2. ‘The Conjuring’ reminds us that the only way to stop Satanic baby-killers is to punish women

Can a horror film lead people to God?” asks the Religion News Service article responding to Warner Bros. aggressive bid to lure evangelical and Catholic audiences to see The Conjuring.

Filmmaker brothers Chad and Carey Hayes say their film isn’t your typical “Christian” movie fare, but it nonetheless carries a strong religious message that can appeal to faith-minded audiences.

It is, they say, a “wholesome horror film.”

The Conjuring centers around the real-life Ed and Lorraine Warren, a pair of ghost-hunting “consultants of demonic witchcraft.” In 1971, they were called to a 19th-century Rhode Island farmhouse where things had gotten downright spooky.

“To have two characters that were so strong in their faith, we didn’t have to preach it, we didn’t have to thump it, we just had to show it,” Carey Hayes said in an interview. “Their faith was the sharpest tool in their toolbox.”

The word “faith” has to do a lot of heavy lifting in those paragraphs, but it’s not clear what the Hayes brothers mean by the word. For a clearer sense of Lorraine Warren’s faith, check out the beginning of this recent interview she did with Devin Faraci for Badass Digest:

I wanted to talk about ghosts and demons and the way she and her husband fought them.

Whether you believe in these things or not, Lorraine does. Very much so. I have no question that everything she told me is genuine. Whether any of this stuff happened — whether she has psychic abilities, whether she can communicate with the dead, whether she has ever exorcised a family — she firmly believes it did. She is not a faker, she is not a phony. She is not running a scam. That is the spirit with which I approached this interview.

But the first thing I had to do was get myself a free psychic reading. I hoped she didn’t sense anything malicious hovering around me – my luck the last few weeks indicated that could be the case.

… I was told I had to open up by asking what you saw in my aura.

OK, let me see. I have to look at you a while. There’s something blue around you, but I don’t know what that really means. [stares intently] Decision? Do have a decision-making thing?

I’m at a crossroads.

There. That’s what the blue is. You have to really weigh. Don’t move too fast. Don’t move too fast at all. You have to give it a lot of thought, pros and cons, before you make the decision. Because the decision is going to be maybe lasting … if you do the right one.

Faraci is convinced that Warren is convinced — that she “firmly believes” in her own psychic abilities. But this initial response — “Do you have a decision-making thing?” — is such a lazy, half-hearted bit of perfunctory cold reading that it seems to undermine Faraci’s belief in the genuineness of her belief.

The faith on display there is Lorraine Warren’s abiding faith in the credulity of her audience. And just like the producers of The Conjuring, the Warrens learned how to repackage their paranormal woo in order to sell it to “faith-minded audiences.”

The Warrens’ shtick is a Gothic Catholic variation of the same con Mike Warnke and Bob Larson have long used to fleece evangelical Protestants with a propensity for “spiritual warfare” ideology. This racket is contemptible at just the basic level of any con that preys on gullibility and fear to separate vulnerable people from their money. But it’s also far worse than that, because it reinforces the very worst impulses of its audience, fueling a hate-filled, self-righteous crusader mentality. Whether that mentality is framed in terms of Lorraine Warren’s crypto-Catholicism or Bob Larson’s circus-tent Pentecostalism, it always ultimately winds up in one place: A fearful hatred of imaginary Satanic baby-killers, an evil that can only be combatted by punishing non-imaginary women.

It’s tempting to dismiss the Warrens and Warnkes as fringe characters with little influence on the larger culture. But consider this: American Christianity and American politics today are both shaped by the very same impulse fed and fed-on by these fringe hucksters. American Christianity and American politics today are based on a fearful hatred of imaginary Satanic baby-killers and the impulse to combat them by punishing non-imaginary women.

None of this is new. It was already an ancient pattern long before it was embraced by the “divines” who executed innocent women in Salem.

And lest you think I’m stretching there to tie these attitudes back to the days of the witch-hunt, please note that this is precisely what The Conjuring does. It harks back to Salem and takes the side of the witch-hunters, as Andrew O’Hehir explains in his review for Salon:

Here’s the real “true story” behind The Conjuring: Any time people get worked up about a menace they believe in but can’t actually see – demons, Commies, jihadis, hordes of hoodie-wearing thugs — they’re likely to take it out on the weakest and most vulnerable people in society.

… Without getting too deep into spoiler-hood, the Perrons’ house turns out to be inhabited by a demonic female spirit. She preys on the living, yearns to possess a delicious and vulnerable young female body, etc. Nothing new here in terms of horror movies, or borderline Judeo-Christian theology, or generalized male panic. But along with the overall tone of hard-right family-values messaging, The Conjuring wants to walk back one of America’s earliest historical crimes, the Salem witch trials of 1692, and make it look like there must have been something to it after all. Those terrified colonial women, brainwashed, persecuted and murdered by the religious authorities of their day – see, they actually were witches, who slaughtered children and pledged their love to Satan and everything! That’s not poetic license. It’s reprehensible and inexcusable bullshit. …

In American Christianity and American politics, such reprehensible and inexcusable BS is regarded as “wholesome.”

