A lot of people have taken offense at the TV show Salem’s portrayal of 16th century witches. After sparkly vampires and a hoard of TV shows about good witches, the evil witches of Salem seemed… refreshing. It’s high time TV witches take a turn for the menacing. But to be human is to be inconsistent, so here are things about the show that make me nuts. I realize Salem is fiction. One must put aside historical inaccuracies in service to the story (which I enjoy). But…
1) In the TV show, a family of accused witches are burned to death. In reality, no witches were burned during the Salem witch trials. All but one were hanged. The other, Giles Corey, was pressed to death. In fairness to Salem, I was pleased they got his last words right: “More weight!”
2) Poor, maligned, Increase Mathers. He’s an evil, obsessed witch hunter in the show, while his son, Cotton Mathers, understands the truth: there are witches, but innocents are being burned, and that price is too high. In historical Salem, Increase Mathers was horrified when he learned about what Cotton Mathers had perpetuated on Salem, and was instrumental in stopping the Salem witch trials.
3) The witch Mary Sibley is styling in sequins and lip gloss. Sequins actually have been around for centuries, though I question whether the sumptuary laws would have made them acceptable for a woman in puritan Salem. But lip gloss was a 20th century invention for which we can thank Max Factor. Women have been wearing various types of lip stains since ancient Egyptian times. But the lip gloss makes me crazy.
4) Pleather? Really? The Mercy Lewis character wears a pleather gown in season one, episode nine. Even if we suspend disbelief and call it a leather gown, it’s still ridiculous unless the TV show is going Steampunk. Which would be frankly awesome. Bring on the mechanicals!
5) The House of the Seven Gables is delightfully spooky, and it was in existence at the time of the trials in 1692. Little wonder they used it as the model for Mary Sibley’s house. But that house has no association with the Salem witch trials, and there are creepier existing homes in Salem that do have witch trial associations. I just can’t see Mary’s house without thinking, “Seven Gables!”
The show’s spell casting and devil summoning and toad suckling I’m okay with. Logically, I shouldn’t be hot and bothered by Salem’s historical inaccuracies. But… lip gloss?!
About the Author Kirsten Weiss is the author of Steam and Sensibility, a steampunk novel of suspense, and the Riga Hayworth series of paranormal mysteries: the urban fantasy, The Metaphysical Detective, The Alchemical Detective, The Shamanic Detective, The Infernal Detective and The Elemental Detective. Get her books on Amazon, Kobo, or Barnes & Noble.