Friday, April 16, 2010

90s Witches


There's an undeniable appeal to shows with supernatural themes. We all would like to believe that we might be capable of powers beyond the scope of our daily mundane lives and limited personal abilities. As children especially, the notion of pointing our fingers and fulfilling our every whim is pretty attractive. Teacher assigns too much homework? Parent requests too many chores? These are all prime target for our mischievous magic. Seems like a pretty good deal overall, really.

Unfortunately, these witches in TV and the movies seem to be doing it all wrong. They're always getting themselves into zany misunderstandings that usually end with some moral lesson on how we can't wish ourselves happy and how our mortal heart is the strongest guiding principle. I was always fairly sure that if given the same powers, I wouldn't end up in any of these situation comedy-friendly pickles. I could have just pointed and zapped and never had to learn a life lesson at all. How easy would that have been? Imagine the time I would have saved. What can I say? In my theoretical foray into witchdom, I'm all about results and efficiency. None of this "moral of the story" crap.

90s witches in popular entertainment tended to fall into one of the following categories: comedic and well-meaning, horrific and fear-inspiring, or some wacky combination of the two. Whatever the genre, these films and TV shows gave us an entertaining glimpse into the supernatural. I have yet to develop any mysterious powers of my own, but watching these gives me hope they're coming in any day now. If I could just zap that big daunting pile of papers out of my inbox, we'd all be in good shape.


Hocus Pocus



Hocus Pocus may be a family-friendly comedy, but that "Come Little Children" song still has the creepiness capital to chill you to the core. In the film, young new-in-town Max and Dani bring back to life the infamous Sanderson sisters, a trio of witches put to death during the Salem witch trials. The kids do manage to eventually save the day, but not before the mischievous sisters wreak bewitching havoc on the town. Somewhere along the way, they also put on some show-stopping musical numbers.


Teen Witch


If you've never seen this one, you're truly missing out on a wealth of hilarious potential mocking. Just watch the above snippet and tell me it's not the most unintentionally rip-roaringly funny thing you've ever seen. Yes, her friend really looks at a boy and sighs wistfully, "Look how funky he is!" Look how funkly he is indeed.

Teen Witch is one of those incredibly corny, campy movies you just can't tear yourself away from. It was conceived as a sort of female counterpart to Teen Wolf, which may serve as an explanation for their comparable cheesiness. Oddly enough, Teen Witch is sort of a musical. It may not know exactly what it is, but one thing is for sure: even when it's meant to be serious, it's just laughably ridiculous.


Sabrina the Teenage Witch



Teenage witchery was evidently a popular pastime in the 90s; it seems Teen Witch didn't have a monopoly on adolescent witchcraft. Sabrina, the Teenage Witch is based on the eponymous Archie series comic book. The show held a prime spot in ABC's TGIF Friday night lineup for several years, featuring Clarissa Explains it All's Melissa Joan Hart as the titular character. Sabrina lived with her sorceress aunts Hilda and Zelda and talking black cat Salem. Get it? Like the witch trials? Oh Sabrina. Is there no end to your cleverly sly references?


Practical Magic



Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock star as two orphaned sisters who suffer the effects of a centuries-old family curse. The Owens family women are doomed to destroy any man with whom they fall in love. It may sound depressing, but the stars give the movie a humor and lightness. Throw in an accidental homicide and an oddly feel-good exorcism and you've got yourself a chick flick that even the manliest of men might be willing to watch. As long as you don't tell anyone about it.


The Craft



On the other side of the 90s witch spectrum we have The Craft, a dark revenge flick that's a dark cry from the touchy-feely witchcraft in Practical Magic. In this teen horror drama, Robin Tunney plays a new girl in town who doesn't quite fit in with the mainstream kids at school. She has a natural propensity for witchcraft, so when she falls in with an occult-minded trio of girls they manage to develop a mutual power that they hone and channel into wreaking revenge on their classmates and nemeses. It culminates in a big showdown of good versus evil, and (not-so-surprise spoiler alert) good manages to prevail. Whew. Close one.


