If you were a child of the 90’s or 2000’s you most likely have heard of and/or watched Halloweentown religiously every October.

Halloweentown was a 1998 Disney Channel Original Movie and with a budget of $4 million, they were ingenious on creating a campy and fun family Halloween film that’s unique and a pop culture classic. The story centers around Marnie, a girl who finds out she’s a witch, and uncovers a hidden land, Halloweentown, that’s only open to Earth every October 31st. Debbie Reynolds plays the grandmother and the movie was so successful that it spawned three other sequels! The residents where it was filmed celebrate a Halloweentown themed festival every October in St. Helens, Oregon.

It’s been 21 years since the film made its debut, but I would argue that it’s the most feminist Halloween/Horror film to come out and here’s why:

  1. The film is made up of women! Marnie, her little sister, her mother, and her Grandmother, the goddess, Debbie Reynolds, find that they have to band together to fight evil. It’s only by acknowledging the power within themselves that they are able to conquer the darkness. Girl Power for sure!
  2. Nothing Normal. An iconic line from the film that Debbie Reynolds character exclaims is “Being normal is vastly underrated.” This was a film where it was ok to embrace your weird, to live fully and differently. The characters were happy to embrace their power as witches, but it also taught young people watching to be themselves, to not conform, and to love themselves!
  3. Microwaves for Feminists. Can we talk about the microwave that Grandma Witch uses during the film? She hits the buttons “Bubble,” “Bubble,” “Toil,” and “Trouble.” Thank you production designer Alfred Sole for this amazing gag. But at the same time, YES, it’s harping back to Macbeth’s witches, the traditional girl bosses who lead Shakespeare’s antihero to his fate. By creating a parallel to witches from the 16th Century, Halloweentown acknowledges the power of this family, but also the inherent influence of all women to create the things they need. By adding these buttons to the microwave, designer Sole recognizes the gender inequality of the inherent tasks women take on in the household. Creating a comic element with Grandma Witch hitting the microwave buttons and allowing her the “shortcut” as opposed to the cauldron, Sole plays with how a female witch of the 20th Century might go about her tasks. buttons “Bubble,” “Bubble,” “Toil,” and “Trouble"
  4. Done with the Sleazeball. Marnie’s asked out by the hot bad boy archetype and turns him down! Can we just say YAS QUEEN and BOY BYE. Marnie, you’ve done what no female in the horror film has done before, you’ve said no to the hot guy asking you out. Marnie has a clearer head on her shoulders acknowledging that she’s not impressed with his attitude or the way he treats others. He asks her out for ice cream and she responds with, “You know, I was hungry but then I smelt something stinky — it must have been the big cheese.” Get it girl.
  5. All that Bite. At the Hair Salon, a lady getting her hair done is reading Vampire Fair, a play on Vanity Fair, the production designer gives some bite to the traditional magazine amping it up with more power for the women reading!
  6. Matriarchal Society. There are multiple female leads in different age groups from Sophie, the littlest 7 year old sister, Marnie, a 13 year old, their mother in her 40’s, and the Grandmother in her 60’s. It’s unusual to have so many women in a Halloween film, let alone generations that all have agency and confidence. These females have to take down the male warlock plaguing the town, but it’s really about the younger generations following the example they have in an authoritative female leader. It’s a matriarchal society, with the Grandmother leading the family and de facto the town itself.

This leading lady film is free on the Disney App on your Roku or found at your local library. It’s the perfect hit for October for young and old, it’ll keep you smiling and enjoying the strong women.

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About the author

Alice Cash is the Marketing Manager for Jubilance by day and an award winning Theatre Director by night.  Leading the podcast Weekly Woman, she loves her candid conversations with women from all over the world about how they live and the amazing things they are doing to make a difference. Alice is also the editor of the bi-monthly newsletter the Jubilee, a blog dedicated to the power of female wellness especially concerning menstruation.  She’s worked in France creating theatre pieces and taught drama and filmmaking to women and children in Haiti.  She graduated from Georgetown University and holds two master degrees from NYU and The New School.  Alice has traveled to  40+ countries, including Tibet.  She is a New Yorker and can often be found in Central Park, searching out the best bubble tea, or directing a play, you never know where she’ll show up. @alicesadventuresinwonderworld
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