Fighting with the Sky

The Women of Eastwick

Posted on: September 30, 2009

So I’ve spent the last couple days (when not working) curled up in my bed watching TV.  Yesterday I watched the premiere of Eastwick (which aired on ABC last Wednesday).  I’m not too familiar with the story of The Witches of eastwickEastwick, but this new show is loosely based on that story.  It follows three women (Joanna, Roxie, and Kat) who previously did not really know each other as they develop and form their magical powers.  There is also a mysterious man, Darryl, who comes to town and buys up half of it.  It is unclear what his role is in these women’s magical powers, but he definitely has some sort of role.

I enjoyed the show as it was going on, but after watching it I have mixed feelings.  On the one hand, I can see how it might be about female empowerment, but on the other hand, it still falls into those same old sexist stereotypes and gender norms.  In the show, these three women have something “awakened” in them that brings tremendous magical power.  This power comes from within and it is unclear how it was “awakened.”  Joanna has to power to control men (yeah, more on this later), Roxie has psychic dreams, and Kat has the ability to make things happen that she says (for example, when yelling at her husband she both caused a mini-earthquake and made lightning strike her husband).

I think it’s Joanna’s ability to control men that bothers me the most.  Lindsay Price, who plays Joanna, is very beautiful.  For the first part of the show, she wears glasses and her hair in a bun the whole time.  But then Darryl tells her that she’s beautiful and can control men, she starts wearing her hair down and tighter clothing.  I hate this age-old storyline — a beautiful girl isn’t beautiful until she wears “sexy” clothing, her hair down, and all of a sudden she’s so beautiful and no one ever recognized it before!  And playing into women’s sexual power over men generally bothers me as well.  It suggests that women don’t have much to offer other than their sexual appeal and that men are very easily manipulated.

As for Roxie, it’s not so much her power of psychic dreams that bothers me, but her relationship with Darryl.  She’s origianally repulsed by Darryl.  She thinks he’s a pompous jerk, which he is.  But he helps save her daughter from being raped by her boyfriend (which I mean, is a great thing to do) and all of a sudden Roxie is all over him.  It was just weird.  And rewarding the guy for being a jerk.

I do really like Kat though.  She has five children and an unemployed husband who shows no signs of wanting to get off the couch and stop drinking beer all day.  She seems to have some sort of power to control the world around her.  When angry, she can make what she says actually happen.  Everyone thinks that she’s this straight-laced mom, but once she connects with the other women and starts to realize her powers, we see that she’s not quite what she seems.  At the end of the first episode, she finally comes to terms with the fact that she is in an unhealthy relationship and asks for a divorce.  I was really happy at this time because throughout the episode she started standing up for herself more and this was just the last step in that transformation (even though her husband has threatened to take her kids away, so you know there’s going to be lots more drama).

I think the show is supposed to be about female empowerment, but they are kind of falling short.  Yes, there seems to be a theme of finding the power within and all that stuff, but it’s still just falling into the same old sexist stereotypes and gender norms.  And are these women really empowered or are they being controlled in some way by this mysterious man, Darryl?  I mean, we have Joanna who realized her sexual power only after Darryl told her she had it.  And all three of the women get “drunk” off of this special water while Darryl watches for his own entertainment — that was just weird and creepy.  It’s just sad that shows that are supposed to be about female empowerment just fall into the same old social norms and sexist beliefs.  I guess they have to make it entertaining…which means stereotypes and gender norms, I guess.

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5 Responses to "The Women of Eastwick"

So would you watch it again?

Based on your review, it sounds like the premise of “empowering women” got twisted up by Hollywood producers. I wonder how this compares with the original movie. Are these the same powers the movie characters had? Are these characters more or less “empowered”?

Food for thought.

-Danine
————————
http://www.danine.net
http://twitter.com/daninespencer

The movie was based on the novel by John Updike, who was quite a misogynistic writer. (If you’re interested, here’s a post by Sady Doyle of Tiger Beatdown about Updike’s work. She isn’t discussing Witches of Eastwick there, but one of Updike’s short stories). I didn’t see the movie and I haven’t seen the show, but Hollywood does have a habit of trying to put an “empowerment” gloss over fundamentally sexist material. And yeah, Darryl is definitely connected to the women’s powers.

You really should watch the movie, because so far it sounds like the show is pulling a lot of material from that, and I imagine that the show isn’t about empowerment at all, but instead about temptation and walking a line between the stereotypes of good and evil. For example, you mention the buttoned down woman who starts to wear sexy clothes after meeting Darryl. That is exactly what happens to the music teacher in the movie. But in that scene, when she’s cutting loose, a man who has been pressuring her sexually is scared away by her change. She has gone from demure to sexual, and it terrifies him. It’s an interesting movie, and watching it will help you get a better grasp of the show, I imagine.
I don’t want to post much more, because I would hate to give away the movie for those who haven’t seen it, but if you go watch it, my comments will make more sense.

I totally agreed with your assessment of Eastwick…Joanna’s depiction did concern me the most as well. I wrote about it on my blog: Wickedly Bad: Eastwick Review/Recap Hope to hear what you think about my assessment!

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