Combat Witchcraft and Lesbian Love – A Review of Motherland

Quarantine has us searching the deepest depths of the internet for something new to watch. Goddess help us searching for crumbs of lesbian content during these trying times. Luckily for you, I happened upon a GIF of two women kissing, and after a little digging, I soon found out it was from a show called Motherland: Fort Salem. But is this show worth your time? Read on to find out.

What’s It About?

Motherland review

The show follows three young women training in combat magic in a female-dominated world where the US ended persecution of witches three centuries ago. Sounds promising, doesn’t it? Our main lesbian, Raelle Collar, has healing powers… With a catch. She heals by transferring whatever ails the victim to herself. Understandable, as I too seem to absorb everyone’s pain and emotions. Her role in the group is very much the tortured-rebel type who, despite her rebelliousness, has a soft heart. A stark contrast from her squad mates, Miss “I come from a highly decorated military family and must do everything by the book” and the one who wants everyone to get along because she’s just happy to be involved.

 

In any case, based on the first five episodes, it seems a group of terrorist witches wish to spread discontent across the US. And one of them has infiltrated the all-female military academy to try and lure our sweet little lesbian away. Why? We’re not sure yet. Hopefully, future episodes will tell us.

The Good

Well, for one thing you don’t have to binge eight seasons just to get to the lesbianism. Raelle is introduced right away. And by the end of the first episode, she’s already making out with her love interest, the infiltrator Scylla.

Speaking of which, the character’s unique names can certainly be appreciated by anyone who is turned off by every other teen drama having a Tyler. The first episode of the series certainly catches your interest by having everyone in a mall die because… a balloon popped? What’s up with that? Makes you want to know more, right? The premise for the show is original, definitely something we’ve never seen before. And the relation between Raelle and Scylla is shaping up to be very interesting. Are Scylla’s feelings real? If so, can the two of them work through her initial deception? How would Raelle react to that? We just don’t know! But, we’d like to find out.

The So-So

The show’s take on witchcraft is unique. The women use their voices to create magic. A bit on the nose, but the sentiment is appreciated. But, they’re not singing melodies to make the Muses blush or hitting whistle notes so high someone’s head explodes. It makes you wonder, are their voices only magic, or can they be used for music too? On another note, while it was cool that we didn’t have to wait for the lesbians to show up, their relationship moved fast.

Almost too fast. I know, I know, that’s lesbian culture. But the pacing had me scratching my head, because the tension is caused by Raelle not knowing much about her would-be lover. At one point, Scylla’s ex-boyfriend shows up. He was hostile towards Raelle when they first met, but that’s understandable. Then, Raelle almost dies trying to heal him when he jumps from a rooftop. Why was it necessary to have the lesbian risk her life in an attempt to save the life of a man who clearly disliked her? There were other ways to add suspense and drama. Not exactly a pro-feminist message for the teenage audience. While a majority of the show features female characters, it’s suspicious that there’s only one out-lesbian being featured.

The Bad

You might think, “Gabs, this show has a lesbian and witches. That’s two of your top interests right there! It’ll be great!” I thought so, too. And I was a fool. A man created and wrote this show. Goddess does it show. There’s excessive amounts of heterosexual nonsense.

In fact, at one point male students from a different academy come to visit. One of the female sergeants tells the girls to embrace the energy brought on by having male students around because it would make them better. It sparks several questions, the first being: how dare you? The idea that women need men makes my eyes roll so far back into my head that I can see my brain cells dying from having entertained the thought.

Historically speaking, men, as a class, have done nothing but cause women, as a class, harm. They claim to be protectors, but they are our biggest threat. Think of how much the domestic abuse rate has risen during lockdown. They claim to be providers, but to this day it’s the women who run the households. They refuse equal pay propositions to keep up this illusion of them being “providers.” While we’re on the topic, the headmaster of the male academy is called the “witch father.” The sheer audacity of such a term when women were the majority of the victims of witch hunts, when women today are still being killed for being witches, is too much.

Why Does That Matter?

It matters because women were a large majority of the victims killed in witch hunts. That’s not to say there weren’t any male victims, but the ratio of women to men executed for being witches ranges anywhere form 20 to 1 to 100 to 1. This is also taking into account that often times the men executed were killed simply for knowing the witch or due to political assassinations. It’s difficult to say just how many died as a direct result of witch hunts, but a reasonable estimate would be in the millions over the course of hundreds of years and across a continent. Considering the fact that most witches were, and are still, healers and spiritual leaders, the show’s military propaganda just doesn’t make sense. One of the most enduring legacies of witches has been their knowledge of health and healing. Who do you think was performing abortions and delivering babies before there were widely available hospitals?

Furthermore, witches have always been women who defy societal, often harmful, norms for women. The witch is the unmarried woman happily tending to her garden of medicinal herbs. She is the woman who refuses to be lesser to man. She is the woman who finds her own power. She is the lesbian, living her best life free of men. Motherland shows us that a man truly cannot conceive of a matriarchy, let alone one with witches at the forefront. Only women can be witches and that’s not up for debate. Men should not be writing women’s stories, let alone the stories of lesbians. Change my mind. (Psych! You can’t)

But Should I Watch It?

Under better circumstances, I would say no. But, considering we’re all stuck inside for who knows how long, I’d say just skip to the lesbian parts. Raelle and Scylla’s relationship could be an entertaining watch. Or don’t skip and can we can be mad about it together! In all honesty, it felt insulting to have a man write this story. Especially when witchcraft has been part of female culture for so long. But when it comes to witchcraft, to witches? That belongs to us. Witches have and always will be women who don’t conform to the image of a woman set by male standards, women who reduce the pain of menstruation and childbirth, women who are self-sufficient, who live happily without men, and who center their lives around women. And lesbians will always be in that category.