Last week, a Texas mother named Jamie Gooch tried to beat the Satanic Panic drum over a silly movie called Hocus Pocus 2. In a now-iconic interview, she told her Troy, Texas news affiliate KWTX all about it:
“A worst case scenario is: you unleash hell on your kids and in your home. The whole movie is based on witches harvesting children for blood sacrifices.”
Whew, lady! She came to the TV station’s attention after writing an equally iconic Facebook post just chock-full of fundagelical codewords like “a strong conviction” and “fruitful.” It’s been deleted by now and she’s clearly run to ground, but someone at least screenshotted it:
Jamie Gooch looks entirely too young to even remember the Satanic Panic. But her flavor of Christianity definitely has never forgotten it. And she wants children to believe, just as she does, in literal demons using silly movies to lure kids to Satanism.
There’s a reason why, of course. It doesn’t make Christians look good at all, but then, what does?
(This post first appeared on Patreon on 10/13/2022. If you’d like early access, please consider becoming a patron! Thank you.)
Hocus Pocus 2: Sound the alarm! Satanists ahoy!
On October 4th, a Central Texas affiliate, KWTX, saw one of their local stories go viral.
They’d interviewed Jamie Gooch, a mother-of-three from Troy, Texas, concerning a viral Facebook post she’d written to warn other TRUE CHRISTIAN™ “Mommas” about the great danger that Hocus Pocus 2 represented to their broods.
There was no way that this story wouldn’t become popular. A delusional fundagelical mother ranting about demons attacking her children through a ridiculously silly sequel to a ridiculously silly movie? Sign them up! They wanted a piece of that!
And whoa nelly, did they ever get what they wanted. This gal gives good Michelle Duggar vibes. Remember that classic gif of her? It was captured from her Parade of Lies interview back in 2015. That’s when her eldest son Josh got outed as a child molester:
Goodness, she really did tell a lot of lies that day about how Josh was totally rehabilitated thanks to Jesus Power and fake rehab. They really did age like milk, didn’t they?
Like Michelle Duggar, Jamie Gooch lives in a purely delusional dream world. And like Michelle Duggar, she desperately wants other people to buy into the same package of false beliefs she claims to hold. And also like Michelle Duggar, her beliefs bring harm to children while she claims to protect them.
Moreover, both women are hard-right fundagelicals who are steeped in the mythology of their tribe.
What Hocus Pocus 2 actually is
Before we begin, let me briefly touch on the actual plot of Hocus Pocus 2. It bears little to no resemblance to anything Jamie Gooch has blathered about it.
According to IMDB.com, the movie follows a pair of young women in the Salem, Massachusetts area. They accidentally bring the three witches from the first movie back to the modern day. Once brought to our time, the witches hatch a scheme to harm children to gain magical power. Meanwhile, the young women seek to stop them.
Here’s the trailer, which seems to confirm everything that IMDB.com told us:
At no point are the witches presented as heroes. The movie clearly does not present their scheme as laudable or sympathetic. Very clearly, we are meant to sympathize and root for the young women and their allies, not the witches.
I’ve never seen this movie, and I’ve also never seen the first one. But even I figured all of this out from its trailer and the IMDB.com plot summary.
I’m guessing Jamie Gooch did none of that extensive, laborious prep work before condemning the movie.
The Jamie Gooch rewrite of Hocus Pocus 2
On October 4th, Jamie Gooch told KWTX:
“A worst case scenario is: you unleash hell on your kids and in your home. The whole movie is based on witches harvesting children for blood sacrifices.” . . .
“Do not watch this film,” she warned, “Everybody thinks it’s fake and innocent, but they could be casting any type of spell that they want to, anything could be coming through that TV screen into your home.”
Yes. She thinks Hocus Pocus 2 is all about three witches who want to “harvest children.” She doesn’t even mention that the actual plot involves stopping them from doing exactly that. Since nobody’s mentioned it being a horror movie, I’m guessing the good guys win, which means that the witches’ magic failed. But Jamie Gooch can’t use failed magic and defeated villain-witches as moral-panic instigators, can she?
