Buffy and the After-School Special

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Buffy and the After-School Special

Tonight, on a very special Buffy the Vampire Slayer...

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Elizabeth Grunewald:
A plausible metaphor, a patient story arc, and a willingness to show consequence: Season 6 of Buffy was an after-school special at its best.

Plus it had the musical episode, which was so funny it literally hurt to watch because I was laughing so hard. And every scene with the nerds was just comedy gold - I really don't know why so many people seem to think that Season 6 sucked, heh.

Elizabeth Grunewald:
Buffy and the After-School Special

Tonight, on a very special Buffy the Vampire Slayer...

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Bless its heart, it tries. Tried, that is.

The problem with serial TV and comic books in delivering lessons of this sort is the media themselves.

A TV series is limited by time. That means most of these issues will be resolved by epiphany, or some other quick fix. The message can be undermined by the unintentional indication that minimum effort yields maximum results when it comes to coping with life's problems. A comic book usually features a superhero. One of the reasons we're drawn to these heroes is their powers. One of the reasons we're drawn to those powers is the convenience they offer. Got a problem? Zap it with a laser and fly away at super speed.

Trying to build life lessons into that kind of escapism mixes two things that... well... probably shouldn't be mixed. You present someone with a solution, but in the context of a world chock full of quick fixes, and it could create the expectation that this solution is itself a fast-acting remedy. When that doesn't happen, the disillusioned person is less likely to believe in this solution the next time they're told it works. Unrealistic expectations lead to failure, but that failure is blamed on the perceived inefficacy of the proposed solution.

More harm than good, if there's any effect at all.

EDIT: Willow's tale worked because it took time. And because she was never truly "cured" of it. There was never a moment where you're told, "And then she was just fine, and never had to struggle again." A rare exception, but still an exception.

Oh, and as far as hitting home with messages goes, "The Body" remains one of the most powerful, moving, and chilling episodes I've seen in any TV series. It was beautifully done, and I really feel it captured the confusing mix of real emotions very effectively.

But, as this wasn't an uplifting message about dealing with loss, I know it doesn't count as an "after school special."

Wait, this show is still going? I thought it died out ages ago.

dastardly:
Bless its heart, it tries. Tried, that is.

The problem with serial TV and comic books in delivering lessons of this sort is the media themselves.

A TV series is limited by time. That means most of these issues will be resolved by epiphany, or some other quick fix. The message can be undermined by the unintentional indication that minimum effort yields maximum results when it comes to coping with life's problems. A comic book usually features a superhero. One of the reasons we're drawn to these heroes is their powers. One of the reasons we're drawn to those powers is the convenience they offer. Got a problem? Zap it with a laser and fly away at super speed.

True, but that's exactly why season six worked so well as an "after-school special"; it took its sweet time in developing over the course of the season, and it had actual consequences. I totally agree with you, Elizabeth. Every Buffy fan seems to hate on season six, and yeah it does have its problems, but I find it's not nearly as bad as people make it out to be, and totally underrated in general. I think people just didn't like how completely and utterly dark it was as a whole.

I will say one thing in specific, though. Say what you will about season six, but I absolutely love how they brought Buffy back to life. I cannot even begin to count the number of times I've seen a major character killed off, only to get brought back through some magical plot MacGuffin with little or no consequences at all. This happens in comics, TV shows, movies, you name it. It's all "ZOMG THIS IS SOOOOOOO SCARY AND DANGEROUS!" followed swiftly by "Phew! It worked! Boy, I didn't know if that was going to work or not, by golly! I'm sure glad everything is back to normal now!". Obviously, they had to bring her back to continue the show seeing as she's the main character and all, but they did it in such a way that it had real, lasting consequences for everyone involved (no spoilers for anyone who hasn't watched it). When she finally reveals what was going on with her, and specifically who she reveals it to...day-yum! That is good shit right there.

