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January 17 2006

PODCAST Gluttony, the Most Delicious Sin: a commentary on Buffy's "Band Candy". SMRT-TV's thirds in a series of podcasts featuring televison episodes that represent the seven major sins.

hmmm there was a link in the article that basically lambasts Whedon's gay characters. Had this beenn posted before?

my lezbian is pastede on yay: An Open Letter to Joss Whedon


While Willow didn't necesarily "feel" gay to many...That alone makes her an outstanding portrayal...because not all gay folks are the same.
Not all lesbians look the same....Not all gay men mince...Not all lesbians have short haircuts or eschew femininity....and certainly not all gay men eschew masculinity ie. Larry the football player.

And about those who were upset at Tara's death in Season 6.
Foooooey!
She was awesome yes...and their relationship was an incredibly positive portrayal.
But her death had nothing...NOTHING...to do with her sexuality (which is the sort of thing that TV and Hollywood has always done to gay characters--- victims of their sexuality)...
No...
The love that Willow felt...the relationship they shared was powerful and the fact that her violent death (at the hands of a misogynist) nearly destroys Willow (and the world!) is an incredible well articulated statement on the authenticity of same-sex love.
Because face it folks, the homophobes out there think it's just a case of "stunted" adolescence that can be "cured" or they think that it's unnatural and therefore any love that comes from it is "not real".

So...to Joss, I say..."What you did with gay characters was a good thing!"

[ edited by hbojorquez on 2006-01-17 00:43 ]
Not all gay men mince

And my world comes crashing down :(
Fun! Definitely a keeper!
Ethan Rayne was gay? And/or killed-off? I suppose his boyhood raising hell relationship with Ripper and friends (...sinister name for a Smile Time replacement there...) could be seen that way, but I'm pretty sure he never died. Didn't he come back sometime for the videogame which was his last chronological appearance in season five-ish?

As for the rest of the stuff, I thought some of the anger was misplaced. They were annoyed that Willow stayed gay since it seemed forced (...which it did seem, given the episode where she falls for a magically enchanted boy and feels she needs to turn him into a female). Yet she was also annoyed when Andrew had two girls on his arms which they thought meant he was straight rather than bi. Even though that was the argument that Willow should have been...
Last I saw, Ethan Raine was being lead off to some form of incarceration. Gay? Maybe. Dead? Not last we heard unless I missed something.

I was rather surprised when I read that it was thought Andrew having two beautiful women pick him up at the apartment was a signal that he was suddenly straight. An awful lot of gay men I have known through my life have loved to dress up and go out with glamorous women. Not to mention that Andrew has never openly admitted being gay. He has always pretended to be sexually attracted to women when it would make him more likely to fit in.

I was also surprised at the assertion that Willow simply was not gay. She was a fake and the author of the letter knew it. It made me feel sorry for people who have judgmental people on both sides condemning them for being gay from one side and the other side demanding that they prove their gayness by being their vision of what gay looks and acts like. I actually had a conversation like that with a group of lesbians who asserted that you could tell whether a woman was a lesbian by how well they played pool. Toungue-in-cheek you say? Maybe a little by the end, but at the beginning they were absolutely serious. As someone pointed out at the end of the conversation, which ranged far past pool, "Did you notice that not one of the ways of telling who was a lesbian involved figuring out who she was sleeping with?" All I could say was, "Yes, as a matter of fact I did." Though I have to agree with a fellow I know that the only real reason to figure it out at all, is if you are interested in dating her yourself. ;-)

As far as gays having a short life span on BTVS, everybody had a short life expectancy...especially if the Scoobies had feelings for them. Buffy, Willow, Xander and Giles were the Ben, Adam, Hoss, and Little Joe of the 90's. At least Joss let the victim stick around for a little while to let us really get to like them before he killed them. If the Cartwrights looked at a woman sideways at the beginning of an episode, she was dead by the end of it.
I agree with everyone, pretty much. Another point I'd like to correct

"But if the only place you're going to acknowledge the sexual aspects of their relationship is the DVD commentary, it doesn't actually count."

Wasn't there a quick reference to "that one time" between Angel and Spike somewhere in season five? Similar to the look between Spike and Xander in Beneath You.

