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Things Only Adults Notice In The Owl House

"The Owl House" follows Luz Noceda (Sarah-Nicole Robles), a fantasy-obsessed teenager sent to a disciplinary summer camp by her concerned mom. Her plans change dramatically when she accidentally stumbles upon a portal to another world. There, Luz meets Edalyn Clawthorne, the Owl Lady (Wendie Malick), a rebellious witch on the run from the law. She also meets Eda's companion demon, King (Alex Hirsch), and promptly befriends them both.

Through some serious persuasion, Luz convinces Eda to teach her magic. This is unprecedented — as Luz is told over and over again, humans can't do magic. But Luz is determined to prove everyone wrong. As the series winds on, Luz befriends other teen witches, establishes a rivalry with a powerful peer, and becomes a pillar in Eda's tiny inner circle. 

Although "The Owl House" is aimed at kids, there are several moments aimed at any adults who might be watching along. These are the things only adults notice in "The Owl House," from its Bob Dylan references to the Emperor's eye-popping topiary.

Luz asks if she's in the bad place

After she stumbles through the portal in Episode 1, "A Lying Witch and a Warden," Luz asks, "Am I in the bad place?" Any adult in the room will get a chuckle out of this — it's not often a cartoon character on the Disney Channel wonders if she's receiving divine punishment. This question will also be familiar to fans of NBC's "The Good Place," a series aimed at a very different audience than that of "The Owl House."

"The Good Place" explores a social experiment conducted in the afterlife, in which a group of morally reprehensible people are made to believe they've gone to Heaven, a.k.a. "the good place." They slowly discover they've been in the bad place all along, and work to overcome their eternal fate. The show continues to play with perception and reality for the rest of its tenure.

It seems unlikely that kids or even teens watching "The Owl House" will have seen "The Good Place," since it plays with some pretty grown-up themes. But adults watching this animated show will certainly spot the reference. 

Warden Wrath is a plague doctor

When Luz meets Eda in "The Owl House, she's shocked to discover she's a witch — and she's even more surprised to learn that Eda is a wanted criminal. A prison guard attempts to arrest Eda at her market stand, stating that she is wanted for "misuse of magic and demonic misdemeanors." He attempts to take Eda and Luz to the Conformatorium, which is this realm's version of a high-security penitentiary. Eda isn't so easily arrested, though, and she and Luz make a narrow escape.

Eventually, they do end up at the Conformatorium, in order to retrieve a crown belonging to King. There, they encounter Warden Wrath, whose design is eerily similar to a historical plague doctor. Although cultural opinion on plague doctors varies, they are often seen as omens of death and disease. In "The Owl House," predatory Warden Wrath won't take "no" for an answer when Eda rejects him. He might not be unpleasant because of his association with bubonic plague, but he definitely inspires the same sort of unease. Adults who grasp the association will be extra creeped out.

Principal Bump is a classic art reference

In Eda's world, young witches and warlocks are educated at Hexside School of Magic and Demonics, which is a major setting in "The Owl House." The head of the school is Principal Hieronymus Bump. As art-savvy adults will notice, his name is a reference to Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch. Bosch is perhaps most famous for the triptych "The Garden of Earthly Delights," which he painted around the turn of the 16th century. This piece depicts both the Garden of Eden and the Last Judgment. The Last Judgment panel features all kinds of terrifying creatures, including strange demons mingling mysteriously with humans.

In "The Owl House," Principal Bump wears a hat that covers his eyes. The garment looks like a small, red demon with an open mouth that encapsulates Bump's head. It is unclear if Bump's own eyes see through the sockets in the demon's face, or if the demon sees for Bump, implying a deeper sort of connection. Regardless, the character would be right at home in the far right panel of Bosch's "The Garden of Earthly Delights."

Eda sells literal snake oil

For centuries, self-proclaimed healers sold "snake oil" that claimed to solve any number of health problems. The term has since become synonymous with treatments that aren't scientifically backed and might provide a placebo effect, but not much else. "The Owl House" puts its own twist on this bizarre tidbit of medical history that adults are sure to chuckle at.

After agreeing to take Luz on as an apprentice, Eda reveals that her magical practice is less education-focused and more centered on, well, making money. She shows Luz a few of the items she sells in her various "businesses," including a bottle of snake oil. "No one wants an unoiled snake," Eda proclaims, which paints a funny picture audience members of any age can enjoy. However, adults who've heard the term used more sneeringly will get an extra laugh out of it. It's a clever literalization of a common phrase, and it establishes Eda as a bit of a con woman. Of course she sells snake oil.

Several episode titles reference classic songs or movies

"The Owl House" features tons of pop culture references, especially in its episode titles. For example, the pilot is called "A Lying Witch and a Warden," which is a play on the beloved C.S. Lewis novel "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe." Another example is Season 1's "Hooty's Moving Hassle." The episode itself follows Luz and her friends Willow (Tati Gabrielle) and Gus (Issac Ryan Brown) as they attempt to beat Luz's rival, Amity (Mae Whitman), by having the best Moonlight Conjuring ever. Things get out of hand when the kids make Eda's house grow legs and walk around. The episode title and content are an obvious reference to "Howl's Moving Castle," which is both a 1986 novel by Diana Wynne Jones and a 2004 animated movie from Studio Ghibli.

