360 years ago the first witch was executed in Salem Massachusetts, poor thing. Well... today is the anniversary of the first recorded execution at least. There were probably others: there's always trouble for those on the fringe of societal norms. By and large humanity just ain't kind to the different. Maybe that girl just wasn't pious, subservient, or god fearing enough?
Witches have been great fodder for entertainment for centuries but I've always found their screen treatment suspiciously two-faced. In portrayals of the Salem trials and other witch hunting movements you're always asked to be on the side of the accused. But, here's the double sided catch: they're innocent. Think of Goody Proctor in The Crucible. She is done in by Abigail, the type of woman that the witches are accused of being. When witches are actually bonafide spell casting characters, as opposed to stand-ins for historical types or allegorical statements, they're often viewed as dangerous to themselves and others. There's plenty of fear but little sympathy when the ladies work real magic. Doesn't it sometimes seem like the fictional "witch" is just an exaggerated projection of ideas about women in general, sometimes sympathetic (when victimized falsely) but just as often all kinds of sexist and anti-woman. It's a simplification, sure, but Goody Proctor (god fearing, husband-obeying, churchgoing) is actually the ideal. Abigail (sexually driven, difficult to control) is the witch. So we're still up for burning dangerous women at the stake --for proper retribution to come their way.
When I was a little kid I enjoyed TVs classic Bewitched. Right I was drawn to supernaturally laced fiction. Obviously I was the ideal audience for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And though that shows focus was on the vampiric, I think it does a fine sideline job of covering the wide spectrum of options when it comes to screen witches. If you look at the portrayals of Willow, Tara and Amy (the three witches with the most screen time) you'll see a collective portrayal that's fascinating in its reach, however loose its magic rules may have been for plot needs and however misleading its controversial free use of the term "Wicca" was.
I'm just thinking and typing aloud but there's an enormous amount of material begging for proper exhaustive analysis. What kind of ugly/beautiful portrait of women do films about witches paint? Imagine what would happen if you stirred the witches from Chronicles of Narnia, The Brothers Grimm, The Craft, Practical Magic, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Bewitched, Macbeth, The Witches, Hocus Pocus, Bell Book and Candle and Disney films into one giant pop culture cauldron. My guess is you'd churn up a fascinatingly schizo stew of sexism and feminism.
Which witch portrayals do you find most spellbinding... or do you think the great witch film or television series has yet to be made?