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I Blame the Dutch mpoetess
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Just Say No to people who don't get why the S6 Willow-crack sucked...
{Ok, because it's come up, lemme clarify the title -- it should really be "Just say "Huh?" to people who don't think the S6 Willow-crack sucked and don't seem to comprehend the opposing argument, regardless of whether they agree or disagree." It's more accurate, though less pithy.}

Interesting blog post on "tell me what makes BtVS so shiny", but in the comments, there are a couple of folks who -- even after what's wrong with the addiction metaphor {according to some of us} has been explained and re-clarified -- keep earnestly telling us that it's not really about addiction; it's about power.

They're making me tired. Yes, we know it was supposed to be about power, and in the opening and closing episodes of the season, they did manage to take it there, but what these people are seeing is the story that ME wanted to tell, instead of the one they told. In a way that's a compliment to those viewers, since it speaks well of their ability to engage with the intentions of the writers, and it even shines a little reflected glory back on Marti & Co. in that they at least managed to show most of us where they were trying to go. It's just... Smashed/Wrecked/Gone, the Willow/Tara parts of Older & Far Away... they failed at telling the story that (it seems, we hope, etc.) ME was trying to tell. They used too many literal references to drugs that didn't track to the reasons why someone would be addicted to power, and the side-effects thereof.

Plus as has been pointed out before (by TBQ among others) they muddied the use of magic as a metaphor for power corrupting, by also using it as a metaphor (or code, at least) for Big Gay Love in Season 4. I'm not sure they really shifted from one meaning to the other (magic=forbidden relationships to magic=use and abuse of power) because there were magic/power issues as far back as Fear Itself and Something Blue, but the Willow/Tara courtship, as much as I love it, er. Crossed the streams? Made it that much harder, anyway.

Personally I think part of the confusion (magic=love, magic=bad and something you can get addicted to and/or give up cold turkey) comes in because magic=forbidden love is Tara's metaphor, and magic=power/respect/not-being-a-sidekick is Willow's. It's a tangly web ME weaves when they put the two meanings together. They do have their moments of meeting beautifully -- I'm Under Your Spell is probably the highest point, at once a glorious and boundary-pushing scene of love/sex/character-portrait of Tara, and a sickbadwrong mirror image when you remember/realize that it's all happening literally under Willow's spell, and what does that say about their relationship and both of their personalities?

I think the juxtaposition, intentional or not, ultimately fails because Tara's metaphor gets buried and forgotten as she buys into the Spells Anonymous thing, supporting Willow "going clean" as if you can or should go clean of something that's a part of you and often desperately needed by the people around you, instead of learning to deal with it responsibly. I'm not saying a season of Willow in therapy was the way to go -- the Learn By Explosion plot needed to happen. But nobody {on the show}, including the alleged voices of reason, seemed to have the right end of the stick as regards what was wrong with Willow.

I... had a point. Didn't I? Oh yeah -- that the people who are defending the Magic Crack arc seem to be missing the point that most of us who call it a flop and get righteously indignant about it aren't doing so because we missed the point that it's all about power. We're doing it because we know it's all about power, and we were waiting for ME to do something with that, and... they gave us Willow And Amy Go To The Crack Den And The Bad Man Touches Them Inappropriately, Be Sure To Watch It With Your Children And Discuss It Afterwards, We'll Give You A Study-Guide.

(And now that I've got the requisite afterschool special gag in, lemme say that it's actually the post-Wrecked AA storyline, and the fact that Tara bought into it, that pissed me off most. Not the Rack-den thing. For someone like Willow, Spells Anonymous would be the same thing as Breathing Anonymous -- an issue they only finally played with in Season 7, with mixed success due to none of the storylines in Season 7 having anything like the right pacing or cohesiveness.)

[Insert clever conclusion here]

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kita0610

2004-12-10 06:01 pm (UTC) (Link)

-- an issue they only finally played with in Season 7, with mixed success due to none of the storylines in Season 7 having anything like the right pacing or cohesiveness.)

That's pretty much a decent conclusion for everything right there. Combined with the weirdness that was Willow in LA having no issues with magic...it was clear the writers were on magic crack, even if the characters never were.

mpoetess

2004-12-10 08:18 pm (UTC) (Link)

Oh yeah, totally forgot about the crossover issue. It was like.. dudes, most of us watch both shows. Really. Do you?

thebratqueen

2004-12-10 06:38 pm (UTC) (Link)

[Insert clever conclusion here]

I believe that would be "And furthermore, boobies."

byrne

2004-12-10 06:58 pm (UTC) (Link)

mmmm wife boobies in a wyfe post. I'm in married heaven.

boobies.

