Cultural Catchup Project: “Tough Love” (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

“Tough Love”

September 5th, 2010

You can follow along with the Cultural Catchup Project by following me on Twitter (@Memles), by subscribing to the category’s feed, or by bookmarking the Cultural Catchup Project page where I’ll be posting a link to each installment.

If Adam was a philosophical character with no functional use within Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s fourth season, Glory is a functional character without any real philosophical purpose in the series’ fifth.

“Tough Love” really drives this point home for me: the character is more fun than she is interesting, existing sort of as a by-product of Dawn’s arrival despite the fact that Dawn is technically the by-product of the situation. This isn’t so much a criticism as an observation: I like Glory, and like what role she plays within this story, but it isn’t a particularly complex role. Instead, all of the complexity is on the protagonists’ side of the story, which is expressly clear when this episode becomes far more about Willow and Tara’s relationship and far less about Glory herself.

Which is only fitting as Glory’s arc appears to be reaching its end.

Admittedly, this episode sort of sits in an awkward space for me: while viewing it at the time would have raised some serious questions about Tara’s condition, having seen an episode of season six means that I know that her condition does not last. This doesn’t make the episode any less powerful for Willow and Tara, but it does sort of mean that I view this as a temporary test of their relationship rather than a seismic shift.

There’s a nice parallel towards the end of the episode, where both Willow and Buffy end up in guardianship situations that they didn’t anticipate, and which pose certain challenges. It’s especially meaningful to Dawn: the episode has her struggling to remain connected to her academic future, but the combination of feeling responsible for what happened to Tara and the awareness that she (unlike Tara) is capable of helping Buffy take care of her is a nice bit of self-awareness. There’s a number of points in Dawn’s story where things could have become heavy-handed, especially the threat of foster care, but they were played pretty well and I bought that Dawn would have come around just in time for a prophetic Tara to reveal Dawn’s identity. It’s pretty clearly structured into the episode, but as a secondary result of the A-Story I quite liked how it built to that conclusion.

As for the A-Story, I thought it was a bit rushed if ultimately well handled. I don’t doubt that there have been enough underlying tensions betweenn Willow and Tara, especially in recent episodes where Willow’s dabblings in magic have been revealed as a source of anxiety for Tara, but I did sort of balk at the idea that this would extend to Tara being concerned about Willow’s commitment to their relationship. I understand how fights escalate, and how even parts of a relationship which are solid are thrown under the microscope, but the lack of evidence for Willow reconsidering her sexuality makes those final moments of the fight particularly hard to take. It felt less like two characters in an escalating argument and more like the script looking to take their fight to a level wherein they would justifiably separate long enough for Tara to go to the fair on her own, and to amp up the tragedy when Tara is attacked by glory.

However, the basis for the fight itself (as the comments have discussed over the last few pieces) is quite important, and Willow looking to test her strength against Glory is a key moment for her character. She isn’t a match for Glory, but (as with most of the season) that moment isn’t about Glory: yes, she is out for a personal measure of revenge, but the moment is more important as a sign of how she’s willing to use her magic. It also shows us how Buffy perceives her abilities: yes, she was right in that Willow was going on a suicide mission, but Buffy has done similar things in the past and battled through, so it shows how Buffy does sort of hold herself back from believing that Willow could be as powerful as she is. She still presumes that Willow, like Dawn, needs to be protected rather than supported, which is a key difference in my eyes.

Within the narrative, Xander is most often considered the character who has the most to prove, having not gone to college and lacking a clear skill to assist in the slaying process. However, at this point, it’s Willow who feels a certain anxiety over her place: she’s so open to dark forms of magic because she feels she has to be open to them, out of fear of never living up to Tara and Buffy. And here we see how that can become dangerous, and how Tara’s illness leads to a reckless decision followed by a sober moment of reflection as she feeds Tara applesauce. And while, as noted, there were some moments that felt a bit exaggerated for dramatic effect, that this remains the primary function of the episode even with Glory finally piecing together the key mystery at the end of the episode furthers the season’s momentum.

Cultural Observations

  • In terms of Glory, are we on the same page that the Ben/Glory story is pretty bizarrely implemented? I mean, it’s not the worst story in the world and I thought it added an interesting dimension to things, but it never particularly went anywhere, largely because Glory is defined mostly by her relationship with her comic minions and because Ben is actually a pretty normal character who lacks any sort of other interesting qualities. It’s a neat idea, but it’s not much more, which makes it seem a little bit unnecessary (unless there’s something coming up that really pulls it together, which seems unlikely.
  • I get that they were building to a dramatic showdown later, but the scene with Willow chasing through the park trying to get to Tara felt poorly shot and edited to me: it’s not the climax, but it needed to feel more like one, as it just felt “off” for me.
  • Will probably get through one more episode this weekend, and then will finish off the season either next weekend or the weekend after (if I choose to do some Angel instead next weekend).
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66 Comments

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66 responses to “Cultural Catchup Project: “Tough Love” (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

  1. jbucksnb

    Tough Love is one of those strange episodes that is too early in the season to bring forth any earthshattering revelations, but it’s really too late to do much concluding, either. I don’t really have a problem with the episode, except that it’s sort-of used as a type of padding – Glory “playing with [Tara’s] memory” raises the stakes somewhat, but it seems extraneous, a forced way to get Tara into the main story.

