The puberty detail compiled with Carrie’s mother’s fanatical religious beliefs that Eve (and therefore all women) are the spawn of evil, confirms the pre-modern notion that femininity is monstrous. While 17th-century witches were often accused of spoiling milk and killing cattle and not telekinetic power, the idea is the same. Carrie’s actions are depicted as a result of unchecked femininity, which is the demonizing male perspective, not the revised feminist alternative.
In addition, the film particularly sets up the gym teacher as a role model who tries to get Carrie to blend into high school culture by “dolling” herself up with makeup and a pretty dress. She trains her to objectify herself according to beauty standards as a method to control her latent power. Of course, this fails, and not only does the town burn for it, so does Carrie. While the film and the book present her death in different ways, the fact is that Carrie still dies in the end.
Therefore, Carrie functions as feminist in the respect that it shows us the nightmare of female existence: women are trapped in an oppressive patriarchal structure regardless of what they do. The path that she believes to be correct is the one that molds her into an object while the transgression that questions accepted gender roles (her telekinesis) makes her unable to function in normal society. The story does not offer a sustainable method of change for women but rather points out the inherent futility of trying to enact change in this patriarchal world structure. Not to mention, our act of rooting for her at the end-points to our own complicity in the misogyny of this world view. We root for Carrie to be the prom queen, the objectified female, and when that fails, we are brought to the consciousness of the whole absurdity of the concept.
Witches were definitely imagined as an oppressive symbol, but many revisions in the media have proved to change this perception. And in the real world, women have adopted witch-adjacent practices like Wicca to offer an avenue for women to engage in discourse for change and in a process toward redefining gender roles. One can be feminist in our current world as we know. We see it every day with the female firsts for everything. For instance, the first woman of color has just been appointed as the vice presidential nominee! But what can we consider to be the truly groundbreaking or radical by a feminist standpoint is redefining roles from the ground up. That’s why the witches we see on TV aren’t quite as boundary-pushing as it appears.
So, are they feminist? Yes. Are they radical? No. But are they still cool? Hell, yes, they are! Halloween will be here before we know it. As you start watching all the horror movies this October (or even the friendly witch tales like Hocus Pocus and Halloweentown), you’ll see more of these subtle nods to history and activism. Remember to engage with the content you consume and analyze their perspective from all angles because real change starts with these conversations.