of any town or the country.
People can be cruel, but they can be even-handed and tolerant as well.
This is a two-way street when it comes to people's opinions. I say this with all due respect and no offense intended.
Hey jeebs don't presume to know me or my views based off of one post, I know and like many people who are gay, some of them are very good friends. I guess what I'm saying is that most poeple don't care about your sexual orientation. Unfortanatly the people who seem to care, care in a negative way and give bad press to the rest of us. I don't care how you live your life or who you live it with, but don't presume to think that I would stand by and let someone be hurt by someone else based off their sexual orientation. I'm not evil and I'm not mean, and I don't need to water my lawn, I live in Washington State!
OK. I was pretty shocked the first time I heard the lesbian cliche being applied to Willow and Tara. All I could think was, "But the Scoobies are the Cartwrights of the 90's! Of course Tara was going to die." Admittedly on Bonanza it was a it quicker process. One of the Cartwright boys looked at a woman, she was dead by the end of the episode.

Joss, on the other hand, takes his time to set up the characters so you can really feel the pain. Giles lost his lover first, (unless you count Xander's preying mantis) then Buffy killed her lover to save the world, then they did a fake on Cordelia dying while she was Xander's girlfriend, (they couldn't kill her they needed her on Angel) then Xander's first sexual partner turned evil and was put into a coma, (they would need her later too) then they had a break for a little while and had everyone's lovers just suffering rather than dying so they could kill off someone else Buffy loved, her mother, and of course Buffy herself for the second time...then it was Willow's lover's turn followed by Buffy's and Xander's lovers again. Yes, if you are beloved by a Cartwright Scooby, you are probably going to die.

On the murder thing, I'm not a lawyer, but I also thought that if you kill someone in the commission of a felony, like attempted murder, then you can be charged with murder. Of course morally, accidentally killing one person when you are trying to kill another, sure sounds like murder to me.

On the gay rights front, although things are very scary, I have been encouraged to notice in the last decade plus, that when things get too radical, the American public gets scared too. Yes, there are people trying to restrict gay rights, there always have been. Although in some ways they are succeeding, the fight is also being fought for things that a few years ago were barely being taken seriously.
Wow, I never get too serious in here, I hope, but now I can't help myself.
Master, you said, "Her only flaw was her anger at Willow for the "magic addiction"."
Sorry, that was not a flaw. If you've had a loved one with an addiction, and Willow's magic use was certainly a metaphor for that, then you do exactly what Tara did to stay healthy. No real ifs, ands, or buts there. You do it for both your sake and theirs. Tara never, ever denied her love for Willow. And her leaving was the only way out of that type of relationship. I'm sorry you see it as a "flaw".
I think Joss paid Tara the ultimate compliment by killing her. It meant that he considered her worth killing. He knew her death would justifiably drive Willow over the edge. In order for Willow's arc to fulfill itself, she needed to go over the edge and then crawl her way back. Killing Tara was the proper catalyst for this. By not killing Tara, Joss would have let outside pressure dictate his story, it would have turned Tara into a useless appendage in the context of the story, and it totally would have undercut Willow's arc.

I ask all who are opposed to Tara's death to tell me what else could have been done? Tara was always there to service Willow's arc. That was her sole purpose on the series. She was never really ingratiated into the group like Oz was. She was always kept on the peripheral, occasionally joining in for some fun before moving back into the outskirts. Tara wasn't on the show to serve as a role model or promote a political statement. She was on the show to promote Willow's growth emotionally and magically. Willow had to learn to balance power with life. She had to learn that there are consequences for abuse of power and that she had to quit trying to use magick to help herself and use it to help others. Tara's death was a big wake up call for Willow. Willow bottomed out and barely made it back, but she did, and she was better for it.

If Tara didn't die, where would Willow be today?
I have less of a problem with Tara being killed than how she was killed - and that's what makes it the cliche. It was the most violent, and meaningless death for any major character in the series. She wasn't doing anything to help the scoobies when she was killed, it was as a bystander. The fact that Joss didn't have a solid plan to ask Amber to stick around so he could bring her back in season seven means it wasn't well planned out, it was needed for the moment to trigger Willow. Everyone else who has died in both Buffy and Angel did it in the field of battle.

Again I don't "hate" Joss for doing it, just think it could have been handled and planned better for Amber to come back. The fact that it's the one of the most controversial issues in the whole series and springs up major arguments every time says alot.
RogueScribner, could you try not to sign your posts please? Thanks.