    Also, this episode brings forth a handful of the issues I have with Season 5, which are by the way quite minor. Glory seems to be sitting around doing nothing at this time – where was she in the earlier episodes, especially “Checkpoint” and “Intervention,” working her mind-mojo there? I love the character of Glory and the energy Clare Kramer exudes, but she’s not really that great of a mastermind, like The Master, Angelus, and The Mayor were.

    • Eldritch

      I think the characters actually say Glory isn’t very smart even though she’s a god. So no, she’s not a mastermind, just a god of pain.

      • Tausif Khan

        I think the Ben/Glory dichotomy plays nicely into this idea of Glory being smart and dumb and why she didn’t find the key immediately.

      • diane

        In another forum a while back, I observed that if a two-year-old could be god, then Glory is what you’d get. She wants what she wants, she wants it now, and she throws some powerful tantrums.

        Beyond that, there is no there there.

        • Anne

          This was exactly my thought this morning in the pre-dawn hours. Kinda sad this is what I’m thinking about in the pre-dawn hours, but it is definitely more fun than thinking about work which is what I’m usually thinking about before the sun comes up.

    • Tausif Khan

      The Tara issue is interesting to me. Because to me Glory damaging Tara is a way to bring out Willow’s story line for me. This is interesting because this then seems to repeat the trope of female love interests being used to draw the main character out. In this the character of Tara is just seen as a plot device to move the story along an object or a macguffin (flowbotnum).

  2. Eldritch

    In terms of Glory, are we on the same page that the Ben/Glory story is pretty bizarrely implemented?

    I suppose so. Ben was just boring. Glory was colorful, but as jbucksnb says above there wasn’t much forward thrust to her search for the Key.

    Maybe this is just me, but for the longest time I couldn’t understand how Ben could have enough body-time to complete medical school or hold down a job with Glory taking over unpredictably. He did ultimately get fired for absenteeism. It wasn’t until my most recent re-viewing that I caught a quick line that Glory had been locked in a male body and had only recently mustered the power to come out in a female form. I kinda wish that had been made clearer.

    • Tausif Khan

      I think the writers have explained it as that Ben was a normal person and then when Glory got kicked out of her dimension she forced herself into Ben’s body.

  3. Susan

    Glory is a really fun villain, but not, narratively speaking, a supervillain, despite being a god. The strength of season 5 is the group dynamic (well, actually, that’s always the strength), and at this point, as they’re all moving deeper into adulthood and dealing with adult issues, Glory’s villainy *is* functional–her strength and her sense of whimsy serve to draw the limits of the group in bold lines.

    When you’ve finished the season, Myles, I’d be interested to know if you’ve revised your feelings about the way Ben/Glory works. I won’t say more now except that I kinda expect you will.

    I do agree with you about both awkward moments in the Tara/Willow story–I was struck, upon first viewing, by how quickly Tara amped up the fight to question the permanence of Willow’s sexual orientation. I’ve never been comfortable with magic as a metaphor for sexuality (or anything else for which it serves as a metaphor in the show), and Tara’s leap in the quarrel is a really unsubtle maneuvering of that metaphor. I also find Willow’s dash to find Tara in the park, though it makes sense storywise, just feels poorly executed somehow. Can’t put my finger on it exactly.

    I do really love Glory and Tara on the bench, though.

    • Tausif Khan

      “I was struck, upon first viewing, by how quickly Tara amped up the fight to question the permanence of Willow’s sexual orientation.”

      This to me is another Riley “once in a lifetime guy” moments. Marti Noxon is the showrunner now so her influence could be in this fight. Moreover if you listen to the writers talk about Willow’s character on the commentary (Wild at Heart) Marti Noxon specifically makes a reference Willow’s character from the first three (and first few of the fourth) as straight Willow like that was a different version of Willow like Vampire Willow. This means that Noxon thinks that Willow transitioned into being gay and that the Willow of the first three season was definitely straight. Ironically in the same commentary she even says that (prefacing to her Straight Willow, Gay Willow comment) “I know you are not supposed to think about sexuality like this (meaning she knows that most people think people are born gay) .” However this shows that her conception of gay is a little bit more fluid and that people have to feel that they are gay or not and that it is not an in born character trait like being born with brown eyes.

      In the execution I think the fight is completely ridiculous and Tara is out of line for thinking that this is just a fling to Willow especially after what happened when Oz came back. Willow do not just jump out of bed and run after Oz. She carefully dealt with the situation and confirmed her love for Tara proving that she is in the relationship to stay and it is not a fling.

      • Tausif Khan

        “This means that Noxon thinks that Willow transitioned into being gay and that the Willow of the first three season was definitely straight.”

        *”This means that Noxon thinks that Willow in the present is a gay character while the Willow from the first three season was a straight character.”

