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  • Willow's Addiction

    Okay, so I'm stemming this from the Zeppo awards where Willow's addiction to magic was not only nominated for worst story arc, but won! Now I'm not saying this was the series' spine, but I thought it was a great storyline. There are very few moments in the show where the characters reveal their addictive personalities. The only other one I can think of is Buffy's sexual relationship with Spike. So I don't think I can buy the "Oh, but we had seen this before" ala vampire with a soul.

    So I'm just curious, what was wrong with Willow's arc in the sixth season? Was it the fact that it was Willow herself? Was it because the show should've never touched this subject? Was it Alyson Hannigan's performance?
    I really don't understand the fans' distaste with this arc. Thoughts?
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  • #2
    It was two basic things -- first, the idea of magic as an addiction completely retconned magic in the Buffyverse. Second, it was just this really anvilicious, after-school special feeling way to go with it.
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    • #3
      Originally posted by KingofCretins View Post
      It was two basic things -- first, the idea of magic as an addiction completely retconned magic in the Buffyverse.
      I don't see how it did. Magic was used as a metaphor for power and sex. It was never established to be a single particular thing. Why couldn't it be a substance that one could find solitude in?

      Second, it was just this really anvilicious, after-school special feeling way to go with it.
      Are you saying they never should have touched on the subject of substance abuse?
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      • #4
        I agree with what KoC said, but my biggest problem with the Willow storyline was the fact that they made it an addiction when there was the possibility for a great arc about Willow and her power hunger.

        Willow had always trouble with rules, Willow wanted to be important and she wants to have power. It's in her character since season 1. The hacking of computers, she stood on guard for the smokers, she said many times that Oz played in a band because that was important to her, her fear that Tara wouldn't like geeky Willow etc.
        When Willow brought Buffy back, it was not just to save Buffy from hell (we saw in season 4 of Ats that it's easy to check if somebody is in hell or heaven.), it was to do great things ... to do something what was never done before. She wanted to bring Buffy back to show her greatness ...
        She could do what Jasmine did in Ats season 4, which would make so much more sense as what we've got.

        Besides, the Darth!Willow was bad acted and her lines were cheesy.

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        • #5
          Willow's addiction was her hunger for power. It wasn't the pretty colours that spells make, it was what she was able to do with the power that none of the other Scoobies were able to do, including Tara. She used her powers when she not needed to, like in "Smashed" when she hacked in the police files by a spell on the computer to make things faster because, hey, she can do it. Buffy wouldn't have been able to, Xander wouldn't have been able to -- nobody but Willow.
          You are totally correct that Willow's addiction was her desire for power. She admits it to Buffy in "Two to Go".
          So what was wrong with it again?
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          • #6
            True... Willow's arc, literally from back in Season 2, was about her almost pathological *need* for... more. More knowledge, more power, more ability. The stuff she dreamt in "Restless" touched on it. It was her singular insecurity. And it was rolling along great until 6.10 "Wrecked", at which point... that storyline was abruptly overturned in favor of the idea that Willow didn't have a *personality* issue to overcome, she had an addiction to overcome. Just really unfortunate. They could have played a much stronger story arc with Willow's continued descent, on her own, into something legitimately dark. And Joss could still have brought her back from it. The addiction storyline was a shortcut both going in and getting out.

            And, no, they didn't *need* a substance abuse storyline. It's not being produced by the Department of Health
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            • #7
              Originally posted by Weredog
              Willow's addiction was her hunger for power. It wasn't the pretty colours that spells make, it was what she was able to do with the power that none of the other Scoobies were able to do, including Tara. She used her powers when she not needed to, like in "Smashed" when she hacked in the police files by a spell on the computer to make things faster because, hey, she can do it. Buffy wouldn't have been able to, Xander wouldn't have been able to -- nobody but Willow.
              You are totally correct that Willow's addiction was her desire for power. She admits it to Buffy in "Two to Go".
              So what was wrong with it again?

              People who are addicted can't help it ... not really. The addiction was a weak excuse for her behavior. Magic isn't addictive, power is. Willow was addicted to power, but they blamed the magic.

              Many people used magic in the series; Tara, Jenny, Giles, Wesley, Angel, Spike ... they all used magic ... and not one of those people were addicted to magic.

