Sexualized Saturdays: Willow Rosenberg

Ah, Buffy, how I have such fun memories of thee. I remember always getting excited to sit down to watch some good old fashion vampire murderage, until my parents entered the room to watch it too. Coming from a conservative Christian home and growing up with parents who forced me into joining the middle-school basketball team every Tuesday night right during airtime—under the threat that I couldn’t watch the show unless I joined up, no less! Sense?—Buffy the Vampire Slayer wholeheartedly and irrevocably reverted the hour it aired every week into what Lady Geek Girl and I once nominated as the Parental Bitching Hour. It was the cause of debate, for more reasons than my being blackmailed into unwanted sports that I won’t bore you with the details of.

I don’t know how Buffy managed to piss my parents off so much, as it wasn’t the kind of show they normally invest themselves in, but it raised many an argument in my home. Normally, it went something like this:

“I can’t believe you watch this garbage, Ace! Why don’t you play some sports?”

“…Because I like vampires?”

“You don’t need this fantasy crap when you have the news. Besides, not everyone’s a lesbian!”

“I just want to watch my show. Please?”

Yeah, in order to actually know what was going the hell on in the plot over the tantrum brought on by Willow—the evil slut!—I had to wait for the DVD releases and watch the series all again in the quiet of a dorm room, right underneath the drunken party the floor above me.

But the reaction Willow created in my parents no other fictional character has ever been able to achieve. Her relationship with Tara happened right during my beloved puberty years, when I got a whole lot of lessons on why homosexuality is wrong and evil and a choice—so as you can imagine, her character wasn’t someone I could easily enjoy due to my tolerant upbringing. And for those of you who are thinking that maybe my parents only laid into Willow while she and Tara kissed, no, it was every time she appeared on screen.

“Hey, it’s the lesbo!” seems to be a favorite phrase, followed closely by, “she’s gay, though.”

And yeah, Willow’s only a fictional character, but the response to her outing was the same in a lot of people. Some group of assholes actually threatened to boycott the show if Whedon went through with her relationship to Tara. Hell, my parents threatened to make me stop watching the show because of the horrible influence she must have been having on me.

Like, how dare Whedon give us a normal heterosexual character and then make her a lesbian and expect us to still view her the same way?! As if she’s an actual person?

Because somehow her being gay erased the first three and a half seasons of character development and us giving a shit. Suddenly, the very act of being gay makes her a ploy to turn all of us gay and shove gayness into every show on the TV, as if gay people are everywhere or something. I mean, doesn’t Jesus tell us not to be gay? Like, this is just an example of falling standards that make God cry. A woman having sexual relations—because they certainly can’t make love—with another woman! America is doomed! God will rain terror and destruction down on us because of gay people!

And yes, these are all arguments that I have heard, or rather, had thrown at me. People honestly think like this. Willow is what first exposed me to the oppression non-heterosexual people face, and how their oppressors view them. It also made me realize that you can’t argue with radical heterosexual Christians—or rather, most heterosexual Christians, even if they aren’t radical.

And no, I’m not saying this as anything against Christians. Or heterosexuals. I’m Christian, too. A lot of people on this site are. We wouldn’t have the Oh, My Pop Culture Jesus posts if we weren’t passionate about being Christians.

I could probably do several posts on the hypocrisy regarding this controversy about Willow, and who knows? Maybe I will. But while I’m sure some of you have seen or even been exposed to this kind of thing, the only reason I associate it with Willow is because she was the subject of debate at the time, and not someone else, like Magnus Bane. Although, Albus Dumbledore got really damn close.

Now, I can kind of understand when people say that Willow didn’t used to be gay, because she dated Oz, and then she dated Tara. To this, I would respond that there were times when the show hinted that she had homosexual tendencies before Tara came along. It probably doesn’t help my argument that in a way Joss Whedon fueled the whole choice mindset when in the fifth season Willow says to Anya in a fight about Xander:

Hello. [I’m] Gay now.

I’m going to say that that was not the wisest phrase to give her. However, sexuality is fluid, and it is possible for someone to change from one thing to another. From what I understand though, these incidences also happen to be exceedingly rare and near impossible for most people—as in entirely impossible for most people. Unfortunately, my personal experience has taught me that that small percentage of people who do manage to change themselves, whether consciously or not, are the driving force behind the banners held up by pitchforks proclaiming it’s a choice.

So, yes, it is possible for someone to be straight as a teenager and then become a lesbian. But when I say something like this is rare, what I mean is to not get your hopes up that you’ll have different sexuality five years down the road, because chances are you won’t.

