Jupiter Ascending looks amazing! I don’t really like sci-fi but I would see this in an instant. We’ll have to wait until July 25, 2014 for the Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski written/directed space epic to open, though. Jupiter Ascending stars Mila Kunis as Jupiter Jones, a Russian immigrant janitor with the same genetic makeup as the Queen of the Universe, which grants her immortality and other cool powers.
[Spoiler alert] Because of this, Jupiter’s existence threatens the Queen of Space and so she must be killed. Channing Tatum is Caine, a genetically engineered hunter, part human albino and part wolf. (What is it about pointed ears that is so irresistible…. ). Sent to Earth to finish off Jupiter and preserve the Queen’s reign, Caine decides that Jupiter is indeed awesome and switches sides, becoming her protector. The duo must then evade the other hunters sent by the Queen, who is understandably angry and frightened of losing her throne…
In this future world as envisioned by the siblings Wachowski, humans are a lower life form, and human genes are spliced with other creatures’ to make them “better.” Soldiers are crossed with wolves to create a pack killer mentality; workers have bee genes to increase the hive mind and make them work harder. Some humans are hybridized with peacocks, according the cast list which shows actress Alexandra Fraser from World War Z in that role.
Monty Python’s Terry Gilliam has a (mysterious) role in Jupiter Ascending. The film also features James D’Arcy and Sean Bean, so basically it’s eye candy in space (as if Channing Tatum with pointed ears wasn’t enough!). And with both a female protagonist and antagonist, it appeals across the board (like I said, I don’t really like science-fiction and I want to see it), which is good, since it’s set to be a Warner Bros tent-pole.
(Side note: Jupiter Jones was the name of the main character in the Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators young adult mystery series which I read as a kid. Jupiter lived in a junkyard with his aunt and uncle, and I still remember details about the clues. Jupiter Jones is also band in Greenville, North Carolina)
This is the story of a secret agent, of nuclear proliferation, billion-dollar high-tech defense transactions, ideology, patriotism, love, heartbreak, and the awe inspiring Hollywood career of a mysterious mogul. In a true story that puts James Bond to shame, Confidential details with nail-biting suspense how producer Arnon Milchan evolved from his youth into one of the most important covert agents that Israeli intelligence has ever fielded…Confidential is packed with stunning new revelations and opens a window into the world of a key covert operative, who evolved into a genuine member of Hollywood’s royal elite.
Here are some the quotes bolstering the authors’ claims and those of Milchan:
Arnon is a special man. His activities gave us a huge advantage, strategically, diplomatically, and technologically. In my present position as president, I am restrained from recommending any single individual for our highest defense-related honor, but undoubtedly, Arnon Milchan is worthy of such an acknowledgment, and that’s as close to a recommendation that I, as president, can give.
–Shimon Peres, President of Israel.
Never, never tell jokes about a man with easy access to weapons of mass destruction.
–Peter Chernin, former CEO of Fox Entertainment Group.
Arnon Milchan…is a loyal and generous friend who also happens to be a great longterm and trustworthy partner.
– Rupert Murdoch, CEO, News Corporation.
Creepy much? Milchan spoke to Israeli investigative documentary program Uvda (Fact) in an interview that will air this week on Israel’s Channel 2 (interesting timing with Iran nuke deal now agreed to). The program includes interviews with Russel Crowe, Robert DiNiro and Ben Affleck. Milchan was recruited by Israeli president Shimon Peres in the 1960s and became a liaison for the secretive Bureau of Scientific Relations and worked to further Israel’s nuclear program, handling clandestine deals involving Israeli military acquisitions in the 1970s He admits that the late producer Sydney Pollock was
a real partner
who helped him obtain arms and other military equipment for Israel and was fully aware of what he was doing. Milchan also used an unwitting Richard Dreyfuss in an attempt to recruit senior U.S. scientist and expert on nuclear weapons Arthur Biehl for Israel, inviting Biehl to Dreyfuss’ house on the premise that the two men would discuss music.
