After several false starts, I’ve finally figured out exactly how to express my feelings about what happened with Willow in Buffy season 4 and after. I’ll express it with pure, undiluted sarcasm and irony. By the way, this contains spoilers for the entire Buffy series and several references to Angel The Series.
I understand that the creators and characters of the Buffyverse don’t have the same “values” as me. I get that. I got that long before I even started watching the series (in January of this year). I understand and tolerate that. But I got this rather large “That Just Ain’t Right” feeling around the middle of season 4 and throughout the rest of the series. Willow turning from Nerd to Cool is okay. Willow turning from Cool to Amateur Witch is okay (especially in the context of the series). Willow turning from Straight to Lesbian… Just Ain’t Right.
The fact that Willow is a lesbian isn’t the main problem. The two main problems are that Willow really isn’t a lesbian, but she says she is, and that the relationship between Willow and Tara is the only example of a “good” sexual relationship in the entire Buffy/Angelverse. (All right, there is exactly one other good sexual relationship, but it’s barely shown.)
(By good sexual relationship, I mean one that actually lasts for more than one and a half seasons and the characters in the relationship don’t break up for stupid reasons. I’m including married couples in this definition, which obviously includes Buffy’s parents and Xander’s parents. Xander and Anya have an almost really good relationship which is completely ruined by a misunderstanding at the wedding, and what happens after the wedding pretty much negates any good their relationship had done previously. But back to Willow and Tara.)
Let’s examine the first problem in depth.
Let’s say that Willow didn’t fall for Tara but instead fell for a guy named Todd. Let’s say that girls who love guys named Todd are called Toddlovers. Let’s see how such a scenario would play out:
Previously on Buffy, Oz and Willow were very nearly the perfect couple. The Nerdy Witch and the Werewolf Guitarist. Then Oz made the humungous mistake of sleeping with a werewolf-girl. While under the circumstances it may have seemed like a good idea at the time (he was doing it, in part, to protect his friends (just watch the episode, it’s complicated)), Willow was extremely upset by it. Then the werewolf-girl came after Willow and tried to kill Willow. Oz managed to control his wolf-side enough to kill the werewolf-girl to save Willow. Oz had never been able to control his wolf-side at all before, so he decided to leave so he could learn to control it without putting his friends in danger. Oz leaving upset Willow more than Oz sleeping with another girl, but Oz was determined that leaving for an indeterminate period of time was better for them.
Then, instead of waiting for Oz to come back, Willow decided to shack up with the first person who shared a common interest with her. Willow likes magic. Tara likes magic. Willow likes Tara. Tara happens to be a lesbian. Therefore Willow must also be a lesbian! A truly astounding feat of logic, and not at all contrary to the fact that Willow is also supposed to be smart enough to hack into government computers at a whim!
So, Willow and Todd are together. Oz is back in town, just a few weeks after he had left, with great news for Willow. Oz can finally control his Wolf side! Too bad Willow’s decided to play for a completely different team…
Todd: Doop, de doo. Walking down the hall, yes I’m walkin’ down the hall…
Todd: Hey! I’m Todd, who are you?
Oz: I’m Oz. Willow’s boyfreind. You have Willow’s scent on you!
Todd: Yes? Oh, I’m borrowing her sweater.
Oz: Oh, that’s weird, but okay.
Todd: Also, she’s my girlfriend.
Oz: Grrrr! I’m losing control of my wolfishness at the sudden surprise that my girlfriend has become a Toddlover and didn’t even bother to tell me! Raaaarrrrrrr!
Todd: Zoinks! I’m outta here!
[Big commotion wherein Todd escapes being ripped to pieces and Oz calms down.]
Later, in Buffy’s house…
Giles: Well now that we’re all calmed down we can discuss this like civilized people.
Willow: Oz, did you go all wolfy just because I couldn’t wait a couple of weeks to boink the first person who crossed my path?
