Maybe We Love Hocus Pocus Because Everything New Is Awful

Your wretched little lives have all been cursed.

Image for post
Image for post
I sure did have this made for myself, thank you for asking.

I read a tweet this week: “Hocus Pocus is having a shockingly successful afterlife.” — @NYMag. The tweet led to a Vulture story about the enduring success of the film. But for me it’s not the what–it’s the why.

It’s not just the Sanderson gals. Everything old does become new again, but in the last couple of years it seems like everything old has become newly comforting for the first time.

I thought when I purchased my first American Girls doll over the summer (Molly, via eBay, and yes she was worth it) that it was a personal triumph over my own childhood. I was never allowed one, they were too expensive, my salary and I will show you now, etc.. But this is bigger than Molly and me. I think this is everyone. And you guys, I think its the internet.

Selena’s face is being printed on Urban Outfitters t-shirts and worn by people too young to remember her. I can’t stop searching for the most comparable lip color to Jane Rum Raisin that money can buy. And Bette Midler is dressing up for Halloween as her own damn character, and killing it.

We’re looking, if not sprinting backward, and I think it’s because we’ve soured the present. I think we look backward because back there, there are no cell phones, no internet, no social media, and no society hell bent on showing the world its having fun. Back then we were just having fun.

The Infatuation, my 1st choice in honest descriptions of questionable menu items, runs a series in their Instagram stories where they try trending food items and determine whether they’re actually good, or just good for the ‘gram. And most of the time, the food is more visually appealing than it is tasty. Think about that. People are making money for making food we’d rather photograph than eat. There’s a new market in edible props.

But our cravings for photo fodder go well beyond that. Nothing can happen anymore unless it looks good. Better than good–amazing. My birthday parties as a child were held at McDonalds with plastic cups and paper plates with clown faces on them. And nothing else. Now, a child’s birthday party has to set an ever-upward bar in creativity, DIY, and Instagram-worthy vignettes. It’s obsessive, it’s constant, and I don’t think we actually like it. The gratification is short lived, and the actual event memories we’re left with all involve phones in our hands, hovering over a person or plate to get a great shot. Congrats on those 47 likes, Stacey, was it worth pretty much missing the party?

Image for post
Image for post
Via Imgur

I’m sure you’ve seen the meme. The “scary” pumpkin carving of a 2% cell phone battery. Jesus what happened to us. We can’t even appreciate a good goblin anymore. Our real fear lies in an inability to access Instagram. Our entertainment is constant, addictive, and not even happening to us.

This reversion to the past, this assignment of cult following status to so many memories makes me wonder if maybe we’re not trying to go back in time. I think that somewhere in our screen-seeking brains, we don’t like it here, so we’re trying to relive our lives someplace else.

All of this is fine with me, you’ll never catch me complaining about 90s clothing, beauty, or nostalgia suddenly becoming easily accessible. I want live-action Daria just as much as the next curmudgeon. But where I think we might want to ladle some attention is in the truth that the present day really isn’t entertaining us that much, if we’re this attached to the past.

I watched Hocus Pocus during the month of October, as well as the entire Scream trilogy. I spent my weekend watching Netflix a show born of an homage to being a kid in Ghostbusters 80s. And every moment felt escapist. I felt calm, happy, and unplugged. I’ve spent much of the last 24 hours on Twitter and I can tell you those adjectives no longer apply.

Hocus Pocus has never been an Oscar winner. It’s not the quality of the film itself (though I could certainly make a case for that, too), but rather the quality of life we had when it was made. There is a tangible modern-day preference for the way things look, rather than the way things are. And I don’t know about you, but making memories, rather than impressions, felt a lot more like magic.

Image for post
Image for post

Written by

NPR once called me a humor essayist, let’s go with that. Host of A Single Serving Podcast. shanisilver[at]gmail

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store