      • Tausif Khan

        * Willow does not just

      • diane

        Two observations:

        First, I think it was Willow’s insecurities that drove the fight out of control, not Tara questioning her commitment.

        Second, Marti Noxon’s mother came out as gay, so part of Marti’s childhood was being the child in a lesbian relationship. She’s probably seen those insecurities first-hand.

      • Karen

        IU’m not sure I agree that there was a “lack of evidence for Willow reconsidering her sexuality makes those final moments of the fight particularly hard to take.” (Myles)

        or that “the fight is completely ridiculous and Tara is out of line for thinking that this is just a fling to Willow especially after what happened when Oz came back.” (Khan)

        My thinking:

        I realize that many gay individuals claim that bisexuality is actually a denial of one’s gay identity, but I’m not sure I agree as I’ve known people who have lived a more *fluid* life with regard to sexual relationships. It makes sense that Tara would be insecure about this issue for YEARS, imo, as Willow did not have the same experience of identifying as gay from her early life. Anecdotally, I have female friends who are gay, but who seem to see a more fluid line than men who are gay. In fact, after seeing The Kids Are Alright with a group of friends, some of whom are gay, we had this very discussion and all found Moore’s character very believable. (In case you haven’t seen the movie I’ll give spoiler space here, but this was the point:

        *****movie spoiler*****

        Moore’s character was able to enjoy, literally, a hetero affair while being committed in a gay relationship, to which she returned.)

        *****end movie spoiler*****

        So, for me, the escalation of this fight was believable.

        • Tausif Khan

          I was mainly discussing the invective that Tara made against Willow which clearly spelled out that Tara is afraid that Willow is not gay and this is just a college thing. I think that Myles argument is warranted in that I agree that there is not enough evidence that this is the case. Not only in Wild at Heart but in other instances whenever Tara feels doubt about Willow’s commitment to being a lesbian Willow always reaffirms that Willow loves Tara and that she is in the relationship.

          I do not think that Tara is crazy or dismissed for having the feeling that she is having but up until that point she has not been presented with any concrete evidence to the contrary.

          The only evidence I can come up with is that Tara does not seem very integrated into the group (like Anya has become) but that might be a personal issue of Tara’s and not much Willow can do about it (she can not force the others to like Tara).

          One of the arguments used to the justify the power of a lesbian relationship is that it shows that people can love one another romantically regardless of gender.

          Concretely Willow has “passed” both tests. She does not yearn to be with a boy and is not just waiting for her boyfriend to come back from his ashram in India. She realizes that she loves a person named Tara and wants to commit to her and has told both her ex-boyfriend, her friends and her girlfriend that this is the case. Therefore I think that Tara’s fear of Willow not being gay are empirically ungrounded.

          This does not mean she does not have the right to be irrational and fear that she could lose Willow which I think underlines Tara’s questioning of Willow’s sexuality.

          • Tausif Khan

            “I do not think that Tara is crazy or dismissed for having the feeling that she is having but up until that point she has not been presented with any concrete evidence to the contrary.”

            *I do not think that Tara is crazy or should be dismissed for having the feelings that she is having but up until the point she makes this statement Tara has not been presented with any concrete evidence that Willow is not gay (after entering into this relationship with Tara).

          • Tausif Khan

            Most importantly Willow can not possibly prove to Tara that she is definitely gay like one can prove that 1+1=2. The only way that Willow can prove that she loves Tara is through her actions everyday; show her commitment to Tara. She has not broken this at any time.

            Again, I will repeat the because of New Moon Rising we can say that if the relationship between Tara and Willow is to fall apart it will not be because Willow realizes she is not gay but because something else is not working between them like any heterosexual relationship.

          • Tausif Khan

            The nature of gay relationships (if there is a nature to relationships among people) is not something concrete and is something debated about within the Gay and Lesbian community as well.

            People conceived of homosexuality in different ways in 60s and 70s it was partly a statement against conventional marriage and was opposed to the idea that two people of different genders (again socially determined) should be bound together for all eternity and produce and raise children. Gay people of this thought process are not in favor commitment. They wanted to express the fluidity of sexuality (a la Kinsey) and be more free flowing. They found marriage to be unnatural.

            In the early 90sAndrew Sullivan (among others) made the argument to give gay people the right to be married. This would conventionalize and provincialize the homosexual relationships so that the radical elements of homosexuality were removed and not challenging to heterosexual society’s norms.

            In the present day gay people due to practical concerns are deciding that it would be better to have the protection of the statement. They realize they want children and a family and they want to protect them so they want the state to provide them the privileges that a married couple has so that they can protect their loved ones.

            These different positions of gay people of different times are all valid. These debates still go on in and outside the community and shows that how we position ourselves in society is very fluid.

          • Tausif Khan

            I don’t agree with Sullivan’s position but it is his right to have it.

            *protection of the state

          • Tausif Khan

            All of this ties back to Willow and Tara because if we are to ask for proof of one’s sexuality then we should ask for proof of a person’s identity. If we are to question the identity of homosexual relationships then we should also question the evolution and creation of the modern heterosexual relationship (which is not the same as it has always been practiced).

