Now Reading
The Bitches Of Eastwick: Witches In Pop Culture

The Bitches Of Eastwick: Witches In Pop Culture

If “Mean Girls” is the defining film of the all female popular clique cliched, then “The Craft” is its equivalent for the feminine witch cult genre.

If you haven’t seen it, the 1996 film is essentially a typical teen movie. When new girl Sarah Bailey moves to town, she is confronted by a trio of girls who don’t exactly run the school, but are definitely well known and regarded to be, if not witches, at least fans of the dark arts (i.e. they’re fans of dark lipstick, piercings and probably the occasional pentagram—Lorde would have fit in). Bailey attracts the eye of one Chris Hooker, who is clique leader Nancy Downs’ former lover by whom she was scorned. Does this sound familiar?

It should, and not just because this is actually the exact opening premise of “Mean Girls.” It should also sound familiar because movies about female teen witches are as ubiquitous as superhero features, by which I mean, very. There’s “Teen Witch,” of course, which didn’t search far for a name, and “Sabrina” (the cartoon version and the Melissa Joan Hart version), “Halloweentown” which features teenage witch Marnie, “Practical Magic” and “The Craft.” The teen witch reigns (again I point to Lorde).

When people talk witches, they’re usually talking women—Harry Potter is the exception and not the rule. At the nefarious Salem Witch Trials only five men were hung alongside the 14 accused and convicted female magic harbingers. Theorists and theologians often assert that women were disproportionately targeted because of Puritanical views about the female body of which accusers (men) knew little. Anything unknown—sexuality and the occult—was taboo. In fact, often overtly sexual women were the ones targeted. In “The Craft,” the height of Nancy’s powers occur when she is able to transform herself to have sex with the aforementioned Hooker. Thus it makes sense that Hollywood has disproportionately portrayed women as discovering hidden and mysterious powers, often at the onslaught of their womanhood.

There’s also the common, misogynistic thread that women, like witches, are conniving, scheming, planning, mysterious or inherently evil or crazy. Most often and most recently this narrative is played out as female victims of sexual assault are witch hunted as crazy accusers out to foul their accused (Jian Ghomeshi).

See Also

The characters of the films mentioned above, all discover their powers at a relatively young age. If you look at sexuality in young women, this makes sense. At a formative age, all the teen witches begin to discover secrets and mysteries within themselves (the veiled language of period pamphlets). They realize they’re powerful and they play with power, testing their boundaries and limitations, oftentimes on suitors. It’s textbook teen girl and it’s textbook baby witch. In “Halloweentown,” for example, Marnie only learns her true power on her 13th birthday. As in “The Craft,” joining the “coven” or recognizing one’s power, is often a rite of passage for the teen witches, just as losing one’s virginity or starting menstruation might be in our Western culture.

So here we are, on Halloween more than 300 years since 14 sisters hung from the gallows of the aptly named Gallows Hill in Salem, Massachusetts. Certainly some things have changed. We now show sex pretty frequently on television, are no longer Puritans and we no longer believe that witches exist in the world. But we do still adhere to the idea that female sexuality is secretive, mysterious, magical, rare and worthy of persecution when it’s actually not. We’re no longer executing people based on frenzied panic (though we are quarantining them), but we’ve still got a ways to go. So if you’re going to go as a witch this holiday season, at least go as a sexy one.

View Comments (0)

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll To Top