Category ArchiveThe Craft

Top 10 ‘Bitch Flicks’ Articles Written in 2017

10) Queen of Katwe Is a Gorgeous Inspiring Look at a Young Black Life Fully Realized by Candice Frederick
“Yes, it’s wholesome and finishes on a heartwarming high like many other cherished Disney stories. But at its core lies a story of redemption, cultural pride, feminism, and economics — elements of a young life contending with extraordinary challenges. […]
“Queen of Katwe is a mesmerizing story of a life fully realized, a life that’s often overlooked and not given a chance. Its young cast, led by Nalwanga’s nuanced performance, help illuminate layers of humanity resting deep in the ‘slums’ of Uganda, exhibiting talent well beyond their years. Meanwhile, Oyelowo and Nyong’o’s performances temper the film with heart-wrenching emotion. And Mira Nair’s touching portrait of Katwe’s inspiring young queen with a dream is one to remember.”

9) Céline Sciamma’s Films (Girlhood, Tomboy, and Water Lilies) Capture the Complexities of Adolescence by Charline Jao
“French director and screenwriter Céline Sciamma of Water Lilies, Tomboy, and Girlhood has gained critical acclaim for her portrayals of adolescence and coming-of-age, particularly on themes of gender and sexuality. Sciamma’s movies are intimate character studies, punctuated with dancing, tiny details embedded in body language, and a serious respect for younger viewers. For all the cringe-worthy or mediocre child acting that permeates film, Sciamma has a remarkable ability to draw out nuanced and organic performances in her works, oftentimes from non-actors.
“[…] The adolescent or teenager sits on the threshold of adulthood by sitting between child and adult, figuring out their rites of passage and space within society. This undefined, yet crucial space is an uncomfortable one and Sciamma’s films excel because they embrace the chaotic ambiguity of youthful liminality.”

8) Hush: A Resourceful Heroine with Disabilities for the Horror Genre by Cassandra A. Clarke
“What’s brilliant about Hush, written by Mike Flanagan and Kate Siegel (who stars as the lead), is it pushes the envelope of the survivor’s tale further through its main character, Madison ‘Maddie’ Young: a woman who is deaf, mute, and lives alone in a rural area. In addition to featuring a female protagonist with disabilities, Hush crafts a home-invasion story that isn’t about her ‘problems’ or obstacles or the attacker at all, but rather it focuses on the tactful solutions she chooses along the way.
“…Its depiction of Maddie as a full, engaging character who fends for herself and thrives alone is an asset to adding more characters with disabilities in films, especially horror, as not victims but stars.”

7) Gilmore Girls: Rory Gilmore Is an Entitled Millennial by Scarlett Harris
“That’s because she’s never had to hustle; everything has been handed to her. She only watched her mother struggle to raise her on her own, and even then it’s established that Lorelai went to great pains not to expose Rory to her struggles. […]
“To be fair, Rory is largely a product of her upbringing. Until the events of Gilmore Girls as we know it — Lorelai’s reconciliation with her rich parents so Rory can go to an expensive private school and then Yale — Rory was raised by an independent, struggling, small-town single mom. Whatever life lessons she learned there were swiftly erased by the ensuing plot developments: her rich grandparents and then her rich father paying for her education and European holidays, her rent-free accommodations, and breaks in school and work to ‘find herself’ similarly bankrolled by Richard (Edward Herrmann), Emily (Kelly Bishop), and Logan (Matt Czuchry). […]
“Despite her flaws, I relate to Rory because she displays all my — and my generation’s — worst characteristics.”

6) The Love That’s Really Real: American Psycho as Romantic Comedy by Caroline Madden
“A 2006 YouTube video created a parody trailer envisioning American Psycho (2000) as romantic comedy. While the stark juxtapositions between the classic boy-meets-girl formula and a horrifying portrait of a serial murder are amusing, the sentiments between them are not so far-fetched. Although primarily a horror film, American Psycho has a satiric backbone that appropriates codes from the romantic comedy genre to expose the absurdities of our gender ideals. Director and co-writer Mary Harron’s lens skewers the qualities we find appealing in romantic comedies as terrifying.
“Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) is a concoction of the romantic comedy and drama archetype of ‘the bad boy.’”