          • Tausif Khan

            I believe we choose to be who we are everyday. We are definitely not the people we are when we are born, we grow and change based on outside stimuli and internal thoughts. Therefore I believe that Tara can have those doubts but it will be unfair to confront Willow with them because all Willow can do is prove to Tara everyday that she is committed to her.

  4. Gill

    In terms of Glory, are we on the same page that the Ben/Glory story is pretty bizarrely implemented?

    Wait – are you saying there’s some sort of link between Ben and Glory?

    I agree the quarrel between Willow and Tara escalates a bit quickly, but there have been hints for some time that Willow’s attitude to her magic is an issue, so it’s not so surprising that it’s a trigger point. It shows that as yet the Scoobies really haven’t grasped how powerful Glory is, and how much they need to band together to protect each other as much as to protect Dawn. As in earlier instances, though, a real emotional crisis amps up Willow’s level of power, so that she is able to withstand Glory for rather longer than Buffy was on her first encounter with the hell-god. (Interesting that Whedon uses an attractive female body but uses the male term “god” here. Others may recognise a pattern.)

    Note how Spike is more subtly integrated into the team here.

    I’d strongly suggest you watch on to the end of S5 before catching up with Angel – at the very least, return to Buffy before the last trio of episodes in AtS2.

    I’m so glad to see you are continuing with the Catchup – you have been missed!

    • Tausif Khan

      He has said that he wanted people to think of Buffy as a hero and not just a heroine a women who fights along side a male hero but a hero in her own right.

  5. mothergunn

    This is a difficult thing to talk about, so please excuse me if things seem a bit jumbled here.

    Tara’s fear that Willow’s orientation isn’t permanent, or whatever (it’s been a little while since I watched that ep, so I can’t remember the exact wording), is actually pretty valid, even if it seems a little irrelevant with regards to their current argument. Here’s the situation: I think it’s safe to assume that Tara’s been out for quite some time, at least longer than Willow has, as Will says as much. Also, Willow’s relationship with Tara is her first homosexual one. Finally, we (the audience) missed a lot of their initial hooking up as it happened off-screen, so we really don’t know for sure how much they’ve addressed this particular issue.

    The particular issue is this: homosexual relationships, in our modern society, can suffer from some internal strain due to society’s judgments. Willow may have a bit of a complex (even if it’s totally subconscious) with regards to Tara because she’s a more experienced Gay. I know it sounds silly, but I just don’t know how else to put it. Here’s some of the things that may be on her mind: “Tara’s been out longer, and is therefore a more valid member of the Gay Community than I am, and her opinions on this subject hold more water; What must she think of me, being the cute little noob, and does this make our relationship less valid because I have less experience?; I’m afraid to let others know about our relationship, because they might/will judge me, and that damages my self-esteem AND makes my feelings toward this person whom I truly care about seem wrong or dirty.” Also, Tara may be feeling the reverse of these things, as well as wondering if Willow is thinking them, because once-upon-a-time she was a noob, too. Tara’s sudden outburst of worry seems more to me like she’s been thinking it for a while but didn’t ever bring it up in conversation because she didn’t want to deal with the drama. Now that they’re already fighting, why not talk about it?

    So, my point here is that this is a legitimate argument that is had by many gay couples, and it’s nice that it’s addressed here. In fact, I hear Tara’s line about Willow’s orientation more clearly than any of her other concerns because it seems very real. Although, I do remember that one time when I had that argument with my girlfriend about her gratuitous magic use…

    • mothergunn

      And when I say it’s difficult to talk about, I don’t mean emotionally difficult, I mean it’s hard to express to someone who hasn’t dealt with it personally, which is why I felt compelled to spend so much time explaining it.

      • Tausif Khan

        I agree that this a legitimate argument but not if you consider what has happened previously between Tara and Willow. Every time that Tara has expressed to Willow that “it is ok if Willow does not want to go out with Tara” Willow has emphasized that it was her choice to choose Tara and chooses Tara. This became perfectly clear in New Moon Rising when Willow’s ex-boyfriend comes back to town showing her that he has changed for her. Willow is impressed and happy that Oz had changed but makes no sexual advances (they are friends they have a lot to talk about) and has a hard time telling him about Tara. Tara thinks that now that the boyfriend is back Willow’ experiment is over. However, Willow is strong enough to realize her own strength (and happy that Oz found his) to go back to Tara and commit to her. This is a clear affirmation that she is in the relationship and that she is gay. If Tara and Willow break up it won’t be because she figured out she wasn’t gay it’s because they realize that the relationship is not working for them.

        It is wrong of Tara to question Willow’s sexuality at this point but at the same time the fight could have been just that a fight, between a couple and things were said in the heat of the moment that were not intended (although it did seem pretty clear that that is an actual worry of Tara’s). Therefore I think that that statement was just wrong of Tara to say.