It's always nice to talk about the greatest television show ever made, well in my opinion anyway. Regarding the article, I would agree completely with the analysis of Season 6 and would only add that a large part of it's success was the absolutely amazing acting from Alison Hannigan (or is it Denisoff, can't remember if she took the name).
I can see where the episode Earshot could come into this category, but that part of the episode was so small I think it was more a reason for the powers being in the episode so it didn't come across as 'that was neat, but how do we finish it?'
The episode Beauty and the Beasts, now that's a tricky one due to the shows in built mythos that implies that the slayer wouldn't be allowed to intervene with a purely human domestic because that's a mortal world problem. I would agree that it diminishes the effect of the message, but it is the only way it could have been done without relegating it to the realms of a back story. What I would add is, that it was a brave and well produced move to have Buffy completely lose respect for the victim when she realised she wasn't going to stop being the victim. Considering the female fanbase that show had, THAT was gutsy.

Dorkmaster Flek:
snip

Yeah, I agree that Willow's tale in season 6 worked well specifically because of the time it took and the fact that she was never fully cured. The other examples, and other series that try this, are what I was taking aim at.

I enjoyed Season 6, personally. Willow's descent was convincingly done.

Of the 3 episodes mentioned here Earshot stands out as my favourite - it's subtle about the issues and has an interesting twist. The use of telepathy blends it all together nicely - First for picking up on the threat and secondly for how the things Buffy learnt through it helped her talk Jonathan down from killing himself.

As to the Season 6 arc about Willow's magic - started off interestingly, the build up of her using increasing amounts of magic to do even mundane tasks and manipulate the people in her life worked well.

For me though, when it got to Wrecked it was a bit too in-your-face and overly obvious about drawing comparisons between Willow's magic and drugs.

I really dislike how the "magic as drugs" metaphor was implemented because it basically erased how magic worked as set up in previous seasons. There was no hinting at addiction or possible negative consequences other than screwing it up by doing a spell that gets you killed or going crazy with the power of it. This arc, while being an excellent metaphor, was very much pulled from nothing for the season. It's my least favorite part of the series.

Beauty and the Beasts was actually better for the Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde spin. Simply because that is how most recipients of domestic abuse see it. They see their partner as the nice guy and they have to only endure this change which happens to them, which is no their fault, and thus it is the recipient's duty to stand by them when they are going through this tough situation. It's a very slippery physiological slope.

And as a ginormous Buffy fan Season 6 was one of its best if not the best. Willow's addiction (which follows the pattern for all addictions not just drugs) was great. But I really loved the "real world" aspect of it all. At the time Buffy was still shelter from the adult world through college, now she has to get a job, pay the bills, etc. It was a very good telling for the first stages of going out on your own as an adult with no safety net.

And I like how the nerds showed how simple it was to become a real-life villian, jet-packs where not required. All you needed was a murder, then to be able to get away with it... Season 6 was all about how easy it is to fall, and it showed it well, so well most people didn't even notice. Though I can understand some of the hate... *sniff* Tara *sniff*

Elizabeth Grunewald:
This is in keeping with the supernatural nature of things in Sunnydale, but does a bit of a disservice to the episode's standing as an after-school special.

Is this what passes for critical insight these days? You apply a label to the episode that clearly doesn't fit, then criticize the episode for not fitting the label?

I very recently finished watching all of the episodes of Buffy streaming on Netflix. I have to say, for as cheesy as it is, it's way better than the movie.

On a side note, when I was looking through my University Catalog I found out that they teach a class completely about Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the show. Struck me as kind of odd, but it fits the local culture I suppose.

Elizabeth Grunewald:
Blaming Pete's issues partially on the chemical gives him a crutch, an excuse to wipe away the horrors of his abusive nature. Some of the manipulation and jealousy is attributed to his character, but the physical abuse is accompanied by a transformation of sorts, which removes the human face from the equation.

Alternatively, the 'very special' message of the episode wasn't just about abusive relationships, but about abusive relationships where one partner is also drinking or taking drugs - which can and do have an effect on your anger management in the real world, and are often used as a crutch and an excuse both by the addict and his victims.

Mr Hyde isn't all that far from reality.

A plausible metaphor, a patient story arc, and a willingness to show consequence: Season 6 of Buffy was an after-school special at its best.

The only problem being that the same writers previously used magic as a convenient shorthand for lesbianism - so that when Willow becomes addicted to magic, loses control and starts killing people, the lesson we are taught is "being gay makes you insane".

Compare and contrast with her reaction when Oz leaves her - she gets upset, but she doesn't flay anyone alive. And she doesn't have to spend months in rehab learning how to be a normal member of society again - because heterosexuals have normal emotions.

