1996s 'The Craft': Why Nancy Was the True Hero
When I decided to watch The Craft just out of nostalgia, something occurred to me:
Nancy was the true hero all along.
Let's examine the evidence, shall we?
Sarah Bailey (Robin Tunney) is the new girl in town: a mopey, lonely girl who also happens to be a powerful natural witch but ignores her awesome powers to be mopey and lonely.
When you're a cruddy person like this, other people tend to sense it. Victims wear their vulnerability on their sleeves, and Sarah was not an exception. The moment she arrives at her new school, the school predator -- a stereotypical misogynistic jock named Chris (Skeet Ulrich) -- is already trying to get into her pants because he senses vulnerable, weak, easy prey.
Sarah is like the sick straggler at the back of the herd, because she immediately takes to Chris, laughing and enjoying his company, even though she recognizes he's a complete jerk.
When Sarah tries talking to Nancy (Fairuza Bulk), Rochelle (Rachel True), and Bonnie (Neve Campbell) during lab, she is coldly turned away by Nancy. Like Chris, Nancy can sense that Sarah is weak -- not in magical power but emotionally. It disgusts her (as it pretty much should).
Sarah is disgusting to Nancy because her life is pretty easy, and yet she mopes and whines. Sarah has a nice home in a nice part of town with a father who loves and respects her. And even though she knows Chris is a womanizing scumbag, she still develops a crush on him and wants him to like her?
Could the main character be any more hateable?
Meanwhile, Nancy is poor and lives in a trailer with a step-father who leers at her and sexually harasses her, to the point that she can't walk around her own home without a bathrobe.
The man is also abusive, both physically and emotionally, to her mother. In desperation, Nancy turns to the Craft and worships Manon -- a fictional deity that serves as a way better father figure.
Seriously, though? Four witches relying on a male deity to grant them power? This hurts me.
Nancy, who is powerless and -- unlike Sarah -- has justifiable reason to be miserable, takes comfort in her religion and longs to be powerful enough to control her own destiny. It is only when she begins to realize that Sarah is the key to gaining this power that she decides to give the weakling a chance.
And yet, even after Sarah is invited to the Circle, a tension remains between Nancy and Sarah. This is to be expected since they are the antithesis of each other: Nancy has the strength to stand up for herself, whereas Sarah is a weepy mess for the duration of the film.
Does Sarah use her power to stop Chris when he tries to rape her? Nope. Instead, she runs away crying and doesn't bother defending herself. Almost as if she thought she deserved the assault because of the love spell she cast on him.
This is the film's attempt to cram the karma crap down our throats: Chris attempted to rape Sarah after she had robbed him of his agency. Clearly, she is getting what she deserves three times three, right?
A victim of sexual assault deserving her assault? No misogyny there!
Why was it so terrible that Sarah humiliated Chris with a love spell? It's not like he lied to the entire school about having bad sex with her.
But Sarah the Moral Compass isn't content to punish just herself. Oh no. After solving everyone's problems in the Circle, she then proceeds to shame them.
Bonnie has lived the majority of her teen years with hideous scars. Now free of them, she enjoys her sexuality and is immediately shamed.
Seriously? Bonnie shouldn't celebrate her newfound confidence with a few makeout sessions? Why not, if it makes her happy? She was hurting no one.
Rochelle has been the focus of racist bullying during swim practice probably for the duration of her high school years. Sarah makes the bully's hair fallout but then lectures Rochelle about how she should feel bad about it.
Really? Losing hair for humiliating and dehumanizing someone on a daily basis is a pretty mild punishment. Not like Laura Lizzie can't just get a wig, you know?
I think the movie seriously trivializes how much racism sucks for the target of the racism. Especially for someone as young as Rochelle.
I'd say losing her hair even made Laura (played by Christine Taylor) a better person, as she approaches Rochelle later to apologize for behaving like a gross and unfeeling, desensitized shit.
But Sarah the Moral Compass thinks the audience should feel bad for a girl so lacking in empathy, it took losing her hair to make her realize what a scumbag she was.
Lastly, Nancy solves her own problems by accidentally killing her pervy, abusive stepdad and inheriting his insurance money.
It was foreshadowed earlier in the movie that Nancy's depression was triggering the power to go out in her trailer. After Sarah joins the Circle and lends her power to her fellow witches, Nancy's own power finally reaches its apex, causing yet another electrical storm that kills her stepdad, and she is able to make her life better for herself and her mother.
Honestly, does anyone feel bad for Nancy's stepdad? Anyone?
Later, after Chris tries to rape Sarah, Nancy hunts him down and yells at him until he falls out of a window.
In any other movie, this might have been the epitome of girl power. A girl kills a guy who attempted sexual assault on her friend? Sounds legit to me.
But nope. Nancy is framed as crazy and out of control and must be bound magically by Sarah.
This is archaic misogyny straight from a fairy tale.
A powerful woman is depicted as dangerous, scary, irresponsible, and completely in the wrong for having stood up to a sexual predator.
"But he was under a spell!" you cry. I equate being under a spell to being drunk in this instance. Alcohol doesn't create behavior. Lots of guys get drunk and don't rape people. If a guy's a jerk, he has it in him to rape people whether he's drunk or not. The alcohol/spell just gave him the courage to do it.
To sum up the film's moral lesson:
Women aren't allowed to exude confidence and sexual desire.
Black women should pity and tolerate racists to the detriment of their own emotional well being.
And women definitely aren't allowed to stand up to misogynistic men who sexually harass them and make it miserable for them to exist in their own world.
If Sarah had her way, everyone would just be miserable like her, rather than violate some childish black-and-white "real ladies don't do this" etiquette that exists to depower women in the first place.
When Sarah the Stick in the Mud betrays her coven by nagging them and shaming them for fully embracing their power, the girls pull a few harmless tricks on her to scare her.
They then try to kill her, which . . . was going a bit too far. But once again, it was the writer's intent to present powerful women as out of control and irresponsible. So naturally, there would be all this catfighting.
Of course, by the end of the film, pathetic Sarah stops crying and finally comes into her full power. She uses it to stand up against Nancy, Rochelle, and Bonnie and then Miss Three By Three probably never uses it again.
Except that one time she made a tree branch fall.
And of course, Nancy the Bisexual, after being thoroughly villainized by the writers, is seen giggling to herself in a nuthouse during the last shot. (Because bisexual and lesbian women are always presented as evil, murderous, and insane.)
What a shame.
A movie that could have been about female empowerment was instead a two-hour lecture about the way some man thinks women should behave.
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© 2018 Ash Gray