In Praise of Crazy Girls: A Love Letter to Nancy Downs of The Craft

Here’s to the crazy girls. To the girls who will occasionally fly off the handle. To the girls screaming out loud and acting on pure, unfiltered emotion. To the girls who are always told they’re being too much, making too much of a scene, when really, the people telling you this just aren’t enough. This one goes out to all the Nancy Downses of the world. 

The Craft is one of my all-time favorite movies, not specifically reserved for the Halloween season, but all the more appropriate for it. To be fair, I’ll watch just about anything that remotely deals with witches, but the high school-aged group of girls that were the main focus of the film were especially appealing to me. Powers of Manon aside, they were pretty normal girls. They had normal names—Rochelle, Bonnie, Sarah, and Nancy—and had totally normal high school problems not unlike the ones you and I once had. Dubbed “the bitches of Eastwick” by their peers, they were so far from being the cool kids, and honestly, weren’t we all? In an environment that would leave them feeling powerless against seemingly serious (or anyway, everything was serious when you were a teenager) forces like the resident class racist bully, or the guy you liked who only ended up making your life hell, they found power in their spell books and chants, summoning something bigger than themselves. 

Nancy Downs
Archive Photos/Getty

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Nancy was my absolute favorite.

She was the late ’90s goth girl personified, with her short, ultra-dark bob, porcelain foundation, heavily rimmed eyes, and dark lipstick. A deep merlot would be considered her nude—she never went any lighter than that—and the whole look was tied together with a gaze intense enough to shake anyone on the receiving end to their core. I vividly remember sitting on the floor of my best friend’s room layering on the liner and dark lipstick to be like Nancy, as we lit candles and pretended to cast spells without totally burning the house down.

As teenage boys tend to do, they assigned her the reputation of the “slut” because to them, a teenage girl who was comfortable with her own sexuality was weird, and she was shamed for it. She owned it proudly, and out of the four girls, she was the one who was unabashedly herself. Her home life sucked, and nightly fights in her family’s trailer between her mother and stepdad were more frequent than not, so it’s easy to understand why she’d put on such tough persona, but when she loved, she loved hard.

She found refuge in her coven, and when the group’s powers started to materialize, it was Nancy’s power that somehow triggered a heart attack for her abusive stepfather, leaving her and her mother with an insane amount of cash. While the other girls were invoking the spirit to address immediate issues, she had a bigger goal in mind. She wanted to invoke complete power from Manon.

You know how they say your meanest friends are the ones who care the most? Nancy was that friend.

She was tough on Sarah when she got involved with Chris—after all, Nancy herself knew he liked to use girls and spread rumors about them like wildfire—but when Sarah came home in shock after he tried to rape her, Nancy devised her own plan to get revenge.

“You don’t exist. The only way you know how to treat women is by treating them like whores, when you’re the whore, and that’s gonna stop,” she shouts at him while levitating across the room. Somehow, he stammers out an apology, but she isn’t buying it, and she uses her powers to launch him out the window to his death. 

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Naturally, this is all too much for newcomer Sarah, and she wants to leave the group. Responding with hellfire probably wasn’t the most appropriate response, but it’s an understandable one. She killed someone for her friend, and this is how Nancy gets repaid? She’s not going down without a fight, and fight she did.

“You know, in the old days, if a witch betrayed her coven, they’d kill her,” she told Sarah after kicking in the bathroom stall where she hid. 

Ultimately, Nancy’s need to live in the extreme and gain total power was her downfall. The power went to her head, and she spiraled out. She lost her powers and her mind, and the final scene shows an aerial view of Nancy in the hospital, strapped to the bed and claiming she was flying. 

But for a moment, she was glorious.

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