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This is a form of magic in either Caribbean or New Orleanian flavors. Many practitioners call themselves priests or priestesses, and they almost always do have magical powers, regardless of whether or not the supernatural exists or is even mentioned elsewhere in The Verse[1]. Sympathetic Voodoo Dolls (ie, what you do to them appears on the person they represent) are a classical trick, as is making zombies. Other practitioners simply use tarot cards or other divination tools and they always work, even if they have to rewrite reality to do it.

What you don't see in the depiction of Hollywood Voodoo is anything resembling actual religious practice. The Christian elements of Voodoo are almost never shown. The only deity ever mentioned is the death god Baron Samedi, and since Everybody Hates Hades, he's most often in an antagonist role of some sort (if he doesn't appear himself, male practitioners will dress like him by donning the famous tattered tuxedo, top hat, and skull makeup). Even if he's not a villain, it still leads to the mistaken idea that Vodou is centered around death and necromancy.

Real Life Vodou is a religion like any other; what Hollywood has is The Theme Park Version of hoodoo, the underlying folk magic system thereof. For more information, see Voudoun.

Not to be confused with Voodoo Shark, which is an explanation for a Plot Hole that raises more questions than the hole itself.

Examples of Hollywood Voodoo include:


Anime and Manga

  • Keep the distinctive skin markings and dark sympathetic magic. Ditch the Japanese aesthetic and trademark characters. Naruto's Hidan would belong in a Hollywood Voodoo movie, by accident or intent.


Comicbooks

  • Marvel Comics has Brother Doctor Voodoo, a Haitian sorcerer who often collaborated with Doctor Strange.
  • DC Comics has the more modern character Empress, of Young Justice, who directly addresses the misconceptions about the vodoun she learned from her grandmother.
  • In Preacher (Comic Book), Jesse Custer seeks help from a Voodoo practitioner to get information out of his subconscious. While the ceremony is beginning, he comments on this trope, saying he thought the priest would be more like the James Bond example below. Immediately after he starts hallucinating and sees the priest as that character.
  • Played for laughs in Horndog. Voodoo spells are actually Frank Zappa and ODB lyrics.
  • Averted in an issue of The Invisibles. Grant Morrison is well known for research on all his works, and he depicts a fairly realistic voodoo ritual, complete with fetish, idols, blood, candles and more of the stuff. Baron Samedi is shown and named, but he's just one of a lot of loa that the comic depicts.
  • In Hellblazer, Papa Midnite is a voodoo practicioner, and has a couple of zombie servants. However, it shows him perforiming some nice representations of rituals, averting the trope.
  • Teen Titans villain Houngan combined Hollywood Voodoo with Applied Phlebotenum, using an "electronic voodoo doll" as his primary weapon.
  • Baron Sunday, an obscure Superman villain, was a crimelord who used Voodoo Dolls to assassinate his rivals.


Films -- Live-Action

  • The early sound film White Zombie, making this Older Than Television.
  • Most zombie movies prior to Night of the Living Dead have this. Val Lewton's I Walked With A Zombie is a notable quasi-subversion for making something like a good-faith baseline attempt to understand and depict the actual religion, tossing terms like "houngan" and "hounfort" into the conversation, and even - astonishingly, for the time and milieu - deciding that it's NOT a Religion of Evil, but merely a power around with which one should not screw. Still has zombies and voodoo dolls, though.
  • The Serpent and the Rainbow is a post-Romero zombie movie that focuses exclusively on the voodoo element, detailing the use of a special Haitian drug that creates the zombie effect.
  • The Childs Play film series.
  • Subverted in the movie Dogma, when Loki makes a voodoo doll and, well, here is the whole thing:

 Loki: "I forgot my little voodoo doll."

[looks at Whitland]

Loki: "Wow. It really does look just like you. Maybe, if I believed enough..."

[pauses, then crushes voodoo doll of Whitland, who is terrified but unharmed]

Loki: [laughs] "I don't believe in voodoo."

[leaves]

Loki: [re-enters with a gun] "But I do believe in this."

