Monday, May 08, 2017

The Price Has Changed

For decades we have been told that magic comes with a price, and not just magic but power. The message has been central to every book, movie, and TV series. The supernatural genre has touted the formula for over half a century and even longer: magic/power comes with a price.

The most recent TV series to focus on the price of power was the innovative Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. Vampire slayers were a special breed of demon, though the slayers never knew they were demons battling demons until it was made clear in the final season that slayers, young women, were imbued with the power of a demon, a very powerful demon, turning the slayer into a killing machine who didn't live very long, dying young and violently by the hand or through the power of some demon stronger and more powerful. That is until Buffy, the Valley Girl who died and kept coming back to fight again, even when she died the last time and had gone to her reward (it was suggested Buffy went to Heaven).  All she knew was that she had been pulled out of a place of eternal peace and dragged back to Earth to continue fighting, a point brought out during their only all musical episode, Once More With Feeling.  Well, Buffy and her friends, and all of Sunnydale, were under a demon's spell that force everyone to sing their lines and their lives until the spell was broken -- or in this case, the demon discovers that it wasn't Dawn who had cast the spell with a wish, but Xander and he wasn't the demon's type. Spell Broken. Song Ended. Price paid.

Look at any supernatural book, movie, and TV series (and there are a lot) and you will find the central theme is the price of magic/power. That is until Teen Wolf comes along. Scott McCall, asthmatic klutz and freshman at Beacon Hills High School.  Scott is determined to make the Lacrosse team. Well, Scott made the team the year before, but he spent the whole season riding the bench. Another year and another tryout for the asthmatic freshman determined to make the team even though it means coughing up a lung and lying dead on the field while both teams run over his played out body, likely near death, as long as he scores a goal. Stiles, Scott's best friend and son of the local sheriff, also wants to get off the bench and score a goal or two before he finishes high school, although death will likely come from Stiles's penchant for solving crimes and getting in law enforcement's way with his theories, often astute and just as often dismissed because Stiles is just a kid.

Following a scanner call about a dead body in the woods, Scott and Stiles get separated and Scott is bitten. What's worse, Scott has to hide the injury since his mother, a nurse at the Beacon Hills Memorial Hospital, would kill him if he doesn't die from the bite. A bigger problem is that the wound heals by itself and leaves no scar. The biggest problem of all is Scott not only making the Lacrosse team, but playing better than the star and captain of the team, rich boy heart throb and all around athlete, Jackson, who is determined to find out how Scott suddenly got so good. Well, of course Scott is now a star athlete with power and precision. The bite he received was from a werewolf and now Scott is also a werewolf and, it turns out in subsequent seasons, so much more.

At any rate, Scott is driven by a desire not only not to hurt innocent people but in controlling  the change, what Derek Hale, a born werewolf, son of a family of werewolves who have been protecting Beacon Hills for a very long time, as have the druids also living in Beacon Hills and allied with the wolf packs as guides, teachers if you will, a role druids have played for centuries. Scott is different. He doesn't want to be part of a pack, especially not Derek's pack when he finds out Derek's uncle bit him and made him a vampire. Scott ends up forming his own pack of friends like Stiles, his best friend, Allison, the daughter of a family of hunters who for over 400 years have hunted supernatural creatures like Scott, Lydia, the most popular girl in school and also a bean-sidhe (banshee) who was bitten by Peter Hale, Derek's uncle, and other friends and acquaintances of Scott's, misfits and losers bitten by Derek to increase his pack. Scott's pack is not only unusual since it is not comprised of other werewolves, but Scott is also unusual because he advocates not killing innocent people when he is under the moon's spell.

The difference with Teen Wolf is not only that as a supernatural series the focus changes from the price of magic/power, but to the ultimate gift of power and how it can be used to do good. Buffy did good with her vampire slayer powers and she saved "the world a lot" as was engraved on her tombstone when she died taking down a god. The X-men, people changed by supernatural means into vampires, werewolves, and the like, and increasingly shows like Teen Wolf have begun to sing another tune, not that magic/power exact a price, but that magic/power can be redeemed by helping others. With the focus off the price and on the good that can be done, what shows is a reversal of the paradigm that being special, supernatural, and powerful for whatever reason is no longer about what it costs but what such special abilities, talents, power, magic even can do for those around the gifted one.

There have always been those who have used their gifts to harm others, and that is also demonstrated in Teen Wolf, but the overriding theme, the central point is that whatever befalls us to change us, no matter how bad it seems, does not have to destroy our basic humanity or the need to help those around us. No more angst over being forced out of a normal life into a life of supernatural abilities. Instead, the monsters have decided that they do not have to be monstrous or killers, except for Jackson who had a bad reaction to being bitten by a werewolf and became a kanima, a slithering monster with a paralytic sting in its tail, bent on vengeance and destruction. There are some instances when a werewolf bite kills and others when the bite is rejected and the bitten shifts to a shape that is more akin to who the person is on the inside, in Jackson's case a Kanima.

I like the new paradigm shift from magic always comes with a price to the price of magic can be used to help others and defeat evil. I like that a lot because it signals a shift in the creative zeitgeist that focuses on saving/helping our fellow beings. No longer are the monsters out to destroy us or add to their evil numbers, although there are those who do and are defeated because humans, even humans who have been supernaturally changed, are complex beings with loads of baggage and their fair share of Jekylls as well as Hydes.

Even as the political scene is in upheaval with the opposition looking more like lynch mobs determined to deny their opponents their rights and freedoms as the discourse shifts from civil debate to riots, looting, burning, and calls for death to the opposition, it is heartening to see that there are some groups focused on helping their enemies rather than destroying their enemies. That is a positive shift that will resonate throughout the world. We do not need war to change people's minds. We need to show our enemies there is another way, another path that will benefit us all. When magic is used, we don't need to weigh the price, we need to accept the change and help our fellow humans triumph over their own worst natures by showing them a safer path.

That is all. Disperse.

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