Oz: Well it was the shock of it more than anything else. I still have a lot of control and I’m getting better.
Willow: Well, look, Oz: You left me temporarily for my own protection and I just couldn’t take it. The very minute afterwards, I fell in love with Todd and now I’m a Toddlover.
Oz: So now you don’t boink anyone except Todd?
Willow: Well, certainly people named Todd, because that’s what a Toddlover is by definition. But, as I point out in Season 7, it’s really just this Todd I love, at least until Todd gets killed off and another guy named Todd comes along.
Buffy: So you’re only interested in this particular Todd, at least until Season 7, and for some reason that’s completely different to boinking other guys because you’re boinking a guy named Todd?
Xander: So, wait, you’re not interested in me at all either, just because you like Todd?
Willow: Yes, I’ve come to realize that I am a Toddlover and have always been a Toddlover.
Oz: What, you were a Toddlover even when you were boinking me and almost boinked Xander?
Willow: Oh hang on, I almost forgot. [Willow reaches into Oz’s chest and rips out his still beating heart and then stomps on it until it stops twitching.] Yes, because that’s what a Toddlover is, by definition. I “realized” I was a Toddlover.
Todd: Uh, Willow? Doesn’t Oz need his heart to, like, live?
Giles: Shhhhhhhh!!!! We’re not supposed to even imply that ripping Oz’s heart out could possibly be wrong, because the makers of this show obviously don’t think it’s wrong.
Todd: Oh. Okay.
Buffy: If there’s one thing everyone should have learned from me and Willow over the course of the whole series, it’s perfectly okay for girls to use boys for sex and then toss them aside.
Willow: And even though I would have never even met Todd if it weren’t for my new unhealthy obsession with magic (which, incidentally, is sometimes an allegory for drug/alchohol use), and possibly would not have fallen in love with Todd if Oz wasn’t forced to leave to protect me, I am now and always have been and always will be and always should have been a Toddlover. Oh, I almost forgot. [Rips Xander’s still beating heart out of his chest, but puts it back.] There. I didn’t stomp your heart into the ground because we were never that serious.
Xander: Hey, that reminds me about what about what you say in season 6! When I say “smart girls are sexy” and you say “Couldn’t you have figured that out in tenth grade?”. Does that mean that you would not have become a Toddlover if you had been my boyfriend or that you would have realized you were a Toddlover anyway?
Willow: Come on, Xander, my former best friend and crush, you know the answer to that involves stomping on your heart.
Buffy: Not that there’s anything wrong with stomping on boys’ hearts.
Todd: This is all very disturbing. You guys really shouldn’t-
Giles: Todd, that’s enough. We shouldn’t even suggest that Willow boinking you could possibly have any negative consequences for anyone at any time.
Todd: What, even when Oz just got his heart ripped out?
Oz: All right, that’s enough! I can’t take any more of this suggesting that ripping my heart out could possibly be wrong. I’m leaving right now forever.
Buffy: Forever? But what about what Cordelia said over in the Angel TV series? If you leave forever, “everything that’s cool about Sunnydale” will be gone forever!
Oz: Don’t worry. I’ll be back for a brief cameo in a dream sequence (which, ironically, actually suggests that Willow might have guilt about ripping my heart out… for some reason). Besides, I don’t want to stick around for the slow decline into “supernatural soap opera” (quoting from Gunn) that Buffy 6 /Angel 4 becomes.
Willow: Bye, Oz! Do you mind us giving your heart to Miss Kitty Fantastico as a chew toy?
Oz: Well I don’t have any right to suggest that yanking it out was wrong, so I don’t see why not! Goodbye everyone! Remember no never speak of me ever again!
Everyone else: Bye, Oz! We won’t!
Of course, how Oz left isn’t the only thing that “Just Ain’t Right” with the Buffy series, but it’s the main thing. Well it feels good to get that off my chest. Especially since my chest feels a bit congested at the moment…