Aug 262010

Upon reflection, works of popular entertainment that include Wicca and Neo-Paganism have a tendency to arrive in “cluster-bunches.” We have just concluded such a “cluster-bunch,” and are poised for another significant installment in the on-going series: “Let’s introduce Wicca to America.”

1991 was the first notable year for “Wicca in Entertainment,” as this was when Oliver Stone’s The Doors came out- the first time Wicca was presented in a motion picture (and shown respectfully and accurately).

The X-Files, an immensely popular television series that treated subjects of Unexplained Phenomena, began to broadcast in the mid-1990s. In several instances (“Die Hand Die Verletzt,” which aired on Jan 27, 1995; “Sanguinarium,” broadcast on Nov 10, 1996; and “Chinga,” co-written by Stephen King and aired on Feb. 8, 1998), “Witchcraft” was the focus, sometimes (perhaps in an effort towards relevance) presented in conjunction with Wicca.

As the shows inclined towards the lurid, few Wiccans found themselves flattered or pleased with The X-Files’ depiction of Wicca; I remember considerable indignation and controversy over the “Sanguinarium” episode among the Pagan community at the time. Nonetheless, the “Chinga” episode reveals an admirable understanding of the breadth of the Pagan/Neo-Pagan world, as Scully refers to evidence of “conjuring, or the black arts, or shamanism, divination, Wicca or any kind of Pagan or Neo-Pagan practice- charms, cards, familiars, bloodstones or hex signs, or any of the ritual tableaux associated with the occult, Santeria, Voudun, Macumba, or any High or Low Magic.” 

1996 was the evident first “cluster-bunch” of Wiccan pop-culture entertainment, being not only the broadcast year for “Sanguinarium,” but also being the year that Wicca “starred” in another movie, The Craft; like The X-Files, The Craft was held to have been very sensationalistic and not really very accurate.  

In the later 1990s, two popular television series began to run: Charmed and Buffy the Vampire-Slayer. Although it was more of a show about Witchcraft than Wicca, the Witchcraft in Charmed could resemble Wicca; Buffy was the first television show to feature a recurring “Wiccan” character. However, as the characters on Buffy tended to spend their time fighting vampires, and the “Wicca” on the show often resembled traditional Supernatural Witchcraft (with Supernatural Powers), Wiccans often discount the “Wicca-ness” of Buffy.  Nonetheless, for a lot of Mundanes, Buffy remains their best understanding of Wicca to date.

Another avenue for the introduction of Wicca to the world began when Wiccans started to turn up in various Reality-Shows that became popular after the 2000s.

2006 discovered the next notable “cluster-bunch” of Pagan-related entertainments. Three Moons Over Milford, the first television show to feature a “real” (non-vampire fighting) Wiccan ran for a short time on ABC Family. (So far, since 1991, one can argue that we have seen only two realistic portrayals of Wiccans in fictional dramas- The Doors and Three Moons; The Craft, Charmed, and Buffy being too Supernatural to count, and The X-Files being too lurid).  

2006 also brought us the Hunk Charms of the Guy-Witch movie The Covenant; as well as Neo-Paganism’s Campiest Film to date: the Nicolas Cage remake of The Wicker Man (incidentally, the film most hostile to the Female-oriented aspects of Neo-Pagan traditions). 

The next notable period of “Wicca in American Television” is that which ended just before Now; and the subsequent most notable is that which will begin Very Soon.

In a period of a little less than eighteen months, from January 2009 to May 2010, three TV programs ran “Wicca episodes” of varying quality. The most successful occurred on Nov 29, 2009, when the venerable, cherished, and long-running series The Simpsons aired “Rednecks and Broomsticks,” in which long-time series-star Lisa discovered Wicca. While a cartoon, one can argue that The Simpsons presented Wicca in a more sympathetic and realistic light than anyone else at least since Three Moons.

Not so the next two examples of TV Wicca. The Mentalist ran its “Wicca episode,” “Red Rum,” on Jan. 13, 2009; with Bones adding its own “The Witch in the Wardrobe,” on May 6, 2010. In both episodes, the Wiccan characters were held to have engaged in rather irresponsible and unfortunate conduct; neither are very well-regarded.

Now we learn that the phenomenonally popular TV series True Blood has announced the up-coming “Year of the Witch,” with its introduction of a Wiccan character into another Vampire show (what is it with Wiccans and Vampire shows?)

We are at the moment just prior to another spin of the Wheel called “World meets Wicca.”

