thinking big: feminism, media, and pop culture

The Secret Circle Roundtable: “Pilot,” Season 1, Episode 1

In girl culture, teen soaps on September 22, 2011 at 8:00 am

Teen shows are a kind of siren song for the ladies of Girls Like Giants. Naturally (or perhaps supernaturally?) we felt compelled to check out the CW’s new show The Secret Circle. Read on for a breakdown of the bewitching world of sad teens, missing and evil parents, youthful grandmas, and beautiful frozen raindrops (a perfect way to set the mood during a romantic trip to the woods!).

Cassie and Her Secret Circle

Sarah: So what do you make of our witch-y protagonist?

Phoebe: Well I have a soft spot for her post her performance as Lux on Life Unexpected. So I like her, as I think she is kind of grumpy which I like and stubborn.

Sarah: Yes, I didn’t see that show but I think she is a promising lead — I also like her grumpiness and the sense of integrity she projects. I think it’s interesting that Faye calls her “sad and delicate” because she’s understandably sad (given the death of her mother) but she didn’t really seem delicate.

Phoebe: Yes true. But not delicate at all

Sarah: It’s like Faye sees her as a Bella, but I have a feeling she’s way more of a Hermione

Phoebe: Yes, indeed and oddly unlike many of our current teen brunette heroines, she is blonde

Sarah: Right! More like a Buffy/Veronica Mars

Phoebe: Yes, totally like Buffy and VM (my fave). And all the other girl witches have brown-ish hair

Sarah: Which relatedly. What do you think of Faye and Diana? And their relationship with each other?

Phoebe:  I think Faye reminds me a little of The Craft and Neve Campbell/Robin Tuney, which I am digging. Diana, I am not sure yet especially given her dad is seemingly evil and a Vampire Diaries Elijah look-alike

Sarah: He does! I liked Faye a lot because I think she’s got the bad-girl vibe but isn’t evil herself. She’s interested in power, but she clearly doesn’t want to hurt people either.

Evil Parents and Witchy Teens

Phoebe: I think Faye’s mom, the principal, is evil. Doesn’t that happen on Buffy?

Sarah: Yes! Oh yeah her mom is totes evil. But I don’t think Faye is in on it, nor is Diana with her dad.

Phoebe: I concur, the kids/teens are separate. Also, I was thinking about how we’ve talked about the parents on PLL. On this show the parents seem explicitly evil, not to be trusted, etc., whereas the teens are perhaps in the right and pitted against the parents. On PLL, it seems like the parents are not always responsible but not explicitly bad or using the girls

Sarah: Yeah, on PLL the parents are flawed but at the very least seem to be doing what they think is in the best interests of their daughters, with the possible exception of Spencer’s dad.

Phoebe: Also, I think Diana might be super powerful … I am not sure why, but I think so (perhaps thought as I am forcibly identifying her with Willow from Buffy, which seems unfair since Willow was so rad and we’ve only just met Diana)

Sarah: Although, on the subject of parents on The Secret Circle we know Faye’s mom and Diana’s dad are clearly somewhat evil (given that they support murdering Cassie’s mom). But it seems like Adam’s dad (though possibly an alcoholic) may be on the side of good.

Phoebe: Yeah, I think Adam’s dad seems on the side of good, and that perhaps he is an alcoholic because he could never deal with whatever bad thing happened back in the day that killed Cassie’s dad.

Sarah: That seems likely. I think it’s really interesting that all of the kids have lost a parent. They’re all from single-parent households with the exception of Cassie, who’s an orphan.

Phoebe: Exactly. Although in some ways even though she is an orphan she only has one grandparent, which mimics the one parent situation

Sarah: True! On a side note, grandmas on television are YOUNG

Phoebe: RIGHT?! Slash so awesome

Sarah: Everybody on EV clearly has babies when they are 17 years old

Phoebe: haha

Sarah: But I think that it’s really interesting that The Secret Circle is going all the way on the missing parent trope. It’s so common in coming-of-age stories to have the protagonists be orphans or missing a mom or dad. But in the context of this show, which is all about the kids discovering their powers, the missing parents help spur kids to be self-reliant and resourceful.

Phoebe: I wonder about the trope, which allows the kids to behave like adults and provides narrative explanation for why they have to behave that way that is. It’s similar to Vampire Diaries in fact, where everyone is also missing a parent. Caroline only has her mom, Matt’s mom is alive but gone, Elena and Jeremy have no parents, Bonnie lost her grandma that took care of her and we never meet her dad.