TaraLivesOn: I agree that Tara's death was different in some ways, although as mentioned above, I think Jenny's death at least could lay claim to being equally violent. But even agreeing that Tara's murder was "meaningless," (and it wasn't meaningless in terms of its effect on Willow, and its shocking out-of-the-blue nature served to heighten its impact), I can't connect the dots from that to the fact that she is/was gay. The manner of her death, as I understood it, simply was unrelated to that fact. But I also see that there is a reasonable difference of opinion on this subject, and it's good that we can have a thoughtful discussion about it.
Oh yeah, I forgot the Tara's only flaw being her anger at Willow thing. Totally with April on this and would like to add that by the time Tara actually left, Willow was abusing Tara horribly. She was using magic to try to control Tara's mind. Anything less than the firm stand Tara took would have been not only promoting and enabling Willow's magic addiction, it would also be encouraging emotional abuse. I loved that they did not make Tara a dishrag.
As a lesbian teenager, willow and tara were undoubtedly my favorite couple. When that bullet came through the window and into tara's chest, i was heart broken. i cried, i had nightmares, i thought about it 24/7. I would have begged, and pleaded, and even bribed joss with all the money i had to bring her back. i was also mad, i wondered, how could such an amazing character be killed? But never, for even one second, did i believe it had anything to do with her sexuality. She died because she was the one person that could totally push willow off the edge. People die, its a fact of life. Good people and bad people, gay people and strait people, penquins and armadillos. They all die, it doesnt matter if they save lives, or take them. and it doesnt matter what gender they love. I mourn tara's death, but i will not put undo blame on joss just because she was killed by a cold, sexist and fully rape inclined murdurer.

All i can do is thank Joss for giving me the courage to be myself
Wow. I believe that about wraps it up. Thank you, doublethink84, you help remind me that "young'uns are the future", and it's not all that scary after all.
doublethink84, that was really thoughtful. I have to add that I caught up with Buffy in reruns, so I often sorta knew about major developments before I saw them. I knew Tara would die, but when it happened I was still in total shock. That's Joss fer ya.
I discovered Buffy when I had just moved to a new town and knew no one. Lotsa lotsa drama got me there. If I went on here describing how much his characters meant to me and how much my life has been deeply affected by his works, I'd probably start to sound like early River, babbling incoherently. When absolutely nothing in my solitary life made sense at all, I eventually found the courage to "slay my demons" and not only that, but to execute most of my plans in full-on Buffy fashion. Meaning, to just, well, rock it out and try to enjoy the ride, smiling about the irony along the way.
So, I'm no longer a stoned grad school dropout mourning the exhusband who fled. <---- won't bore you with the long version, complete with blow-by-blow "rocket launchers". I'm now pretty darn stable and three classes away from my degree.
Joss is my Buddha. I am enlightened. He had a hella lot more influence than any therapist.
Again I don't "hate" Joss for doing it, just think it could have been handled and planned better for Amber to come back.


Don't take this the wrong way, but why should Tara have come back? Her death would be pretty cheap if she was brought back. What kind of growth would Giles have had if Jenny was brought back, what kind of growth would Buffy have had if Joyce was brought back? It's like a reset button. It undercuts the drama when deaths aren't permanent.

The two biggest events in conflict with my statement are the returns of Angel and Spike (both supernatural characters, BTW). In Angel's case, a case was made that the First Evil brought him back to bring about an apocalypse. His return concerned and confused Buffy and they didn't end up together in the end anyway. In Spike's case, well, I'm not really sure why he was brought back (in universe) and I do feel his sacrifice at the end of "Chosen" was cheapened by his return.

Tragedy just isn't so tragic when the events are undone.
All this discussion of manslaughter vs. murder has been fascinating. Thanks for your legal expertise, SNT, and your geeky interest, acp. Interesting stuff.

In terms of the dead lesbian cliche, however, whether Tara was murdered or not by Warren (and I am swayed by your lawerly arguments, SNT), what is important is that Tara as a gay character was metaphorically murdered by the writers - not necessarily that she was murdered, or killed by accident, or hit by a bus. A lesbian character was written off in a violent way and this sent her surviving lesbian lover on a desperate, evil course of vengeance and near destruction of the world. In the dead lesbian cliche, gay characters are ultimately punished for their gayness....they are not allowed by the writers to live out happy lives because they are deeply sinful. Their relationships are tragically ended, they themselves go evil or die horribly and it's all very awful and sad and scary but deep down it's what they deserve, because they are "sinful" gay people. That's the essence of the dead lesbian cliche. (Although I in no way think that this applies to the case of Tara's death. Not all lesbian deaths can be tied to this cliche, nor should they be, obviously.)