Why is it that in twenty years- from 1991-2011- only one movie, and one (short-lived) TV series, plus one episode of a cartoon show, have managed to present Wicca in a light other than as something that may either (1) unleash Supernatural Forces possibly beyond one’s control, or (2) summon law enforcement to one’s doorstep, in connection with a gruesome crime that has weird ritualistic undertones to it?

Hoping better of True Blood- but, that Vampire thing again. (One can’t really say that Wicca is being treated realistically when it takes place in a context with Vampires.)

 Posted by at 3:33 am

  7 Responses to “A Time-Line of Wiccan-Pop-Culture”

  1. There’ve been other mentions of Wicca in television dramas. Back in the ’90′s, “Picket Fences” had an episode which featured a Wiccan fighting for custody of her daughter (and one of the bones of contention was the child’s inclusion in skyclad rituals.) The Wiccan came off very well in that episode, with the judge lectured the narrow-minded townspeople. That same year, JAG did an episode with a Wiccan which, as I recall, was downright slanderous. Still sticks in my craw.

    There was also a TV pilot called “The Craft” (I think; no relation to the movie) in 1989 or 90, which featured child-stealing Witches/Wiccans. I remember calling ABC to complain, and a bunch of us protested in front of the television station about it.

    Seems to me that there were a couple of others, but I can’t bring them to mind at the moment.

  2. Wicca tends to come up a lot in crime/mystery dramas. I’d love it if it would come up in sitcoms or regular dramas.

    Some more examples:
    “House” has two. In one episode, House’s friend Wilson is being interviewed by documentary crew and is making up all sorts of stuff about House and tells the crew the House has been persecuted because he’s Wiccan, a beautiful and misunderstood nature based religion. I thought it was a well done reference, hence the second one peved me off a bit. In an episode this past season, they are treating a knight from a ren faire (which them seemed to have confused with the SCA but that’s another rant). When they search the knight’s appartment, they find a secret room filled with pentacles. Then House makes some strange leap to alchemy and lead poisoning (which turns out to be wrong). It wasn’t a negative portrayl per se, but it was poorly researched and tend to mix and confuse simliar idea (Wicca does include every occult practice).

    CSI (the original) also had fairly decent episode though I don’t think they ever mentioned Wicca outright. A local psychic and occult store opperator is murdered. She had been working with another detective to solve a cold case and had told him the missing woman was in “Summerland”. He takes this to mean a housing development called Summerland, but Grissom later reveals at the end of the episode that Pagans believe that the soul goes onto a place called Summerland after they die.

  3. Thanks very much for that information! (It sounds like you have been active on behalf of the Craft for awhile now; good job!) I also realized I had forgotten Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000), which is (1) I believe the third movie to incorporate a Wiccan character (2) interesting as it was released in 2000, which has to mean something, and (3) the title “Book of Shadows” indicates the degree to which Wiccan terms and concepts are entering public consciousness (movies that associate Witchcraft with Circle-Casting are another).
    There is also what the NY Times calls a “proto-Wiccan” character in the 12th Century drama (based upon the Follet novel) Pillars of the Earth, on Starz.

  4. The Picket Fences episode was based on a real incident on Long Island. That same incident was also the basis of an episode of Judging Amy.

  5. @Danielle –
    “Then House makes some strange leap to alchemy and lead poisoning (which turns out to be wrong). It wasn’t a negative portrayl per se, but it was poorly researched and tend to mix and confuse simliar idea (Wicca does include every occult practice).”

    I have not seen the episode in question and I am not a fan of House. Most of that is because the episodes I have seem tend to follow the formula about following a minor lead completely the wrong direction. I think maybe the above example is prime for that. I know it is supposed to be a modern retelling of Sherlock Holmes, but if that is the case i don’t know that I like Sherlock Holmes either.

  6. I’ve caught a couple of the True Blood eps with the new Wiccan character. I don’t like her.
    Maybe it’s just her face. She looks a lot like Sooj (SJ Tucker) would if she was 50 and had had three face lifts and a botox or five. She’s all stretched and tight and her eyebrows make her look perpetually startled.

    She leads a rape-survivor group. She’s the new waitress at Merlotte’s. She has a way of drawing things out of people that they don’t want to talk about. She offers bluntly pragmatic advice, including offering to go an abortion clinic with one character. She offers herbal remedies, unsolicited.

    I’m waiting to see how wrong they go.

    It’s not just vampires. There’re shapeshifters and serial killers and a manead awaiting the arrival of the Horned God. Bon Temps is a weirdness magnet.

  7. Youre forgetting the best interpretation of Wiccans ever- SCOOBY-DOO!! How could you forget that one?? Hahaha. A little bit of sarcasm there :P

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