• 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!

Magic should not equal Drugs

Is Magic An Acceptable Allegory For Drugs?

  • Yes, it works as a metaphor

    Votes: 17 45.9%
  • No, it does not work as a metaphor

    Votes: 20 54.1%

  • Total voters
    37

RagnarockerB

The Dearest Queerest
Joined
Jan 1, 2018
Messages
52
Age
22
Location
South Africa
Sineya
Spoiler Alert for Season 3 of Bojack Horseman and (obviously) season 6 of Buffy

Watching season 6 gave me chills at the sight of Alyson Hannigan giving a convincing performance of an addict realizing the toxicity of their relationship with substance abuse. It's one of her strongest performances on the show and given the material, that's saying something;

It's hard to hate Willow after seeing her realize she's hit rock bottom (although there are certainly lower points to follow).

The only problem I see is the parallel between drug abuse and magic. I don't think it's an apt comparison and throughout the entirety of the arc, it seems like it's a parallel for the sake of having a parallel. The implication that Spike and Buffy's somewhat toxic relationship shares similarities with substance abuse is a little less egregious, because there's some actual truth to it.

Part of being drawn to something as enveloping as substance abuse and unhealthy relationships is that they are so intoxicating to be involved with.

But whether or not you believe Spike and Buffy's relationship is toxic isn't the point I'm trying to make here. It's been suggested that season 6 was kind of an "ego-trip" for Joss Whedon, and while I'd at least praise it for its experimentation. However, as is only human, I compare everything I watch to everything else I watch. And in the process of this, I found myself comparing Buffy The Vampire Slayer season 6 episode 10, "Wrecked" to the show I finished watching a short period of time beforehand, Bojack Horseman.

Specifically, Bojack Horseman's Season 3 Episode 11, "That's Too Much, Man!"

My conclusion was thus;

Magic should not be used an allegory for drugs.

Buffy was a show constantly dodging cancellation in a mid-day slot that tried it's best to keep the rating PG13, and I think that's the flaw with this episode. The use of metaphor as a stand-in was probably a decision made to keep the seriousness of the issue while being able to talk somewhat openly about drugs, which probably wouldn't have allowed the show to keep its age rating. It could also be the writing team just being the writing team since the metaphor is severely on the nose, but either way; It falls flat.

The first reason I don't think magic should not be used an allegory for drugs. is because, well, duh. Magic isn't a drug. The use of magic can induce a power trip, but that's not what most recreationally take drugs do. And I thought that's what the arc was initially leading up to, the abuse of power, not substance. Sure, absolute power corrupts absolutely is a tired cliche but it's a relatively inoffensive one. Megalomania would perhaps have been a more fitting theme. Perhaps even gun safety, considering the parallels magic use has to gun ownership. Most of the cast get antsy about Willow using magic to speed up search engines and closing curtains, which is an abuse of power, not of substance. I understand about the tip-toeing around someone who you know has a problem, but come on. It was internet in the early 2000s, literally everyone would have sped-up dial-up if they could.

The second reason is that we don't need allegory to understand substance abuse. We know what substance abuse does. We've all likely seen it in someone we know. If the allegory is going to be on the nose, it should at least be effective, but you know what would have been more effective? An actual story about drug abuse. For example:


There. That's what happens during substance abuse. People overdose. People die. People become not only outwardly destructive but also self-destructive. And it turns out, the perfect way to talk about drugs is to... Well, talk about drugs. I'm pretty liberal and pro-legalization when it comes to marijuana use, at least in the context of medically issued marijuana. And I get it, it was the early 2000s, and drug scare tactics were at their most vile. The War On Drugs was in full force. But we know better now. We can grasp at a little bit of nuance. But we have to talk about it earnestly. About the real dangers of narcotics and methamphetamines.