{{[[[Board to Death]] shoots everyone}}]

  • The James Bond film Live and Let Die. Magic and Voodoo are central to the plot, and it works in a universe where nothing else supernatural is even remotely mentioned.
  • The Blues Brothers 2000. "Nassau's gone funky...". The Blues Brothers 2000 does pretty much run on Rule of Funny. Or tries to.
  • Weekend at Bernies 2] reanimates the titular corpse (which, due to a glitch in the spell, only works when calypso music is playing) and eventually turns two mooks into a pair of goats.
  • The Mystery Science Theater 3000 film Zombie Nightmare
  • Pedro Cerrano in Major League, as a relatively minor example. "Jobu" and the specific rituals shown in the film are fictional in Hollywood Voodoo style, but the film depicts voodoo as a religion, shows "voodoo magic" as a form of prayer, and has an accurate mention of Jesus being revered as part of Voodoo theology.
  • The Skeleton Key, though they get bonus points for distinguishing between voodoo and hoodoo magic. A fairly creepy movie still, considering the occult subtext is not even revealed until halfway through the move. And no zombies or fortune-telling, the villains are centuries-old hoodoo practitioners who use precise rituals to jump bodies (making them essentially immortal) and leave their victims trapped as senile catatonics in their old bodies.
  • The Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, although it's debatable whether this is actual voodoo or the residual power of Calypso. She is also described as an Obeah woman by Pintel.
    • Voodoo makes another appearance in On Stranger Tides, used by Blackbeard.
  • A central theme in Eve's Bayou. To the movie's credit, Hoodoo is pretty accurately portrayed (except for it being referred to as "Voodoo," though this might have been to avoid confusing audiences). In fact, the difference between Hollywood Voodoo and real hoodoo is Lampshaded; Mozelle sarcastically mentions "sticking pins into a doll" before saying that you can't kill someone with Voodoo, and she is Christian as many hoodoo rootworkers are. Elzora's method of killing Eve's father is more accurate to hoodoo. Its worth mentioning that Mozelle herself never refers to her own practices as Voodoo, this is mainly Eve's assumption.
  • Angel Heart. Although it was difficult to tell where the voodoo ended and the Satanism began.
  • Mr. Oogie Boogie had a voodoo themed musical number in Nightmare Before Christmas.
  • The titular villains in The Believers are members of a voodoo cult; based on a book titled The Religion.


Literature

  • The kid-lit horror book Zombie Queen.
  • Parodied in the Discworld novel, Witches Abroad. Discworld's magic has a tendency to make beliefs real, and enough people believing strongly enough can do just about anything. The voodoo works because the voodoo witch, Mrs. Gogol, believes it will... and then she makes the mistake of trying it on Granny Weatherwax, who knows all about belief and magic. She makes the spell backfire ... literally.
  • The Virgin New Adventures novel White Darkness uses spelling as a distinguishing feature: American soldiers who don't know what they're talking about refer to "voodoo" and "zombies", native Haitans and the Doctor talk of "vodoun" and "zombi". Mind you, despite McIntee Showing His Work there's still an evil voudon priest who actually worships the Great Old Ones...
  • In 1884, English diplomat Spencer St. John published Hayti; or The Black Republic, a highly negative and sensationalistic tome based loosely on his experiences in Haiti. According to St. John, Voodoo (or Vaudoux as he spells it) consists of sexual debauchery, black magic, raising the dead, ritualistic cannabalism, and blood sacrifice (both animal and human). Thus, despite the trope's name, it is actually Older Than Radio.


Live-Action TV

  • An early episode of Bones set in New Orleans after Katrina centered around the machinations of an evil voodoo priest. Brennan and Booth also recruited a houngan ("good" priest) to help them catch the villain. However, all the murders in the episode were accomplished by quite ordinary means, and there's no indication that the hoodoo practiced in the episode (which may also have been called "voodoo") worked any better than any other kind of magic (i.e. not at all.)
    • Or *does* it work? They actually do a quite good job of leaving the belief and ambiguity there. Did Bones have issues remembering what happened because of the Voodoo spell, or the blow to the head?
    • Another interesting aspect comes from Booth and Bones discussing Voodoo. While Booth, a practicing Christian, frequently insults Voodoo, Bones calls him out on the fact that he's being a Jerkass because of all the Hijacked by Jesus Hollywood Voodoo in media.
      • Indeed, when the topic of bringing people back from the dead come up, which Booth discusses as silly, Bones points out the Christian belief that Jesus came back to life after dying on the Cross.

 Booth: Jesus was not a zombie!

