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StephenT [userpic]

(Meta) Magic as a metaphor for gay sex

29th November 2008 (11:56)
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This is a thought that came to me while discussing the latest 'Buffy' episode with[info]elisi . We all know that in Season 4, "casting spells" was a thinly disguised metaphor (or even euphemism) for "Having hot and steamy lesbian sex". In Season 6, though - at least according to conventional wisdom - the symbolism changed. Magic was now a metaphor for drugs, and a lot of people have said how much they hate this change.

But what if there was no change? What happens if we continue to read "magic" as a metaphor for gay sex even in Season 6?

Well, Willow's attempt after 'Wrecked' to deny the part of her personality that enjoys casting spells, and to refrain from magic by sheer force of willpower, begins to look a lot like those people who hide in the closet and attempt to "cure" their homosexuality through dubious therapy or attending those sinister American Christian fundamentalist brainwashing camps. Of course, such attempts don't work, and sometimes have deeply harmful psychological effects... Although admittedly, most repressed/in-denial gay people don't attempt to blow up the world. At least, so far as I know.

Below the cut, I'll elaborate on this further.

In seasons 4 and 5, casting spells was something Willow and Tara enjoyed doing as a couple; it brought them closer together.

In season 6, though, Willow started to get selfish about her magic. She cast spells the way she wanted to, and didn't care about Tara's feelings or desires. ('After Life')

Then she started casting spells behind Tara's back, and lying to her about it. ('All The Way')

Eventually Tara found out about this, and they had a huge row and split up. ('Tabula Rasa')

Left alone, Willow had nobody to cast spells with. So she hooked up with an old friend and began hanging around in nightclubs casting spells on random strangers. ('Smashed')

She even started going to seedy establishments where you could pay for magic. ('Wrecked')

But then, something happened to give her a bad scare. She realised that this indiscriminate and casual use of magic was hurting her and hurting the people she loved. But she overreacted, and decided that the magic itself was the problem. She would have to give it up entirely; change herself into a non-magic-using person the way she [thought she] was before she met Tara.

With the misguided support and encouragement of her friends, Willow threw away anything that reminded her of her old lifestyle, broke off contact with her magic-using friend Amy, and tried to suppress that part of her personality through sheer willpower. This left her tense, stressed and unhappy. ('Gone')

Amy slipped her a magical roofie one time, and Willow indulged in magic again for a while. But she hated herself for it afterwards, feeling guilty at her loss of control. ('Doublemeat Palace')

Eventually, Willow believed herself to be "cured" of her "magic addiction". But she wasn't; she'd just learned to live her life functionally while suppressing that whole part of her personality. Thrown into a traumatic and stressful situation, she reverted back to type. But because of the months of suppression and denial and self-brainwashing, her emotions were all twisted and repressed and unhealthy, and she suffered a violent emotional meltdown. So did the entire world, almost.

After that, Willow went into therapy where she learned to accept herself again. She was taught that the magic was a natural part of her, not "a hobby or an addiction". Instead of trying to suppress it, she should accept it and learn how to channel it in a healthy way. ('Lessons')

She was still worried that her friends would hate her for what she did, but they proved much more accepting than she'd feared ('Same Time, Same Place')

Eventually she found fulfilment through magic again, and got together with a new partner who - while initially a little dubious - was willing to support her and join in the spellcasting with her again. ("Come on, Red. Make it happen."... "You... are a goddess.")

So. Does it work?

Comments

Posted by: Beer Good (beer_good_foamy)
Posted at: 29th November 2008 12:33 (UTC)

So. Does it work?

It's an interesting interpretation even if I don't think that was part of the idea behind it, but I think the central flaw of your theory is that part of the reason Willow tried to give up magic was that it was keeping her from having hot and steamy lesbian sex. ;-)

WILLOW: Hi Tara, how are you? I was wondering, maybe you would want to go out some time? For coffee? Food? Kisses and gay love? Hi Tara, guess what? Magic-free now for insert number of days now.

Posted by: Beer Good (beer_good_foamy)
Posted at: 29th November 2008 12:37 (UTC)

(Incidentally - most repressed/in-denial gay people don't attempt to blow up the world; that is actually one of the character subplots in that almost-Mutant Enemy show The Shield. If we change "blow up the world" to "cracking down extra hard on gays and inviting gangsters to shoot you.")

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 29th November 2008 13:26 (UTC)

Oh, I think you're right that it wasn't necessarily the metaphor the writers had in mind at the time. But you know what they say about the author being dead...

Posted by: Beer Good (beer_good_foamy)
Posted at: 29th November 2008 13:34 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 29th November 2008 14:59 (UTC)

Posted by: aycheb (aycheb)
Posted at: 29th November 2008 13:12 (UTC)

So if magic=sex and black magic=promiscuous sex what was Willow up to getting it on with a deer and raising the mystically dead?

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 29th November 2008 13:27 (UTC)

Don't ask. Really.
:-)

Posted by: Chani φ (frenchani)
Posted at: 29th November 2008 13:35 (UTC)

Magic –casting spells, being under a spell, or just getting high on spells– was often a metaphor for sex, either in homosexual or in heterosexual relationships(think of Buffy de-souling Angel, Buffy/Riley in the haunted house, think of Willow and Rack!), whether the power is shared between the people in question(the W/T rose in "A New Man", the song in OMWF)or the power is used to submit someone, trick them(ask Giles and Ethan!;- )), rape/hurt them even(think of Oz/Veruca having sex because of magic and that spell Willow wanted to cast to hurt Oz...which foreshadowed her My Will Be Done spell in "Something Blues")it starts as consensual between Rack and Willow but it doesn't end well in Wrecked when she screams while he seems to enjoy himself), so actually I don't think that the metaphor ever changed.