For extra viewing material, here's a Cracked video essay on why film and television often get this stuff wrong:

Reason 3 is that it's just out of left field

The show has a lot of magic users who tend to be villains but you don't think, oh, magic equals drugs, they're a villain because they're abusing a substance. No! They're villains because they hurt people, or because of self-serving behaviour, or a lack of empathy. Like the nerd squad also uses magic for "evil" but they're not seen as drug addicts with a problem. They're goofballs playing at villains. They have mildly villainous antics. In the same episode! It's an inconsistent blip that's made more inconsistent by using Amy as the peer pressuring friend (yes, the hamster girl slash former cheerleader is definitely your asshole peer-pressuring friend who glamourizes the world of drug abuse no, of course, she's not). I'm not going to cry any tears because Amy was kind of butchered as a character but man, Willow sure gets stuck with a lot of nonsensical subplots. And it comes out of nowhere because Willow's been using magic for years without much incident. And if we take the metaphor to it's extreme, then Willow not only drugs her significant other to avoid a fight, she drugs each and every one of her best friends because she feels bad about what she did to Buffy.

I'm pretty sure that's a crime. In fact, if memory serves that's a Class B felony that can carry up to 10 years.

Now that I've gone far over the word limit about what amounts to a nitpick, hopefully I've kind of explained my issue with this subplot. It's obviously not the worst thing I've ever seen but there's an element of tastelessness and it feels like an obligatory post-mortem addition because, as every arcade ever is required by law to remind you, Winners Don't Use Drugs.

But hey, maybe I missed something. What are your thoughts on the issue?
 

thrasherpix

Scooby
Joined
Mar 13, 2016
Messages
2,643
Age
36
The cheesy way drug addiction was portrayed (as ridiculous as Reefer Madness which even many "pot is evil" folk make fun of) was annoying (though less annoying than other parts), but what I really didn't like is that in season 4 it's about empowerment, but then in season 6 that empowerment becomes toxic and addictive. Which in a sense is typical Joss Whedon in that power corrupts, though I'd have much rather seen Willow demonstrate hubris (like Faith did) than the addiction, and that would also feel less of a retcon (some say it was originally meant for Willow to become the Wicca-version of Faith but AH didn't want to do that and Joss was more responsive to her desires than he was other cast members).

That said, I think the idea of magical drugs (made with magic rather than magic itself) that can be addictive is a great idea and makes sense. I'd have enjoyed that, though they'd still need to lengthen it out rather than Willow getting one hit of magic crack (in the most cheesy and PSA cliche way) and then dragging a kid through back alleys and laughing and driving (in a stolen car, no less) like a loon before sobbing at rock bottom. And can't forget the way she talked.

Either that, or the magic drugs should be specifically cursed--say a gift from Ethan Rayne. Now THAT would make more sense and be enjoyable to me rather than annoying. Another way to do it (and otherwise keep it as they had it) is that Willow started calling upon a specific demon that spiked his power that way before giving it to her (which would feel like a call back to Ripper's youth as well as the demon essentially taking Ethan's place, presumably because if the witch OD then maybe the demon would get the witch's soul and/or power, and yet the amount of power is so tempting in addition to being so magically addictive).

On the plus side, the "magic is drugs" story line combined with how Ecstasy is presented in season 2 (Ted) makes me think that Joss and cast have little to no experience with illegal drugs. ;) (Either that, or they were trying to get some some government anti-drug propaganda money by writing the stories that way, which I heard they tried to do with Beer Bad and it didn't work because it was about beer that was specifically cursed rather than beer in general, which might be another reason they went with "magic is drugs and drugs are bad" PSA material.)
 
GraceK
GraceK
Yes yes and more yes!
EarthLogic
EarthLogic
Adding another 'yes!' to this

EarthLogic

Scooby
Joined
Sep 1, 2017
Messages
1,330
Location
London, UK
Black Thorn
The cheesy way drug addiction was portrayed (as ridiculous as Reefer Madness which even many "pot is evil" folk make fun of) was annoying (though less annoying than other parts), but what I really didn't like is that in season 4 it's about empowerment, but then in season 6 that empowerment becomes toxic and addictive.
In season 4 it was also a metaphor for Tara and Willow's relationship - since they couldn't show them being physically intimate at that point - so I really hated that all of that was kind of thrown of the window later. Obviously there's only so much mileage they could have got out of the magic=lesbian sex metaphor, so yes they had to introduce something new, but I'd have preferred it if the aspect of magic that Tara represented had also been given greater exploration in relation to the way Willow was using it. Magic in the show had never been so clear-cut. In earlier seasons it seemed much more of a mysterious force, and something which involved ingredients and rituals - it was something which took time and concentration to perform. And it was never a necessarily bad thing, just something powerful which needed skill. In S6 it's like point finger = stuff happens. On the one hand it easy shorthand for how powerful a witch Willow has become, but for me it was far too blunt. I hated how Rack could just 'give' her magic and more magic simply meant a greater high. Her powerfulness became a physical thing itself rather than being a state she achieved through her thirst for magical knowldge and desire to control things to her liking.

