Remember the late 1990s? THE CRAFT? Then CHARMED? Then BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER? Then THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT? Then all the witchcraft stuff appearing in episodes of shows like THE X-FILES, MILLENNIUM, etc.?
To quote one of the creepier moments of TWIN PEAKS: “It is happening again. It is happening right now.”
Just in time for Hallowe’en. Heh heh heh.
Thanks to The Guardian for pointing out what should have been gradually becoming obvious to most of us these last few weeks. Witches and witchcraft are, once again, hot topics. Sometimes they are even wearing clothes from Hot Topic! Yes, that slinky gothy long black skirt with lacy top and Victorian low-heeled shoes ensemble is once again the fashion (from Nancy in THE CRAFT to Zoe in AMERICAN HORROR STORY: COVEN). The Guardian also points out that these images are…wait for it…empowering to young women!
Scholar Owen Davies, who has written a book on witchcraft in America after Salem, says: “When Buffy and Charmed were at their peak, I would get letters from teenage girls, mainly from America, asking for help about where to look for spells,” says Davies. “Those shows gave teenage girls a feeling of empowerment; there’s something very appealing about magic and witchcraft. There have also been studies of girls who were interested in witch shows in the 1990s, following how many went on to become practising wiccans. It’s not a huge number, but it’s interesting that some of them watched the shows and thought, ‘I want to know more’.”
Interesting…I mean, many of us received such communications from teenage girls, (jeez, I still do!), particularly as the pagan web was just finding its way and offering more places for pagans to network and find information. Now that the current generation of teens is so digitally savvy, will their seeking take on different forms? Instead of surreptitiously borrowing or stealing library books, or joint online discussion forums, will the new Teen Witch Revolution happen on Twitter? Will teens text each other their latest experiences with spells gone awry or plans for the upcoming full moon circle?
I also wonder if the religious backlash that occurred in the wake of the witchcraft and Wicca obsession among teenage girls in the 1990s will rear its head again…then again, we’ve had more young adult fiction about witches since then (some might say, far too much of it).
The Harry Potter series survived the accusations of Satanic recruitment, so I’d guess the growing crop of novels about witches that are soon to be made into films will become exceedingly popular and rise above the silliness as well. Maybe witches will become ore acceptable as topics for narrative drama. Or maybe extreme shows like AMERICAN HORROR STORY: COVEN will plant seeds of fear and paranoia similar to those sown in the late 1960s and 1970s (with horror films that dealt with the occult, like ROSEMARY’S BABY, THE OMEN, or made-for-TV movies like THE INITIATION OF SARAH), which eventually helped fuel the Satanic Panic of the 1980s. Let’s hope not.
That said, it will definitely be interesting to see how the religious right and the media establishment will react to this “new” cultural obsession.
For more on American Horror Story: COVEN from Patheos writers, check out the show’s topic page on the Patheos Entertainment channel.