Using her same exact logic, children shouldn’t be exposed to the Bible, you know. It, too, contains scenes of evil witchcraft and demons who could, for all fundagelical parents know, be casting any type of spell they want to. After all, how do any of them actually know that Satan didn’t write the Bible for that express purpose? They don’t, as Rosa Rubicondior discovered years ago.
In truth, the Bible itself is clearly not a divine book in any way. The only reason fundagelicals think otherwise is that they’re indoctrinated that way. When presented with Bible quotes attributed to the Koran, people react to them a lot more naturally.
For that matter, ever since Christianity became a dominant power, anyone using witchcraft in its domain was, in fact, Christian. And they were Christian to the extent demanded by their Christian overlords, under threat of life-altering punishments if they weren’t!
But go off. Demons. Oooh, spooky scary witchcraft. “Mommas,” as Gooch puts it, must be “gatekeepers” for their homes. They must only allow things into it that are “fruitful” for their children.
You’d really hope that those mothers would worry more about real safeguards. I’ve seen what the Duggars thought constituted adequate real-world safeguards for their daughters, and none of it succeeded in keeping Josh away from them. Maybe that’s why fundagelical women are so hung up on safeguarding their imaginary worlds instead. It’s a lot easier to do.
Lookie all that Christianese!
As I mentioned earlier, I think Jamie Gooch is a true-blue fundagelical because she uses entirely too much of their Christianese to be anything else.
Let me go through a few of her codewords briefly:
“A strong conviction:” This means Jesus gave her this certainty. The source of her opinion represents an attempt to borrow authority. If people don’t heed her warnings, they’re totally disobeying Jesus!
“Share a word with you:” This alludes to her message being a Word of Knowledge. That’s a magical message from Jesus that’s given to people with the “Gift of the Word of Knowledge.” She’s claiming to be extra-special to Jesus, basically.
Mothers and wives as “the gatekeepers” of their homes: In fundagelicalism, women have no power at all. Husbands pretend that their wives rule the home, but in practice that just means they force women to shoulder the lion’s share of childcare and housekeeping tasks.
“Fruitful.” Alludes to “spiritual fruit,” a fundagelical concept. Good trees bring forth good fruit, while evil rotten trees bring forth rotted ickie fruit.
“The purity of children’s souls:” Fundagelicals tend to believe that children who die will automatically go to Heaven. However, if Yahweh treasures children as extra-pure, he has a funny way of showing it with all the tales of him ordering the deaths and sexual enslavement of children. That said, fundagelicals also tend to believe that children aren’t held responsible for their thoughtcrimes until they’re more mature. Thus, they’d go to Heaven if they died beforehand.
But in practice, fundagelicals fetishize innocence. That sounds like what Jamie Gooch is doing here in her attempt to stir fundagelicals’ protective and defensive instincts.
“The schemes of hell:” Again, Jesus personally told her that this movie is demonic. Anyone thinking she’s a delusional wingnut is being tricked by demons.
“Spiritual warfare” and “war being waged on our homes:” Spiritual warfare is like a fight, except it’s fought entirely in Christians’ minds against imaginary opponents for nonexistent stakes. Unsurprisingly, fundagelicals declare victory in these battles most of the time.
Why Jamie Gooch loves her moral panic
All of this coded language contains a message that fundagelicals will not fail to detect:
Jesus has personally commanded Jamie Gooch to spread the word about Hocus Pocus 2. He also expects women to fight this battle, which makes Jamie Gooch feel super-important and powerful. Moreover, she’s gonna win this battle. So she’ll be extra-important when that happens! Gosh, if only men understood how important and powerful women are in their god’s battleground! Has she mentioned yet that literal children are totally in danger from this imaginary enemy? CHILDREN! Won’t SOMEBODY please think of the CHILDREN?!?
