True Blood’s “Year of the Witch”

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  August 22, 2010 — 8 Comments

The sexy vampire phenomenon (as opposed to the sparkly vampire phenomenon) True Blood (based on The Southern Vampire Mysteries novels by Charlaine Harris) has grown a respectable cult audience as it ends its third season on HBO, and while the show has flirted with Pagan themes before, that’s going to become much more explicit when season 4 starts. Creator/producer Alan Ball says that next year will be the “year of the witch”, and they have introduced Holly Clearly, a “Wiccan” character who will play a bigger role in season 4. Played by Lauren Bowles, she talks to Movieweb about her role, and the religion of Wicca, and it’s pretty clear she doesn’t know much more than what the script tells her.

“I haven’t gone to Wiccan ceremonies, I must admit. I have done my own perusing. Way back, I had a friend that was way into the Wiccan world. I was also a big fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. As you know, Willow was a big witch. I didn’t want to be Wiccan. I haven’t gotten to know any. Are there support groups for such a thing? Are there churches? I don’t really know … I wonder what their ceremonies are like. When people started comparing it to a religion, I never thought of it as that. I always thought of it as spells. I thought it was much more active than just praying to a God or a Goddess. I thought that you were always trying to do something, with all the spells. Weren’t you?”

This interview isn’t exactly reassuring that they’ll portray Wicca in an accurate or balanced fashion. But then, Bowles doesn’t have to be accurate, just a good actress. It’s Alan Ball and the scriptwriters who have to do the research. The question is how much Wiccan religion will be included? How will it be portrayed? It’s one thing to have witches, they have been stock folkloric characters for generations. But once you invoke the word “Wicca” you’re opening yourself up to greater scrutiny (at least from our communities). And season 4 looks like it will have a lot of witchy action if it follows the novels at all (possible spoilers at the link).

“Hallow Stonebrook is the lead witch of a coven that causes a lot of problems for Sookie and crew. The wiki page for “Dead To the World,”  The True Blood book that most prominently features Hallow and her crew, describes a fairly epic confrontation between the denizens of Bon Temps and the wicked witches of the bayou.”

Good witches, bad witches, and Wiccans. This may be the first series to have a regular Wiccan-identified character (“Wicca”  and witchcraft in Buffy bore little resemblance to the actual faith), as opposed to the often disappointing one-time appearances in shows like The Mentalist and Bones. There’s going to be a lot of attention on this upcoming season, especially since it’s becoming so popular. Whether the portrayal of the Wiccan character(s) will be good or bad, this could be an important teaching moment for our communities. Either by correcting bad information, or by holding up a fair portrayal for praise. What should be made clear, both for fans and for pop-culture oriented journalists, is that there is a clear distinction between fantasy “witchcraft”, and what the faith and practice of Wicca is. The lines are no doubt going to get blurry, which is fine, this is a fictional universe after all, but it might be wise for a coalition of Wiccan groups to issue a “True Blood fact sheet” that will be there for those made curious by the show, and for Hollywood scribes looking to interview “real” Witches.

To my readers, are you a fan of True Blood? What do you think of the impending “year of the witch”?

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • chuck_cosimano

    Well, don't worry too much unless she mounts bomb racks on her broomstick.

  • http://sari0009.xanga.com/ KarenAScofield

    True Blood fan here.

    I expect them to include just enough about Wicca to fit in about 3 to 5 sound byte lengths…earth religion, Goddess & God themes, a touch of magic (a little real magic theory mixed in with mass amounts of unadulterated fictitious entertaining fun magic)…things Wiccan/magic will be associated with things fairie nature … things Wiccan also having potential for things “dark natured” … their sense of “dark” a bit less in line with old school dualism, meaning it’s a little more complex than The Forces of Good™ vs. The Forces of Evil™ dualism. Something like that.

    If they get much deeper than that, I’ll just about piss my pants! I think I can watch the series safely without going out and buying any depends though (giggle).

    Come on, it’s entertainment!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1660544172 Mary Switras

    Well, I've been a fan of the books for years, finding them far superior to to Laurel Hamilton's vampire books, and we won't even go into the whole Ann Rice sideshow. But I am also a huge fan of the series – a very different appreciation, stepping back and realizing that the main gist of the world and characters are still there, but the details are far different (and you know what they say about the devil being in the details). I would watch TruBlood, The Mentalist or Bones to learn about pagans and Wiccans like I'd watch Bridget Loves Bernie to learn about Catholics and Jews (for all you youngsters out there, look it up), or The Exorcist to learn about the Catholic priesthood. I don't take any of it terribly seriously.

  • pedanticbrat

    "But then, Bowles doesn’t have to be accurate, just a good actress."

    Actually, an actor has to research their role to add any effectiveness. While most of the work lies in the writing, an actor has to figure out all the nuances of their character in order to fully envelope the role. This means researching Wicca. While her lack of research already indicates the type of acting we're going to see (and from a former theater major's viewpoint it's very bleak) I'd hate to see this misconception continue.

  • *d.*

    True Blood is horrible. It's like the film 'Showgirls' except it has got vampires.

  • Najah Lightfoot Bagley

    I mean really why can't the Hoodoo Woman have a day job?! Now that was actually realistic! :) I wonder what kind of job the Wiccan character will have? Probably own a bookstore..:) Nah, wouldn't work in Bon Temps

  • Pitch313

    Everything I know about Wicca I learned from watching TV and movies–Am I initiated yet?

  • OnyxWolf

    I’m a fan, to an extent. I like the books, but True Blood just feels like a fanfic version of the books to me, so I haven’t really gotten into it. That being said, all I can do is really hope that they don’t go off the deep end with these ‘wiccans’. Really it’s just the one character that is bad, the rest are being pulled along. But I fear that might give rise to the thought that this is something that happens a lot with Wiccans and Wicca is just a cult. Let’s face it, people are stupid. I can’t tell you how many times someone has said to me that they “like Charmed too” when they see my pentacle ~facepalm~