Sometimes, we all need to experience uninhibited handmade hockiness — with an edge. For 25 years, Charmed, the iconic TV series about three powerful sisters, Prue (played by Shannen Doherty), Piper (Holly Marie Combs), Phoebe (Alyssa Milano), and later, Paige (Rose McGowan), collectively known as The Charmed Ones, fighting demons and navigating love and life, has been providing just that.
It’s pop culture comfort food, diamanté-encrusted, rose-tinted villainy, '90s shabby chic — feminism 101.
I say that with immense love, admiration and gratitude because, as a disabled child, that attitude and space helped me endure. Even today, at 31, I still revisit — because who doesn’t occasionally crave the comfort and loving embrace of home?
The manor, with its mouldings, enormous windows, staircase and stained glass, forms the very foundation of this world. And then there’s the decor—the quilts, the rugs, the lampshades, the dollhouse manor, the family photos, the overstuffed, mismatched, rumpled furniture, and an overall lived-in look which oozed comfort.
I still yearn for that warm hug that the Charmed universe exudes. The show has crafted a vivid and enchanting world full of a unique female lineage and mythology, along with relatable growing pains — it has a knack for reminding you that you’re human and letting you lick your wounds about it.
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Its power also lies in its ability to seamlessly blend the female experience with raw, sincere human emotion and mythic, surreal, and silly. It also delved into important themes such as love, loss, and personal growth.
Prue’s sober burden of responsibility as the elder sister after losing both her mother and grandmother, Piper’s desire for a life outside of magic, Phoebe’s relationships and later search for love while balancing her career and studies, and Paige’s introduction and her eventual search for her individual identity.
As '90s fashion gave way to tighter clothes and glossier lips, they were transported through time and past lives, alternative universes, underworlds and other worlds often filled with impossibly attractive populations, playing roles such as genies, mermaids, queens of the underworld, and warrior princesses.
One moment they were wearing superhero costumes; the next, Uncle Phil was an Elder (James Avery), or there was a witch-Whitelighter affair, and sometimes, they donned full-on leather getups or a Ms Hellfire ensemble. Piper channelled her inner “Coyote Ugly,” and then they became reality TV stars. Paige tapped into her Evil Enchantress past self, and the iconic Golden Gate Bridge was often in view.
Interwoven, there were also compelling evildoers. Julian McMahon as Cole Turner/Belthazor/The Source of All Evil /Husband/ Ex-Husband of a Charmed One, and Barbas (played by Billy Drago), the Demon of Fear, who could pop up and mine all their old and developing near-the-knuckle fears — with small moments of sneering that twisted the knife even further.
Nowadays, escapism often takes the form of shows that feature more gritty settings and complex narratives with characters and plotlines that make us reflect on complex societal and political issues. However, not every program needs in-depth analysis or a supposed grand purpose to be valuable. Personally, Charmed has provided a distraction from real life and a guide for navigating it.
The four women of Charmed have been an ever-present part of my life, accompanying me through every phrase. My relationship with them began when I was eleven, watching reruns after school while living in another country as an outsider with blonde hair and a wheelchair. It was like having older sisters whose clothes I wanted to borrow. I have never felt more confident, more assured, even if the sleeves were too long.
Learning the language was tough, but I stumbled onto an episode of Charmed one day, and slowly, everything changed. I followed the Spanish dubbed version of “Embrujadas” closely, carefully studying the subtitles, which allowed me to piece together words and ideas.
Through this process, I started to learn the language and began to settle in. But that feeling of having a lifeline — having something comforting and warm to hold onto — has stayed with me through the years.
As a teenager, I underwent around thirteen surgeries on each leg. Desperate to save them, I rebuilt my body from cut muscles and broken bones. But, internally, my body and mind were not connected. The characters, voices, and storylines provided me with a comforting familiarity to rest on — a balm for tattered nerves.
When the pandemic first hit, I felt a constant ache of anxiety and found myself, almost overnight, having to shield myself within only a few rooms. I returned to a place I knew so well, within the walls of that grand old house.
I have come to realise just how important Charmed was in shaping my understanding of what it is to be a woman. Looking back, what stuck with me was their unwavering dedication to fighting for what’s right and that there is no one 'right way' to be.
Although the show and the sisters had their flaws — the humanising element of fantastical things — it was a product of its time and still progressive. It provided an essential platform for conversations about gender equality and representation.
I still recognise how much my early exposure to Charmed influenced my perceptions and beliefs — we’re too often dismissive of children’s critical first introductions to such complex themes.
So much of who I am and who I grew to be stemmed from Charmed. As a young disabled girl, I often felt disconnected from mainstream media. I didn’t see anyone who looked like me or any representation of what I could become. Charmed reassured me by providing me with a flawed — imperfect — relatable blueprint, hazy around the edges, but I knew more about the woman I wanted to be.
For 25 years, Charmed has enchanted audiences with its demon-infested storylines and hokey-yet-dark atmosphere and has been an important part of many fans’ lives. We grew up with the Halliwell sisters. As we celebrate the show’s anniversary — we are its living, breathing legacy.
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