I mean, she can’t be quite so pleased by the attention she got from her rant if she privated her Facebook. But she was likely already humming with pleasure in every cell of her body at landing an actual TV interview over that post she wrote.
Make no mistake: this was about Jamie Gooch wanting attention, wanting to feel powerful, and wanting to be seen as an authority figure. But she drew upon an interesting old and long-debunked moral panic to get her jollies at others’ expense.
Why Jamie Gooch resonates with the Satanic Panic
During the Satanic Panic, the main and overarching conspiracy theory there involved Satanists kidnapping, abusing, and sacrificing children to demons. Lead-in conspiracy theories involved Satanists infiltrating all sorts of industries in order to steer them in a more demonic direction. The entertainment industry, in particular, sought to recruit children into Satanic cults.
Reality supported exactly none of those conspiracy theories. Eventually, evangelicals simply abandoned their once firmly-held conspiracy-theory beliefs and never really talked about it again. I don’t remember a single one of them disavowing anything they’d done or said during the moral panic.
I can see why, too. They were likely hugely embarrassed about it all.
But a subset of fundagelicals continued to fight this imaginary war in their minds. They just tweaked the conspiracy theories a bit, is all. That’s why a lot of fundagelical parents still firmly insist that Harry Potter really does too teach kids to cast real spells.
The exact logic I think is in use here
I really think that by pushing this hard on demons and demonic witchcraft, fundagelical parents are insinuating that their own brand of spiritual agents and magic must also be real.
When I was 17, I found myself at a pagan orgy. As one does. At this orgy, people were casting spells and conducting rituals with stone knives and whatnot. It was hugely scary to me because none of it matched my expectations of context.
I was laying with my head partially under a couch. Yes, on purpose. And while under there, I remembered something my Evil Ex had worriedly pressed on me before I’d left for this weekend SCA event. It was a magic counterspell. I just had to ask Jesus to banish the demons, he said.
So I did, and the entire orgy just fell apart on the spot. A bit later, the hostess of the party speculated that Satanists across the lake might have conducted a ritual to harsh the vibe.
At risk of sounding a little wackadoodle myself, here is the exact logic as I understood it right then as a teenager:
- Satanists > pagans
- Jesus > Satanists
Therefore, I should throw my lot in with Jesus. Right?
And I really think that’s what’s going on with Jamie Gooch. By pushing this hard on demons and witchcraft being real, she implies that angels and Jesus Power are equally real. In everything she’s said and written, she hasn’t even flat-out said it. But she doesn’t need to say a word. Her tribe knows. Just as I put together the order of precedence, they do it too—all the time.
This story isn’t even really even about Hocus Pocus 2
In a lot of ways, this story isn’t about the movie Hocus Pocus 2.
It’s about fundagelicals feeling their dominance slipping away.
Dysfunctional authoritarians like them know exactly how much dominance they have, down to the micrometer. They’re like Captain Picard in Star Trek: Insurrection: knowing every bolt and wire on their starship, and recognizing in an instant every single little noise that it can possibly make. They know when their dominance is being peeled away, and they feel every micrometer of it leaving their world.
So they gleefully leap onto every single opportunity they can to get attention and maybe feel a bracing jolt of full authoritarian power once again.
For that matter, fundagelicals’ goal in moral panics is to convince the normies around them to hand them back their lost power. They present themselves as the only people who can save Team Humanity, all in hopes that the normies will believe it and let them do it. Yes, with imaginary warfare in their minds against nonexistent foes for completely made-up stakes.
The power they want is real, though.
Consequences will never be the same!
Interestingly, Jamie Gooch only stresses mothers’ perceived power over their own children. Sure, she only has even that bit because her husband clearly refuses to handle his share of childcare duties. But hey, it still counts to her. Power is power.