And this wholesome demonization of marginalized women is expected to “appeal to faith-minded audiences.”

And it does.

 

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  • Lori

    “Do you have a decision-making thing?”

    You mean a brain? The answer would seem to be, “Apparently not.”

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    The whole thing sounds like cold and then warm reading from a flimflammer.

  • Lori

    But like Fred says, a half-hearted cold read. I can literally do better than that.

  • damanoid

    That is uncanny! I was just thinking that you could do better than that!

    SHE’S A WITCH! GET OUT OF MY HEAD WITCHY WOMAN!

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    Srsly. If that were me, I’d look intently at the mark, tilt my head to one side, and say, “You have a big decision coming up, don’t you?” Then I’d nod wisely and say, “You have to follow your instincts.”

  • Lori

    No, no. Not instincts. That implies that the answer lies within the mark, and if that’s the case they don’t need you. What they need to do is follow their heart. That feeling is clearly a dearly departed loved one trying to speak to them. For a small fee I can help the message get through. Or they should heed the signs. For a small fee I can interpret them. You get the idea. There is no money in the mark making decisions on their own.

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    Well, that’s what I get for taking my cues from the mystics in stories. Narratively speaking, it’s unsatisfying for the fortune-teller to solve the protagonist’s problems; the audience wants to see the protagonist figure things out.

  • Lori

    You just don’t have the soul of a grifter. If you’re the “mystic” you don’t give a crap about the protagonist’s narrative, you care about the protagonist’s cash.

  • Daniel

    Not a brain- one of those folded paper things with decisions under the flaps that girls make in primary school… this comment would be so much pithier if I knew what they were called.

    I apologise. I’ve wasted everyone’s time.

    THANK GOD FOR WIKIPEDIA!
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paper_fortune_teller

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam
  • Daniel

    I know now. We never had a name for them when I was in school, they were just things girls had some inherent ability to make and they were… bewitching.

  • http://www.oliviareviews.com/ PepperjackCandy

    My mom always called them “cootie catchers.”

  • Lori

    That’s what they were called when I was a kid.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I remember those! :D They were like the paper version of the magic 8-ball.

  • Launcifer

    Maybe she meant one of those magic 8-ball things?

  • Lori

    Well obviously all sensible people have a magic 8-ball.

  • http://www.oliviareviews.com/ PepperjackCandy

    Have you ever tried playing “20 Questions” with a Magic 8 ball? You ask it yes or no questions and try to guess what it is thinking of.

    One time I tried it, the ball was thinking of a house spider and another it was thinking of a head of green cabbage.

  • Boidster

    This is the most awesome thing I have read today. I must now go get inside the…heads?…of as many Magic 8-Balls as I can.

  • ReverendRef

    I’ve got one on my desk that a former parishioner gave me. Unfortunately it was made in China so it kind of hard to actually read. Makes for a good conversation piece, though.

  • Carstonio

    Oh, magic 8-balls are so 20th century. The modern version is Siri.

    But either Siri’s word recognition algorithms are faulty or I’m a mushmouth, because when I use it, the software mangles half of my words.

  • Lori
  • Vermic

    Any time people get worked up about a menace they believe in but can’t actually see – demons, Commies, jihadis, hordes of hoodie-wearing thugs — they’re likely to take it out on the weakest and most vulnerable people in society.

    That reminds me: Everyone should go on Netflix and watch ParaNorman, it’s a terrific movie and a great antidote to this kind of toxic thinking.

  • FearlessSon

    Remember that friend of mine from Louisiana that I mention every few threads or so? That is her favorite film. I could tell why within the first five minutes when I started watching it.

    Her mother never understood why her daughter found it so appealing, even after seeing it.

  • Veylon

    I second this. It’s a wonderfully open-hearted that has compassion for all it’s characters that not only subverts the usual ‘evil witch’ motif, but also the ‘evil Puritan’ one. It’s terrible that vindictive stuff like this horror flick get the nod as “Christian”, but not this deeply mature kids’ movie.

  • connorboone

    And, remember, kids – the women who were killed in the Salem witch trials were largely women with property, but without a strong male protector in the form of a husband or father. Because, really, why just punish women for daring to live without a man telling them what to do, when you can do that and profit by seizing their assets at the same time, amirite?

  • caryjamesbond

    Eh- I dunno. The Salem Witch Trials, to me, seem to come under some sort of Bad Shit Statue of Limitations. 99 out of a hundred people already have no idea what went on at the witch trials. Ask most anyone, and they’ll tell you that fundy preachers got worked up into a lather and burned innocent women- which contains three fundamental mistruths right there. It was a community thing that notable fundy preachers worked to stop, they weren’t all women, and they were hanged, or in the case of the amazingly badass Giles Corey- crushed.

    I just think that reading into a movie that says “oooooooh, one of them was a reaaaaaal wiiiiiiitch!” all sorts of misogyny and claims about marginalized women that applies to the hear and now is……reaching.