(no subject) - mpoetess, 2004-12-10 07:48 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - theboobiequeen, 2004-12-10 07:49 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mpoetess, 2004-12-10 07:47 pm (UTC) (Expand)

seraphic_slayer

2004-12-10 06:41 pm (UTC) (Link)

This, to me, is another example of the fundamental problem with seasons 6 and 7 overall. It seemed to me that near the end of 6 and nearly the entire S7 paid little attention to what went on before.

It's as if they knew they were getting cancelled, so why bother forcing continuity? They've got alot they wanted to do with interesting plot twists and pretty pretty special effects, so let's cram it all in there no matter what kind of conflicting messages we might be cramming down the viewers throats along with it.

mpoetess

2004-12-10 08:17 pm (UTC) (Link)

I can never decide whether they weren't aware of technical/emotional continuity, or whether they just desperately hoped that we weren't.

a2zmom

2004-12-10 07:49 pm (UTC) (Link)

I liked the Buffy/Spike season 5 story;inr - it was exactly what a relationship between those two would have been imo - unhealthy, destructive, abusive...

But Willow, Willow. Fron WTTH onward, Willow has always had passive/agressive tendencies, a delight in flaunting rules even as she claims to be the good girl and a increasing tendency to use magic to smooth things over.

All of that character development thrown out the window for an artless, smack-us-over-the-head magic crack storyline. So that at the end of season 7, Willow hasn't made any persoanl strides at all in understanding herself. What could have been their stongest, most chilling storyline since Amgel/Angelus turned into a failure of nerve on Joss' part.

mpoetess

2004-12-10 08:00 pm (UTC) (Link)

So that at the end of season 7, Willow hasn't made any persoanl strides at all in understanding herself.

I think at the end, they presented her as having done so -- i.e. she's been learning that magic is intrinsive to the world and it's all connected, that she can't really divorce herself from it, and at the end her big transcendental experience comes from using powerful magic in a way that's totally unselfish. BUT.

But I don't think they actually earned that ending through character development; I don't think they actually showed Willow learning those things. They just showed her having been told them, and at the end, flying blind on the hope that it was true because she had to; there was no other alternative.

And they copped out with Giles telling Willow that magic isn't a toy, isn't an addiction etc, at the beginnig of S7 because they didn't make it clear -- I think on purpose -- whether he meant "NOW, since you went all-powerful and can't go backwards" or "ALL ALONG; you had your head up your arse with that 12-step stuff." {disclaimer: am not mocking 12-step programs; am only mocking the implication that Willow's issues could have been solved by one}

And then there's Kennedy, and the logic that says "Willow has power issues that she's allegedly trying to overcome, so let's give her a new girlfriend who doesn't understand magic but thinks that Willow can just do anything and she's so nifty-keen, I have complete faith in her!"

(no subject) - mpoetess, 2004-12-10 08:00 pm (UTC) (Expand)

thedeadlyhook

2004-12-10 07:56 pm (UTC) (Link)

I liked how in S7 the whole 12-step analogy morphed into a situation where Willow quits rehab early, re-enters an enviroment where her friends encourage her to relapse, and at the end, she takes the world's biggest hit of the reallly good ganga! Obviously, she'd just been doing the wrong stuff before...

Wait, did I say "liked"? I meant, you know, the other thing.

mpoetess

2004-12-10 08:16 pm (UTC) (Link)

EXACTLY.

(Deleted comment)

shadowscast

2004-12-10 10:09 pm (UTC) (Link)

Emphatically seconded!

(no subject) - mpoetess, 2004-12-11 08:15 am (UTC) (Expand)

ilovedoyle

2004-12-11 06:40 am (UTC) (Link)

very well said

mpoetess

2004-12-11 08:16 am (UTC) (Link)

Thankee!

myriad69

2004-12-11 10:01 am (UTC) (Link)

*applauds*

Brilliant essay on the magic metaphors!


(Deleted comment)

mpoetess

2004-12-11 03:40 pm (UTC) (Link)

I think it can be read that way, but from what I've heard of the writers' logic, that wasn't the intent -- it was originally supposed to be Oz who died, when it was planned back in the day, with Willow going kablooey over him. But imo even withhout the meta reasons for Seth Green's leaving, the arc works better with Tara.

