The Bad Witch Rises?

When I got back from Mexico this week, my DVR had unseen treasures awaiting me. Truly! Unseen! There were no reruns for once. Viacom finally let loose the stranglehold it had on Comedy Central and returned the fake news from which I obtain far too much of my cultural information these days. There was the episode of (don’t tease, there’s an Auburn student in the competition and you know I’m loyal to my babies) The Glee Project where I hoped that Lily would finally be asked to leave the stage for good. And the USEF Dressage pre-Olympic Games Training Sessions! Woot. (Yes, woot. The Bad Witch gets the Equestrian channel. Eff off.)

True Blood and that great line by Sam Merlot with which I may have over-identified a little too much. When asked if he would give up everything “special” about himself for a “plain old regular life,” he responded that his higher-self would say, “no way,” but that the realistic (fictional-character) human (shape-shifter) that “didn’t ask to be a hero – super or otherwise,” had to concede that he was plumb “tired of fighting” against bigotry and idiocy but alas, “we are what we are.”

But despite all of the eye candy available from the comfort of my overstuffed sofa,[1] The Bad Hubby and I ventured out into the local Cineplex to see a different kind of hero: The Dark Night Rises.

Aside #1: The Bad Baby was piiiiiiised that she missed the premier on accoun’a’ being on a luxury cruise, poor thing. Now, we heard about the hullabaloo at the opening while we were in the middle of the Caribbean Sea. Our stomachs sank when we recalled that  The Bad Baby’s Bestie, visiting la familia in the east-burbs of Denver, was a ticketholder. She had bought her tickets before leaving Alabama: Aurora Century 16, midnight showing. Without good cell service and no internet, we held our breath for a minute. I let The Baby make a seven-dollar phone call — for some inexplicable reason, mini-Bestie couldn’t get a ride to the theatre. Hallelujah? Hell yea. When we all reconvened in the Bamas, I thought it was appropriate to be in near-attendance when both girls finally got to see the show.[2] Plus, I had a hot date.

Aside #2: I, for one, love movie previews. And I’ve gotten pretty good at judging a movie by the way it sells itself. e.g. While I have a weird chubby-crush on Jonah Hill, I don’t think I could bring myself to see Neighborhood Watch; it looks like the previews show all the funniest scenes. I’m not interested in another Bourne film, nor can I think about another Superman. The new Tarantino (Django Unchained) looks good – I mean Jamie Foxx and DiCaprio? (Speaking of DiCaprio, I can’t wait for Gatsby.[3]) Finally, The Hobbit, my childhood favorite of the Rings saga. And Oz: The Great and Powerful has me running back to Baum’s old titles for one last look so that I may get the taste of Wicked out of my mouth before I proceed to the theatre.

(Don’t get me wrong, I loved McGuire’s revision. But it’s a revision. Never, never, never confuse Wicked with Baum’s Oz.[4] McGuire had a specific agenda in his portrait of Elphaba. I agree with him. However, I can also see the motivation behind the portrait of Elphaba and Galinda. At the point where Galinda saw the sacrificial goat as her moment of conversion, I had to choose between throwing the book and giving in to his fictional heterodoxical scapegoat story. You know how TBW feels about lies and scapegoat stories, right?)

Aside #2b: Here’s a bit of the official synopsis for Oz: The Great and Powerful: “When Oscar Diggs (James Franco) . . .is hurled away from dusty Kansas to the vibrant Land of Oz . . . he meets three witches, Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz), and Glinda (Michelle Williams) . . . . Reluctantly drawn into the epic problems facing the Land of Oz and its inhabitants, Oscar must find out who is good and who is evil before it is too late. . . .”[5] I wish him a great deal of Disney-based luck on that.

Aside #3: Intellectually, The Bad Witch is Leibnizian rather than traditionally Cartesian. I understand the necessity for Descartes’ application of the Platonic table of opposites – hell, I teach it in the classroom. However, in my personal belief system, I see the universe as a Deleuze & Guattarian schizoid rhizome. (Imagine how difficult this made my study of the Headless Rite.) Everything touches everything – spectrums not binaries. My Good Witch/Bad Witch post intended to illustrate that. Everything is always already contained in its opposite. (And, as some of you pointed out in ensuing conversation, we cannot judge a book by its cover – or a Witch by her t-shirt.[6]) However, in a language which has learned to be driven by Lacanian “Lack,” it’s so much easier to grasp a concept if we compare it to what it is not. (But, of course, we must always remember that all designations in language are entirely arbitrary. Despite Platonic “Ideals,” there is no intrinsic “treeness” about a tree that makes us call it “tree.” Blah, blah, blah.) For that reason, and because Cartesian binaries are how most folks view the universe, it’s hard to talk about shite like “goodness” and “badness.” This is why we have Baum and Batman, no?

