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So, as you probably have known for a while or just, unfortunately, found out thanks to a certain dystopian series, lesbians die a lot in media. Sometimes I’m willing to justify the deaths as imperative to the plot and all that jazz, and sometimes it’s just stupid (look at you The Walking Dead). And while lesbians dying as probably been a thing forever in the history of entertainment media, there’s one incident we can trace all this recent hullabaloo back to. And that is season six of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

If you haven’t watched Buffy yet then I can’t help you. It’s 2016. That show is required viewing for basically every American who wants to form a coherent opinion on TV shows and movies. But for those of you still lagging: it’s a show about a girl who hunts vampires. Well, mostly. It’s a bit more complicated than that but there’s magic and demons and vampires and hot girls and an apocalypse every other season. And despite the fact that Buffy and her gal pal Faith were like the lesbian-couple-that-never-was of my 90s, there was an actual wlw couple in the show. Actually there were two. But the one we’re talking about mostly today is Willow and Tara.

I mentioned Tara for a quick, hot second in my last post and unfortunately, her name is tied to a very crappy trope in film and TV that involves killing off one half of your lesbian couples and causing all sorts of heartache for everyone. Well, here I’m going to do something that might make me WILDLY unpopular but I thrive off the haters…Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s a big problem that queer female characters seem to get picked off like flies in TV shows and movies but I don’t really think Joss Whedon and Buffy is really as much to blame as people think?

To get some context here, Willow and Tara had the first on-screen lesbian kiss on network TV. Joss Whedon was so adamant about its inclusion that he threatened to leave the show if the network cut the scene, as they expressed a desire to do. Ultimately, it made it into the final cut of season 5’s The Body and we all got one step closer to some massively good representation. And then disaster struck in season 6 when Willow and Tara broke up, then got back together just in time for Tara to find herself the victim of a stray bullet.

I think we need to look at the context of this stray bullet. For sure, the bs with The 100 was poor writing and garbage and an annoying attempt at replicating this, but again, dear friends, context. Willow and Tara had possibly the most long-lasting, healthy, flaw-free relationship. Since their beginning in season 4 they had virtually no fights, no relationship arcs, nada. They were a smooth sailing ship. Which, there’s nothing wrong with, but when you’re talking entertainment, at a certain point you need to make your couple be an actual human couple with some eff ups. Not too mention, Willow herself was kind of a pristine character who needed some emotional turmoil and growth since everyone except her seemed to get that.

So season 6 was all about the consequences of Willow’s reliance on magic. It starts with her guilt at bringing Buffy back from the dead against her will and spiraled as she found herself going to the magic equivalent of crack houses to get high on the power, using magic to make her girlfriend forget a fight, and being a neglectful babysitter to Buffy’s sister. Tara, like many other halves in a relationship with an addict, breaks it off until she can prove her magic sobriety. And it seems to be working after some struggling episodes for Willow. She’s forced to deal with the consequences of her actions and she seems to be getting a handle on herself. But not so fast.

Just as Tara and Willow decide to reconcile, in the first and only episode where Amber Benson (Tara) was credited as a series regular, Tara finds herself the unintended target of Warner’s stray bullet as he attempts to shoot Buffy (he does end up hitting her too, eventually). Tara drops dead in Willow’s arms and my girl goes APE SHIT. For two episodes she goes on a heartbroken rampage to track down everyone responsible for Tara’s death and, when that’s not enough to quell her pain, decides she’s just going to end the world before she’s brought back to her senses by her oldest and best friend and spends a good portion of the show’s final season recovering and coping with what she’s done and her connection with magic.

So why does context matter here? Because it’s super meta. Tara’s death was one of the few where the intent to shock was purposeful to put the audience in Willow’s position, right down to the tricky use of the opening credits to fuck with you. You needed to understand how someone who spent 5 seasons as a quiet little mouse was now willing to obliterate everything and everyone. And Tara didn’t go away, she played an important part for Willow’s growth in the next season and Willow eventually had a relationship with another girl, Kennedy, one of the Potentials, who ultimate helps her not to fear her magic. So the representation did not disappear with Tara’s death.

So, what’s my point? The trope is real, but its source gets distorted. People much less intelligent and caring made a poor man’s version of Joss Whedon’s writing move and the result is homophobia and garbage.

Until next time, pals.

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