True Blood’s “Year of the Witch”

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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”?