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Magic: the mutating metaphor

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  • Magic: the mutating metaphor

    Magic: the mutating metaphor

    What does magic represent on Buffy? Magic, that is, in the sense of "the stuff that witches do". Or boy witches (whatever they're called ). Obviously there are other kinds of magic in the show ? the supernatural in broader terms. So perhaps I should narrow it down to "witchcraft"? Ok, yes. What does witchcraft represent on the show?

    Let's ask a number of disembodied voices with strong opinions?.

    Voice one: "It's obvious! Lesbianism! When I think about two women doing a spell, I do a spell of my own! Tara and Willow getting hot and sweaty in the nether regions. I mean?realm!"

    Voice two: "Nooo! Witchy magic is a metaphor for drugs. Hard drugs. Crack whores! Cause, with the withdrawl?and the yellow submariney ceiling sequence. And the magic weed!"

    Voice three: "Not in the slightest. Witchcraft isn't really a metaphor at all, or not in a simple sense. Willow's magics are a way of exploring the nature of power, control, identity and our place in the universe that still allows magic to have an independent existence within the terms of the Buffyverse. Willow's magics are a parallel to Buffy's power as the slayer. Does Willow wield magic, or IS she the magic? Does magic come from the universe, or from Willow herself? Is magic/power something neutral that can be made good or bad by how we use it, or is there something inherently dangerous about power?"

    Voice four: "You're a bit of a pretentious sod aren't you?"

    Voice three: "Pretentious, moi?"

    Etc etc.

    But what do you think? How do you think the overlapping metaophors sit with one another? And what of the way that witchcraft is explored on its own terms ? the way the story treats witchy magic as if it's real, not just as a metaphor for "real life" stuff? Do the different metaphors that magic comes to enact work against one another or do they add meaning to one another?


    -- Robofrakkinawesome BANNER BY FRANCY --

  • #2
    I liked his attempt at "Manwitch", personally. Only Xander would identify himself as a sloppy joe. Also impressed that he managed to still sound like he believed it when he finally was prompted with "warlock".

    But I digress.

    I think I'm more of a Voice Three type, although with the qualifier that I would probably smack Voice Two upside the head the next time it spoke up -- I really thought the addiction metaphor was the most clunky and disagreeable bit of writing in the televised seasons.

    But I have no problem with multiple metaphors, as long as they don't argue contradictory theories. The addiction metaphor contradicts the preferable idea that its power, control, and identity, since addiction degrades all of these. The sex was off on its own in the corner not really interfering with anything else. Although, and I feel silly for not noticing this before, the whole thing between Willow and Kennedy in 7.20 "Touched" is pretty much a direct callback to the spell metaphor, and the "netherrealm" spell specifically, wasn't it?
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    • #3
      I love metaphors; sex makes men go crazy --> Angel becomes Angelus or Highschool is hell. It was literal but you had to figure it out by yourself. With the magic metaphors (especially the magic = crack one), it wasn't subtile enough. Not one of my favourite ones.

      I prefer to see magic as magic. I know the metaphors ... but I can't connect them. Magic is Lesbianism, but also a very dangerous drug. I can't link those two together. I will go with the fanwank that Willow was addicted to power and that the scoobies blamed the magic because they didn't want to blame Willow. So I'm a voice 3 follower as well.
      Last edited by Nina; 24-06-08, 06:51 PM.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by KingofCretins View Post
        I liked his attempt at "Manwitch", personally. Only Xander would identify himself as a sloppy joe. Also impressed that he managed to still sound like he believed it when he finally was prompted with "warlock".
        I just watched Gingerbread last night so I had Cordy's ignorance at the top of my brain. But Manwitch is nice. Reminds me of Magwitch in Great Expectations. Who was kind of a magician, turning Pip into a Gentleman and everything.


        But I digress.
        Which is the best kind of posting I find. And digression is nine tenths of the Buffy law (speaking of law and possessions and all that, I must chase up the Boiler Room thing?asked a question re what it means to offend?will chivvy so I can answer some threads in there I've been waiting on?and now I'm SERIOUSLY digressing?)


