The problem with love…spells.
Photo credit: ashtrayb
[TRIGGER WARNING: Discussion of sexual assault, rape culture, victim-blaming, adult concepts]
Often times in books, TV shows, and films that deal with magic, love spells are treated as enchantments to avoid because they usually bring disastrous consequences. Along with spells that raise people from the dead, loves spells are firmly placed in the “restricted section” of magic for good reason—these spells tamper with a person’s free will. One has to wonder why they even exist at all. Some works have made the distinction between good love spells and bad love spells, but many believe that anything that gives one person so much power over another should remain forbidden. And even though these TV shows, books, and films use love spells for laughs, the subject matter should be handled cautiously because the attitudes regarding harmful love spells are scarily similar to attitudes about rape culture.
(Note: If you don’t know what I mean by rape culture, here’s a fairly inadequate definition:
A rape culture is a complex of beliefs that encourages male sexual aggression and supports violence against women. It is a society where violence is seen as sexy and sexuality as violent. In a rape culture, women perceive a continuum of threatened violence that ranges from sexual remarks to sexual touching to rape itself. A rape culture condones physical and emotional terrorism against women as the norm.
In a rape culture both men and women assume that sexual violence is a fact of life, inevitable as death or taxes.
And a more comprehensive post on what it entails, Rape Culture 101.
It’s especially daunting because love spells are common in fairytales and media aimed at children. There are many adults who don’t understand the language and attitudes that promote rape culture because they’ve grown up in societies where it’s normalised…so imagine how terrifying it is that similar attitudes are being taught to children (and adults alike), only in a much more sanitised package. The most concerning part of this is that, according to studies, children as young as 11 actually have exhibited ideas that align with rape culture (note: there have also been cases where children even younger than 11 have assaulted peers).
To get to the point, Merlin 4x09 through 4x13 deals with the harmful effects and consequences of necromancy (spells that raise the dead) and love spells (spells that manipulate people’s emotions and actions). These episodes present the idea that these spells are dark magic used to prey on people and destroy their lives, unlike in previous episodes where these enchantments—though shown as disastrous—are played for laughs (Arthur and Vivian, Uther and the troll).
[Morgana plots Authur’s downfall and her revenge on Guinevere with zombie!Lancelot.]
Translation: BITCH PLEASE! We alone now gurl. I am the last dragon lord, and shit’s ‘bout to get all magical up in this cave! You done fucked up! You done fucked up! You done underestimated a bitch! You think you knooow me? Gurl please!
*trigger warning for rape discussion*
Agreed with everyone else, this scene gave me the creeps. I think there was definitely a sexual undertone to the way he circled her chair and lightly touched her hair. I feel like Agravaine’s approach to Guinevere is very characteristic of how white men of privilege have historically treated poor women of color. Remember how he acknowledged to Arthur that she’s a beautiful woman, yet remained contemptible of Arthur’s love for her? He clearly thought Gwen’s class status granted noblemen unrestricted access to her body, but absolved them of any obligation to love or respect her. I totally think if this wasn’t a ‘family’ show, he would have tried to rape her before killing her. Like, that’s how creepy a vibe I got from this scene.