• Thank you for visiting Buffy-Boards. You obviously have exceptional taste. We just want you to know that:
    1. You really should register so you can chat with us!
    2. Twelve thousand people can't be wrong.
    3. Buffy-Boards loves you.
    4. See 1 through 3.
    Come on, register already!

Was Tara on the autistic spectrum or something? (Serious question)

Joined
Jul 3, 2019
Messages
14
Age
27
Okay, so excuse the bluntness of the topic title, but I'm really curious.

I watched Buffy back in the day and binged the later seasons (along with Angel) during my high school years. Now, near a decade later, rewatching both series and noticing things I haven't before. Thing are connecting and such, but ONE THING that still remains the same as the first time I watched it is: Tara seems a little slow to me still.

I thought the same thing back then years ago (before I watched Buffy S1-4), but now, re-watching the entire series, I was expecting Tara's character to make more 'sense'. However, she doesn't. She seems just as kooky and awkward as I remembered her.

So this question is for the die-hard Buffy fans:

Do you think Tara had some kind of autism or form of social/mental development problem? Or do you think Amber Benson's acting is to blame.

I, myself, have seen mixed reactions on the web. Some hate her, some like her (Tara). But never really seen anyone straight out ask if her character was more than just awkward. How she held her hands idly (one awkwardly at her stomach, the other clenched at her side), the way she stuttered and talked breathy when trying to convey emotions, so many things.
 

nightshade

I don't understand your definition of good news
Staff member
Joined
Mar 13, 2009
Messages
8,148
Location
England
Black Thorn
Or she was just shy and took a while to get used to new people, as she progresses she becomes less awkward around the people she knows. We see that her family has clear issues and she probably doesn't want to be seen or speak out because of them
 

WillowFromBuffy

Buffering...
Joined
May 11, 2019
Messages
334
Age
31
First, please don't call people retarded. Second, autism and mental retardation are not the same, you idiot. Autism is a neurological disorder that causes very specific deficits in social interaction, sometimes language and also causes certain repetitive or maladaptive behaviours.

Keep in mind, stuttering not only retards (got that word on my mind now) your speech. It often also messes up your intonation, making your speech sound awkward and strained. Stuttering is likely also caused by a neurological disorder (a very specific one, thankyouverymuch), which explains why stutterers don't stutter when we sing, because we use a different part of the brain.

I see nothing about Tara that suggests she is on the spectrum. Anya, despite being aggressively extrovert, has several symptoms. Extrovert people with autistic symptoms exists, though. I studied to be a teacher with an extrovert who had an asperbergers diagnosis. I had no idea until he told me, though his eccentricities made more sense in hindsight. He was by no means retarded, though.
 
Last edited:
Buffy Summers
Buffy Summers
Do not call another member an idiot on this forum again.
Joined
Jul 3, 2019
Messages
14
Age
27
I'm currently on 4x19 right now, and I have yet to see/remember her family. I guess I'll have to wait to get to see her more to see what you guys are talking about because as far I could remember, she was always awkward, even when she was sitting on that bench when Glory came to her. I remember her looking like a lost special ed patient or something sitting there (again, no offense to Tara fans), but then again, I was like 17 years old back then. I'll keep watching but so far, I think it's either Amber's over-acting or some type of in-character flaw. So,

A) Amber Benson's attempt to play shy just didn't work? (I know some outgoing actors have hard time playing shy and awkward characters, myself included)
B) The lesbian thing probably made her act more out of Tara's character also? Trying to hard to "be like" a lesbian?
C) Or having trouble portraying a magical character. I know lots of actors who play "robotic" when in certain fantasy roles.
D) Maybe it really was Tara's character to not make sense. Now that I'm older, I swear Tara is autistic! lbvs. She has to be.

Also, I'm talking about Tara's character/Amber's acting. For those of you who came her to personally attack me, please try to stay on topic. I actually love the Buffy verse and analyzing characters. I truly think Tara makes more sense if she was on the spectrum of autism (there are different levels), or had some kind of PTSD or something as a child to make her how she was.
 