... I'm sure (or I hope) this isn't really the exact metaphor the writers were going for, but it is unfortunate - particularly since the 'gays are unstable' stereotype wasn't exactly new to contemporary media.

Soylent Dave:
The only problem being that the same writers previously used magic as a convenient shorthand for lesbianism - so that when Willow becomes addicted to magic, loses control and starts killing people, the lesson we are taught is "being gay makes you insane".

Compare and contrast with her reaction when Oz leaves her - she gets upset, but she doesn't flay anyone alive.

When Oz left her she was devastated and depressed for several episodes and slowly moved on like a normal person over time (allowing for tv episode spacing). When Terra left her she really tried to get clean; note she does not try to stop loving women but tries to stop using (or abusing) magic. When Terra is murdered she flays someone alive.

This is where your analysis breaks down. When Oz left who was there to blame? Oz, and she loved him even if she was angry at him. The object of her anger was also the object of her love. When Terra was killed, something that should be noted as vastly different from taking off in a van for a while, there is someone to be angry at and to blame. This someone is not the object of her affection but someone who has been her enemy for several months. Therefore, there is nothing to hold her back.

In addition to this, several of these steps make perfect sense in relations to drugs. Someone who realizes they have a problem will often promise to get help when someone they love leaves them. They don't always do it, but for some people that is a turning point. As I said before, she attempts to get clean of the substance she abuses in order to get Terra back. In your analysis this would mean she tries to give up metaphorical lesbianism in order to get back her actual lesbian partner. Finally, after a tragedy or even a difficult time many addicts relapse. Once again, this lines up with what Willow does. The fact that her relapse includes murder can be attributed to the context of the show and the "drug" she was abusing.

I'm not sure where one would even draw a parallel between magic and lesbianism in the context of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Because she meets Terra at in an all female witches group? I would note that magic occurs often in Buffy... does it always stand for lesbianism or only in the case of two gay witches?

Flaming Geek:
I really dislike how the "magic as drugs" metaphor was implemented because it basically erased how magic worked as set up in previous seasons. There was no hinting at addiction or possible negative consequences other than screwing it up by doing a spell that gets you killed or going crazy with the power of it.

Actually, the potential dangerous nature of magic use is hinted at regularly throughout the show, beginning in Season 2, when Willow begins researching methods to bring Angel back, despite Giles' insistence that magic is a powerful force and she is not nearly ready to take it on, and being brought into clear view in the final episode of that season, when she is taken over by the Gypsy spell she is performing and begins speaking in Romanian. Magic-as-Drug-Use is set up more explicitly in The Dark Age, when Giles talks about the summoning spell he and his friends used to use, and describes it as "an incredible high." Then you have multiple examples of moments when Willow is considering an outright dangerous or malicious use of magic: the hatred spell she almost casts on Oz and Veruca, the episode when she considers casting an anti-love spell on herself and Xander... throughout her entire relationship with magic, you can see her teetering on the edge, like someone who does pot, and is considering taking something harder, but is still unsure, and so hovers around it, getting closer and closer to a more destructive pattern. I would argue that they actually do an excellent job of showing the potential harm of magic throughout the series, and of showing how a parental figure might recognize a potential danger to his child, but be unable to address it properly with her until it is almost too late.

CitySquirrel:

Soylent Dave:
The only problem being that the same writers previously used magic as a convenient shorthand for lesbianism - so that when Willow becomes addicted to magic, loses control and starts killing people, the lesson we are taught is "being gay makes you insane".

Compare and contrast with her reaction when Oz leaves her - she gets upset, but she doesn't flay anyone alive.

This is where your analysis breaks down. When Oz left who was there to blame? Oz, and she loved him even if she was angry at him. The object of her anger was also the object of her love. When Terra was killed, something that should be noted as vastly different from taking off in a van for a while, there is someone to be angry at and to blame. This someone is not the object of her affection but someone who has been her enemy for several months. Therefore, there is nothing to hold her back.

Also, she does end up using magic in destructive ways when Oz leaves - remember the Something Blue episode when everything she wills begins to happen? That's the episode when D'Hoffryn offers to make her a vengeance demon. She clearly has the ability to use magic as a destructive crutch when she is upset, even in the fourth season.