Milchan says of dual career:
I didn’t attach enough significance to the image I had created of myself. I should have confronted the image of an arms dealer. In Hollywood they don’t like working with an arms dealer, ideologically. [They don't like working] with someone who lives off selling machine guns and killing. Instead of someone talking to me about a script, I had to spend half an hour explaining that I’m not an arms dealer. If people knew how many times I risked my life, back and forth, again and again, for my country. … And suddenly, to defend myself — ‘I’m not an arms dealer, I don’t sell guns, I don’t sell rockets’ — I should have been aware of that, of what I’ll go through, and said ‘F— you. You know what? I did it for my country, and I’m proud of it.’
Milchan’s choice of films doesn’t reflect a bias towards Israel or an attempt to brainwash the public, but still this is, well, creepy. Milchan’s latest film, starring Russell Crowe is the story of Noah, directed by Darren Aronsofsky.
Monday POTUS attended two fundraisers in Beverly Hills, one at the home of producer Haim Saban, the other where he was joined by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Rep. Steve Israel (D-NV) at chez Magic Johnson, who called Obama
“the greatest leader in the world,” and highlighted the benefits of Obamacare.
I don’t know how affordable this Affordable Care is really going to be. My insurance went up from $222 to $388 for the same coverage, and I don’t understand why men and women past childbearing age are paying for maternity care, since they can’t have babies…
Anyway, today Obama is busy collecting checks for the House Senate Victory Fund, a joint committee to raise money for Democratic House and Senate candidates–tickets for the Saban party where guests included former ambassador Nicole Avant and her husband, Netflix’s Ted Sarandos; Eli and Edythe Broad; Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti; Berry Gordy; Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson were $16,200 per person. And at Magic and Cookie Johnson’s $2,500 to $15,000 per person affair, where organizers expected about 160 people, including LaToya Jackson; the Los Angeles Clippers’ Antawn Jamison and Ashley Lewis; Diane Keaton; the Clippers’ J.J. Redick and wife Chelsea; as well as a number of members of California’s congressional delegation. He’ll will attend a $32,500-per-person breakfasty/60-person roundtable co-hosted by Melanie Griffith at the home of of producer Marta Kauffman and her husband Michael Skloff. That’s in Hancock Park, and major streets will be blocked off.
From there, well, we’re expecting serious traffic trouble as the presidential motorcade heads to DreamWorks Studios in Glendale, basically just northeast of the Griffith Park Observatory, no word on what route the motorcade will take but it will affect all of Hollywood and most likely my neighborhood which is between Hollywood and Glendale. There Obama may be faced with a sea of green shirts which DreamWorks employees are wearing in solidarity with
visual effects artists stung by the loss of work due to outsourcing of jobs to countries that offer subsidies. Outside of DreamWorks Animation, plans are in the works for a protest that is not aimed at DreamWorks, but the subsidies. They want the Obama administration to pursue a duty on imports of subsidized special effects work, and believe that such a duty can be imposed without Congress and that it can be applied to digital goods.
DreamWorks was chosen because they are a job creator, though one wonders if Obama is aware of how many jobs in Hollywood have been outsourced, and how run-away production has gutted Hollywood. Variety reports that White House principal deputy press secretary Josh Earnest explained the choice to visit the studio:
that Katzenberg’s support of Obama — the DreamWorks Animation chieftan was one of the biggest fundraisers for Obama’s reelection campaign — had “no bearing on our decision to visit there.”
“Contributing to the president’s campaign or being a political supporter of the president doesn’t guarantee you a presidential visit, but it shouldn’t exclude you from one either,” Earnest said.
“DreamWorks obviously is a thriving business and is creating lots of jobs in Southern California and the fact of the matter is Mr. Katzenberg’s support for the president’s policies has no bearing on our decision to visit there,” Earnest said. “Rather, it’s an opportunity to highlight the success of one business and the success that they’re having creating jobs in Southern California.
