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Witches in the ’90s: Movies and Television

By Zan

After the turbulence of the ’60s settled into a kind of depression in the late ’70s, Witches disappeared from the Pop-Culture scene for awhile. Curiously, it was not until the happy prosperity of the ’80s that another notable set of Witches made an appearance in American film.

Derived from John Updike’s 1984 novel updating the classic New England Witch-Story (Witches covenant sexually with the Devil, gaining Powers of Witchcraft as consequence), 1987′s The Witches of Eastwick introduces a number of significant elements, such as the fact that there are Three Witches (Susan Sarandon, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Cher), who work together as a Group. As the film is based upon the Puritan assumptions that underlay the Salem Witch-Trials- that Witches will align themselves with the Lord of Evil and Darkness- Witches of Eastwick features a hilarious Jack Nicholson as the Devil (watch for the scene when he stamps his “hoofed” foot on the floor, in an argument with Cher). However (here’s the thing): Witches of Eastwick plays a twist upon the Puritan Witch-Trope, and shows how the three Witches wise up to the ways in which “Daryl Van Horne” is using them. In a very Modernist, Post-Feminist manner (and in an unprecedented display of Cultural Empowerment, Witch-Wise), they turn the tables on him. In short, in this film, these Witches out-Witch the Devil. As a Women’s Lib metaphor, it’s genius; as a display of Witches’ Moral Conscience, it’s admirable. As a metaphoric “throwing off” of the weight of 300 years’ Burning Times: Witches of Eastwick is notable.

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