Witchcraft, in all of its pop cultural representations, has always been a bit queer. Whether it’s the hallowed image of an unmarried woman and her cat (or little dog, too), Bette Midler with her iconic fake teeth, or a coven of angsty teens bonding over dark magic rituals, it’s no surprise that LGBTQ folks have always felt drawn to stories about the supernatural. While there is nothing explicitly queer about the original “The Craft,” Andrew Fleming’s 1996 dark comedy about a group of teen witches, the film’s swift and definitive transformation into cult classic included a healthy dose of queer reclamation.
While the recently released continuation, “The Craft: Legacy,” does not lean any further in the Sapphic direction, it does include a trans girl in the coven. What’s most refreshing about the character of Lourdes, played by 17-year-old newcomer Zoey Luna, is that she’s just one of the witches. Luna, whom LGBTQ audiences may remember from the 2017 documentary “Raising Zoey,” had an interesting introduction to “The Craft.”
“I tried to watch it when I was like 15, just on a whim, and I couldn’t get past the first 15 minutes because I was too bothered by Robin Tunney’s wig,” Luna said during a recent phone interview. “So I waited until I got the audition for Lourdes, and then I sat down and watched it and fell in love with it.”
The film skirts the line between letting the audience know Lourdes is trans without focusing her entire plot line around her trans identity. When she jokes about not being able to relate to an incident involving a period mishap, her friends acknowledge their carelessness and then quickly move on. It’s encouraging to see a young trans character surrounded by supportive friends, and it highlights how rare such respectful portrayals are.
“They did it in such a beautiful way that I had been waiting for, I guess, studios and movies to address it. Because Lourdes is trans, Lourdes is Latina, but that’s not her arc. That’s not what makes her different, necessarily,” said Luna. “I think it’s approached perfectly in the sense that it’s not overkill, and it’s not her arc.”
Though she’s just starting out, Luna has plenty of ideas about how trans representation can improve in Hollywood. “I hope trans people can start playing more cis roles…but also, I want to see less of a Jared Leto in wigs.” (Luna is of course referring to 2013’s “Dallas Buyers Club,” for which Leto infamously won an Academy Award for his portrayal of a dying trans woman.)
While she’s been offered auditions for cis roles, which she sees as progress, she says the casting breakdowns for trans roles can still be insensitive and tokenizing.
“They ask for us to be wearing less makeup, to have a deeper voice. That makes me kind of disappointed because that isn’t how all trans people look or sound, and I think that that could use a little bit of a refresh, for sure,” she said. “Are trans people supposed to look like boys in dresses, or are we supposed to be respected for being trans?”
According to Luna, Zoe Lister-Jones, the writer and director of “The Craft: Legacy,” embodied the best of how cis filmmakers can write trans characters and support trans talent. Lister-Jones worked closely with GLAAD to make sure she got the character of Lourdes right.
“Zoe Lister-Jones was willing and able to listen to anything I had to say. And I think that she was very aware herself. I mean, she has done so much work with GLAAD. And so she was very amazing in educating herself. So, I didn’t really have to go too much into my experience to help her understand any more about the trans experience,” said Luna.
As trans stories continue to hold fascination for all creators, Luna suggests cis writers and directors follow Lister-Jones’ lead and educate themselves.
“What she did was open herself up to being educated,” Luna added. “I think that that has a lot of respect in it. And I think that other directors just have to be open to understanding from trans people, themselves, and from people that do work and specialize in creating inclusivity in all media platforms.”
“The Craft: Legacy” is currently streaming on VOD from Sony and Blumhouse.