              The Magic addiction was a retcon for Willow's power addiction. Why? Because they were probably scared that the fans wouldn't like a power hungry evil Willow without a excuse for her behavior. Fans like Angelus and don't hate Angel because Angelus doesn't have a soul. The soul is the Angel's excuse for the behavior of Angelus. And the Magic addiction bacame the excuse for Willow. The writers didn't had the guts to make Willow power hungry without an excuse. And that's my problem, they took away a great story. Willow who would make herself a god like Jasmine would be fantastic.

              IMO

              edit:
              KoC said it different, but much better.
              Last edited by Nina; 20-01-08, 06:49 PM.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by KingofCretins View Post
                True... Willow's arc, literally from back in Season 2, was about her almost pathological *need* for... more. More knowledge, more power, more ability. The stuff she dreamt in "Restless" touched on it. It was her singular insecurity. And it was rolling along great until 6.10 "Wrecked", at which point... that storyline was abruptly overturned in favor of the idea that Willow didn't have a *personality* issue to overcome, she had an addiction to overcome. Just really unfortunate.
                Hein? You just said that Willow always had pathological need for more. Isn't that another word for an unhealthy addiction?

                And, no, they didn't *need* a substance abuse storyline. It's not being produced by the Department of Health
                Well, that could go for any metaphorical story the show presented. You could say that Buffy and Angelus' relationship was produced by the Abused Women Shelter or that Faith's delinquency was produced by the Youth Detention Center.

                Originally posted by Nina View Post
                People who are addicted can't help it ... not really. The addiction was a weak excuse for her behavior. Magic isn't addictive, power is. Willow was addicted to power, but they blamed the magic.
                The magic is Willow's power. She doesn't have any other source of power. Willow tells Buffy in "Wrecked" that without magic, what is she? She's a nobody because without power, her say in things isn't valid.

                Because Willow has -- and I'll quote KingofCretins -- a pathological need for more power, Willow will evidently have a pathological need for more magic. Angelus had a pathological need to torture Buffy emotionally. Why? Because it gave him the power.

                Many people used magic in the series; Tara, Jenny, Giles, Wesley, Angel, Spike ... they all used magic ... and not one of those people were addicted to magic.
                That's right. And a lot of people out there drink but not all of them are alcoholics.
                Last edited by Weredog; 20-01-08, 07:00 PM.
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                • #9
                  As a matter of fact, they don't mean really even *similar* things. An addiction and a personality flaw are not the same thing. Megalomania is not an addiction. Alcoholism is not the same as ambition. Ambition was Willow's flaw.

                  Addiction has certain consistent elements; withdrawal, enabling, etc. That stuff was all dumped in our lap with no narrative foundation *during* "Wrecked".

                  Prior to that, Willow just had an ego -- she thought she could literally fix everything if she just had one more trick up her sleeve. Goes all the way back to doing the Ritual of Restoration, in fact. "Lover's Walk", "Dopplegangland", "Wild At Heart", and "Something Blue" are all episodes, more than 2 years before "Wrecked", that established that Willow looked at doing magic as a way for her to solve other people's problems, not just her own. And it wasn't something she had to do to feel alive or anything consistent with an addiction. It was just arrogance.
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                  • #10
                    Willow's problem wasn't magic addiction, and it never was. That was a soft excuse that the Scoobies seized on and Willow went along with. It made it easier for them to forgive their friend because "the magic made her do it"; and it offered an apparently easy way to fix things - "stop using magic" rather than "sort out your underlying personality problems".

                    It didn't work, because Willow's real problem wasn't magic addiction, and it wasn't even 'hunger for power'. It was insecurity - the belief that she was worthless unless she could find something special to offer the group, to make herself their equal in her own eyes, to make herself worthy of being Tara's lover and Buffy's friend. That insecurity drove her to seek out more and more magical power, leading to her crash in 'Wrecked'...

                    But left unrecognised, it also led to her deciding that with Tara dead she had nothing left to live for, that she may as well not exist ("Willow doesn't live here anymore", "I'm not coming back")... and it led to all her stored-up resentment and jealousy and anger at Buffy, Dawn and Giles spilling out with almost lethal results.

                    I see Willow's abuse of magic for personal physical pleasure in 'Smashed' and 'Wrecked' as a side story. Yes, it was a drug analogy... Willow discovered that turning to magic to help her overcome her life problems could have unforeseen consequences. But that certainly wasn't the climax of 'the Willow arc'... 'Wrecked was only episode 10, and I seem to remember Willow and her issues playing quite a major part in the season 6 finale.
                    Last edited by stormwreath; 20-01-08, 07:11 PM.