On that note, I’m never sure if I like the Batman movies or not.

I loved the old Adam West show, but that had more to do with bonding with my big-brother than it did the “Pow” bubbles and the Batarang, the Interdigital Bat-sorter, or the Batzooka. Plus, Commissioner Gordon was “in on it.” In the Dark Knight series, he’s “in” on it, but he’s an absolute political douchebag. More on that in a minute. I really loved – still love – the Tim Burton Batman (perfs. Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Kim Basinger). Much of that had to do with the soundtrack, but it was also a new kind of movie in 1989. The Dark Knight series had me at Heath Ledger. Wonder if Oz will have me at Michelle Williams.[7]

Aside #4: You know that I love caves and that there is a cave where my ancestors settled before selling the area as a commercial caverns project, right? Before earning its current name, it was called (and is still called by many locals) “The Bat Cave.” How much do I love saying, “It’s time to take the kids to visit The Bat Cave”? Cracks me up every time.

But, like I said, I’m never sure if I like the Batman movies. Yes, yes, they try to shade the grey areas between integrity and depravity but, in my mind, they end up creating villains that were never meant to be villainous. I’m not talking about Batman here; I’m talking about Commissioner Gordon.

Without any spoilers, I will try to tell you how I felt about The Dark Night Rising from The Bad Witch’s perspective. Firstly, if you’ve seen The Dark Knight, you know that the only reason Batman gets a bad rap is because Commissioner Gordon conspires to cover up Harvey Dent’s “Two-facedness.” Knowing that “The Bat Man” saved his son’s life, he still allowed Gotham to make Dent a hero (on account of they never saw him as Two-Face), to erect statues in Dent’s honor, and to vilify Batman.

The audience is fairly aware of the fact that Batman is our hero (or anti-hero if we must), so that hero/villain binary is not in question. But no one pays much attention to Gordon, save to say that he moves the plot along. But hear me out – he lied to his entire constituency, his boss (the Mayor), and all of the police sworn to uphold justice. How can we espouse evenhandedness when the truth is withheld? Subtle variances involved in selective perception and the re-reporting of others can make palpable differences in judgment – and justice, no? Then when he had the chance to tell the truth (in the most recent film), he chickened out. Presumably because it is so entirely impossible to unring such bells. Tell me, how many folks do you know who still believe that Saddam Hussein constructed the 9/11 plot? How about the other end of the scale – Pontius Pilate? He washed his hands of the crucifixion, right? He was an innocent bystander of sorts, right? Whatever. Ron Reagan freed the hostages too. Despite all evidence to the contrary, folks will hang on to their villains – particularly when it makes their falsely-heroic narratives more palatable. It’s all part of culture building – see “This is not a Test.” (And maybe the ones about Jonah and White Fang.)

So what happens to Gotham (this is a metaphor, folks) now that the citizenry know that Batman is their hero and that they have been misguidedly celebrating “Dent Day” for eight years? Do they feel like idiots? Do they mistrust authority? Do they ever really accept Batman as a protector – and if so, how do they feel about Gordon? How can Batman and Gordon ever have a working relationship (in the real-life metaphor, not in the fictional comic-book movie)? As viewers, do we ever forgive Gordon for telling such a bald-faced lie about Batman? And perpetuating it for near on a decade? And will anyone ever know that Batman sucked it up and let Gordon do his thing at his expense?

I understand Gordon’s motivation, that’s not the question. Gordon had to save face, make himself look good rather than fessing up to his role in the creation of The Joker – who then created Two-Face. Then once he had the opportunity to tell the truth, he chose to hang on to power rather than show the reprobate he really is. It’s human nature. It’s not a “higher” human nature – as Sam Merlot would agree, but it is what it is.

