Recently I published an article about the history of Voodoo in New Orleans, Louisiana, and it's influence in the world as being the capital of the ancient African tradition. This is something that Hollywood has certainly capitalised on in horror films and depictions of ancient black magic.
While a lot of it can be considered appropriation, there are a few that certainly provide a more in-depth look into life of New Orleans in an entertaining way. Here are some of my favourite TV Shows and movies to watch if you want to inject a little bit of hoodoo into your life.
American Horror Story: Coven
Glee creator Ryan Murphy surprised the entertainment industry with his anthology horror series American Horror Story, delving into different worlds and different times to create a dark and twisted narrative. The show focused on different themes and locations each season, including Murder House, Asylum, Coven, Freak Show, Hotel, Roanoke, Cult, and Apocalypse but the most tremendous season was Coven; a look into modern day witches in New Orleans.
The third season of the popular anthology TV show focused on a group of witches who are descendants from the Salem witch trials and now living in a New Orleans boarding home, where they are thrown into dangerous events as they are used in an ancient rivalry against the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans - quite literally, Marie Leveau, who is still alive and kicking. The rivalry is fuelled by the hidden agendas by the Reigning Supreme of the coven, who also rescues a racist slave-driver named Delphine LaLaurie, a woman Marie Leveau cursed centuries ago.
The show melded the societies of old and new well - the boarding home opulent, the world of the Voodoo Queen was dripping in the unmistakable marks left in New Orleans, and the characters were catty, petty, powerful and modern American Horror Story: Coven is my idea of a perfect project, and it's depictions of New Orleans life left me craving more.
The Princess and the Frog
The Princess and the Frog was Disney's return to its animated roots from years of moulding animation with 3D technology, and it was extremely well-received. Adding a princess of colour to the mix and a twist on the classic tale, The Princess and the Frog sees hard working New Orleans local Tiana desperate to fulfill her dreams as a restaurant owner, only for her to end up being turned into a frog when she encounters a handsome yet lazy Prince who has been cursed by strong voodoo magic.
As the two are determined to return to their mortal bodies, they encounter many fun and friendly Disney characters along the way, but the real highlight is the look into New Orleans' darker side of Voodoo. Dr Facilier is the reigning evil witch doctor dubbed "The Shadow Man" who curses Prince Naveen and Tiana. He is one of Disney's favourite villains, up there with The Lion King's Scar, for his smooth-talking, crafty motivations and greedy suave. His depiction is very similar to that of the popular Voodoo god Baron Samedi and he acts as a great combination to see elements of Voodoo added into a Disney movie.
The Skeleton Key
The 2005 film starring Kate Hudson has all the makings of turning voodoo and black magic into terrifying horror, in some ways appropriate the culture of zombies and blood sacrifices that Hollywood depicts of Voodoo. However, in saying that, The Skeleton Key is still a damn good movie and awesome on the imagery.
The movie follows a hospice nurse named Caroline who lives and works in New Orleans, aware of the rich culture there but not actually partaking in it or believing in it. She takes a job caring for a comatose elderly man in an old plantation home deep in the swamps, only to discover a sinister suspision that voodoo is supernaturally at work over the man's condition.
As Caroline falls deeper into learning more about voodoo and it's magic, she begins to believe in the darkness that seems to be haunting the plantation home, and now herself. Resulting in some pretty dark discoveries that root themselves in New Orleans history.
The HBO TV show based on the Neil Gaiman novel is necessarily based in New Orleans, or even focuses solely on Voodoo for that matter, but it's hard to have a TV show based on Gods from other countries and religions (such as Nordic Gods, Jesus, Egyptian Gods, etc) coming to America without talking about the religion of Voodoo.
Voodoo was well-known to have travelled with African slaves during the time of slave-trading, and it's use in America became a form of protection for the poor slaves. American Gods touch on the travels of these religions briefly by introducing the character of Anansi (Mr. Nancy) who is a trickster spider God from Ghanaian folklore. Not quite Voodoo, the series does send the characters of Laura Moon (played by the amazing Emily Browning) and her foul-talking Leprechaun travelling buddy Mad Sweeney to the streets of New Orleans in attempt to get a Voodoo God to heal Laura's decaying body. Their meeting is with infamous Spirit God (or Loa) of Haitian Vodou, complete with dapper top hat and cultivates in a very sexy encounter for both Laura and Sweeney.
While the New Orleans trip and encounter with Baron Samedi is short-lived in the series, it is a great way to see how religions such as Voodoo made it primarily nations such as America.