  • In one episode of My Name Is Earl, Catalina's nephew practices something similar to voodoo, possibly Santeria.
  • The Blood Ties episode "Bad Juju."
  • Utterly subverted on Castle, as Rick actually talked to a practitioner about the religion, and she was portrayed in a normal manner.
    • When he saw her after writing the book he had gone to her to research, she was somewhat annoyed at the way he portrayed her religion (which, apparently, was more along the lines of traditional Hollywood Voodoo).
  • Played with in an episode of Heroes, where the Petrelli brothers end up in Haiti and come across dolls tied to a tree. Nathan makes a sarcastic comment about Voodoo, to which Peter replies that they're not voodoo dolls, but are for some other ceremony. They aren't mentioned anywhere else in the episode, and Peter gave an uncharacteristic National Geographic-esque description. The writers must have felt obligated to mention Voodoo in an episode where they visit Haiti.
  • In a Seven Days episode, a Hollywood Voodoo practitioner prays for a miracle that will save her friend from the electric chair. She's a little disappointed when that "miracle" turns out to be Frank. At the end of the episode, she recruits the help of the episode's Big Bad's wife to save an innocent man's life and punish her husband in a voodoo ritual.
    • Possibly an aversion. While the Voodoo practitioner does have the stereotypical look, she's a good guy who seems to practice it more as a real religion, albeit an oddly effective one. The episode keeps it ambiguous whether or not her "spells"/prayers actually do cause things to turn out alright or if Frank showing up et al. are just coincidences.
  • A long-term viewing of the Law and Order franchise will tell you that someone in the writer's room has some hang-ups about Santeria. From a child killer on The Mothership who claims to hear the voice of a saint, to a ritualist on Law and Order Special Victims Unit who's fingered for child sacrifice, to a fraudulent and murderous faith healer on Law and Order: Criminal Intent, there isn't really a lot of positive portrayal of the faith.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Catspaw". Sylvia holds a tiny figure of the Enterprise over a candle, and the ship in orbit heats up dangerously.
  • The X-Files episode "Fresh Bones" features basically a voodoo war of revenge. They have a clever subversion to the usual Religion of Evil aspect of Hollywood Voodoo when we find out that the only one using it to harm people is a greedy American.
  • The Starsky and Hutch episode "Murder on Voodoo Island".
  • Wiseguy. Two factions struggling for control of a Carribean island try to influence Arms Dealer Mel Profitt with voodoo, though in that case it's because they know he believes in that sort of thing; apart from one use of hypnosis, no-one's shown to have any special powers.
  • Due South had an episode titled "Mojo Rising" featuring a Haitian community (who strangely all talked with American accents) which revolved around a local Voodo church. The writers clearly had done quite a bit of research (there are a lot of accurate terms), but it did have rival voodoo practitioners casting curses on each other and the police station on the receiving end of a voodoo curse (which turned out to mostly be a whole lot of grass seed, which started growing after the fire alarm was set off
  • Parodied in the I Love Lucy episode where Little Ricky is born. Ricky is dressed up as a voodoo guy for his show at the club and doesn't want to take time to change before rushing to the hospital, thus freaking out the nurses.
  • Also listed above in comics, Baron Sunday appeared in an episode of Lois and Clark. He was a copter pilot who was framed for drug smuggling thanks to one of Clark Kent's early bylines(Clark was deceived by the real smugglers into believing that the pilot was guilty). He had apparently learned voodoo while on the run from the law, and now used that magic to get revenge on Clark.


Manhwa

  • Priest has the titular character use a voodoo doll against a foe with a Body Surf ability. It worked because the magic targeted his soul rather than the body.


Music


Professional Wrestling

  • The WWF briefly played host to Papa Shango, a wrestling vodoun who used his voodoo curses against his opponents, causing matches to be thrown out when his opponents' boots caught fire and they started projectile vomiting.