That the dead lesbian cliche exists in film and TV is not much debated among film historians of various stripes - there's plenty of compelling literature on this and it cannot be reduced to a simple matter of political correctness or subscribing to certain political beliefs. (Unless you argue that there simply is no intolerance towards gays and lesbians, and to say there is means that you are just being tiresomely "politically correct," in which case I'm scared of you.) Intolerance and hatred towards gays and lesbians is out there and has been out there for a long time. That gay characters have been "punished" in moral object lessons on film and television should surprise no one. There's a pattern of this; it is well-documented and there's plenty of good literature and research to check out on this. And it is a sad, sad thing. But in the case of Tara and Willow, I believe that the "dead lesbian cliche" simply does not apply. Their creators (Joss et. al.) clearly did not find lesbianism to be a dark sin that must be punished because it is evil. They clearly did not find lesbianism to be shameful. Tara and Willow and their relationship were treated just as other romantic relationships in the Buffyverse - bad things ultimately happened because that's that world. But Tara and Willow actually got more good, loving relationship time than anyone else. It was a beautiful thing while it lasted.

[ edited by phlebotinin on 2005-05-07 08:16 ]
To be fair, RogueScribner Joss is quoted as saying he wanted to bring Tara back at the end of season 7 by a Buffy wish.
eddy, I'm glad that didn't happen. To me, that totally would have undone all the suffering and growth Willow experienced.

phelbotinin, I agree that Tara did not suffer the "dead lesbian cliché." You said that, "Gay characters are ultimately punished for their gayness....they are not allowed by the writers to live out happy lives because they are deeply sinful." Tara and Willow were in a relationship for two years. Obviously, Tara was not being "punished" for being a lesbian, but rather she suffered because she was the one person in the whole world who Willow cared for the most. It very easily could have been Oz in that role if Seth Green didn't leave the show. I think people should focus less on what they feel was taken away from them and instead focus on what they were given. What other television series at the time had such a prolonged and stable gay relationship? I can't think of any.
I've said so much over the past few years that it bothers me to see this issue crop up yet again. Look at this way. If you are a gay teen or young adult, you see very little representation of yourself on tv or in the media. There are no models. Everywhere you look, what you see are hetero c ouple protrayed on TV, and no one gives it a thought, because it is the status qho. Gay teens are relegated to Other. And then someone comes along and puts a gay couple of TV, and it is one that is loving and tender and for once you get to see yourself. You identify.

No one worries too much when a straight couple is ended badly on TV, for there are many others always. But this one, this is unusual. And it is taken from you, in a most unexpected way. And then you see the traditional trope played out- death of one leads to madness and criminality in the other. And you see way too many people try to brush it away, because the creator is so well respected and beloved that he is above making a mistake. Your concerns are minimized; you are told that your interpretation is wrong- that even though you can see the direct evidence of the evil/dead lesbian cliche before your eyes, it isn't really there because Joss would never invoke it. Only Joss has admitted that he sort of did, because he is so close to his characters that he cannot see how others might interpret what he did.

If all this seems a bit much, consider this: It is more than 3 years after Tara was killed, the original thread that this debate is taking place on was actually about how a writer of an article met Amber Benson (which is why I was reading the post, since I love her work and wanted to see what other comments people had about her), and there are nearly 50 posts about Tara's death. Thed truth is, it still hurts a hell of a lot of people, one posting board is dedicated to this issue (kittenboard) and the topic is one that will likely gollow Joss to the grave. There isn't any real controversy over the death of Jenny Calender- but there sure is about Tara. Doesn't this tell you something.

And can I ask why we are splitting hairs on whether Warren committed murder or manslaughter? Does it matter in the context of the program? (BTW, there is no question that legally in CA he is guilty of murderm despite the moral question of intent that seems to drive people. My own feeling is that if you are too concerned about this, are you trying to downplay Tara's death, for why would it matter to the show?).
Wow, thanks guys. Certainly, I was heartbroken at Tara's death, and sad that such a rare character was lost, however well it served the story. But I really never thought about it from the depth of these varied and considered perspectives, and I'm thankful to have my eyes opened by the smart, funny, compassionate people in this community. It's why I'm here.