        I think I'm more of a Voice Three type, although with the qualifier that I would probably smack Voice Two upside the head the next time it spoke up -- I really thought the addiction metaphor was the most clunky and disagreeable bit of writing in the televised seasons.
        Yup. Though the "magic weed" gag was brilliant, it didn't quite justify some of the clunkier crack stuff. I think they could've played the territory between addiction and abuse of power without the trappings of addiction.

        But I have no problem with multiple metaphors, as long as they don't argue contradictory theories. The addiction metaphor contradicts the preferable idea that its power, control, and identity, since addiction degrades all of these.
        I must think that over ? I'm not sure that they do contradict one another. The clunkiness of the addiction metaphor undermines the integrity of other metaphors to a degree, but the actual notion that magic is addictive?well, power is addictive too. Power can corrupt, it can take you over ? the idea that being in a position of power changes a person, and if you're not careful, you'll lose your identity in the quest for/quest to hold on to power. That's not all that far from drug addiction in the end ? both are about chasing something.

        Oh, I forgot to say, it's also about knowledge (though perhaps knowledge = power). Especially in season 8, where Willow (Eve) goes to a snake for knowledge, she's a pupil.

        So if the addiction storyline had been done more subtly, as more of a continuum with ideas of power, corruption, identity, the search for knowledge, the ways in which we lose ourselves in search for something "greater" or "higher", I wouldn't see any contradiction at all. But the crass stuff about Willow getting the shakes?well, that's just distracting, dammiot,.


        The sex was off on its own in the corner not really interfering with anything else.
        While also, Willow's growing power is connected to her sexuality, since the stuff she learns with Tara (that Dawn wants to copy!) is both about power and about sex ? though where she goes too far along the road of hunting after power, that's where Tara doesn't want to follow. And presumably, when she's doing magic!crack and abusing power?.Willow's not getting any loving.


        Although, and I feel silly for not noticing this before, the whole thing between Willow and Kennedy in 7.20 "Touched" is pretty much a direct callback to the spell metaphor, and the "netherrealm" spell specifically, wasn't it?
        Interesting there, that the sex and the magic had been separated out ? Kennedy and Willow are going to do a spell together?but have sex first. So, yes, a callback to the netherrealm spell? but this time with the variation that magic and sex are separated in time. An exploded metaphor?


        -- Robofrakkinawesome BANNER BY FRANCY --

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        • #5
          I've always viewed magic in the Buffyverse as a representative of something of a "redeeming quality". Notice how all (or the vast majority of) the spellcasters on Buffy are people who don't feel like they fit in, outcasts, geeks, nerds - Willow, Tara, Catherine the cheerleader has-been, Amy, Giles (who isn't really a nerd in the strictest sense of the word, but who was the least like the core characters of the show, particularly in the first three seasons), Dawn, Johnathan, Andrew, etc. Magic was Joss's brand of nerd empowerment. The message I got most of the time from the witches on the show was that everyone has something they're really good at and that sets them apart, even if not everyone sees it.

          Of course, one doesn't have to settle for that particular metaphor, since magic is always a very broad term regardless of the medium it's in. Power abuse and drug addiction metaphors can and have been employed, but personally, the main metaphor for me has always remained constant.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Wolfie Gilmore View Post
            Yup. Though the "magic weed" gag was brilliant, it didn't quite justify some of the clunkier crack stuff. I think they could've played the territory between addiction and abuse of power without the trappings of addiction.

            I must think that over ? I'm not sure that they do contradict one another. The clunkiness of the addiction metaphor undermines the integrity of other metaphors to a degree, but the actual notion that magic is addictive?well, power is addictive too. Power can corrupt, it can take you over ? the idea that being in a position of power changes a person, and if you're not careful, you'll lose your identity in the quest for/quest to hold on to power. That's not all that far from drug addiction in the end ? both are about chasing something.

            Oh, I forgot to say, it's also about knowledge (though perhaps knowledge = power). Especially in season 8, where Willow (Eve) goes to a snake for knowledge, she's a pupil.