CitySquirrel:

Soylent Dave:
The only problem being that the same writers previously used magic as a convenient shorthand for lesbianism - so that when Willow becomes addicted to magic, loses control and starts killing people, the lesson we are taught is "being gay makes you insane".

Compare and contrast with her reaction when Oz leaves her - she gets upset, but she doesn't flay anyone alive.

When Terra is murdered she flays someone alive.

This is where your analysis breaks down. When Oz left who was there to blame?

Yes, someone leaving and someone being killed are a wee bit different.
Willow does go all magic addicted after Tara leaves her - but Tara leaves her because of the magic, so... swings and roundabouts I guess.

I'm not sure where one would even draw a parallel between magic and lesbianism in the context of Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

The writers didn't explicitly show Willow and Tara 'being gay'; in place of the physical affection you'd normally see in a teenage relationship (even in an American TV show), they tended to perform magic spells together.

The most obvious episode with 'magic in place of sex' is during 'Once More With Feeling', but they actually do it a few times - probably because it was something they felt they could easily show which represented closeness between the two characters, but didn't set off any alarm bells with the network censors (or whoever).

The Morrigan:
Also, she does end up using magic in destructive ways when Oz leaves - remember the Something Blue episode when everything she wills begins to happen? That's the episode when D'Hoffryn offers to make her a vengeance demon. She clearly has the ability to use magic as a destructive crutch when she is upset, even in the fourth season.

Forgot about that. It is portrayed as an accident, though.

-

It's also worth noting that Evil Vampire Willow is explicitly gay as well - which means that the only gay characters in the series are evil or unstable (apart from Kennedy, but she's not exactly the most rounded character), or victims (and generally only people who 'deserve it' get killed thanks to TV morality - in Tara's case I think she dies because Willow needed punishing, but it's along the same lines (rather than just for being gay, which you'd get in some older horror films)).

It was a common enough thing to do in the 90s (and today for that matter) - bad people have to be sexually degenerate as well murderers or drug addicts or whatever; that's why they're often gay, bisexual, BDSM etc. etc. - things that are or were considered degenerate behaviour.

Really, even if we ignore the magic side of things entirely 'gay character becomes drug addict' is enough of a cliché. I don't think the Buffy writers were as egregious as most, but I was still a little disappointed (at the stereotype non-avoidance).

Well Buffy succeeded on where many shows fail in the area of actually giving a dam about it's characters. "Seeing Red" is proabaly one of the best examples of this.

To be fair, the show was about a vampire hunter. A monster by any other name is still a monster, so you might as well make it 'magic' so Buffy can fight it and (I assume) kill it. If he was a normal abuser, they'd just have him arrested: no need for Buffy. What's the point of having a Buffy episode if Buffy can't kick the bad guy's ass?

I actually felt the season six "Magic is a metaphor for drugs" thing was kind of weird. Sure, magic can be used as an allegory for drugs, but in Buffy they used it too literally.

For one thing, the fact that Willow and Amy are the only witches/sorcerers on the show with this magic problem (a problem that Amy didn't seem to have before she became a rat but whatever) shows that magic can be used without detrimental effect, so the solution of "Willow must stop using all magic evar!" seems out of place.

For another, magic is useful. Most harmful drugs are not. Willow's magic has saved the characters, not to mention the world, on multiple occasions. So again, telling Willow to completely swear off magic forever seems like a bad idea as it is likely to get her killed.

Really, the Willow magic thing is more like a metaphor for a cancer patient abusing their pain killers. Sure, they probably shouldn't be doing that and its harmful, but you would never tell them to just completely stop using them.

I gonna be a wet blanket here and say that the "after school specials" are more annoying then anything. A good writer will work their ideals into the story without making it a point to shove it in your face. Do you think lord of the rings was really about a golden ring that needed to be thrown into a volcano? A good chunk of the story is focused on tolerance and acceptance. Look at the relationship between Legolas and Gimlee. Two people that grew up under completly different circumstances(one in a tree and one in a mountain) and look nothing alike. At the council of Elrond they wanted to kill each other but by the end of the story they were best friends. A great moral lesson that's woven into the whole narrative of the story and was very entertaining.

