Welcome to the fourteenth article in our Pride series for the month of June! Each day we will be highlighting a different LGBTQ+ character who we think is a great example of representation, dynamic characterization, and overall badassery. Check out the rest of the series here.
Today’s spotlight is pointed at the girl who started out nerdy and shy, ends up saving the world and finds queer love in the process: Willow Rosenberg.
Introduced in the pilot of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (BTVS) in 1997, Willow, played by Alyson Hannigan, was quick to befriend new Sunnydale High Student Buffy Summers. What she did not know is that Buffy was not the typical new student; she was, as the name of the show suggests, a vampire slayer. Before long, Willow becomes not just Buffy’s friend, but an integral part of the “Scooby Gang,” or Buffy’s friends who help her save the day.
It takes a little more than a season for Willow to come into herself, (to be fair, it takes BTVS as a show about a season as well,) but once she does, she is magnificent. She is quick with a computer (which, in the 90’s, was impressive) and brilliant at problem solving. Once she begins to learn witchcraft, she becomes the best and brightest witch – possibly ever. She is not just Buffy’s best friend and sidekick, but a hero and protagonist all her own. But what is a hero without a little love?
After three seasons of Willow going after Xander (a Scooby,) then Oz (a boyfriend turned Scooby turned werewolf,) then cheating on Oz with Xander, and then being back with Oz… does anyone else have a headache? Season 4, and college, gave Willow a new opportunity: girls. Well, one girl. Tara.
Introduced in the Emmy nominated episode “Hush,” Tara is a member of UC Sunnydale’s Wicca group with Willow. Like Willow, she wants more than the auras, bake sales and Gaia power the Wicca group is offering. The chemistry is instant and in a dire moment they are able to telekinetically move a fridge together with just one look. Throughout season 4 the two continue practicing magic and deepen their relationship – they even get a cat together! They are a power – and powerful – couple and certainly role models for both straight and queer couples.
Unfortunately, before I can conclude this story of lesbian awesomeness, I have to recognize that Tara’s story does not end quite as awesomely. Tara fell victim to the “Bury your Gays” trope when a stray bullet meant for Buffy landed in her chest. While this led to one of the best season finales, I would have preferred a happy, healthy, and together Willara. After grieving, Willow is able to be even stronger – like, Goddess level. And even finds some romance along the way.
Willow’s journey through BTVS, but especially in the latter half of the series, is powerful and raw and romantic and all in all magical. Her shift in sexuality as well as her brilliance in witchcraft allow her to become more than Buffy’s sidekick and Oz/Xander’s love interest; she can take on a whole life and story of her own. Willow is iconic in the truest sense of the word and opened the door for many queer characters to come.
Do you have a character spotlight suggestion? Leave it in the comments down below!