Leafing Through Pages: Analysis of Sports and Other Topics

01/13/2008

Developing A Possible Romance Between Buffy Summers and Willow Rosenberg

Unconventional Pairing: Buffy and Willow
The idea of Buffy Summers and Willow Rosenberg transgressing from friends to lovers is an idea that is firmly planted as unconventional, except in the world of literary fan fiction. While there are other couple pairings that are more popular: Buffy/Angel (Bangel), Buffy/Faith (Fuffy), Buffy/Spike (Spuffy), and Willow/Tara, the relationship between Buffy and Willow could be just as natural a pairing. The following seasons and scenarios will be thought through based on conventional canon (i.e. no alternate universe stories).

While Willow/Xander seems easier to see, especially in the early seasons, Buffy and Willow have their own argument in the early seasons and even into season 4 and 5, although 5 (and the later seasons of 6 and 7) provide more of a problem in making the pairing work.

The big complication, of course, is the fact that Buffy isn’t a lesbian (or even bisexual) however, we see that not only is she accepting and later supportive of the relationship between Willow and Tara, but never outright denies any ideas of her being gay with Willow as will be noted later on.

Season 1
Season 1 is the easiest way to have the Wiffy (Buffy/Willow) pairing come to the forefront although it doesn’t come without its problems. With Buffy’@ �Xnydale, she is the vampire slayer and as such has not revealed that role to Willow or Xander until the end of episode 1, Welcome to the Hellmouth. One of the biggest factors in starting such a relationship in WTTH is the canonical fact that Buffy silently rejects Cordelia’s invitation into the circle by not only talking with Willow during lunch but also sitting with her at The Bronze. We also see that Buffy has no interest in the male counterparts either. She literally walks away from Xander and calls Angel, “Dark, gorgeous in an annoying sort of way” and also proclaims “I really didn’t like him,” when telling Giles of the news Angel gave her. Although saying gorgeous in describing Angel, she also calls him annoying and will make mention of his ability to be cryptic when offering information throughout this season and future seasons.

With Willow, Buffy not only tries to support her self depreciation by telling Willow that she isn’t the single dullest person alive but also offers Willow advice on dating (namely, her own personal philosophy). Another telling sign is that Buffy announces to Giles that it’ll be a here and there thing in regards to slaying vampires but instantly goes into motion when she realizes it’s Willow that’s been targeted (and notice how she doesn’t sense Darla with Jesse).

As Season 1 progresses, we see Buffy’s friendship with Willow further deepening with each episode. In The Witch Willow is quick to offer her support to Buffy with “Well, we’re behind you” in the face of Giles’ disapproval. Along with numerous simultaneous glances and smiles we also see evidence of physical connecting as seen with the hand holding at the end of The Pack. Willow even supports Buffy when dating Owen. Willow even tries to play up the fact that it is a big deal to Buffy’s denial, a tactic we later see become a common theme from Willow in supporting any and all relationships that Buffy has just to see the blonde happy. We also see how protective Buffy is, even knowing that there’s something hinky about the way Xander’s acting, when he verbally abuses Willow in The Pack and immediately physically confronts him.

One of the biggest moments in regards to the pairing occurs in the final episode of Season 1, Prophecy Girl in which Buffy openly quits being The Slayer in front of Angel and Giles. At the time, she’s very attracted to Angel and Giles is her Watcher. It isn’t until Buffy talks with Willow and sees Willow’s true fear at what has happened, that she resigns herself to being what she is, and going after The Master. She even knocks Giles out when Giles forbids Buffy.

A couple of the complications are the relationship with Angel (which can be nixed instantly if setting up Wiffy prior to The Pack or Angel) as well as Xander’s fixation on Buffy, which Buffy failed to completely notice or reiterate, along with Willow’s fixation on Xander which can be explained away by the fact that Xander ignored Willow’s actions much the same way that Buffy ignored Xander’s actions. We see in The Pack that Xander is completely aware of Willow’s feelings for him, even if he’s possessed – “Until Willow… stops kidding herself… that I could settle with anyone but you?” (when confronting Buffy). We also see that Xander will have a strong dislike to Angel through Season 4 even, partly stemming from the fact that he has Buffy and Xander doesn’t.