So she’s not asking for laws to be written to protect her little darlings. Instead, she’s demanding that other mothers do as she does and refuse to let their little darlings watch the movie at all. Because that works great in a world where kids carry computers in their pockets by the age of like 10.
If any mothers follow her orders (er, sorry, Jesus’ express and specific orders), then Gooch will get that hit of raw power like smack flowing straight into her veins.
Maybe she even harbors hopes of becoming a fundagelical icon of sorts. It could happen. It’s happened before to wingnuts like the Bundy welfare cowboys.
But there’s another risk here to teaching children about demons like this.
Indoctrinating children through Hocus Pocus 2
I’m 100% certain that Jamie Gooch is sharing her beliefs about demons and witchcraft to her children.
Reality tells them that none of that is true or real, but a trusted adult is pushing the ideas as objective truths. That has got to mess with a kid’s mind.
Children do adopt and hold imaginary ideas as they develop, sometimes for years at a time. Many children go through a phase where they have, for example, imaginary friends. Parenting sites teach parents how to let children have space for these beliefs while also not letting them get away with disobedience through appeals to them. Other children adopt imaginary roles for themselves, sometimes for months at a time. And again, parents walk a tightrope between giving their kids room to explore their own development while not letting kids get too hung up on their imaginary beliefs.
Too bad very few Christian parents do that with all the false claims in their religion!
Magical beliefs don’t help kids learn to weed out false claims
When I freaked the fuck out as an eight-year-old child over the details of the Crucifixion that I’d heard for the first time, my mom had no idea how to comfort me. Officially, she believed exactly the same things I’d heard. She couldn’t tell me it hadn’t really happened. So she punted to my-aunt-the-nun and made her handle her distraught daughter.
And people might wonder how I ended up believing in Santa until a worryingly late age. Every adult in my life was telling me to believe in a magical man who saw and knew everything I did, and who would give me all kinds of presents in Heaven one day.
Similarly, Jamie Gooch’s kids are being taught to be afraid that actual demons are lurking behind every bush, and could leap out and grab them at any moment. They’re being taught to fear something that doesn’t even exist, and to talk to someone who doesn’t exist, and to express loving feelings toward someone who will never, ever even talk to them, because yes, he doesn’t exist. She’s teaching them to hold beliefs that reality can never and will never support, then telling them that if they ever lose those beliefs that dreadful things will happen to them.
And then, she’s teaching them that only this invisible, nonexistent person can keep them safe from all the invisible, nonexistent threats lurking in all the corners of their world.
Hocus Pocus 2 and the 4-14 window
This is what I’m talking about when I refer to the 4-14 window. There’s a set of underlying beliefs that go into fundagelical Christianity. These beliefs involve important stuff like self-esteem and autonomy, boundaries and their maintenance, fairness and justice, how to assess claims, and even how relationships ought to work.
These beliefs need to be in place before a child turns 14, even if that child never sets foot in a fundagelical church and even if a fundagelical-raised child goes on to reject the religion itself. They’re like poison seeds. They’ll lead a person straight into fundagelicals’ arms. Without those underlying beliefs, an adult simply won’t accept the irrational logic and emotional manipulation of a fundagelical recruitment pitch. They’ll know better.
(That’s why it’s so important for people who “deconstruct” to look at what made them so vulnerable to fundagelical come-ons. If they fail to do this work, they may just bounce back into fundagelicalism—or end up in something much worse, just because it doesn’t use the same specific labels but still draws upon the same underlying beliefs.)
As our society skews more and more secular, fundagelicals now and in the future won’t lack for stuff to raise moral panics about, at least. But I’m betting that the Jamie Gooches of our world will have to come up with appropriate, exonerating excuses when their kids see the movies after all, and then when their little darlings deconvert despite all that SPEERCHUL WARFARE they did!
Gosh, it’s almost like it was completely ineffective!
(Hopefully I got the Pokemon battle window correct. I didn’t play it!)
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