Obama supporter, liberal giver and general rich guy (I believe he’s in the 1%) Jeffrey Katzenberg has invited other show-biz bigwigs to the closed meeting, including, according to Variety, MPAA chairman Chris Dodd, CBS’s Leslie Moonves and possibly Warner Bros.’ Kevin Tsujihara and Barry Meyer, and Fox’s Jim Gianopulos.
while being approached for pictures after winning his case against his stalker, Genevieve Sabourin.
Baldwin claims he said
Me personally, I like cocksucking. I am all in favor of cocksucking. But when cocksucking is used as an epithet, it becomes a slur. Like fucking. Fucking is a great fun, much like cocksucking. But when, if enraged, you call someone a
it’s not a compliment.
GLAAD stepped up today and called out the MSBNC talk show host and ally-in-checkbook-only. According to TMZ, a rep for GLAAD commented:
Mr. Baldwin can’t lend his support for equality on paper, while degrading gay people in practice. It’s clearly time he listens to the calls from so many LGBT people and allies to end this pattern of anti-gay slurs.
I’m gonna find you, George Stark, you toxic little queen, and I’m gonna fuck … you … up.
If [he means I'd] put my foot up your fucking ass, George Stark, but I’m sure you’d dig it too much.
I want all of my followers and beyond to straighten out this fucking little bitch.
And then he apologized and all was forgiven. Because you know, despite his anti-gay language and calls for violence against a gay man, he’s like, donated to marriage equality and fights homophobia.
Said Baldwin said in his missive to GLAAD, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, “My ill-advised attack on George Stark of the Daily Mail had absolutely nothing to do with issues of anyone’s sexual orientation. My anger was directed at Mr. Stark for blatantly lying and disseminating libelous information about my wife and her conduct at our friend’s funeral service. As someone who fights against homophobia, I apologize.”
Baldwin noted his work over the years for marriage equality and said he wouldn’t advocate violence against people for being gay, and GLAAD’s Rich Ferrarro, vice president of communications, responded.
“Alec Baldwin is making it clear that the intent behind his tweets does not excuse his language, especially at a time when there were 11 incidents of violence against gay men in New York City just last month. As we all work to end such senseless acts of violence, allies like Baldwin are right to use these moments to reinforce support for the community and LGBT equality.”
And just because he’s a liberal, an “ally”, that time he got a pass and an apologia from GLAAD. WTF?! What kind of ally says
you toxic little queen, and I’m gonna fuck … you … up. If [he means I'd] put my foot up your fucking ass, George Stark, but I’m sure you’d dig it too much.
Alec Baldwin is not an ally. He’s an angry self-entitled prick. And if an athlete or rapper or a politician had used that sort of language, they’d be soundly castigated the first time and might not have their job. But Alec got a pass just five months ago and still sounds forth from his MSNBC bully pulpit. But despite his highly publicized donations to the theatre and arts via his Capital One ads, he couldn’t figure out a way to insult a photographer without using homo-hating words. Maybe he needs a refresher course from Shakespeare:
such bugs and goblins in my life
frothy pox-marked giglet villainous whoreson measle thou puny ill-breeding coxcomb flesh monger, a fool, and a coward clay-brained guts, thou knotty-pated fool, thou whoreson obscene greasy tallow-catch
Baldwin shouldn’t get out of this (again) by throwing out a nice apology and giving some cash to an LGBT cause. That’s rich white limousine liberal BS.
Oh I’ll just write a check and people will forgive me. Because I give so much and am such shining of being coolness because I give money. And look, I’m on MSNBC.
NO fucking way, Alec (and btw, your MSNBC show is free fall fail). This time, don’t write a check. Show you actually care, open you heart and mind instead of your wallet: Go do some community service at an LGBT youth shelter. And when you’re done with that, spend some time at an HIV hospice. Show some sincerity, develop some compassion.
An elderly Florida couple is suing director Spike Lee over tweets he made on March 23, 2012, less than a month after shooting death of Trayvon Martin, writes The Smoking Gun. The tweets, which featured the couple’s address, wrongly identified as that of Trayvon Martin’s killer George Zimmerman, were subsequently reteweeted over the next months.