Season 2
Season 2 is probably the most interesting season in regards to trying to set Buffy and Willow up. In Inca Mummy Girl we see Willow finally accept the idea of moving on past Xander and into Halloween, we see Buffy really trying to show Xander how beautiful Willow is. She makes such remarks as, “Wow! You’re a dish! I mean, really,” and practically gushes about Willow’s costume, “But wait till you see…” and is royally disappointed when Willow appears with the Boo! Costume. Earlier in the episode, we see Willow defending Buffy against a picture from 1775, “She’s not that pretty. I mean, look at her. She’s a got a funny… uh, waist. Look how tiny that is.”

Even up through Ted, we see just how much Willow values Buffy’s friendship and supports Buffy. Willow tries to defend Buffy against Ted (who’s dead nonetheless) by saying, “But I’m sure it wasn’t your fault. He started it,” and “Don’t say that!” when Buffy makes a remark about her killing him. What’s more amazing is that Willow is trying to make Buffy feel better and ease her pain by making Ted look like the bad guy, when Ted is literally deceased at that very moment. Willow later remarks, “Buffy’s not going to jail. It’s not fair,” so although her argument isn’t exactly steeped in sound reasoning, we still see how adamant Willow is in defending Buffy.

Buffy turns to Willow when Angel goes bad and we also see how much Willow wants Buffy to be happy, insisting upon doing the soul spell a second time after it gets broken up the first time. This is also after she wakes up from a coma and Willow’s only excuse is, “This can help Buffy,” which she notes prior to turning Angel back before he awakens Acathla. At the end of the season, we see Buffy leave bearing not only the guilt of killing Angel, her mother refusing to deal with the fact that Buffy’s the Slayer, but also being the reason (i.e. turning Angel bad) that her friends got hurt, with Willow confined to a wheelchair.

One of the big complications is the Buffy/Angel relationship. One way of rectifying this situation, and a method I’ve used in my current ongoing story: Here, is Buffy learning of Angel’s curse prior to his going bad. We know that Buffy is big on keeping secrets herself but at the same time, Angel’s secret is big and the idea that they could never have sexual intercourse could lead to either Angel dumping Buffy or Buffy turning away from Angel for not being forthcoming with her. Granted, both are somewhat tenuous but we see the former occur in Season 3, albeit for different reasons.

Season 3
This is one of my favorite seasons in terms of possibilities and making Wiffy work canonically. The stretch from Revelations (3.07) to Amends (3.11) is one of the more opportune times in regards to ably pulling off a Buffy and Willow conciliation without it being a hack job.

We see early in Dead Man’s Party just how much Willow missed Buffy during the summer and Buffy goes so far as to say, “Willow, please. I can’t take this from you, too.” It’s interesting to note that Buffy openly snaps at Cordelia and Xander but refuses to at Willow, even pleading with the redhead.

We also see the arrival of Faith and later, Willow’s open dislike of Faith for not only using Xander sexually (and trying to kill him) but also trying to kill Angel and moving in on Buffy, taking up the time that used to be for Willow before Faith tries to accuse Buffy of murder.

In Revelations, we see that Buffy admits that Angel isn’t her boyfriend, “He’s not my boyfriend. Really, truly, he’s… I don’t know,” and in Lover’s Walk we not only see Willow and Oz broken up, but Buffy is the one that essentially dumps Angel and pushes him away from continuing any further relationship.

One interesting way of working the Buffy/Willow relationship in and further deepening it, is by making Oz so hurt (understandable) that he refuses Willow’s request in Amends to re-attempt the relationship. Buffy could continue to distance herself from Angel, even after the attempted self suicide, leading us into the second half of the season.

Here is where it could get interesting: We have the subtext of Buffy and Faith being somewhat more than just Slayers working together, with the dancing and a possible sexual act thrown in there somewhere. We know that Willow, by now, openly despises Faith, especially when we hit Enemies (3.17). With Choices (3.19) this could be the pinnacle section where Buffy realizes that she likes Willow as more than a friend. Seeing Willow in danger and possibly killed by Faith could be the “light switch” moment (also don’t forget Angel’s unspoken remark in Doppelgangland about the vampire taking on traits of the human). Buffy clearly seemed to have understood where Angel was going prior to cutting him off, and Buffy could contemplate that more too in relation to Willow’s being kidnapped.