The pathology and the death and the pathology were always going to be there as an exploration of Willow's passive-aggressive power issues, but Willow ended up with a much bigger investment in Tara as a person and a relationship than she had with Oz. And I don't think that gets cut a break because the relationship that they went with to replace the Oz relationship, happened to be a gay one -- I think the fact that it was a gay relationship made Willow have that much more of an investment in it because of the various fears and issues both she and Tara had to deal with.

Or imo, sometimes a lesbian is just a chick -- just because a character is gay and dies, doesn't mean the character died because she was gay.

(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - mpoetess, 2004-12-11 05:20 pm (UTC) (Expand)

liz_marcs

2004-12-11 12:09 pm (UTC) (Link)

Heeee! Sailed over from your link in my LJ.

Yup. This is the week of screaming about S6.

You put it in much more cohesive words than I ever could because I wasn't looking at from a "magic=expression of love" code it was used for in S4.

My issue is that structurally, magic=crack didn't make sense in canon. Magic, prior to this point, was shown as a tool.

Although you could argue that Tara didn't view it so much as a tool, but as a responsibility that came with a host of responsibilities and ethics. I've always argued that Tara was Wicca because she including that ethical element in spellcasting and that Willow was simply a Witch because magic was merely a means to an end without that ethical underpining. Which is another debate for another day.

And yeah, S6 was the season where subtext became text. That movement doesn't work when you've got a universe rich with genre trappings and a history of canon to work with. The in-your-face elements of "magic=crack and crack is bad mmmmmm'kay?" simply ruined the magic portion for me. So, if Willow is a crack 'ho, what does that make Tara? The chick who tokes weed when it's really, really important?

Throw in that magic was a very necessary tool (if sometimes unpredictable in its outcome and, because of that, was used only when necessary) in the Buffyverse. Well, maybe not complete necessary because they did manage to go a couple of years without at the beginning, but it was a tool that the Scoobs relied on to a certain extent.

The ethical element that was played up in S4, S5, and at the very beginning of S6 (the discussion on bringing Buffy back to life) was utterly buried by the magic=crack storyline.

[Side note: I remember reading repeatedly during S6 that originally Willow's arc was supposed to be the addictions of power itself, but AH begged ME to change it because she was afraid that fans would hate Willow. It was changed, but the end result was a mess and a lot of fans wound up hating Willow anyway, especially after she spent most of S7 sitting in a corner and rocking like a junkie about being afraid to do magic. Let's not get into that rant.]

I was just about the only one during Older and Far Away who actually was on Anya's side when she started ranting that Willow, as the most powerful witch in the room, had an obligation to use her talents to help them. Then they slam down on Xander for backing Anya (generally, these were the same people who slammed down on Xander for not backing Anya earlier). Everyone was screaming, "But she's an addict! She can't do magic! Besides, it wouldn't have done any good anyway so they were exposing her to risk for no reason."

My response (which fell on deaf ears) was that 1) When Anya attacked Willow for not using her talents to help, they didn't know they were vengence demon victims and that there was nothing Willow could do; 2) Willow was willing to let them all die of starvation (which would have happened), that is if the demon trapped with them didn't get them first; 3) You could bet your ass that if Tara or Willow were directly threatened, Willow would've tried something magic-y to get them out of it.

And yeah, Tara's role as enabler in the Willow magic=crack brigade made zero sense.

It makes even less sense that the magic=crack thing was swept away right in the very first episode of S7 and not one of the characters for the rest of the season expressed concern about Willow going crack addict again if she did magic. In fact, Buffy verbally spanked Willow for being afraid of using magic.

Continuity? Who needs continuity?

mpoetess

2004-12-13 05:43 am (UTC) (Link)

Although you could argue that Tara didn't view it so much as a tool, but as a responsibility that came with a host of responsibilities and ethics. I've always argued that Tara was Wicca because she including that ethical element in spellcasting and that Willow was simply a Witch because magic was merely a means to an end without that ethical underpining. Which is another debate for another day.

That's totally the way I was looking at it too. Tara saw it as a code of ethics and I think as a religion, though that aspect was downplayed. I just got the impression (and admittedly some of that's probably backlash from the fanon of Tara The Mother Goddess) that Tara was actually feeling like she was in contact with and politely asking for things from the gods, while Willow was "Hey, if I say these words, and put enough will into it, various entities will do what I want. Cool!"