[ edited by barest_smidgen on 2005-05-07 15:41 ]
I see nothing cliche about her death and it's too bad so many people do. Why don't I? People die multiple deaths every hour that television broadcasts anywhere. That's the period.
TaraLivesOn: Tara needed to die in that way. Her death had to be sudden to have that impact, and it had to be random and unjust and unfair and unexpected and unglorified to have the effect on the audience and on Willow that it did. If she had died in battle, in a field of glory, saving the rest of the Scoobies, it would have been much less frustrating and much less likely to drive anyone to violence. Tara's death is so frustrating because it feels like she died before her time, and from the story standpoint, that's exactly what you want. Not a graceful dive off a tower, martyring herself for all of mankind a la Buffy.

Gays and Lesbians are under represented on television, and so I can understand that there's a special connection to Tara and to Willow for being realistically portrayed characters. But I still think it would be more insulting, more bigoted, to not kill Tara simply because she's a lesbian. Joss killed her to serve the story, just as he did Jenny. But if he had said "No, can't do that, she's gay", then he would have been treating the character differently than the others because of that, which is the definition of bigotry, and racism, and all those other lovely ism's.

Tara's death meets the cliché in so much as she's a lesbian character, and she died. But the difference here is that she wasn't killed because she was a lesbian, either within the story or from the perspective of the writers. Does anyone here really think Joss killed Tara because he wanted to send the message that lesbianism was wrong? I don't think so.

Tara's death was genuine and it was sincere. It served the story. While I can understand being frustrated and being saddened, I don't think her sexuality was even an issue.

The world could do with less apathy and the world could do with less discrimination, but the ongoing controversy about the death of Tara doesn't prove to me that the motivation was cliché and gay punishment. The ongoing controversy just proves to me that Tara was a loved character, and that Joss created powerful television.

Which, as far as I'm concerned, is kinda the point.
The world could do with less apathy and the world could do with less discrimination, but the ongoing controversy about the death of Tara doesn't prove to me that the motivation was cliché and gay punishment. The ongoing controversy just proves to me that Tara was a loved character, and that Joss created powerful television.

Which, as far as I'm concerned, is kinda the point.


Well said, Gonnas. I agree 100%. IMO, Joss paid Tara the ultimate compliment by thinking she was worthy of death. Every week on the series we saw people die that we didn't really know, but we had to know the bad guy was evil and Buffy had to jump into action. Every once in a while, the Scooby Gang's security blanket had to be taken away, they had to be hit with a speeding emotional locomotive, and one of their own would perish senselessly. Such was the case with Jenny Calendar, such was the case with Joyce, such was the case with Fred, and so it was with Tara.

I'm sorry gays aren't better represented on television, but it's not the job of producers to make political statements. They think of a story to tell, one that hopefully will affect the viewers and possibly impart a moral lesson, and they do it. The only controversy lies in the fact that people feel robbed of a character. Well, good. You were supposed to feel that. Her death wasn't supposed to be good or noble. It was supposed to be as random and senseless as possible. It was supposed to be unfair.

Let's assume Seth Green never left the series. Joss has said that Oz and Willow would have continued to be a couple throughout the next few seasons. He has said that if it wasn't Tara, it would have been Oz killed that fateful day. I love Oz. I was sad to see him go in S4. I thought Oz and Willow made the perfect couple. If Oz was suddenly disposed of like that, you know what? I wouldn't have liked it. I'd be upset, too. But after the initial shock, I'd realize it was necessary for Willow and deal.

I think a lot of people have a problem dealing with Tara's death. What I don't understand is how anyone watching the show could not have predicted it? Happiness = eventual heartache in the Buffyverse. It was only a matter of time, no?

So my question is, for all who have a problem with Tara's death, is it the manner of her demise that is the issue or the death itself? I suppose the manner can be debated (to avoid the dead/evil lesbian cliché), but the death itself was always going to happen. I remember S6. Everyone seemed to know it even before the season began. In fact, it was anticipated. Not out of malice towards the character, but because we knew what it would bring. Namely, Dark Willow. The whole season, nay the series, was driving towards Willow's bottoming out after her abuse of power and being consumed by her emotions. It made sense that she'd need a catalyst to push her over the edge. What's better than the death of a loved one? As soon as Willow went after Glory in S5 I knew this was coming. That was the prelude to the big event.

