The Craft (directed by Andrew Fleming) is noteworthy for so many reasons. It delivers strong messages of female empowerment and champions individuality. But for me, it has always been a reminder that it’s ok not to fit in. And that is a message that still resonates to this day. I’ve often felt like an outsider in one way or another. And the characters in the film lean into that notion, instead of running from it. The Craft (which turns 25 this year) reminds us that it’s ok to be different and that being unique is something to be celebrated. That’s a concept I’ve come to accept more readily in adulthood. But as a teenager, that was an especially powerful and reaffirming message.
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After transferring to a Los Angeles high school, Sarah (Robin Tunney) finds that her telekinetic gift appeals to a group of three wannabe witches, who happen to be seeking a fourth member for their rituals. Bonnie (Neve Campbell), Rochelle (Rachel True) and Nancy (Fairuza Balk), like Sarah herself, all have troubled backgrounds, which combined with their nascent powers lead to dangerous consequences. When a minor spell causes a fellow student to lose her hair, the girls grow power-mad.
When I was younger, watching The Craft gave me reassurance that I wasn’t alone in feeling like I didn’t quite fit in. The ladies in the film revel in their differences. And they find power (literal and figurative) in being out of sync with the in crowd.
I have felt, at various times in my life, like I didn’t fit in. I’m often shy in new social situations and I rarely seem to like what’s popular at any given moment. So, it’s always comforting to get to spend some time with four women who understand that fitting in isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
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Of the four leads, Rochelle is the character that speaks to me the most. Naturally, I cannot relate to the black experience. But I can relate to feeling like there is something wrong with who I am because of something I can’t change. I grew up gay in a small town and that was such a tough existence. My sexual preference was easier to hide than skin color. But it still felt like I was an outsider for reasons that were beyond my control. It was reassuring to see a strong and capable character fighting back against those who tormented her.
In addition to providing a sense of comfort at a challenging time in my life, I have also found solace in the The Craft’s messaging about embracing who you are. And I think that sentiment is never more evident than when Nancy tells the bus driver, “We are the weirdos, mister”. It seems like a simple and off-the-cuff statement but there’s more to it than meets the eye. Nancy is embracing the fact that she and her friends are outsiders and they are not ashamed of it.
It’s not necessarily that the ladies have no desire to fit in. It’s normal to crave the acceptance of your peers. But they realize there’s more to life than trying to be something you’re not. And that’s a valuable and relevant lesson at any age.
Messaging aside, one of the other reasons I so readily identify with The Craft is that the characters are relatable and well-developed. And they feel like real people (with extraordinary power).
The performances are excellent, across the board. These aren’t caricatures steeped in stereotypical cliches. The four leads feel like real people. Their pain comes across as authentic and their relationships with one another feel genuine.
Fairuza Balk’s performance in The Craft is particularly impressive. Balk is so believable as Nancy that it’s hard for me to separate the actor from the role. She is a gifted thespian to be able to depict a character’s descent into madness so convincingly. She legitimately terrifies me and manages to bring psychopathy to life in a way that many performers can’t. Often, characters like Nancy go off the rails and the result almost feels like satire. But Nancy goes unhinged in a way that comes across as completely authentic to the role.
All in, The Craft succeeds on so many levels. It encourages us to embrace what makes us unique, rather than trying to fit in at all costs. My fondness for it has never wavered. The messaging and the depiction of teen angst are as relevant today as they were in 1996.