The acclaimed director/activist had tweeted out the address of septuagenarians David and Elaine McClain instead of that of George Zimmerman. Lee had received the incorrect information via a fellow Twitter user,
a California man who sent the purported Zimmerman address to Lee and an assortment of celebrities with the direction, “EVERYBODY REPOST THIS.”
From March 23 to March 29, 2012, Twitter and Facebook erupted with messages of violence aimed at the address, and McClains went public, explaining they had no connection with Martin’s killer Zimmerman. Six days later, facing criticism and outrage, Lee apologized to the McClains and made a what was later revealed to be a $10,000 settlement to the couple, based on damages up to March 29, 2012, according ot their new lawsuit. The settlement was national news–I heard about it on local news radio here in here in Los Angeles–and Lee tweeted out:
I Deeply Apologize To The McClain Family For Retweeting Their Address. It Was A Mistake. Please Leave The McClain’s In Peace.
But, alleges the suit, subsequent to Lee’s mea culpa, once the Zimmerman trial began and after his acquittal, the McClains’ address was circulated again again, because nothing ever disappears on the interwebs. Internet rage went into overdrive, with tweets like:
The McClains have filed suit for over $15,000–The Smoking Gun says the suit may be worth $1.2 million–alleging that Lee acted in a
by not verifying the address and then tweeting out to his 240,000 followers, and
encouraging a dangerous mob mentality.
Along with claiming mental distress and anguish from hate mail and menacing phone calls, lack of sleep, and a loss of capacity for enjoyment of life, the McClains claim that Lee violated several Florida statutes. The McClains had to relocate temporarily, and suffered law enforcement and media on their front lawn and the loss of value of their home, for all of which they are seeking compensatory judgment. (According to Zillow, houses in the area range from $79,000 for a foreclosure to $309,000) They’d like a jury trial.
Spike Lee retweeted their address, but why they aren’t going after the original tweeter, @Maccapone, is sort of mystery–oh wait, he’s not as rich? Did anyone else, rich and/or famous, or not, retweet @Maccapone’s incorrect tweet? Maccapone, real name Marcus Higgins, tweeted over 100 people, and, like Lee, apologized to the couple. And depending on what the settlement agreement reached last year says, the McClains may have given up their right to sue for damages that occurred after Lee tweeted that he’d made a mistake (though one would hope their lawyer has taken that into account).
Matt Kennedy, the gallery director, and I were chatting about what we were going this weekend. Matt’s really into comics (he recently scored an original panel from Gasoline Alley, one that contains a pivotal plot point), loves weird history and science fiction (he and his wife play a drinking game centering around the TV show Ancient Aliens–narrator says “alien” and you drink; narrator says “extra-terrestrial,” and you take three sips, etc.), and has an encyclopedic knowledge of movies. In the midst of our geeking out I blurted:
Please don’t go see Ender’s Game!
He replied vehemently:
No way! No way would I see that. And I gotta tell you, a guy came in from the the film company, wanting to put up a poster from the movie and said, ‘Hey, maybe we could do a promotion with you.’ I told told him, ‘No, that’s not gonna happen,’ and he shook his head and went,”I know, I get it, I get it.’
Geek’s OUT has been the instrumental primogenitor in raising awareness about Orson Scott Card’s nastiness, his homophobia, his anti-equality activism through their Skip Ender’s Game campaign. In the Advocate, Patrick Yacco, a Geeks OUT board member writes brilliantly and passionately about why he is skipping Ender’s Game, and explains more eloquently than I what his group of sci-fi-loving queers has done and why. Their activism has shown what motivation and determination can accomplish. Geek OUT are true superheroes.
Since Geeks OUT launched this campaign earlier this year, we’ve faced a slew of criticism, ranging from “you need to separate the art from the artist” to “this isn’t big enough to make a difference.” To the first argument, I have to draw on my experience of being a queer geek and knowing that Orson Scott Card doesn’t respect who I am as a fan of science fiction. We’re not talking about someone who at one time or another made some stupid comments and is now apologizing for them, like James Gunn, director of the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy. Card actively works to target and undermine the LGBT community’s progress, and he’s quietly begun attacking people of color as well. To me, consuming any of his products is extremely problematic, and I’m addressing that in the fashion I see fit.
