This is the second part to my review of Witchy by Ariel Ries. The first part can be viewed here.
Witchy takes place in the mystical land of Hyalin where everyone in the kingdom obtains magical powers and the strength of a person’s power is correlated to the length of their hair. The longer the hair, the stronger the power and more desired you are to work for the kingdom. However, if your hair is longer than normal you are deemed a threat and thus, taken away by authorities. The story follows the main protagonist, Nyneve, a young woman whose father was taken away when she was a child for having hair too long. Nyneve has grown up disliking the kingdom and not wanting to serve them in any way, however, her hair is the longest among her peers. Therefore, she masks her hair and makes it shorter out of both defiance and fear. That is essentially the premise of the comic upon reading the first couple of pages. Following will be my discussion of the webcomic and I’ll dive more into specific moments. Therefore, this is your one and only:
I mentioned in the first post the nuances between hair and race that work together to form a discrimination on black individuals. However, I wanted to discuss more about a specific moment in the webcomic that offers further discussion on the topics of hair and the stigmas attached to it.The particular scene I want to discuss is when Nyneve cuts all her hair off following being selected to work for the kingdom:
There is a common trope in media where an upset woman decides to cut her hair off in response to a traumatic event. I believe this trope stems from a feeling of desperation and wanting to reclaim control over your life. This act of cutting hair short dates back to the 1920’s. Women were beginning to cut their hair short as an act of defiance and this movement was said to kickstart the early beginnings of women’s liberation. Personally, I find this trope to be overdone and cliched. However, in the context of Witchy, this scene generated a lot of suspense. At this point in the comic, Nyneve has been selected to join the guards to work for the kingdom and she is trying to find her way out of it. It is unknown to the reader what happens if someone in Hyalin cuts off their hair. However, as you continue reading, you learn that cutting off your hair is an act of heresy and causes the authorities to find and kill you. It is unknown to the reader if Nyneve knew this or not, but her mother does allude to this moment as an attempted act of suicide.
Another specific character I wanted to discuss is Prill. Prill is a trans woman and I love the way Ries handled creating this character. To be noted, I am cisgendered and do not speak on behalf of the transgendered community.
In a lot of media, it’s common for writers to have their ‘token’ characters. These characters are in the story for the sake of diversity and their character’s purpose revolves around them being a minority. Even with the best intentions in mind, it always feels like the creator is trying to pat themselves on the back for being diverse. This was not the case in Witchy. Prill is introduced as a student who is one of the strongest in the class. It isn’t until chapter three that the reader learns that Prill is a trans woman in the midst of a transphobic incident with a nurse.
It’s clear to me that Ries really cares about their characters. She provided Prill with aftercare after the incident by Nyneve coming to ask if she is okay. Ries also states in her comment section that she had someone who is trans read the script to make sure everything was handled well and wouldn’t offend anyone. To quote, Ries:
“I want to confirm it in words: Prill is a trans woman. Please under no circumstances should you stop referring to her as ‘She’…. I know most of the people on my tumblr are super great about transgender stuff, but I also know a lot of people out of that circle read Witchy too… educate yourself on the issue if you’re not familiar, googling ‘transgendered resources’ is probably a good place to start… “
As mentioned before, I am cisgendered and don’t speak for trans individuals. But, I don’t know how it could have been handled any better and I believe Ries was a strong ally of the trans community in writing the character Prill. I’m really looking forward to seeing the development of Prill alongside the other characters.