I personally don’t know as much about the whole changing sexuality thing as I should, so feel free to correct me on that if I got it wrong.

However, I am of the belief that Willow’s actually bisexual. But it does kind of upset me that through the course of the series she seems as though she went from being straight to being gay. And when Willow came out as a lesbian, I only didn’t like it because I didn’t understand it. All of a sudden, it seemed like any male attraction she had just vanished. I mean, her relationship with Oz was pretty serious in the early seasons. She loses her virginity to him and sticks with him until the fourth season when he leaves her. And though it’s possible that they could have carried out that kind of relationship without any sort of physical attraction on her part, something like that would have come up. If you’re not physically attracted to your partner, chances are your partner’s going to notice, and then it’s going to create problems.

My partner certainly noticed something was off. This is kind of a big road block in relationships.

On top of all that, Willow also showed affection for Xander for the first few seasons. I suppose I could argue that even after her relationship with Tara started, there were hints of her showing attraction to Xander, but those seemed less like her actually being attracted to him or more of Anya making up theories over jealousy.

Furthermore, in the seventh season, when a high-school jock wears a magical jacket that makes all the girls fall in love with him, Willow responds by trying to cast a spell to turn him into a woman. The conversation about her enchanted love for the jock goes like this:

Buffy: Willow, you’re a gay woman. And he isn’t.

Willow: This isn’t about his physical presence. It’s about his heart.

Anya: His physical presence has a penis!

Willow: I can work around it!

Yeah, to me that doesn’t sound like she has any physical attraction to the guy in question. Of course, it could also simply mean that he isn’t her type.

But I do entirely agree that she showed signs of homosexual tendencies long before Tara appeared. One episode we could reference would be “Doppelgangland”, in which an evil vampire version of Willow gets summoned into the world. Good!Willow makes a comment that she thinks the other her is “kinda gay”. In a following dialogue exchange, we learn that vampires have traits they carry over from being human.

And I’m trying to not go on a rant about all the rebuttals I’ve heard against anything I can come up with to defend Willow, but as the two are practically synonymous in my head, it’s a little hard not to. Sometimes the best thing you can do is walk away before the argument even starts. I’ve learned that when in a crowded room filled with people who hate non-heterosexual characters, or just non-heterosexual anything, it’s best to smile and nod and say nothing.

Which does nothing for awareness, I realize.

And I don’t want to go off on my rant and leave all of you thinking I hate heterosexuals, because I don’t. If you’re heterosexual, I’m happy for you. Really, I am. Your life is probably a lot better than the lives of other people, and I’m certainly not going to fault you for being happy about who you are, or even having pride in it.

I’m more aggravated by the heterosexuals who clearly have no idea what it’s like to be different but act as though they do and therefore judge everyone who’s not like them, because it’s so totally a choice, you see.

Growing up, I heard the word “choice” thrown around more times than any other word, and to make a long story short, it’s one of the things that screwed me over in realizing my own sexuality. And it was presented to me with Willow. As much as I love Buffy, for the longest time I couldn’t extend that love to include Willow, Tara, or Kennedy, and a lot of that was because of the bad taste Willow’s existence put in my mouth due to having to listen to everyone bitch about her. She couldn’t just be a character who happened to be gay. She had to be some diabolical plot to make the world believe that homosexuals are everywhere and out to get us.

What a lot of people fail to realize is that, yes, homosexuals are everywhere.

And this may be confusing, but a lot of those aforementioned heterosexuals who use “choice” in reference to sexuality don’t actually think it’s a choice. The best that I can figure is that they think everyone’s heterosexual and they chose to be different.

A let’s just skip the argument that that can result in and move on. But this is why some people think Willow’s choosing to be gay. While I have a hard time trying to explain sexual attraction to these people—something I never thought I’d have to explain, and something that I’m not very good at—a lot of them don’t view sexuality as sexual attraction, but rather as actions.

Like, it doesn’t matter that I’m asexual. If I have sex with my boyfriend, that clearly means I’m heterosexual in their minds. It’s this belief that if you’re not attracted to someone you’re incapable of having sex with them that furthers the belief that sexuality is based who you’re with and not who you are. And therein lies judgement and the base for some of the anti-gay stuff you may see. And unfortunately, because of this mindset, growing up, I missed out on a really great character.

I wish I could talk all about how Willow’s a step in the right direction, a great role model, and a strong female character—because she’s all of those things, I’m sure—but I can’t. Because she was ruined for me.

8 thoughts on “Sexualized Saturdays: Willow Rosenberg

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