Blaming Pete's issues on his chemical. Like other people blame their issues in a relationship on a chemical. Usually the chemical alcohol, or various other drugs. Beauty and the Beast (as I saw it) is two metaphors wrapped up in one, which most people couldn't seem to separate, going so far as to say 'but it was all his chemical which made it happen.' Well maybe it was, but did anyone try and think of an analogy for the chemical? How about instead of just saying the girl was in an abusive relationship, we say she was in an abusive relationship with an alcoholic, who was apologetic when he wasn't drunk, but beat her horribly when he was. Which is exactly what the episode showed. Sorry to rain on the article, but there's a deeper layer which wasn't addressed.

I found the magic as drugs storyline interesting for several reasons. When I first saw it I thought it was overwrought, angsty, and spat in the face of magic having been established as the secret culture of lesbianism. Then I had a drug problem, got through it and saw that it was actually closer to life than I had anticipated.

But that still doesn't stop it from spitting in the show's established 'magic as lesbianism' thing for Willow. In the end it came dangerously close to making it look like love and lesbianism would make you utterly insane. It can be watched, but you have to mentally separate it from the way they've shown magic before.

Apparently it is Tara, not Terra. How did I miss that? Anyway...

Soylent Dave:
Yes, someone leaving and someone being killed are a wee bit different. Willow does go all magic addicted after Tara leaves her - but Tara leaves her because of the magic, so... swings and roundabouts I guess.

You are confused. Willow tried to stop using magic when Tara left her. Tara only came back because Willow demonstrated that she understood she had a problem with magic. She magic addiction can't both have been the reason Tara left and the result of Tara leaving. Unless the Buffy time line was some sort of Möbius strip where cause is also effect.

Soylent Dave:
The writers didn't explicitly show Willow and Tara 'being gay'; in place of the physical affection you'd normally see in a teenage relationship (even in an American TV show), they tended to perform magic spells together.

Did we watch the same show? Did you watch some heavily censored version? Sure, they never had on screen sex (though it was implied), but no one else was on a WB network show either. And yeah... they didn't have the crazy make outs that some of the other characters did and if you want to talk about the double standard in society with what is acceptable for gays / acceptable for straight people, then I would be happy to do that. But they did kiss on screen, so that instantly invalidates the argument that they "didn't explicitly show Willow and Tara 'being gay'" (whatever that is supposed to look like). And it was done in a way that didn't make it a spectacle, which was amazingly non exploitative. In fact, they shared a lot of intimate moments and gestures (and a bed) and it was all done in very tasteful ways. Because, remember, had they shown Willow and Tara being crazy they would have been accused of exploiting lesbianism for cheap ratings. If you somehow missed it during the show, go look on youtube and see the plethora of tribute videos of them filled with "explicitly being gay". Or something.

I'm right in the middle of watching Season 6, and boooy do I hate the whole drug abuse metaphor. It's so ridiculously thinly veiled I have a hard time taking it seriously, it almost feels like I'm watching an episode of Seventh Heaven.

The worst part is how clumsy it is when compared to everything else. They've treated magic as (more or less) metaphor-less magic for five seasons and suddenly it's crack? There's so many ways they could have made that storyline work, hell, I was buying it up to the point where they went to the crack house, at that point it just derailed.

It's kind of weird, I've pretty much accepted all the other more or less odd moves the show has pulled (including rectoning in a sister), but this one I just find ridiculous.

Almost every episode of "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" involves Metaphor for young angst and social issues. When you get down to it, it's one of the more preachy shows out there (and I'm a massive fan of it, despite not always agreeing with the underlying message).

Early on there was a bit of comparison to earlier shows like "Parker Lewis Can't Lose", as Parker Lewis revolved around a surrealistic concept where all of the stereotypes and issues of growing up were exagerrated into something akin to a super-hero drama, as everyone wound up having some kind of special powers (handled deadpan as part of the humor) connected to the role they occupied. When things went wrong, Parker Lewis and his buddies of course had to step in to set things right with their own ridiculously exagerrated capabilities. This show is incidently one of the big reasons why I give "Scott Pilgrim" a lot less credit than other people do, I feel Parker Lewis, while not a major success, managed to cover a lot of the same ground, in a pretty similar way. "Buffy" took this concept in a somewhat less trippy direction, with a fairly serious (if extremely campy) narritive bringing the issues to life in the form of monsters, supernatural occurances, and similar things.

