October 5, 2022
By Jo Wiersema
Midweek Musings is a weekly Covenant blog with a variety of authors and a variety of topics.
This is a blog about Hocus Pocus 2 and the inaccurate portrayals of Puritans in modern media. With that forewarning in mind, I would like to formally apologize to anyone who has talked to me in the past week, as I have likely talked to you about Hocus Pocus 2.
Hocus Pocus is a cult classic from Disney. Originally released in 1993, it flopped in theaters and then became the movie of a generation, as Disney Channel played it repeatedly through the month of October. Starring three witchy sisters, the Sanderson sisters are brought back for one night to try and make their reign permanent. It’s spooky, it’s very 90s, it’s a movie I hold very close to my heart in this pumpkin filled spooky season.
29 years later, Hocus Pocus 2 has been released. Streaming on Disney+, this is a movie for the generation who grew up on our original Hocus Pocus. Hocus Pocus 2 starts with the Sanderson sisters as tweens in a puritan town, just trying to be weird kids on their own.
The tweens are almost caricatures of the original characters from 1993, but there is a youthful element to their interest in spooky things and spiders and their undying love for one another.
But... *spooky music* ...the puritan preacher is trying to force Winnifred to marry a boy she doesn’t really like. The whole town stands around and watches as she admits to kissing another boy, Billy (another repeat character from our original plot).
The preacher goes bonkers, the crowd goes wild, and our beloved witchy sisters flee into the woods.
But let’s back this up and look at our puritan preacher. Puritanism is the group who wanted to bring simplicity back to faith in the Americas. Many of them were Calvinists (Presbyterianism is a descendent of Calvinism), and they were looking to get away from the song and dance that was the English reformation.
I’m not an expert in Puritan History, but this preacher who is forcing a tween to marry a teenage boy, not for the biblical backing, but for the sake of because he wants it to happen is very counterintuitive. To this preacher who is dramatic and afraid of spiders and intentionally doesn’t love the orphaned: this doesn’t land right.
Yes, yes this is a Disney movie about witches and teen friendship, but the preacher is painted in an awful light that I don’t feel is historically accurate. The information we have in the few short minute prequel is sparse, but it doesn’t feel quite right. The Puritan communities were meant to be biblically based, to support the community, and though obsessive on their sabbath, with two services in morning and evening and a dedication to rest, I don’t think they were that bad.
In a modern America where Christianity is no longer the norm, the secular view of Christianity used for humor in witchy classics is potentially harmful to the larger Christian narrative. Yes, I trust consumers to see the Sanderson sisters and know they aren’t real, but there isn’t a clear narrative on early American Christians to prove they weren’t exactly like the far-right Christian extremists we see in the media today. Church history proves that there were bad individuals and movements, but there was hope and good people doing good things.
OOF, that got deep.
Maybe it’s a full 12 months of diving into church history, maybe it’s that I’ve seen these Disney Halloween movies more than I can count, maybe it’s because there are Christians throughout history that look to the Bible and lead with love first, but dang I have feelings about the portrayal of the preacher.
All that’s to be said:
Don’t trust what you watch on Disney about Christianity.
Also please watch Hocus Pocus 2, it’s lovely.
Grace, Peace, and Spooky hope for you this season,