        • Karen

          Except, part of the reason for Tara being justifiably worried is that there is some possibility that Willow and Oz’s relationship was prevented because Oz did NOT, in fact, have the wolf under control. Tara cannot KNOW what Willow and Oz shared as they deconstructed the end of their relationship, so she has to trust that even if Oz had stayed in Sunnydale Willow would hold faith with her. It was never actually put to the test. (Hence, lots of fanfic……)

          So, in a fight, that trust is reasonably shaken, imo.

          • Tausif Khan

            I do not think that Willow going to Oz was prevented. Because the night he came back Willow and Oz stayed up all night just talking as friends. Willow did not make any advances and reaffirmed her commitment to Tara in the episode.

          • Tausif Khan

            Yes I agree you can never truly know but the same can be said about any heterosexual relationship so the concrete evidence needs to be analyzed.

  6. greg

    It’s certainly not unreasonable that Tara considers Willow to be more “bi” than “gay” and it’s more than reasonable to assume that they’ve never really had any in-depth conversations regarding the subject, as any mention of Xander or Oz would only open old wounds and Willow, especially, seems to avoid conflict wherever possible, up to and including the point of possible being considered an emotional enabler. Is anyone, anywhere, ever in a relationship where there isn’t some insecurity about some aspect of the other partner? It seemed like a pretty well-written and organic lead-up to the fight to me.

    As far as Ben/Glory is concerned, I found it interesting when the episodes first aired, if only because, after being informed that Glory was one of three gods who ruled over a Hell-dimension, I just assumed that Ben was one of the other ones and that a third would soon arrive to form a triad. This, of course, never happened, and I’m still not entirely sure if it was nimble misdirection on the part of the writers or just my own overactive imagination running away with me.

    • mothergunn

      “Willow, especially, seems to avoid conflict wherever possible, up to and including the point of possible being considered an emotional enabler”

      Oh, oh, this. One of the many reasons I can relate so well to Willow. And, also like Willow, I just can’t seem to learn not to do it over… and over…

      • diane

        Not just an enabler, but there are elements of addiction and dependency forming around Willow’s relationship to her magics. She needs the power she gets from it. She reacts with emotional violence to any suggestion that it’s out of control, especially coming from Tara.

        Since Myles has already seen “Once More With Feeling”, it’s not spoilage to say that we haven’t seen the last of this. But any more would be spoilage.

        • greg

          Okay, but let’s be clear here. “The power she gets from it” only in the sense that she gets to contribute to the group because of the magick. She defines herself as useful because of what she can contribute, and she has a very sincere need to define herself. We NEVER see her get a sense of power from actually casting a spell – she shows signs of addiction to the power FROM her identification with the magick; not the magick itself. Even when fighting Glory, she didn’t show signs of “getting off on” casting spells the same way that, for instance, Faith “got off on” slaying vamps. The “out of control” moments are all about abuse of power; showing off to (in her mind) “get good grades” from Buffy & Co., not “out of control” in that she’s doing spells for the physical or psychological rush of casting them.

          • diane

            “Power” can mean many things. Physical strength. Control of self. Control of others. Respect of others. Oddly, though, not self-respect. Self-respect is one thing that Willow never got from magic, nor from defining herself as useful to the group, or by contribution to the group.

            Addiction can be physical or psychological. (Or, one assumes, mystical.) Some people use addictions to escape from reality. Some, including Willow, use risky or dangerous substances as a means of coping with reality.

            I agree that Willow’s out-of-control moments come from abuse of power, both power over magic and power over others. Magic is a crutch for her; she uses it to boost her self-esteem in temporary and ultimately ineffective ways. It becomes the very definition of dependency.

            I’d guess we will come back to this topic at some point….

  7. Tausif Khan

    There is a few things I need to clarify. When I made my original post on the relationship of Willow and Tara I thought a little bit differently about homosexual relationships than I did in posting responses to other commentators. Therefore to clarify in the original post I was thinking with the assumption that people are either born gay or straight (again this is something I am still trying to figure out). In the course of my reading and talking with other people I generally think that identity is more fluid and that we choose who we are everyday.

    The reason why I posted originally with the idea that people are either born gay or straight is because the opposite of that idea would be that people choose to be gay or straight and that implies that if you can choose to be gay you can unchoose it and that does not produce a very happy feeling in people who stake their identity in one characteristic or another. It is very scary to think that who you are could be unraveled at any moment. Therefore for those who believe that people are born gay I think it is valid and more power to you.

    On a more abstract level (and the thing I believe or want to believe) is that people choose their identities and change over time depending on the different thoughts or external stimuli.

    I just wanted to clarify that because it would just seem like I was making an inconsistent argument but I was more so trying to figure out what I believe as well. (I am still not 100% sure but I am leaning more toward the more fluid identity part).

    • Karen

      Very well stated. I never disagreed with the idea that Willow was committed to Tara, or that Tara was hurting Will with her doubt…just arguing that it was reasonable for Tara to worry about and say such things in the heat of an argument. I was making the point that the argument worked dramatically for me, whereas Myles seemed to find it less believable that Tara would be question Will’s commitment to her, especially relating to her sexuality.

