Killing Spells, Underage Covens, and Bad Stereotypes

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Yesterday I alerted my readership to a special Witch-themed episode of the crime procedural The Mentalist, and it looks like most of you shared my own negative reactions to the show. I suppose it’s inevitable when you have the star of The Craft on your show that you’ll eventually have to do something “witchy”. Too bad that “something” perpetuated so many bad stereotypes.

The “Witch” in the show, Tamzin Dove (played by Azura Skye), is portrayed as a smart but somewhat delusional woman caught up in a murder investigation. When a local football star is found dead, surrounded by ritualistic trappings, the investigation immediately turns to the “only Witch in town” (In California, really?). What’s frustrating is that the show’s writers obviously read a book on Wicca, they just didn’t read it hard enough. Tamzin believes in the “horned god and the goddess”, and calls non-Wiccans “cowans”, but she also admits to using a secret Wiccan “killing spell” on the victim because he killed her cat (I obviously haven’t risen high enough in the ranks to learn this secret spell of death). Dove also seems to have no problem secretly gathering a coven of underage kids, and is revealed to have had a “history of minor psychiatric problems” while in custody.

The take-home message is that Wicca is a balm for wounded psyches, and that magic is simply a (sometimes comforting) delusion. Indeed, the show’s star Patrick Jane (played by Simon Baker) seems to have sympathy for Dove (saying that she’s been “hurt enough”) while going out of his way to prove that a belief in magic is nothing but superstition. He proves this by casting his own “spell” to reveal the killer (and by making fun of a superstitious co-worker). The real killer is caught, and Wiccans are proven to be little more than the “nerds in cloaks” a cop in the show describes them as.

What’s dangerous about the inaccuracies here isn’t that it might hurt the feelings of a few Wiccans, but the messages it sends to parents and non-Pagans watching the show. Beliefs that many of us have been trying to debunk for ages. That we recruit children without the knowledge of the parents, that we work malicious magic (and work it capriciously), and that we came to Wicca because we’re damaged or troubled. Luckily we aren’t also murderers, but aside from that this show only confirms what many people already believe about modern Pagans. I was prepared for cheesy inaccuracies, but this went a bit too far in my opinion. If you want to give CBS a (polite) piece of your mind, you can contact them through this form.