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Perceptions of Witchcraft in Movies and on TV

Posted by on Feb. 6, 2013 at 4:23 PM
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Thoughts? Do you discuss perceptions of witches in pop culture with your kids? 

Pop-cultural moments come and go, and the witch has had its share. Each time the figure of the “Witch” means something slightly different, though often focused on the power of women. In the 1940s and 1950s, films like I Married a Witch (1942) and Bell, Book and Candle (1958) showed a witch’s power conquered by their love of a “mortal” man; a trope that was subverted in the 1960s and early 1970s by the television series Bewitched, where it’s clear that Samantha is the smarter, more powerful, partner.

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“Samantha was representative of suburban domestic ideals. However, at a time when women were beginning to have their horizons broadened, Samantha’s supernatural abilities conjured up the promise of women’s liberation and the unleashing of female power that was to come.” 

However, this particular theme of housewife witches turned to darker territory in the late 1960s and the 1970s. You had the Satanic coven in Rosemary’s Baby (1968) trying for an Antichrist, and the evil witch coven in Suspiria (1977), perhaps reflecting the darker turn culture took during that era. When you start examining witches in movies, you’ll see the pendulum swinging back and forth, empowerment, and fear of that very empowerment. By the 1990s, the rising religious Witchcraft movement started influencing these films, blurring the lines between the fantasy witch and real Witches, most evident in films like The Craft (1996) and television shows like Charmed (1998) andBuffy the Vampire Slayer (1997). Still, the evil fantasy witch persisted during this time, most famously in The Blair Witch Project (1999).

Today, the figure of the fantasy witch, influenced both by religious Witchcraft, and the pop-cultural ups and downs of previous generations, seems more popular than ever. In an atmosphere where vampires, werewolves, and zombies are big box office, there seems to be an ongoing expectation that witches will join that pantheon of tortured pathos and veiled commentary about modern life. This time television led the way with witches (and sometimes Wiccans) regularly appearing in True Blood, (the now-canceled) Secret Circle, and The Vampire Diaries. This year, 2013, seems to be the biggest yet, with a variety of big-budget films featuring an assortment of good and bad witches heading to the screens, starting with the (by all accounts very bad) movie Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters.

That clunker of a film will soon give way to something even darker, Rob Zombie’s The Lords of Salem which seems very much an homage to the Rosemary’s Baby/Suspiria Satanic witch-meme.

Before that hits this Fall, we’ll have Oz The Great And Powerful in March, which updates the “good” and “bad” witches of that fantasy world, a prequel to the film version of The Wizard of Oz, perhaps the most famous film featuring witches (a film which has been reevaluated in recent years thanks to the musical Wicked).

Those are only the beginning. We also have The Seventh Son and Beautiful Creatures on the way this year, and another witch-hunting movie, The Last Witch Hunter, slated for next year. Television will also see a new witch-themed series in Witches of East End out this year, joining an already-impressive lineup of fictional witches and spell-casters on cable and network TV.

I’m commenting on this now because I think it’s important that we start discerning what all these witches are telling the viewers. What does the witch do? Is witchcraft evil? Good? A neutral technology? What theology, if any, is included in these works? How will it reflect on those of us who call ourselves Witches in the real world? As much as some of us would like to simply ignore pop-culture, we know first-hand that it does inspire people to seek out the “real” thing. Those of us who lived through the “Teen Witch” boom of the 1990s know how powerful films like The Craft were in making kids curious about Wicca and other forms of religious Witchcraft. 

Organizations and groups that advocate for modern Witchcraft will have to be ready to field questions, to handle journalists that will inevitably want to talk to “real” Witches when these various films come out, and to deal with blatant self-promoters who want to grab this moment by the tail. As “witches” join the paranormal urban fantasy soup in greater and greater numbers, we will have to be savvier than ever, because these works  do shift perceptions, and we can’t ignore their magic.


The whole post (including videos with trailers for some of these movies) can be found HERE.

by on Feb. 6, 2013 at 4:23 PM
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Replies (1-6):
saltycoqui
by on Feb. 6, 2013 at 7:48 PM

I have talked to my kids. Mostly my daughter who seems most interested. A lot of shows on tv don't get facts right. 


redbutterfly666
by Little Witch on Feb. 6, 2013 at 7:50 PM
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my ds loves harry potter but he's a little to young to understand the difference between harry potter and my kind of witchcraft so when he's old enough and shows a little more interest ill most likely talk to him about it

SerenaRose3
by Little Witch on Feb. 6, 2013 at 9:58 PM
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 My dd is almost 8 she loves harry poter and all witchy movies that are acceptable for her to watch. The good witch series is as close to a real  witch portrayed on tv that I have come across. We talk about whats fantasy and whats real and she understand the difference ;although she is disappointed that she will never fly on a broom or turn her brother a worm or something lol

..MoonShine..
by Crone on Feb. 6, 2013 at 10:00 PM
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I love The Good Witch!!!

Quoting SerenaRose3:

 My dd is almost 8 she loves harry poter and all witchy movies that are acceptable for her to watch. The good witch series is as close to a real  witch portrayed on tv that I have come across. We talk about whats fantasy and whats real and she understand the difference ;although she is disappointed that she will never fly on a broom or turn her brother a worm or something lol

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blessedtxmommy
by on Feb. 6, 2013 at 11:43 PM
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  I personally believe that no matter how movies or tv shows portray "witches".Everyone is going to have their own perception of us.Wheither it be good or bad. A lot of people like to sterotype based on what the movies show them. (Witches are ( most of the time ) evil, ugly, old hags. That cast evil spells on people.) And then there are others that are a little more informed and don't necessarely believe that witches are all that bad, But still are misinformed about our practices. I usually do not get easily offended by the movies or tv shows that depict us in the wrong way. It usually makes me laugh more than anything. And I myself would like to see some of those up coming movies...lol. Yes, there can be a dark side to the craft. If that's how you choose to practice it. We are all diffrent.And all practice diffrently.But, we are all one with Mother Earth, Father Sun, Sister Rain, and Brother Wind.

 Dance like the Maiden, Laugh like the Mother, Think like the Crone

 

SalemWitchChild
by Little Witch on Feb. 7, 2013 at 1:00 PM
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I suppose I am no better than the creators of these movies considering I do have a book in the works about witches portrayed in a fantasised way. However if and when it is published it will have a page explaining that my characters do not portray real witchcraft/wicca.

I think anyone who wants to become a witch/wiccan will seek out their own info. I hope that they realize that hollywood always stretches the truth and makes things up. So these shows do not bother me and indeed are some of my favorite. :)

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