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                    • #11
                      I covered the insecurity as the basis for her hunger for power If she's not the hacker, and the witch, and the academic, and the sexually liberated free spirit (I'm not saying she is only a lesbian because she's insecure, but rather that she throws out attention-seeking phrases like "hello? gay now!" because she's insecure in general), then she's not really anything. And having and losing Tara is a part of that.

                      It's also the reason she's so ferociously defensive against Giles, against Tara, against anyone else that can find a flaw in the things she does to cope with her insecurity.

                      It's the 'addiction' that's the spurious aspect to Willow's arc.
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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by KingofCretins View Post
                        As a matter of fact, they don't mean really even *similar* things. An addiction and a personality flaw are not the same thing.
                        Yes, they are the same thing. It's called an addictive personality. It's a compulsive behaviour. Willow clearly has one, even prior to season 6.

                        Megalomania is not an addiction. Alcoholism is not the same as ambition. Ambition was Willow's flaw.
                        Well, I suppose this is where we stand on separate teams. I don't see Willow's flaw to be ambitious. I see her flaw to be addictive, like Nina mentioned, Willow was power hungry.

                        Addiction has certain consistent elements; withdrawal, enabling, etc. That stuff was all dumped in our lap with no narrative foundation *during* "Wrecked".
                        No narrative foundation? They had founded that narration () most evidently in all 10 episode prior to it.

                        Prior to that, Willow just had an ego -- she thought she could literally fix everything if she just had one more trick up her sleeve. Goes all the way back to doing the Ritual of Restoration, in fact. "Lover's Walk", "Dopplegangland", "Wild At Heart", and "Something Blue" are all episodes, more than 2 years before "Wrecked", that established that Willow looked at doing magic as a way for her to solve other people's problems, not just her own. And it wasn't something she had to do to feel alive or anything consistent with an addiction. It was just arrogance.
                        Exactly, Willow always believed that casting spells could solve her problems and the problems of others appropriately. You gave an excellent list of episodes where she does so. This carries right to "Tabula Rasa" where she casted a spell on Tara (for her own benefit) and Buffy (for Buffy's benefit) because, like you said, it solved problems. Willow's downfall was that she never knew where the line that she couldn't cross was, that which Giles and Tara clearly saw.

                        Originally posted by stormwreath View Post
                        It didn't work, because Willow's real problem wasn't magic addiction, and it wasn't even 'hunger for power'. It was insecurity - the belief that she was worthless unless she could find something special to offer the group, to make herself their equal in her own eyes, to make herself worthy of being Tara's lover and Buffy's friend. That insecurity drove her to seek out more and more magical power, leading to her crash in 'Wrecked'...
                        That's right, thank you! Willow admits in "Wrecked" the insecurity she has when she doesn't have magic:

                        WILLOW: If you could be ... you know, plain old Willow or super Willow, who would you be? I guess you don't actually have an option on the whole super thing.
                        BUFFY: Will, there's nothing wrong with you. You don't need magic to be special.
                        WILLOW: Don't I? I mean, Buffy, who was I? Just ... some girl. Tara didn't even know that girl.
                        Last edited by Weredog; 20-01-08, 07:35 PM.
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                        • #13
                          Magic was used as a metaphor for power and sex.
                          Personnaly, in Smashed/Wrecked I also saw magic as a metaphor for drugs, not power and sex.
                          It's kinda obvious, Rack as the dealer, the costumers looking like junkies, Amy stealing "weed/kitchen herbs" in Willow's bedroom...
                          I really enjoyed those episodes by the way, really deep and dark and the "I need help" really chiling!
                          And come on, isn't Rack just great!
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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Pandora's_Box View Post
                            Personnaly, in Smashed/Wrecked I also saw magic as a metaphor for drugs, not power and sex.
                            It's kinda obvious, Rack as the dealer, the costumers looking like junkies, Amy stealing "weed/kitchen herbs" in Willow's bedroom...
                            I really enjoyed those episodes by the way, really deep and dark and the "I need help" really chiling!
                            And come on, isn't Rack just great!
                            Oh, yes, I agree. In season 6, the writers predominantly played Willow's addiction to magic as a drug to further convey the message that Willow had an addictive personality. I was replying to KingofCretin's comment about how this negated the use of magic in the series to which I said it didn't. Since after all, magic takes the guise of other multiple metaphors like power and sex.
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                            • #15
                              Give me *one* concrete example of *any* other person in the Buffyverse using magic in a way that paralleled substance abuse prior to "Smashed", and I'll listen.
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