How Buffy The Vampire Slayer Laid the Groundwork for Queer Media

How+Buffy+The+Vampire+Slayer+Laid+the+Groundwork+for+Queer+Media

Willow Tyler, Student

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a show about a teenage girl and her group of friends fighting the forces of darkness, demons, and of course…vampires. The show follows a young girls (Buffy) journey on accepting the role of the  vampire slayer and the responsibility, heartbreak, and sacrifice it takes. All while still including normal teen situations such as homework, college, and growing pains in general. 

And of course… Spoilers for the show ahead!!

Buffy (middle) and the scoobie gang

Those who know Buffy the Vampire Slayer, also know the importance of its existence within the media, and its ability to break down barriers. In Fact it was created to break down barriers. The idea of a sole protagonist who was a girl (that didn’t focus on only men) was almost unheard of before Buffy. Especially in the badass setting Buffy was in. But the inclusion doesn’t stop at gender. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was the first mainstream television series to show a gay kiss on camera. The show also includes long lasting queer relationships, the struggles of coming out, and countless moments the LGTBQIA+ community know all too well. While some may watch the show and cringe at some of the moments that feel homophobic, its important to remember the show was created during the 1990’s where homophobia was still rampant. The show opened the door for other shows, movies, and all forms of media to show queer relationships in its true form.

 

 Representation (lgbtq wise) that needs to be included is the of the depth of the queer relationship or queer character. Many tv shows (especially in the 90’s) had brief side characters as representation of relationships that felt forced or not real. Author Carl Eden stated that, “Buffy was one of the first television shows to show LGBT people as real people.“. This can be seen when Willow Rosenberg, (Buffy’s best friend, and a core member of the Scooby Gang) came out to Buffy, and her character only became more real and more raw, rather than being shut out or given less screen time. Willow showed struggles many queer views could relate too and became a symbol of hope for many. Willow’s character didn’t revolve around her sexual orientation either. It was simply a fact about her, like Buffy’s blonde hair. Willows depth and entire character showed as an example of true queer representation within the media. 

 

The most groundbreaking act that happened on the show was Willow and Taras (Willow’s past girlfriend)  kiss. Though gay kisses have been shown on tv before Buffy, they were mostly side characters, characters we’d never see again, or “queerbaiting” which is defined as false representation. The GSN stated that, “Before Willow, a kiss between two women on TV was seen as a way to boost ratings on an ‘adult’ show. Look at Ally McBeal and the kiss between Calista Flockhart and Lucy Liu.” Willow and Tara’s relationship was real. But it did take a while to get there. The WB and many other tv broadcasting companies did not allow Whedon to show Willow and Taras kiss. In Fact for the first season of their relationship it was censored. After the show moved to a new broadcasting company the show blossomed and within that, Willow and Tara’s relationship. Many queer viewers around the world sent letters to Whedon, and the cast members on how WIllow and Taras relationship helped them come out, not feel ashamed, and to be who they truly are.

Willow (left) and Tara (right)

But Buffy wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Many homophobic aspects still linger around the show, such as Willow being forced to be a lesbian, even though she showed both attraction to women and men throughout the series. Joss Whedon stated she was in fact bisexual, but feared the backlash the show would’ve gotten, as even the lesbian representation angered many. Another closeted character that was confirmed to be gay by Whedon, but never officially came out on the show- was Andrew (another friend of the scoobies). Though many fans wish that Whedon had included those characters’ true identities on the show, it’s still important to recognize the history he was able to make. One of the most devastating scenes on the show was when Tara was shot on screen by Warren (season sixes villain or “big bad”). After she died many viewers couldn’t help but feel hurt that Willow and Taras relationship was put to such a sudden end. The idea, to many, felt homophobic. It was the only queer representation many were getting and it was just gone. Like that. Whedon quickly cleared the air after season six ended. He stated in an interview that “Tara’s death has nothing to do with sexuality but with drama – Willow needs a catalyst to push her over the edge and Tara’s death is the plot device to do this”. In season seven Willow eventually moves on from Tara and begins dating Kennedy, which only just assured fans that Buffy is one of the best shows for queer representation.

 

All in all “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” has made a historical impact on beginning to crack down on homophobia in the media, and including more than just straight white men on camera. Whether its gay witches, metaphors in episodes, and constant gay jokes that are actually funny instead of hurtful, Buffy the Vampire Slayer has got it. The show has comforted many that are part of the community, and has ensured us that no matter who you are, you have a place in the world.