1st Anniversary Character Posting Board Party - Willow
Isabel - June 21, 2001

Willow, our Favorite Red-headed, Bisexual Witch

Ah, labels, what a good way to start out. Perhaps I should explain myself. I hesitate to use 'Wiccan' to describe Willow because Wicca is a religion, albeit one I don't know a lot about. For a while I had thought Willow had converted to Wicca, but in Listening to Fear she said:

"Oh, I feel just like Santa Claus. Except thinner, and younger, and female, and well, Jewish."

So I'm still considering her Jewish, since people traditionally only have one religion at a time. I did some surfing on the Web and learned that Wiccans consider themselves witches, not all witches are Wiccan. I am not fond of BtVS' using it interchangeably with 'witch.' Perhaps the show is trying to soften the term so it is easier to think of Willow and Tara as good witches, but any 5 year old who's seen Glinda, the Witch of the North in The Wizard of Oz is familiar with the concept of a good witch.

"Hello, gay now!" to Anya in Triangle.

Bisexual should be obvious, and we did discuss it at some length a few months back. The dictionary definition reads "sexually attracted to both sexes." (Wordsworth Concise English Dictionary, c1994) She had a life-long crush on Xander. She dated and loved Oz. She is dating and loves Tara, very much. That quote is also factual. She's in a lesbian relationship, now. Willow isn't thinking of future lovers, because, for her, each relationship is her last.

"You care about someone, you care about them. You can't change that by..." to Buffy about Angel. (I'm 95% sure the line is from Angel. I can't find a quote list or script that lists it. I copied it down one night while watching 1st season episodes and forgot to note which episode. Duh.)

One of the things I like best about Willow is her loving nature. She doesn't hold back in case she gets hurt or come into the relationship with preconceptions. If she and Tara break up, Joss forbid, there is no set definition of whoever she'll fall for next. I think Willow falls in love with the person she falls for, and doesn't care about whatever else they may be: male/female, werewolf/witch, human/demon. Bearing that in mind, I've noticed that there are similarities between Oz and Tara. Both are quiet, Oz is habitually taciturn and Tara is quiet and insecure around people she doesn't know. Both are talented, Oz is a musician and Tara is a natural witch. And both thought Willow was terrific before they got involved. (Always a good thing.) There's one more thing that Tara and Oz have in common, but I'm mentioning that later.

An aspect of the show I really like is that not one of our heroes is a paragon of virtue. Everyone has their negative human aspects. Giles is pedantic with a hidden violent streak, Xander can be the jealousy-ridden slacker clown, and Buffy tried not to be the slayer, ran away, lied to her friends about Angel, ... you get the picture... Willow, she tends to be the most kind-hearted and forgiving of the Scooby Gang, but not always. She was the first Scooby to accept that Angel might be a good vampire (Angel;) because Buffy asked for it, she got Angel's soul back while she was in a hospital bed (Becoming, Pt.2;) and she was the first to accept Angel back after he returned from Hell despite the fact he had almost killed her as Angelus. (Revelations, and after.) She argued against killing Hus, the Vengeance Spirit because he had a right to be angry about his people's extermination (Pangs.) She kept Spike from staking himself, when Xander wanted to lend a hand, also despite the fact that he had almost killed her, twice (Doomed.)

But she drew the line at Faith. Before I started researching for this essay, I had forgotten that Willow really didn't like Faith at all. In fact, compare Willow's and Xander's attitudes towards Angel and Faith. They're mirror images of each other. Xander was jealous of Angel because he had Buffy, romantically, and he was an almost physical equal to Buffy. Willow was jealous of Faith because she had Xander, sexually, the same number of times Angel had Buffy, and she was a physical equal to Buffy. Plus, Faith took Willow's place as Buffy's girl buddy. In Bad Girls, Buffy was ditching Willow to go slaying with Faith and Willow wasn't allowed to tag along, even though she had gone in the past, because she might get hurt.

I've already mentioned that Willow was the first, after Buffy, to forgive Angel for Angelus. When Faith started unraveling in Consequences, Xander was one of the ones who tried to reach out to her. It didn't work. She almost strangled him. Then, a year later, when she woke up from her Buffy-induced coma, Xander still thought at first she might be able to be rehabilitated. Willow, on the other hand, argued 'No, she's a killer. She should go to jail.' Or Buffy should at least beat her up.

