- Editors' Note:Strange Magic
Thrice the brinded cat hath mewedThrice and once the hedge-pig whinedHarpier cries 'Tis time, 'Tis time . . .
Transformation, temporality, and power: these are our concerns here in the Enchantment issue of WSQ. But where shall we begin? With the amateurish Circe who set the bar too low? With the three weird sisters who pricked their thumbs and asked too little for themselves as a monarch fell to chaos? Or should we begin in Salem? Oz? Hogwarts? Through the looking-glass? Cocoa Beach? Perhaps we should begin in a time not so long ago, and in a place that is not so far away: 1964 in a suburb of New York City.
The television show Bewitched, starring Elizabeth Montgomery and featuring Agnes Moorehead, premiered in 1964 and ran until 1972. Set in the time of its production, Bewitched seems now, in many ways, to have been ahead of its time. The show offered viewers queer glimpses into an enchanted world where entrenched economies of power and resistance were realigned in unexpected ways. The show's writers transformed 1960s tropes of inequality into narratives of anti-witch discrimination (fear of the unfamiliar; flawed and damaging stereotypes; disapproving families; worries about "mixed" progeny; an epistemology of the broom closet), and thus safely relocated politically contentious issues into the realm of comic fantasy.
The show's main storyline featured a beautiful young witch named Samantha Stevens (Montgomery), who was married to a mortal advertising executive named Darren (played by two different men, Dick York [End Page 9] from 1964 until 1969 and Dick Sargent from 1969 until 1972). Their mixed marriage (witch with mortal), provided viewers with a culturally safe lens through which to view the most controversial politics of the day—communism, anti-Semitism, the civil rights movement, the feminist movement, and obliquely, even homosexuality. The show's gender dynamics were complex and multifaceted, and could be read alternately as both sexist and feminist, often within a single episode. The most prevalent plot tension running through the show was the question of whether or not Samantha should use the magical powers that were her birthright, or conform to the more pedestrian wishes of her boorish, mortal husband. Samantha's mother, Endora (Moorehead), was (for many young viewers) the audience's heroine and Darren's antagonist. Invincible, powerful, urbane, and peripatetic, Endora had little patience for or interest in mortals and she harbored special disdain for her son-in-law in particular. In one of the early episodes, Endora is found reclining, reading alone, on a chaise in her daughter's bedroom when three misbehaving young boys disrupt her peace. Announcing rowdily that they are a cowboy, an Indian, and a horse, Endora blithely replies, "I'm a witch." "Are you a good witch or a bad witch?" inquires one of the children. With bland indifference and a teetering gesture of her hand, Endora replies, "Comme ci, comme ça." In a subsequent scene, Endora has vanished but the three children are found tied up and gagged on a bed. Such is the nature of power and its seductions.
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Despite her nearly invincible power, Endora's devotion to her daughter, and later to her grandchildren, contained her and forced her to exhibit self-restraint in ways she found not only pedestrian and unfamiliar but shockingly at odds with her otherwise privileged existence. For all her apparent omnipotence, Endora found herself trapped in some of the darker spells that still hold us in their grip: the marketplace of capital, strict gender roles, colonialism, and the heteronormative family.
In this issue of WSQ, guest editors Ann Burlein and Jackie Orr bring together a diverse group of thinkers who strive to unravel some of this dark magic and weave something hopeful in its place. In Trans-Forms/Bending Lines of Flight, Bayer, Keating, and Cross, each consider, in their own ways, the transformative capacities of language. Echoing throughout these articles are sounds, words, and voices that work to create new...