Tabletop Games

  • Averted in Mage: The Awakening. There is a Legacy of mages who raise zombies and have a strongly vodoun bent. However, they name themselves the Bokor, and base themselves almost entirely around the aspect of the religion of the same name.
    • Mage's "Magical Traditions" introduces Southern Conjure as a legitimate "flavor" upon which to hang your character's actions. It's fairly respectful, well researched, and differentiates between voudon and hoodoo, although it offers a special merit called "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son" that basically turns any mage into a walking, talking Fate Arcana magnet.
  • Mage: The Ascension has the Bata'a, an umbrella-term for Mages who practice Vodou-based magic. For a long time it was the largest independent Craft in the world (ie, not part of the Traditions), before joining the shamanic Dreamspeakers.
  • Scion generally averts the trope by featuring the Loa as one of the pantheons and elaborating on their influences. While the signature character of Brigitte de la Croix does raise zombies and drive a hearse, it's not because she practices voudon, but because her dad's Baron Samedi. And her rival is a daughter of Erzulie who plays the hell out of the "love goddess" imagery.
  • Ravenloft's domain of Souragne is built out of this trope. Voodoo also turns up in Gothic Earth's version of Haiti and New Orleans.
  • Mutants and Masterminds' Freedom City universe has the super villain Baron Samedi, who mixes this with Witch Doctor. On the other hand, they also have a teen superheroine who gets her powers from a loa of the sea.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade has the Samedi, a clan of Vampires who are either (depending on your interpretation) descended from the actual Baron Samedi or a Vampire who thought he was.
    • There are also the Serpents of Light: the Sabbat antitribu of the Followers of Set (who consider them heretics for denying Sutekh), who have their own Vodou-based Blood Magic paths.
  • In theGURPS Sourcebook GURPS Voodoo: The Shadow War, players can create ritual adepts who use either Voodoo trappings or Hermetic rituals to channel subtle magical effects and command spirit beings. The Shadow War mentioned in the title is between the Hermetic Orders, an Ancient Conspiracy who secretly control the western world, and the Voodoo Lodges who have begun to fight back and subvert their authority, with both sides also having to deal with dark adepts, their evil spirit allies, and their Dark Masters.
  • Call of Cthulhu has some Voodoo spells, including dolls, contacting/summoning loa and spirits, hexes, protection, and Create Zombi (distinguished from Create Zombie). But, like all magic in CoC they cost the caster SAN.


Videogames

  • A central theme in the Monkey Island games. "Voodoo" is just the game term for any form of magic or supernatural act, and is not treated as inherently good or evil. The main expository figure of the series is the "Voodoo Lady", who deals mostly in divination and is never seen to use malicious spells on anyone (though she may well have arranged for others to use them). Big Bad LeChuck is apparently a practitioner as well, having used voodoo dolls on occasion and notably being able to bring himself Back From the Dead at will. Even the main character has created voodoo devices and cast spells on his own.
  • Averted in the first Gabriel Knight game, which features extensive exposition on actual, real-life voodoo and its history.
    • Although they somewhat shot themselves in the foot on the issue when the owner of the historical voodoo museum, who gives a lot of exposition about the religious and historical context of voodoo turns out to be an evil cultist after all, whose leader is possessed by the spirit of a dead voodoo priestess.
  • Pretty much the central theme in Shadow Man.
  • Invoked in Bliss Stage: Love Is Your Weapon by the appearance of Keenan Caine's =ANI Ma,= the Chevalier Delacroix.
  • A minor mission chain in Grand Theft Auto Vice City has Tommy being gradually zombified by a voodoo priestess crime boss.
  • Mr. Sunshine in Saints Row 2. The first time you encounter him face to face he simply drugs you into a stupor, but the next he's knocking you about with voodoo magic.
  • Montezuma, a voodoo priest who can be hired as a henchman in Evil Genius. His description reads: 'To the outsider, the principles and rituals of voodoo seem dark and sinister, but generally they are not. In the case of Montezuma, however, they certainly are.'
  • The villainous Prawlers in Dark Reign 2 have a Voodoon for a healing unit and as an ultimate weapon they can summon Baron Samedi - a hulking demon-like brute. The "actual" Baron Samedi is supposed to look something like this and is a relatively benign, if highly hedonistic, unrestrained, lustful and foul-mouthed entity that overwatches the transition of souls to the otherworld and sometimes cures and protects the living.
  • Gabriel Tosh in StarCraft II is even capable of creating and using a working voodoo doll. Well, working in that it affected someone. Just not the right person.
    • He's also psychic. For all we know, this was actually a way of getting around the neural inhibitors he has.
  • The trolls in World of Warcraft practice a voodoo-type religion, referring to their gods as the loa. One of them shows up in the pre-Cataclysm quest chain to retake the Echo Isles, and is -- of course -- named Bwonsamdi.
    • Stay away from da voodoo...
  • Diablo III's upcoming Witch Doctor class is quite clearly this trope played straight. They can summon walls of zombies, conjure poisonous frogs and scare monsters with a giant ghostly totem. How well their in-universe religion is represented is yet to be seen.
  • Escape From St Marys offers Mrs Desai, which fans tend to call "the voodoo lady." Her voodoo potion involves throwing ingredients into a cauldron in the chemistry lab.
  • Pirate101 features a Witchdoctor Class. However, they are said to use Hoodoo, rather than Voodoo