And it's not that in season 6 the empowerment becomes toxic and addictive - that would have been a good storyline because it would have developed naturally from Willow's hubris and pathological need to fix her problems by overrelying on magic. Rather it's that they made the magic/power concept so horribly literal, which killed any nuance the arc had built up to that point. I think the Buffy/Spike arc was a far better metaphor for addiction/drugs and self-harm than Willow's because it actually worked on the level of metaphor.
 

GraceK

Grr Arrg
Joined
Nov 3, 2016
Messages
1,275
Age
32
In season 4 it was also a metaphor for Tara and Willow's relationship - since they couldn't show them being physically intimate at that point - so I really hated that all of that was kind of thrown of the window later. Obviously there's only so much mileage they could have got out of the magic=lesbian sex metaphor, so yes they had to introduce something new, but I'd have preferred it if the aspect of magic that Tara represented had also been given greater exploration in relation to the way Willow was using it. Magic in the show had never been so clear-cut. In earlier seasons it seemed much more of a mysterious force, and something which involved ingredients and rituals - it was something which took time and concentration to perform. And it was never a necessarily bad thing, just something powerful which needed skill. In S6 it's like point finger = stuff happens. On the one hand it easy shorthand for how powerful a witch Willow has become, but for me it was far too blunt. I hated how Rack could just 'give' her magic and more magic simply meant a greater high. Her powerfulness became a physical thing itself rather than being a state she achieved through her thirst for magical knowldge and desire to control things to her liking.

And it's not that in season 6 the empowerment becomes toxic and addictive - that would have been a good storyline because it would have developed naturally from Willow's hubris and pathological need to fix her problems by overrelying on magic. Rather it's that they made the magic/power concept so horribly literal, which killed any nuance the arc had built up to that point. I think the Buffy/Spike arc was a far better metaphor for addiction/drugs and self-harm than Willow's because it actually worked on the level of metaphor.
Amy skulking around Buffy’s bedroom like a strung out meth head was the worst lol
 
Anyanka Bunny Slayer
Anyanka Bunny Slayer
Yes, it was super embarrassing...

Mrs Gordo

Bangel extremist...
Joined
Jul 11, 2017
Messages
4,022
Location
Texas
Black Thorn
I can't vote because I really am on the fence on this one. I think in theory it could work. When they were sitting around the writers room I think I could see it sounding good in their mind but the execution fell short. I give them credit for at least thinking up a metaphor when I feel like the metaphors became much more vague and veiled in the later seasons.

One thing that I missed is that in the early seasons magic was looked at through the lens of chemistry and science. I enjoyed that element, although I admit it lacks the sex appeal of magic as drugs. But --

Which in a sense is typical Joss Whedon in that power corrupts, though I'd have much rather seen Willow demonstrate hubris (like Faith did) than the addiction, and that would also feel less of a retcon (some say it was originally meant for Willow to become the Wicca-version of Faith but AH didn't want to do that and Joss was more responsive to her desires than he was other cast members).
This is what I loved about the story arc. Not the magic as drugs really but the bigger picture that Joss is always all about. Buffy is spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility. And we see Faith doesn't deal well with that power. To have seen our fan favorite Willow also be corrupted by the power without the implication that it was a substance abuse issue (and therfore potentially out of her control) would have been an interesting narrative. One that I could've really enjoyed. It becomes about the struggle to understand what to do when you amass so much power and finding the balance for it.

Buffy was a show constantly dodging cancellation in a mid-day slot that tried it's best to keep the rating PG13, and I think that's the flaw with this episode.
I'm not sure this is true is it? In the UPN transition they had a two year contract deal, I'm pretty sure. Although others can correct me if I'm wrong. So they knew in s6 that there would be a s7 and I think this gave them the confidence to take a chance on something different.
 