1) When Anya attacked Willow for not using her talents to help, they didn't know they were vengence demon victims and that there was nothing Willow could do; 2) Willow was willing to let them all die of starvation (which would have happened), that is if the demon trapped with them didn't get them first; 3) You could bet your ass that if Tara or Willow were directly threatened, Willow would've tried something magic-y to get them out of it.

Yesyesyesyesyes. Plus at that point Redshirt Boy as already dying, I think, so it wasn't just starvation and the risk of being gotten by the demon, but someone who was already in severe danger if they didn't get him to a hospital. I admired Tara's dedication in trying to protect Willow, but I thought she was so totally wrongheaded in doing it, and just wanted to give Anya a hug.

It makes even less sense that the magic=crack thing was swept away right in the very first episode of S7 and not one of the characters for the rest of the season expressed concern about Willow going crack addict again if she did magic. In fact, Buffy verbally spanked Willow for being afraid of using magic.

I think what they were trying to do was have Giles as Voice of God saying that either a) the magic crack theory was on crack, they'd all been wrong, and she could not avoid magic, because it was a part of her or b) after Willow took all that magic into her, she became something different than she was before, and now could not avoid magic, because it was a part of her.

Unfortunately they were a) coy about it so (I think) they didn't have to admit that we were supposed to take the Crack theory as the intended truth and now they were changing heir minds and b) didn't give enough attention to the issue once Willow had to go home early. Plenty of Willow worrying about whether she'd go bad if she used magic, but not enough about why it was ok for her to use 'good' magic.

londonkds

2004-12-11 03:06 pm (UTC) (Link)

Personal theory:

The whole problem with S6 Willow was because they started the season thinking "wouldn't it be cool to have a Willow/Buffy smackdown?" and had no idea how to get to it and keep Willow as a feasible character afterwards. Because if they'd had Willow getting truly powercrazed over the season to the point that it ended in physical violence, the only way they could finish it, given the moral position they'd set up in earlier seasons, would be to have Willow dying completely unable to imagine why her former friends were fighting her when she was only trying to make the world good for people.

mpoetess

2004-12-11 03:30 pm (UTC) (Link)

To hand them a tiny bit of back-credit, the way I uderstand it is that there'd been plans to have a Willow-goes-crazy-over-the-death-of-a-loved-one plot since pre-Tara; it was just going to be Oz, instead. And probably inherent in that was the Buffy/Willow smackdown idea. And in fact the bit with Willow and Glory was theoretically going to be that, because Tara was going to die instead of have her brains scrambled. But they decided, probably rightly, that there hadn't been enough time yet (and that it was too big of a plot to fit into the Buffy/Dawn/Glory season anyway) for development of both Willow's powers and the W/T relationship.

But in a way that makes it worse, that they were probably thinking of a Buffy/Willow smackdown since early season 4, because they had that much longer to plan for it and still fucked it up.

djinanna

2004-12-11 09:19 pm (UTC) (Link)

>>it's actually the post-Wrecked AA storyline, and the fact that Tara bought into it, that pissed me off most<<

Gods yes! (I'll skip my rant re the questionable success of AA-based therapy and the recidivism rate thereof, though.)

The whole "let's pack up anything magical in the house", including *candles*, is ... argh! While you're at it, people, don't forget to take down any wards or other protections on the house and individuals, eh? And shouldn't Buffy stop using her Slayer powers, too, for that matter? If she's gonna live in the same house as the Recovering Addict, it would only be courteous... ::gnashes teeth::

On the other hand, I liked what you were saying about the magic="forbidden" relationships metaphor being Tara's metaphor, while the magic=addiction being Willow's. There's ... something there. Actually, to overanalyze it, the character in canon who most thoroughly conflated the two metaphors was probably Buffy -- which is understandable, considering where her relationships all went, especially as they started failing. Buffy really was one of those girls/people (in my opinion, anyway) who is addicted to being in a relationship and can't feel totally good about herself if she's single.

mpoetess

2004-12-11 11:36 pm (UTC) (Link)

And shouldn't Buffy stop using her Slayer powers, too, for that matter? If she's gonna live in the same house as the Recovering Addict, it would only be courteous... ::gnashes teeth::

That always bugged me about Tara too -- that if she was going to treat Willow as a recovering addict, then shoudn't she have been looking at her own use of magic and whether she could ever be with Willow and still be a witch herself? Completely aside from the emotional issues of can I be with someone who violated my mind, I mean.

dlgood

2004-12-11 10:25 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yes, we know it was supposed to be about power, and in the opening and closing episodes of the season, they did manage to take it there, but what these people are seeing is the story that ME wanted to tell, instead of the one they told.

