Queer Halloween review: Buffy The Vampire Slayer, “Once More, With Feeling”
By: Jess Ison
Welcome to my Archer Magazine queer film review!
Normally, I rate each film against my rigorous methodology of whether a film is better than Better Than Chocolate, the infamous and questionable 90s lesbian film. You can read my review of that film right here.
But this review will be a little different. In the spirit of Halloween, I thought I better watch and review something scary. So naturally, I thought of Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
The obvious choice of episode that came to mind was “Once More, With Feeling”, the iconic musical episode. So, how will this episode hold up against Better Than Chocolate?
The truth is, I am not a musical gay.
I know this might result in some calls for revoking my gay card, but look, we do exist! Also, this is the second musical I have reviewed for you all, so please let me stay.
I chose “Once More, With Feeling” because it is one of the best Buffy episodes, and contains absolutely fantastic gay representation. I do want to note that there have been some horrible allegations about Joss Whedon. This episode is a masterpiece that is so beyond him and his work.
So. A little recap.
At the end of season five, Buffy was killed in the battle against Glory(hole). In season six, Buffy’s pals have brought her back to life. The viewers know that Buffy was chilling in heaven, but she doesn’t want the Scooby gang to know this. She’s also been flirting with the Sooky Butch (aka Spike).
Tara and Willow are having troubles due to Willow’s reckless use of magic: a common lesbian issue. Xander and Anja are just whatever.
We open with Buffy looking very gay in a pleather jacket bashing people up. She sings the first iconic number about “going through the motions”.
Honestly, it is perfection.
Once she meets up with the Scooby gang, she finds out everyone has been bursting out in song. What the heck is going on Sunnydale? Something sinister must be afoot!
The team sing an uplifting song about working together to fight the dark forces.
Singing the lyric “What can’t we do if we get in it / We’ll work it through within a minute” is some of the best group collaboration.
Now to the part you are all here for.
Tara and Willow are canoodiling and make an excuse to leave, saying they’re off to pick up some books from their house. Honestly, when I want to sneak off with my GF, saying I’ve got books to pick up is my number one excuse.
Tara and Willow are walking along, holding hands and lesbian yearning at each other.
Tara, resplendent in early 2000s corsetry, starts singing about being under Willow’s spell. She sings her little heart out, engaging in some soft choreography that harkens back to high school dance troupes.
Suddenly, they’re in their room, circling around one another as Tara sings more about her love for Willow.
I should pause here to note that at the time this season aired, gay kissing was not allowed on the show’s then network, UPN. This gave way to one of the most iconic gay moments in television history. Let’s dive in.
They are circling around one another. They land on the bed. Tara keeps singing “You make me comeeee-plete” as Willow slides down her body. Tara then levitates off the bed in pleasure, as we are led to think of Willow fucking her. She continues to emphasise the ‘come’ in ‘come-plete’.
The beauty of this scene is unparalleled. It is sheer perfection. It is one of the most beautiful ‘fuck you’s to queer censorship.
Later though, Tara has a revelation. In the previous episode, Tara had told Willow she needed to reign in the magic use or their relationship would be in trouble. Willow said she would, but in fact performed a spell so that Tara would forget their fight.
This is bad behaviour. Willow! It is simply not acceptable to turn a little posy of flowers into a spell that wipes your girlfriend’s memory!
When Tara learns what has happened, she sings a more downcast reprise of her original song, where you can see her devastation at Willow’s betrayal.
She can see that their relationship is likely about to end. In a lot of ways, Tara is a really strong character, even though she’s quiet and shy. She gives Willow plenty of chances, but you can see the resolve in her eyes as she looks at Willow here. It is such a desperately sad lesbian breakup scene.
My lesbian breakup sing-alongs have all looked pretty much exactly like this.
Meanwhile, some other stuff happens with the straights in the episode.
The songs force each character to reveal whatever secrets they’ve been keeping, including Buffy declaring to her pals that they actually ripped her from heaven. They don’t actually slay the demon in the end; he takes himself away, citing defeat.
They all keep singing though, and Buffy kisses Spike for the first time as the episode ends.
This episode is stand-out fantastic.
But what is really important is how much of a turning point “Once More, With Feeling” is in the season, and in the whole show. Crucial changes are occurring.
Buffy is traumatised from dying and being brought back to Earth. She starts making bad decisions (particularly about Spike) because of what she’s experienced. Look, we’ve all made mistakes when it comes to a sooky butch.
However, Spike also starts to change and realise being a murderous vamp is not ideal.
It is also a turning point in Tara and Willow’s relationship. From this episode, Willow’s magic addiction starts to spiral. The spiral leads to the development of evil Willow, who is the real Big Bad of this season. We know that soon Tara will die and Willow will flay the guy who does it.
In the end, what this episode grapples with is more than just some songs. It is the future of the Scooby gang.
So, how to rate this episode?
Well, Better Than Chocolate also had an iconic scene of lesbian sex, in which they rolled around in paint, sans levitation.
While that scene lives on in our hearts, nothing can compare to Tara levitating and singing about being come-plete.
Therefore, I rate this as better than Better Than Chocolate.
Jess Ison is an aficionado of queer media and loves every bad lesbian film ever made. In her professional life she is a researcher at La Trobe University. She lives with her dog on Wurundjeri land. Find her on Twitter.
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