We Need More Realistic Pagans, Witches, and Wiccans in Movies and TV Shows

We Need More Realistic Pagans, Witches, and Wiccans in Movies and TV Shows May 19, 2018

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?

Is anyone else tired of this trope?  Source, CC0.

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?

Wiccan and Pagan Shows + Movies on Hulu and Netflix Right Now

Hollywood doesn’t seem to care about the numerous things they get wrong about our religions.  They just want to make stories about whatever is hot.  They’d do well to have a pagan/Wiccan consultant on the staff to at least try to get it right.

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.

Source, CC0

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.

In Closing

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.

 ~ Align with Starlight Witch ~

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About Astrea
Astrea is a polytheistic pagan witch, fire dancer, new ager, and writer of fiction. Check out her social media accounts to see all her blog posts and extra special witchy / artsy / personal content. You can read more about the author here.
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  • Brianne Raven Wolf

    You raise some really great questions in this article. I think its way past time for Hollywood to address a lot of specific issues in a lot of films. I don’t have cable, but why did Jeffrey Trambor (?spelling) a cis-man play a Transwoman on the series about a Transwoman. There are plenty of us to play those parts. They have Laverne Cox (a Transwoman) on Orange is the New Black, etc. All of your comments are very valid, and in my opinion, NEED to be addressed by the producers etc. in Hollywood!

    • I. H. Hagar

      They used to do this to Native Americans. They had Italians, Middle Eastern and others playing Native People until the Natives started speaking up and demanding to be cast in these roles. It’s always been like this. Europeans playing Asians, Native Americans, Hispanics all kinds of ethnicities. Until the ethnic people started complaining. There are times when the best actor for the part is not of the ethnicity as the character and exceptions have to be made but not in every case.

  • SardonicSheWolf

    Why’s It Gotta Be Supernatural?
    Quite simply because it would be boring otherwise. It would be more like a documentary and wouldn’t make much money or get many
    views, therefor be canceled. Waste of time then. The drama makes tv exciting.

    “I feel is the most essential part of being pagan: a spiritual connection with the gods. “

    Being a pagan doesn’t mean a spiritual connection with Gods. Some branches do not require a belief in any god, take witchcraft for an example. You certainly can be an atheist witch. Its just using archetypes.

    “Are our cultures being appropriated?”
    No….its not.

  • Kalysto

    I’d be perfectly happy with the occasional, normal character that happens to be Pagan just like there are characters that happen to be Christian or Jewish, etc. – maybe devout or not so much and sometimes dealing with spouses or families who differ in their dedication or views. Pagans and our religions are no more or less interesting than anyone else and theirs. So personally, I don’t pine for a show that’s “in your face” (so to speak) Pagan.

    I’d say the best pagan show to ever hit the airways was HBO’s ROME. Polytheistic Rome without clubbing the audience over the head with the fact. The characters’ interactions with the gods, making offerings, engaging in ritual were simply a matter of life and seamless with other aspects of the story. That kind of approach but in a modern setting would be ideal.

    • Muriel Treille

      Agreed. I’d love more (accurate) shows about the Ancient World, which would showcase pagan faith as matter-of-fact, part of daily and ceremonial life. Then do something similar with modern-day neopagans/witches/pantheists/shamans (folks who aren’t Abrahamic or atheist – or Hindu, I guess).

  • D. D. Syrdal

    Touched by an Angel, Highway to Heaven, The Ghost Whisperer… there have been non-pagan shows that involve elements of the supernatural. Charmed wasn’t Pagan, anyway.

  • Maleficus

    Just a site note. The Craft did have an real wiccan priestess as a consultant. One of the actresses became even an initiate of her and run an occult store afterwards.

    And as a few others as pointed out: Not all witches are pagan or wiccan. You throw a lot of people under the bus by this.

  • Christina

    There is a show produced by Hallmark called “The Good Witch.” It is about a woman who moves to a small town and making the lives of the people who work there better. She owns a metaphysical store and a bed and breakfast. There is no special effects. But the main character does help these people with their problems with spells, talismans, herbal and good advice. And the magic in the show isn’t instant. However, I haven’t been watching this show because it is too campy. There has to be another show like “The Good Witch” without the campiness. Something like a detective show or movie with a psychic who is pagan might do, or something like that.

  • I. H. Hagar

    Write to producers and others in charge of the money. Tell them you like programs like Charmed but it would be really great to have a series that featured a “normal” Pagan. They wouldn’t have to be the lead character but they should have an ongoing role where you see them under non-ritual times and maybe feature a ritual here and there. Also write when the show or movie totally gets it wrong and equates Pagans to devil worshipers or other evil people. Shows like all those ghost hunter shows often blame people doing “Satanic” rituals for bringing in bad and evil spirits into the haunted place. Then there are tv shows , often time news shows, that make fun of Witches/Pagans. Remember when FOX News made fun of witches. We have to keep reminding them that Paganism is a Federally recognized and legitimate religion.

  • Muriel Treille

    To be fair, Gina, a character from Orange Is The New Black, is in fact Wiccan. They’re pretty “matter-of-fact” about it methinks.

  • Biff Jerkey

    Well, to be fair, some Christian movies do use ‘sparkles’, or rather ‘divine light’, and other such visual effects. Also, in defence of Supernatural, the show isn’t pagan, it’s just supernatural (pardon) in general. Its major plotlines mostly dealt with Judeo-Christian mythology (angels, demons, leviathans), whereas pagan or otherwise non-Christian people and beings were mostly used as ‘monster of the week’ or secondary characters. Also, the ‘magic sparkles’ there were done pretty tastefully, they weren’t actual sparkles, like in, say, Charmed or Sabrina the Teenage Witch.
    On the other hand, wasn’t it these kinds of sparkly, magic-magic shows that got so many people interested in magick and/ or paganism in the first place? Sure, many of us have always felt something, but even then, it was shows like these that actually gave us the push in this direction, that got us interested, no?