It's unfortunate that a character many people loved had to be killed off. I find it unfortunate that three years later people are still upset about it and think Tara was singled out. As Gonnas stated above, I think she would have been singled out for her gayness if Joss deemed her untouchable. Call me crazy, but I think two years of a stable gay relationship on network television is something to be cherished and applauded. If Joss were seriously to enact the dead/evil lesbian cliché, why not in S4? Why let the relationship prosper? Joss loved Tara. Supposedly, he even wanted to bring her back. I'm sure he didn't intend to provoke so much ire in people. He just wanted to tell his story and the fact that Willow's lover was a girl didn't seem like an issue. To many people it was. But I guess Whedon was too progressive. He thought Tara was just like any other character on his show and treated her as such. Guess he won't make that mistake again.
Here is the point. With regard to the cliche, it is not for anyone here to say yay or nay to whether or not someone else sees it invoked. A lot of people did, period. You didn't. Fine. So many people automatically assume that this death was mandated to push the story of Willow, but I have read numerous alternative story lines that would have accomplished the same thing without taking away a truly beloved character. Do I think Joss meant to invoke the cliche? Not for a moment. Do I think he did, to a lot of people? Absolutely. Would it have mattered if he brought her back? No- and that would have been a cheat, in fact, to what he claimed to be trying to accomplish, and it would have been a sop to the fans- though I personally would have been thrilled to see Tara back in general terms. I loved her more than any character.

I have a different problem. My problem is that the death of Tara changed Willow irrevocably. I found her S7 character a pale shadow of what she had been. Willow in S7 was always low key, timorous and in fact relegated to secondary status- as was, btw, Xander, in lieu of all the potentials. This is a separate argument, but Willow was not the same person (and yes, I know that the loss would affect her, but the way she was used in S7 was in my mind fairly deplorable). I believe that Willow is a more popular character than Buffy, and that loss made S7 much less than it could have been, since the character I cared about most was diminshed in role and time.
Um, Dana5140, - I'll thank you to please never, EVER post anything like that again on this site unless it's in a spoiler thread. That was unbelievably uncool. I'm furious. I did. not. need. that. Unbelievable.

[ edited by SoddingNancyTribe on 2005-05-08 05:27 ]
I've invisibled the relevant text in Dana5140's post and, out of an abundance of caution, also the reference to it in Phleb's.

Dana5140, you've been around long enough to know the drill: anything that might be a spoiler goes in invisible text, and preferably prefaced by [SPOILER] or something similar. I too am pretty pissed, having remained successfully 99% spoiler free.

(ETA: per purplehazel's suggestion below, I've removed the reference entirely)
Sorry, all, and seriously so- thought I had coded it, and did not read the post once I had it written. Yes, I would always spoil such a comment and meant to do so, but fouled up by writing too quickly.
Oh no - I thought I was safe here.

SNT - I wonder if you might not delete the thing rather than just invisitext it. Others may do what I did - very foolishly I now realise - which was to open up the first reference in the mistaken belief that it was a spoiler about Amber's film (which, living in Australia I'm unlikely to see any time soon). Even with the invisitext it didn't cross my mind that it would read as it does. So I'm doubly annoyed - with the poster and with myself for being selective about what I'm willing to be spoiled about.

[ edited by purplehazel on 2005-05-08 16:17 ]
Purplehazel, I almost did the same thing, I started to highlight it and saw the beginnings of the first word and stopped before I saw anything else. I also thought it was going to be something related to BtVS or Amber Benson and did not expect anything like that in this thread. Dana5140, I know you apologized and all but it is pretty well known that everyone who does not wish to be spoiled for Serenity has been very verbal about that and this site has made a huge effort to provide threads for Spoiler and non spoiler topics on the subject. People then feel completely safe (or should feel safe) when not in a thread that is discussing something else. Your comment, in my opinion, did not belong in this thread at all. I am tremendously looking forward to Serenity and I would've also been furious if I had read something pertaining to the movie that ruined the experience for me. I feel really bad for Phlebotinin and SNT that their chance of seeing Serenity unspoiled has now been ruined.

