Marti Noxon, showrunner of Buffy the Vampire Slayer's sixth season, has admitted she regrets the controversial decision to kill off Willow's lover, Tara. Looking back on the show's legacy, she's admitted that she feels that particular decision was "a little rickety." In her view, it bordered on the "sadistic."
Season 6 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was easily the most controversial. Marti Noxon had been involved with the show for a long time, but she was promoted to the showrunner job for season 6, with series creator Joss Whedon taking a step back. That season took a darker turn than viewers expected, with Noxon opting to show Buffy as a fallen, fallible hero. One of the most controversial decisions of all was in the episode "Seeing Red," when a stray bullet killed Tara Maclay, Willow's lover. The reaction took both Whedon and Noxon by surprise, with the early Internet set ablaze with fury.
In a recent interview with Vulture, Noxon reflected back on the legacy of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Although she's still proud of the show overall, Noxon admitted that she feels some of those decisions are "a little rickety." In her view, the season's dark storytelling went too far on occasion. As she observed:
"There were parts of season six where I feel we went too far. We pushed into some categories that almost felt sadistic and that Buffy was volunteering for things that were beyond just “bad choices” and were almost irresponsible for the character. That may have to do with my own history. [Laughs.] The personal, right? It’s personal. And I think that killing Tara was — in retrospect, of all the people, did she have to die?"
Tara's death was essentially a plot device to push Willow down a dark path, a variation on the "women in refrigerators" trope - where a lover's death serves only to cause pain to a major character. Some fans even argued that the fact Tara was killed off straight after having sex with Willow was actually homophobic. "People really took me to task online," Noxon recalled. "I finally just disengaged and didn't participate in that conversation at all." In some ways, her experience foreshadows the recent Internet controversies that have faced companies like Lucasfilm or Warner Bros., with writers, showrunners, and stars being relentlessly hounded online.
Noxon admitted that her memories of Buffy have been tarnished a little by recent controversies. Last year, an article from Whedon's ex-wife claimed that he was no true feminist; she accused him of using his credentials, and his marriage, to hide a string of affairs with people involved with Buffy. Although Noxon stressed that she never saw Whedon act in that way, she found herself looking back and questioning her early career. "It was incredibly painful for me to revisit that era," Noxon observed, "and have to re-confront the idea that I was successful maybe only because someone wanted to fuck me. All I’ve been able to say about it is that I just never experienced him that way." In spite of the issues that have hounded Buffy, Noxon still believes "parts of it hold up really well." Fans will no doubt be troubled by some of Noxon's reflections, but it's relieving to hear that Noxon still believes the series as a whole does have a positive legacy.