By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes!
Must be the season of the witch; the Spellmans, Sandersons and Halliwells are all on their way back to reclaim their enchanted corner of pop culture.
So why all the sudden interest in resurrecting witches? Well, we know that Nineties nostalgia is creating a booming market for media that reminds people of simpler, happier times. And the witchcraft angle might play into the same trend; if an increasingly toxic political environment, embattled economy and misogynistic culture are making young women feel unheard, underrepresented or unable to make change, then the appeal of these empowerment parables is obvious. They provide a fantastical lens through which feminists can view their own activism; after all, at heart they are the stories of women exercising their will and allying themselves with their female peers. (In this sense they are a close cousin of the wildly popular superhero archetype, which has spoken to marginalised groups for decades.)
Here’s every sequel and remake that will soon be casting a spell on you…
A trio of sisters learn they are descended from a long line of powerful witches, and destined to use their magical abilities to fight the forces of evil. The Charmed reboot closely follows the premise of the original, although the press releases which claim this new version will be “feminist” have ruffled the feathers of some fans. After all, for eight seasons Charmed told the story of women juggling work, family and romance — all while saving lives and vanquishing demons on a weekly basis. What’s more feminist than that?
And another thing. Reboots or remakes, as we used to call them, usually have storylines so similar to the original that they are legally required to use the same title and buy the rights to that title. If it’s not similar than it’s just another show. A new show with a new title.
— Holly Marie Combs (@H_Combs) January 26, 2018
Holly Marie Combs, who played Piper in the original, has taken umbrage, tweeting that the reboot capitalises on the hard work of the original creative team and cast, even going so far as to say it is cynically tapping into the current appetite for feminist stories in the media and overlooks the work that her co-stars Rose McGowan and Alyssa Milano are doing to empower women in real life. She adds, however, that she wishes the new cast well.
Sabrina The Teenage Witch
The popularity of teen soap Riverdale, which falls somewhere between Twin Peaks and Pretty Little Liars on the addictively over-the-top spectrum, has led to news of another Archie Comics adaptation. Netflix is currently developing The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, a comic book by Riverdale showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa.
— RobertoAguirreSacasa (@WriterRAS) December 22, 2017
Of course, we best remember Sabrina as played by Melissa Joan Hart in the Nineties TV show, which leant heavily into sitcom territory — but this new series, starring Kiernan Shipka (Mad Men) in the title role, will be a much darker coming of age story “in the vein of Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist,” according to Netflix. It sounds like this gothic reimagining will have more in common with cult classic The Craft than the zinger-filled show we grew up watching — and we probably won’t get a talking cat this time around — but we’re still on tenterhooks.
This beloved romantic comedy is still perfect twenty years later; Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman are enchanting as the Owens sisters, doomed to lose any man who loves them, while Stockard Channing and Dianne Wiest steal just about every scene they’re in as kooky aunts Frances and Jet. But not everybody knows that the film was based on a critically acclaimed novel — and that author Alice Hoffman recently wrote a prequel.
The Rules of Magic goes back in time to the swinging Sixties, when Frances and Jet were growing up and learning to master their supernatural gifts alongside their roguish brother Vincent. Despite the insistence of their mother Susanna that they be wary of the family curse which makes true love impossible, all three siblings set out to break the rules and forge their own path.
Another iconic Nineties witch movie getting a follow-up in book form is the Disney classic Hocus Pocus; an all-new novelisation of the movie is being published in July to coincide with the film’s 25th anniversary, and the book will include a story set in the present day, in which Max and Allison’s teenage daughter encounters the evil Sanderson sisters.
(We’re just going to ignore the news of Disney Channel’s plan for a TV remake, which ignores the original cast’s claims they are happy to return for a bona fide sequel.)
This resurgence can be seen everywhere, not just in entertainment; an interest in all things occult is becoming an important part of everyday life for many millennial consumers, with astrology and crystals crossing into the mainstream and millennial spellbooks like Basic Witches hitting the shelves. While the idea of reading spells might seem daft at first, think about it; they are no sillier than reciting self help mantras as a means of gathering your thoughts and externalising your intent, a notion which The Secret made millions peddling.
“Witchcraft is no longer on the fringe,” writes Flare’s Samantha Edwards. “For some millennials, it’s a lifestyle.”
If that means we can expect to see more films, books and TV shows exploring the thematically rich world of witches, then I say: blessed be!