Charmed



Following its 1998 debut, Charmed went on to live out an impressive eight-season run, establishing it as the longest-running hour-long show to feature a cast of all female leads. While there was a bit of shifting around in the casting department in the 2000s, the original version featured Shannon Doherty, Alyssa Milano, and Holly Marie Combs as Halliwell sisters Prue, Phoebe, and Piper. This trio of twenty-somethings are living together in San Francisco when they discover that they are "The Charmed Ones", good witches destined to battle evil. After perusing their inherited Book of Shadows and experimenting with their individual powers--telekinesis, the ability to freeze time, and psychic insight--they learn to combine their powers into the almighty Power of Three. I'll admit I stopped watching after Rose McGowan's Paige replaced Prue in the ensemble, but the show maintained a fairly steady popularity throughout its lifespan.


These characters piqued our imaginations and allowed us a brief escape to a fantasy world where, whether for good or evil, we might fancy ourselves bewitching. While they ranged in tone from dark and ominous to featherlight and silly, the content was consistently engaging and entertaining. And hey, we can keep fantasizing about the limitless potential of our imaginary powers. There's no saying we'll ever be as vengeful as the girls from the Craft or heroic as Charmed's Halliwell sisters, but we may at least be inspired to perform an enviably version of Teen Witch's "Top That." It won't take an inborn proclivity for sorcery, but it will take a supernatural ability to suppress your uncontrollable laughter.

17 comments:

Melanie's Randomness said...

=) This post makes me happy. When the Craft came out it was like the coolest movie ever!!!! I actually just left my house after watching Charmed. hehe. I loved Sabrina the teenage Witch show too!! Clarissa still got it as a witch!

Deeps!! said...

Loved the post!! I remember watching the Craft.. and being soo very fascinated by it. Sabrina was fun too...!! I also liked to watch Bewitched!! ur post brought back beautiful memories... thank you!

Mel said...

I love so many of these, especially Hocus Pocus and The Craft! I still think The Craft's one of the coolest movies ever.

Kylee said...

These crazy kids and their vampires. Witches ruled the 90s with an iron fist.

Oh also Neve Campbell wasn't the new girl she was apart of the devious trio.

Sadako said...

The scariest 90s witches for me were the ones of the movie the Witches, based on Roald Dahl's book. They still haunt my dreams. HAUNT THEM!

Little Mrs Domestic said...

Ooh I loved all these. Charmed I didn't really ever get into but all the others I watched a billion times. And I had completely forgot about Teen Witch until you just shared that... hilarious. Makes me want to go find that movie on netflix to watch it again. I def remember wanting to be a witch with my friends when we were young. Great post!

Anonymous said...

The girls of The Craft reminded me of a group of girls in my middle school who all claimed to be witches, and who scared the crap out of me! I'm sure they never accomplished any of the 'spells' they claimed to cast, but their fervor was convincing enough for me to leave them alone! I'm pretty sad that you forgot the best 90s witch of all, though. Marnie Cromwell!! To this day, I'll watch Halloweentown if it happens to be on tv. :)

Andhari said...

The first seasons of Charm are the best. I like Charm better with Shannon D there :D

Shannon SVH said...

This is awesome. I love Teen Witch SO MUCH when I was about twelve, and then The Craft was my favorite movie about five years later.

ajroyston said...

Teen Witch...how hilarious! Do you also remember the song "I'm Gonna Be the Most Popular Girl" from that movie? I'm singing it in my head as I type. :) And the kid in that movie always creeped me out...

Lil' Woman said...

Me and my girlfirneds would always try to do 'light as a feather, stiff as a board' after seeing The Craft.

Jen said...

The Craft was the first R rated movie I snuck into. I was so into it. I still love it.

Robin Tunney is pretty much my 90's hero, for being in the awesome trifecta of Encino Man, Empire Records and The Craft.

Katie said...

Absolutely loved The Craft. My middle school self felt very edgy having watched it in the theater.

Nic said...

OMG! SABRINA THE TEENAGE WITCH!!

Charlotte said...

I saw The Craft at a sleepover once. I am very, very easily scared, and that movie was CREEPY! As 90s witches go, Sabrina is more my speed. ;)

Oh, and I loved Rose McGowan on Charmed.

Emily said...

OMG! The Craft :) We are actually musing about referencing this classic in our upcoming season. Check our teen web series out about high schoolers growing up in the 90s. Love the blog!

http://www.OJinBG.com

evangelineculmer said...

im a bit late but i love this post! i just got the sabrina season 1 dvd i loveeeee it so much! was the best show ever hahaha

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