Octavia

My arse is not pansy!
Joined
Jan 20, 2008
Messages
6,831
Location
Australia
Sineya
She would certainly fit a diagnosis these days. I don't know what as I have never viewed her through the dsm lense.

I don't much like Tara. I felt Willow was attracted to a person she could easily control. Tara was dressed poorly and a plainly a boring character.

Ambers acting is generally good in everything else I have seen her in. I think she was trying to make herself small as she was written to be meek and mousey compared to Willow, when really, she looked like a giant compared to Willow.
 

WillowFromBuffy

Buffering...
Joined
May 11, 2019
Messages
334
Age
31
The idiot thing was a joke. I didn't think someone who casually throws around words like retarded would have thin skin.

The classical definition of idiot is ignorant, though. Retarded? Autistic? PTSD? Those are three very different thing. She is socially awkward and she has a stutter.
The lesbian thing probably made her act more out of Tara's character also? Trying to hard to "be like" a lesbian?
I don't think Aly or Amber were trying to emulate any lesbian stereotypes. Also, I've never heard about the retarded, autistic lesbian with PTSD stereotype.
 
Anyanka Bunny Slayer
Anyanka Bunny Slayer
You weren't joking.

nightshade

I don't understand your definition of good news
Staff member
Joined
Mar 13, 2009
Messages
8,148
Location
England
Black Thorn
Let's keep personal insults out of this
 
Joined
Feb 23, 2019
Messages
597
Black Thorn
Maybe she has some form of autism and/or a mental illness to do with PTSD or anxiety. She clearly has no intellectual disability.
 
Joined
Jul 3, 2019
Messages
14
Age
27
@WillowFromBuffy Girl...bye. It's not ever that serious haha. This about Tara, not your personal agenda or whatever you on right now.

But it's nice to hear that some people do agree with me. I did see that she has some intellect and very perceptive like when she picked up that Faith was in Buffy's body, or when she IMMEDIATELY knew what it meant the moment that Oz came back. I'm not saying she's mentally dumb. BUT there is something "off" about her. No doubt about that. I personally haven't seen Amber in anything besides Buffy so needed you guys to clear up the acting thing for me.

With all that being said, I think it's safe to assume that Tara could possibly be suffering from some form of autism (the weird hand gestures, stuttering, facial ticks, etc..) or she actually some deeper issues that play into her anxiety and social awkwardness.

There is also a possibility that her family and past were traumatic. I know her mother was a witch. And a lot of people do turn to the occult for comfort. Reminds you of anyone else we know? Amy, duh! Amy was basically the Tara of Season 1 (newly introduced witch who has a Wiccan mother figure), minus the whole lesbian thing of course. And we all know Amy had some issues. I get a feeling that Tara's mother was a lot nicer though. And the fact that she's lez, maybe points to abuse from a male figure in her past?
 
WillowFromBuffy
WillowFromBuffy
Man, you talk about real issues that real people have with stunning ignorance, and then you have the audacity to group it all as "retardation," which is as offensive as it is wildly inaccurate.

TriBel

Scooby
Joined
Jun 25, 2017
Messages
1,223
Location
Manchester
My youngest son has autism. It took many years, many visits to Ed. Psychs (one of whom was internationally reknowned), and the completion of extensive questionnaires before a diagnosis was made. My middle son is an NHS Psychologist and an expert in Cognitive Behaviour. He's always astonished with the ease at which people are able to identify complex conditions via the TV screen. BtVS is a text - you need to look for reasons that are informed by the text and which, in turn, inform and enhance understanding of the text. It's possible - probable given BtVS's feminist agenda - there's trauma associated with the loss of her mother but I'd be inclined to look to Irigaray, Kristeva and Cixous (French feminists) before Baron-Cohen (an autism expert).

I have autism and a PhD. I'm quite likely to smack anyone who refers to me as retarded.

And the fact that she's lez,
Okay...I stopped reading there. I have two gay sons - I'm pretty certain their sexuality is NOT down to childhood abuse.
 