Regarding the neverending controversy over Tara's death, yes, we all loved her, but honestly her death wasn't too unexpected considering the high mortality rate in Sunnydale. As I think one of the writers once said, it would have actually been homophobic NOT to have killed Tara, that Willow and Tara were safe and couldn't be killed because they were lesbians, as if there only to placate the lesbian community.

The fact that we were able to share with the characters the good times and ultimately the tragedy was perfectly in line with every other relationship in the show, and they didn't get any special treatment, thus showing how normal their relationship was, not "the token lesbian relationship to placate the politically correct".
Ethan Rayne wasn't gay he was just English (*ducks* ;).

Re: Tara, a) she was around for about 2-3 seasons so not particularly short lived and b) to me (and others it would seem, the letter's author excepted) she died because Willow (and the audience) loved her. It hurt us and the characters for her to go and so she went (i'd really, really have liked to have seen the 'Buffy's Wish' episode but it wasn't to be). I see her death as, perhaps, a point being made about the world and its treatment of gay people since Warren is a mysoginist and she was killed with a gun. It's a very jarring intervention of the real world into BtVs's fantasy universe (any number of vamps, demons etc. could've killed Buffy if they'd just popped down to their local Guns 'R' Us but normally it's not a part of the show's ethos) and in a way Warren symbolises the very worst aspects of a patriarchal society.

Also, in my head, Larry didn't die (tho' his back was broken) and went on to become a para-olympian and a great ambassador for gay rights (hey, I liked the guy, OK ? ;).
Well, of course Tara wasn't killed BECAUSE she was gay. But, that certainly doesn't mean that her sexuality had nothing to do with it, either.

It's not a coincidence that she gets shot as soon as she and Willow get back together (after the first scenes where we actually see them in bed together, in fact). Does that make the show homophobic or misogynist? No, of course not... not necessarily. Warren is, clearly, misogynist, so it's about misogyny, rather than being misogynist itself, perhaps. But, that doesn't absolve the plot from hints of homophobia/misogyny as well... Willow's whole story arc in Season 6 (which I absolutely love) has, at least, undertones of homophobia running throughout it.
Buffy, Willow, Xander and Giles were the Ben, Adam, Hoss, and Little Joe of the 90's.

Best BtVS analogy EVER!

And thanks everyone for the great discussion, I hadn't expected that it would go in this direction when I posted the link. What a pleasant surprise!
I agree that it is not a coincidence that Tara got shot as soon as she and Willow got back together, because IMO that is always the moment of the most joy and hope for the future, for the audience as well as the characters. Willow and Tara were going to be alright. Willow was off the magik and Tara had come back to her. They were shown in bed together to punch up the feeling of everything being right with the world again. That way, when the axe falls, or the gunshot is heard, a wonderful world is shattered at the most heartwrenching time for both Willow and the audience.

Could someone interpret Willow embrassing evil for vengence in a homophobic way? IMO absolutely. Could they point out that it is a man's love that saves her from the evil and conclude more homophobic messages? IMO again yes. But also IMO any complex story about human beings that has one or more gay characters can be interpretted as having homophobic messages. To have characters who are not cardboard cutouts they have to have faults and sometimes an old friend who is most capable of communicating their love to you might be male.

The other option is not to have any gay characters, or to have them be the only perfect and unchanging characters. Of course that would be marginalizing them.

Oh, and I had forgotten about his comment that the relationship between Spike and Angel was only acknowledged in the commentary. Besides the "Except for that one time." comment (Along with "I was so drunk I don't remember anything." isn't that considered a stereotypical line to justify gay sex by guys who consider themselves straight?) there is Angelus's line to the newly made vampire William about wanting to ravish the innocent with another man not making him a degenerate to which William and Angelus laugh. It sure seemed to me that William was agreeing to all kinds of things with that laugh.
Thanks newcj!
I came from a lit crit world where a pencil and a pen could be accused of as being "phallocentric" and oppressive symbols--- and while my own sympathies are ALWAYS with feminists and gay critics, there is absolutely NO way that one can please everyone.
Although for me the "litmus" test is relatively simple--
1. Are the characters victims BECAUSE of their sexuality
a. if so is it an external victimization that is realistic.
2. Is there a pattern?

