Witchy Women: Reclaiming the Misunderstood Halloween Heroine
As Rufus Scrimgeour says in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, “these are dark times, there is no denying.” Given all of the darkness, pain, and anxiety that all of us are inundated with so often in recent times – and which so inordinately affects those who have already been oppressed and marginalized – it sometimes feels to me like everyday is Halloween. Experiencing an ambient sense of dread and fear, worrying about looming monsters both actual and theoretical, consuming a truly impressive amount of candy – this is basically my day-to-day reality. But Halloween is about more than just stress and candy. For me, at least, it’s about acknowledging the spookiness around us, facing up to all of our lingering fears, and proving to ourselves that we can laugh and have fun and eat our body weight in candy corn despite whatever ooky-spooky ghouls might be plaguing us.
So for this Halloween, I’m turning to my trusty source for all things inspiring, empowering, and fear-fighting: pop culture. These might be dark times, but one of the best ways I’ve found to both revel in and rise above the darkness is to celebrate the unruly, wonderful, strange, exciting, monstrous, and magical women who populate some of my favorite scary movies.
Jennifer from “Jennifer’s Body”
Jennifer Check, the owner of the titular “body” of this film, is witty and beautiful and bratty. Portrayed by the criminally underrated Megan Fox, Jennifer is also best friends with Amanda Seyfried’s Needy Lesnicki, uneasy rival to Needy’s blandly sweet boyfriend Chip, and a ravenous monster who preys on the guts of high school boys to survive. Aspects of the “Jennifer’s Body” are incredibly cringe-worthy (such as Diablo Cody’s use of certain offensive language in the script), and Jennifer’s story isn’t (spoiler alert!) given the triumphant ending I would have hoped, she still represents an electrifying, complex portrayal of enraged womanhood, whose cunning and violence acts as a satisfyingly gory response to the patriarchal threat of assault against women.
Thomasin from “The VVitch”
I was on board with Anya Taylor-Joy’s Thomasin from the very first scenes of horror film, but by the time the last, transcendent, scene played on my laptop screen I was an intense devotee. Set against the puritanical, fear-drenched backdrop of 1600’s New England and featuring dialogue inspired in large part by written documents from the time period, “The VVitch” charts the nightmarish descent of a single family as it grapples with religion, isolation, repression, possession, and magic. As the adolescent daughter, Thomasin is the target of fear and suspicion when tragedy strikes the family, setting off a spiralling series of events that culminates in a startling, terrifying, devastating, and strangely exhilarating assertion of personal autonomy and power.
Elaine from “The Love Witch”
Costumed in amazing, 1960’s-inspired outfits, mesmerizing in her simultaneous placidity and fervor, Elaine is both refreshingly transparent (casually discussing how ridiculous it is that most men have never seen a used tampon, expressing both her desires and her disappointments in voiceover narration throughout the film, etc.) and maddeningly opaque (making statements that seem to straddle the line between unexamined internalized sexism and clear-eyed feminist rage). Though both the film and Samantha Robinson’s acting are highly stylized, the themes explored – love, loneliness, longing, disappointing men – are all complexly explored and a little too relatable.
Hopefully this (far, far from complete, totally biased) list provides some inspiration for channeling some of your own witchy womanness this Halloween, however that may look for you. Most importantly, have a happy, geeky, spooky, funny, awesome Halloween!