On the other hand, to say that the Skip Ender’s Game campaign won’t have an impact is completely moot at this point. Geeks OUT has pushed Card’s atrocious attacks on the LGBT community to the forefront of mainstream media, with nearly every outlet that reports on Ender’s Game commenting on his radical activism. Even if people weren’t aware of his views, they’re learning about them now. Regardless of Ender’s Game’s box office tally, Geeks OUT has helped raise awareness of Orson Scott Card’s fear-mongering, and no amount of ticket sales can change that.
Matt Kennedy isn’t the only straight sci-fi fan who’s skipping Ender’s Game. On Facebook and in real life, straight sci-fans have told me they are not going to see Ender’s Game, period, not even by paying for a ticket at the megaplex and sneaking in. That’s huge. Geeks OUT are true superheroes. Their activism has shown what motivation and determination can accomplish.
Happy Halloween from WeHo! While the city gears up for its annual gianormous Halloween celebration–half a million people expected, Queen Latifa getting crowned as Carnaval Queen(!), and, oh my gods, the horror, the horror of resident permit parking suspended for the night–I celebrated early, on the set of Old Dogs & New Tricks, the fabulous web series about the friendships and tribulations of a group of diverse and successful West Hollywood men – each one located squarely within middle age. (I have a super soft spot for OD&NT who donated DVDs to give away at Netroots Nation 13 LGBT Connect booth).
The old dogs and new tricks were shooting a special Halloween episode in a disco with pulsing music, hot go-go boys, and costumed extras drawn from their friends and friends of friends. So, thanks to the master of Back2Stonewall.com I threw on a gown, affixed my witch hat firmly on my head, and headed to the top secret location to join my fellow revelers and dance the afternoon away.
I don’t want to give away too many plot points, but expect some awesome costumes (including an epic Epic Fail Guy, aka Guy Fawkes, aka Anonymous), rippling muscles, an appearance by “Barack Obama,” fine drag served with a side of melancholy from one of the series’ stars, Leon Acord–and if it made the cut, me in a Sapphic embrace. What was my motivation? When called to act, we do!
Old Dogs & New Tricks has just signed a licensing deal with LGBT film distributor Wolfe Video to release the comedy series on DVD and via various streaming platforms online beginning November 26.
There are many reasons why I’m not going to see Ender’s Game. Orson Scott Card’s homophobia; I don’t care for science-fiction; Orson Scott Card advocates government overthrow; no actors I care about; Orson Scott Card plays the victim; there are way better movies opening and in theaters already; Orson Scott Card, as a producer stands to make money from Ender’s Game, and if the film does well, from subsequent sequels and merchandising.
KSL anchor and reporter Carole Mikita on the “Deseret News Sunday Edition” interviewed Card this past weekend, and the author went for the victim move with a neener-neenr combo:
The only reason I’m being attacked for it is because ‘Ender’s Game’ is coming out as a movie, so that was something that was going to get a lot of publicity for the people attacking. I’ve had no criticism…
I’ve had savage, lying, deceptive personal attacks, but no actual criticism because they’ve never addressed any of my actual ideas. Character assassination seems to be the only political method that is in use today, and I don’t play that game, and you can’t defend against it. All you can do is try to offer ideas, and for those who want to listen to ideas, great. For those who simply want to punish you for not falling in line with their dogmas, there’s really not much you can do about it…
Actually Card, who was on the National Organization for Marriage’s board of directors, wanted to punish people who didn’t fall in line with his dogma, and he has been personal in his attacks. Via The Daily Dot:
2004: He claimed that most homosexuals are the self-loathing victims of child abuse, who became gay “through a disturbing seduction or rape or molestation or abuse.”
