Why does Bewitched feel so queer? It was about a straight couple, after all, and never had a single explicitly LGBTQ+ character. And yet the sitcom, which ran from the mid-60s to the early 70s, has an intensely queer feeling. It somehow comes off as queer without ever actually coming out. How is that possible?
Behold, the power of subtext! Bewitched, which was recently referenced (obliquely) on the show WandaVision, was about a witch named Samantha who marries a mortal named Darren, and the couple decides to keep her powers a secret. The show debuted pre-Stonewall, at a time when gay characters were vanishingly few on television — particularly when it came to primetime and sitcoms.
But it was also the middle of the civil rights era, and many TV shows were using wacky high-concept premises to explore social issues through metaphor without actually addressing them.
Bewitched managed to put a queer allegory in front of viewers by leaning heavily on the metaphor of the closet. In one early-season episode, a group of witches complains about having to hide while also warning about the danger they’d face if they were “out.” In another episode, Samantha tries to repress her inherent magic so much it starts going haywire, and a doctor advises her that she’ll always be a witch and she needs to stop feeling guilty about who she truly is.