If I counted correctly, Faith had only killed 2 humans at that point, at least on screen. The Deputy Mayor, in Bad Girls, (an accident) and the Geology Professor, in Graduation Day, pt. 1 (definitely NOT an accident.) Plus she had tried to kill Angel, hurt Buffy, and helped the Mayor in his plans to eat the town. Angelus, on the other hand, murdered Jenny, a teacher Willow liked, as well as at least 120 other people in Sunnydale (on and off screen) before Buffy sent him to Hell. (Assuming 1 person/day to feed, if he became evil in Mid-January and was sucked into Acathla at the end of May. Not counting the roughly 53,000 people he ate in the 145 years before he got his soul back the first time.) Perhaps she rationalizes that Angel and Angelus are 2 separate people, one who is a good guy, and one who belongs in Hell. But what's her rationale for Spike? Yes, he's helpless now, or at least until we see if his chip was damaged in that fall, but he's still an unrepentant vampire who joyously killed for 119 years. That's roughly 43,500 people, if you do the math.

I'm not bashing Willow, or Angel and Spike for that matter. All I want to do is point out that our girl has quite a blind spot. At this point, Buffy may even have a higher human body count than Faith does after she took out the dozen or so Knights of Byzantium. Of course Buffy was defending everyone's lives, so it wasn't simply murder.

"I'm not your sidekick!" to Buffy in Fear, Itself.

Willow has changed a lot from the girl we saw drinking water from the fountain in Welcome to the Hellmouth. She was an intelligent, shy, dowdy, naive schoolgirl, in her brown jumper that her mom picked out for her. She only had a few friends and she was ignored and/or picked on by all the cool kids in school. In extraordinary circumstances, she was the last to lose her faith in normality. Even after finding out that it was vampires who had taken their friend Jesse, she wondered why they weren't calling the police. To her credit she adjusted quickly, "Buffy, I'm not anxious to go into a dark place full of monsters, but I do want to help. I need to." (The Harvest)

Willow quickly put her brains and computer ability towards helping her new best friend save the world. From Xander's comment about her hacking into City Hall's files, "Somebody's been naughty." I figured that he hadn't even known about it. From then on, when Buffy needed information, Willow found ways to get it, cracking encrypted files, reading coroner's reports, getting city plans. I always felt that Willow's hacking was a rebellion against her innocent exterior. "I'm very seldom naughty." To Buffy in Restless. Her subconscious must not count being a hacker as 'naughty.'

Then she discovered magic. Finally something she could do to really contribute to Buffy's slaying. She started out slow with a potion in The Witch, but by the middle of the 2nd season she was casting minor spells, like Angelus' disinvites. I think her first major spell was the re-soulification of Angel, but she did get some help from somewhere so it wasn't entirely on her own.

Soon, Giles and everyone started encouraging Willow to slow down a bit and be more careful. Some spells had gone awry so people were starting to be concerned about magic being performed. Willow found ways around this, from finding Giles' hidden spell books in his locked office to just not telling people about all the magic she was performing.

Xander: Is that a spell book?

Willow: No, no, no! Chemistry book.

X: Wait a minute. This is love spell stuff. You doing a love spell?

W: No, of course not! This is a purely scientific... de-lusting spell... for us. I thought it would go better if you didn't know.

X: Are you nuts? Or have you forgotten I tend to have bad luck with these sorts of spells? .....

W: This whole "us" thing is... bleach!

X: So, do you really need to resort to the black arts to keep our hormones in check? (Lover's Walk)

I had planned on doing a statistical analysis of success and failure of her spells and determine whether she's irresponsible or misunderstood by her friends. Right now I've got the potion in the Witch, Success; the Resoulification of Angel-Success (but she had help); The 'My will be done' spell in Something Blue-Failure, 3x a failure, almost killing Xander & Anya, Blinding Giles, then Spike and Buffy trying to suck out each other's tonsils, plus the De-ratting and Re-ratting of Amy cancel each other out; The 'find the demons in Sunnydale' spell-failure, but Tara sabotaged it; The 'get the petals off the rose' spell, also with Tara-technically a success, but I think I'll count as a failure because they burned off when the rose became a floral ballistic missile; The 'metaphor for sex' spell when Tara had to anchor Willow so she could travel to the astral plane to see who was in Buffy's body- Success; The multiple mentioned attempts to De-rat Amy-Failures; The 'ball of sunshine' spell-failure, so far, and Olaf was 'No ball of sunshine'; Causing pain to Glory-Success; Shielding the group from intruders-Success; Sucking Tara back- Success (But was it complete?); Getting Buffy to 'Snap out of it'-Success; Tossing minions out of Spike's way-Success; The 'Find my way' spell in Fear, Itself-Success, but when it turned on her, failure.