5) The Revenant Should Be Left in the River to Drown by Celey Schumer
“Don’t believe the hype. You have been conned. The Revenant is a terrible film. […]
“This white-man-against-all-odds tale of revenge has been told so many times, even Michael Bay is probably like, “Eh, can’t we find something more original?” […]
“The second galling part of the film is its abhorrent treatment of Native peoples. It is at best mediocre, at worst condescending, and at all times unremarkable lazy recycled fodder. Almost every time Hugh has an interaction with a Native American person, they meet with disaster. Honestly, Chief Elk Dog (Duane Howard) and his men are the only ones operating with their own agency and justice in their quest to rescue his kidnapped daughter, Powaqa (Melaw Nakehk’o). But we hardly see them and are left to infer all of this information, until of course Hugh the White Man comes to Powaqa’s rescue. […]
“Can we see this whole movie from the Arikara tribe’s perspective? From Powaqa’s perspective? That would be an actual game changer.”

4) The Eyes of My Mother Is a Gorgeous Coming-of-Age Horror You’re Not Likely to Forget by Candice Frederick
“Oh, how I love this age we’re living in in which women characters on the big and small screens are allowed to be inappropriate, messy, b**chy, and sexual. It just further illuminates the myriad complexities women embody, painting a more thorough profile of inclusive feminism. But even while Hollywood has been consistently pushing these boundaries in more recent years, few films have explored morbid sensuality through the gaze of a woman better than writer/director Nicolas Pesce’s The Eyes of My Mother. […]
“…Pesce explores the nature of human instinct and arrested development in a way that is uncomfortable to watch yet immersive just the same.”

3) 20 Years of The Craft: Why We Needed More of Rochelle by Ashlee Blackwell
“I was flustered and empathetic to a character that was virtually invisible to an entire school population outside of her small coven of comrades, unless to be the unchecked target of racist scorn. This made her experience even that more isolating in contrast to her white female counterparts who, if they did get that brief seat at the table, were promptly dismissed for their class, burn scars, and not performing for the teenage ‘good ‘ol boys’ club. The most glaring difference; Rochelle was never going to get that seat. […]
“The movie for many sparked the thirst to explore the deep intersections of the weirdo. Rochelle was the social outcast with the other handful of social outcasts of St. Bernard Academy, sure. But how do we cinematize the Black girl outcast teenager that many of us felt like? That just so happens to be a practicing witch?
“Much of what can be read of Rochelle relies heavily on those of us whom she meant so much to. What kinds of conversations did young Black girls have back in 1996 and are having now about the importance of her presence in a film that at least, didn’t blend her in colorblind rhetoric? How did many of us find camaraderie, empathy, and imagination in Rochelle’s broader, unseen story?”

2) Caitlin Snow: It’s Time to Give The Flash’s Overlooked Heroine Her Due by Lacy Baugher
“Plus, the decision to continually depict Caitlin as afraid of herself and her abilities is unsettling. Women are almost always taught to fear their own power, instead of embracing it or attempting to understand it. It’s sad to see that pattern repeating on a show that has so few leading women in the first place.
“Caitlin’s journey – whether she ultimately keeps her powers or not – should be about figuring where she fits within Team Flash, within her family, and within her own idea of herself. We have seen Caitlin unnerved by the darkness inside her. She has issues with her mother and even occasionally with members of her own team. She’s certainly lost enough to want to burn the world down twice over. But she’s never really gotten the chance to deal with any of those issues on-screen in a significant way. This Killer Frost arc offers a perfect opportunity for her to finally do so. Caitlin’s journey shouldn’t be about whether she might turn into a monster, it should be about her becoming whole.”

1) Too Feminine, Too Pretty, and the Gendered Bias in the Critique of Sofia Coppola’s Films by Claire White
“However, while being one of the most discussed women directors, it is hard to think of a female director who is under as much scrutiny as Sofia Coppola. This is especially true when it comes to her signature pretty and feminine filmic style.
“When it comes to the critique of Sofia Coppola, her filmic style is too often described along the lines of being too pretty, too feminine, or as style over substance. …Male directors, however, who exhibit the same attention to style and aesthetics, are not held to this same ideal. As explored in Rosalind Galt’s book Pretty: Film and the Decorative Image, prettiness in film is not exclusively female or feminine, and is thus unfair to use as a critique against women directors’ films. […]
“There is a double standard in the way prettiness is regarded in cinema. ‘Pretty’ is for female directors, but for male directors, prettiness isn’t ever uttered, and reverence is received in its place.”

“You Can’t Sit with Us”: Witchy Girl Gangs and Covens

This guest post written by Michelle Mastro appears as part of our theme week on Women in Horror.

