1999 was a bit of a watermark year for gay representation on US television. Will & Grace was growing into a major hit (having premiered in late 1998), Jack came out on Dawson’s Creek, and in the world of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Willow (Alyson Hannigan) and Tara (Amber Benson) fell in love.
What was particularly unusual about Willow & Tara is not just that they were a same-sex couple – which was rare enough at the time – but that were shown as affectionate, sexual and affected by the same issues any couple faces, not just dealing with ‘gay issues’.
During a recent Reddit AMA, Benson talked about the pride she feels for having been part of the Buffy universe, saying “The most rewarding thing about playing Tara was that the relationship on Buffy between her and Willow helped kick open the door for more amazing LGBTQ characters on TV. We were so blessed to walk in their shoes and play those ladies. It’s one of the things I am most proud of in my life.”
Others online during the chat responded by talking about how important Tara & Willow were to them, such as one saying, “The only reason I knew it was okay to come out to my mother was because she told me how adorable she thought Willow and Tara were. She’d never said anything else for or against gay people so I had no idea before that.”
Benson added, “I feel very blessed to have played Tara on Buffy. It wasn’t about gratuitous making-out scenes. It was about two people who just happened to be of the same gender falling in love. [Joss Whedon] wrote real characters. He wasn’t trying to fill quotas. He was trying to create two people who just happened to be gay.”