Time is passing, so I can't do a thorough enough job. As it is that's 9 Successes, 8 Failures including 1 sabotage. And that's just off the top of my head. It's definitely not all the magic that Willow's done. Just this sample comes out to roughly a 53% success rate. With the power that Willow is obviously wielding at the present time, is that a good enough percentage to shrug off all criticism? Granted, Willow's had a large number of successes recently, but is that because she's turned to using Dark Magic and/or working with the controlling influence of Tara?

Now Willow has a level of power. In The Gift, Buffy tells Willow she's their big gun because she's the most powerful of them all. This seems to startle her, even though she was the only one who had hurt Glory, at that point. I laughed when she said no, she'd rather be a cudgel or a pointy stick, because a pointy stick in the hands of a Slayer is a powerful weapon.

I've come back to Tara and Oz. The two people who love and know Willow the best, and the last thing I noticed they had in common was they both told Willow that they were worried about her use of magic. In Fear, Itself Willow calls Oz 'Brutus' because he admitted he had concerns about what magic she was doing. Later in the crazy house, when she did her conjuration to find the exit, it turned on her because she did something wrong and/or she lacked the control for the spell.

Willow and Tara's only fight so far has been when Tara told her how frightened she was by Willow's progress in Tough Love.

TARA: --Oh but you're way beyond me there. In just a few -- I mean it frightens me how powerful you're getting.

WILLOW: That's a weird word.

TARA: (knows damn well) "Getting"?

WILLOW: It frightens you? I frighten you?

TARA: That's so not what I mean. I meant impresses, impressive...

WILLOW: Well I took Psyche 101 -- I mean, I took it from an evil government scientist who was skewered by her Frankenstein-like creation right before the final -- but I know what a Freudian slip is. (beat) Don't you trust me?

TARA: With my life!

WILLOW: That's not what I mean. ....

TARA: It's not that. I worry. Sometimes... You're changing so much, so fast, I don't know... where you're heading...

WILLOW: Where I'm heading?

TARA: I'm saying everything wrong.

This wasn't the first time that Willow and Tara had ideological differences over magic. When Dawn wanted to do the resurrection spell to get Joyce back, Tara insisted right off that it couldn't be done. Willow argued that it could, but it wasn't a good idea. Then Tara clarified that it was something that Wiccans took vows not to mess with because it was wrong. It was after Tara left the room that Willow slid the book out for Dawn to find the information she had wanted about the resurrection spell. And afterward, Willow did not tell Tara she was the one who led Dawn to the book.

Willow doesn't like limitations on her magic. When Anya was trying to stop her from doing magic in the shop when Giles was out of town, Willow made fun of her and kept on doing it, ignoring the facts that some spells weren't going right and maybe Anya had a point. I don't think she considers herself responsible for the destruction of the Magic Box or the Bronze and all of the people's injuries from Olaf's rampage.

I also found it interesting that after Glory brainsucked Tara, Willow knew exactly where to look to find Giles' hidden dark magic books. I'm pretty sure that they weren't ones that he'd just let her use, so she must have searched and found them on her own previously. An alarming thing I noticed when Willow cast her dark spells, her eyes went completely black, like Doc's did when Dawn went to him for the resurrection spell, and like Catherine Madison's did in The Witch when she cast her curse at Buffy that ended with Catherine trapped in the trophy. I'm pretty sure that's not just an indication of power level because when Willow re-souled Angel, her eyes didn't change at all.

A karmic principle that I found on some Wicca web sites was 'The Rule of Three.' Basically, it means that any magic power you use, the repercussions come back to you three times. If you cast a benevolent spell, you get benevolent repercussions, if you cast a malevolent spell, you get malevolent repercussions. Willow freely used dark magics to hurt Glory and save her friends, so by that philosophy, she's written several blank checks on her powers to the powers of Darkness. Will she have to pay up and how will that effect her?

Ever since Hush, Willow and Tara together have been a powerful magical combination, from moving the soda machine to flinging hoards of minions. Tara was raised in the use of natural magic and she is comfortable in accepting what witches can and can't do with magic. As long as Willow stays working with Tara, she'll have a calming influence and an ethical guide as well as an incredible power boost. Perhaps next year, she'll learn some of the witchcraft rights and wrongs and be one of the ones to 'Grow Up.'

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