We’ve come a long way from the cackling, green-skinned Wicked Witch of the West! Once limited to villains–and ugly ones, too–witches have gradually gotten a makeover in the last 30 years.
Perhaps that change has something to do with the rise of real-life pagan and Wiccan practitioners. More people than ever are openly declaring themselves to be witches. And an increasing number of pop culture depictions of witches show them as heroes and protectors who use their powers for good.
Depending on your generation, you either think of Sabrina as Melissa Joan Hart or Kiernan Shipka. Melissa’s witch was much more lighthearted than the modern remake on Netflix. The new series is based on the mega-dark reimagining by “Riverdale” creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa.
The dark side of witchcraft in ‘The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” calls to mind the 1996 classic “The Craft.” The main difference is that Sabrina is allowed to be the main character, while Nancy Downs was very much the villain.
“Charmed” had more than its fair share of cheesy moments and major drama. What do you expect from executive producer Aaron Spelling? But what’s really surprising is that someone back in 1998 took the trouble to consult with real Wiccans. “Charmed” has a more solid grounding in modern-day witchcraft practices than almost anything else on this list.
The modern-day revival embraces the same principle, but cast a group of Latina actresses in the lead roles.
How many teens who grew up on “Buffy” identified with Willow? She was the shy, nerdy friend, not the hero. And yet she used whatever skills she possessed–first, computer hacking, and later magic–to fight against the bad guys.
Okay, sure, Willow did almost destroy the world after her girlfriend was killed. But honestly, fans felt the same way after Tara’s shocking death. We’re gonna give this one to the redhead.
She needs no introduction, does she? Countless readers have been lucking enough to grow up with Hermione Granger as a role model. Fearless, wickedly smart, and a tireless crusader for justice, Hermione (and her real-life counterpart, Emma Watson) is the feminist hero we didn’t know we needed.
Looking back on it, it’s awful that everyone–even her best friends!–made fun of her for trying to liberate the enslaved house elves at Hogwarts. No wonder she goes on to become the Minister of Magic. It’s also worth noting that in the play-sequel “The Cursed Child,” Hermione is a woman of color.
Raise your hand if you want to go live in the Owens house! “Practical Magic” has a strong grounding in real-life witchcraft practices–including smudging sage to ward off evil.
That’s largely thanks to Alice Hoffman’s novel. But there’s no doubt that the film celebrates not just witchcraft but also the great sisterhood of women, no matter their walks of life.
I’m just going to say it: Bonnie deserved better. As a powerful, kind-hearted witch and one of the few women of color we could find for this list, Bonnie was nevertheless doomed.
She lost her magic (although not permanently) and her true love. That’s way harsh, and most fans agree that Bonnie should have gotten a happier ending when the series wrapped up.