And on those counts, BTVS was pretty much a breakthrough show.
Even the most "gay friendly" shows are quite asexual and terribly stereotypical in their portrayal... i.e. Will and Grace- a great and funny show but deeply flawed

BTVS pretty much broke the "asexual" gay mode or the victim gay mode.

Heck...I stopped watching Desperate Housewives because the gay kid was bordering on pyscho.
And Six Feet Under--- hmmm-- sorry but David was such a victim to everyone that it made me wince half the time. And yet...everyone thought that show was ALL positive! Go figure.
Good points newcj and hbojorquez, you can read a lot into any text but sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

E.g. Buffy's lover Angel dies, Giles' lover Jenny dies, Xander's lover Anya dies and arguably none of the straight relationships end happily (Faith and Wood maybe ?). Does that make the show heterophobic (if there is such a word) ? At the end of season 6 the world is saved with love and kindness when Xander (a carpenter) is willing to lay down his life for everyone. Does that mean that Joss Whedon, an avowed (tho' not particularly militant) atheist, is endorsing Christianity ?

I agree with Septimus that the show portrays misogyny/homophobia but, personally, I don't detect any from behind the scenes.

On an actually related note ;), even tho' I don't really believe in sin in the religious sense the commentary is fun and pretty interesting (tho' I haven't got the episode on DVD so can't watch along) especially the way different traditions treat the effects of sin on personality and the reasons for avoiding it (also the sweater/skirt combo advice ;).
I actually think it may have had more to do with Tara's gender than anything. I'm not suggesting that the ME team were misogynistic in any way, but I sort of have a theory that the deaths of female characters were generally perceived as more tragic or emotional, hence they were more numerous and more important in both Buffy and Angel.

If you look at the different relationships, for example, even though Angel effectively "died" when Buffy sent him to hell, he came back. Same for Spike, who was resurrected after his sacrifice in Chosen. Riley left of his own choice, as did Oz.

Contrast this with the female characters. Jenny was the first to go. Joyce, although not really in a relationship with anyone, was still an important character. Then there was Tara. And Anya. Buffy's death in season five, although not permenant, was still pretty important and emotional. Over on Angel, Cordy and Fred bit the dust in quick succession halfway through season five. The only real exception, the only permenant death of a male character, was Doyle.

I just find it interesting that Buffy's boyfriends managed to leave their relationships with her, alive, or at the least, undead. Oz was Willow's only boyfriend and he left alive. I think that it just happens that female characters tend to suffer more, although this could also be due to the higher ratio of women to men on Buffy, most of the time. The way I see it, Tara was another beloved female character whose death was going to upset the audience.
The way I see it, Tara was another beloved female character whose death was going to upset the audience.

Very true.

But consider another perspective: a lot of gay viewers were upset because a long-standing gay relationship on television was destroyed. In a world where positive gay relationships are very few and far between, losing the longest-running complex gay relationship on network television is a huge deal.

This shouldn't be confused with those who argue that she died because she was gay - or even that the series fell into the trap that it fit the stereotype; gay lover is killed, other lover turns to psychotic revenge.

Imagine if you didn't see such an important aspect of your life portrayed on television. If your love life was marginalised in the media. Losing one of very few examples would likely be heartbreaking - especially losing it in that particular way.
I totally agree that gay people are very under-represented or innaccurately represented in television, which is unfortunate, and I understand that Willow and Tara were a rare example of a solid, loving and believable couple. Of course it was difficult for all of us to watch when their relationship was wrenched apart, but I just think that had Willow and Tara been untouchable, whilst all of the other relationships around them continuned to change and sometimes fall apart, then that would have been a situation of totally political correctness.

I think my badly paraphrased quote is appropriate- "'Tis better to have loved and lost than to never to love at all." The very fact that Willow and Tara were around at all and had such a beautiful relationship is important. And I think the fact that Willow was still a lesbian woman after her death was still fair and accurate representation of the community, and her moving on with Kennedy, whilst some felt it was betraying Tara, also showed a normal part of any relationship, gay or straight.

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