Pepto-Bismol on standby, mom swaying with a bottle of Bailey’s in hand, awkward question dodging at the dinner table, and dragging my family to see Catching Fire for my second viewing; it must be Thanksgiving. After some geekish consideration, I find myself thankful for a certain ginger beard this year, Joss Whedon. (Well, Michael Fassbender too, but for more inappropriate reasons)
My official appreciation may be a little late, seeing how Joss has been apart of my life since the 90’s. But thanks to Netflix I’ve been binge watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer and have come to realize some important things I missed as a middle school fan of the series. Despite the fact that Buffy creator Joss Whedon knows self-aware dialogue and the importance of a strong female character, he also knows how to tell a real queer story. Many television shows, both past and present, with homosexual characters have depicted the queer storyline with social rejection and struggle, when in the Whedonverse it’s all about empowerment.
Before Alyson Hannigan became one of Barney Stinson’s best friends on How I Met Your Mother, she was Willow Rosenberg, a powerful witch within the Buffyverse and one of the first lesbians to be portrayed within a mainstream television series. In season 4, Willow’s magical abilities accelerate due to her relationship with her girlfriend and fellow witch Tara. Without Tara’s affection and trust with Willow, neither could become more powerful. Similarly as the show is a metaphor for high school/life being hell, Willow’s sexuality and relationship with Tara is understood through their practice of witchcraft. A memorable scene of this metaphoric nature comes in the episode “Once More, With Feeling” when Tara floats above the bed during an erotic moment with Willow.
Since Willow is a main character of the series, by season 4 the audience can easily identify with Willow and understand her growth. Her lesbianism comes so natural as does the saving the day routine of each episode. Joss Whedon doesn’t create a character who needs saving because of her sexuality, he creates an essential power player in the Scooby Gang and proves the necessity and normalcy of a homosexual couple within the Buffyverse. Not to say Willow serves as the perfect representation for all homosexuals, I simply am acknowledging the fact that her character is not suppressed because of her sexual identity, but empowered.
Joss Whedon is a man who deserves many thanks for many things. Firefly, Serenity, Angel, Toy Story, The Avengers, and of course 2015’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron are just a few. His creations are not just stories we want to watch over and over, he treats his viewers as educated equals who can easily identify with his references and metaphoric stories. As just another geek trying to become more comfortable with my own sexuality, I find it hard not to praise Whedon’s ability to bring such a complex character as Willow to television when the spectrum continues to play out the social exclusion storyline. So yes, thank you Joss Whedon, thank you Willow Rosenberg, and thank you Michael Fassbender. Clearly someone needs to pass the ginger.