Any Hollywood attempt at a remake of “Bewitched”–the popular 1960s sitcom starring Elizabeth Montgomery as the housewife who signals she is about to work some magic with an endearing twitch of her nose–was probably hexed from the start.
Most of the reviews have cursed the movie, but I think James Bowman does the best job of describing what went wrong.
“The thing I couldn’t quite figure out about Nora Ephron’s new film version of Bewitched,” Bowman began, “was why Nicole Kidman, in the role of the pretty suburban witch, took as her model not the savvy but sly Elizabeth Montgomery of the original TV series but a breathless, wide-eyed innocent of the sort that Marilyn Monroe used to specialize in. Surely if being a witch, even a TV witch, means anything it must mean being really smart rather than really dumb?”
One of the interesting aspects of the failure of the remake is that the 1960s “Bewitched” could deal with the notion of a powerful women better than today’s Hollywood. As Bowman notes:
“Miss Montgomery’s Samantha was forbidden by Darrin from practising witchcraft and pretended to submit to his prohibition because a husband — so, incredibly enough, did they believe back then — needed to feel he was king in his own castle, and that the power in the relationship belonged to him. A woman with the power not only to take care of herself but to alter reality at the twitch of a nose could hardly fit comfortably into the then-desirable role of the submissive wife. Yet ’Bewitched’ the TV series did as much as anything in the American popular culture to alter these archaic assumptions about marriage. Samantha never really sacrificed her powers for Darrin and domesticity, and the poor chump himself could hardly have been unaware of the fact. He was a pathetic witold in the case of his wife’s infidelity with the always comic dark powers.
“Thus the show took on an archetypal quality, like ’The Honeymooners’ only more so. For as feminist scholars have since reminded us, the historic associations of women with witchcraft are all bound up with the masculine fear of women’s power. Samantha Stevens was a sanitized but still powerful emblem of the emergence of those dark and long mistrusted powers into the dawn of a new feminist day. All of this is missing from the new movie.
“Where the lineage of the TV series ran, however circuitously, back to the Malleus Maleficarum or Hammer of Witchcraft of the 15th century, that of the film goes no further than to the comic book superhero and connects to nothing more interesting or culturally resonant than the adolescent power fantasies that have become Hollywood’s stock-in-trade in the post-revolutionary era.”
Isn’t it ironic that after four decades of rad fem ideology Hollywood makes America’s most popular witch into a kitten?