      The subtext is that college is indeed a time of experimentation and the cultural paradigm is that people do, in fact, *try on* different personas. Willow, in fact is the one who opens the can of worms when she doesn’t let Tara finish:
      Willow: This isn’t about the witch thing. It’s about the other changes in my life.
      Tara: I trust you, I just… I don’t know where I’m gonna fit in in your life when—
      Willow: When… I change back? Yeah, this is a college thing, just a little experimentation before I get over the thrill and head back to boys’ town. You think that?
      Tara: Should I?

      I always fanwanked that Tara was going to finish that sentence by saying, “…..when you become uber powerful DarkWillow.” (Well, uberwitch, anyways.)

      So Willow’s jump to conclusions could be seen as evidence of a sorts that she herself has questioned her *lesbo street cred*.

      • Anne

        I always think Tara is going to finish the when sentence with “when we leave college”. And that Willow’s bringing up the “When… I change back?” is her own insecurities about her relationship with Tara.

      • Stevi

        Yes, I agree. I think Willow jumps track in the argument first. Whether Tara was going to address concerns about Willow not needing her as she grew to rely more and more on magic, or whether her concern was more about how Willow was growing as a person (and don’t we all worry in a relationship that the other person is going to grow away from us?), Willow’s own apparent insecurity sent the argument off the rails and toward broader issues that Tara might not have intended.

        That IS how real arguments can tend to run, so I understand why some people aren’t tweaked over it. But I also understand why others find it a bit left field (in terms of story-telling value), since it’s not something we’ve really SEEN questioned by either Willow or Tara. And since we, as the audience, haven’t seen any hints of this bubbling under the surface for either character, it seems to boil over out of nowhere.

        Yes, this does happen in real life, but in the tight constraints of time in the story, this seems more like a cheap trick to escalate the fight, rather than a natural progression from the argument itself, or from previous hints in the story. Almost like an emotional retcon – making it seem like it’s been an issue (in order to pay off the argument), when it hasn’t been.

        • Tausif Khan

          “don’t we all worry in a relationship that the other person is going to grow away from us?”

          This may be a main worry but in real life people don’t say these things to each other because it puts impossible to prove expectations on the other person.

          It is good for television only for subtext for two reasons I can see here. It is good as a connection to Willow’s growing connection to magic and her detachment from reality. Also, it underscores that Willow and Tara are to stay together unless one of them does something that would break them a part. Tara being more concerned about the magic would be a practical problem they could both handle, work together on and become closer in the end.

        • Tausif Khan

          “toward broader issues that Tara might not have intended. ”

          I feel that Tara did intend these issues in the end because she pushed the argument in that direction. Tara wanted to know whether she would have to make back up plans. Tara could have been tactful and try to avoid the whole situation (I think this would have been more in character because to me she has always been wise).

        • Tausif Khan

          Tara constantly questioned Willow’s commitment to her in the beginning by suggesting that it was ok if Willow decided to hang out with her friends more. Willow always responded by choosing Tara so this is why I mainly felt that this argument was over the top but at the same time boldly understated that this was not a college fling.

      • Tausif Khan

        @Karen

        “I never disagreed with the idea that Willow was committed to Tara, or that Tara was hurting Will with her doubt…just arguing that it was reasonable for Tara to worry about and say such things in the heat of an argument. I was making the point that the argument worked dramatically for me, whereas Myles seemed to find it less believable that Tara would be question Will’s commitment to her, especially relating to her sexuality.”

        This is also well put and will help me respond quickly. Basically because of the reason you raise here I just thought it was a cheap shot to take and then it ends up becoming the focus of the argument whether Willow is truly gay and I find that over the top because (as the show tries to represent real life through metaphor and through real life interaction) it is impossible for Willow to prove such a thing and would just result in subjective shouting and hurt feelings (which is where I guess that you find it real and I can agree that fights between couples are not always neat and tidy).

        But I feel it was unfair of Tara to tie those two points together when in their relationship she has been nothing but faithful. It would have been interesting if Tara had referenced how she cheated on Oz with Xander (to show that Willow and Tara do indeed have close relationship) and that would have grounded the discussion for me.

        I think the reason why I think I need to have discussion grounded a little in evidence is that this conversation is being written not only to depict a real relationship (as real as it can be) but it is also trying to advance story arcs and so I would like my story to flow better and match the story with the emotion and character. Tara has always struck me as wise so I think I actually find it a little unbelievable that she actually went there.

        My guess is that Joss wanted to use the dialogue to underscore to the fans that this was not just a college thing and it was a real relationship as real as any heterosexual relationship.

