Beliefnet
A Pagan's Blog

What follows is my attempt to distill everyone’s comments into a manageable post.  As I went through the lists I discovered a good argument for including the Wizard of Oz by Sheherazahde and so included comments on both sides of that movie.  I also discovered I had missed some suggested for the final nomination list, for which I apologize – and here is a last chance to add details as to why they should be included. For example, there is Jan’s nomination of Dark Secret
of Harvest Home (Bette Davis) Wtches of Eastwick, and Dragnet (1987). 

 

I apologize for missing them.  It was oversight, not censorship.

I did deliberately omit Snozepossum’s suggestion of the Devil’s Rain.  It is about Satanists and we aren’t that.  (Ironically, I read LaVey’s Satanic Bible as Ayn Rand plus magick.

Anyway, below the fold is the list I’ll send to Beliefnet unless you guys convince me to alter it.




Witches and Pagans
are often portrayed in movies and on television, and while many of the more
recent portrayals are often more nuanced that older ones, they rarely if ever
provide the viewer with a portrait of Pagan practice recognizable to those of
us who practice it.  
Even one that many of us mostly love, an older movie,
The Wicker Man” in its original uncut form, (not the lousy recent version)
turns disturbingly dark at the end as the Sergeant discovers he has fallen for
an elaborate ruse because of a need for a human sacrifice.  So there is little that is really
accurate out there.  

That said,
some movies made repeated appearances initially as nominations for among the
worst, or when people added comments as to why they agreed.  The four movies that overwhelmingly
were criticized are

The Witches

As one put it, “I
love most of Roald Dahl’s children’s books, but I can’t stand The Witches. They
are portrayed as child-hating monsters with bizarre, grotesque features such as
no hair, claw-like nails, etc. Their young victims meet with such unpleasant
fates as transformation into stone or animals or being trapped inside a
painting. The main character discovers the witches when they have a convention
under the guise of the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children. (Let’s
introduce children to the idea of a sinister conspiracy theory at an early
age!) The story ends with a plan to use the witches’ own mouse-transformation
potion against them–so that they will be trampled and killed by other people!”

Hocus Pocus

One observer wrote
“Then there’s the awful film with Bette Midler, ‘Hocus Pocus’ that’s just
silly.”  As another observed “First
and foremost, it portrays witches as immortal, purely evil beings. And then
there’s the fateful spell: ‘If a virgin lights this particular candle, the
witches will return.’ . . .  it
reinforces the idea that the magic witches do is selfish, unnatural,
nonsensical (why a virgin, particularly?) and extremely harmful to others.  

Bell Book and
Candle

Emphasizes the  “Bad use of Magick – The Witch uses a
love spell on a man out of revenge against a girl she hated (the man loved the
girl and the Witch ‘stole’ him away from her out of revenge).”

Witches are depicted
“as hateful and incapable of love – The Witch falls in love with the man she
enchanted, and now has to decide between loving him as a ‘real’ woman, or
remaining a Witch.”

Over and over again
Pagans objected that it “perpetrates the belief that Witches are hate-filled
and cannot love or else they lose their ‘Witchiness’.”

Blair Witch
Project

It “Depicts witches
as evil killers. Pretty bad.” As another observed “The movie was horribly made
and witches portrayed as eating children and being evil. It’s probably ‘Worst’
on my list.”

OTHER MOVIES

were not so strongly condemned, or if people regarded as
bad, granted they had some redeeming features. 
Some were even defended in response to their original critics.

The Wizard of Oz

“While it is true
that there is a ‘good Witch’ in the story, the main antagonist is the ‘bad
Witch’, the ‘Wizard’ is a fraud, and the good witch looks like a fairy and
sends the protagonist on a totally unnecessary journey (She sees the shoes at
the beginning but doesn’t tell Dorothy they are the way home till the end).
This is unlike the Harry Potter series where the protagonists are also Witches
and Wizards.

“The best reason to call
this the worst movie for Witches is that it has been influential in presenting
the image of Witches as green-skinned pointy-nosed cackling hags. Few people
come away from ‘The Wizard of Oz’ thinking of Witches as sparkling ladies who
travel in soap bubbles.”

But in is defense, another
participant argued “I see Glinda’s challenge to Dorothy as the telling point:
‘Are you a good witch, or a bad witch?’ Surely, Pagans are not immune to this
particular duality. Indeed, from my POV, the best witches will ask themselves
some variation of that very question.”

The Craft

“As a movie, I don’t
think it was too bad. But their portrayal of witches as goth teenage girls with
(somewhat severe) psychological problems just rubs me the wrong way.”

But another suggested
“The three “freaky” witches represented to me what happens when magic
is misunderstood and misused by people who are not emotionally and spiritually
prepared for it. Sarah and Lirio, on the other hand, get it right.”

Scooby Doo and the
Witch’s Ghost

Had lots and lots of
inaccurate information. At least the other films on this list didn’t try to
blend real witchcraft with the evil fantasy version.

Witchcraft is not an
ethnicity, as when a character said “I’m 1/16 Wiccan on my mother’s
side.”
  In addition, Velma
doesn’t call Ben out on pretending Wicca, as such, is about 300 years older
than it actually is. “I thought she was the smart one!’  Further, 
in “most Scooby-Doo episodes,
the ‘monster” turns out to actually be a greedy human. This movie breaks
with that 30-year tradition by making the monster not only real, but the ghost
of a Witch, AND she wants to destroy the whole world!”

Buffy and Charmed were often linked together.  As one commentator put it: “Both these shows portray the
power of witchcraft without the philosophy or the spirituality behind it, so
they are both lacking.” So for these movies the problems were more ones of
omission than commission.

Charmed

“In Charmed, a witch
was able to open her Book of Shadows (seemingly to the same page every time)
and stop Time without even breaking a sweat! [It builds up] unrealistic
expectations of what happens when you practice witchcraft or become Wiccan.”

In it  “main characters . . .  use magic to stop evil. While the magic
they use may be totally fake, we should bear in mind that this is Hollywood,
and real magic probably wouldn’t look very cool on screen.”

Buffy

“At least in Buffy, there
are some consequences to performing magic and it shows it takes work and
study.”  But, as another observed,
“In Buffy, Willow the initially wholesome teen witch, became all evil with
black contact-lens eyes, that’s always a bad sign!”

 “Willow is primarily a good representation of a witch (if not
necessarily realistic.) ‘Bad Willow’ is a metaphor for succumbing to power, in
all the worst ways. So, other than the few episodes where she gives in to the
temptation of masses of power, she is a Good Guy, and even then she is always
brought back from the brink by her friends.”

On the other hand, it
was “Dismissive of Wiccans as: ‘Bunch of wanna blessed be’s. Nowadays every
girl with a henna tattoo and a spice rack thinks she’s a sister to the dark
ones.’  Not the worst.”

Bewitched

“Why on earth would
Samantha give up all that good witchy stuff, primarily going to witches
meetings in wonderful 60s gowns, for the useless husband Darren?”