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Morticia Addams, Sabrina Spellman, Queen Elsa of Arendelle. These women of television and film, of camp, horror and fantasy, bear so little resemblance to the she-devils of the Malleus Maleficarum that they must surely be different sorts of creatures than the victims of the Salem. But are they really so different? Little girls wear tiaras and Elsa-themed backpacks because they desire power and beauty. Sabrina’s appeal is inseparable from her diabolical display of teenage female sexuality. The great crime and great enticement of these characters boils down to each being, as Greene puts it, “the woman who knows too much,” precisely what historic persecutors of Witchcraft feared.
Lights, Camera, Witchcraft; A Critical History of Witches in American Film and Television traces the figure of the Witch from her role as a non-defining element of a story based in fairy tale to being the major character. Heather Greene deftly connects each development in film and storytelling to corresponding developments in culture and society. The silver screen is, after all, the collective fantasy of a culture writ large and to understand it is to understand the society that produced it.
The comprehensive text is organized chronologically, beginning with the dawning influence of film in the late 19th century. It follows the changing representations of the Witch through the green face Wicked Witch, the housewife charmers, the satanic depictions of the 80s and through to the films and TV series of 2020. Each section is accompanied by meaningful, in-depth analysis based in feminism and filmography. For the film buff, the fascinated watcher or the real-life Witch, Heather Greene’s thoughtful and thorough work is a must-read. Deride her, fear her or laud her, the Witch enchants all her viewers.