Witch please! 5 times popular TV shows featured queer witches

With the strong intersections between witchcraft, sexuality and gender, we explore how queer witches are represented nowadays in popular TV shows.

Split screen of queer witches from popular TV shows: Ambrose from The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (left); Tara and Willow from Buffy The Vampire Slayer (centre); and Raelle from Motherland: Fort Salem.
Image: Via Twitter - @wandasolsen; @coffyslayer; @Scylla_Simp

Our community seems to be increasingly attracted to witchcraft and it should come as no surprise, given how many links there are between queer culture and witches. From relating to the idea of a coven as a type of community and found family – both integral parts of queer existence – to the ways in which both witches and queer folks have historically been vilified by society, it’s only natural that more and more LGBTQ+ people have started to find solace in the witchy world.

Between folklore tales, historic accounts and non-fiction reality, witches have a long history, and their representation has varied throughout the years. In the past, people were accused of witchcraft for many different reasons, most of which were deeply rooted in culture and society.

Indeed, one of the most popular narratives employed in media for the representation of witches is the “wicked witch”. This narrative highlights an interesting truth because at the heart of the witch’s wickedness is always the idea that society’s structure and institutions are good and that their subversion is what leads to evil. Two examples of how the “wicked witch” narrative has been employed in popular tales are Sleeping Beauty’s Maleficent and The Little Mermaid’s Ursula.

Both of these characters exemplify opposition to two of the greatest bastions of our heteronormative society: marriage and birth. Maleficent’s whole story revolves around how she becomes the antagonist after she is not invited to a baby shower because Aurora’s parents think she’s “inappropriate”; in the other case, Ursula commits the cardinal sin of standing in the way of true (heterosexual) love – between two people who literally just met and have never spoken to each other (still more socially acceptable than queerness, apparently).

Historically, the representation of witches has focused on the portrayal of women as scapegoats for misfortune, making them appear violent and dangerous. According to what MA student Kaitlyn Gael Ricks argued in her dissertation Queering Witches: A queer feminist exploration of witches in media, these negative representations were attempts to suppress and demonise women in society due to fears of their sexuality and reproductive power and the need to uphold patriarchal structures.

While it is true that, in the past, representations of “witches” have mostly been associated with women, people who identify as witches nowadays will tell us that the term is not gendered. It actually comes from the Old English verb ‘wiccian’, which means “to cast spells”, and anyone is welcome to practice witchcraft with no boundaries of gender. Fortunately, we’ve recently seen more examples of individuals of other genders practising witchcraft in the media. Let’s look at some of the representation from popular TV shows.

Willow and Tara from Buffy the Vampire Slayer
More than 20 years later, we still can’t get over one of the first lesbian kisses to ever appear on mainstream TV – the one between Buffy’s quirky friend Willow and her lover Tara. Both of these amazing characters are powerful witches in the series and a lot of their magic is connected to the emotional bond they form with each other, a narrative device that develops several interesting plot points. The representation of these two witches is made all the more interesting by the fact that in the early 2000s, when the episodes came out, seeing queer women’s sexuality on television was still largely taboo, making the relationship between the pair a powerful instrument of subversion.


Lafayette and Jesús from True Blood
Being the Black, flamboyant, gender-bending cook in a town full of vampires, Lafayette Reynolds is one of the most memorable queer witches we’ve seen on television. His character shows how oftentimes witches of colour on TV are constantly exploited and forced to perform magic for the benefit of others. The fact that Lafayette is a gay man in the American South only serves to reduce his agency even more. Enter Jesús Velásquez, the one character who treats Lafayette as the powerful Black LGBTQ+ witch he is. A queer Latinx man and a witch himself, Jesús becomes Lafayette’s love interest and the two fall into the purest kind of relationship.


Mel from Charmed
The best thing that the 2018 reboot of this legendary TV series did is turn Mel, the middle sister of the trio of powerful witches, into an openly lesbian Latinx woman. The important aspect of this example is that Mel is a main character, something that all the others are not. Another interesting point is that Mel struggles with her identity as a witch and the beliefs that society has on witchcraft in the same way as some LGBTQ+ people often struggle with their queerness.


Raelle from Motherland: Fort Salem
In this supernatural drama that offers an alternative history of the US where the Salem Witch Trials ended in the formation of a powerful army of witches, Raelle is a queer witch with a natural talent for healing. Although she starts off not wanting to participate in the war, she eventually learns to accept her new life, which is surely made easier by the hot necromancer Scylla, whom she meets on her journey. Despite the two becoming a pair of passionate and powerful witches, they soon find themselves on opposite sides of the revolution.


Ambrose and Prudence from The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
The fact that the two most badass characters in the series, the Black pansexual warlock Ambrose and the queer biracial witch Prudence, end up together is one of the best parts of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Being a very old witch who has been studying the art for years, Ambrose is extremely knowledgeable in witchcraft and the person Sabrina always turns to for advice. Prudence is introduced as a mean and antagonistic character but turns out to be a stylish witch with a wicked tongue. Their scenes together are strong and sensual, so much so that fans feel that they could carry a show of their own.


With such prime examples of queer witches bringing magic to our TV screens, we can only hope that future representation of such characters will become even more interesting and diverse.

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