Witch-Media: A Lens for Understanding Female Empowerment
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From the ancient era to modern times, magic and witchcraft has both fascinated and terrified people. As magic has continued to capture the cultural imagination, witches have become a prominent figure in modern media. Books, television shows, movies, and even social media accounts use the image of the witch to represent something significant. These characters, some of whom have become essential facets of popular culture, can be boiled down to one thing: women with power. Whether intentional or not, witches in popular media, or “witch-media” as I have begun to call it, communicate ideas about empowered women. Sometimes witch media expresses anxiety around women with power, sometimes it as an intense desire for it. Regardless, the world of witch-media has until now remained an untapped resource for researching and understanding the complicated connection society has with empowered women. This thesis begins the necessary conversation around witches and witchcraft in movies and television by analyzing three prominent themes: sex and sexuality, horror, and feminism. Witches are heavily sexualized, exposing the desires and anxiety around sex positive empowerment culture. Witches are also made into villains, ostracizing those women who have power. And lastly, witches are often associated with feminism in media in a shallow attempt to captivate an audience and show empowered female characters. Each chapter analyzes these components separately before bringing them together in the conclusion through a new example of witch-media, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Ultimately, the study of witch-media serves as a new lens through which to examine our society’s views of and relationship with women and women’s empowerment.