Hocus Pocus and the Spectacle of the Grotesque- by Taylor Holliday

In Hocus Pocus (Kenny Ortega, 1993) we see how the the Sanderson sisters create a spectacle of themselves when they are at the Halloween Dance at the Town Hall. Due to it being Halloween, the entire town is dressed up, so everyone assumes that the three unknown women are hired entertainment, rather than being dressed in their normal clothing with a motive. They sing a spell that causes all of the parents to sing and dance all night, so that they can kidnap the towns children to suck the life out of them. While the sisters are singing, the audience at first laughs and then as they begin to fall under the spell, they start singing along.


This spectacle is an example of what Kathleen Rowe talks about in her book Feminist Film Theory and the Question of Laughter. Her example of Medusa creating a spectacle of herself with her laughter in the hopes of getting Perseus to look at her directly correlates with the Hocus Pocus scene. Winifred and Mary Sanderson are seen as being grotesque, while Mary the younger sister uses her sexuality and charm to her advantage. Mary’s gifts also allow for her to be able to enchant children through her singing. The Sanderson women use song and theatrics, rather than laughter, even though the song at the town hall had hilarity in it, to create a spectacle. This spectacle can then be used to further on their plan. This can also been seen in Rowe’s book when she talks about the spectacle that Roseanne Arnold created at a baseball game while singing the national anthem. These spectacles make these women seem to be vulnerable and trivialized, while also being demonic or threatening; and in the the case of Hocus Pocus, it is both. In Arnold’s hands laughter is her means of self-definition and getting her point across. And for the sisters, the laughter is distracting the parents from realizing what is going on; allowing for them to cast this spell and  make it seem as if they were just a hired performance for the crowds amusement and entertainment. Overall we can see how these women are using their own forms of the grotesque in order to make a spectacle that gets their points across.

One comment

  1. This example reminded me of another point made by Rowe; that elements of the grotesque such as advanced age, ugliness and size, can be used to give women the freedom to act the way they want. Women who possess these features are further from the “center of patriarchal power”, and therefore further from its influence, as demonstrated by the Sanderson sisters’ uninhibited behaviour.

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