The Bronze

Rogue Demon Hunter
Joined
Jul 11, 2013
Messages
2,832
Age
33
Location
Essex
Black Thorn
Tara's shy. That's probably part natural and part due to her awful family. She has an occasional stutter when really nervous but other than that I don't see there's anything unusual about her.
And the fact that she's lez, maybe points to abuse from a male figure in her past?
Yes like all of us straight dudes who turned out that way because we were abused by men in the past :rolleyes:
 
Joined
Jul 3, 2019
Messages
14
Age
27
Let me clear some things up because this is getting out of hand.

1. I do not use the term, "retarded" as an offensive slur. I simply used it in the title to convey my question in a very blunt way (which I stated in my first post). I haven't ONCE used the word ever again past the title. This is a post about the fictional character TARA, not in any way, about real mental illnesses in the world. I also have an autistic niece who I love dearly and grew up in an integrated school whom we shared with special needs students, so not speaking from ignorance. Simply just speaking.

2. I'm not some bigot who thinks all homos are sexually abused. I'm a gay male, myself! And no, I wasn't abused a child nor believe that abuse leads to homosexuality (like come on, who does?). I simply just stated that Tara could have maybe (and I used italics to stress the word, maybe) been abused by a male in her past, leading to her inclination towards females. She seems very skittish and "dont touch me" with how she dresses and covers herself up which is a sign of someone who's been abused, gay or not.

So, yeah, I'm talking about Tara MaClay, not anyone on this forum or their family or people in the real world.

This does all help me, however. Autism is such a broad spectrum and it is pretty new in terms of diagnosing it early on. Also, this was filmed back in the day where mental and behavioral therapy weren't as advanced as it is now. I do still think, now than ever, that Tara wasn't fully herself. At first, I was thinking more on the lines of autism or some form of social disability. But now I'm thinking something really ****ed up must have happened to her. Maybe she "watched" her mother die? I don't know much about her past or family. Just a thought. But seriously guys, this question has been bugging me for YEARS! What is wrong with Tara!? If Amber Benson is really a good actor, then why portray Tara in that way? Just saying. The girl must have been through some serious shit or something.
 

Octavia

My arse is not pansy!
Joined
Jan 20, 2008
Messages
6,831
Location
Australia
Sineya
I am brain injured with medically diagnosed PTSD, ADHD, GAD and a whole list of other mental labels- I have no issue with your use of the word retard here @PatrickHalliwel . It was not meant in offense but as a descriptive word. I have faced the same issue with the same people on this board who do not like my uneducated language. I hope you do not feel unwelcome. Maybe there are other words that the most elite of us decide are better to use, but personally, I have no problem with how it has been used in this thread. I hate the gang up culture that has emerged here. I wish the supernatural forums were more active cos it honestly this policing of language makes me feel unwelcome too and causes distress in posting because casual chat language is jumped on.

Taras social anxiety and her childhood trauma likely come into the way she acts - but I hope I don't look as stupid as Tara does in public. If she was written as to have anxiety then I am more offended by the portrayal than I am from the use of the word retard in this context.
 
one eyed chicklet
one eyed chicklet
I have made a fool of myself many times (worse than Tara) and I used to have social anxiety really bad to the point where I couldn't be in certain lessons. I didn't find it offensive because people experience it differently.

WillowFromBuffy

Buffering...
Joined
May 11, 2019
Messages
334
Age
31
I am brain injured with medically diagnosed PTSD, ADHD, GAD and a whole list of other mental labels- I have no issue with your use of the word retard here @PatrickHalliwel . It was not meant in offense but as a descriptive word.
None of those issues imply mental retardation. Retardation denotes halted development. Like, a person with dwarfism is retarded in the literal sense. If you're mentally retarded, it means your brain hasn't grown to where it should be. It describes people with serious intellectual deficiencies. Someone who is completely unable to care for themselves.
 