From my Witchy perspective, it’s better to look past obvious villainy (Batman, Bane, Catwoman) to root causes – the underlying egos and falsehoods that create meaningless designators like “good” and “evil.” Divide and conquer works, even if it works on a false premise of binary opposition. But as Pagans and intellectuals, aren’t we called on to look deeper than the surface?

Yes, you are right. It does suck to go to the movies with The Bad Witch.

 

 

[1] And some movie I recorded for my niece and her partner, though we didn’t get to watch it before they had to head back to Miami.

[2] But then again, I’m paranoid – right? Whatever.

[3] I ended up naming my chicken coop “East Egg,” BTW.

[4] That would be like saying the film was an accurate revision of Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind.

[5] Goldberg, Matt.  Collider.com. “First Synopsis for Sam Raimi’s Oz The Great and Powerful Starring James Franco.” 26 July 26, 2011. Web. 26 July 2011.

[6] While in NOLA, I almost – *almost* – bought a “Kitchen Bitch” apron. Almost.

[7] More likely Rachel Weisz.

Bad Witch, “Goad” Witch

I have been asked, on a number of fronts, “If you’re The Bad Witch, who’s The Good Witch?”

After explaining that “The Bad Witch” didn’t originally apply to me, but to the Bad Witches on whom I was reporting (ergo: The Bad Witch Files) and that I took on the moniker as a bit of a joke (based on a snarky t-shirt) which I ended up embracing (blah, blah, blah), I try to explain that by “Bad” I really mean “Challenging” or “Intending to be a goad.” In other words, I like to poke y’all ‘til you squirm.[1] And because I’m bored with defending myself on this front,[2] I thought I’d write one long post and be done with it for good.

The Bad Witch is a gadfly. If she bugs you it must mean that you’ve got something to bite.[3]

We are all pretty familiar with the good cop/bad cop interrogation routine, right?

Imagine: David Caruso brings you in for questioning. You’re sitting all alone in a cement-block interrogation room with a two-way mirror. Who do you prefer to see? The Good Cop or The Bad Cop? You aren’t in any trouble, really; they’re just trying to uncover the truth. Then the Heavy comes into the room. She asks you direct, pointed questions, makes you very uncomfortable, and leaves. You sweat for a minute then The Softie comes along and brings you a soda-pop and a snack, tells you soothing stories, holds your hand, listens to everything you have to say, looks into your eyes, and says “Trust me; if you tell me everything, I can make sure The Heavy doesn’t come back.”

Then she lifts your prints from the soda can and reports everything you told her.

While the good cop/bad cop routine is teamwork used to close a criminal case, the good witch/bad witch routine doesn’t really work like that. Primarily because the good witch and the bad witch are not in cahoots. Our metaphor applies to a set of non-cooperative constabularies: me and the anti-me.

Anyone who knows their Freshman year rhetoric knows about the false dilemma (either/or fallacy). Things aren’t always as dichotomous as they seem – or are they? For me, it seem that the issue between “good” magic (and witches) and “bad” magic (and witches) is caught up in a linguistic strand of signifiers that prefers bipolar morality to the difficulties inherent in ethical choices . . . and intent.

It’s slippery isn’t it?

Ethically, we do not work magic in order to hurt people; but we do work to protect people, right?

Right?

Hmmmmmm.

As an (extreme) example, consider this: Pedophile Joe has eluded the police and you are concerned about the children in the neighborhood. When you protect the children, don’t you – by default – “harm” Joe? I bet he’d see it that way.

Likewise, when you seek to bind someone to a situation (even if you perceive it as positive), you are exacting a manipulative and “controlling” influence.

The trick is – why are you doing it and what do you hope to gain?

The Bad Witch could wholeheartedly get behind throwing Pedophile Joe in the cauldron; at the same time, I would exhort you not to attempt to keep someone you love by your side – even if that’s where they want to be.[4]

In its purest form, magic is a gift given to us to bring us closer to the divine; therefore, it should be directed inward, not outward. That’s not to say that magic can’t be used to affect material situations, just that we must study ourselves very carefully before we decide if it should be used for those purposes.