2008: Card published his most controversial anti-gay screed yet, in the Mormon Times, where he argued that gay marriage “marks the end of democracy in America,” that homosexuality was a “tragic genetic mixup,” and that allowing courts to redefine marriage was a slippery slope towards total homosexual political rule and the classifying of anyone who disagreed as “mentally ill.”
2009: He joined the board for anti-gay lobby The National Organization for Marriage, which was created to pass California’s notorious Proposition 8, banning gay marriage.
2012: He supported his home state North Carolina’s constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage by arguing that gay marriage “will be the bludgeon [The Left] use to make sure that it becomes illegal to teach traditional values in the schools.
Because when government is the enemy of marriage, then the people who are actually creating successful marriages have no choice but to change governments, by whatever means is made possible or necessary… Regardless of law, marriage has only one definition, and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down.
But they key, in his interview, excerpted in the Deseret Times is this:
[The criticism] won’t affect my work. Will it affect the reception of my work? Of course, but not in ways that they expect. My sales go up with such attacks.
So let’s join in solidarity and be the allies we would want to have, supporting the LGBT community, especially those in states still working for marriage equality, by boycotting Ender’s Game, and prove Orson Scott Card wrong, as the sales figures for Ender’s Game tickets go down.
“Homelamb” is Sesame Street’s new and wickedly clever parody of Showtime’s Emmy winning series “Homeland” made even more pointed by using sheep Muppets as CIA agents, with Nicholas Brody renamed Nicholas Ba-aa-aa-rody, the Big Bad Wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Watch as sheep Carrie comes unglued and lusts for Baa-aa-aa-rody, even though she realizes that he is the traitor and tries to convince the other sheep agents of this dangerous reality. Will she unwittingly be a lamb to the slaughter? It’s a witty take on the spy drama starring Claire Danes. And as sharp and clear as a glass knife. But will kids get it? And more importantly, will adults…
It’s the season of the witch. At least on TV. Witches are hot, and producers are staking their cred on a current crop of witch shows, with new ones in the works. Right now there’s The Witches of East End [WoEE] and American Horror Story: Coven [AHS:C], with a reboot of Charmed being conjured. Coincidentally, Charmed just got dissed on AHS:C, when Queenie, played by Gabourey Sidibe, says:
I grew up on white girl shit, like Charmed and Sabrina the Teenage Cracker.
Honey, we all did. And Bewitched. And we’ve all had to deal with Stevie Nicks stigma. (Nicks’s music is the constant companion of swamp witch Misty Dawn, another of AHS:C‘s fashionable friends of the Devil).
For the past six years, reality producers have been trying to get a “real witches” show cast. I know, I get casting calls regularly and even shot a teaser reel for one. When I worked in an occult shop, I was featured on a few shows (Blind Date, where I showed a famous comedienne and her hapless, annoyed staged-date dude how to cast a passion spell; and some episode of a history show about a cursed dress for which I did a snazzy flaring cauldron routine and discussed curses).
Thing is, unlike TV witches, what “real” witches, sorcerers, sorceresses, and (non-stage) magicians do is not all that flashy. Sure there are rituals, solo and in groups (I don’t belong to a coven and I’m a witch, not a Wiccan–more on that later), but unless you are participating and know what’s going on, on it’s pretty boring, though the set dressing can be awesome. Do we go “skyclad,” that is, naked? Uh, if I do do that, I wouldn’t on TV.
American Horror Story: Coven is way better than the tepid Witches of East End, which involves a mom and her twenty-something daughters–the sexy bartender daughter is engaged to a rich boy, but sexually attracted to his bad-boy brother; her uptight librarian, super-rational sister doesn’t believe in witches, even though she is one. Mom is trying to be normal, but she’s accused of murder (the soapy trope of the evil twin!) and the free spirited witch auntie makes peyote stew and walks around naked. WoEE’s cosmology is off, its spellwork is wrong, its characterization of witches is weak, of women is facile, and the acting and writing suck. It’s embarrassing. Like, the librarian witch decides to try casting a spell to help her friend get pregnant (even though she doesn’t believe in magic, but hey, here’s an old book, let’s do it because nothing else is working), and next day her friend gets the results on an over-the-counter pee stick that she is with child! Biologically impossible, even with magic. While it’s possible to test positive as early as seven days past ovulation, most likely a woman isn’t producing hCG at a high enough level to be detected by a home pregnancy test. The earliest you can test is 7 days after ovulation, and it’s recommended to wait until after you have missed your period. You can also be pregnant, not know, and have spotting that you mistake for menstruation. So either the friend tested too soon, was pregnant before they did the spell and the pregnancy test gave a false negative which the next test read as positive, or she mistook spotting for her period, and retested after the spellcasting–surprise!