I'll also be honest in saying that Joss Whedon was able to do some interesting table turning through the series as well, where there was a degree of justice involved in a lot of the storylines, even if it played havoc with the central message. A good example of this would be the "invisible girl" episode where a girl who is ignored by her schoolmates and looked down on litrally becomes invisible, and in this wretched state begins to seek revenge. Treated as a straightforward monster, you'd think the central issue of the responsibility owned by those who caused this was being overlooked... until the twist at the end where she's being trained along with other invisible kids as a goverment agent, with the dark note that there was probably going to be a reckoning. Sadly this episode was never followed up on, I was expecting this to be used during the whole "Initiative" thing, but it never was. Don't even get me started on the teenage sexual awakening and the werewolf metaphor that we had going on here as well. :P

Littaly:
I'm right in the middle of watching Season 6, and boooy do I hate the whole drug abuse metaphor. It's so ridiculously thinly veiled I have a hard time taking it seriously, it almost feels like I'm watching an episode of Seventh Heaven.

The worst part is how clumsy it is when compared to everything else. They've treated magic as (more or less) metaphor-less magic for five seasons and suddenly it's crack? There's so many ways they could have made that storyline work, hell, I was buying it up to the point where they went to the crack house, at that point it just derailed.

It's kind of weird, I've pretty much accepted all the other more or less odd moves the show has pulled (including rectoning in a sister), but this one I just find ridiculous.

I was going to cover this in my other message in this thread, but I will say that I think this one is being read into a bit inappropriatly here. I think it was less of a metaphor for drug abuse than world building.

You'll notice that in the "Buffyverse" The Slayer is supposed to be a very special thing given that she has super powers that enables her to fight and kill monsters. The entire show revolves around the "OMG, it's the Slayer" logic. You'll notice that pretty much every spellcaster that they run into during the series is either minor league overall, or evil incarnate. This raised the question pretty early on about if Willow could use magic without any real penelties, why more people weren't using it directly in the same way (Telekinesis and such) to fight monsters. If this was the case and you could have good-aligned AD&D-type spellcasters running around, why would anyone need The Slayer?

The answer to this was hinted at for a while actually. We knew Giles was known as "Ripper" and was apparently pretty good at magic when you got down to it, but he gave up on it due to what it was doing to him. We saw one of his old buddies early on who kept doing magic who basically became pure evil. Willow's potential was supposed to be world-class, and you'll notice that there were demons actually trying to recruit her before the entire addiction thing and the whole "we're going to get you anyway" thing was definatly implicit. You also had Anya who was a witch, who wound up being recruited exactly the same way demons were trying to recruit Willow.

The end result is that magic in that universe is supposed to be pretty Lovecraftian, that is to say that no matter how noble your intentions in using it, it will always corrupt you. The good guys who use magic try and avoid doing so, and are very specific in how they go about it.

Oh and

The point here being that while there is a bit of a drug addiction metaphor, I don't think it's quite that bad. Honestly I also think it's stretching because the entie way this is done is very similar to how you have the "taint of chaos" in the various Warhammer universes, and of course the way magic inevitably destroys/corrupts anyone who tries to use it in Lovecraft's mythos which was arguably the inspiration for Warhammer's take on the subject.

I honestly think that the whole "with benevolent mages, why do we need a slayer?" motif has as much to do with the extent to which it was taken as well, though the corruption was implied for a very long time even if nobody spelled it out.

Pretty typical fantasy-horror take on things basically.

Also a bit unrelated but I am pretty sure when Willow thought Oz was cheating on her she attempted to do some magic that would seriously mess him up. Finally since Willow had two big relationships through-out the course of the show (Lets ignore Kennedy) wouldn't it be more accurate to say she was bisexual, not gay?

Littaly:
I'm right in the middle of watching Season 6, and boooy do I hate the whole drug abuse metaphor. It's so ridiculously thinly veiled I have a hard time taking it seriously, it almost feels like I'm watching an episode of Seventh Heaven.

The worst part is how clumsy it is when compared to everything else. They've treated magic as (more or less) metaphor-less magic for five seasons and suddenly it's crack? There's so many ways they could have made that storyline work, hell, I was buying it up to the point where they went to the crack house, at that point it just derailed.

