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Judging Amy: Custody Battle or Witch Hunt?

Click HERE for The WitchVox Review
Air Date: October 19th, 1999

Community Comments Page #3
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I think it's unrealistic & unnecessary for a TV show to be 100% positive about Wicca. Although it would be great if the world understood, approved & appreciated our trads en toto, I don't think it's necessary. I don't understand, appreciate or approve of many beliefs that commit no harm, but so what? That's just my opinion. I'm wary of what I perceive to be a need in the pagan community to gain approval for our beliefs by the public. "See, I'm different, but I'm responsible, loving & an asset to my community!" we seem to be saying a lot of the time to the public at large. Pagans aren't perfect, but are humans w/rights & that is how "Judging Amy" treated the subject.

I do think "Judging Amy" presented a realistic portrayal of what could & does happen in the courtroom when a Wiccan is maligned for their religious convictions. Law enforcement personnel have to be impartial & I think Amy demonstrated that, while fulfilling her responsibility to protect someone from persecution. Below is what I wrote Peg. I understand my email is long, so thanks for the opportunity to voice my opinion!!

Happy Samhain, Maureen

Dear Peg,

Thanks for such an interesting review! I, too, watched the show & found it thought provoking & realistic. Overall, I thought the theme of the whole episode is how we legally & personally demonize those who we perceive to be not normal. The Wiccan mother was demonized by society, her ex, etc. And the little boy who was held prisoner in his home was demonized & abused by his own family, for being different.

Several years ago, I filed a criminal complaint against a man who sexually assaulted me. The DA filed charges of sexual battery against him, a misdemeanor. The defendant chose to go to trial. The defendant knew I was pagan & had been in my home once, where he saw my altar. He & his attorney tried to use my religion against me to prove I was unstable, eg, if I were some manipulative spell-casting woman, I was unstable.

Well, not only am I stable & not manipulative, I have 1/2 a brain & had a great prosecutor. I was so deeply enraged when I got wind of the questions his attorney was asking my acquaintances. I told the prosecutor & the judge issued a gag order that NOTHING about my religion could even be mentioned. Still, I was scared. He had also harassed me in minor ways before & after his arrest for the charge. I was a great witness, according to the prosecutor. They were trying the case largely on my credibility, which had been established by them in a variety of ways. Luckily, the defendant pled out 2 days before the start of the trial. He pled to a reduced sentence, but that was fine by me.

Since I have a lot of friends in law enforcement & am out of the broom closet w/them, I had a lot of support from the traditional, testosterone law & order crowd, if you can believe that. I am still immensely grateful to them.

Living through religious persecution, even short-lived, was worse than the assault itself. I can't even describe the cold terror & rage I experienced while dealing with the knowledge that the defense was attempting to tear me down just because of my religious beliefs. It's in the past, but I will always remember - & never bow down - to that sort of sick, subtle blackmail.

So that is why I watched that episode & it reminded me of how lucky & blessed I am.

Thanks for reading this. I hope you have a wonderful Samhain!!

Regards, Maureen Pattarelli

Dear friends,

I feel that this show, more than being about a Witch being persecuted, was about someone being persecuted for being different. The woman in question was also considered somewhat heretical even within her own "heretical" group. Those of use who march to the beat of our own drum could relate to her I'm sure. Mothers who watched this show, even those who are not Witches, were sure to identify with her plight, and I'm sure this episode created a sense of outrage in our favor. I think the positives of this episode far outweight the few criticisms I have of it, and I believe strongly that if we as a community attack CBS for this, it will compell them not to handle this type of issue again, and they may not feature Witches in their storylines in the future. I feel, like many, that perhaps they should have shown why the fictitious organization did not support the Witch in her case. I would have liked it if they had, but I am unwilling to erase the value of the entire show over this one point. If we do not in some way praise CBS for their wonderful handling of this overall, then we run the risk of keeping positive treatments of our beliefs off of television. That leaves only the many negative treatments of us that we have seen so often

I hope that everyone will seriously consider the long term impact of their words before they write to CBS television. If you wish to criticize the negative aspects of the show, I implore you to do so in proportion to the many more positive aspects that were included in this wonderfully crafted and intelligent episode.

Christian Day
Salem Tarot Page

Here is my letter to CBS:

Dear CBS,

I wish to commend you on your Halloween episode of Judging Amy. As a Witch, I was impressed with the way you handled the reality of what Witches often go through during custody battles, at their place of employment, and in their community. While, in my heart, I would have preferred that the ending be a happy one, I feel that the ending you chose was perfect in that it educates our culture about what often happens to Witches who become public about their beliefs. The sad truth is, Witches often lose their children to former spouses, social services groups, and even non-immediate family members because of their beliefs. This was an intelligently crafted and compelling episode that will make people think about their own tendency towards hysteria. I also appreciated the central character's process of coming to an understanding about the ramifications of being not only a Witch, but different. Some might question the fact that a Wiccan group did not stand to defend her, but I see the importance of this in the plot line, since the plot did not seem to be simply about Witches but also about people who choose to be different. The Witch in the episode seemed to have been marching to the beat of her own drum, even in the context of her own religion. Even Witches, being human, can be capable of ostracizing others and I think it was important to show that possibility. I thought you handled the show perfectly and, as someone who rarely watches TV, I will be watching this show again. Not only because of your accurate portrayal of Witches, but because all three plot lines featured that evening were interesting and thought provoking.

Congratulations for a fantastic new show!

Christian Day
Salem, MA

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