Exhumator Esoterics

Encyclopedia of Spiritual — Letter W - WITCHES IN POPULAR CULTURE

WITCHES IN POPULAR CULTURE
Exhumator Esoterics
Exhumator Esoterics





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Hollywood has had a long history of using the figure of the witch to entertain. In the past this figure has largely been one of strangeness, suspicion, and fear. The stereotypical image of the Wicked Witch of the West from the film version of The Wizard of Oz has shaped popular notions of the witch in children's fantasy and Halloween revelry. Many people continue to think of a witch as a negative, scary character who corrupts innocent youth. In North American popular culture an interesting trend, however, has developed over the past 10 years or so that has drastically reshaped the image of the witch. Where once witches were stereotypically evil, ugly old women with warts and a predilection for corrupting innocence, more and more we are now seeing young women of relatively benign or even benevolent power trying to save the innocent and integrate with "normal" society. Some notable examples in movies and TV are Practical Magic; Sabrina, the Teenage Witch; Buffy, the Vampire Slayer; and Charmed. In each of these examples the witches are regular women (in the very limited sense of Hollywood normal) who have access to power that is generally not available to others.

It is this access to power that makes popularculture witches so appealing, particularly to young girls and women. In a society in which women and girls are denied power, the popular culture image of the good witch can be empowering. Not only are TV and Hollywood witches able to be relatively successful in everyday life, they can defeat demons, oppose patriarchy, and look good doing it. These characters provide an outlet for young women to share their anger and frustration with a world that still does not fully allow them agency and to dream of a reality in which the tables are turned.

Popular culture versions of witchcraft not only allow young girls and women to associate femaleness with power, they have also led many young girls and women to turn to pagan witchcraft and Wicca as a way to access this power in real life. That said, it is important to point out that the witchcraft found in popular culture does not resemble witchcraft and Wicca in any real way. None of the witches in current TV or movies are practicing a form of pagan religion. However, their use of magic, mythology, and occult practice resemble some of the sources pagans also draw on. Whether popular cultural representations of witches influence many to become involved with witchcraft and Wicca long term remains to be seen.