Witchcraft as a representation of lesbianism is an old cliché(and Xander voiced it in Willow's dream at the beginning of "Restless")but I think that Joss used it in season 4 to twist it even better, just like he did with other cliches. On BTVS "magic" has always been about power. Slayers, vampires, witches,werewolves, there's always a kind of magic at work. The characters'sexuality was just another way to explore the theme, because there's always a matter fo power when it comes to sex. It's...convenient.

Seasons 6 and 7 carried on the leitmotiv.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 29th November 2008 15:02 (UTC)

Yes - I think assuming that all metaphors only have one layer is a fatal mistake, especially in BtVS.

Posted by: Chani φ (frenchani)
Posted at: 29th November 2008 16:06 (UTC)

Posted by: icemink (icemink)
Posted at: 29th November 2008 14:46 (UTC)

I think it does work. Like all metaphors it's not perfect, and I'm not sure it's what the writers meant, but I think Willow's magic never lost that undertone of Lesbianism. It's also interesting that if you go further back than season 4, magic is something of a legacy that Willow got from Ms. Calendar, who Willow was very close to. In retrospect we can wonder if one of Willow's first crushes was on Ms. Calendar.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 29th November 2008 15:03 (UTC)
buffy-willow

In retrospect we can wonder if one of Willow's first crushes was on Ms. Calendar

Second. Her first (on the show, at any rate) was on Buffy herself, who introduced her to the entire existence and possibility of the supernatural world. :-) But yes, I agree with you.

Posted by: Chani φ (frenchani)
Posted at: 29th November 2008 16:05 (UTC)

Posted by: Beer Good (beer_good_foamy)
Posted at: 29th November 2008 16:25 (UTC)

Posted by: Chani φ (frenchani)
Posted at: 29th November 2008 17:08 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 29th November 2008 18:07 (UTC)

Posted by: Chani φ (frenchani)
Posted at: 29th November 2008 23:52 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 30th November 2008 11:54 (UTC)

Posted by: Chani φ (frenchani)
Posted at: 30th November 2008 12:32 (UTC)

Posted by: Beer Good (beer_good_foamy)
Posted at: 29th November 2008 23:59 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 29th November 2008 18:03 (UTC)

Posted by: Chani φ (frenchani)
Posted at: 29th November 2008 23:50 (UTC)

Posted by: The One Who Isn't Chosen (gabrielleabelle)
Posted at: 29th November 2008 16:49 (UTC)
willow lesbian

Although admittedly, most repressed/in-denial gay people don't attempt to blow up the world. At least, so far as I know.

I did. Ellen Degeneres brought me down, though. She's cool like that.

The only thing I can't find a way to line up with your metaphor is the end of S6. Magic = Sex. Black Magic = Bad Sex. Going on a crazy Black Magic rampage and trying to end the world = ???

It would add another level to her pwnage of Glory in S5's Tough Love and later in The Gift when she reverses Glory's brain suck on Tara. Both pretty hardcore magic acts done in the name of her lesbian lover (And not condemned by the rest of the group, who appear to have forgotten that Willow's magic can come in handy in S6).

Posted by: Randall Randall (randallsquared)
Posted at: 29th November 2008 17:21 (UTC)

"the rest of the group, who appear to have forgotten that Willow's magic can come in handy in S6"

All of season 6 was an anomaly, though... an extended treatise on what the scoobies are like when there's no Big Bad -- or when there's no Bad bigger than they are, at least. Also on this theme, pre-Twilight season 8, where Buffy's robbin' banks. At least they're on the side of Good when it comes right down to it, though it's interesting that it really *has* to come right down to it for them to not be the bad guys.

But maybe it's just me. :)

Posted by: The One Who Isn't Chosen (gabrielleabelle)
Posted at: 29th November 2008 17:40 (UTC)

Posted by: Randall Randall (randallsquared)
Posted at: 29th November 2008 18:55 (UTC)

Posted by: The One Who Isn't Chosen (gabrielleabelle)
Posted at: 29th November 2008 20:45 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 29th November 2008 22:31 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 29th November 2008 18:06 (UTC)

The only thing I can't find a way to line up with your metaphor is the end of S6. Magic = Sex. Black Magic = Bad Sex. Going on a crazy Black Magic rampage and trying to end the world = ???

Being all psychologically damaged by years of trying to repress such an important part of your personality, and lashing out in anger at anyone who threatens to breach your bubble of denial?

Okay, maybe the metaphor isn't perfect...
:-)

Edited at 2008-11-29 18:06 (UTC)

Posted by: M (spankulert)
Posted at: 29th November 2008 17:40 (UTC)
Willow rainbow

Hm, that's a very interesting angle. Don't think I've seen that one around before.Certainly adds another layer to the whole thing. I'll keep it in mind during my next re-watch ;)

Posted by: Slacker Spice (slackerspice)
Posted at: 1st December 2008 19:27 (UTC)

I'm not entirely sure if it works - it seems to get a bit iffy for me once you get past "Smashed" and up to the stuff on Dark Willow, like it could be talking about either sex or drugs or both...

Actually, someone did a fairly interesting argument for the whole "Season 6 magic equals drugs thing" for Near Her Always: http://nha.magical-worlds.us/willowsproblem.php

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 2nd December 2008 01:31 (UTC)

Like I aid to frenchani above, we don't have to restrict ourselves to one metaphor at a time. And Willow's attempt to deny that she's a witch was really what gave me the idea for the extended etaphor in the first place.

Interesting article - I assume it was written while the series was still on the air? Although the impression I got was less that the author was arguing that magic is a metaphor for drugs, as that it was already established in canon as early as S2 that magic could have drug-like effects.

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: 16th December 2008 16:07 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 16th December 2008 18:09 (UTC)

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