A brief history of witches on the screen

adminOctober 29, 2018




From a widely documented increase in witch-themed fashion trends to witches-centric entertainment, with remakes Sighs Y Sabrina's chilling adventures so much debuting last week, to the The enormous increase in the practice of witches, wicca and neo-pagans in the United States, witchcraft has become very important.

Considering the barrage of articles about the growing prominence of witches, both on and off the screen, in recent years, this article will take a walk along the path of memory to establish the basics of how we have come to here, talking cinematically. While technically the term "witch" is considered relatively gender-neutral, in popular usage it refers to supernatural magical practices that are specifically feminine and often overtly feminine, in contrast to the male "wizard" or "sorcerer", this is how it will be used here (see Harry Potter, The house with a clock on its walls.).

Witches have remained the eternally popular Halloween costumes and Wicca has grown steadily since the mid-twentieth century, but the prominence of witches on the screen has been declining over the last century. A truly cohesive and comprehensive investigation of witches in film and television over the years would be less an article and more a book (and, as expected, there is at least one book on the subject), so what I've gathered here is more of a sample dish, exploring a handful of main topics and associated works.

But first things first, a brief description to set the stage.


The basics

Wicked Witch Wizard of Oz

When it comes to witches on the screen, things start to work in the late 1930s with two classic films: the seminal Disney. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937) and the equally iconic. The Wizard of Oz (1939). In the first, Disney established himself as an important player in the witch's scenario of the film, while the second established a standard for conflicts between good witches and bad witches that continue to echo decades later.

Particularly when we watch American movies and television series, certain trends emerge. The peak hours for witch-centric content can be seen around the late 50's and early 60's, at the end of the 80's and 90's, and in the last five years or so. The first wave produced titles like Bell, book Y Candle (1958), Sleeping Beauty (1959) and Haunted (1964 – 1972), and in general spoke a mixture of drama and comedy. The second wave, which included titles such as The crucible (nineteen ninety six), Magic practice (1998), Charmed (1998 – 2006) and Sabrina the teenage witch (1996 – 2003), he kept some of the drama alive but put emphasis on comedy with one side helping the horror. Although it continues with certain trends and themes, recent screen witchcraft has taken a decidedly dark turn, from Horror Story American coven (2013 – 2014) a The witch (2015) and even Sabrina's chilling adventures (2018 -), which, as the title suggests, is darker and more daring than the original.


The salem thing

Let's make this known: the obsession with the Salem witch trials is a bit strange. While it's not surprising that such a gruesome story has captured our collective imagination for so long, just think of how people become slow to see car accidents; the Salem witch trials, as they are popularly remembered, never happened. In the first place, it was not really a narrative, but a generalized hysteria that engulfed multiple villages, and more people in Andover were accused than Salem Town and Salem Village together.

In addition, while it is true that academics are still debating what exactly caused the tests, although they are pretty sure that it was not that people were shooting themselves with ergot, in terms of blood or body count, the tests of Salem witches have absolutely nothing at all. What happened in Europe. Feel free to do an independent investigation if you wish, but for the purposes of this article, let's say that some people became very creative in the most sadistic ways and left it that way.

Still, thanks to its witch associations, the city of Salem has become the real life of Halloweentown. As the Boston Globe one said: "Salem is the owner of Halloween, as the North Pole owns Christmas," and Hollywood certainly helped with that. It was actually filming several episodes of Haunted in Salem, in 1970, the phantasmagoric tourism industry of the city was launched much more than the public memory of the witch trials of the seventeenth century.

The stories of witches set in the United States refer to Salem more often than not, and while a handful of narratives treat accused witches as targets of unjust persecution (most notably the two film adaptations of The crucible), most of Salem's fictional accounts have described the accused as real witches in possession of magical powers.

The first screen representation of the Salem witches on the screen seems to be the romantic melodrama of 1937 Maid of Salem, an almost completely fictional account of a young woman trapped in a whirlwind of romance with an adventurer accused of witchcraft. Her boyfriend then comes to his rescue, of course. The much more entertaining. I married a witch Then came in 1942, in which a witch executed in the Salem trials (slightly disguised) (Veronica Lake) curses his accuser (Fredric March) and his descendants, only to have his spirit reincarnate (in his own way .. is complicated) in today, where he tries to torment the direct descendant of his accuser, Wallace, only to fall in love with him. The film became the prototype of "the powerful witch marries a plebeian" romantic comedy, a general formula that would remain commercial in 1958. Bell, book and candle and of course, Haunted.

Interestingly, while a French adaptation of Arthur Miller The crucible It reached the screens in 1957 (and written by Jean-Paul Sartre, no less), the Americans failed to turn the winning work into a movie until 1996. That said, the wait meant that we had Daniel Day-Lewis as John Proctor, so sometimes patience is worth it.