            So if the addiction storyline had been done more subtly, as more of a continuum with ideas of power, corruption, identity, the search for knowledge, the ways in which we lose ourselves in search for something "greater" or "higher", I wouldn't see any contradiction at all. But the crass stuff about Willow getting the shakes?well, that's just distracting, dammiot,.
            I think that the addiction metaphor could have been done MUCH better...perhaps not so much addiction as reliance. I thought Willow unable to dress herself without magic in Tabula Rasa was a lot more interesting than shakey willow drinking a lot of water and almost magicking the computer in...wait, now I can't remember which episode that is. but regardless, the idea that I think had potential was this concept that Willow didn't know how to exist without magic anymore. I believe the part where she said that without magic she was worried that she was going to go back to being this nerdy season one version of herself...that makes sense to me. Magic as a literal drug replacement (I mean, in wrecked it was barely a metaphor, it was more just saying, magic is a type of drug, in fact, I have this magic pill here...LAME) is just boring.

            ps, was pretentious voice 3 by chance College Ted?
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            • #7
              I thought Willow unable to dress herself without magic in Tabula Rasa was a lot more interesting than shakey willow drinking a lot of water and almost magicking the computer in...wait, now I can't remember which episode that is. but regardless, the idea that I think had potential was this concept that Willow didn't know how to exist without magic anymore.
              I'm pretty sure that was in Gone, because Buffy was invisible and they had the cone that was turning into jelly. I definitely agree with you though -- it would have been a lot more interesting if they hadn't involved Rack. Everything Tara had a problem with at first was Willow relying too much on magic to solve fixable problems (decorations, fights with Tara, etc). The plot was already working before Amy was returned to human form and Willow started getting highs off turning people into sheep, or whatever. The whole "I'm a drug addict" thing felt like overkill after that. It really bothers me that they couldn't leave that out, or find some way to separate the good magic from season 4 from the addictive magic of season 6.

              Voice 3! Voice 3! Lesbianism does not equal a heroin addiction, last time I checked.

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              • #8
                I always assumed that the good magic of Season 4 led to the MAgic of season 6 in the same manner that an addiction to sleeping pills might lead to an addiction to cocaine. It isn't about the magic being intrinsically bad but that the misuse and abuse of magic lead to bad things.

                In a larger sense, the mixing of Metaphors never bothered me, I'm just glad that anything on Television inspired a discussion about metaphorical mixing. But I don't believe that any of metaphors directly contradict one another because the differing contexts never allows them to. More specifically the Power Metphor isn't negated by the addiction metaphor. Willow's addiction in Season 6 is designed to be overly harsh because the Season is about the over harshness of existence. Further her addiction directly relates to the larger theme of attempting to avoid living, Willow doesn't accept circumstances as they are naturally and so alters them, escaping them. Drug Addicts similarly use drugs to escape. While the writers may have thrust this idea into our open minds with overmuch spurting, it does actually stem from Willow's previous character, advance her character, advance the theme, and establish tone. Season 6 isn't a happy season but it isn't supposed to be, and the extremity and obtuseness (Double entendre if you're me or equipped with a dictionary) of Willow's condition are needed to further that. Could Willow have been more smoothly introduced to the metaphor, duh, but even that flaw doesn't negate the nature and necessity of the metaphor.

                Season 7 magic, is for near identical reasons as Season 6 magic necessary. Willow's power fits the larger theme, deepens that theme, and advances her character without contradicting it. The Metaphor is unrelated to the previous metaphor because the context has changed. It is no longer about the use of Willow's power to escape life, but the use of power in general.

                I think the largest problem is that Buffy is, as far as I can tell, one of the first television shows to use metaphors extensively and intimately. There are very few other television shows where the Metaphor's are deliberate, character driven things and not simplistic, messagey-don't-do-drugs metaphors and so Joss and the audience may struggle to adjust the metaphors to the medium, because like dialougue and direction metaphors operate differently on T.V. So while Joss may have thought that something like magic, which continues each season, might be given a distinct metaphorical meaning each season becasue each season represented a distinct context, the audience was still on: "Slayer=Womanhood, Demons=bad, hey that guy with the Billy Idol HAir is a demon and therefore bad and not supposed to be with the Slayer who is good."

                Tell me if I made sense tommorow when my brain is not focused equally on this post and my chances of getting into the kitchen for a covert peanut-butter with clandestine Jelly sandwitch before my Subterfuge (Not really anadjective) sleeping.

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