Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Charmed - "Charmageddon"

Charmed was a feminist supernatural show featuring three sisters who were witches fighting any supernatural beings endangering their “innocents” (people who have done nothing wrong). The three sisters, Piper, Phoebe, and Paige are guarded by their Whitelighter Leo. A Whitelighter is a sort of guardian angel. Leo always has a struggle with his superiors, “Elders”, since he is romantically involved with the eldest sister, Piper. It’s typically against the rules but they make an exception for him. Leo appears in various roles throughout the series due to his unstable Whitelighter status. At one point he becomes an Avatar.
In "Charmageddon", the utopian episode of Charmed, the writers boil down all of the aspects of life that threaten utopia to "conflict". By eliminating conflict, the Avatars, who happen to be an ambiguously good/bad force, proclaim that they created utopia on Earth. The only catch, which the Charmed Ones are unaware of, is that anyone who disrupts utopia by causing conflict gets disappeared. In a way, this is a very totalitarian idea. They present it as "being in a better place now" and don't exhibit any of the emotions associated with grieving the loss of a loved one. The Avatars’ undoing comes in the form of children's emotions. In this universe, since the children cannot cognitively rationalize the fact that their dad is in a better place, they are left with the visceral gut emotions: the feeling of loss. They alert their aunts and mother to the fact that they should be missing someone, and that this sort of detachment with loss is unhealthy and inevitably, dystopian. 
Before this episode, Leo becomes an Avatar because they promise him that he and the sisters would live a normal, happy life without magic and without worrying about demons attacking anyone. He decides not to tell his wife, Piper, about this decision to join the Avatars because the Avatars were rumored to be a powerful, threatening force. In reality, it’s unclear if the Avatars were good or bad. It’s unclear if the aggressors were killed but they weren’t a part of this society anymore. Piper and the sisters eventually find out what Leo has been doing and through a great deal of fighting, finally accept his decision. He convinces them that the Avatars are doing something good via Phoebe,  who gets a premonition of her future life which is full of happiness and her future daughter who is safe. All the while, none of them know that the Avatars plan to eliminate anyone who poses a conflict to Utopia.
After battling various demons, inner and outer, the Avatars and sisters finally create Utopia together. All of humanity (or at least San Francisco) is put to sleep and when they wake up, everyone is cheery and devoid of any conflict in their lives. This means that no one fights, no one struggles and everyone is just magically happy, including the sisters. This Utopia has all the basic qualities of what a Utopia means: no crime, everyone is equal, everyone is happy. However, some people still find a way to get angry and stir things up. The first example was of a person who was stopped by a cop for some kind of traffic violation (of course there are still rules) and he starts yelling and arguing with the cop. The Avatars notice this and get rid of him by shimmering him away. People like this are disappeared like a mirage. The Avatars act as a sort of Guardians in Plato’s sense of the word.
Meanwhile, Piper and Phoebe are enjoying their new life by cooking. They seem happy. Leo patrols the area to see how this new life is affecting people. He visits Paige who is cleaning out her dead boyfriend’s place. Before this Utopia happened, Paige was mourning the loss of her love but now she seems completely content with it saying that “at least he is in a better place now.” Leo finds this suspicious and unnatural and meets with the Avatars who appear to be monitoring their Utopia and getting rid of any aggressors. Leo sees this and doesn’t agree with what they are doing. Realizing that he can’t get through to the sister’s in their current mental state, he joins forces with a demon who is trying to take down the Avatars. Their plan is to stage a fight in the sister’s house and kill Leo to make the sisters feel some kind of emotion again.
Before Leo martyrs himself, he tells Phoebe “go to the Book of Shadows, remember the losses.” Phoebe was his last hope because she always remembers her premonitions. After Leo is gone, she goes to the book of shadows (which is a book that every witch must have to know how to defeat their demons) and places her hand on it. This gives her all of the premonitions she has of her past loved ones dying. This helps her wake up from her happy haze. Piper mourns the loss of her husband by just saying “he is in a better place now” and moves on with her life, as do the other sisters. However, Piper and Leo’s children will not stop crying. This alerts the sisters that something is wrong.
They slowly come out of their lack of emotions and begin to fight for their old lives. The sister approach the Avatars and tell them that the world is not ready for what they have to offer and the Avatars reverse everything, including Leo’s death, and go away. Of course, the Avatars could have disappeared the sisters but this would not be conducive to the plotline. This Utopia that was very briefly created encompassed the utopian aspect and dystopian aspect of any classic utopia/dystopia dynamic.

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