The popularity of supernatural creatures ebb and flow over time. Vampires were hot back in the 'Buffy' days, but all went relatively quiet on the fanged front until 'True Blood' and 'Twilight' hit a few years later. With 'Twilight' (thankfully) over and 'True Blood' winding down, zombies started to rise to fill the void. Less sexy than their blood-guzzling buddies (unless they're played by Nicholas Hoult), zombies are at least surrounded by civilians modelling the hottest range of survivalist chic. But once you've started turning the undead into viable love interests, that's when the genre starts to eat itself, no matter how good 'The Walking Dead' is.
Luckily, witches are poised to swoop in on their designer broomsticks and snatch the Hot Supernatural Creature crown.
Witches have been hot before. The grungy, gothy '90s was fertile breeding ground with 1996's 'The Craft' working its way through a truckload of eyeliner and 1998's 'Practical Magic' proving that sometimes even Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman can't save a film. Family-friendly takes on witchcraft, like 'Sabrina the Teenage Witch' and 'Hocus Pocus', spawned an entire generation of children who wanted nothing more than a talking cat. Meanwhile, the back end of the '90s (and into the mid-'00s) was dominated - for better or worse - by 'Charmed'. Despite the popularity of all things indie and edgy in the '90s, the witches of that era were surprisingly domestic and all-ages-appropriate.
But we're in the horny teens. If ever there was a time for witches to smoulder, it's now. 'Game of Thrones' has the sultry red witch Melisandre, and the legend of Morgan Le Fey is having quite a revival, with both Eva Green and Katie McGrath recently working the crazy-eyed sex appeal in 'Camelot' and 'Merlin' respectively.
Witches in supporting roles are doing pretty well right now. So why are shows about witches struggling so much? 'The Secret Circle' and 'Eastwick' were cancelled after one series, and the UK's attempt, 'Switch', was just appallingly bad. Their failures don't seem to be putting the TV industry off, though - 'American Horror Story' is tackling witches with their third season, 'Coven', and new Lifetime show 'Witches of East End' just got picked up for a second series. 'Witches of East End' is helped by a sexy edge (Mädchen Amick's shapeshifting Wendy is naked a lot) and a vein of humour, but it's still not quite living up to everything witches could be. 'Sleepy Hollow', meanwhile, is confounding expectations by being really quite good fun, even if most of the show's joy comes from the time travel culture clash rather than any witchy goings-on.
Witches are, typically, female. Which means that shows and films about witches tend to be heavily female-led, and targeted at women. This makes sense and only seems fair, given that plenty of women have been killed over the centuries after being accused of witchcraft. It's about time those witches started doing it for themselves. But female-targeted shows, in the minds of studio execs, need to also be domestic and romantic, and filled with pretty but klutzy female characters that women can admire without feeling threatened by.
Well, screw that.
It's the twee, soap opera element that is killing all these shows that are trying to make witches hot again. Why can't witch shows be as sexy as 'True Blood', as visceral as 'The Walking Dead', as hilarious as 'Misfits', as gritty as 'The Fades'? It's the 2010s - isn't it time we moved away from the domestic scenes of women stirring cauldrons and towards a darker, more realistic take on genre? If vampires have always represented sex, and zombies have always represented declining humanity, then what do witches represent? Feminism? Well, women moved out of the kitchen a long time ago. They're in warzones and operating rooms and governments. It's time for witchcraft to move with them. We're going to need to see some really empowered witches before they can truly become the Hot New Thing.
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