  • caryjamesbond

    To expand on the above- Werewolf myths, for example, also grow out of this same history of semi-medieval villagers tormenting marginalized populations out of superstitious fear. And yes, it is terrible that people with certain diseases were killed or hounded into the wilds to die because people didn’t understand- but if I wrote a review of a Lon Chaney movie drawing on that real historical example to say the movie was a “demonization of marginalized people”- that would be ridiculous.

    Myths take on a shape of their own that has nothing to do with their birth- witches, werewolves, vampires, Salem, Zombies- all these things are rooted in real life oppression of marginalized people. The way in which we use these now mythical elements TODAY, however, is no longer about oppression. Primarily because the oppression and the current use are divided by a massive span of time and a near universal lack of knowledge about the oppressive roots of the myth.

  • Jason Jones

    I think what’s coming across as distasteful about recasting Salem as something that had an element of truth to it is that even though not everyone knows all the correct details about Salem, everyone does agree that it was a Very Bad Thing and it involved the unjust deaths of many innocent people. Though other monster myths are also rooted in this same problem, the inciting incidents aren’t immediately recognizable to the general populace.

    Also, I’d contend that witches have a special place in monster mythology because they haven’t been so thoroughly divorced from the core humanity of their originators. Even turned into hags, anyone can recognize that the archetypal witch is a woman who has power and threatens the stability of the community around her. A werewolf may be based on unfortunate souls who were insane and shunned by society, but they’ve been changed into monsters with less recognizable human parts. Also, to be blunt, we don’t know the names of the people who were cast out and marginalized as monsters. We do know the names of the victims in Salem, and we recognize that like any historical victim with a face, it’s unseemly to suggest that they might have deserved what happened to them.

  • Lori

    One other difference is that people can prove that they’re not werewolves. Wait for the full moon, fall to come over all hairy —> not a werewolf. There’s no way to prove to the convinced that one is not a witch.

  • caryjamesbond

    I always thought there was a good, psychological horror/serial killer type of movie to be made about one of the FAKE witchfinders that used to go around ginning up evidence of witchcraft.

  • Lori

    I’m actually surprised someone hasn’t already done it because yeah, that would be good.

  • mattmcirvin
  • Daniel

    Hadn’t seen this before I recommended it above. Sorry.

    And not to ruin it for anyone, but the real Matthew Hopkins died peacefully in his bed, in real life.

  • Daniel

    Witchfinder General with Vincent Price.

    Based on a True Story.

  • Jim Roberts

    Well, it’s ghosts, not witchcraft, but The Frighteners is a pretty good take on a paranormal investigator who’s a fraud, but in ways that are difficult to explain without revealing key plot points.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    The psychic can’t really contact the spirits of your loved ones, but he can contact this one low-ranking demon who invisibly rifles through the client’s personal belongings and feeds the psychic information helpful in convincing them he’s got an inside track?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-Asplund/1212542247 David Asplund

    Check out “Witchfinder General” with Vincent Price an old one but very much worth a look..enjoy.

  • http://checkpoint-telstar.blogspot.com/ Tim Lehnerer

    “The Witchfinder General” is from 1968 or 1969 and features Vincent Price’s best performance IMO. It was released in the States as “The Conqueror Worm” and passed off as another Roger Corman / Vincent Price / Edgar Allan Poe movie.

    EDITED TO ADD: Whoops, several hours too late to the party on this one.

  • Daniel

    For anyone interested (I am) in werewolves and witches, the other children of the night and so on (really, it’s hard to talk about this without getting camp) I’d recommend Sabine Baring-Gould’s Werewolves, and Keith Thomas’ Religion and the Decline of Magic. They’re both very interesting sociological(ish in the case of Baring-Gould) studies of the origins and developments of the myths across Europe and the rest of the world.

    http://www.sacred-texts.com/goth/bow/ (SBG, book of werewolves)

    and sadly I can’t find a link for the Thomas one.

    Margaret Murray’s “The Witch Cult in Western Europe”

    http://www.sacred-texts.com/pag/murray.htm is also pretty interesting, though a lot of it has since been discredited.

    I’ll stop now.

  • Launcifer

    Ah, Keith Thomas… I need to dig that book out of the cupboard.

    Seriously, those latter two were on my required reading list when I studied Reformation history at uni’. They had nothing to do with the course, really, but the guy running it thought Decline of Magic especially was just that good.

  • Daniel

    I’d also recommend Victor Sage’s Horror and the Protestant Tradition- it’s an exploration of the fear of Catholicism in post-reformation Protestant nations and how this influenced their fiction, giving rise to the heavy anti-Catholic subplots in classic Gothic fiction. Personally, following his thesis that Gothic and horror are essentially based on a fear of the Other (which here is irrational foreign Popery) I’d argue that it’s corresponding Catholic genre is Decadence which relishes the otherworldly and accepts there’s always a chance for redemption.
    I wanted to write a PhD on it.

    But I’m a lazy lazy man.

  • Launcifer

    Damn it, now I’m going to drop silly money on a book for a course I finished ten years ago for a degree I don’t even have.

  • Gently Feral

    But I want to read the non-academic version of that book.

