Didn’t you just love Hocus Pocus when you were a kid?
I remember watching this movie as a kid and loving every minute. Even now as an adult, this movie is so much fun. It’s the right mix of scary, dangerous, funny, over the top, and whimsical. Who would think that a movie about three grotesque witch sisters who want to attain eternal youth and beauty by kidnapping small children and consuming their life force would be so entertaining? It certainly helps that the witches, while scary, are bumbling and ridiculous and completely over the top.
But I think the main reason why I loved this movie is that kids are the protagonists. A lot many stories have adult protagonists, and kids are relegated to the supporting cast. Most times the children aren’t allowed to have much growth and serve to drive the plot forward by getting themselves into trouble, thereby creating problems for the adult protagonist, who then must rescue the child.
I think most kids are aware of this on some level. Kids know they aren’t as strong or experienced as adults, and so there is a natural protective dynamic that arises from the relationship between adults and children.
But kids are human beings and crave stories that speak to them as such, which I think is why Hocus Pocus works so well.
Hocus Pocus really exploits the relationship between children and adults in a way that really resonated with me as a child, though I never really knew why.
With a bit of reflection (and another viewing), I realized I loved this movie because it showed the children overcoming the threat of the witches without help from adults. Max, Dani, Allison, and Thackery defeat the witches with their own ingenuity, strength, and confidence. Of course there are missteps and mistakes made, but on the whole, the kids stop the witches and save Salem’s children and don’t need help to do so.
In fact, the adults were pretty damn useless in this movie, which was both hilarious and disturbing. They don’t listen to the kids or seem to be able to sense when something weird was happening. Or they were just absent.
Let’s go through some of the offenders:
- The Fake Police Officer
Sure, you’re just pretending to be a police officer for Halloween, but maybe don’t mess with bunch of worried kids. I understand you think they could be joking around, but hey, just a suggestion, let them know you aren’t an officer of the law. Don’t exploit your costume!
- Max and Dani’s parents
Where to start? With the dad’s awkward and pervy greeting when he meets Allison? The mom’s blasé response when her children show up, hysterical and scared and going on about witches? Parents need their fun too, but when your kids seem really anxious about something, maybe some more prodding questions are required. Also, maybe don’t forget about them completely when Bette Midler takes the stage.
- Thackery and Emily’s parents
This always bothered me, even as a kid—why is Thackery the one to go confront the Sanderson sisters? Where are his parents? Why do the villagers take FOREVER to capture the witches? USELESS!
Actually, it seemed to me like only the adults were really susceptible to the witches’ charms’ and spells. They play into the adults’ assumptions that children don’t know what they’re talking about.
You could say that the reason why the adults are absent or useless is because this was a Disney movie and had to be about kids. That’s probably true to a degree. But honestly, I think the lack of adults has more to do with the fact that children, fully aware that they are vulnerable, fear the lack of adults in real life.
Who tells you what to do when you don’t know? Who will protect you? Who will fight the witches? This movie says that you can, kid. You might even win.
Growing up is all about learning that you have to depend on yourself but also that you have agency. It’s a little frightening to make all the decisions yourself, but it’s also liberating to know that you are fully capable of doing things for yourself. In the end, you might not need help from someone who is “bigger” and “smarter” than you. It isn’t wrong to ask for help, but don’t doubt yourself, kid.
What an awesome message!