This week we have some amazing classes coming up! You can sign up here.
On Saturday, join Miranda Corcoran for a talk on ‘Bitch Witches: The Teenage Witch as Pop Culture Phenomenon’
Teenage witches are everywhere in contemporary popular culture. There’s Thomasin in Robert Eggers’s The Witch, the eponymous coven at the centre of American Horror Story’s third season, and of course there’s Sabrina Spellman, newly reimagined for Netfilx’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. But where did this ubiquitous archetype come from and how has it evolved over the years? This class explores the development of the adolescent witch from her origins in post-World War II America to her present status as a pop culture icon. In doing so, we discuss the role of adolescent girls during the Salem witch trials, the birth of the modern teenager in the 1940s and how the teen witch encapsulates cultural anxieties about femininity, embodiment and power.
On Sunday, we’re joined by Eric Lawrence for a talk on ‘Killing the Radio Star: The Radio DJ & the Gothic in Cinema
“Capturing sound waves vibrating the air is a marvellous romance, with possibilities few realize,” wrote author and newspaperman George Riddell, 1st Baron Riddell, in an essay titled “Modern Witchcraft” for The Radio Times in 1923. “Someone remarked that the discovery equals in importance the discovery of printing. Perhaps he was right.” With hindsight, most 21st century commentators would probably suggest that, a hundred years on, cinema has proven the more significant innovation, based on its ubiquity within pop cultural conversation, as well as radio’s natural ephemerality; an avid movie-goer might claim, with pride, to have seen their favorite film a dozen times or more, but even the most devoted radio listener would not likely listen to any given broadcast more than once (or maybe a couple of times, if it were of particular historical significance, such as with the Hindenburg disaster or Orson Welles’ iconic “War of the Worlds” broadcast).
Nonetheless, radio, in particular music radio broadcasting, has a sympathetic relationship with the history of American sound films, as both media reached their first commercially viable stages in evolution during the 1920s. Consequently, the role of music and those figures who presented that music on the radio have been frequent topics of cinematic exploration.
One not-insignificant subset of cinematic storytelling about radio broadcasters & DJs involves Gothic themes. Whether they are overtly supernatural, such as with Adrienne Barbeau’s frantic attempt to warn her small coastal town’s residents of the arrival of vengeful ghosts in John Carpenter’s The Fog, or merely psychological, such as with Clint Eastwood’s fan-obsessed paramour turned murderous psychopath in his Play Misty for Me, these examples follow a tradition of new technologies often being associated with dangerous, if not paranormal, forces (another such model is the haunted telephones that seemingly can communicate with the dead featured in numerous 20th century stories).
Using these examples and others, including Lords of Salem, Vanishing Point, The Warriors, Pontypool and others, I propose to connect the depiction of the radio broadcaster in film to a tradition of the Urban Gothic and new technologies.