And the barely a tertiary character token gay guy, is just that, a token.
Joanna’s daughters on The Witches of East End have been reincarnated since at least Salem–mom appears to have nine lives, or be immortal or something– and each time the girls are named Freya and Ingrid. No way in Puritan Salem would these names–especially Freya, the name of a Norse goddess–have been given! Those names struck such a strident note that, for me, the whole plot fell to bits.
American Horror Story: Coven, created by Ryan Murphy (Glee) with James Wong (X Files) delivers a rich, engrossing storyline with beautiful cinematography and a stellar cast. Plus, unlike WoEE there’s an effort towards historical and ritual accuracy. Wong says they do a lot of research (and it shows in the background of the evil Mme. Delphine Lalaurie, played with intensity by Kathy Bates, and in Angela Bassett’s sublime and powerful Marie Laveau who now in present day works the same gig she held in the 19th century, a hairdresser). The rituals so far have been pretty well-grounded in magic. My friends and I did spot some glitches in episode three’s voodoo ceremony–red clothes would never be worn, nor would be underwear! While there’s general acceptance in the occult community that rituals shown in fictional films and on television will not be 100% accurate in terms of words, signs and so on—kids don’t try this at home and if you do it won’t work anyway–the red dress was still way off base! We screamed at the wrongness. Plus it was sorta fugly.
Another inaccuracy: Characters constantly reference Tituba, the real slave who was tried for witchcraft during the Salem witch trials–she wasn’t hanged as many of the accused were, but rather imprisoned; she was eventually freed from jail and then from slavery. Tituba was not of African decent, but rather an Arawak, one of the indigenous tribes of the Caribbean. Her Arawak heritage is mentioned on AHS:C, but unless you know your tribes, the implication remains that she practiced West African magic. The magic, though, that Tituba has inspired on AHS:C is voodoo, a West African diasporic religion, and there is also an error in implying that Western witchcraft gained its gifts solely from the voodoo root, which is not the case.
Witchcraft is a crazy quilt of beliefs and practices. Not all witches practice Wicca, a 20th century sect, which is the most well-known of the many branches in the forest of non-Christian Western esoteric belief systems. (There are some people who call themselves Christian Wiccans, which is a major oxymoron, but hey…it’s their souls, not mine!) And not everyone who is Wiccan, or a Druid, or an occultist does magic. The syncretic African diasporic religions, like voodoo and santeria, while very interactive with the gods, have believers who don’t cast spells (Hoodoo, the American melting cauldron, is a more action-oriented system, with a lot of “work” being done, sometimes with Jesus, Bible verses, and/or the saints as the whammy). Some people have a belief system, observe the seasons or moon, light candles, say prayers, and that’s that. Spellwork involving herbs and oils, “barbarous names of evocation,” sigils drawn on parchment, and such are not really everyone’s bag of tricks. Also, not all practitioners of non-Christian Western esoteric belief systems re purely Goddess worshipers, though one or more female aspects are acknowledged along with male aspect/s. That’s the religion part.
