I’ve mentioned several times on this blog that I’ve never been into Western comics the way I got into manga. However, that’s not exactly the truth. When I was younger I was obsessed with Archie Comics—my family had boxes and boxes of the series running from the publications from the 90s to the re-prints of the older comics from the 50s. Riverdale may have been home to one of the worst cases of boring love triangles in the existence of everything, but for some reason I was enthralled. These days, I’ve fallen out of love with them—I barely even cared when the powers that be produced the “Archie finally got his shit together and married your choice of Betty or Veronica” specials—but I’ll always have a special place in my heart for the spin-offs they created, especially Sabrina the Teenage Witch.
In the main canon of the Archie-verse, Sabrina showed up to cast a spell trying to help, only to have it go weird and the characters had to deal with the outcome. However, mostly it seemed to me like she played a sort of Addams Family role, which is to say that as a teenage witch she is living in extraordinarily weird circumstances, but her magic powers end up seeming normal compared to all the drama everyone else gets wrapped up in. She is, somehow, the normal one in Riverdale. More recently, Archie Comics published a new Sabrina series (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina), but I’m much more interested in the 90s film simply called Sabrina the Teenage Witch. As the 90s was the era for the girl power boom, I thought it’d be interesting to see how being a witch played off of that, or even how the film could have given life to the 1996 television series of the same name (which, in full disclosure, I have never seen and have only read the spin-off books of). However, despite my initial excitement, I found that the movie, while having some good messages, ended up becoming a victim to its time, and that time’s sexism.
After being somewhat let down by my re-watch of Scooby-Doo and the Alien Invaders, I was kind of loath to put my nostalgic favorite Scooby movie under a critical microscope. Thankfully, I discovered upon rewatching that it was still pretty enjoyable.
Spoilers for a movie that’s old enough to vote after the jump.
We’ve finally come upon the creepy month of October in all its glory; a perfect time of month to binge on some movies, if I do say so myself. A couple years ago I did just that, taking a short, but pleasant trip down Tim Curry’s filmography. This year, though, I’ve decided to take things from a bit of a more festive angle. Ever since I was younger, the idea of witches interested me greatly, especially as they showed up in pop culture. As I’ve grown, this interest has bloomed from a passing interest in fictional magic, to embracing the idea of being a “witch” as a form of empowerment—especially in the case of women and girls—and even looking deeper into some Wiccan/Pagan philosophies. So, it seems only right that I sit down to a couple nights full of theatrical witchy goodness.
….is what I want to say, but my first choice on this endeavor ended up being not so great. Back in 2012, Lady Geek Girl herself proffered the trailer to one, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. I won’t lie and say that I’m not attracted to the idea of darker interpretations of fairy tales, but it should also be obvious that these re-writes can’t rely on aesthetic alone to give us a compelling story. Witch Hunters did give its audience some interesting takes on the old fable, but these small breadcrumbs of something greater didn’t lead me anywhere worth going.
After rewatching Oliver & Company and The Fox and the Hound, I got to thinking how strange it would be if my cats were just as intelligent as the animals in Disney or Pixar. For many of us, talking animals were a big part of our childhood, and they have continued to be part of us well into adulthood. From live-action films like Homeward Bound to completely animated movies such as Bolt, these stories are a great way to teach audience members, particularly children, valuable life lessons. The Fox and the Hound teaches us about empathy and societal pressures, The Lion King tells us about growing up and taking responsibility even if we don’t want to, and Zootopia teaches us about inclusion and racism.
Even if all these movies are by no means perfect, the messages they want to teach us are pretty clear. However, very rarely do talking animal movies delve into topics like abuse and death. And let’s face it, the world is a really awful place for animals, and from an animal’s perspective, it must be rather horrifying to live here. Happy talking animal movies have their place, but as The Fox and the Hound lets us know, so do unhappy ones. And that brings me to Fluke, a live-action 1995 drama film.
I really love the movie Stardust. I’ll watch it any time it comes on. But while rewatching it recently, I realized how often the women in the movie were not active participants in the story. Victoria, Yvaine, and Una don’t get to do much of anything—they don’t fight battles, go on any great quests, discover any great secrets, or attempt to gain the family throne. The only female participants who are very active at all are the evil witches, particularly Lamia, their leader. This sends a particularly bad message, especially since of all of the good female characters I mentioned, only one wasn’t someone’s prisoner. Una is kidnapped by another witch, Yvaine is kidnapped for a time by Tristan, and Victoria, though never kidnapped, is barely in the movie and is portrayed as rather vain and selfish. Basically, the women of Stardust not only do very little, but also are severely lacking in any sort of empowerment.
Practical Magicis a film from 1998 about a family of witches who are cursed to have any men they truly fall in love with be doomed to an untimely death. This was a witchy romantic comedy that I was really pleased to see was actually more about the sisters and their relationship than any particular romance. In fact, I read that Practical Magic is based on a book and it makes me wonder if the book was actually less about romance and more about the relationship between the women in their family. Whatever the case, I did find the movie Practical Magic to be a delightful story about female power, bonds, and coming together to overcome adversity, even if the story is a bit muddled.
Spoilers for the movie and a trigger warning for abusive relationships below.
Paprika is one of my favorite films of all time. The 2006 Satoshi Kon film is well known for its stunning visuals, trippy story, and amazing music. Honestly, just trying to wrap your head around the idea of dreams within dreams (insert Inception sound bite here) and dreams invading reality is enough to keep your mind occupied. However, as with all films, especially Satoshi Kon films, there are a plethora of other themes floating around to play around with. The protagonist, Doctor Atsuko Chiba, is an especially interesting character, but one of the most interesting things about the movie is how she is viewed by the men around her. As she and Paprika maneuver through their respective worlds, they become the lens through which the audience experiences the extent of how male entitlement has flourished, even in this one small research facility.
Warning for mentions/images of assault below the cut, and spoilers for those who haven’t seen the film yet. (Although I highly recommend watching it!)