Mr. Pointy

A sharp stick - it's true
Watcher
Joined
May 24, 2002
Messages
6,990
Location
UK
Black Thorn
I've put my modding pants back on temporarily and changed the thread title to something less loaded as I see it is causing some consternation. As Nightshade said above please keep the discussion civil.

That said, I remember thinking at the time that Amber played Tara as if she did have some kind of mental impairment, whether it be extreme shyness, anxiety issues or a form of autism, but that whatever it was she also came over as very intelligent and high-functioning to me. Mind you I'm no expert in living with mental health conditions, so take that with a pinch of salt.
 
Last edited:
PatrickHalliwel
PatrickHalliwel
Thank you. I thought this was a safe place for Buffy fans to come and geek out together. Was not expecting all of this.
Spanky
Spanky
Sometimes it's really nice and comforting putting on an old pair of jeans you haven't worn for awhile and dammit if you just don't want to take them off.
Joined
Jul 3, 2019
Messages
14
Age
27
@Octavia I have GAD too! I know the feeling of getting anxiety even from the web, so you're not alone. But I don't think you look like Tara in public. Heck, I don't think ANYONE really behaves like Tara in public.

Because she is so freaking awkward! Which is why I purposely hunted down this fan forum to ask that ONE question ( though I will be staying now).

There were just so many things in her behavior on the show and not enough context pointing towards it that made me think: "Hmm, what the hell is her deal? She has to have some kind of mental thing going on." Yet, the lines she was given and the role her character played all pointed to someone who was pretty normal (meaning unhindered from medical diagnoses before you all jump down my throat for using THAT word too). I do like her character though.

I just think she was off. That's all. I love witches and I love lgbt themes, but Tara had bit more issues than the rest of us. I don't care what anyone says.
 

Mr. Pointy

A sharp stick - it's true
Watcher
Joined
May 24, 2002
Messages
6,990
Location
UK
Black Thorn
@PatrickHalliwel - we like to think of ourselves as a friendly community and all reasonable contributions are welcome. Just a little issue with your choice of words there.
 

TriBel

Scooby
Joined
Jun 25, 2017
Messages
1,223
Location
Manchester
She seems very skittish and "dont touch me" with how she dresses and covers herself up which is a sign of someone who's been abused, gay or not.
It's also a sign of someone who doesn't locate their attractiveness to the other IN the body, doesn't see their sexuality inscribed ON the body. There's more indication that Faith was abused and she doesn't hide her "assets".

I look more like a stereotypical lesbian that Tara (short silver hair, a penchant for Doc Martens) and I'm straight. No-one behaves like Buffy in public! Tara's shy and awkward. Willow was shy and awkward. None of the characters developed "normally". They're all there to "queer boundaries" whether they're straight or gay. If they have "retarded growth" it's because the text cautions against the metaphor "growing up" and favours the "growing sideways" trope adopted by queer theorists such as Kathryn Stockton.
 
Joined
Jul 3, 2019
Messages
14
Age
27
@TriBel You're right about Faith. I never thought about that, yet Faith seems more like the troubled type. Troubled types tend to be more destructive and impulsive when dealing with their trauma. Tara would be more introverted and withdrawn as seen with people or even children who have been recently traumatized, for instance.

And yes, most of the characters are shy and awkward, (I LOVE LOVE LOVE Anya's new to humanity behavior btw xD) but Tara takes the cake on this one. I never thought of Tara's character being a strategic way to show queer in a queer way. That's also a thought, and probably a more positive spin on Tara's weird behavior in the show: people can be hopelessly awkward as hell and still go to college, have girlfriends, and conjure mystical energies. I do see the value in her character. I just wish the producers would have spent MORE TIME on Tara's character to develop these sort of things. I feel like I have to fill in the blanks with Tara. Where as any other side character, I completely understood off the bat! Short syllable Oz, Charming and evil Ethan Rayne, Cute but bad Kennedy, Priest Caleb, Principle Snyder, Mr. Trick, Veruca, etc... I understood ALL of these characters. Yet when it came to Tara.....she just fell flat in a confusing "what's her deal" kind of way.
 
Top Bottom