Sarah: That’s true! But I guess the interesting difference is that The Secret Circle makes it explicit. Like, I don’t think those characters on VD have ever sat down together and figured out that they have that in common.

Phoebe: Also, losing parents often brings out their powers in a strange way.

Sarah: Yeah I think so too. In these shows, parents are the authorities and the established society. When you lose that, you have to start forging your own path for yourself—possibly in the form of freezing rain droplets.

 Let’s Make Magic Together

 Phoebe: The raising of rain droplets was super pretty. I might add also, Adam + Cassie = mad sexual tension

Sarah: Yes! Adam is very emo and Elijah Wood-like

Phoebe: Yes yes indeed!

Sarah: I am not yet super-invested in that relationship as I do not think Elijah Wood is very hot, but I could turn around on that

Phoebe: Nor do I but I think Adam has cute potential, and a little bad boy-ishness

Sarah: Yeah, and I didn’t think Chuck Bass was very appealing to begin with either.

Phoebe: In the raindrop scene, also, I love how the “tingling” she is supposed to feel is magic and not hormones/pheromones. Oh and also on that note, Diana says something about how Adam made magic with Cassie, like he kissed her/slept with her. Magic = sex?

Parents can be SO Mysterious

Sarah: What do we make of the mystery of what happened with the parents?

Phoebe: I am not sure. I feel like they perhaps tried to bind their magic or something or got to practicing and things went wrong and killed one of each of the kids’ parents. But, would the kids have been born yet? This timeline is confusing. And they must have all been couples, but also one star crossed. Perhaps if you don’t follow the stars as Adam’s dad suggests, something goes wrong? I feel like the first episode made a big deal out of that so it must be part of the mystery, right?!

Sarah: Oooh good sleuthing. I hadn’t thought about what the stars-thing might have to do with the mystery gone wrong but that makes sense.

Phoebe: Why thank you! Sleuth is my middle name.

Sarah: I also don’t understand yet about the timeline. But perhaps let’s assume that all the couples were HS couples. It seems weird that they all would have gotten pregnant at exactly the same time so their kids would have all been the same age. Which means that maybe that, too, was the result of magic?

Phoebe: Maybe magic can make you all have babies at the same time?

Sarah: Yeah like maybe, and this is just pure conjecture: they were trying to get more power/extend their power. And what more natural way to gain more power than to have progeny who also have magical powers?  But as a result 1/2 of all couples die, because you can’t upset the natural balance like that.

Phoebe: Truth. You can’t just make magic your own! There are rules, people! The universe has rules.

 The Nature of Evil and the Nature of Rainy Climates

 Sarah: I am very curious about why Diana’s dad and Faye’s mom are motivated to reunite the circle, and what they want to happen precisely

Phoebe: I think it is because they are evil and want to take over the town and/or world.

Sarah: Clearly because Diana’s dad murdered Cassie’s mom,  we can suspect it’s for a bad reason. But I also feel like they likely have motivations that relate specifically to what they want for witches/warlocks. Like, they want their kids to gain access to this power (which they can’t have access to because the circle is broken permanently, presumably).  Which is also interesting because that places a lot of pressure on their kids to fulfill the dreams they wanted for themselves. Which is a very relatable teen-theme gone supernatural

 Phoebe: True story, although I think theirs are evil dreams. Not like: Go to college! Play pro-football! Get a job! Have 2.5 kids!

Sarah: Ha right! But the cool thing is that to the parents it might seem like those are highly swap-able. Like, most villains think they’re doing the right thing and my bet is these parents do too.

Phoebe: Hmm I feel like they are not doing it for the kids though.  I feel like they know they are kind of evil rather than wanting the best for the kids—given that they are seemingly playing them or whatever.

 Phoebe: Also, highly unrelated, but have you noticed how the whole town is seemingly white? Perhaps save one of the circle …

Sarah: Right, and so far she and the blonde dude have the least lines. It’s a small town in Washington, right?

Phoebe: Yes, indeed. Also, Washington = new home for bad things on the West coast clearly.  Perhaps it is all the rain.

Sarah: Yeah the sparkly vampires can hide from the sun. I don’t know how that helps witches,

but perhaps that’ll get revealed too

 Phoebe: By sparkles?

Sarah: Probably.

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