My mentor always taught me that we don’t use magic because we want to make something happen, but because we want to make ourselves worthier of the gift itself. And that “bad” magic or “black” magic is that which is intended to manipulate or control others or situations.[5] Most agree that “Black” magic is the manipulating of energy planes done by the self for the self, not necessarily to the detriment of others, but to gain something (typically material) for oneself.[6]

So does that make us all Bad Witches?

Sorry, that answer is above my paygrade.

Therefore, let’s go back to the good cop/bad cop scenario.

The Bad Witch is direct, will call you out on poor manners, will tell you when you’ve effed up (and will, likely provide a way to make it better), will make you very uncomfortable if you are lying, and will leave when your company has become trying. However, TBW will not deceive you. What you see is what you get. It’s all on the sleeves of her scary, scary black robe. [7]

The Good Witch is the one that gives you someone else’s ruby slippers and tells you that magic can and should be used to get all the candy in the candy store. The Good Witch brings you a metaphorical soda-pop and a snack, pacifies you with anesthetizing stories, gains your trust and promises to protect you from The Bad Witch.

All while running your prints.

That, my friends, is The Good Witch.

If I am indeed The Bad Witch and my goal is to goad you into a new level of introspection (while exploring my own innards)– then what is The Good Witch doing?

If The Bad Witch is the one who tells you the truth (follow me on an uncustomary binary headtrip for a moment), The Good Witch must be full of shite.

Let me take it a little farther. Most likely, The Good Witch is all touchy-feely and lulls you with a false sense of love: initially preferred to “tough love” for its saccharine charisma. But how nourishing is saccharine?

The Good (“Fun”/“Alluring”/“ Mollifying”) Witch only offers “false love” – that psudo-psychology term for the kind of relationship that poses as love but really asks for sacrifice in return for domination and abdication of selfhood, the kind of “love” that hampers personal growth out of fear of being surpassed, outdone, or abandoned, the kind of “love” that wants us to limit contact with others by making us doubt, mistrust or be suspicious of others. What’s more, it’s the kind of “love” that makes others doubt, mistrust or be suspicious of us.

Admittedly, The Good Witch is more fun to party with, she has a nicer ass, and her cookies always have just the right amount of chocolate chips.

But will she respect you in the morning?

Or in a year.[8]

The Bad Witch (read Tough-Love Witch) will goad you into thinking for yourself. And then let you make informed choices, sometimes you will do this kicking and screaming. But she will be devoted to supporting your choices. That’s hard work – for both of you.

But where does that road lead? Not many are willing to travel alongside a Bad Witch down a tough road. (Remember: If she bugs you it must mean that you’ve got something to bite.)

The Good Witch (read False-Love Witch), on the other hand, wants to tell you what to think, who to care about, what to do/read/eat, when to jump and just how high; then she will pat you on the head like a good puppy when you comply. This is a much easier road – for both of you.

But where does that road lead? Are you willing to follow a Good Witch down a false road?

Many are.

I pray for them.

B, Q, 93,

TBW


[1] Not entirely unlike the ha-satan who observes human activity with the intention of locating folks’ sins and challenging them. Like the celestial prosecutor who brings human iniquity to trial. He got called “Devil” too.

[2] Not from you, my loyal readers; from those who have been fed a series of bull-cupcakes – and they ate them with a spoon. They lick the poop-icing off their fingers and everything. It’s kinda fun to watch. Gross, but fun.

[3] And there is no The Good Witch. There are some people who like to think of themselves as my counterpart. Some who like to believe they embody “The Good Witch.” However, after we study this designation, I don’t think anyone is going to strive for that sobriquet.

[4] I always ask my Momma not to “pray” for me for these reasons. It’s bad enough that I seem to be stuck living in Alabama, I don’t need to move to North Alabama.

[5] I’m using scare quotes to indicate my understanding that the values “bad” and “black” are arbitrary.

[6] Yes, yes, there is a such thing as “grey” magic – a balance or “middle path” that helps you without harming anyone else. But, to be honest, most folks find “balance” too difficult to maintain because they find it easier to rationalize their desires and disguise cravings under a veil of altruism. This extends beyond the scope of my argument, so I’ll save it for another day.

[7] Because, after all, I am very menacing. Grrrrrr. Argh. And boogadaboogada!

[8] In my experience, I’ve seen that people like this tend to have rotating relationships that vacillate between devoted to discarded.