References in episode titles continue to be a feature throughout the series. Season 1, Episode 11 is titled "Sense and Insensitivity," referencing the Jane Austen novel "Sense and Sensibility." Season 2, Episode 8 is titled "Knock, Knock, Knockin' on Hooty's Door," which references Bob Dylan's classic ballad, "Knockin' on Heaven's Door." Other episode titles, like "Something Ventured, Someone Framed" and "Witches Before Wizards" invoke clichés like "nothing ventured, nothing gained" and variations on "hoes before bros."

Satirizing the gig economy

"The Owl House" isn't afraid to satirize society — just look at the way it critiques the economic strictures of the modern world. Eda's multiple small businesses reflect the difficulties of surviving in a "gig economy," and episodes like Season 1's "Once Upon a Swap" focus on how ridiculous consumerism can be. In the latter episode, Eda, King and Luz all swap bodies to prove who has the hardest life. Of course, shenanigans ensue, but when Luz-as-Eda accidentally breaks a lamp and uses magic to fix it, she creates a multi-light fixture with real human legs. Picture a more grotesque version of the infamous leg lamp from "A Christmas Story."

Immediately, a customer runs up and calls the lamp "unnecessarily extravagant" ... then purchases it. After it sells, Luz starts using magic on all the "human collectibles" in Eda's booth, and customers swarm. The commentary is razor-sharp: The more absurd an item is, the more people want it — which "The Owl House" suggests isn't necessarily a good thing.

King suggests inventing the Disney Channel to entertain kids

Disney is one of the largest media companies in the world, so naturally, its properties occasionally get meta. In Season 1's "Lost in Language," Eda and King find a basketful of bat babies on the doorstep, along with instructions to watch them until morning. In exchange, they'll receive a handsome reward from the Bat Queen herself, which they just can't pass it up. However, babysitting wreaks havoc on Eda, King, and Hooty, all of whom are ill-equipped to handle children — especially ones that can apparently clone themselves.

At one point, King asks, "What silences children? What if we invent a TV network for ages 6-11?" Eda shoots down the idea, but he's definitely onto something. The Disney Channel itself is, of course, aimed at kids within that very age bracket. And it's definitely successful — King and Eda wouldn't exist without it! This is one self-referential gag adults — especially those with kids who watch nothing but the Disney Channel — definitely appreciate.

King's publisher forces creative burnout

After Luz enlists King to help her write a book for a contest in Season 1's "Sense and Insensitivity," the pair discover they don't see eye to eye on the creative process. To make matters worse, King decides to take all the credit for their shared work and becomes a best-selling author. Immediately, his publisher begins pushing him to write a new book, and the quality diminishes significantly. "The Owl House" uses this plot line to comment on the predatory nature of certain industries, and also call out the dangers of creative burnout. When Luz confronts the publisher for his borderline abusive behavior, it's a win for creative professionals everywhere.

The serious undertones of this plot are likely lost on kids watching "The Owl House," but adults in the audience — especially any working in a field like publishing — will be struck by how well the series handles these topics. Not only does this episode tackle plagiarism, it also examines how talented people can be mined for content, then left to rot if they can't keep up with unceasing demand.

The Emperor's castle features hunky trees

When Willow and Gus try to convince Luz to go on the field trip to the Emperor's castle in Season 1's "Agony of a Witch," they break out a brochure to show her what she'll be missing if she stays behind. Willow points out the Emperor's collection of relics, including one called the Green Thumb Gauntlet. According to the brochure, this allows the user to grow anything they can imagine — including trees that look like buff, naked human bodies, apparently.

This is quite the eye-catching moment, but it happens pretty fast. Aside from Luz squinting at the page, none of the kids react to the shape of the trees, and Gus moves onto the next thing in the brochure immediately. Either these trees are commonplace in the magical realm, or the creators of "The Owl House" knew very well they were making a cheeky joke. Either way, it's hard to unsee.

References to the Salem Witch Trials

"The Owl House" is all about magic and witchcraft, but it doesn't ignore the controversial real-life history of these subjects. In fact, it satirizes witch hunts, with Eda commenting at one point that "witches eating babies is so 1693" — a.k.a., when the Salem Witch Trials were happening. Later, when Luz goes on a field trip to the Emperor's castle, she sees a painting that depicts several witches dancing around a fire at night. This is exactly the kind of imagery used to persecute women for allegedly cavorting with the devil.

This isn't the only way "The Owl House" interacts with stereotypes about witches. Eda herself flies in the face of most of them, while Luz confronts in-world ideas about what a witch can be, as a human who learns to use magic. Furthermore, the magic system in "The Owl House" is a lot less rooted in dancing with demons in the woods than it is in the realities of our own world. Hexside students follow specific tracks to learn and use certain types of magic, and though some are able to join the Emperor's Coven and use any kind of magic they want, many are not. Just as the series mocks predatory industries and the gig economy, it also examines problematic fantasy lore and the real-world impact of witch trials.