It's kind of weird, I've pretty much accepted all the other more or less odd moves the show has pulled (including rectoning in a sister), but this one I just find ridiculous.

So true! Let me explain why Buffy season 6 is so awkward:

1. Villains are replaced by comic relief, and our heroes essentially get themselves in trouble for 20 episodes. This means the characters hanging out at home is not a safe narrative space anymore for side plots, because they are all talking about the main plot. The secret identity conceit is abandoned, so there is no safe narrative space outside the home either.

2. To create Whedon-style tension in #1, the characters need to make awful life decisions and be mean to each other on a regular basis. This is easy for Buffy, but Willow had already been established as ultra-competent, well-adjusted and super-powered, so they had to shoehorn in something that could make her act out of character (drug addiction).

3. Whedon tends to up the dramatic stakes on a character development moment by making it last longer and consume more episodes. (The same thing happened in the same year to Angel season 3.) So a plot point that would normally be resolved in 45 minutes, like Willow getting addicted to "magic", is expanded to fill an entire story arc so that it will feel more important.

4. As you mentioned, these big moments break established continuity rules. Magic is like electricity, except for this one storyline. Vampires are soulless and therefore evil, except for this one storyline. Death can be cured by a Phoenix Down, except when it's Aeris.

5. Because the narrative has nowhere else to go, the "off" notes from #4 are constantly being pushed in your face. Compare to, say, Season 7, which has plenty of face-palm moments but is juggling a lot of storyline balls and supporting characters who are ready to pick up the slack when you feel like sending Buffy to her room without any supper.

Therumancer:

Littaly:
-snip-

I was going to cover this in my other message in this thread, but I will say that I think this one is being read into a bit inappropriatly here. I think it was less of a metaphor for drug abuse than world building.

...

The point here being that while there is a bit of a drug addiction metaphor, I don't think it's quite that bad. Honestly I also think it's stretching because the entie way this is done is very similar to how you have the "taint of chaos" in the various Warhammer universes, and of course the way magic inevitably destroys/corrupts anyone who tries to use it in Lovecraft's mythos which was arguably the inspiration for Warhammer's take on the subject.

I honestly think that the whole "with benevolent mages, why do we need a slayer?" motif has as much to do with the extent to which it was taken as well, though the corruption was implied for a very long time even if nobody spelled it out.

Pretty typical fantasy-horror take on things basically.

I skipped the spoiler tagged part, just to be safe ^^

Anyway, I both agree with you and disagree. I really dig the whole idea that Willow is about to get in over her head with forces she can't handle, that was a really good direction to take her character in. I also totally see why it was necessary, if everyone can practice magic, there's no point for a slayer. The whole "magic corrupts" theme is great too, what I have an issue with is the way it was handled.

I kind of agree that the "Taint of Chaos" vibe had been established earlier, but that was not the direction they were going in at the beginning of season 6. They ramped up that angle so much after episode 7 it all came off as very silly. Had they gone with it more from the beginning I probably would have been fine with it ^^

Anyway, sorry if I seem like I'm overreacting about this. I literally watched that episode for the first time 4 days ago, so I'm still kind of fired up about it ^^

I think "Beer Bad" has to be the worst of Buffy's occasional tendency towards after-school specialness.

Littaly:
[
I kind of agree that the "Taint of Chaos" vibe had been established earlier, but that was not the direction they were going in at the beginning of season 6. They ramped up that angle so much after episode 7 it all came off as very silly. Had they gone with it more from the beginning I probably would have been fine with it ^^

Anyway, sorry if I seem like I'm overreacting about this. I literally watched that episode for the first time 4 days ago, so I'm still kind of fired up about it ^^

Well consider that at the end of Season 5 Willow decided to rather carelessly draw enough raw power to try and go toe to toe with a god. She lost, but wound up actually doing some damage.

The idea seems to be that the more magic you use, the more corrupting it becomes. This is one of the reasons why Giles apparently doesn't go "Ripper" to solve problems even under extentuating circumstances, even though it's strongly implied even before borrowing a bunch of power that he has some rather nasty magical powers if he ever decided to use them. His old buddy was able to curse the whole town on Halloween, and he's actually scared of Giles in a direct confrontation. He does a ritual to seal something here or there, but mostly plays coach for Buffy to bounce her foot off heads. He kills a monster, maybe two, then next thing you know he's the monster, especially with all the power he used before, he knows this apparently and would rather die than see that happen (even if it means Buffy dying too).

