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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

Spanky

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@Joan the Vampire Slayer Because it was really sanitized and "pretty". And Hannigan is not the most versatile actor so they were limited there. When you think about having that much power and control over the world, to be able to snap your fingers and make, virtually, anything happen, it would be intoxicating and quite addictive. I think the show failed to fully illustrate that. They just kept it surface level, safe and routine.
 

The Ferg

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*I haven't read through the rest of the thread yet*

I think it works, for the most part, although it can feel really on-the-nose at points. I actually think there's a clear throughline from S3->S7 chronicling Willow's power addiction. And that's what I think it is. Yea, the show really wants to shove drugs into it as well, but at the core of Willow's personal problems, are an addiction to power.
Season 3- Willow's coming out of her shell, and finding her niche as a witch is helping.
Season 4- Magic has become a central tool that Willow uses try to fix problems in her life. Her friends don't see it as a problem, and it's not, but I think you can see the beginnings of Willow's lust for power here.
Season 5- This is when the audience starts to realize just how deep into magic Willow really is. It's not a problem yet, but she's very reliant on it, and has no problem with using it whenever she sees fit.
Season 6- And this is when everything breaks down. Willow's personal problems have compounded on eachother and she just keeps going back to magic because it's so intrinsically linked to her self-image. Obviously she hits rock-bottom here, and then when a true moment of crisis comes later, and she feels that everything is lost, she's not strong enough and wades back into the magic-y water without even thinking about it.
Season 7- Finally, Willow has confronted her true nature, and is learning to live with her dark side. She's now so powerful that she can't just get rid of it, but now has to learn to live with it every day and use it for good.

It worked for me.
 
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thetopher

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Either Magic is a metaphor for exploring sexuality (like in S4) or for drug addiction (Like in S6) or for self-empowerment (Like in S7) but it can't be all three; that's the problem with the metaphor.
Other characters use magic and are unaffected by it; Giles, Wesley, many of the villains (including the weak-willed trio and Amy) and the drug-metaphor isn't even hinted at (the exception being Giles rebel days in S2 'The Dark Age') so clearly the problem is Willow.
And yet the way its presented in 'Wrecked' is laughable; Willow and Amy trot along to the mystic 'magic-crack house' to talk to the skeezy magic 'dealer' nobody's ever heard of; we have 'magic junkies' hanging around whining to rack about needing a fix, the space-y music as Willow gets high as a kite...
It's all about as subtle as a sledgehammer.
 
W

WillowFromBuffy

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Either Magic is a metaphor for exploring sexuality (like in S4) or for drug addiction (Like in S6) or for self-empowerment (Like in S7) but it can't be all three; that's the problem with the metaphor.
Why not? Is it such a stretch to imagine that something that let's you achieve sexual euphoria and a powerful sense of empowerment could be addictive if used recklessly?
Other characters use magic and are unaffected by it; Giles, Wesley, many of the villains (including the weak-willed trio and Amy)
Were they? Giles, Anya, Amy, the Trio? Were none of them carried away by magic use?
the drug-metaphor isn't even hinted at (the exception being Giles rebel days in S2 'The Dark Age')
Pretty big exception....
 

thetopher

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Why not? Is it such a stretch to imagine that something that let's you achieve sexual euphoria and a powerful sense of empowerment could be addictive if used recklessly?
It is when no other character experiences it. When did Wesley- certainly repressed in some areas- become power mad/high whilst spell-casting? He didn't, no other character did.
So the problem is Willow and how she reacts to power, but the writers chose to depict this like she's some kind of junkie looking for her next fix- that its the magics that are effecting her this way... and then this completely disappears in the next season when Willow starts using magic again, because plot.
Or maybe the Witches Coven in Devon got her a better 'supplier'...

Were they? Giles, Anya, Amy, the Trio? Were none of them carried away by magic use?
Not in the same way; Anya or The Trio may have acted selfishly or high-handedly but they never got jittery from excess spell casting or went looking for a magic crackhouse....

Pretty big exception....
I flashbackinf 1 episode is a teeny, tiny exception when you're talking about magic in the Buffyverse- a fairly common thing that often moves plots forward.
 

Spanky

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I
Or maybe the Witches Coven in Devon got her a better 'supplier'...
I thought that was the whole purpose of going there, to get a better supply. It's like when Mr. Giles dosed her with the good stuff it saved the day. She was going there to learn how to get the good stuff.
 
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WillowFromBuffy

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@thetopher Nobody really uses magic the way Willow does. She repeatedly channels magic through herself or uses her own body as a battery. Other characters tend to rely on magical artefacts or elaborate rituals. Still, we see other characters acting druggy when using magic.