Season 4
This is one of those seasons in which the big question will always be: What if Willow was attracted to Buffy instead of Tara? We see throughout the early part of the season Buffy ranges from Parker, a thankfully short lived relationship, to that of Riley. We also see Oz officially leave Willow in Wild At Heart, opening an avenue in which, during a time where Buffy and Riley weren’t quite serious, Buffy and Willow could have come together.

They were not only sharing a dorm room and thus prone to seeing each other somewhat openly (as well as really learning more about one another i.e. sleeping habits, daily morning routine, etc.) but Willow and Tara are kept somewhat unofficial until New Moon Rising (4.19). What’s key about this is that between Hush and NMR, there are eight episodes in which Willow not only could have come out to Buffy about her being attracted to Tara (or girls in general) but also Buffy realizing that Willow’s been checking her out or spending time with Tara more (as Faith did).

It’s interesting that Willow trusts Buffy enough to tell Buffy of her growing attraction to Tara before Oz or anybody else. Even though Buffy does act a bit freaked, upon seeing Willow’s nervousness, she quickly settles down and accepts Willow’s feelings. This is important because we see in The Yoko Factor that one of Willow’s fears and worries is that, as she puts it, “Well, they certainly haven’t been right, since Tara. We have to face it. You can’t handle Tara being my girlfriend,” which is an extremely curious thing to admit even in the heat of anger. It’s also interesting that Buffy doesn’t refute Willow’s statement outright. This becomes important in Season 6 too.

We know that Willow has dated Oz, a werewolf, and Buffy has dated a vampire and a commando in Riley. With the subtext rumors that Buffy and Faith may have had an incident, it’s hard to say that Buffy would have an issue with Willow being into girls (especially seeing Vamp Willow and not visibly remarking about VW’s enjoyment of females). We also know that Buffy thinks Tara is a great girl and doesn’t dislike the blonde. That leaves us with the possibility that Buffy could be jealous of Tara not only taking “her spot” as best friend to Willow, but possibly jealous on a deeper level.

One way of working around the Willow/Tara relationship is Willow not only realizing how good a friend Tara is, but how important Buffy is to her as well. She admits to Tara in the screenplay for Who Are You? after Tara sees Faith as Buffy, “But I wish you’d give her a chance; she’s very important to me.”

With Buffy not quite committing to Riley and Willow’s subtle shift towards Tara (along with the sudden revelation that brings), one could have Willow admit to Buffy her feelings towards the Slayer. The complication comes in not only Buffy’s reaction but whether Buffy would have feelings about Willow in that manner.

Season 5
This is one of the hardest seasons to work in a Buffy/Willow relationship. Even though Buffy is freed up for the majority of time thanks to Riley’s departure in Into The Woods (5.10), the big obstacle is Willow and Tara who are both fully into their relationship at this point.

Not only do we have the arrival of Dawn, which can be included here or in earlier seasons (or as with canon, kept out of the early seasons) but we also have the issue of Joyce and her death. The writer can choose to keep that in or not, but the reactions if kept in would be similar to The Body.

We do see Buffy’s somewhat overwrought emotional display in Triangle (5.11) in terms of relationships going south and it would be interesting if Willow and Tara did break up during that episode. One explanation could be the growing magic abuse which becomes the reason in Season 6 but another, underlying, issue could be Buffy herself and how much she means to Willow. Tara could make the accusation that she isn’t Buffy, much the same way that Riley left Buffy, because he wasn’t Angel, and he wasn’t enough.

Another issue is Spike and his sudden attraction to Buffy. That can be swept under the rug or utilized but it creates a complication if Buffy and Willow are still separated and Willow is still with Tara. One interesting avenue is Willow inadvertently kills Spike (possibly during his interrogation from Glory or when Willow confronts Glory) leading to Tara’s breaking up with Willow and Buffy needing to help keep Willow from withdrawing from everybody. The issue with this, is that Tara has been brainsucked and Willow will still be deeply in love until the breakup.

Season 6
This season could go a variety of ways. The biggest impact is obviously Warren’s killing of Tara in Seeing Red but there are a couple avenues that could be explored to help start a Wiffy relationship. The first is that we have Willow and Tara openly breaking up due to the abuse of magic along with Spike’s attempted rape of Buffy later. Buffy could kill Spike as a means to finally ridding herself of what he reminds her of (her abuse of him in her dependence) and the fact that he helped Buffy ignore what was going on with Willow/inadvertently allowed Buffy to not focus on the Trio and thus blaming him for killing Tara.

