Luke Mott: Examining the Witch – Feminism and Witchcraft in ‘The Love Witch’

Examining the Witch: Feminism and Witchcraft in The Love Witch

Section one: Overall Thesis.

My overall thesis when approaching the film, The Love Witch (2016) is that of observing how the portrayal of the witch is handled in the film, as well as the overall success of the feminist iconography displayed throughout.  I started off by observing the unique link between witchcraft and feminism before moving on to examine the claim that The Love Witch is a feminist cult classic. I still believe The Love Witch stands out as quite an interesting case study in the overall history of Witches appearing in movies and television. Elaine’s character and in fact all the witches that are depicted in The Love Witch stand apart from the classic depiction of the witch. This is something that is explored in section one of the video essay.  They all appear young, beautiful and not in the least bit intimidating or scary. By examining the difference in the visuals surrounding the traditional good witch versus evil witch tropes which we see throughout a vast amount of television and movies, it allows us to see where Elaine falls into that trope and if that aids in the feminist ideology of the movie. Moving on from this I then examined how successful Anna Biller is in pushing forwards a feminist agenda throughout this movie, while paying close attention to the portrayal of female sexuality. Ultimately what I intended to prove in this video essay is twofold. Firstly, in relation to the overall portrayal of witches and witchcraft in this movie, I attempted to show where Elaine falls in terms of the good witch versus evil witch split in movies and television by showing how despite her actions Elaine remains a good witch. This point in turn helps aid the question over whether The Love Witch Is a feminist cult classic. I intended to show how throughout the film Biller creates a strong momentum for the feminist agenda in terms of the portrayal of female sexuality, with the climax of the movie still remaining a sticky point as to if it aids or hinders the feminist ideology of the movie, which ultimately I believe it aids, although perhaps not as cleanly as it had hoped.

Section two: Break down of the video essay.

By taking inspiration from Orson Wells final film F for Fake I decided to use the ‘back at the ranch’ style of video essay. The reasoning behind this was due to the fact that throughout the video essay there are two interweaving strands of argument. That being the portrayal of witches and witchcraft in the movie in relation to other films, as well as the feminist ideology of the movie and if it stands up to the title of feminist cult classic. Therefore with the intention to highlight the interweaving nature of my two lines of argument I decided to set my structure based of F for Fake in order to show how, by cutting from one argument to the other, they both ultimately join together to provide a satisfying conclusion for the video essay. I will now go through and highlight each section of the video essay to provide some context as to my decision to include it in my video essay and how each section helps in examining the witch. Section one of my video essay is used primarily as a source for providing context to the depiction of witchcraft in the film as well as to introduce the idea of the good witch versus the evil witch depiction of witchcraft in movies and television shows. It must be noted that it would be truly impossible to include every reference of Witchcraft and Witches in television and film in this section. Therefore, I aimed to show a breadth of films and television programmes that would spring to mind when thinking of famous witches appearing in this form of media as well as making sure they covered an extensive time period to highlight the extent of the good witch versus evil witch troupe. In section two of the essay I intended to show the first interweaving link between witchcraft and feminism. By highlighting how the witch bottle is not only a direct link to witchcraft and pagan practise but also how Biller uses the witchcraft in a way to help elevate a feminist point on female sexuality, section two acts as a marker for how my two lines of inquiry link together and ultimately help the evaluation of the witch. Section three again aims to highlight the inherent link between witchcraft and feminism by targeting the stripping scene between Elaine and Wayne. Furthermore, the use of the classical text Malleus Maleficarum helps elevate my point from a historiographical standpoint by showing how long female sexuality has been oppressed in relation to witchcraft. Section Four tackles the patriarchal issue displayed throughout the movie in relation to the coven Elaine is a part of. This section aims to again highlight how Biller is using Witchcraft to help elevate the feminist connotations throughout the movie. Finally, section five helps tackle the sticky end to the movie as well as the establishment as to where Elaine’s place is in the good witch versus evil witch portrayal of witchcraft in movies and television. Ultimately the video essay intends to show how Biller uses witchcraft and the messages that witchcraft intends to put out to help elevate this film to the status of feminist cult classic.  

Filmography

  • Bewitched. USA, American Broadcasting Company, tx 17 September 1964
  • F for Fake. Dir, Orson Wells. Prod, François Reichenbach, Dominique Antoine, Richard Drewett. France, 1973.
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Dir, Chris Columbus. Prod, Warner Bros. Pictures, Heyday Films, 1492 Pictures. UK, 2001.
  • Häxan. Dir Benjamin Christensen. Prod, AB Svensk Filmindustri. Sweden, 1922.
  • Kiki’s Delivery Service Dir, Hayao Miyazaki. Prod, Studio Ghibli. Japan, 1989.
  • Macbeth. Dir, Roman Polanski. Prod, Playboy Productions, Caliban Films. USA, 1971.
  • Sabrina the Teenage Witch. USA, American Broadcasting Company, TeenNick, The WB, Freeform, tx 27 September 1996
  • Sleeping Beauty Dir, Clyde Geronimi. Prod, Walt Disney Productions. USA 1959
  • Suspiria Dir, Dario Argento. Prod, Seda Septtacoli. Italy, 1977.  
  • The Love Witch. Dir, Anna Biller. Prod, Anna Biller Productions. UK, 2017.
  • The Witches. Dir, Nicolas Roeg. Prod, Jim Henson Productions, Lorimar Film Entertainment. UK, 1990
  • The Wizard of Oz. Dir, Victor Fleming, George Cukor, Mervyn LeRoy, King Vidor, Norman Taurog. Prod, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. UK, 1939.

Luke Mott

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