It's been a while but it seemed to me that even for the beginning of season 6 Willow was going overboard, and yeah she pretty much collapsed all at once, but that's the way it happens. Besides it was implied there were things going on off camera with that, you were just seeing it from the perspective of the other characters for the most part to make it
more dramatic.

I mean, I can see where your coming from, but I don't think it was that much of an "after school special" thing, especially seeing as the entire message could be taken not as "don't do drugs" but "do drugs responsibly". She went overboard so is in danger just using magic, but that's because of the binges. You'll notice she does get to the point where she uses magic occasionally again, and there are other sorcerors who do a bit here and there like Giles that aren't bad guys.

After School Specials don't say "Don't Do Drugs... well okay a bit of weed here and there is okay, and so is the occasional line of coke before sex, or maybe some ectasy once in a while"

Think about that. :P

Littaly:

I kind of agree that the "Taint of Chaos" vibe had been established earlier, but that was not the direction they were going in at the beginning of season 6. They ramped up that angle so much after episode 7 it all came off as very silly. Had they gone with it more from the beginning I probably would have been fine with it ^^

Anyway, sorry if I seem like I'm overreacting about this. I literally watched that episode for the first time 4 days ago, so I'm still kind of fired up about it ^^

Before I get started, let me just say that it is a looong time since I watched season 6. I am, however, rewatching the entire series atm, currently in season 5, so some of what I am about to say may be entirely "wrong" in regards to season 6, as I operate from very vague memories of season 6, but sharp memories of everything up to it. Anyways...
Wasnt the "magic is a high" pretty much implied numerous times throughout the series? I dont think you are supposed to take it too litteral, as if magic, in itself, makes you high, but instead it is the psychological rush of power. The excitement about what you are able to do, not what what you are able to do does to you. I hope I adequately express what I mean.
Ever since Willow got started, it is very apparent that she is incredibly excited about her witchcraft. She even practices most of it in secret, and when the scooby gang is exposed to the fact she is a witch, it is always treated by caution from Giles, who keeps telling her she is messing with powerful stuff. Indeed, Giles himself has a past that speaks of magic being destructive/corrupting to the user. In one episode he uses the specific words "an incredible high." I don't think you should necesarily see it as magic in itself being corruptive, in a magic way, but rather that the fault is humans being flawed: When we get power, we get addicted to it, whether it is magical, political, cultural... whatever. It changes us, because success and power feels great, exhillerating, and letting it go is not fun. And that, I don't think goes against what is established in the early seasons. In fact, I think it's the fullfilment of everything that is vaguely hinted at from the beginning. Plus, it is understandable. If you could change reality at a whim... wouldnt you always be dangerously close to doing something amoral? I dont know if you are a comics kind of guy, but look at what the Scarlet Witch did...

Meh, I think I got lost in there, I am quite tired. But I hope it made sense, and I hope it isnt entirely worthless because I dont remember season 6 so well.

Ahh Buffy, I loved this show. A friend of mine turned me onto this series a few years back during her internship. She was tasked with watching episodes of several different tv shows and marking down whenever something in that show reinforced or broke hegemony. Buffy had far more instances of breaking hegemony than any other show she had to watch.

Now excuse me, I need to add a few things to Netflix...

4173:
I think "Beer Bad" has to be the worst of Buffy's occasional tendency towards after-school specialness.

You mean the "If you drink beer at all you will turn into a fucking caveman and burn down a building" episode? Yeah maybe a better message is "Be careful and learn to control your drinking" Joss.

kotorfan04:
Finally since Willow had two big relationships through-out the course of the show (Lets ignore Kennedy) wouldn't it be more accurate to say she was bisexual, not gay?

This is one of those things that people have mixed reactions for. I think that she was bisexual because she had attraction to 2 people of different sexes, while others think she was 'in the closet' while with Oz, while another group think she "turned gay" after Oz left. I think she just tried to avoid showing attraction to guys because she was still a little bitter at guys because of Oz.

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