The “work” part, the spell casting, is not the nose twitching, the miraculous appearance of fur coats out of nowhere, or the sudden lighting of cigarettes from across the room seen on television. And it’s also not the positive affirmations of The Secret. It’s called “work” for a reason, though sometimes there’s a certain amount of fun involved. Television witches have a lot of powers–they can toss people across rooms with a subtle gesture, pop in and out of photographs, turn into and talk to animals, bring the dead back to life, grant the incorruptibility of flesh, and do all sorts of Jedi mind tricks. In real life (aside from spellwork and ritual which take time, effort and talent to cause change to occur in accordance with will) the latter is the only thing that works, and that’s because some people, witches or not, can just out-think other people, anticipating and adjusting as necessary, seeking to create outcomes in which all parties benefit. And I’ve noticed that the people who apply themselves, reading and studying (and by those verbs I mean more than just books on “how to do spells and set up your altar”), focusing on mental and physical exercises, engaging in lively discussions, who travel, avoid petty social drama and chaos, and again seek outcomes that are mutually beneficial, are the people who succeed in being happy. Which is really what it’s all about.
Yes, it’s possible to do spells for money, for youth (or the money to look youthful!), for love (though the best spell for that is loving yourself), and for health (which is to a certain extent our own responsibility–eating right, getting exercise to start with!). Magic can (and often does) work. Does magic meet a scientific, rather than anecdotal, proof? I did A and B was the result. I did A again and B was the result. So A works. For me. Life is not a reproduceable experiment; we are individuals; circumstances change. My A may not produce B for you, and under new and different circumstances may not produce B a third time for me.
Television witches are fun to watch, but they have done a disservice to real witches and women, providing role models who have denied our self-determination. We are stuck with watching Bell Book and Candle on late night movie channels (Kim Novak falls in love with Jimmy Stewart and loses her power, her glamorous wardrobe, and her groovy African art gallery, becoming a shirt-dress-wearing drab who sells faux floral displays made from sea shells). On Bewitched, mortal moron Derwood stifles Samantha’s natural talents, and stews in a state of mutual resentment with her witchy family. The girls of Charmed, the Halliwell sisters, have a guardian angel, Leo Wyatt a “whitelighter,” (In the series, a whitelighter is a former human mortal given a second chance at life in order to serve under an angelic group as guardian angels for good witches and other future whitelighters, who helped them out scrapes; in real-life magic a whitelighter, aka a fluffy bunny, is an uptight, self-righteous goody two shoes). Leo is also the Charmed Ones’ handyman, further reinforcing that women (and witches) are helpless little creatures who need a man. The sisters Halliwell also get a lot of (at times meddlesome) help from their buddy on the San Francisco Police force, who was a childhood friend and becomes one of the sister’s love interests. The series’ story arc involve fighting evil, working at cool jobs, trying to meet the right guys, and having a baby…
Sabrina the Teenage Witch originally appeared in the Archie comics in 1962. Like Bewitched‘s heroine, Sabrina is blond, but unlike Sam, she is only a half-witch. Her powers manifested on her 16th birthday (witch genes are strong; Samantha and Derwood’s daughter Tabitha also could do magic). Sabrina lives with her two full-witch aunts and Salem, a talking black cat (shades of The Master and Margarita!), a male witch who had been turned into animal form by the Witches’ Council for bad behavior. Salem gives Sabrina advice, often suggesting that she use magic to solve problems, usually with comically diastrous results.
Until this 2013 TV season, producers and their networks seemed to feel that TV witches needed a masculine authority figure. But so far, both the Witches of East End and the witches on American Horror Story: Coven have shaken off that superstition. On WWoE , witches don’t even seem to need to have a man to have a baby. Joanne, WoEE‘s witch mom, played by Julia Ormond, has reincarnated her daughters into her womb over the centuries and it’s unclear so far, who, if anyone, was responsible for fathering the girls–the book the series is based on may pony up that plot point, but it remains to be seen how firmly the series will adhere to the source material.
As the seasons progress for these two new witch shows, we’ll see how far both the supernaturally-blessed and everyday women have progressed in the last decade. Because what witch TV programs show, in hyper-focus, is how the public is perceived as wanting to view women. This perception is formed by the views expressed, by actions and reactions, in daily life. And at the same time, television programs provide modeling for how women should or should not behave. And that goes for witches as well.