Good witch against bad witch

When it comes to defining how evil witches look on the screen, the vast majority of credit must be given to Disney, which has basically equated "evil woman" with "witch" ever since. White as snow, with the occasional exception of a cheerful fairy godmother or a brazen rogue companion (and, you know, Elsa's Frozen). Interestingly, while historical witches' narratives have largely ignored historical realities, Disney's wicked witches resemble the descriptions of many of the most influential anti-sorcerer texts.

For example, St. Thomas Aquinas defined witches as lustful women who change shape, with the ability to fly who performed their magic through the help of demons. White as snowThe Evil Queen is characterized by her lust for beauty and, therefore, desirable, and she has a family demon that lives in her mirror. Sleeping Beauty& # 39; Maleficent takes things to a whole new level with his name (and possibly his literal horns, but I'm digressing), which is particularly ironic when viewed through a historical lens, since "maleficent" was a term that is often used for witchcraft, and the more or less definitive witch hunt bible is titled Malleus maleficarum. (It is worth noting that in early modern Europe the Malleus maleficarum It was one of the most popular books, surpassed only by the real Bible.)

In general terms, where you can find good witches as well as bad witches, they usually contrast with bad witches in a very particular way: they tend to be fairer in their coloring and of a traditionally feminine domestic nature. Think of Maleficent against Flora, Wildlife and Merryweather, with their cake and confection spells, or even the final showdown between Molly Weasley and Bellatrix Lestrange in the Harry Potter series.

While the good witch / wicked witch dichotomy still lives, A recent popular trend has been to claim this narrative to put the "bad" witch in a prominent and friendly role, as can be seen. in the television series Once Upon a time and the 2014 live-action Sleeping Beauty retell Pernicious.


Witchcraft, power and sexuality

In narratives centered on witches, where supernatural power is encoded as specifically female, it almost always takes a particular subtext. When "magical" narratives that focus on magical men or magical groups of both sexes tend to use magic as a plot device to be deployed as the author requires and adapts to a wide range of themes, witches' narratives tend to to have a specially sexual nature inclined to them.

The paranoia that fueled a lot of witch trials in real life has been linked to fears of both female power and sexuality, although other factors often intervened (political turmoil, economic problems, etc.). It is true that the concept of female sexuality as a power that could be exercised, especially against men, is a thread that is present in the history of the persecutions of witches. A particularly hysterical variant involved stories of witches who stole men's cocks and kept their collections in boxes or bird nests, and yes, there are illustrations, and they are an incredible testament to the power and rarity of the human imagination. However, historically, the frightening power of female sexuality was a thread among many, and my personal feeling is that explorations of female power and female sexuality, particularly in fantastic contexts, have combined to an unnecessary degree.

Although in the days of the production code, these subjects had to be restricted to the subtext, later films of this nature were much more evident in this sense, as can be seen in titles of the 90s as The ship (1996) and recent releases as The witch (2015) and The witch of love (2016). Although I have some doubts about the frequency with which the trifecta of the condition of woman, sex and power are combined, there are many others out there who do not agree with me on this, and the issue is definitely not a slope in which I intend die. I simply submit my own reservations to illustrate that your own mileage may vary here.


Teen Witches

The end of the 80s and 90s were marked by a decided rise in screen witches in general, from Charmed to Hocus Pocus to Magic practice, but the exit of this era was strongly inclined towards a particular demography: adolescent witches. Why? Well, in addition to the eternal obsession of popular culture with high school, despite the general consensus that it is a rather unpleasant stage of life, merging witchcraft with a coming of age and / or a tale of sexual awakening is nourished naturally in that beloved trifunction of female sexual power. I mentioned earlier. Some adolescent witches' stories reproduce this connection more than others. In any case, this narrative is so strong that Carrie, despite not officially labeling his protagonist a witch, is

Perhaps the most significant entry in the teenage witch fashion of the 90s was the popular television show. Sabrina the teenage witch. While The ship It turned out to be a surprise box office success at its premiere in 1996, even in those who did not do so well, such as the 1989 Teen Witch, have passed to reach the status of cult movie.


Magic of the black girl (it is very little appreciated)

While Hollywood has long found Voodoo and Hoodoo fascinating enough to present it, certainly in highly vague ways, in films for decades, like in the 1943 horror movie Walk with a zombie, Black witches have been largely marginalized.

Other POCs have not really fared better, and they are usually stuck to peripheral roles on the screen, even when the practices highlighted in the narrative in question lend themselves largely to non-European traditions, such as Horror Story American coven Y Strange doctor.

While there have been some exceptions, especially Eve & # 39; s Bayou (1997), although it must be recognized that the supernatural plays a supporting role in the film: witchcraft narratives, especially the most common, are still quite white. You could defend some slight signs of progress in films like the recent A wrinkle in time, even if Ms. That does not necessarily identify herself as a witch, but the biggest trend remains, unfortunately, remains.

But who knows, maybe now that Hollywood has seen that the public will appear before the black superheroes and the Asian group will create romantic comedies, will we see a colored witch in a leading role? (And no, the greens. Do not do tell.)



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