The volume of films exploring the hazards of “girl world” is quite robust. Before the comedy Mean Girls there was cult classic Heathers, a darker satirical vision of teenage girl strife. Rounding out the cinematic landscape between these pillars of classic girl-on-girl warfare set in the average American high school are numerous other examples from Never Been Kissed to Jawbreaker. In fact, so hackneyed is the trope of female-centered cliques that if it isn’t treated as part and parcel of teen comedies as a genre, it is almost always at least a minor plot point. Yet horror films and television series grapple with themes inspired by catty drama and gossip as well, only the aesthetics are different to align better with their genre. In these iterations of the girl clique trope, girl gangs become covens, and the power of gossip is transformed into charms and incantations.
Swapping out girl gangs and cliques for covens is as easily done as replacing “witch” with that other not so nice pejorative term for women. In the TV series American Horror Story: Coven, for example, Fiona Goode (Jessica Lange) toys with both words, calling one of the school’s meaner pupils a “little witch bitch.” In that same episode, she takes the band of squabbling girls on a field trip through New Orleans, telling them all beforehand to “wear something black.” The show aired on Wednesdays, prompting fans to coin the phrase, “On Wednesdays we wear black,” another play on words, only this time in reference to Mean Girls. One of the frequently quoted lines from the film includes the “Plastics”’ rules about hump day association and uniformity: “On Wednesdays we wear pink.” The writers of AHS: Coven and fans alike got the joke: girls in groups can be mean — mean like witches.
This, of course, might seem like a sexist reading of girl friendships — and it would be even more understandable to question the show’s depiction of gender given how female sexuality is portrayed and its problematic depiction of race. Yet, given that women, historically, could only maintain their social status through heteronormative marriage — through their connections to men — it would make sense that the young women might begin to view each other as competition. In high school, who dates whom really matters, and thus the high schools of the films are more or less stuck in a time warp. Their cafeterias, the place of social gathering, are where romantic attachments are forged. The dining hall perfectly figures as a sort of Regency court of King George III, where marriages mattered to one’s social superiority. Social status dictated how close courtiers got to sit near the king. Terrifyingly, the king’s friendship could help produce advantageous marriages or dissolve them entirely. Thus, the more popular the girl in Mean Girls, the closer she resides near Regina George. She usually forbids more readily than she grants unions, however, and her despotic rule feeds much of the clique’s cattiness.

Which begs the question: why would these characters hang around each other at all? On the surface, each school clique offers a certain amount of protection. In AHS: Coven’s case, if the girls don’t band together, they will face assaults from outsiders. “If witches don’t fight, we burn,” says Fiona to the students. In Mean Girls (written by Tina Fey), the point of being in the Plastics is somewhat similar, though obviously not nearly as dire. For protagonist Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan), lunchtime at the cafeteria posed as a minefield full of aggressive cliques, and not being a member of any group at first, she found herself the butt of jokes, a social outcast forced to eat alone in a women’s bathroom stall. Better to have fun at the expense of others with the Plastics in their “Burn Book” than get burned oneself. The same conclusion is proposed near the beginning of The Craft and Heathers. Sarah (Robin Tunney) in the former joins her clique more out of necessity than anything else, whereas Veronica (Winona Ryder) in the latter participates in spiteful pranks on fellow students, even though she questions the group’s methods and is quick to claim her own name in a gaggle of Heathers, stridently affirming: “I’m a Veronica.”
Underwritten in this claim of selfhood, however, is a larger message. Each of the films and the TV series, to varying degrees, promote individuality over conformity. Eventually, each teaches viewers the importance of being true to yourself and avoiding the pitfalls of group mentality.
In The Craft, when the girls catch a bus together, they all wear dark sun-glasses and nearly identical fashions, precursors of the pink Plastics and black-draped New Orleans witches, not to mention references to the shoulder-pad loving Heathers of the 1980s. Each group of young women has made their own clique, but within each group, conformity is essential. What’s worse, the supposed protection proffered by The Craft’s coven in the form of casting spells is as spiteful as participating in any girl gang gossip. Both hurt and have unforeseen consequences. Sarah learns to be careful about what energy she puts out. “Whatever you send out, you get back threefold,” she is counselled. She casts a spell to get back at football player Chris Hooker (Skeet Ulrich) for spreading lies that the pair had sex. After the spell, he becomes her lapdog, but his obsession quickly turns violent. Apparently, her intention behind the spell was wicked, and the results matched. Although Sarah was right to seek justice, her spell was framed in a way that could only elicit revenge, a much more volatile act that inflicts a cost on both parties, although this in no way means that she deserved nor brought on herself slut-shaming or attempted rape. In AHS: Coven, one of the girls, Madison (Emma Roberts), is gang raped. She uses her magic to kill the boys, but also murders an innocent guy in the process. Her actions will come back to haunt her, as all the witches’ poor decisions inevitably do. Madison becomes more and more heartless as the series progresses, symbolized by an actual heart condition preventing her from ever serving as the coven’s leader. “The only good or bad is in the heart of the witch,” Lirio (Assumpta Serna) tells the girls in The Craft. Cady in Mean Girls arrives at a similar realization. The Burn Book of the Plastics is photocopied and dispersed among the students, and Cady will have to find a way to take back her words. It is too late, of course, just like in Sarah’s case. In The Craft, Lyrio tells her: “When you open a flood gate, how can you undo it? You unleash something with a spell. There is no undoing; it must run its course.” The mistake each of the girls all made was attempting a kind of vigilante justice — really a type of revenge.

