Judging Amy -- A WitchVox Review
Article ID: 2549
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 6,911
Times Read: 17,218
Author: Peg Aloi [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: October 21st. 1999
Times Viewed: 17,218
The previews for this drama (on CBS, Tuesdays) teased us with that favorite hallowe'en season topic: witches. A woman faces a custody battle over her eight-year old son because her ex-lover, the boy's father, says she is an unfit mother because she is a witch. All in all it was a satisfying episode that proved the show's producers and writers did their homework. Not a happy ending, but a realistic one. And lots of intresting details along the way.
Some of the specifics: While Judge Amy Gray is a smart and liberal judge, she is unfamiliar with the Wiccan religion and asks for clarification at the custody hearing. The prosecutor insists the boy may have been exposed to undesirable behavior at his mother;'s home during Wiccan ceremonies, her lawyer insists his client's religious preferences are not on trial. You go, Counsel!
The real deal: the kid's dad never gave a fig for the kid until recently, when he married and wanted a child to complete his marriage. Having heard about his ex's joining a witches' coven, he figured the custody hearing would be a no-brainer. Sadly, this is often the case, especially in rural areas where local support for witches is scarce at best. But in Connecticut where this show is based, the defense attorney actually turned up a witness (a sharp-dressed fortyish woman with short white hair) who was a legal consultant for the (get this): Wiccan Anti-Defamation League! Very cool move. This is where the hot, white-haired babe in the nice suit explains how Wicca is a legally-recognized religion and her client is a great parent, right? Wrong! She claims her organization does not want to represent the mother because "she isn't our type of person." As she explains that Wicca is just now moving out of the shadows and cannot afford to put forth a negative impression, the mother's lawyer objects that she is a hostile witness. The consultant says she agreed to testify, not to be on anyone's side. An interesting twist. Of course, Judge Amy Gray had to ask, "Are you telling me she's a bad witch?" And the consultant said "Yes, that's what I'm saying." Ouch.
After the hearing is recessed for the day, the young mother goes to Judge Gray's office and tells Amy she wants to surrender her custodial rights. Amy says the discussion is over for the day; but the woman, distraught and passionate, insists she must do what's right for her son. She was fired from her waitressing job because, she believes, she is Wiccan; but also because she wasn't the greatest waitress. She tells Amy about the phone calls, the hate mail, the vandals attacking her car. Amy is supportive, suggests she get a new job, offers to get protection for her.
Amy, too, understands the panic and negative publicity the case has generated; at a PTA meeting at her daughter's school, Amy is jeered by other mothers when she questions their censoring of normal Hallowe'en activities. No scary costumes, no haunted house. At first they say it's because of violence, but Amy gets them to admit it's because of the witch hunt in their community. One self-righteous mother starts babbling about "satanic cult activity in our neighborhood, " and Amy leaves the meeting.
The young mother's problems go beyond snotty PTA moms; she thinks her son may be in danger. "He's safer if I'm not his mother anymore." she pleads with Amy. "I live differently and that scares people and it's not going to change." Does this sound familiar? How many of us have braved criticism, gossip, rejection, and risked our jobs and relationships because we felt we had to be true to who we are? That is, witches?
Judge Gray says she'll forget the young woman even came into her office. But the next day, when she fails to show at the hearing, and her lawyer says she left the state, the father is granted custody. But not without misgivings from Judge Amy. She refuses to allow the father full custody and leaves the mother's option to regain custody open if she returns to the state. She refers to the whole proceeding as a "witch hunt" and "a travesty, " and says "a child lost his mother because of hate and hysteria." In frustration, she pounds her gavel and mutters "what is the point of a judicial system" as she leaves the room.
I thought this was a very realistic episode, which sought to portray the very complex issues surrounding a child custody battle which involves one parent using paganism or witchcraft to discredit the other parent as unfit. As in the real world, the ending was not a happy one. As it turns out, even the pagan legal consultant could not help here. It was not clear why the young mother was a "bad witch" because no details were given; did she mean she did negative magic? A babysitter called as a witness is scared that her former employer has put a hex on her and begs the judge to "tell her to stop looking at me." The boy's father of course says all witches are "insane" and that his ex-lover "needs help."
The show seemed to be saying that these cases are not clear-cut. That a witch is not "innocent" of wrongdoing just because her religion is misunderstood by so many. Clearly the young mother understood the ugly reality of her situation, and the echo of King Solomon's wisdom rings here (Wren mentioned this parallel)-- when she would prefer to surrender custody rather than expose her child to harm from those prejudiced against her.
It is important for television to deal with difficult issues like this, because they mirror our reality. Sure we all think "Charmed" is stupid. But what about witches in danger of losing their children? Perhaps this daring episode of "Judging Amy" will pave the way for other legal dramas to deal with witches as a topic. Hear that, "Law and Order?" Hear that, "The Practice?" Hear that, "Family Law?"
Media Coordinator - The Witches' Voice
Tuesday, October 19th, 1999
Email: [Staff Email]
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