        So this is the question I am left with: Why is Willow’s sexuality questioned when she is with Tara? Why wasn’t her sexuality questioned in her relationship with Oz? Why is heterosexuality considered to be so normal? Why don’t people question heterosexual relationships as much as homosexual relationships: http://www.amazon.com/Invention-Heterosexuality-Jonathan-Ned-Katz/dp/0452275423

        • Tausif Khan

          *thought question Willow’s sexuality was a cheap shot

          *It would have been interesting if Tara had referenced how Willow cheated on Oz with Xander

          • Tausif Khan

            The other qualm I have with Tara questioning Willow’s sexuality is the implicit understanding that gender matters. No one questioned Willow’s sexuality when she was with Oz. This is even after dopplegangland in which we see that Vampire Willow is a lesbian. Angel was prevented from saying that the vampire persona is an extension of the real person. However, everyone (minus Angel I guess being the most worldly and vampiric of the group) was confident in Willow’s sexuality as straight. I find it weird that in a lesbian relationship (I mean specifically lesbian because gay people incur great social stigma when they come out and maintain their identity. With lesbians there is the fetish of girl on girl kissing so it is even harder for them to affirm their identity) that a person’s identity is questioned at every moment by the person themselves, their lover and their friends.

      • lawrence

        Interesting. I see a lot of discussion about Tara’s fear about Willow, and I’ve actually never interpreted their fight as Tara actually worrying about whether or not Willow is ‘sufficiently gay’.

        She says, “I trust you. I just… I don’t know where I’m gonna fit in. In your life, when –”

        and then Willow cuts her off (Willow’s the one being confrontational, not Tara), *assuming* Tara’s talking about her orientation. All Tara does is ask, “Should I?” when Willow suggests that may be what she’s concerned about. I think the “Should I?” was more her way of saying “Are you really that concerned that I don’t think you’re being honest with yourself?” because she can’t believe Willow would think that about *her*.

        I’ve always taken Tara’s actual worries to be twofold:

        One, she’s worried that Willow is with her for the magic, since that was a huge focus of their relationship at the beginning, and now that Willow is a brilliant witch, Tara is thinking that Willow won’t need her any more. (“… I don’t know where I’m gonna fit in.”)

        Plus, to take the ‘magic == sex’ metaphor from S4, the argument also seems more or less the equivalent of “We never have sex any more, don’t you love me?” because Willow and Tara *don’t* do magic together that much any more, since Willow’s so powerful on her own.

        But the other, and I believe more significant problem, is that given how much more experience with magic Tara has than Willow, she understands the dangers of that kind of power. I think Tara is actually a lot more powerful than she lets on, but holds back because she knows the limits of what is reasonable and responsible. Willow, on the other hand, has just discovered that she’s incredibly powerful and also discovered that she kind of enjoys that power. She doesn’t feel the same limits that Tara does, either because she lacks the experience to know or the conscience to care.

        And that attitude *is* dangerous and Tara is right to be frightened by it.

        • lawrence

          And wow that comment ended up in completely the wrong place.

          • Tausif Khan

            My question to you Lawrence is how would you extend the metaphor to include Willow’s growing power? What does it mean for Willow’s understanding of womenhood? Is it possible for a woman in a patriarchal society to have too much power? If she does have too much power is she acting like too much of a man?

            Also, please tell me you have seen Firefly. If not please watch the pilot. Focus on the scene where Jayne gets to do a little interrogating.

          • Tausif Khan

            I partly agree with you here: “One, she’s worried that Willow is with her for the magic, since that was a huge focus of their relationship at the beginning, and now that Willow is a brilliant witch, Tara is thinking that Willow won’t need her any more. (“… I don’t know where I’m gonna fit in.”)”

            But at what point does the metaphor break down and does it become just about the relationship between two women? To me there are explicit references to be lesbians and being wicca. The lesbian reference that was discussed above is without explicit reference to being a witch. Willow and Tara in this conversation literally separate the conversation of being a witch and being a lesbian. How does this complicate the metaphor? Does the metaphor still have strength as a pure metaphor or has it diminished in that it is mixed with real life relationship drama.

          • lawrence

            Yes, of course I have seen Firefly. 🙂

            Really, I think the metaphor begins and ends with ‘magic == sex’. I think it exists partly because they *couldn’t* be more explicitly sexual with the lesbian couple on TV, which is a horrible double standard, since Where The Wild Things Are, for example, is pretty much soft core porn with Buffy and Riley.

            But I think the argument itself is a common one. I mean, imagine two people meeting over any shared interest and starting to build their relationship on it. Then one of them becomes more interested in it and the other less interested, and suddenly, insecurities come out and despite the fact that they’ve built this relationship that is now based on much more than a single shared interest, one of them feels like a less-than-equal partner and worries that the other will leave for someone who more closely meets their current needs.

            Which of course, is not how a good relationship is supposed to work. The whole point is to support each other through those changes, and now that I think about it, Tara was not supportive of Willow’s magical growth, but instead pulled away from it because it scared her.

            Instead of growing together with mutual support, Tara allowed Willow to grow independently into someone she wasn’t sure she could be with, and Willow allowed Tara to withdraw from the thing that brought them together in the first place. Instead of discussing it, they just let that keep going until it became a big issue.

            Had it been Oz instead of Tara, the argument still would have happened, and in fact, that *is* more or less the same argument that broke them up for good in Wild At Heart:

            “You changed and didn’t trust me to support you through that change, so I’m worried about what you’re changing into” or “I changed and you weren’t there to support me, and now you’re worried I’m going to leave?”