Webcomics

  • At one point, Penny Arcade had a voodoo doll as a throwaway joke. When trying to figure out how to get rid of it, Gabe and Tycho settled on burning it. Cue the victim walking down a sunny street whistling a merry tune...and then "MY FLESH!"
  • Sluggy Freelance had Gwynn make a voodoo doll of Riff in an attempt to gain revenge on him; she quickly threw it in a cupboard when Zoe came into the room, with the result that Riff immediately threw himself into a cupboard.
  • The "Come Swing From My Branches" arc of Skin Horse features a New Orleans Voodoo priest who insists that the doll thing is actually hoodoo and zombies are victims of TTX poisoning (while talking to a reanimated abomination of science).


Western Animation

  • The PJs features Haiti Lady, a practicing Voodoo priestess.
    • Of course, the extent of her powers varies from episode to episode. They work fine for throwaway gags, but not for anything plot-relevant. The most believable curse, at least to the other residents, is giving Sanchez (a lifelong smoker) cancer of the larynx.
  • One episode of Two Stupid Dogs had Super Secret Squirrel battle a Voodoo-practicing goat who has made dolls of Super and The Chief to control them. Morocco Mole finds the dolls and starts playing with them. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Lilo and Stitch: Lilo makes Voodoo dolls of the other girls and dunks them in pickle juice, blithely explaining that "my friends need to be punished".
  • The Princess and the Frog uses plenty of this, to enhance its N'Awlins setting. Just watch Dr. Facilier's Villain Song "Friends on the Other Side" and you'll see how "voodoo" means the same as "magic" to Disney. Though, really, it's Disney. Everything is going to be magical, with or without the voodoo.
    • What's interesting is that the villain seems to have some grounding in Hoo-Doo ritual, whereas his good opposite is just a generic "Fairy Godmother".
      • By his behaviour, he seems to be a bokor (a sort of professional Deal with the Devil middle man) — dealing with baka "bribable spirits" as opposed to a voodoo priest who would commune with the loa.
    • There's also a slight Author's Saving Throw in one line of the song..."I got Voodoo, I got Hoodoo, I got things I ain't even tried...", implying that Facilier isn't committed to one tradition, but uses whatever will bring him power.
      • When he mentions "hoodoo", he summons a white chicken, which is a case of Artistic License Religion. White chickens have absolutely no magical connotation in hoodoo whatsoever; it's the black ones that you have to worry about.
    • As an interesting turn of events, the directors wanted to avoid using real voodoo symbols for fear of upsetting real practitioners and summoning bad spirits.
  • The Fairly Odd Parents had an episode where Timmy wished up "Yoo Doo" dolls that could control anyone. Needless to say, Hilarity Ensues!
  • Heloise tries a scientific variation of this on an episode of Jimmy Two-Shoes.
  • This is a plot point late in the Underdog story "Just in Case".
  • My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic has the recurring character Zecora, a zebra who's pretty obviously a "voodoo-lady". Speaks with a quasi-Caribbean accent, has various loa-style masks about her home (deep in the spooky marshy forest, of course), and practices low-grade magics and illusions, as well as becoming the local apothecary. Quasi-subversion of the normal trope though, in that it's not "real magic" (which in the pony-verse you need to be a unicorn to do) but rather practiced rituals, tricks and herbal concoctions.


Real Life

  • Marie Laveau of Louisiana (often the inspiration for a lot of Hollywood Voodoo stories) subverted this trope by being a real life practitioner, but also played it straight by encouraging the locals to think she had an arsenal of powers and jinxes. In reality, she was most likely using local superstitions to curry favours and influence New Orlean's wealthy folk.

Notes

  1. Ironically, Voodoo is more likely to be a hoax in explicitly supernatural settings
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