thinking big: feminism, media, and pop culture

The Secret Circle Roundtable, Season 1 Episode 7: “Masked”

In teen soaps on October 28, 2011 at 5:28 pm

This week on The Secret Circle, Cassie throws a Halloween party replete with kidnappings; Faye wears a daring top and Diana wears some rad fake teeth; lots of people bleed, one person dies, one person burns, and one person gets a concussion (Cassie’s grandma, hope you’re okay!).

1) What do you think is the story with Cassie’s dad? What do you think about the revelation that she has dark magic inside her, and what might dark magic mean within the context of this show based on what we’ve seen so far?

Phoebe: I was excited to get even a mention of him, as it is the first time the show has really mentioned any of the parents that died (also, Adam talked about his mom a little). But I am also intrigued by this notion that Cassie’s magic is different and that the difference is something inherited from her father — keeping in line with the magic as in the blood theory of the show. Also, I am really curious about how Amelia became involved with John B (Cassie’s father) and what their story was. And I am hoping that the parchment she has at the end of the episode will reveal something and/or that she will ask her grandmother about her dad (provided her grandma is okay, which I am a little worried about. By the by, who do you think hit her over the head when she went to the lake house? Dawn? Someone else after the crystal?). As for the dark magic in Cassie, I feel like that explains why her mother was so worried that she left town and the great power she mentions in her letter to Cassie at the beginning of the show that people will come for.

Sarah: My guess is that Cassie’s dad was a charismatic bad-boy type who teenage Amelia fell for before realizing that there was real danger and darkness inside him. One thing that I do want to find out is whether dark magic in this show is necessarily always bad (and in need of being controlled), or if there are positive sides to dark magic as well. I could see Cassie having both inside her, which is interesting, but then again it’s dark magic that saves her life and her friends’ lives, so clearly it can be used for a good cause as well. I’m really glad to find out that she’s even more powerful than we previously suspected, and watching her struggle to own that part of herself should be interesting.

2) What did you think about the gender dynamics of the witch-hunting plot — mostly female witches (plus Adam) on one side and all male witch-hunters on the other?

Phoebe: Pretty interesting … Also, I kind of love the female witch situation and that the most powerful witches and characters are all women, from Cassie’s grandma to even Dawn, Faye, Melissa, Cassie, and Diana. Even Adam’s dad is kind of a disaster as Adam seemingly is now post-breakup. I feel sad for Adam right now as I think he really does love Diana, although I support Diana’s reaction to him also. But that aside, the witch-hunters are scary and it is weird and interesting that they are all men and in some ways are threatened by the power of the witches who at this point are mostly female. Also, I was pleased to see Cassie’s power in action against the witch-hunters and particularly that stupid dude who took her to the dance. Ugh. What a jerk. Also, so far are all the witch hunters white?

Sarah: I think all the currently living witch-hunters we’ve met seem to be white and male (not counting Simone, who died in the last episode). Also, another note about a major difference between the witch hunters and the witches—the witch hunters don’t seem bound to each other except by a common cause (hunting witches). Nobody cared when the girl witch-hunter died, and when Luke goes up in flames in this episode the other two barely bat an eye. Whereas the witches are extremely attached to each other, and even more so after the binding ceremony—so much so that Cassie’s desperation to save Diana translates into magic. Basically I guess I’m saying the witches have got love and loyalty and the witch hunters only have their mission.

Another interesting thing about the gender dynamics at play, though, is that I don’t remember seeing Adam get kidnapped at the party, but we saw each individual girl witch getting chloroformed and carried off. So I thought there was also an underlying tone of sexualized violence against the girl witches—possibly intentional, possibly not—in this episode. 
 3) What are your thoughts on how depictions of race are developing in The Secret Circle? Is it in danger of going the way of The Vampire Diaries in terms of a high body count for non-white characters?

Phoebe: So this issue is clearly a big problem on Vampire Diaries and I wonder how it will play out for Secret Circle. I was pretty bummed that the shop owner was killed in this episode, as I thought he was potentially an interesting character and it gave us a sense of circles outside our teenagers’ one. So thus far, the body count includes Amelia, Nick, Faye’s grandpa, the female witch-hunter, Luke, and the shopkeeper which is a reasonably diverse bunch I suppose. But I think that in terms of introducing characters of color, save for Melissa (who is my fave character I think), it seems like each time they have introduced a character of color they have killed him or her off (the witch hunter and shopkeeper, for example). Anyway, I am hopeful they won’t go the VD route … but only time will tell.

Sarah: Yeah I agree exactly with what you said so I don’t have much more to add there,  But I really hope that The Secret Circle introduces more non-white characters who don’t die. That is my wish.

4) What do we think about everyone’s costumes? And didn’t this Halloween party look fun? (Minus the kidnapping part of course)

Phoebe: Indeed it did! Minus the kidnapping of course … As for costumes, I am going to go with Diana as her hair was crazy cool although I can’t be sure who or what she was. But also I kind of liked Cassie’s killer bee situation, which I thought was clever. Oh and what on earth was Faye wearing in the witchy antique shop? It looked like she was perhaps only wearing a necklace as a shirt for while? That was confusing.

Sarah: Yeah me too—for a while I didn’t get that that was a costume and was wondering if that was her regular-times scandalous top. I was excited that Melissa was sexy Hermione because I was a (normal) Hermione last year, and Cassie’s killer bee costume was pretty great. Also, the pig mask was terrifying. Remember the year everyone was swine flu and pig masks were everywhere? I was afraid all the time.

5) It seems like The Secret Circle is definitely developing being a witch as a metaphor for other oppressed identities — in this episode, it seemed like there were a lot of parallels between witch-hatred and homophobia, particularly given Cassie’s line about being born this way. What are your thoughts?

Phoebe: Yeah I agree, particularly the discourse of it is in you/your family/your blood seems really interesting. Particularly, given the repetition of the we haven’t done anything wrong refrain throughout this episode. But also, the sense that they are being persecuted for who they are and all that potentially comes with that. It does feel like, similarly to Vampire Diaries, the show is mapping discourses of oppressed identities and queer identities it seems specifically onto the supernatural characters. Then the persecution is then directed from the humans, scared of what they don’t know, to the witches. And I think particularly, the self-hating of Jake is really part and parcel of these discourses. So in one way we feel for him (like we do for the Roy Cohn character in Angels in America. Random reference, but was on my mind) but also he is scary and his self-loathing produces terrible violence. For example, when he kills the shopkeeper. But then we also understand that his violence is produced by his own marginal position in society and his discomfort with that. Anyway, it is an odd but potentially interesting move that the show is making …

Sarah: Yeah, I love what you’re saying about Jake and think that’s absolutely true. I think it is so fascinating the way that supernatural stories, in particular, seem to weave in these metaphors of oppression—True Blood, Vampire Diaries, Secret Circle…. Talking about characters like vampires and witches who are on the margins of society naturally lends itself to talking about contemporary social issues, but it also seems like a way for shows to explore these issues while still preserving the possibility of supposedly mainstream (read: socially conservative) appeal. Which is for sure interesting but makes me feel like, what if we didn’t have to speak in code. You know, if they’re playing with the gay rights metaphor in TSC, where are the actual non-heterosexual characters? (The same is true of Vampire Diaries, come to think of it.)  But that’s not to say that this isn’t an interesting storyline, or a way to open up dialogue about prejudice and oppression—just that I hope TSC puts its money where its mouth is soon, character-wise.

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