Because it’s October, and because I was talking about this movie with friends recently, I decided to watch The Craft again tonight.
I’ve seen this movie many times – it spawned a generation of young women fascinated with the occult, and has a great soundtrack, including a great cover of “Dangerous Type” by one of my favorite bands, Letters to Cleo.
The thing that struck me about this movie upon watching it again tonight is the underlying theme of belonging. On its surface, the theme seems to be about control – fascination with magic and other supernatural forces stems, at least in part, from a desire to feel in control of the world around us. With magic, we can punish the people who hurt us, make our crush love us, and change our situation, all things that happen in the movie.
But the deeper issue is the need to belong, something we all experience, but is often the focus of our lives as children and teenagers. Sarah (Robin Tunney) first befriends Nancy (Fairuza Balk), Bonnie (Neve Campbell), and Rochelle (Rachel True) because she is a new student and has no friends in a new town. She also meets Chris and falls for him, but is devastated when he rejects her and spreads nasty rumors about her. Her focus then becomes getting Chris to accept (love) her.
Bonnie wants to get rid of her scars, so she can feel normal. Rochelle is stifled socially and on her swim team because of a hateful bully (played by the ever-awesome Christine Taylor, who can pull off everything from plucky love interest to racist bully), and wants to make the bullying stop. Finally, Nancy wishes to escape poverty and an abusive stepfather, because even though she claims she doesn’t care what others think of her, she does (including Chris).
Of course, in trying to belong and feel accepted, they become the monsters they fought so hard against. This is a common theme in horror movies (look for a blog post on that later!). Sarah realizes first that they’ve taken things way too far, unfortunately a little too late to help Chris. When she tries to stop Nancy, Bonnie, and Rochelle from hurting people, they lash out at her. Only through being accepted by (and accepting) Lirio is Sarah able to make things right - or perhaps more symbolically, only through Sarah accepting herself is she able to find the strength to make things right.
If you’re looking for education on Pagan religions, obviously this is not the place to look. Probably one of the most common misconceptions of these religions is that the purpose is to do magic. But the Pagans were farmers, and their religion and ceremonies were built around the harvest and nature. Magic was considered one of many natural forces they sought to understand and, when possible, control.
But if you’re looking for an allegory of adolescence, and the price of belonging (at least in certain ways), check out The Craft!