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''Buffy'''s Willow takes a female lover

Creator Joss Whedon explains his new story line

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Alyson Hannigan
Stephen Sigoloff

It’s too early for ”Buffy the Vampire Slayer” fans to declare, ”Yup, Willow’s gay,” but creator Joss Whedon is definitely giving Alyson Hannigan’s character a chance to explore her sexuality. Fans first got an inkling that a romance was brewing when Willow and fellow Wicca practitioner Tara (Amber Benson) suggestively clasped hands in the Dec. 14 episode, signaling they were interested in making more than just supernatural magic together. Whedon won’t say how long the plotline lasts, but does promise that Willow’s ex-boyfriend Oz (Seth Green) will reappear. ”My hope is that people won’t be so anxious to put a label on it like she’s become a lesbian, or it’s just a phase, or she’s bisexual,” says Whedon. ”I didn’t want to make it a big issue. As soon as you start to hammer out a definition, it becomes kinda icky. It stops being just about these two people.”

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation — which is aware that the WB’s ”Popular” also will feature a girl-girl kiss in its Feb. 4 episode — is hopeful about the potential positive impact of the Willow story arc on young audiences: ”It’s not just to make gay and lesbian closeted teens feel better about themselves,” says GLAAD’s entertainment media director, Scott Seomin. ”These representations can educate potential gay bashers. If Willow is lesbian and all the characters accept her, maybe the straight viewers will accept the lesbian sitting next to them in homeroom.”