  • Daniel

    It’s pretty accessible- Sage wrote it for general publication as well. If you’ve read any of the classic horror (Dracula, Frankenstein, The Castle of Otranto, any Poe etc) it’s a great book to read.

  • quinnthebrain

    Keith Thomas WAS just that good. I took a year-long class in the history of magic and witchcraft (bloody brilliant class) and it was by far my favorite of the texts.

  • Daniel

    I bought my copy by chance at an antique book shop near York Minster (it’s quite sad but I can remember where almost all of my books come from. I’m a bit Sepulchrave about my “library”) just because it sounded fascinating. And it was. And compared to earlier studies (I’m thinking of Frazer) of similar subjects it is so much more enjoyable to read. Have you read Murray? Because following her book Robert Graves wrote The White Goddess which is largely thought to be crap and I’d like to know if anyone has read them- I haven’t read Graves.

  • FearlessSon

    (really, it’s hard to talk about this without getting camp)

    I remember a recording in Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines done by a psychiatrist who ended up being attacked an embraced by a mental ward patient who happened to be a Malkavian (a clan of vampires known for both prescience and insanity in equal measures.) When he discovers the rest of Kindred society, he makes audio notes to himself for further research. One of those notes:

    “…their linguistic flourishes belie a faith in superstition over the providence of empirical reason that must be an all-pervasive theme in this society of darkest night…damn it all, now I’m doing it too.”

  • Daniel

    In terms of campness in horror, I’m very much looking forward to returning to England because there’s an ongoing James Whale exhibition in Dudley which I’d love to see. Doctor Pretorius is the epitome of camp evil.

  • themunck

    I love that game. It’s amazing just how much of the world of darkness they managed to weave into the story, with none of it seeming out of place.
    Seriously, all that’s missing are some of the minor clans and mages. Everything else is there.

  • Ross Thompson

    There’s no way to prove to the convinced that one is not a witch.

    What if you weigh more than a duck?

  • Launcifer

    Nah, that just proves you aren’t made of wood…

  • caryjamesbond

    Even turned into hags, anyone can recognize that the archetypal witch is a woman who has power and threatens the stability of the community around her.

    Well, but that’s not the origin of the witch myth. The origin of the witch myth are older, outcast, powerless women living alone who get blamed for milk souring and cattle dying. And the reason that accused witches were marginalized people is the same reason that marginalized people have always been targeted- easy targets, no chance of retribution.

    Which is not to say that powerful women weren’t accused of witchcraft, in much the same way that powerful women today are accused of being lesbians. Pretty much every independent queen/princess/Tsarina (Catherine the Great got a lot of this) was accused of witchcraft by some muckraking preacher or pamphlet, but it tended not to go much further because, well- queen.

    Interestingly enough, its more likely to have been true with powerful women- there is interesting evidence that, particularly at the court of Louis the XIV, some courtiers did practice the Black Mass and other Iron Maiden album cover type stuff- primarily out of boredom, it seems.

    We do know the names of the victims in Salem, and we recognize that like any historical victim with a face, it’s unseemly to suggest that they might have deserved what happened to them.

    I mean, I see your point, but that seems like…..sentiment influencing our perception. Not to mention that we CAN’T, for the most part, name them. I certainly can’t remember any of their names without google.

    I think there is an interesting conversation to be had about popular concepts of witchcraft and witches and misogyny.

    I think that saying:

    “n American Christianity and American politics, such reprehensible and inexcusable BS is regarded as “wholesome.”

    And this wholesome demonization of marginalized women is expected to “appeal to faith-minded audiences.”

    And it does.”

    is stretching the point further than it can bear.

  • Daniel

    “And the reason that accused witches were marginalized people is the same reason that marginalized people have always been targeted- easy targets, no chance of retribution.”

    Keith Thomas (Religion and the Decline of Magic) makes the argument that actually the powerlessness of the women was what made them cultivate the role of wise woman. If people believed the frail old dear who was too weak and old to grow her own food was capable of cursing them they’d help her out, and they wouldn’t exploit her or turf her out of her home. The woman in question would also be able, to some extent, to have the respect of the community and would be protected from its more powerful members who might otherwise try to take her land or property. He makes the point that it was in her interests to seem not demonic but otherworldly, and magical. The curse as suggestion could frequently work particularly in a culture where both parties believed it would, and so it was one of the few defences the vulnerable had. This changed with the reformation, and the identifying of “wise women” with “witches”, and the counter reformation when the Inquisitions got into their swing.

    This was before Salem, but he argues that this is how the belief in magic old ladies was fostered, and then it was simply adapted in a similar way to “the poor” being re-dubbed “benefit cheats” and so on.

    I think the really interesting point though is that the accused could actually believe their own guilt- they lived in a world where witchcraft was “real” and so the evidence they were presented may well have genuinely convinced them that they had committed the acts.

  • AnonaMiss

    In my opinion, it has to do with how large a role the Good Guys continue to play in the mythos.

    Vampires have vampire hunters, but in modern times these are drawn primarily from the expansion of Dr. Van Helsing into a whole fictional family of hunters. There is no mythic group dedicated to the persecution of werewolves.