The Craft is a cult classic that impacted many women due to its representation and messages of empowerment and “taking back the threat of female power.” In the oral history of The Craft at Entertainment Weekly, producer Douglas Wick said he “was curious about the phenomenon of girls marginalized in a man’s world who suddenly come into their sexuality and have this enormous power.” Actress Robin Tunney said, “Somehow it still speaks to everybody’s inner teenage girl.” In her Vulture article on The Craft‘s legacy, Angelica Jade Bastien writes:
“Witchcraft is more than mere teenage rebellion for these young girls. It’s a means to attain what at first glance appears unattainable: power, control, autonomy, the ability to live beyond the various oppressive forces that govern their lives. […] These girls, each in their own way, is calling out for something women learn early and often is hard to attain: the power to control your own life.”
Yet the girls’ friendship ultimately turns toxic and destructive, demanding conformity over individuality.
Sarah, Veronica, Cady, and the girls from AHS: Coven learn painful lessons. Words and spells cannot be taken back and cannot be undone, and the girls prove more powerful in their individuality. In The Craft, Sarah realizes her friends’ coven is organized more like a petty club and her fellow witches are just as spiteful as the young women and men they sought vengeance against. Veronica realizes she cannot undue the harm she has caused; she cannot bring back the kids she helped to murder. And Cady learns that being “personally victimized by Regina George” does not give her license to become another queen bee. Each of the protagonists find strength in themselves. Sarah is called a natural witch, for unlike the other girls, her “power comes from within.” After Sarah’s coven disperses, all the girls lose their magical powers except Sarah. Veronica and Cady, meanwhile, end their films with the promise of never allowing any future cliques to form in their respective high schools ever again. Or at the very least, they won’t conform to what others say; they will listen to their own moral compass. In AHS: Coven, the ruling mean girls Madison and Fiona have been ousted as well. And the rise of a new headmistress, Cordelia (Sarah Paulson) brings with her the promise of beginning the school afresh. Past mistakes will not be repeated, she informs the press, revealing the school to the world.
In this way, each manifestation of the girl group trope proposes an affirmation of self-esteem, non-conformity, independence, and individuality. The chilling and ominous tales about teenage witches invoke and summon the moral of their comedic cousins, warning female viewers against resentment and revenge, while encouraging them to always “do unto others as they would have done unto them.” What might seem like an allusion to Christian doctrine is, in fact, the basis of many beliefs, even Wiccan practices. “[I]t’s part of a basic spiritual truth. Said in many ways in many faiths,” Lirio says matter-of-factly. Spells, like gossip, will come back “threefold.” 

See also at Bitch Flicks:
Girl Gangs Are Mean: Teenage Girl Gang Movies Through the Years 
20 Years of The Craft: Why We Needed More of Rochelle
American Horror Story: Coven: Gabourey Sidibe’s Queenie as an Embodiment of the “Strong Black Woman” Stereotype
Exploring Bodily Autonomy on American Horror Story: Coven
I’m a Veronica: Power and Transformation Through Female Friendships in Heathers
Veronica Decides Not to Die — Heathers: The Proto-Mean Girls
How Should a Show about Witches Be?

Michelle Mastro is a graduate student at Indiana University, Bloomington’s English PhD program. She loves all things horror, and to her, autumn is the greatest season not just for Starbucks pumpkin spice but for the availability of horror film marathons on TV — of which she watches plenty.