‘Hocus Pocus’ Theory: Salem Is Suffering From Mass Hysteria (Again)
Today sees the arrival of Hocus Pocus 2, the much-anticipated follow-up to Disney’s Halloween staple about witches, zombies, and a teenage boy who gets endlessly ridiculed for being a virgin for some reason. We’ve talked before about how odd it is that the original Hocus Pocus is not only set in Salem, but actually flashes back to the infamous Salem Witch Trials.
Historically speaking, this event was a horrific tragedy in which innocent women were murdered, and many more persecuted and jailed. But in the Disney-verse, the accused were genuinely child-murdering brides of Satan who were justifiably punished by these poor, suffering townspeople. We get that this is a children’s fantasy, but is this really that different from, say, Pixar making a movie 300 years from all about the plight of the Manson family?
But maybe we’re ignoring the obvious here; what if the same thing that happened during the Salem Witch Trials is happening again in the story of Hocus Pocus? The historical consensus seems that the town of Salem experienced a form of mass hysteria, with a number of potential causes ranging from hallucinogenic fungi to an auto-immune disease to “social and cultural pressure” which play a “powerful role” in instances of mass hysteria.
In the beginning of Hocus Pocus, the new kid, Max, is being taught in school that these soul-sucking witches are totally real. When he expresses his skepticism, the entire class – including the teacher and the girl he has a crush on – only heckle him. When said crush, Alison, rebuts his criticisms, claiming instead that the dead legit return to Earth on Halloween, everyone cheers as if they’re in a goddamn cult.
The town has clearly already bought into the shared delusion that witches are real threat. And we know that Max has the ability to abandon his sense of reality in favor of his hormones, as evidenced by the moment when he refers to his pillow as “Allison” and seemingly is about to start humping it until his sister thankfully bursts into the room.
So having moved to this community who aggressively believe in witches, and with a desire to assimilate in a manner that will impress Alison, doesn’t it make sense that Max would feel pressured to adopt the falsehood that three ordinary women who show up on Halloween night are really ancient witches back from the dead? Some people even think that the Salem Witch Trials themselves could have been motivated by “teenage angst” – so why not the events of this movie too? Max’s sister follows suit and believes it too, she’s young and impressionable; and as the audience, we only see the “Sanderson Sisters” through the lens of these characters, not who they truly are. Which would also explain why a “witch” would break out into a lavish musical number for no reason.
You (yes, you) should follow JM on Twitter!