With the reboot of Charmed, I can’t help but wonder. Why aren’t there more Wiccan, Pagan, or witch characters that don’t have supernatural powers?
Unlike many people in my generation, I didn’t watch Charmed. When Buffy was on television, I was busy, enrolled in 20 credit hours. I was late to the Harry Potter fandom, and I didn’t even watch The Craft until last year.
I was a pagan at the time, but those stories didn’t appeal to me. I didn’t like the way they showcased people of my spirituality as having supernatural powers. The fictionalization and sensationalization of something so real and dear to my heart made them wholly unappealing.
Why’s It Gotta Be Supernatural?
Hollywood is guilty of sensationalizing witches and pagans with fantasy aspects. Our rituals, energy work, and magic have become “entertainment.” In other words, our religions are the fodder to sensationalize television shows and develop plots.
I admit that our spiritualities and religions do have magical aspects. We believe our energy work, offerings, and requests can affect reality, if the gods will it. The different lies in CGI, or lack thereof.
This connection of pagan practices and witchcraft to phony-looking sparkles in the air raises a bigger question… Why are there are no other major religions showcased as being supernatural 99% of the time in modern media? Why are pagans singled out as the magic-makers? Christians and many other faiths believe they can influence reality with prayer. Why not sensationalize them with supernatural effects? Why do our religions have to withstand this mockery and others don’t?
Where Are The Gods In These “Pagan” Stories?
Modern supernatural media about witches and pagans is severely lacking in what I feel is the most essential part of being pagan: a spiritual connection with the gods. The shows and movies are about the flashy exterior, aka witch-chic (which isn’t as new as some people like to believe). These stories have all the charm and glamor of a real-life pagan, but fall short in the long run because they usually aren’t spiritual at all.
Communion with the gods is shoved aside for cheaper plots, usually having to deal with someone becoming evil. I don’t appreciate the proximity of “evil beings” to our religion, either. I also don’t appreciate that there are few celebrations of pagan holidays, moon phases, or anything else that real life pagans do, which is dismissed because it gets in the way of a plot.
Are our cultures being appropriated?
If non-pagans are making shows about pagans, the answer is yes. If non-pagan shows are labeled as “pagan,” the answer is yes.
Consider the Netflix landing page for “Wiccan and Pagan Shows.” The featured media includes The Craft, Supernatural, Charmed, and Grimm. Is anyone else as confused as I am?
Where’s The True Diversity?
Let’s put aside fantasy shows for a moment to talk about diversity. It’s great that there are more diverse main characters in media lately. For example, the Muslim woman on Orange Is The New Black is a ground-breaking character, wearing her hijab and having real-life conflicts. Likewise, the trans woman in Sense8 is marvelous as well. These shows do a good job by digging into the characters’ strengths and weaknesses and portraying them beyond their stereotypes.
However, there’s a dearth of non-supernatural pagan characters in media. Where are all the characters who just happen to be Pagan, or who just happen to celebrate every full moon by honoring Selene? I’d like more real life characters who share some of my spiritual aspects without the powers. In short, I want a character who is like me. Hollywood would do well to address this.
More Realistic Portrayal of Pagans
A more realistic portrayal of pagans or witches can create interesting stories. Spirituality and practice can be used to show character depth and development. Ritual obligation can be used to create natural conflict.
Plotlines could develop around not knowing if the magic worked or backfired, coven members performing secret baneful magic, someone getting kicked out of a coven, differences of opinion on personal gnosis, the solitary practitioner and the group, the kitchen witch and the hedge witch, etc.
However, pagan-specific plots don’t have to rule a non-supernatural story. These can also be a backdrop to another plot. Someone can just happen to be Hellenic, or have a Druid father. These characters can be real-life people without sparkles or glowing embers floating in the air.
I’m convinced we don’t need CGI to portray magic. A good example of this is in Vikings, when a traveler heals a baby without any CGI whatsoever. The acting was good enough that anyone watching understood what happened. Good acting is also cheaper than CGI.
While these shows are entertaining, I’m looking forward to a future that will have better portrayals of our spiritualities. It’s high time we have better representation in Hollywood.