Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Lovefest '07: #2. Magic

Alyson Hannigan and Amber Benson in "Family"
Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 5 (2000)

It's Tara's party, at the end of a life-changing birthday. She's lost her blood-family, but found out how much she means to her network of new friends. She's exorcised her worst self-loathing about her upbringing, having discovered she's not going to transform into a demon at 20, and taken the last step on her path to womanhood. And now she gets to slow dance with her girlfriend.

Y'know, of all Buffy characters, Tara has the most complete, mature understanding of the complexities of love. She makes the most difficult and adult choices about relationships. So this scene, which could just be sappy-pap goop -- not that I'd mind, for Tara and Willow earn the right to sappiness -- underlines something genuine and singular about the romance. Tara is naturally shy, but extraordinarily in-touch with her feelings, and can tell Willow a concrete reason her heart is surging at this moment: "Even when I'm at my worst, you make me feel special. How do you do that?" Willow's support has helped Tara squirm away from her oppressive family. It's wiped away some well-intentioned but foolish decisions she's made earlier.

Amber Benson has built Tara out of self-effacing tics designed to weave around Alyson Hannigan's solidly established mountain of self-effacing tics. Tara gives one of her finely-tuned, microcalibrated head jerks, squints and asks "how do you do that?", and Willow, in rare confidence answers: "Magic." Then we all cry.

If Willow's half-joke will resonate in unhappy ways in later years, do not despair too much, for we'll always have this scene. These sincere performances blow the sweetest of air through the characters, as the two witches in love float a foot above the dance floor, lost in a private moment of grace.

How do they do that?

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