The Aunts in Practical Magic Are a Queer Couple. Here’s My Proof.
It’s officially October, which means it’s time to rev up all of our witchy and spooky movie favorites. And for a lot of us, that means Practical Magic. The 1998 romantic (though it’s not really about the romance) comedy (though it’s not really that funny) is a perennial favorite of mine that’s a comforting as a sip of pumpkin spice latte on a cold day. I love the aesthetic, I love the way it shows magic as something that’s not sparkles and lightning bolts, but something, well, more practical. And I love the Gay Aunts.
What, you don’t remember there being lesbians or bi women in Practical Magic? Well, that’s because you weren’t looking. Stockard Channing and Dianne Wiest’s Aunt Francis and Aunt Jett are a queer couple, and I’m going to prove it to you.
Caveat and note: I do not care about the book. That’s a separate thing and I’m going by what the movie show ALONE. That’s it. This is fanfic. I don’t care about no stinkin’ ‘canon’ sources.
The movie begins with Aunt Francis (Channing) explaining the Owens curse, that any man who loved an Owens woman would die prematurely. Now that’s a very specific curse, but if an Owens woman wants to get around it, it’s pretty easy: Don’t have a relationship with a man! They seem like a lot of trouble anyway.
It’s only Francis who talks about the Owens curse as if she’s inherited it in the prologue, and that’s important for understanding that Jett (Wiest) isn’t her sister. She’s her wife. That’s because the Owens women come in pairs, and Francis’ sibling is already dead when the film begins. Really, look closer at the film.
Aside from Maria Owens, whose sibling we don’t see, it looks like every subsequent Owens generation was made up of a dark-haired sister and a red-headed sister. We have Sally and Gillian, and Gillian’s daughters. Sally and Gillian’s mom is shown to be a redhead and Francis is the dark-haired one.
That leaves Jett as the odd one out. Why was there an extra sibling that generation? Because she wasn’t a sibling! She was a life partner. I think she and Jett met, after Francis’ husband or boyfriend Ethan died from the curse. Francis Owens is a strong, beautiful bi woman and I will not hear anything else about it.
Now, I know you’ll say something about how there’s no confirmation that Francis and Jett are a couple, but very often throughout history, women in queer relationships masqueraded as sisters or aunts or some sort of “spinsters” who just happened to live together. Francis and Jett are in their own way very queer and very out as “different.”
There’s always been something queer about magical women and witches in cinema. Like other queer people, they can be marginalized and even persecuted by society because they are different. No wonder that hearing Francis say that “being normal is not necessarily a virtue, it rather denotes a lack of courage” is so important. That’s a very queer and proud message. And it’s because they’re happily queer and happily witches that the Aunts are the most well-adjusted people in the entire movie.
And come on, are you telling me straight women would have a midnight margarita tradition? I think not.
HBOMax is still developing a prequel series about the aunts, which we haven’t heard much about. Since the announcement. And yes I know that, for some reason, this series is about Jett, Francis, and their brother (what?) but I don’t care. It’s not out yet, and who knows if it ever will be, and honestly I’d much rather watch a series about secretly queer witches in the 70s than some slog about them discovering their powers with a random brother now along for the ride.
For now, this is one of those elements where you can’t unsee the Aunts as queer once you look for it. And for me, since there still aren’t enough queer women in cinema for me to enjoy, I will see them gay forever. Call it magic.
(image: Warner Brothers)
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