    But the witch trials – particularly the witch trials as they have entered the cultural narrative – pit witches against (usually fundie/Puritan) Christian holy men. Christian holy men still exist. For this reason it seems… inappropriate to make stories in which they persecute the outcast, and are totally justified in it.

  • DavidCheatham

    Vampires have vampire hunters, but in modern times these are drawn primarily from the expansion of Dr. Van Helsing into a whole fictional family of hunters. There is no mythic group dedicated to the persecution of werewolves.

    I don’t think that works.

    The ‘original’ vampire myth of Dracula (Which is not actually the original, but gave us a lot of the mythos) may have had a hunter, but I don’t see any evidence that werewolves aren’t equally ‘hunted’.

    The main distinction appears to be that _most_ universes are set up where werewolves are ‘people with a disease’, whereas vampires are ‘inhuman monsters’. And vampires _sentiently_ kill people, aka, are murderers, whereas werewolves, if they kill people, tend to do it accidentally. So it is ethical to immediately kill any vampire, but not werewolves.

    That doesn’t mean you can’t have ‘good guys’ hunting werewolves…they just have to be _bad_ werewolves. Aka, how the hunters on Supernatural behave, or how the hunters on Teen Wolf are _supposed_ to behave.

    Of course, universes vary, and there are places where vampires are also just people with a disease. (I can’t think of one offhand…Forever Knight?) Along with universes where werewolves are inhuman monsters. (Often switching over to the Native American ‘skinwalker’ mythos.)

  • Daniel

    “The Salem Witch Trials, to me, seem to come under some sort of Bad Shit Statue of Limitations.”
    In Lancashire now there’s a bus route called The Witch Way, between Pendel and Manchester. The reason is the ten men and women executed for witchcraft in the Pendel Witch Trials. So I think they agree that there’s a Bad Shit Statute of Limitations- especially as the buses are named after the witches. (that’s a big witch on the side. She’s saying “Ooh look at me, I’m a giant witch”.)

  • Lori

    That’s just tacky.

  • Daniel

    Apparently the Romany word for Lancashire literally translated is “land of witches”. They have tried, occasionally, to make a tourist draw out of the Pendle Witches but it hasn’t really caught on. Possibly because the convictions rested on the testimony of a child, and three of those convicted were her mother, brother and sister.

    Also this:

    “A petition was presented to UK Home Secretary Jack Straw in 1998 asking for the witches to be pardoned, but it was decided that their convictions should stand.”

  • Grey Seer

    Eh, that sort of thing is basically traditional by now. I mean, Guy Fawkes was basically a religiously-motivated terrorist who intended to commit Grand Treason, before getting caught and executed in the most degrading and painful way we knew how.

    Nowadays, we celebrate that with bonfires, candy and fireworks.

    So, really, The Witch Way is fairly tame in comparison.

  • Dash1

    She looks very much like the stylized witch that adorns the Salem, Massachusetts, police cars.

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    Have you heard of Cheapass Games’ Witch Trial? It sounds right up your alley.

    “In Witch Trial, you play an attorney at a prestigious law firm. You will act as a prosecutor or defender in several cases involving unmarried women, free thinkers, vegetarians, the homeless, and other undesirable types. While witchcraft per se isn’t really a crime, it’s customary to bring suspects into court on related offenses, such as card playing, smoking, and tampering with the post.”

    http://www.cheapass.com/node/61

  • J_Enigma32

    I just think that reading into a movie that says “oooooooh, one of
    them was a reaaaaaal wiiiiiiitch!” all sorts of misogyny and claims
    about marginalized women that applies to the hear and now
    is……reaching.

    I think the point may have been missed. The issue isn’t the use of witchcraft, it’s the market in question.

    For instance, Africa. I can’t begin to tell you what happens on that continent to individuals who are thought of as witches without a mountain of content notices and warnings, and even then, that does no justice. Saudi Arabia too, and Malaysia, and Indonesia (although those are Muslim countries, generally speaking). Papua New Guinea has an especially bad case of the Fundie right now, and many women are actively tormented and horribly abused and mutilated in ways that the Inquisition would never even dream about by bands of roaming “hunters.”

    And lest you think that happens in the backwards parts of the globe far away from here, remember that we have our own backwards parts – I seem to remember the preacher for a certain failure of a human being/potential VP who was also a witch hunter, in addition to a particular “I’m not a witch” wannabe senator…

    The last thing I want to do is give these people even more reason to believe their dangerously delusional persecution fantasies. Witch hunts, were and still are, fundamentally misogynistic. They disproportionately target women, they build up this “mystique” about women, helping to Other them (women are weaker to the wiles of Satan than men, don’t you know), and feeds into their Paleolithic belief system. I suspect there are ways to handle witch craft in fiction without whipping them up, but what’s up for criticism about the movie isn’t the use of witches as a plot device so much as it is the market the movie is aimed at – delusional Fundies who get their rocks off thinking about ways to become those witch hunters.

    And because of that, the movie is tapping into the foundational misogyny already present in that subculture. That, I think, is where the danger is.

