Willow Rosenberg – Emily Wallace
Every hero needs a supportive group of friends around them and for Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar), that comes in the form of Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan). Willow is introduced as a quiet, shy character who helps Buffy out behind the scenes with her computer-hacking and research skills – as someone who would fill a similar role in the unlikely scenario of a friend being a vampire slayer, I was drawn to her right from the start. We follow as she grows confidence in herself, which coincides with her developing interest in learning witchcraft. Willow’s skills as a witch prove that ‘sidekick’ characters do not just have to help the hero, but can be just as powerful too, if not more powerful.
It is impossible to talk about Willow without mentioning the importance of her and fellow witch Tara’s (Amber Benson) relationship as one of the first female same-sex relationships on TV. Although ending tragically, falling into the ‘Bury Your Gays’ trope, this relationship was revolutionary for its time and no doubt inspired a generation of queer women. The positive portrayal of female friendship between Willow and Buffy is also important, as they constantly uplift and support each other instead of being pitted against one another (aside from the time she tries to kill Buffy and the entire world with dark magic, but that should hardly count).
Out of everyone on the show, Willow is perhaps the one who goes through the most growth, yet the essence of her personality is a constant throughout. Her importance both as a friend and as a magic-user cannot be understated, and Buffy (both the show and the character) would not be Buffy without Willow.
Spike – Isobel Radakovic
When I first started watching Buffy, the last thing I was expecting was to fall in love with the character designed to be hated by the viewers. The beginning of the show introduces Angel (David Boreanaz) as Buffy’s love interest, and while I rooted for the two of them to get together originally, as soon as the bleach-blonde Spike (James Marsters) came onto screen I knew they would be perfect together instead. Despite coming onto the show as the villain of the story, I knew there was a softer side to Spike and that his and Buffy’s mutual hate for one another would cross the thin line over into love. Witnessing his character development throughout the course of the show just made me love him even more, as he goes from actively hunting Buffy and her friends to wanting to be included in their tight-knit group. Unlike Drusilla’s (Juliet Landau) awful butchering of the classic Cockney accent, I didn’t mind James Marsters’ take on it and found it only added to his charm. With his charm and banter, I was drawn to Spike right away, and I loved every minute of getting to watch him cause chaos and eventually being an integral part of Buffy and its legacy.
Tara Maclay – Sian Allen
Like many Buffy fans, I was a snot-nosed, crying mess when Oz (Seth Green) left the show in Season Four. I loved his and Willow’s relationship and was devastated to see them break up – but little did I know that my favourite character was about to enter the show. When we first meet Tara in ‘Hush,’ she is a shy, unassuming member of Willow’s Wicca group. The kind, perceptive and principled moral guide that she grows into makes her one of Buffy’s best – and most underrated – characters.
Buffy is at its best when it redefines what feminine strength and power looks like. Tara may not be a fighter, but she shows a different and equally valuable kind of strength. She is always guided by what is right, making hard decisions and standing by them. Tara’s grounded and loving nature makes her a valued comfort character for me, and her relationship with Willow (despite all its’ controversies) will forever be a milestone in LGBTQ+ representation on television. It’s all too easy to overlook Tara, especially as Buffy has such a wealth of wonderful characters. But as a lover to Willow, a confidant to Buffy, and a maternal figure to Dawn, Tara reminds us of the importance of uplifting and supporting the strong women around us in our lives.
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