Tuesday, October 6, 2015


Hi everyone! It's fall now (in New England, anyways) and that means colder weather, chunky sweaters, and watching the 1993 Disney film Hocus Pocus on repeat. Shoutout to Halloweentown, also a fantastic movie, but for the purpose of this blog post we're sticking to the former. I've loved Hocus Pocus since I was a wee child along with all of my peers. Even more so, I've been a little bit obsessed with the Salem Witch Trials for years now as it is of significant interest to me. Perhaps my interest in this subject was solidified by it's unusual and macabre nature, however I'm inclined to believe that the media's portrayal of this event is too what peaked my fascination. 

Why is the media so fixated on this particular historical event, even in today's popular culture? Are we fictionalizing it to the point where it becomes an unauthentic representation of "history", where real people are mere characters and their trials and tribulations become the plot of a dramatized soap opera of sorts?

Going back to Hocus Pocus for a brief moment...oh, quick little tid bit. My professor Robin shared with all of us today during her lecture on the trials that the Salem "witches" were not officially pardoned until 1992. Hocus Pocus came out the following year...coincidence? Although this is not quite relevant to my ultimate point, I think it is interesting to highlight the fact that this movie is still very much relevant, namely at this year's Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party at Disney World's Magic Kingdom.

Can we just take a moment to appreciate the awesomeness? I want to high five whoever did the casting for this show, especially for Winifred, because they were all SPOT ON. Sadly, I highly doubt any of the young kids that were watching the show even know who the Sanderson sisters are, let alone have any idea about what the movie is meant to represent historically. Seeing as it is a children's movie, elements like death, evil, and witchcraft have a comedic spin put on them. However, applying comedic tropes to a serious and grotesque historical event, in this case, seems to mock instead of providing relief.

While Hocus Pocus is a funny anecdote about three fictitious witches, WGN's scripted drama Salem takes a more serious approach to the subject of the witch trials. First of all, check out the kick ass intro:


Wicked creepy and bonus points for using a Marilyn Manson song. Props! Anyways, in my opinion, Salem is a hybrid of sorts. Yes, it most definitely has some historical truth in it and visually it provides a sense of what living in 1690's Salem would have been like. But, considering the fact that there is still so much uncertainty and mystery surrounding the Salem Witch Trials, the show is able to take creative license regarding the extent to which they dramatize the stories and how far they delve into the realm of the supernatural. Some of the characters, like Cotton Mather and his father Increase, are based on real figures during the trials but most are not.

In saying that Salem is a hybrid, I am saying that it is part historical drama and part cheesy soap opera. As Salem was a wholly religious community with an emphasis on purity in all aspects of life, it is difficult to swallow the highly sexualized nature of the society (and its relationship to witchcraft) as it is portrayed in the show. The sex seems out of place in a show of this nature and it is all too obvious that the inclusion of the sex is only an attempt to keep Salem on the same plane as other popular sexualized TV shows like Game of Thrones and The Tudors. With all that being said, I wholeheartedly enjoy Salem. In my opinion, it is perfectly acceptable to like watching this show despite all of problems that encapsulate it, because in this case the outcome of consuming the media's representation of an event such as this is pure entertainment rather than edification.

People still flock to Salem, hundreds of years after hysteria engulfed the Puritan community that resided there. The tourists flood the city especially during the month of October, Halloween dredging up the screams of the afflicted and the accused alike. Modern culture, most notably literature and film/TV, too continues to dredge up this story, or parable if you will, but for what reason? To prevent the masses from forgetting the atrocities that occurred? To preserve a classic example of the battle between good and evil? To act as a drama in which we insert fictitious individuals into history to warp and distort the truth?

Regardless, the Salem Witch Trials serves as a moral paradigm and grotesque defining event in American history that will forever live on in Salem proper and in modern culture.

And that makes me very, very happy.

until next time,

1 comment:

  1. Nice! Maybe room to drop in a bit more from the Mather or the transcripts, just since that kind of knowledge would really set your post apart from posts of other contemporary bloggers? But you know I LOVE all this stuff...makes me see all the things I would have to add to my book if I were writing it again now...so fun!


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