On This Gay Day: Willow and Tara kissed on ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’

Willow and Tara kissed on ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ 

A lesbian or bisexual relationship on mainstream television may be fairly common place today, but it’s not that long ago that a same-sex relationship on screen was hard to find.

On this day in 2001 the characters of Willow and Tara kissed on the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer and they would go on to be one of the first ongoing female same-sex relationships on mainstream television.

Having female characters kiss had become somewhat of a ratings grabbing moment in the 1990s. In 1991 LA Law featured a kiss between characters CJ Lamb and Abbie Perkins, but in the next scene after the ad break one of the characters affirmed she was definitely heterosexual.

The episode kicked off a chain of shows including episodes where lesbian kisses occurred, often during the important ratings periods. Picket Fences includes a lesbian kiss in 1993, while Roseanne kissed Mariel Hemmingway on an episode of her show in 1994, while Party of Five featured a similar scene in 1999

By 2001 it seemed the world was ready to handle an actual relationship, rather than a passing moment of experimentation. At the end of the show’s third season the writers noted that while the show was being labeled as one of the gay shows on television, it didn’t actually have any gay characters.

Over the next season they slowly built up an attraction between longstanding character Willow, played by Alyson Hannigan, and new character Tara, portrayed by Amber Benson.  During the show’s fifth season the episode The Body saw the characters kiss for the first time.

While the show was praised for including a same-sex relationship, eventually it became a victim of the ‘kill your gays’ trope and Tara was killed off by a stray bullet.

Buffy’s not alone when it comes to TV milestones on the 27th February, it’s also the day the mini-series When We Rise first aired.

The 8-part docudrama series first screened in 2017 and saw a star-studded cast bring the memoirs of gay rights activist Cleeve Jones to life. Covering a period of 45 years the series shares the struggle for gay rights in the USA. The script was written by Dustin Lance Black, who previously penned the Harvey Milk biopic Milk.

Australian actor Guy Pearce portrayed Cleve Jones, Rachael Griffiths played activist Diane Jones, while Mary-Louise Parker played her girlfriend (later wife) Roma Guy. Jack Polotnik played Gilbert Baker, the creator of the rainbow flag. Also appearing in the series was Carrie Preston, Michael K Williams, Kevin McHale, Dylan Walsh, Whoopi Goldberg, Rosie O’Donnell, David Hyde Pearce, T.R. Knight, Richard Schiff, Charlie Carver, Phylicia Rashad, Mary McCormack, Henry Czerny and Balthazar Getty.

OIP Staff, this post was first published in 2021 and has been updated. 

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