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WITCHES have transformed their image in TV and film to become glamorous symbols of girl power, according to new research.

University of Warwick lecturer Dr Rachel Moseley has discovered that witches are no longer seen as haggard old women stooped over a steaming cauldron. The rise in popularity of programmes like Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which features witches, have shattered that image into one which represents femininity and empowerment.

WHEN Sarah Michelle Gellar took on the role of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, little did she know how important her lead character would be in redefining stereotypes.

According to Dr Rachel Moseley, lecturer in film and television studies at the University of Warwick, her role in the programme flouts the normal image of the occult.

In her 8,000-word paper, Glamorous Witchcraft, which has been published in an academic journal called Screen, she also cites TV shows such as Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Charmed, as well as films The Craft and Practical Magic, where she believes the image of witchcraft is rooted in glamour and girl power.

She said: "The research is a textual analysis of the films and television programmes I was interested in - those which use the figure of the glamorous, teenage or young witch as a motif through which to express ideas about contemporary femininity.

"The key thing is that the figure of the young witch in these shows combines femininity, power and independence in an appealing way, and she has powers which can help to resolve the problems she experiences, magically."

In her paper, Dr Moseley says programmes like Buffy the Vampire Slayer have transformed the image of witches into alluring symbols of girl power.

In Buffy, the lead character has mystical powers and witch friends, and continually struggles to reconcile the conventional pleasures of being a girl with the responsibilities of being a powerful woman with a job.

Dr Moseley added: "The figure of the teen witch is a resonant figure for expressing the pleasures and problems of being a girl - how do you manage to be 'nice', powerful, glamorous and popular?

"Sabrina is clearly aimed at a much younger audience, although the show follows her to college. It is generically distinct from the others, too, in that the show is a situation comedy, and generally very benign and non-threatening in terms of representation.

"Charmed and Buffy are much darker in tone, and generically linked as sci-fi/horror/melodrama.

"They also address a wider and older audience because of this, and consequently have dealt in more depth with more serious issues about the pleasures and dangers of female power and the negotiation of the adult world and its 'demons'.

"They have also used the figure of the witch or the girl with special powers to explore the tensions around holding together femininity, romance, career, homelife, motherhood: the post-feminist idea of 'having it all'."


MEN are always portrayed as being superior, and I like programmes like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Charmed and Sabrina the Teenage Witch as the girls get all the power.

"I don't think witches are a positive symbol of girl power as they have magical powers but they can do what they want with it.

"I don't really see witches as role models, as it is not really my ambition in life to be a vampire slayer. I just think they are cool characters.

Katie Read, aged 15, of Crossway Road, Finham.

I ENJOY programmes like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Charmed because I like the idea of magic and what it can do to people in weird and wonderful ways.

"I think witches are like an image of girl power as they can do what they want without being pushed around.

"I don't think you can really associate with witches, but I just enjoy watching the programmes.

"My little brother watches them as well, but he just likes the fighting parts.

Trixie Shelton, aged 15, of Maidavale Crescent, Styvechale.

I LIKE the fact that these programmes are about witchcraft, and although we can't aspire to be witches, it's just a magical thing which shows you can do anything.

"I don't believe in witchcraft, but I like the fact that the girls have all the power.

"I think it's good that they're challenging the traditional view of men being the dominant characters.

Helen Bennett, aged 15, of Armorial Road, Styvechale.

I LIKE the idea that the programmes are about women taking charge, and not bowing down to men.

"I don't think witches symbolise girl power as they are not real, so they are not really something young girls could aspire to be as role models.

"I don't know many boys who watch it, but there is probably more appeal for older men who just like Sarah Michelle Gellar. I liked The Craft because it's a little more realistic than Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Rachel Arch, aged 16, of Stoneleigh Avenue, Earlsdon.


MAGIC: Sarah Michelle Gellar as vampire slayer Buffy; SPELLS: Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman (far left) in Practical Magic and Fairuza Balk (left) in The Craft
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Mar 17, 2003
Previous Article:THE MONDAY SUPPLEMENT: FAMILY: Relationships.

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