Culture Dose | In Defense of Witches | Pearl | Buffering The Vampire Slayer


Centuries after the infamous witch hunts that swept through Europe and America, witches continue to hold a unique fascination for many: as fairy tale villains, practitioners of pagan religion, as well as feminist icons. Witches are both the ultimate victim and the stubborn, elusive rebel. But who were the women who were accused and often killed for witchcraft? What types of women have centuries of terror censored, eliminated, and repressed?

Celebrated feminist writer Mona Chollet explores three types of women who were accused of witchcraft and persecuted: the independent woman since widows and celibates were particularly targeted; the childless woman, since the time of the hunts marked the end of tolerance for those who claimed to control their fertility; and the elderly woman, who has always been an object of at best, pity, and at worst, horror. Examining modern society, Chollet concludes that these women continue to be harassed and oppressed. Rather than being a brief moment in history, the persecution of witches is an example of society’s seemingly eternal misogyny, while women today are direct heirs to those who were hunted down and killed for their thoughts and actions.

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Watch: Pearl: an x-traordinary origin story

Whether you’re a major A24 fan or a horror aficionado, it is likely you’ve seen Pearl, but there’s always time for a rewatch. Standing as the predecessor to X which came out only a year prior, is a promising film full of suspense, psychological terror, and small town girl at the heart of it all.

Trapped on her family’s isolated farm, Pearl (Mia Goth) must tend to her ailing father under the bitter and overbearing watch of her devout mother. Wishing for a glamorous life like she’s seen in the movies, Pearl’s increasing desire for stardom takes on a life of its own, motivating unspeakable actions for the price of fame.

Listen: buffering the vampire slayer

Women have always had a complex relationship with horror. For centuries women were construed as damsels, posed and ready for the male hero to defeat the monster. They’ve been possessed by demons, shamed for their sexual practices, and traditionally voiceless unless they’re ready to unleash a blood-curdling scream. The latter half of the twentieth century thankfully brought audiences the final girl trope (the last character alive to confront the killer), which comes with her own set of faults yet pushes new boundaries on female characters in the frightening genre. Wielding her wit and physical strength she outsmarts the killer, no longer standing as a victim but a survivor. Think Laurie Strode from 1978’s Halloween, Scream’s Sidney Prescott, and final girl Buffy from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

To get a full scope of the cult classic ‘90s show, check out Buffering the Vampire Slayer, a six year long podcast that discussed the series one episode at a time. Acclaimed hosts and super fans Jenny Owens Young and Kirstin Russo dive deep into the lore of the supernatural, the friendship behind the Scooby Gang, and Sarah Michelle Gellar’s legacy as fashion forward crime fighter Buffy Summers.

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-Kennedy Smith