  • Lori

    This is totally OT, but I need to repeat a question I asked before (because I can’t remember which thread that was, so I can’t find the answers)—-now that Google Reader is dead which services are people using & liking? My first choice was Old Reader, which started out fine. However the post-Google influx of users has killed it & it’s going back to being private only for the developers and their friends and people who signed up before March. I understand that & don’t begrudge them, I just need to find another reader that’s easy to use, has a decent refresh rate and isn’t going to blow up. Suggestions?

  • AnonaMiss

    I use Feedly. I think Fred says he uses it too. It took some getting used to – particularly the fact that there’s no way to leave articles unread by default, you need to click ‘mark as unread’ every time – but I’m comfortable in it now.

  • Czanne

    I’ve had good results with feedly (using the newsify front-end because my primary computer these days is an ipad). Feedly works fine on my laptop through Firefox. Refresh rates are near instant, though very rarely, the feed will pull in something ancient for no readily apparent reason. (This happens say 1x/month and I think it’s a WordPress twitch, but it’s not significant enough that I’ve tried to track it down to sent anybody a bug report.)

  • EllieMurasaki

    Oh fuck.

  • Lori

    Yup. The fact that it’s been down more than up for the last week+? Apparently can’t be readily fixed and the developers are sick of the thing they wrote for themselves eating their lives. I can’t argue with that. If you didn’t sign up before March 13th you have 2 weeks to export your data and find someplace else to park it.

    I’m playing with Feedly now and it seems fine.

  • LL

    RE “But along with the overall tone of hard-right family-values messaging, The Conjuring wants to walk back one of America’s earliest historical crimes, the Salem witch trials of 1692, and make it look like there must have been something to it after all.”

    Well, that’s not cool. This movie has been getting generally positive reviews, but I’m certainly not going to go see it now.

  • Guest

    When someone talks about witch hunting, this is the first place my mind goes.

  • FearlessSon

    When someone talks about witch hunting, this is the first place my mind goes.

    [EDIT]: Okay, what the heck was with that blind double-post? The image was not resolving, so I found another host and deleted the old post, now the old post is up as a guest? WTF?

  • Daniel

    This is where mine goes

  • Grey Seer

    The Imperial Inquisition tends to get a pass in my book, on account of the fact that the Witches they hunt are verifiably real and unfortunately prone to being possessed by daemons that then annihilate entire worlds.

    (They still come down on the Evil side of the spectrum, by and large, but that’s because just about everything in 40k does.)

    The modern-day persecution of out-groups just looks kind of pathetic by comparison…

  • FearlessSon

    The Imperial Inquisition is also prone to putting entire planets to the torch. Good to know that there is at least a ceremony for that kind of thing.

  • Rhubarbarian82

    I’ve had that issue with deleting posts as well. Another reason Disqus fails.

  • ReverendRef

    Filmmaker brothers Chad and Carey Hayes say their film isn’t your typical “Christian” movie fare, but it nonetheless carries a strong religious message that can appeal to faith-minded audiences. — It is, they say, a “wholesome horror film.”

    Nevertheless, I’m going to be showing The Princess Bride at Movie Night this coming Thursday. Firstly, because I’m sure it’s a better movie. And not lastly, if I showed The Conjuring I’ve got a pretty good idea I would be asked to look for other employment.

  • Lorehead

    Well, with your qualifications and experience, you should just tell your denomination to take your cure of souls and—oh, wait, I thought you were a football ref.

  • MarkTemporis

    Damn. I wanted to see this one. Apparently the soundtrack and some of the possession scenes are done by Diamanda Galas.

  • J_Enigma32

    Whether you believe in these things or not, Lorraine does. Very much so.
    I have no question that everything she told me is genuine. Whether any
    of this stuff happened — whether she has psychic abilities, whether she
    can communicate with the dead, whether she has ever exorcised a family —
    she firmly believes it did. She is not a faker, she is not a phony. She
    is not running a scam. That is the spirit with which I approached this
    interview.

    Critical thinking: you’re doing it wrong.

    I don’t care if you firmly believe the sky is purple. If you come to me and say that, I’m going to want evidence. Will i discount you? Maybe not immediately, depending upon the degree of your claim. It’s when you stumble and fail to supply the evidence that I’m going to get suspicious.

    And the bigger your claim, the more evidence you need to be supplying.

    This is the way that Creationism, anti-Vaxx lunacy, and Global Warming denialism spread. You accept a claim without even bothering to research it, start from a position of belief, and then do everything in your power to defend that belief by taking evidence out of context and sometimes spinning it up to 180-degrees the original meaning to back up what you’re claiming. This is an intellectually dishonest way to approach any interview. Get someone with some critical thinking skills to interview Lorraine or her husband next time.

  • mattepntr

    I saw this movie, and strangely, I don’t remember anything about the Salem witch trials being mentioned. Though there is a giant burst of exposition dumped in a pretty big rush at one point, and it could have been in there. I tried to follow along to understand the “mythology” behind the disturbances, but really only got as far as “demon-possessed mother/ghost wants to kill a child”.

