Wednesday, June 8, 2016
"Phoebe Halliwell and the Nexus Theory"
"PHOEBE HALLIWELL AND THE NEXUS THEORY"
Recently, I watched the ”CHARMED” Season One episode called (1.15) "Is There a Woogy in the House?". In this episode, Phoebe Halliwell’s childhood fear of a boogeyman in the basement called the ”Woogeyman” proves to be true and it ends up taking possession of her and a few others – including her sister Prue’s ex-boyfriend, Andy Trudeau. Following this experience with the Woogeyman, Phoebe came to a conclusion regarding her moral compass.
The episode began with an aftershock from a previous earthquake. The aftershock not only revealed Phoebe's childhood fear of something called the "Woogyman", it has an ongoing source of amusement for her two sisters. That is, until a violent earthquake unleashes a long-dormant shadow demon on the day Prue has plans to hold a dinner party for her boss and a Bucklands’ customer. The latter first takes possession of a repairman, summoned to investigate a strange odor from the manor’s basement. After Prue and Piper leave the manor, the Woogeyman uses the repairman to summon Phoebe to the basement and she also becomes possessed. Phoebe’s strange behavior not only manages to ruin the dinner party, she also summons the Buckland’s client – a Professor Whittlesbey, who knows a good deal about the manor’s history – to the basement and the Woogeyman. Professor Whittlesbey becomes possessed. After Prue and Piper find themselves locked out of the manor by Phoebe, the two set out to discover what Professor Whittlesbey was hinting about the manor, when the dinner party first began. Unfortunately, the possessed professor ends up being arrested after she had physically attacked her assistant, Josh. Prue and Piper learn more details about the Halliwell manor from Josh:
Josh: You know, I’ve met people like that. (He looks at Piper.) A spiritual nexus is a point of incredible energy.
Prue: Equidistant from the five spiritual elements.
Josh: That’s right. The place or thing that could be swayed either way.
Piper: Either way?
Josh: Yeah. Either to be a source of undeniable good or undeniable evil. Uh, look ladies, I’m gonna follow her and make sure she’s okay. Feel free to browse around our office if you think it will help.
In other words, Prue and Piper came to some conclusion that because the manor was situated in the center of this Nexus – shaped as pentagram – it was the source of great power that can be a source of good or evil. Once Phoebe managed to banish the Woogeyman, she came to a conclusion about the Nexus and her moral compass:
Phoebe: I’m beginning to wonder if I have a good one [dark side]. (Prue and Piper stare at her.) Well, I am. I mean, up until now, I didn't even think I had a dark side. I mean, not any more so than anyone else.
Prue: Yeah, well the important thing is the good side won out.
Phoebe: Yeah, but I must have been more susceptible than either one of you, otherwise he wouldn’t of chosen me, right? Right?
Piper: You were the only one that was born in the house, that makes you more connected to it. That spiritual nexus thing.
Phoebe: That’s exactly my point. I could go either way. Good or evil. Kinda freaky.
What in the hell was Constance Burge thinking? What on earth made her think that someone would be stupid enough to buy such a theory straight out of Sunday school for eight year-olds? Phoebe could easily turn good or evil, because she was born above the Nexus? That was Burge's idea of characterization?
It was bad enough that Prue got the elements mentioned in the episode wrong:
Prue: Okay, to find a way back in, we have to know what we’re up against. The professor said that a true spiritual nexus sits equidistant from the five basal elements. So, that’s earth, fire, water, wood and metal.
Then she added:
Prue: Looks like it’s not just on a spiritual nexus, but a wiccan one as well. Which means it’s a battleground for good and evil.
The spiritual nexus beneath the manor was definitely not a Wiccan one. Wiccans are associated with the following five elements -earth, fire, water, air and spirit. The five elements mentioned by Prue in the episode are the following - earth, fire, water, wood and metal. These elements are associated with Chinese philosophy, not Wiccans.
But it got worse. At least for me. By the end of the episode, Phoebe claimed that because she was born in the manor (in other words, above the manor), she was more susceptible to being possessed by the Woogeyman than her sisters. What . . . a . . . load . . . of . . . crap! If for this reason Phoebe was more susceptible toward evil, then one might as well say the same about the others that ended up possessed by the Woogeyman – the repairman, Professor Whittlesey, one of the Halliwell neighbors . . . and Andy Trudeau. And I am certain that not one of them was born inside the manor. If Piper or Prue had been inside that manor alone instead of Phoebe, the Woogeyman could have easily possessed either of them.
Why do I find this Nexus Theory about Phoebe hard to swallow? It does not make any sense to me. This is not good characterization. I do not even know what to call it. Phoebe was more prone to evil . . . and therefore more prone to be possessed by the Woogeyman? Had it ever occurred to Constance Burge or the episode’s writers, Chris Levinson and Zack Estrin, that Phoebe ended up possessed, because she had the bad luck to be in the manor alone with the repairman?
First of all, the series has managed to prove that all four sisters had personality quirks that made them easily prone to evil. Prue’s anger, pride and arrogance made her very susceptible to evil. Probably more so than the other three sisters, due to her anger issues. Piper's inability to deal with loss and her selfishness made her easily susceptible to evil. Phoebe's selfishness and willingness to use shortcuts in life made her easily susceptible to evil. And Paige's self-righteousness and sadistic nature made her susceptible. Everyone – whether in real life or in fiction have personality traits that makes them susceptible to evil. Why Constance Burge could not accept this and instead, used this Nexus Theory to describe Phoebe's flaws eludes me. Perhaps Burge wanted an easier plot device to describe Phoebe's personality . . . instead of good old-fashioned, well-written characterization.
I cannot deny that I have always enjoyed "Is There a Woogeyman in the House?". It has always been one of my favorite episodes from Season One. But this theory about the Nexus and Phoebe's moral compass nearly ruined it for me. It is a crap theory, supported by bad writing. Instead of recognizing that just about anyone - namely any sentient being can choose a path of good or evil, given the right circumstances or emotional button pushed. But Constance Burge and this episode’s writers decided to resort to easy and sloppy characterization by feeding the viewers this black-and-morality crap that the Nexus would explain Phoebe's occasional delinquent behavior. It seemed like a bad ending to a pretty good episode.