Bewitched

Please see our “About,” “Why Radfem?” and “The Gears” pages for additional information about this project.

Common themes represented here:

Femicide.  Images of supernaturally-powerful (and even non-supernaturally powerful) women exist against a backdrop of institutional misogyny that historically punishes powerful women, including the Burning Times.  Throughout the Bewitched series, we are aware that all the witches are in danger of their identities being revealed and the resulting anti-witch “discrimination” that would follow.  Also, both the older female neighbor Gladys Kravitz and Darrin Stevens’ mother are made to seem “crazy” and in need of femicidal, patriarchal control — namely, psychiatric treatment — when they see various magical goings-on in the Stevens house that defy explanation.  See also Support patriarchal institutions (medicine/religion/law).

Handmaidens of the patriarchy.  Samantha is constantly handmaidensplaining to her witchy relatives what’s so great about her role as domestic slave to a mortal man, and reiterating that it’s her “choice” to do it.  In her case, it actually does seem to be her “choice”, but of course mortal women in real life aren’t powerful or imbued with multiple, meaningful options the way she is.  Endora, Samantha’s mother, is a very powerful witch and isn’t buying any of it, and doesn’t accept her daughter’s “choice” but she is pathologized.  See also PIV-centric narrativePathologize older women and menopause/fetishize female youth.  Evil mother-in-law meme (x 1000).

PIV-centric narrativeGoal is to “land a man”.  Heteronormativity, femininity and male-pleasing generally; women competing and vying for male attention; the “girl meets boy” theme is particularly evident in the pilot.  Also, Darrin is clearly not good enough for Samantha, a fact that seems blatantly obvious to all of Samantha’s family.  See also Joke’s on women: “bumbling” or oafish husband meme.

Primacy of the nuclear family.  Samantha can have literally anything she wants, and yet she chooses marriage, children and the white picket fence, and rejects a literally magical, female-centered life with her mother, female cousin, and various aunts and other extended family.  As if.

Reversal.  Women’s supernatural (or even natural) “power” does not make them politically powerful, and actually makes them more vulnerable to institutional patriarchal control.  Samantha is also under the control of the Witches’ Council and subject to their and practices and policies.

Woman as “useful object“.  Even though she doesn’t have to, Samantha chooses to be a domestic, sexual and reproductive slave to a mere mortal, and Darrin expects nothing less.  Even though she could spend her days on creative or magical pursuits, or with her mother and extended family, she usually stays home and cleans and cooks, and declines to use her magic for this except in emergencies, for example, when Darrin is about to come home and the house is a mess.  She often uses her magic to avoid Darrin’s uncontrollable anger.  See also PIV-centric narrativeRape and rape culture.  Women being clever to avoid male anger or male violence.

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3 responses to “Bewitched”

  1. FCM says :

    wow. one of my favorite shows from the time i was an infant, because it reads as something “refreshing” and a respite from the more blatant misogyny found elsewhere….and yet it simultaneously represents almost all of the “gears” of the patriarchal propaganda machine. the P is a clever one isnt it?

  2. cherryblossomlife says :

    I’ve never forgotten when one of the witches came back from the doctor, who told her that she was pregnant.
    Eh?
    A woman knows she’s pregnant straight away. You feel it in your breasts because they change immediately and become sensitive. What about missing a period? Or what about putting 2 + 2 together about when you last had intercourse? BY the time you get around to making an appointment with a doctor, you already know.
    But no, apparently even witches need a man to help them work out if they’re pregnant or not.