    Going in to the movie, I already knew the Warrens were discredited scam artists, so I settled in to enjoy the movie (or not) through the same lens I watch all horror movies- as fictional stories. (Full disclosure: I’m an atheist and horror movie fan)

    My thoughts: It’s very very ably directed by James Wan, and the acting is especially good on all fronts, but especially Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson as the Warrens, and Lilli Taylor and Ron Livingston as the owners of the house. In fact, it’s the sincerity of the performances and commitment of the actors that draw you in, and keep the whole endeavor from imploding into a singularity of silliness.
    It’s well-written too, taking the time to build actual characters that you can come to worry about and care what happens to. And the screenplay doesn’t fall apart in the third act, like horror scripts usually do. The first hour is especially good. The movie takes its time to build up to the bigger horror elements slowly, consisting mostly of strange, creepy sounds and things barely seen.

    “The Conjuring” may indeed be a “good movie with a bad message”, but I’d need to see it again, since that message whizzed right past me on first viewing.
    I can’t believe anybody would use it as a proselityzation tool (well, I can believe they’d try, but has anyone really been converted by a horror movie or book? “Scared into belief”? Did “The Exorcist” manage it? “Left Behind”? The “Red Brick Room of Horrors” in the Creation Museum?)

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    What’s the Red Brick Room of Horrors? Googling got me nothing.

  • mattepntr

    That’s just my nickname for it.

    Basically, after you’ve threaded your way through the “exhibits” in the “museum”, the last room you stop in is a sleazy, brick-lined long room lit with red light, and a wall that is slathered with magazine and newspaper clippings detailing all the horrors of the secular world.

    The room is basically a summation. After the museum makes the astoundingly-persuasive case for its brand of “biblical literalism” (and you’ve fully embraced RTCism for evah!), the red room is where you get the REAL message – here’s who god wants you to hate: gay couples, women who want to control their bodies, other stuff. I’ll see if I can find a picture of it.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/25897810@N00/6009886173/in/photolist-aa5eM8-aa7ZcJ-aa8a8J-aa8CM3-aa85tY-aa544B-aa57oa-aa81f7-aa5dNX-aa8AF1-aa5NN6-aa7Wsd-aa52fZ-aa5jRB-aa5MHr-aa59o6-aa5fhR-aa56J6-aa5gLr-aa5hg2-aa5dhV-aa5b2Z-aa7Pdf-aa5mfH-aa5n7R-aa7YvA-aa7QpN-aa5ahk-3Zi7rL-27sDZc-27x6H5-27sFJt-aaJzYc-415KG3-6MLHiC-6MLJeN-6MGxTZ-6MLGoo-aa85Vu-aa82iy-aa54jg-aa8Bz7-aa81QY-aa8dkN-aa7Uu1-aa5mKD-aa4ZRF-aa87wJ-2nq9Ss-7xLYjn-7xM45x

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/73064860@N00/5120486566/in/photolist-8NtQg9-8NtTRd-8Nu26u-8Nu4yL-8NtKc1-8NqP32-8NqJv8-8NqPqa-8NtLbu-8NtKQh-8NqE9e-8NqFQM-8NtSU3-8NtUeJ-8NqXr6-8Nr1fX-8NqPeB-8NqR2g-8NqUyP-8NtUoL-5t1kuP-afSqd7-2nkQKF-8NtSw5-8NqKN4-8NqPyF-8NqPQP-8NqUmH-aaMtUs-3ZjJJa-5SNd14-7SJWf2-9LEzLN-2nkXpP-2nqDvS-2nqLnC-2nmh5i-2nmhfn-2nqD3J-2nqfV9-2nkV9H-2nqGQG-2nkX5R-2nkUNg-2nkN8a-2nqTLQ-2nmgwx-2nm2fV-2nqCoQ-2nmfYT-2nqv6N

  • mattepntr

    Here’s another pic. Of course, all museums have a room like this, don’t they? Why, just last week, I was at the Museum of Natural History, and after all the sciency stuff, was the room showing how god was wrong and religion was stupid and evil. The animatronic Richard Dawkins even said so, if you press the “talk” button.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/43686907@N00/898781128/in/photolist-2nqujm-2nm8iF-2nm7LD-2nmtSR-2nmf4D-2nqoK7-2nm6Xx-2nmdva-2nmmag-2nqxJs-2nqyFN-2nmahK-2nqxwQ-2nmmsg-2nqJDJ-2nmeBz-2nqJNU-2nqJY3-2nmo5V-2nqKB1-2nqJ1m-2nmn6Z-2nmeWD-2nqAAw-2nmdMc-2nmeMD-2nqz45-2nme8i-2nqzpb-4dLYmq-dqvTD5-6Xp7Em-ahC633-6CfyCy-6CfyGh-5SNb5n-6rJt9g-6XpinL-4fPRFH-4fTRPf-ZvHFP-7Rz3xW-7Rz3vy-7Rz963-7Rz3s1-7RvSTH-415NvG-411JgB-411Cg6-411JQv-415Rc5.

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    So, a bit like the “Hell House” as portrayed in Something Positive: http://www.somethingpositive.net/sp10042006.shtml

  • William Dhalgren

    Lili Taylor deserves so much better.

