"Feminist Witches: Images of Wiccan Spirituality on TV"
Feminism tends to align itself with the secular as a form of resistance to patriarchal theology. Within this framework, Wiccan spirituality presents itself as an alternative to both patriarchy and secularism. However, the same Wiccan themes that suggest empowerment to some feminists suggest disempowerment to others. Wiccan spiritualism has been criticized as essentialist in its adherence to a goddess/god binary that persists in gendering the concept of divinity. Even its links to ecology and environmentalism have been criticized for reifying the objectification of women: the construct of Woman as Earth appears much less empowering when one considers how Earth is objectified and abused. The tropes by which Wicca is defined in popular culture also threaten to reinforce patriarchal stereotypes about witches and witchcraft. In the 1990s, shows like "Charmed" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" presented robust, dynamic portraits of witches. Twenty years later, the image of witchcraft on television is somewhat bleaker, although there are some bright spots. While some television shows reinforce patriarchal tropes defining witches as servants to Satanic masters ("American Horror Story: Coven," "Sleepy Hollow," "Salem"), others present more nuanced and heroic versions of the witch ("Witches of East End," "Once Upon a Time"). The degree of empowerment appears to align with the degree of secularism: those shows which explore Christian religious themes tend to demonize witches, while those which ignore those motifs allow for more flexibility in the imagining of the role of the witch.
Dr. Anne DeLong is Associate Professor of English at Kutztown University in Kutztown, PA. She earned her Ph.D from Lehigh University in 2007. Dr. DeLong specializes in nineteenth-century British literature, and she also teaches courses in women’s studies. DeLong is co-editor of The Journal of Dracula Studies and President of the Transylvanian Society of Dracula/North American Chapter. She is the author of Mesmerism, Medusa, and the Muse: The Romantic Discourse of Spontaneous Creativity, published by Lexington Books in 2011. DeLong also published a critical edition of Marie Corelli’s first novel, A Romance of Two Worlds (Zittaw Press, 2011). Dr. DeLong also currently serves as Director of the MA program in English at Kutztown University.