Today we’re talking with editor, author, and journalist Heather Greene about her latest book, “Lights, Camera, Witchcraft: A Critical History of Witches in American Film and Television.”
1. Your latest book is “Lights, Camera, Witchcraft: A Critical History of Witches in American Film and Television.” I guess the most obvious question here is, why explore this particular facet of history?
Stories of witches and witchcraft permeate so much of our culture across time and space. It is a fascination that is made of both adoration and fear, it would seem. In this study, I examined how American pop culture, specifically Hollywood and television, told these age-old stories and defined the character of the witch.
2. Your book discusses a dizzying volume of movies and television shows. Do you have any idea how much time you spent watching movies as research?
I could do some math based on the average length of shows and movies, but no, I do not have a number. In fact, in some cases, I watched the films or shows multiple times for analysis, and I also watched a good number of films not listed or mentioned. So basically, the answer is “a whole lot.”
3. How has the role of women in American culture been reflected by the role of the witch in film?
This is actually one of the main threads in the book. In short, witchcraft is more often than not an allegory for a woman’s or girl’s power. Therefore, the witch character reflects mainstream society’s relationship with that power at any given point in time. When her innate power is feared as in mid-century, the witch is an example of what not to be. When it’s celebrated as in the 1990s, witchcraft is a symbol of feminist expression or so called ‘girl power’. This is just a taste of a complex social history.
4. Overall, how has the witch in cinema evolved?
Again, this is the main thrust of the book itself. A quick answer: the witch began as a copy of stories and lore that had come before and expanded over time with a changing society. Her stories became more involved, more focused on her as a central character, and more nuanced in the definition of magic itself. The witch evolved into a uniquely Hollywood creation and a true reflection of American society’s negotiation of religion, gender, race, ethnicity, and power.
5. Has the portrayal of men as witches been a part of your research?
Yes. While women make up most of Hollywood’s witches, there are some standout male figures, and that needs to be discussed as well. Given that witches have long been associated with women within Western society in general, it is important to examine male representations and the roles that they play. There is a distinct difference and I discuss that point in the book.
6. Do you remember the first witch you saw in American film or television?
I would guess it would be Glinda and The Wicked Witch of the West. I loved The Wizard of Oz. However, it may have been Sabrina the Teenage Witch in her cartoon form or a Disney animated witch.
7. Who’s your favorite fictional witch?
The Wicked Witch of the West, although I’m partial to Looney Tunes’ Witch Hazel and Disney’s Maleficent.
8. Now that you’re done with this book, what are you watching on television?
I’ve been watching some wonderful British films that have absolutely nothing to do with witchcraft. British filmmakers have a wonderful way of telling compelling slice of life stories. The Beautiful Fantastic is one example. However, I did just start watching The Wheel of Time, which is in fact a great addition to the story of the witch on screen.
9. What’s next? Do you have any upcoming projects that my readers should be aware of?
As an acquisition’s editor at Llewellyn, I’m currently spending most of my time working with other authors on their books, which is something that I deeply enjoy. Helping authors go from idea to book-in-hand is fantastic. We like to call ourselves “book midwives.” I do post the books that I work on publicly in my photo library on Facebook. It is called My Llewellyn Book Shelf. https://www.facebook.com/heather.greene.165
I am also a religion journalist, covering predominantly witchcraft and pagan related stories. Readers can follow my work through my Twitter account @miraselena01.
For all my antics in one place, www.heathergreene.net.
10. Parting shot! Ask us at The Magical Buffet any one questions.
What is your favorite witch movie and why?
That is a really tough question. When I was young, I went through a pretty hardcore “Bell, Book, and Candle” phase. Then I had the prerequisite “The Craft” love affair. My last witch movie obsession was “Practical Magic”, and I think that may be my favorite. It’s a mature take on magic and witchcraft, with a fantastic cast (Stockard Channing for life yo!), and a Stevie Nicks heavy soundtrack.
About Heather Greene:
Heather Greene is an editor, author, and journalist living in Atlanta, Georgia. She is currently an acquisitions editor with Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd and a freelance religion journalist. She has a BA from Wesleyan University and an MA from Emory University both in Film Studies. Her work can be found at Religion News Service, Religion Unplugged, The Washington Post, Circle Magazine, and The Wild Hunt. Her book “Lights Camera Witchcraft,” tracing witches in American film and television, was released October 2021. She is a member of Covenant of the Goddess, Religion Newswriters Association, and Circle Sanctuary.
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