Diablog: Metaphors of Magic in Film, TV, and Literature, Part II

Read Part I here.

We're back for more of magick!
Werq, witches! We’re back for more of magick!

Rasha : Ok, moar magicks?

Gemma: Moar!

R: From where we left off: love + power, and How hard is magick really?

G: There’s a lot to what you said last time about magic as metaphor for artistic creation, which in turn can be a metaphor for romance and/or sexuality, and you can turn them all around as metaphors in the other direction and it still works. So the love/power question is an interesting one there.

R: Unpack those connections a bit. Like, how do you see artistic creation and love/sexuality being connected (metaphorically or directly)? and, what does it look like to turn that metaphor around–what does that mean? Perhaps that will get us more to what you’re seeing as the connections between love and power. Which is, let’s be real, some heavy sh*t at the heart of the world. And do that all in the context of these fantasy movies/shows!

G: It’s building something you didn’t think you had the power/ability to build. It’s the joy of creation, the joy of bringing something new into the world, be it the work you’re creating or the connection between you and another person. It’s electric. And so often in these shows and books and movies, the “early signs” of magic are connected to out-of-control emotional reactions (see: Harry Potter and the boa at the zoo, Julia’s first encounters with the Hedge Witches, The Craft if I’m remembering it correctly).

And then it takes over your life and makes you wildly angsty, but I digress.
And then it takes over your life and makes you wildly angsty, but I digress.

So there’s the joy of being able to do something with that, which has a romantic element–of the depth of your emotion meaning something to another person, and what that creates.

R: Right on: internal feeling made material with consequence in the world.

G: But because each of these is a thing-in-itself–magic, love, artistic creation–magic can’t stand as a metaphor for love without love being a metaphor for magic, magic can’t stand as a metaphor for artistic creation without artistic creation also being a metaphor for magic.

R: Hence all the talk about love being magic, or artistic creation being magic. I see what you’re doing.

G: Sometimes, as in Lily saving Harry, this has a deep physical connection/manifestation.

This is the source of the deepest magicks, according to JK Rowling.
This is the source of the deepest magicks, according to JK Rowling.

R: Yes, Harry’s mom saving him. Love magic.

G: Yeah, exactly.

R: Right, so even in these worlds, love and artistry are their own form of magic. Now I’m thinking about Daniel Jose Older’s Shadowshaper novel, where a young woman’s magic manifests in part through her mural painting. And that work is part of her community and family protection.

High on my summer reading list!!
Top of my summer reading list!!

G: Oooh, I already want to read it.

R: It’s YA, and yes you do. I’ve got it. You can have my copy. He also just released a novella continuing the story. The sequel is coming very soon.

G: Sweet.

R: So now let’s talk about love and power. Unravel that a bit more.

G: Well, I mean, there’s a lot written about love making one feel powerful/immortal/whatever, which I think has truth to it. In that in love, you reach beyond and therefore are capable of reaching beyond the scope of yourself. And whatever scarinesses there are to that, and should be, it’s also amazing. Love is powerful. JKR makes overt how it’s the force that saves, and so does Phillip Pullman, in a different way, since he’s explicit about making desire part of it.

R: Well, in The Magicians, the sex magic of being arctic foxes seems an important passage into Q and Alice maturing in their magic.

Come hither, I iz magikal.
Come hither, I iz magikal.

G: This is true.

R: I found the way the show handled it kind of boring, actually.

G: Well, it was one of the many interesting threads the show began but didn’t know how to follow all the way out, which is my main difficulty with it.

R: Yeah, I’d buy that it could be done better.

G: Every idea is compelling, but they can’t pick just a few to focus on, and so the worldbuilding ends up feeling kinda shallow. Like, becoming foxes as sexual awakening! That’s fascinating! But it doesn’t actually change their conversation or conversational style! They just refer to it, and that’s supposed to be the punchline!

R: Yeah, and I’m not convinced the books are going to add more depth. I suspect I might find it more annoying.

G: I could see it going either way.

R: Goddess, I was so annoyed with the “find the fox” lines.

G: I mean, I’m on board for S2 as soon as it comes to a platform I can watch it on, but yes, they needed to take it a step beyond that. It’s not just like humans=repressed, foxes=free.

R: I don’t know that I can do it. There’s a lot of interesting gardening around an ultimately empty center–which I intuited from the first episode’s rapey vibes, and was confirmed in the final episode’s tired, lazy use of rape as character development/magical development. Also, the people who’ve been sexually abused are the villians in the end? Ugh, I just want to watch the Penny spinoff with Elliot and Bambi. Alright, we can’t talk about love and power and sexuality without talking about Dumbledore.

This is very true. We cannot.
This is very true. We cannot.

R: Dumbledore has power, has a posthumous sexuality that we don’t get much context for in the books, but does he have love? Does Dumbledore love anyone? Like really. I’m not talking about Michael Gambon. He obviously loves.

G: I think he was in love with Grindelwald in a way. Infatuated, certainly.

R: For sure!

G: They had that power of creating something together that I’m talking about.

R: And that magnetic attraction was definitely about worshipping power.

G: And generating it.

R: In a magical way, as it were.

G: That is indeed exactly as it were.

R: But does he love? I don’t know that Dumbledore would ever have been able to cast the kind of love-magic protection spell that Harry’s mother did. Snape could have. I think Snape loved Dumbledore, even as he resented him for being so calculated and secretive.

The most forever of heartbreaks.
The most forever of heartbreaks.

G: I think Grindelwald broke him. Dumbledore, I mean.

R: Did he though? Maybe he broke the part of him that could be infatuated, but if an “unbroken” Dumbledore is one who was so power-obsessed, I think we’re better off.

G: Like, fully loving anyone again could destroy the universe. He’s traumatized by the dimensions and destructiveness of his last love.

R: So for Dumbledore, love is Bad Magic? Well, that brings up some issues of internalized homophobia.

G: Yeppers. Do we have more instances of Magical Queerness?

R: Well, Eliot’s storyline is unfortunately similar. Like, all the gay love destroyed by Evil Magic is depressing.

 Yeah. That was bleak.
Yeah. That was bleak.

R: But you know what, I will give this to both The Magicians and the actor playing Eliot: the connection between the purity of an emotion, the fullness and intensity of emotion, and the power of a work of magic–I believe in that. I absolutely believe Elliot could kill by snapping his fingers given the intensity of his grief and anger. (I know he’s your friend, but I don’t know him, and that’s my art assessment.)

G: I think there’s a desperation that had something to do with internalized homophobia and that brief moment of having your needs genuinely met before viscerally knowing the myriad ways that the world(s) that surround you don’t want that for you.

R: Yeah, that’s real. There wasn’t even a real person to mourn for: the guy his lover had been before being controlled–that guy would never have talked to him kindly, they could never have been lovers. It is devastating. But are there really no other gay men in the world of magic? I was disappointed in the world of the story. And now I have to immediately run away or I will be late for work.