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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]

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.

dlgood

2004-12-11 11:43 pm (UTC) (Link)

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.

True. That said, it could be duly noted that Angel never knew human Harmony, and that it's quite possible he'd not really have learned (or given thought to) much about her from the people who did. And thus, that he's more projecting about himself and his own general experiences than his specific case. Perhaps, we're supposed to be left wondering if (1) Angel is something of a fat-head here and (2) something good might have come of it had he tried harder with her, even knowing how previous S2 attempts to work with Harmony failed.

Harmony's case goes beyond loyalty, since - in throwing in with Hamilton - she's not just betraying Angel, which she could do by quitting and leaving town -- she's knowingly siding with folks who will perpetrate broad-ranging general predation upon the citizens of LA. Something that even a souled Harmonny might have had some problems with even if she's still not be an Angel supporter. (Not that I think we knew her enough to judge - perhaps Harmony, if she'd stayed human, would have grown up as pre-slayer Buffy and pre-Buffy Cordelia did.)

But, that said, I'm fank-wanking a level of nuance that IMHO S5 didn't spare much time towards in it's close-out.