This episode has been hard to write about. I almost wasn’t going to, but then I was listening to Trauma and Recovery by Judith Herman. It has a section about trauma and abusive relationships. Specifically how society places all the fault on the (typically female) victim, and none of the fault on the abuser. So I decided that I needed to cover the episode Spellbound.
Please see the Disclaimers in the post that introduced this series. Screenshots are thanks to the Teen Titans WIki and Teen Titans Clips.
Raven feels alone and misunderstood while reading a book about a wizard defeating a dragon, only to have the book tell her she isn’t alone. Well, Malchior who is trapt in the book. He says that he understands her, and that he is the wizard from the tale in the book she wishes she could meet. She can’t break the curse, but they talk. Raven agrees to learn enough magic to truly free him.
As they get to know each other, Raven feels safe and free of her father (hence her clothes fading to white). She grows close to him. When she discovers it’s dark magic she has been learning from him, he has a perfectly reasonable seeming explanation. That the magic is just misunderstood, like her.
It is not until she sets him free that Raven realizes she has not been talking to the wizard, but the dragon. The whole thing has been an act to take advantage of her. He thinks she cannot stop him, as he didn’t teach her any spells to do so; he thinks he is undefeatable. But he underestimates her: Raven uses the same spell (curse) as the actual wizard to once again trap the dragon within the same book.
Trauma & Relationships
The relationship between Raven and Malchior is obviously abusive: His entire goal was to manipulate and deceive her. To use her for his own ends. He even makes an attempt to hurt/kill her (by blasting her with fire) as soon as he’s gotten what he wanted from her.
While most people seem to get the basics of how an abusive relationship can cause trauma, very few seem to even want to consider that trauma can cause someone to be susceptible to an abusive relationship. Much less, understand how that works. One key thing I like about the episode Spellbound is that it shows how an abusive relationship is often a slow and gradual process. That the manipulation happens a little bit at a time, and is usually a combination of the abuser preying on the emotional insecurity of their victim and exploiting natural social bonding. Preying on people who on vulnerable by using what is supposed to be a healthy process, and distorting it to their own ends.
Complaints such as feeling alone, or that one else understands are common for people who have been traumatized. Plenty of mental health problems can involve feeling alone even in a crowded room.
Many war veterans have the advantage of being able to relate to their fellow comrades that served in the same war. But people traumatized in plenty of other ways often don’t have this or any equivalent. And even this isn’t a true solution; as it leaves them still unable to connect with non-veterans (which still produces a type of lonely feeling).
I’m somewhat fortunate in this regard because I have my brother. He was abused in a similar fashion by the same person. We have parts that are unique, but we also have a lot of overlap. But despite this, I have spent plenty of time feeling utterly and crushingly alone thanks to my trauma. I’m not sure this type of isolation is a feeling that words can do justice.
At the beginning of the episode, Raven says she is feeling lonely and misunderstood by her friends. And while she is at a low point, he makes himself known to her.
This is the sort of thing some of these abusers do either consciously or subconsciously: they seek to present themselves as the savior that their victim requires for survival. This is one way the abuser ensures their victims will return time and time again: by somehow making the victim believe the victim will not survive without the abuser.
He presents himself as the only one who does understand Raven. As the only one who can solve her problem of loneliness. This lie causes Raven to further withdrawal from her friends.