Monday, November 18, 2013

A feminist viewing of "The Witches of East End"

The Attractive White Women of East End
By Anči

After reviewing American Horror story: Coven,  I decided to check out the other formidable sisterhood on television: Introducing Witches of East End, a deliciously soapy substitute for the 90's witch-drama "Charmed" (and the subject of the second edition of our Women and Horror series. Woohoo!) 

sigh: the original three

Unlike its 90s predecessor, East end doesn't center around three hot sisters---but rather around a hot mother, and her two hot daughters, and their even hotter aunt. (Played by Twin Peaks' Madchen Amick, who at 42, looks like this:)
it's shelly!

For all its 'charmed' trappings, this "Lifetime" series makes for fun, mindless viewing...if you discount some of the blatant sexism: as exemplified by one of the first lines in the pilot, uttered by elder sister Ingrid, to her much hotter younger sister Freya: "You only have one super power, and it's your breasts."   (See? It's funny, 'cause it's NOT true.  Cause... She's a witch. They both are. That's the show!)

The good news is that the series premise is still pretty intriguing.  Like I said, we have three women: mother Joanna and her daughters hot Freya and lame Ingrid who are all witches-- but neither hot Freya nor lame Ingrid know it until their sassy spell casting aunt Wendy comes to town.

Standard stuff right? except there's a twist: It seems the family matriarch Joanna, (last seen blowing John Slattery on Mad Men,)  has been cursed with the 'gift' of "endless motherhood." meaning she's had to birth and bury the same two daughters, Ingrid and Freya for the last few centuries--all the while remaining immortal herself.
Determined not to lose her daughters  to witchcraft again, she decides that this time around she won't teach them about their magical abilities....opting to raise them as muggles, instead.  Hilarity ensues when a fully-grown Freya causes shit to blow up with only her thoughts... prompting the question "Am I magic?"
(Yes Freya, you are! And not just because of your rack!)

" Mommy, how come Freya gets to be the hot sister?"

While the setup's neither revolutionary nor  sophisticated,  I do find Mama Joanna's particular curse to be interesting. Or as the eternal child-bearer puts it: "Do you know how many times I gave birth before they invented the epidural? Or soap?"Yikes!
"If only I had magic powers to make the labor pains stop!"

Oh yeah, and there's also a love triangle, centered around hot Freya.  All you really need to know about that is that the masculine parties are brothers, and that their names are Dash (ugh) and Killian. The rest can be summed up  by the phrase,  "brooding hot people," oh and this picture:
"Which emaciated ken doll do I pick?"

Like every supernatural show on television, Witches employs a number of problematic tropes-- which I am eager to talk about right now:

For one thing, I have to call out the writers, for sticking in a random mystical pregnancy in episode one (really?  You couldn't save that card for season three?) Yes, they literally introduced a character, for the sole purpose of magically knocking her up... and like, nothing else. (Oh and, that character also happens to be black, which historically doesn't bode well for the onscreen gestator. [See: any other SFF show])
While I remain skeptical of the showrunner's intentions here, a part of me is curious to see how this contrived "procreation" of events gets justified in later episodes.  As the brilliant feminist critic Anita Sarkeesian  points out: “It’s common practice for Hollywood writers to have their female characters become pregnant at some point in their TV series. These story lines are almost always built around women who have their ovaries harvested by aliens or serve as human incubators for demon spawn – basically the characters are reduced to their biological functions.”

My uterus is a beacon

We've seen this trend over and over again, from shows like Charmed, to American Horror Story to Angel, to Battlestar Galactica, to Doctor Who and Torchwood. So honestly, i'm not holding out for a twist on the old formula.
(And as of this moment, my money is on a future demon-spawn reveal.)

The second thing I want to scold the writers about, is their blatant use of "dead black guy"
That's right: As expected the first character with actual lines to die, ends up being the only black guy on the entire show.  The kicker? His death was the direct result of Ingrid's passion for him. (who saw that coming?)
And with that,  we're served yet again with a cheap version of the sexist succubus trope. You know, the one that ties female love/sexuality to the demise of an innocent man? 

 And the last thing I want to confront the show about,  is its endless conflation of love with drama. It's clear that as an audience we're supposed to be pulled apart by the Freya-Dash-Killian love triangle.  As per any dysfunctional epic, both brothers are desperately in love with the same woman... which is super romantic. Except for the part where both brothers are also incredible jerks. (Something the show never acknowledges.) For one thing, Freya's fiance, Dash repeatedly hides things from her-- from the fact that he even has a brother, to the fact that he's been engaged before, to his ex-fiance's mysterious suicide. I don't know about you, but if the man I was slated to marry turned out to have a bunch of secrets like that, I'd feel pretty betrayed and manipulated.
But no, hot Freya appears to be little more than annoyed at the string of shocking revelations that accompany her betrothal. Then there's Killian who is blatantly hitting on his brother's soon-to-be wife. Romantic? No.That's like, the ultimate dick-move.   (And the fact that Freya keeps flirting with Killian while engaged to his brother is just... gross.)

Hey girl, don't tell my brother I wanna bone you.

I'm the dumb fiancee who either can't read the chemistry between my bro and my ho, or... more likely, is in the closet.  I'll let my spray tan do the deciding.



  1. what about the show thinks that cheating is fine as long as you are a women, the guys may not be perfect but the women are not good either. the shows seems to be, because i am a women, if i feel sad confused, it is alright for me to do whatever i want. everybody else is to blame. the mother and aunt are quite evil in their "past" and that seems ok just because they are..

  2. Not only is he hitting on his brothers fiance, it's not the first time he's done it before. If she isn't automatically put off by this then I just don't understand. I mean even the damn ghost of Dash's ex-fiance said all Killian did was hit it and quit it. How could you possibly believe that he wants more if he has already done something similar before. And then Killian tries to have a relationship with his brother while still actively trying to steal his fiance, and Freya keeps crying about how Dash keeps secrets while she hides the fact that she is infatuated with him and also made out with him on their first meeting when he was still a complete stranger...