I believe that you are sorry and didn't mean to post it the way you did but that is why there is a preview button and you should've read it before you posted it to make sure you weren't spoiling anyone who didn't want to be spoiled and I also don't think it belonged in this thread either. It wasn't the place for it at all.
Killing off the nameless Star Trek crewmember....killing off the 'black best friend' to fuel the hero's revenge quest, killing the lesbian....these are all existing cliches, yes. But I think it's odd that the other end of the spectrum can apparently be that no black person or lesbian 'should' ever be killed.

If you truly write your characters equally, regardless of age, gender, sexuality, etc. then you shouldn't NOT kill a character because she's a lesbian either. Isn't equal treatment the point? I'd maybe understand the complaints if Tara was the only regular character ever killed off, but really....Joss killed a lot more 'straight' characters than gay characters. And as I and others never get tired of pointing out, it was planned way in advance, and was originally supposed to be Oz that got killed to send Willow off the deep end.

It always pisses me off to see accusations leveled at Joss about mistreating lesbians, considering he put one of the few (and earliest) genuine, ongoing lesbian relationships on TV.

If Seth Green hadn't left the show, would people complain Joss went with the 'cliche' of killing off the short guy? Doubt it. Yet it would have been the same story element for the same reason with the same consequences. So that only means that to Joss there IS no difference between killing a hetero or gay love interest. The key word here would be 'love interest' without any adjectives.

As for Willow being diminished in S7, I agree but that was mainly due to her not getting much attention. Most of the former season had been about her so it made sense there'd be less focus on her now. It's just too bad Amber didn't want to come back and Joss conjured up Kennedy and the only rushed and rather forced relationship on the show. It doesn't make me wish the Dark Willow plot never happened. I thought that was a powerful story with one of the best season endings of the series.

("I'd like to test that theory..." Come on. One of the coolest moments 'evah'....;-)
I seem to be the only one who heard, years ago, that a couple of the writers kept the extra footage as porn for themselves. Don't know if it's true or not, but this certainly isn't the first I've heard of this footage.
And again with the sorry, quoting Xander. Like I said, I failed to read the preview, in a haste to post. And believe it or not, I am not all that html coding savvy (for example, I do not know how to quote someone here).

I feel caught between the Scylla of Whedonesque and the Charybdis of the Kittens- I think, personally, Joss is a geniius, and that he made a mistake in killing Tara. My reasons about Tara have nothing to do with her being a lesbian per se, though I feel that he did hurt his glbt audience in ways we who are straight cannot understand, though I acknowledge that not all my gay friends feel as strongly about this as some of the others. But this is not the time or place for a lengthy dissertation on that- if someone can tell me how to get to the flickr site (is that where freewheeling discussions occur?), I will be happy to discuss it there. I am at Dana5140@aol.com if this is OT or requries too much space to address.

As for Amber, I feel that this controversy follows her where she goes, and in the long run hurts her ability to find work- see, here, for a new movie of hers, we are still talking events of 3 years ago. And I dearly want to see her get more work- she's good, she's intelligent, and she's really, really pretty.
Dana5140, [SPOILER][/SPOILER]

Anyway, the point is that while Tara's death is related to Willow's arc in S7, it's not the direct master of it. The writers had options. They chose to let her sit around with Xander, who should be used to sitting around doing nothing after the previous season. But that's another story.

I think Joss was so focused on launching FIREFLY that he couldn't be as thorough with the other series. BUFFY suffered the worst for his absence. Willow could have and should have had an arc in S7 where she built herself up again, but after some quick stuff in the beginning of the season, she (and most other Scoobies) were pushed aaide for n00bs. She was arbitrarily handed off into another lesbian relationship, just to make sure we knew she was still gay, and she mostly just sat around and felt unsure of herself for most of the season.

I never really cared for Tara but I'd choose her anyday over Kennedy. Oy. Did you notice how Willow was more Willow on ANGEL that year than on her home show? It's all about the writers. The writers on BUFFY chose to do nothing with her character and the writers of ANGEL thought of something cool to do with her.

You can't blame Tara's death for Willow's arc in S7. Sure, they're related events, but the writers chose to do absolutely nothing with Willow and Xander and Dawn and Anya in favor of pushing Buffy and Spike some more and focusing on new and mostly uninteresting characters. I can only attribute the influx of new characters and the constant focus on them week after week as posturing for a spin off series. It's my biggest beef with S7: I wanted to spend some quality time with the characters I loved, not a bunch of n00bs (this includes you Andrew).

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