Oh and I have to add that this is not the first time the writers make the substance abuse metaphor work within the verse. Angel and Faith's story are reflected as those of recovering alcoholics. In fact, they even discuss in Sanctuary sponsorship. And Angel alludes to the fact that he was sponsored by Buffy whereas now he is sponsoring Faith on her road to recovery. I happen to think that is a much more interesting metaphor because it is not so overtly theatrical (with the being strung out etc). But it works because it is about constantly battling your inner demons, and fits the: fighting is hard and every day. I think that speaks to , what I understand, is the struggle of someone who has gone through alcohol recovery.
 
Last edited:
W

WillowFromBuffy

Guest
The first time magic is compared to drugs is in the episode Dark Ages. That is in season 2. We learn that Giles and Ethan belonged to a cult that used magic and demon possession to enhance sexual experiences during orgies. Tara and Willow also uses magic achieve some form of tantric sexual experience, like drugs can do. Giles warns Willow about the dangers of magic from the beginning.

I don't think we are meant to understand Willow as a drug addict. At first, Willow uses magic because she is an over achiever who wants to fix everything. Then she uses magic, because she is unhappy. Willow's arc in S6 is amazing and all of you who are being too cool to appreciate it are totally missing out.
 

Zenseem

Evil, skanky and kinda gay
Joined
Jan 5, 2017
Messages
892
Age
20
Location
Brazil, the actual Hellmouth
Black Thorn
If the 'drugs equal magic' thing was present in the show since the beginning and it wasn't as cringy as it was showed then it could have worked. Even though I like Willow's season 6 arc I still think they threw all her development down the drain just for the sake of the plot, which was a risky move, but at least worked.
 
W

WillowFromBuffy

Guest
If the 'drugs equal magic' thing was present in the show since the beginning and it wasn't as cringy as it was showed then it could have worked. Even though I like Willow's season 6 arc I still think they threw all her development down the drain just for the sake of the plot, which was a risky move, but at least worked.
I think Willow's character development was dependent on the safety she gained from her relationship to Oz and then Tara. In S6 she becomes paranoid that she may lose that, as she feels everyone is suddenly turning on her.

It makes sense in my head, at least :p The only thing I regret is that we did not get to see a stronger Willow at the end of S7. That would have been nice.
 

Zenseem

Evil, skanky and kinda gay
Joined
Jan 5, 2017
Messages
892
Age
20
Location
Brazil, the actual Hellmouth
Black Thorn
I think Willow's character development was dependent on the safety she gained from her relationship to Oz and then Tara. In S6 she becomes paranoid that she may lose that, as she feels everyone is suddenly turning on her.
It makes total sense. But if you really think about it she was the one jeopardizing her own stability by pushing herself further and further into the darkness and when she realized that it was too late so she gave herself in completely. Being with Oz and Tara gave her the confidence and strengh for her to become more and more independent and powerful, but losing them was like losing all her stability and self control.

The only thing I regret is that we did not get to see a stronger Willow at the end of S7. That would have been nice.
Don't even get me started on season 7. They completely destroyed everything Willow stands for just so they can pair her with someone. She was finally being able to gown on her own and let go of her fears and then Kennedy showed up... God, I hate her. Anyway, this is not the right thread to discuss this so let's just leave it be.
 

HowiMetdaSlayer

Occasionally, I am callous and strange 🐶
Joined
Dec 10, 2015
Messages
3,841
Location
midwest
I still think that the magic drug story line went well beyond metaphor. o_O Then all of a sudden it wasn't an addiction at all in season 7, but an issue with control. I think that the writers must've been reading some feedback from tumblr...the web and decided to change direction. :rolleyes:
 

EarthLogic

Scooby
Joined
Sep 1, 2017
Messages
1,330
Location
London, UK
Black Thorn
I still think that the magic drug story line went well beyond metaphor. o_O Then all of a sudden it wasn't an addiction at all in season 7, but an issue with control. I think that the writers must've been reading some feedback from tumblr...the web and decided to change direction. :rolleyes:
That's what I think too. Joss did some repair work to it with the Willow/Giles scenes in 'Lessons'.
 

