"Are you a good witch or a bad witch?" That was the famous line said by Glenda in the beginning of "The Wizard of Oz," right after Dorothy had appeared and crushed the Wicked Witch of the North.
Something must be said for "The Wizard of Oz," giving witches the options of being good or bad, a concept that originated sometime in the mid-20th century. Prior to that, the image of a witch was largely evil-especially in the view of such institutions as the church. From the witches in Shakespeare's "Hamlet," to the Salem Witch Hunts of 1692, such monsters of the night had been something to fear.
Likewise, Vampires, Zombies, and Ghosts have been chastised as evil creatures, with vampires (along with witches) most commonly being associated with the devil.
Vampires may have originated in ancient Greece with the Myth of the Fury, women who sucked the souls from their victims while they were sleeping, though that is just one of many theories. From that vampires took on many forms, most commonly seen now as the stereotypical cape wearing, fang bearing monsters who sleep in coffins, fear garlic, and can't step foot on holy ground.
But, perhaps those views of the things that go bump in the night are long gone, for in the past decade there had been an emergence of a completely different type of monster. The wildly popular "Twilight Saga" depicts vampires in a romantic, friendly way. The main protagonist is Edward, a sexy vampire who respects human life and would do anything to protect his love-the human Bella.
"Twilight" strips away all the myths about vampires, and makes them more human than monster. Although they still drink blood and are cold and pale, they are depicted like anyone elseexcept for the whole immortality thing. The story also touches on werewolves, digging up some old legends to justify their appearance in the novel.
"Twilight" of course, spawned a whole series of vampire
themed movies, TV shows, and novels. "My Babysitter is a
Vampire," "Vampire Diaries," and "Vampires Suck" all followed closely after the success of the "Twilight" movies.
Let's not forget those witches I mentioned earlier. Arguably more popular than "Twilight" is the "Harry Potter" series, which tells the tale of young witches and wizards who are doing everything they can to combat evil, all while learning and developing their magical powers.
Witches suddenly lost their power to instill fear in young and old, and became instead an icon for a generation of kids. Unlike "Twilight" author Stephanie Meyer, "Harry Potter" author J. K. Rowling kept a lot of the folklore that went along with witches, including the use of brooms to fly, the image of cauldrons, owls, and occasionally a pointed black hat, but still made her wizards and witches seem human and friendly. Given the context of the books, they practically live among us, some even having non-magic or 'muggle' parents and friends.
Has all this led to society making monsters less scary? People used to tell their children stories of such dark creatures to scare them, but now they read novels and watch movies for their entertainment. Today you would be hard-pressed to find a teenager who hadn't read either "Harry Potter" or "Twilight" or at least saw the movies.
We can't blame all this on just "Twilight" and "Harry Potter." Society's shift towards making monsters iconic was a long time coming, with Michael Jackson's "Thriller," in 1982, "Teen Wolf" in 1985, and "My Best Friend Is a Vampire," in 1987.
If society has indeed made monsters less frightening, then one might present the question of why.
Perhaps this is an attempt to accept people who are different, a concept that Americans especially have been embracing. Artists such as Lady GaGa have become icons for the misfits of the world, who are finally realizing that being weird is okay. Maybe our tame monsters, too, are some proof that we want to accept everyone. After all, aren't they far weirder than even the weirdest human?
More cynically, it could be argued that this widespread monster phenomenon is a product of society's acceptance of violence and other bad behaviors that were previously rejected. Don't the vampires have more sex appeal than ever before? And surly it hasn't gone unnoticed that the werewolves in "Twilight" never have their shirts on. In "Harry Potter," saying one word can kill someone, and they also have curses for manipulating and torturing people.
I'd personally like to think that both series, as well as the many other movies and books that deal with inhuman creatures, are more about the triumph of good over evil. After all, aren't there both good and bad creatures in "Harry Potter," "Twilight," and the "Wizard of Oz"?
Maybe we've simply run out of ways to portray that battle of what is right and what is wrong, and have moved onto giving monsters human qualities so that they too can fight for good over evil.
Then again, maybe people just don't want to be scared of monsters anymore. It could be as random as any other shift in society, although I imagine it's not random at all.
So, are you a good witch or a bad witch?