IMO, The Dark Ages is a pretty important episode for establishing Giles's character and for world building. If there was once one magical drug and sex cult, there could be more. When Giles warns Willow about the dangers of magic, that episode is part of the context from which we understand that warning.
 
Or maybe the Witches Coven in Devon got her a better 'supplier'...
Yes, that is explicitly stated.
 

thetopher

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I thought that was the whole purpose of going there, to get a better supply. It's like when Mr. Giles dosed her with the good stuff it saved the day. She was going there to learn how to get the good stuff.
They dropped the metaphor, now drugs is 'all just energy' flowing from one place to another and Willow is now like, really mellow, man.
Damn, they did send her to a commune...

Yes, that is explicitly stated.
No it isn't, Willow is the one that gets changed, the drugs magic remains the same, Willow just understands it better.
 

MarieVampSlayer

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I didn't hate the magic is drugs metaphor in S6 my problem is more how it was handled in S7. If magic really was a drug then Willow should never be allowed to do magic. You don't recover from drug addiction by continuing taking them. You have to stop drugs forever because only one tiny bit will get you back on the "dark side". This way, Willow should have been addicted to power or black magic only because then she could decide to give these up. The fact that she goes to a "clinique"-coven to get better and still do magic is a terribel analogy for drugs and not very realistic.
 
Antho
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Agreed

EarthLogic

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You don't recover from drug addiction by continuing taking them.
LOL! You'd think that would be obvious to the writers, wouldn't you? :rolleyes:

Though I suppose you could think of it more like being addicted to prescription drugs, which are beneficial when used responsibly, rather than illegal ones.
 
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I didn't hate the magic is drugs metaphor in S6 my problem is more how it was handled in S7. If magic really was a drug then Willow should never be allowed to do magic. You don't recover from drug addiction by continuing taking them. You have to stop drugs forever because only one tiny bit will get you back on the "dark side". This way, Willow should have been addicted to power or black magic only because then she could decide to give these up. The fact that she goes to a "clinique"-coven to get better and still do magic is a terribel analogy for drugs and not very realistic.
You could switch from heroin to prescription methadone and be able to live a dignified life.
 

Ethan Reigns

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At one point, Willow even got dressed by magic and it represented the lazy way of living, the path of least resistance. The drug metaphor works even though the drug may be something like chocolate rather than cocaine. True addiction would be like taking an alcoholic and turning him into an abstainer which does not match Willow's path. You can dry out an alcoholic, but you cannot turn him into a social drinker who is not addicted but Willow was weaned off magic then re-educated about it and she returned to use it. Willow overuses magic but then stops and restarts in a manner some chocoholics live. Without the classic definition of addict, you can still have people who ruin their lives by overuse of some drug.
 

Dora

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At one point, Willow even got dressed by magic and it represented the lazy way of living, the path of least resistance. The drug metaphor works even though the drug may be something like chocolate rather than cocaine. True addiction would be like taking an alcoholic and turning him into an abstainer which does not match Willow's path. You can dry out an alcoholic, but you cannot turn him into a social drinker who is not addicted but Willow was weaned off magic then re-educated about it and she returned to use it. Willow overuses magic but then stops and restarts in a manner some chocoholics live. Without the classic definition of addict, you can still have people who ruin their lives by overuse of some drug.
Most things in S6 was poorly handled , Buffy illness , Dawns thieving how Xander behaved but Willows addition especially , they were basically all better now !! when in both Buffy and Willows cases this is plain not so
 

brittles

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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?

Im pretty sure this was an obvious way for Willow's character to go though. She's been a goody-good her whole life and most likely to stay away from having her portray substance abuse with ACTUAL substances they chose to have magic be her drug of choice since it makes complete sense for her character and may be slightly more acceptable to put on TV that has a PG13 rating especially considering all of the other heavy emotional/sexual elements they have going on in this season at the time. Of course magic abuse is a good parallel for substance abuse on this particular show. Otherwise we might as well just watch Law and Order or any of the other thousands of shows that portray actors dealing with abusing actual drugs. It would have been a random and completely out of character plot line for Willow to all of a sudden be scouring back allies for a bump of cocaine or random street drugs lol Even though her behavior with the abuse of magic is very out of character it at least makes sense that this is what would be her downfall. It also doesn't come out of nowhere as you say. She's been a practicing Witch for what 3-4 years at this point? Her interest in magic was further fueled when she met Tara in season 4 and they began practicing spells together and Tara taught Willow everything that she knew of magic. From there on she finds she has a natural knack for it and she snowballed quickly from a novice to a highly skilled Witch. It seems only natural for something that gives her a sense of importance, power, respect and control that she never ever experienced in life and especially in high school might grow into something uncontrollable. This is especially true after her and Tara break up and she is clearly using magic and going to Rack to get "high" to desensitize herself from the pain of losing Tara. She even says magic made her "feel special." Before it she was just "some girl" "just Willow." Therefore I can't agree that this issue just came out of nowhere. I think this parallel makes complete sense for this show and for this character and it is one that I enjoy watching as sad and painful as it is to watch one of my favorite characters go through this. However I think it made for an interesting character development and obviously furthered the progression of Willow becoming Dark Willow in the end which in turn leads to one of my favorite scenes ever in Buffy-the Yellow Crayon Speech scene. <3
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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.