  • http://davesverse.blogspot.com/ Dave

    And I thought the worst thing about this movie was that they were recycling horror tropes created by the Paranormal Activity franchise. Sadly, it seems I was wrong.

  • mattepntr

    I wouldn’t compare it to “Paranormal Activity” at all. As far as tropes go, it slots right into the template established by every haunted house movie you’ve ever seen. “The Haunting”, “Poltergeist” and “The Exorcist” are obvious influences.

  • Jenny Islander

    This post needs to be at or near the top when people google this movie.

  • arcseconds

    How much worse is The Conjuring than hundreds of other horror narratives that veer a bit close to the mark to historical horrors of witch trials, etc?

    I mean, basically any narrative including witches, or exorcisms, could be accused of perpetuating myths that people continue to take seriously today. There’s a whole spectrum of people here, from those who outright believe in covens flying through the night, transforming themselves into animals and making pacts with the devil, through to people who don’t believe in the supernatural who nevertheless do believe in satanic cults who engage in sexual abuse of children. You could argue any portrayal of an evil witch plays into this, including the Wicked Witch of the West, but certainly anything connected with actual witch trials or the mythology surrounding them does.

    I think one of the essential tools of the horror genre is that while on the surface we might not believe in this rot, somewhere deep down we’re not quite so sure there aren’t dark power or strange things from outer space, and human beings in their thrall. Blurring the line between fantasy and reality is a tried-and-tested horror trope. ‘Based on a true story’ is not so far removed from ‘this thing totally happened to a friend of my cousin’s two summers ago’ of the ghost story trope, which Fred has otherwise endorsed here. And of course it’s much easier to do this with mythology that continues to have currency today.

    I’m a bit of a fan of the Hellboy comics, and I certainly enjoy the retelling of folk tales that the likes of Mignola and Gaiman are wont to do, but it does worry me that this continues to perpetuate witch myths as quasi-truth.

    (For somewhat related reasons comic book nazis also worry me. Actually, in some ways the problem is the reverse one: pushing a very real menance that current Western society still seems to often have insuffient distance from into the shadows of myth)

  • Alix

    I think the other thing that sometimes concerns me about witches-as-myths is that there are still a not-insignificant number of people who identify as witches, in addition to what you say about there being plenty of people who very seriously believe in demonic possession, Satan, pacts with the devil, etc. – and the latter group has a track record to this day of turning on people in outgroups they dislike – and, literally, demonizing them.

    I mean, hell, I tell stories about witches sometimes, though my personal taste in fantasy tends to run to the decidedly weird/not-really-human. I’ve got a whole series of short fics I’m working on based on the premise that magic powers are real and there’s a secret society of sort-of-amoral witches running around, doing what they damn well please and occasionally keeping the world from running off the rails. But, y’know, the borderline horror elements in those aren’t about the witches so much as the rest of society, and I think that makes a difference.

    I used to work at a new age/pagan shop. Something approaching one in four people coming into the shop came in sneering at us for being some kind of stereotypical fantasy/horror witches (even odds on whether they referenced horror/folklore tropes or Harry Potter, really), and every so often we’d get the odd Good Christian(TM) who would come in, look horrified, and flee. Another pagan store relatively near me got forced out of their location when their landlord realized just what kind of gift shop they were. And of course, this is really, really mild compared to some of the things that happen to real people accused of witchcraft in other areas of this world, as noted upthread.

    Maybe this makes me oversensitive, but I don’t like feeding that, for pretty much the reasons you list. (I’m similarly bothered by the Wacky Nazi thing – way to cheapen real cruelty, folks.) On the other hand, I can sympathize strongly with the position held by a lot of my fellow pagans – that this horror archetype can be a power fantasy for pagans, that it can be reclaimed and reveled in.

    But, well. There are plenty of people perfectly willing to go to extreme and cruel measures in the name of their God, and the mythic witch is, frankly, a primarily (culturally) Christian myth at this point. It’s still buying into that narrative, y’know?

  • arcseconds

    Yes, contemporary self-identifying witches were very much in my thoughts when I wrote the above, but somehow I neglected to actually write about it.

  • Arresi

    Somehow I’m not surprised. The first trailer was decent, but the second . . . “Watch a presumably innocent family get menaced by every horror movie cliche we can think of!” (Seriously, with the amount of cliches they threw in to that one trailer, will they even have time for characterization?)

  • heckblazer

    Hey, satanic witches were totes real! Here’s a pact signed by Lucifer, Leviathan and Astaroth, and if you can’t trust something signed by Lucifer what can you trust?

    Seriously though, I mention this pact to note that with hunts were more than just misogyny directed at low status women, as shown by the fate of the Father Grandier who was convicted of signing the above. While definitely prime targets women were very definitely not the exclusive ones; for example five of the nineteen Salem witch executions were of men. Being wealthy and powerful was no shield either when the paranoia was really raging. Heck, in the Bamberg witch trials being the mayor or even the head judge of the witch tribunal was no protection from being executed as a witch.


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