Another avenue could be that Willow openly admits to bringing Buffy back, mostly for selfish reasons. When confronted by Mrs. Kroger in Gone (6.11) Buffy says, “Oh! Oh, it’s not a, a gay thing, you know, I mean, well… she’s gay, but, but we don’t… gay. Not that there’s anything –” and it’s interesting that Buffy kind of stumbles over her words. Part of it is because Mrs. Kroger’s a social worker but it’s also interesting that Buffy may’ve thought about such a situation before. Buffy never outright says, “No,” or “I’m not gay.” Tara realizes she can’t compete with Buffy and ends the relationship, becoming more aware just how deep the selfish reasons were. The obstacle, of course, would be Buffy’s reaction to Willow’s feelings, especially after being pulled from heaven.

Season 7
We see in Season 7, Willow not only dealing with her magic but also still dealing with the loss of Tara and the destruction that the redhead caused in Season 6. One of the more notable aspects of the season is the separation between Buffy and Willow during the season, although in Same Time, Same Place (7.03), we see one of the Wiffiest acts ever on the show. Buffy meditates with Willow, openly supplying Willow with any added strength needed to help heal her. That scene is probably the biggest opening in terms of a Season 7 Wiffy relationship. Although Buffy and Spike become an off/on couple, they could be relegated to just associates with Buffy realizing what Willow means to her after going back over the past seven years. Willow is in between relationships and hasn’t quite gotten around to Kennedy yet, so the availability is there.

The biggest obstacle is the history of Buffy and Willow and seamlessly getting Buffy to admit love for the redhead on a sexual level, rather than just a friendship level. One aspect of such an act could be helping ease Willow’s grief over Tara, as Buffy was the first one that Willow came out to in regards to the relationship. Another struggle is the fact that Buffy has never admitted attraction openly towards another girl, although she’s quick to praise Willow and support any bumps in the Willow/Tara relationship.

3 Comments »

  1. 2 words: Season Eight

    Comment by Anonymous — 12/12/2010 @ 4:51 PM | Reply

  2. I meant Oz/Willow. I don’t find Buffy turning into a bisexual to be a stretch. Buffy had the strongest overall relationship with Willow. Best friends often experiment with each other. If the network really wanted to be edgy and groundbreaking ( which is why I think they contrived the Willow/Tara couple in the first place)they would have made the lead bi. It would have been a brilliant twist and made for great character development. Willow had more chemistry with Buffy than with Oz or Tara. If Buffy had bisexual inclinations, it would have made the most sense to pair her with Willow. It was suprising to me, that Willow failed to notice the attractiveness of Buffy if she were truly bi. It would have been so thrilling if Buffy realized that a vampire and a male was not the right fit for her, but fell for best friend who she had a deep bond with instead.

    Comment by Willow — 05/02/2010 @ 1:56 AM | Reply

  3. I love this essay. I wish it had gotten more responses back in the day. I am suprised this ship was not more popular. I hated the Tara/Willow ship and relationship. Incredibly overrated and beloved just because it was between two women. It functioned more like a friendship and Willow’s sudden preference for women was not realistic or interesting. I found the Wiccan dynamic intriguing in the beginning but then it became weak and contrived. I feel if people honestly and deeply compared the canon Willow/Tara to Spike/Buffy to
    Oz/Buffy or even Buffy/Angel, they would see that Tara/Willow just falls way short. I think people fell in love with the idea of Tara/Willow versus what was actually displayed on-screen. It served as a catalyst for certain conflicts and Willow’s downfall but the romance itself was not interesting. I also thought they lacked chemistry and it felt forced.

    Buffy had the best female chemistry with Willow. Their friendship was complex, deep, and their personalities would have balanced each other out wonderfully. The ship made sense even though I knew it couldn’t happen in the show. Buffy developing Bi tendencies with Willow as the catalyst didn’t seem to be a stretch for me considering alot of bi experiences and shifts in orientation begin with best friends. It would have made such a thrilling twist. Willow/Tara came off sounding better on paper and fans’s illusions rahter than what was on the show. If they were a straight couple, people would think it was lame.

    Comment by Willow — 05/02/2010 @ 1:47 AM | Reply


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