The 2002 film Salem Witch Trials (originally a 2-part mini-series) is a pretty good reminder of how life imitates art…that imitates life.
Today we have activists, the PC police, loud mouths who won’t shut the fuck up—whatever you want to call them. No matter what issue or whose rights they’re screaming loudest about, I’d never try to cover their mouths. Sure, they may go to extremes, but if they didn’t rise above the (usually very) white noise on the other side, nothing would ever change because the passive and scared would never be heard (or even speak) over the howls and vicious actions of the opposition.
I know the story of the Salem witch hunts and I’ve read The Crucible, so I didn’t feel like I really needed to watch yet another retelling of the history. But hey. Salem Witch Trials stars the likes of Kirstie Alley, Rebecca De Mornay, and Ziggy, the biker who gave Roseanne and Dan Conner the down payment for their bike shop! So I watched it.
While the movie opens with a melodramatic and unnecessary “witch” scene (I assume to draw in viewers), it is actually a frighteningly powerful presentation of the events, demonstrating the domino effect that is unleashed when religious opinion takes over and dictates the law. What’s so fascinating about the Salem situation is that it never ceases to reflect issues that still go on to this day all over the world.
Salem Witch Trials captured just how horrific 1692 was. It masterfully shows how mob bullying in the name of God got so out of hand so quickly that even the most upstanding in the community became victims of a bunch of bullshitters. It shows how children, so brainwashed by threats of becoming the Devil’s minions, became just that and destroyed the lives of others. It shows how innocent lives were sacrificed by desperate people pointing accusatory fingers to make themselves look more godly. And it’s an important reminder that while you may not be one of the ostracized considered less than worthy of dignity and respect right now, when those calling the shots for others’ lives run out of people to control and feel superior to, you can easily and quickly become their next target. It’s like Shirley Jackson’s lottery, but you gotta be in it to win it. And someday, you will be.
Gather the kiddies, pull up a chair, and don’t forget the popcorn!
The movie also shows terrified women degraded and humiliated at the hands of men, thrown into cold and dirty prisons, living in conditions that made them sick (and cost them their own money), shackled even while pregnant, and having their newborns ripped out of their arms. Families torn apart in the name of God—and because there was way less government. Watch the scene in which Shirley MacLaine is stripped in front of a room full of men who view every nook and cranny of her body as she is examined by women and you not only see an early demonstration of lesbian pie for the straight guy’s eye, you also feel the perversity of power when a select few are given control over so many—over women’s bodies, you Hobby Lobby fuckers!
And then there’s Tituba, the slave first accused of witchcraft by the girls she cared for, so easy for the self-righteous to assume was an evil woman since no one considered her to be all good in the first place. After all she was black, the color of evil, not white the color of purity (little lies). What’s so satisfying about her story is that she caved when exposed to abuse, confessed to witchcraft to avoid the pain—and totally sold all them white bitches out! While the young girls started the panic, Tituba ran with it and showed just how ugly white people were by lighting the fuse. It’s such a dramatic moment of vengeance for someone who was unjustly treated as less than human by society that it almost seems like a V.C. Andrews moment.
Tituba was like the only smart one fucking with them like that. If I had been one of the accused and they kept demanding that I confess, I would have arched my thick, evil eyebrows, and in my best demon voice, growled, “I am witch and I shall afflict ye all if ye do not release the shackles that so bind me this instant!” That would have been so much fun. Half of those delusional God freaks would have dropped dead on the spot. The other half would have been like, “If thou ist a witch, then undue them thyself.” Then I’d have no choice but to prove I wasn’t really a witch….
While so many innocent lives were lost during the trials, what also stands out is how so many of the accused stood strong in knowing who they were, despite the world turning against them. They refused to be beaten into submission or forced to say they were something they weren’t. And there were even men who stood unflinchingly by their wives’ sides, defending their honor while so many remained quiet out of fear.
And that is why I will never want the most vocal opponents to oppression, hatred, inequality, bigotry, and prejudice to shut up. When they get on my nerves or go too far in their fight, I can just tune them out while thanking them for fighting for all of us…including those who bash their vocal stance yet hugely benefit from the impact they make. Activists are not the enemy of equality; the dangerous ones are those who take the freedoms they have for granted and turn against their strongest allies. They are the self-saboteurs, not the activists. It doesn’t get better unless someone makes it get better, you self-loathing turncoats!
Salem Witch Trials is a horror story. It’s a true horror story in which humans are the monsters. And we just never fail to be scary. Because time and time again, we’ve proven that we’ve learned nothing from history. Whoever said “you can’t go back” lies. Because you can if you don’t continue to speak up to keep the madness in check. And we really can’t go back to Puritanism. The fashions sucked witch’s teat.