Buffy the Vampire Slayer: An Analysis of Willow’s dream in ‘Restless’

Continuing the analysis of ‘Restless’, it’s time to look at Willow’s dream.

The overarching theme of Willow’s dream is a theatrical one – her life is a play, she is acting, and she fears her friends seeing her for who she really is. Willow has changed a lot, particularly in Season 4 alone, though her dream serves as a reminder that on the inside she still feels like the same girl we were introduced to in Season 1.

Some have argued the theme of her hiding something is a reference to her increasing experiments with magic – personally, I don’t quite buy in to this and think she’s only hiding her nerdy, conscious side from her friends. It’s interesting to think about, nonetheless.

Without further ado, here’s my ramblings:

  • The running theme of Willow being ‘in costume’ and people ‘finding out who she is’ is not supposed to be about her being gay – the end of her dream is supposed to be a twist that tells us it wasn’t about that at all, and was in fact about her fears that despite a change in her outward appearance, she is still the nerdy outsider we met in Season 1.
  • The poem Willow is painting on Tara’s back is a Greek love poem.
  • The black cat is supposed to be a physical representation of Tara and Willow’s relationship. Tara says, “I think we should worry that we haven’t found her name,” though Willow doesn’t seem worried: “She’s not all grown yet.” She’s happy to enjoy their relationship right now for what it is, and isn’t worried about labelling it. However the cat is later shown in slow-motion ominously stomping towards the camera, perhaps foreshadowing the dark turn their relationship will ultimately take.
  • Willow says, “I never worry here, I’m safe here.” Her relationship with Tara is new, different, and a source of comfort for Willow. Although Tara seems more level-headed, replying: “You don’t know everything about me.” – this is foreshadowing her belief that she is part-demon, a revelation that will be revealed next year.
  • Riley is playing ‘cowboy guy’ in the school play. His role is simple and childish, showing Willow has the same feelings towards Riley that Buffy does – that he is unimportant, and perhaps in over his head.
  • On a similar note, Riley says: “I showed up on time so I got to be cowboy guy.” Some have argued this is referencing his relationship with Buffy. He showed up at the right time, when Buffy was vulnerable from her relationship with Angel, and got to go on a ‘ride’ with her as the cowboy guy.
  • With the overall theme of Willow’s dream being theatrical and that her life is an act, my favourite quote of hers is: “The play’s going to start soon, and I don’t even know my lines.” This is similar to Giles earlier comment that Willow has to ‘stop stepping on everyone’s lines’ – although her life feels like a play, she herself feels that she is not giving a convincing performance and, eventually, people will find out that she still has these confidence issues.
  • When Buffy asks Willow what she did to make the first slayer attack her, Willow replies: “I never do anything. I’m very seldom naughty.” This is a great example of her self-confidence issues. She’s actually come further than most of the other characters in Season 4, and is having the most radically different experiences than all of them – however she still considers she never does anything of importance.
  • Willow’s book report is on The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – the witch being Willow, the wardrobe being her new appearance or ‘costume’, and the lion perhaps being the first slayer?
  • When Willow’s ‘costume’ is taken off and she’s revealed in her Season 1 attire, Anya describes it as ‘exactly like a Greek tragedy’. This is an interesting parallel to the Greek love poem being painted on Tara’s back in the first scene.
  • Giles failing to listen to correct answers from the women but accepting the same answers from the men in the school play is social commentary on sexism.
  • The long red velvet curtains Willow finds Tara in are supposed to be sexually suggestive, and the fact she feels safe there with Tara is almost like a confirmation of her happiness to be in a relationship with a woman.
  • When she’s attacked in front of her classmates, they just watch instead of helping her. She’s afraid that if her friends find out she still feels like a nerd, they’ll abandon her. Even her closest friends, as Oz whispers to Tara: “I tried to warn you.” Willow obviously fears Oz left her not because of his werewolf crisis, but because she opened up too much to him.

Trivia: Joss Whedon has confirmed that the ‘cheese man’ who appears to each of the characters is the one thing in each of the dreams that is completely meaningless. He is just supposed to represent that random element dreams can have; that there is always at least one thing that just doesn’t make any sense. So we can stop analysing him now!

Any more thoughts, interpretations, comments? Leave them below!


One thought on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer: An Analysis of Willow’s dream in ‘Restless’

  1. Great post though I’d definitely argue part of the ‘finding out who you are’ theme is at least partly relevant to her being gay. I mean, that’s a huge thing to go through,and with how Willow acts when she’s nervous about introducing Tara to the group earlier in the season etc, I don’t think it can be ruled out part of the ‘act’ theme is about her homo/bisexuality. Don’t see it relating to magic either, though, so I agree with you there.

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