I think your thesis and argumentation is pretty salient: Did the episodes ME put forward succeed in conveying the story ME intended?

For me, anyway, it didn't. The Magic as Addiction sub-arc Vs. Magic-Use as Power issue failed, largely because the countering voice was largely absent. Within the story, there needs to be that counter-point - the opposing argument that asks Willow if she did what she did to feel important or relevant, rather than because of the Magic itself. Such that there might be some self-examination and development she's have to undertake. Rather than simply follwing externally suggested rules. But, aside from a few abortive attempts in S7, that never occurs, so the story arc never quite works the way ME probably intended.

It's actually similar to a gripe I had with Spike's storylines in S7 that I felt was better addressed in S5 of AtS... namely that question of how much of the Bad Stuff you do is because of your circumstances (Magic is Addictive/that's what Vampires Do) and how much is because of your own personality merits/flaws, and what are your responsibilities in terms of how you deal with things, how you view yourself, and what you can/should do to better yourself as a person...

I feel like, I think ME wanted to do that, but that they didn't really handle it or execute it all that well in S6 (perhaps out of gutlessness) and in S7 (more because of sloppiness) and a general lack of vision or wider perspective. Which, again, for it's flaws, I thought AtS generally did a better job with during the corresponding seasons.

mpoetess

2004-12-11 11:33 pm (UTC) (Link)

the opposing argument that asks Willow if she did what she did to feel important or relevant, rather than because of the Magic itself. Such that there might be some self-examination and development she's have to undertake. Rather than simply follwing externally suggested rules. But, aside from a few abortive attempts in S7, that never occurs, so the story arc never quite works the way ME probably intended.

I think Dark Willow's mocking of herself with "And then she turned into a junkie...." was supposed to be a stab at it, but it was too little, and too unclear, and far too tied up with the thing that drove her dark being Tara's death, not her power issues. Or at least not completely her power issues, and not primarily.

I agree that S5 Angel did a lot more with the soul-vs-personal responsiblity angle than BtVS did. Too bad they had to go with one last crack at "no soul = no chance at taking responsibility" with Harmony, though. I mean, her betrayal was perfectly in character, but frankly it was perfectly in character for human Harmony too -- but Angel as apparent voice-of-God in that scene says she couldn't have succeeded at being a loyal person because she didn't have a soul. As opposed to Harmony never having been a loyal person.

(no subject) - dlgood, 2004-12-11 11:43 pm (UTC) (Expand)

singer_d

2004-12-12 04:49 pm (UTC) (Link)

One of my biggest problems with retconning magic=useful tool into magic=crack is: what does that make Giles? A pusher, in high school, to children.

It makes no sense that Tara is not equally affected. What it she - a recreational user?

Oy! It makes absolutely no sense given what's gone before in the series, period. So, yeah, it pisses me off.

mpoetess

2004-12-13 05:47 am (UTC) (Link)

I think what they were trying for, at least at one point, was "Dark magic = crack, other magic = neutral" as hinted in As You Were, but a) bullshit and b) badly told, and so many opportunities to support that with Giles reminiscing about his own past, if they had wanted to bother.

(no subject) - mediumdave, 2004-12-13 05:55 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mpoetess, 2004-12-13 06:40 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mediumdave, 2004-12-14 03:53 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mpoetess, 2004-12-14 07:04 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mediumdave, 2004-12-17 07:56 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mpoetess, 2004-12-17 08:14 am (UTC) (Expand)

So very late in hopping on the band wagon...

youdbesurprised

2004-12-19 06:33 pm (UTC) (Link)

but I still want to thank you for saying something that most emphatically needed to be said. Season six makes me hurt for the lost potential.

Also, what is the difference between "wyfe" and "wife"? Please to forgive my raging ignorance and insatiable curiosity :)

Re: So very late in hopping on the band wagon...

mpoetess

2004-12-19 07:08 pm (UTC) (Link)

Also, what is the difference between "wyfe" and "wife"? Please to forgive my raging ignorance and insatiable curiosity

Hee! Absolutely nothing -- just that byrne is my fake internet wyfe, and thebratqueen is byrne's fake internet wife, and also justhuman's, and zortified is byrne's master (even though zortified is a girl) and giogio is my minion and zortified is my moose. (Real moose, not fake internet moose.) And I own them all, though they seem to keep forgetting that.

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