The Witch isn’t Feminist

Spoilers ahead.

I’m a pagan witch and I’m doing my doctoral dissertation on nostalgia, gender, and the occult in American literature. Even though I’m a big scaredy cat when it comes to horror films, it’s safe to say that I was curious about The Witch. When I read review after review lauding the film for the director’s attention to historical detail, lack of cheap jump scares, and even a feminist message, I moved from curious to downright hyped. The movie came out on my birthday, and I took this as another good omen that I had found a new favourite.

What a disappointment.

The movie that I was hoping I’d see would be about a patriarchal Puritan family’s psychological dissolution thanks to witch panic motivated by religious fervour, sexism, and desperation vs. the wilderness. I was hoping that the character of the witch was a figment of their imagination — just like it had been 60-odd years after the movie takes place, in Salem. I was hoping that the foreboding and tense rising feeling of dread that every review told me to look forward to would be thanks to the idea that we, as viewers, aren’t sure if the witch is a real threat, or if we should continue to be critical of the Puritan eagerness to blame women for all the ills of the world.

When the movie dashes all these hopes within the first 30 minutes by revealing the monster (isn’t there a rule about that in horror…?), I even held out hope that there would be a reveal later that we were supposed to distrust what we saw as being through the panicked eyes of the family.

Nope!

The Witch had a chance to say something interesting about the very real fear that gripped the New England colonies and the innocent people (mostly women) who suffered and died because of it. I’ve read many articles that cite the director saying that he wanted us to understand that for the Puritans, a witch was a viable threat. Wouldn’t it have been more interesting from a place of historical accuracy, a place of questioning patriarchal violence (which would metaphorically help us question the same which remains today), and from, you know, just a scary point of view if the witch was revealed not to be a cheesy bride of Satan monster, but either a) a crone living in the woods and minding her own goddamn business but that the family condemns from fear (often the real victim of witch crazes) or b) not real at all? Why did the movie go to such lengths to show us that there is a real monster in the woods, then attempt feebly to make us worry that Thomasin would be condemned as a witch? Why did the movie decide to reveal the feminine as monstrous after all? And newsflash: Thomasin signing her life/soul over to a man/Satan so that she can become a fictional stereotype in the woods rather than starve to death is not a feminist ending. Sorry!

I was hoping for a movie that was about how horrifying witch hunts — literal and figurative — were, and continue to be. I was hoping for a movie that critiqued the idea of demonizing femininity as being monstrous and unnatural. I got a movie that toes those lines in all the predictable and most boring ways and worse yet, is being championed as some feminist horror masterpiece. Put it this way: when you make a movie that Cotton Mather would have been cheering about, screaming “I told you so!!” — you’ve probably failed.

 

 

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Damned Lies: Deception and the Southern Gothic in Bloodline

I wrote about the Southern Gothic elements in Bloodline.

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This post is spoiler-free 

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 11.10.28 AM That’s it — that’s the whole show.

Bloodline is a show about people who lie. They lie to each other, themselves, and us, the viewers. They lie out of desperation. They lie to hurt someone. They lie when the truth would do. The show centers around the Rayburns, a family of people who came from nothing and have found success and prosperity running an inn in the Florida Keys. Season one, currently the only season on Netflix, opens with the family celebrating the news that the city will be naming a pier after them to coincide with the inn’s 45th anniversary. But their golden reputation as pillars of the community is complicated when Danny, the oldest, ne’er-do-well son, comes back for the occasion.

12945572 This is what it looks like when two people lie at each other in paradise.

John, the second oldest and most responsible brother…

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Ex Machina: When “Good Guys” Deserve To Finish Last

My newest podcast is on my newest favourite movie.

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Caroline Diezyn is back and better than ever as we take a good, hard look at Ex Machina

Please be warned that this article and the podcast contain spoilers… which would be a shame, because this movie is awesome.

Things start off like they normally do, talking about the other things we’re watching (Caroline has fallen in love with What We Do In the Shadows).

Once we get into Ex Machina, we both shared a love for the movie’s ability to make us feel like it was exactly one step ahead of us.

Then we get into a deeper look at the male characters, Nathan and Caleb, as well as technology, privacy, the uncanny, and the meaning behind the title.

What makes this episode so special for me happens around the 40:00 mark when Caroline gives a feminist reading of the text that goes over my head…

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Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse isn’t a nightmare

This is the 1000-word piece about a Barbie cartoon you’ve been waiting for!

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Hungover on New Year’s Day, watching cartoons with my best friend’s toddler. She picked Strawberry Shortcake’s Berry Bitty Adventures, a franchise I have no nostalgic connection to. I was never really into dolls, and Strawberry Shortcake’s ‘80s run was a bit before my time. I very quickly realized that the Strawberry Shortcake series is awful. The animation is bland. The writing is worse. The characters are boring and the only thing different between them is their hair colour and which berry they most strongly identify with, apparently. It wasn’t long before I wanted to gouge my eyes out and shove them into my ears, but my toddler companion didn’t seem to notice how asinine her program was. Fine.

After an episode of Strawberry Shortcake, my friend changed it to Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse. At this point I was trying to figure out how I could feign sickness…

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