            Same thing with Buffy and Riley, too. Riley never trusted Buffy to support him as he left the Initiative and tried to adjust to civilian life and a normal, medically safe life.

            So it has nothing to do with Willow and Tara being witches or lesbians, it just happened that they *are* and as a result, the argument touched on both subjects.

          • mothergunn

            Everyone’s arguments make sense to me and I don’t think we’re ever going to agree on exactly what it was they were fighting about. *However* I think the ultimate question is this: Is Tara right to be worried about Willow?

          • Tausif Khan

            @Lawrence I think the question would be is is a person gay or lesbian if they are not currently with a person of the same sex? If they are single what will you consider them? How will you know?

            The fight I was talking about with Oz is around the time that Willow cheated on him with Xander. Willow’s commitment to Oz was questioned but not her commitment to men. However, between Tara and Willow there is a constant tension of whether a)Willow has a commitment to her relationship b) whether she has a commitment to loving in the world of women. Both I feel are impossible to prove definitively in current society. Also, with b) the assumption then becomes that gender matters and my feeling is that the queering (positive meaning) of relationships is to show us that gender does not matter and that people should love people and not a single characteristic of them.

            This is why I think that Willow and Tara should focus on the everyday little moments that they can both be upset by and enjoy and change if the other is upset.

            Do the doubts that Willow is not gay exist? Yes. Should these concerns (in a sexually deconstructed world) exist? No. If we follow the line of the argument we should also question Tara’s sexuality because if she has had relationships with other women she has broken up with them too so where is her commitment to women? This line of questioning would be unfair for Tara to have to take on and the same for Willow. Therefore it is better just to notice how the other person in a relationship cares for you so that you can see that they love you and nothing else matters.

          • mothergunn

            You know, you’re right. In the grand scheme of things, gender and orientation really don’t matter (I’m channeling Giles right now). Their fight is legit, and I totally get where they’re both coming from, but the labels really don’t matter at all.

          • Tausif Khan

            @Mother Gunn

            ?

            I don’t know why you are trying to stop the conversation. Time doesn’t matter on an internet blog. Especially on a dvd review. I am trying to figure something out. I am also interested in people’s responses. Moreover, my comment was not even aimed at you it was aimed at Lawrence. So if he still wants to respond then I want to hear what he as to say.

          • mothergunn

            See, this is why we, the People of the Internet, need a universal sarcasm font. This way, when a person is being sarcastic, or, more importantly, when they’re not being sarcastic, it can be universally recognized.

            I was not, as you put it, trying to “stop the conversation.” I was actually, sincerely, agreeing with you, as well as expressing my honest opinion on the conversation. I was not aware this was not allowed. Since you are apparently so very offended by my presence in this thread, I will go away now.

            Lawrence, the floor is yours 😉

  8. I’d say that Glory’s thematic purpose within the show is that she is the funhouse mirror image of Buffy, everything Buffy fears she was, pre-Slayerhood, and fears she could become without her friends. There’s a reason the characters remark on how Glory reminds them of Cordelia a few times, as Cordelia fulfilled this same function in earlier seasons.

  9. I haven’t read the other comments yet, but I really don’t like this episode. The whole Tara as mentally ill storyline really made me uncomfortable, and I never liked Glory/Ben as very plausible, though of course Glory was a fun character.

  10. Bob Kat

    I feel the argument’s been covered thoroughly but I feel my own words have a point here.
    From my extreme outsider’s perspective, I honestly think it would be impossible for someone in Tara’s postion not to feel, at least on the Freudian slip level, soem insecurity in her ‘ship with Willow (I don’t think Tara raised the point intentionally. I do take her failure to contradict Willow on it as evidence.) “Tourist” is a very real phenomenon in the gay community.
    But I do think Tara is already gettign concerned not just about Willow’s power (expressed content) but also about the over-use of magick. (subtext, which even Tara may not have words for yet.)
    Well, the stability of their relationship is a question that’s been answered, anyway. In my ficverse, they’re expecting the birth of their second daughter in a few weeks. Which will lead to a whole new set of problems in 16 years….

    GLory has been shown to be vulnerbale to soem types of miagick. Would Willow’s F”Reeing Spell ” have worked (and what would have happened) if she’d gotten it out before Glory actually got her fingers into Tara’s head?

    I think GLory was exiled at the time Ben was conceived or, at the latest, born. She just mainfested only rarely before.

    ***Semi-SPoiler******************
    It’s one epsidoe further into the season but this aired about a year after “Superstar” and soemthing bad was done to Tara in both. Keep that in mind.

    • The TVphile

      @Bob_Kat Re: your semi-spoiler, “Superstar” was 4×17 (aired April 2000). “Tough Love” is 5×19 (aired May 2001), not 5×18.

  11. tjbw

    @Gill:

    LO-frickin’L!

  12. devilscrayon

    …so do we suspect that there may be some sort of connection between Glory and Ben?

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