Alison Hannigan is a Queen in this character plot. She is so believable every time she cries.
 
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DeadlyDuo

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I think where the magic equals drugs metaphor falls apart is that Willow doesn't get clean. She continues to use magic fine after Season 6. Real addicts can't still use drugs and not continue the cycle of addiction.

Also the elephant in the room is that, if magic equals drugs, then Tara got Willow more heavily involved in magic (drugs) during Season 4 then has the audacity to tell Willow off for using magic in Season 5 and 6. It makes Tara look like a hypocrite.
 

RomanticSoul

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No it doesn't work. Because we are flat out told in S7 that magic is NOT an addiction.

Willow was addicted to magic in the same way everyone with power is. She wanted an easy road, fix whatever she thought needed fixing, to make herself feel better, to feel important and all that stuff. Willow was on a power trip, not a drug trip. There is a difference.
 

Mr Trick

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Yes, I think as a metaphor it makes sense. Its just that parts of the storyline came off as cheesy and heavy handed. I'm still glad they did it because it made for an interesting new direction for Willow. Without it we would not have gotten one of the most powerful endings to a season. Its just along the way there were missteps.
 

HowiMetdaSlayer

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Don't know why, but was thinking about this recently. As most of you know, I never liked the whole 'magic as an addiction' story line. I don't think it was ever written very well. Then in S7 it was basically changed to being about how you use magic, or something. As we all know, Buffy is well known for using things as metaphors for other things. Like Buffy sleeping with Angel turned him onto an actual monster, or Buffy coming out of the closet as a slayer. However, I always felt that the magic addiction story line pushed over from metaphorical to literal. I mean the way they wrote it wasn't magic (or the use of magic) as a metaphor for drug addiction. Rather the over use/IE:addiction of magic as a metaphor for drug addiction, but it just doesn't work. I mean put it like this. No one ever says that heroin addiction is a metaphor for meth addiction. Nor would/should they. Cause that's basically what happened in S6. You can't just change up the thing you're addicted to and then call it a metaphor for something. Sorry, but still not buying it. :confused:
 

DeadlyDuo

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Don't know why, but was thinking about this recently. As most of you know, I never liked the whole 'magic as an addiction' story line. I don't think it was ever written very well. Then in S7 it was basically changed to being about how you use magic, or something. As we all know, Buffy is well known for using things as metaphors for other things. Like Buffy sleeping with Angel turned him onto an actual monster, or Buffy coming out of the closet as a slayer. However, I always felt that the magic addiction story line pushed over from metaphorical to literal. I mean the way they wrote it wasn't magic (or the use of magic) as a metaphor for drug addiction. Rather the over use/IE:addiction of magic as a metaphor for drug addiction, but it just doesn't work. I mean put it like this. No one ever says that heroin addiction is a metaphor for meth addiction. Nor would/should they. Cause that's basically what happened in S6. You can't just change up the thing you're addicted to and then call it a metaphor for something. Sorry, but still not buying it. :confused:
Yeah the magic as drugs metaphor doesn't work for me because of the fact that in Season 4 magic was used as a metaphor for Willow and Tara's blossoming relationship. They did spells together, by Season 6 logic, Tara was getting Willow more heavily involved in "drugs" then was complaining that Willow was "addicted".

I think Willow misusing magic and relying on it too much would be a cause of concern and can have the fallout without the magic itself being the "drug". I also think magic should've had a price otherwise why wouldn't people use it to make their lives easier if there were no consequences?
 

Spanky

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Tara was getting Willow more heavily involved in "drugs" then was complaining that Willow was "addicted".
That seemed very realistic to me. Tara could do it without it ruining her life, Amy could not. Willow followed Amy down her path. I could easily see magic being addictive but I never really thought it was a metaphor as much as straight up 'magic can be addictive'

S6 lacked much of the metaphor which came previously. The Willow addiction was, to me, just storytelling, not trying to make a point using metaphor that drugs are bad. Especially as the show disproved that "drugs" were bad.
 
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