Ethan Reigns

Scooby
Joined
Oct 14, 2012
Messages
6,118
Location
Canada
Sineya
This is an excellent point. Also, the drug metaphor doesn't really work because Tara says in season 4 that she has been using magic since she was little and is basically from a magical family. If magic has the ability to corrupt so badly what hasn't it done this to Tara?
What you are saying is the equivalent of, some people can hold their liquor and others can't. If it had been better done or if watching someone sink until they hit bottom was actually entertaining, we might say magic did not equal drugs but everything they showed indicated that it did.
 

Alittlegrim

Stuck In The Middle
Joined
Jan 2, 2018
Messages
198
Age
39
Location
thetechteatime.blogspot.ca
What you are saying is the equivalent of, some people can hold their liquor and others can't. If it had been better done or if watching someone sink until they hit bottom was actually entertaining, we might say magic did not equal drugs but everything they showed indicated that it did.
I didn't mean it quite that way but that is a point. I think I just don't get how something that was originally used as a metaphor for Tara and Willow's love and that Tara has being doing her whole life with no negative effect except for the bigoted reactions of those around her could turn so dark and negative so fast. This could be because of a weakness is Willow's personality or that it didn't affect Tara because she was born with it but I have never seen this in Willow and Tara says that Willow is more powerful than her.
 

SunnydaleGlitz

Potential
Joined
Sep 25, 2017
Messages
255
Location
New York
Sineya
I'm undecided on this so didn't vote.

Maybe - and this a VERY tentative maybe - because I don't think I agree with this theory myself - Tara herself was a metaphor for drugs? Initially it was a liberational force and gave Willow a sense of self reliance...But perhaps Tara functioned as Willow's alter ego at a time when she was finding herself and it brought out a confidence she never had before, but then became a crutch for Willow? That's how the writers seemed to turn it - one of Willow's motivations was she wanted things to be good with Tara and did magic on her to forget their fight..so it was partly her love for Tara and their relationship that pushed her into magical addiction?

Willow tells Tara in the park that guys are checking out the "hotness" of her and seems to revel in vicarious pride. Maybe Tara represented a powerful escape and a vision of what her life could be, but ultimately became a destructive obsession for Willow and her (Tara's) death led to Willow becoming destructive and evil. Is that maybe a possible allegory/metaphor for drugs? On the other hand, I think Tara throughout was meant to be a very positive thing for Willow and was her great love, so I doubt they would want to tarnish that with the whole drug metaphor thing. And I don't actually think Tara was so tied up with the 'magic-as-a-drug' theme, given that she was always discouraging Willow from giving in to her 'addiction'. To all Twillow shippers, I absolutely love Willow and Tara through and through, so all this is speculation.
 
Joined
Dec 20, 2017
Messages
30
Location
California
I feel like the Magic = Drugs metaphor somewhat worked when it related to Willow abusing magic in everyday life and showing how terrible it affected her relationship with Tara, Dawn, Buffy, and the rest of the Scooby Gang. But her whole "drug trips" with Amy at Rack's place was way too far-fetched and felt unnecessary. Willow was dangerous enough using magic to wipe everyone's memory in "Tabula Rasa" and many other moments in Season Six. Willow could have crashed the car driving with Dawn in any other circumstance because she was so addicted and swept up by the magic and didn't need to be "drugged up" by Rack. The show did a brilliant job of showing Willow and Tara's breakup in "OMWF" and "Tabula Rasa", showing just how real relationships can struggle when drugs are involved. And Willow begging and pleading for help from Buffy, tears in her eyes as she realized she just about killed Dawn in "Wrecked" was amazingly done by Alyson Hannigan. Overall, the whole Magic Addiction storyline had good parts and bad parts, with Amy being enough to bring Willow down a dark path without needing Rack to be involved.
 

Spanky

I'm came here to chew bubblegum and go off topic.
Joined
Aug 12, 2008
Messages
19,692
Black Thorn
I think many of us can agree that comparing Willow's misuse of magic to drug addiction was a poor choice as a metaphor.
I don't. I just don't think they handled it right. They had too many things working against them to really emphasis the addictiveness of it.
 
Joan the Vampire Slayer
Joan the Vampire Slayer
Interesting. Can you elaborate?
Top Bottom