30 Day Challenge: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Day 18: Something That Happened I Wish Didn’t

First of all, I want to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my little sister, who has looked ambiguously thirty-ish for about fifteen years and now fits the part! (These are her words, not mine.) And today’s challenge title does not reference you at all!

On that note, when I had originally done my challenges, I always noted that it was hard for me to try and remove, even theoretically, portions of another artist’s work, but now, I don’t have any reservations about that sort of thing. Every piece of art deserves, nay needs a healthy dose of criticism in order for the patrons of said art to grow and learn about themselves. In my case, it helps me as a creator: I can see areas in which I can improve.

As far as Buffy is concerned, there’s plenty to criticize: the lack of diversity (and when there is some, it’s pitifully executed), sex-shaming, white feminism, etc. But if there’s one thing that I can truly say I wish never happened was Tara’s death.

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First off? Okay, I know Whedon had wanted to do this from the beginning – give a character a spot in the opening credits (see above) for the first time and then have them leave the show the next episode – but dear god, this is such a cheap, shock jock thing to do. Amber Benson was a popular addition to the cast, and her Tara was a shining, happy star in the dysfunctional galaxy that was the Scoobies. Xander might have been the heart in “Restless,” but Tara had completely taken over that role by the middle of the fifth season. And then to remove her in such a violent, needless way was just infuriating.

Like I said back on Day 10, Tara never really had an arc of her very own. Sure, she did get some of her odd behavior explained by revealing her misogynistic family had told her she had demon in her, but after that, she was just a glorified prop piece for the other characters. She was literally a voice for the Sineya, the First Slayer, in “Restless,” and she was the damsel in distress for Willow to save during Glory’s attempts to return to her hell dimension. She was Buffy’s sounding board after the latter returned to the mortal realm against her will. And then she was the reason Willow went completely dark because Warren, yet another weak misogynist in her life, decided to go on a shooting spree. Poor Tara was a tool, worth only what she could provide the other main characters. She did not deserve that.

As a writer, I don’t want to create and use characters for the singular purpose of being useful to the plot. I mean, obviously, all characters in fiction have this role in their various stories, but you know what I mean. There is a difference between having a major part and just being there to give sage advice or a reason for someone to fight, without having any kind of agency of your own. And despite Buffy ostensibly being a feminist show, Tara having as little agency in her own story is as anti-feminist as it comes.

Now, would Tara surviving have changed the ending of the sixth season? Perhaps? If Willow was as far gone as the writers wanted us to believe, you would think that seeing her best friend of six years gunned down would send her over the edge, especially after what she had to do to resurrect her at the beginning of the season. Things could have played out essentially the same, only both Tara and Anya could start to discover themselves apart from their abusive significant others. Whether Tara could have (or would have) repaired her relationship with Willow is another possible storyline that could have been explored, and then we wouldn’t necessarily have had to deal with the awkwardness that was the Willow-Kennedy relationship. That would have benefited all.

Art Credit: Buffy WikiThe Watcher’s Diary

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