As we spiral ever further towards certain catastrophe on this interminable mortal coil, there are some lights of hope that pass fleetingly by. Most often: the crones or otherwise eternal baddies found in all of our favorite escapist media. We’re coming to you a little late this year, but as any crone can tell you: time is fake. Don’t worry about it. And so we present our top ten 2023 Crones of the Year.
Before we wade much farther in, quick head’s up: this piece includes major spoilers for Our Flag Means Death Season 2 and Baldur’s Gate 3.
About Crones of the Year
Conventionally, the word “crone” is used in a pejorative context. But here at POMEmag, “crone” is the absolute highest compliment we could possibly pay anyone. Crones are badass oldies who don’t care what anybody thinks about them. Crones are fearless, dangerous, and have a style all their own. In a culture so fixated on youth, it’s rare to find examples of what you want your golden years to look like, especially if you are a young woman navigating this patriarchal pop culture hellscape.
Due to (obvious) representation issues, our definition of “crone” is pretty broad. In our book, anybody can be a crone, regardless of gender, age, or actual arcane knowledge and abilities. Basically, cronedom is a state of mind that anyone theoretically can achieve. So we asked ourselves the following questions when determining our crones of the year:
- Would we mind being this person when we reach their age? How amazing of an end game would that be?
- Did this person do something badass in 2023?
- Did this person make us feel more powerful? Did watching, playing as, or reading about this person impart a little of their magic onto us?
- Are we intimidated by and/or at least a little afraid of this person?
- How long can we describe this person before we JUST CAN’T HELP SHOUTING ABOUT THEM
We assigned extra points for:
- Age – the older, the better
- Likelihood of actual magical powers
Please note: the crones selected below were all pulled from media consumed by at least one member of the POMEmag editorial coven throughout the past year. There may be other powerful crones we missed from 2023 and if so, we’d love to hear about them.
And so, without further ado:
The Top 10 Fictional Crones of 2023
10. Watanabe (Pokémon Concierge)
Image via Netflix.
If you’ve ever had a mommy complex about your boss, Pokémon Concierge is for you. The Pokémon Resort, as it’s presented in the show, is a place of healing for guests and staff alike. And that healing energy is really embodied in Mrs. Watanabe.
You may be thinking, if she’s so mother, how can she be crone? To which we say that it’s really the steady confidence of her omniscience that sets her over the edge. Throughout the show, we follow the freshly hired concierge, Haru, as she slowly lets go of the anxieties she’d developed in the corporate world in order to both heal herself and to help the guests who come to the resort through a similar journey of healing. However, it’s Watanabe who ushers Haru through her personal journey and in turn teaches Haru how to be that guide for others. Watanabe is a calm and deeply kind presence throughout this show, and she brought us a great measure of peace in 2023.
- Age: early 50s maybe
- Wizenedness: she is wise, we would say, but not necessarily wizened
- Cackling: 1/10, she is full of good natured mirth, but unlikely to cackle
- Likelihood of actual magical powers: minimal
9. Phee (Bad Batch)
Image via Youtube.
Friend (frenemy?) of Cid, our #4 Crone of the Year from 2021, Phee joins the Bad Batch cast in Season 2 as an Indiana Jones-type — a “liberator of ancient wonders.” Phee feels a lot more like a cool aunt than a crone, but she ticks a lot of excellent crone boxes: she’s older than us, she’s deeply practical, she’s incredibly cool in a crisis, and she’s good at teaching children to do morally ambiguous semi-crimes.
- Age: to be completely honest, probably in her late 40s (very young crone)
- Wizenedness: Minimal
- Cackling: Maybe someday, but not yet
- Likelihood of actual magical powers: None aside from her ability to track down treasures
8. Shax (Good Omens Season 2)
Image via Amazon Prime.
Early in Good Omens Season 2, the demon Shax steps in to fill her ex-colleague Crowley’s shoes after getting fired by Hell for helping to thwart the literal end of the world. Unlike Crowley, Shax doesn’t have centuries of experience with humanity’s bullshit. But Shax, toxic workplace girlboss / gaslight / gatekeep queen that she is, has toiled thanklessly for decades to maneuver herself into a cushy role as a Duke of Hell. She certainly isn’t going to let small setbacks get in her way — like demonic legion budget cuts, or figuring out how water heaters work, or humanity’s propensity for self-punishment beyond Hell’s wildest daydreams.
- Age: As old as time (so, in canon, at least 3000-ish years old)
- Wizenedness: Barely
- Cackling: Absolutely
- Likelihood of actual magical powers: Unholy
7. Etsuko (Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name)
Image via Sega – captured via PS5.
Loud, pushy, purple-haired menace Etsuko is a polarizing presence for fans of the Yakuza / Like A Dragon games. Nicknamed “the obatarian,” Etsuko has been terrorizing big booba tough guys on the streets of Sotonbori since 1988. November’s Gaiden, a short, self-contained farewell (of sorts) to longtime Yakuza / Like A Dragon protag Kazuma Kiryu, included several nods to memorable characters from Kiryu’s adventures — so naturally, the baddest hostess in Osaka needed to make an appearance. Etsuko shows up a few times throughout Gaiden with one goal: getting on Kiryu’s last goddamned nerve. She repeatedly throws herself at him bodily, calls him by an ex lover’s name, and in her parting scene, wanders into a yakuza front business and hits on Kiryu so hard the yakuza closing in on him are too embarrassed to beat his ass.
This is all par for the course for Etsuko, a woman with exactly as few shits left to give as you’d expect from someone who has been an octogenarian for almost 40 years. We may never know how she’s remained untouched by time for so many decades, but I will hazard a guess: Etsuko is a lich queen only sustained by pure hornéy energy. And you know what? Good for her.
- Age: Legitimately probably like 116 years old at this point.
- Wizenedness: Suspiciously less wizened than one might expect.
- Cackling: Definitely
- Likelihood of actual magical powers: The only reasonable explanation at this point.
6. Joyce and Irene (Poker Face)
Image via Wikia.
Joyce and Irene are in Episode 5 of Poker Face, the Natasha Lyonne–Rian Johnson murder mystery romp (highly recommend). Charlie Cale, our human lie-detector/sleuth protagonist, is on the run from the casino mafia’s hitman (Mr. Love Interest from Miss Congeniality), and so she finds herself working under the table at a retirement home. This is where she meets Joyce and Irene, the only cool old folks in this community. Except that actually they are former domestic terrorists who went to jail for trying to bomb a private school’s model UN summit to wipe out the next generation of rich politicians, and when the man who ratted them out to the cops moves into their retirement home, they execute a plan of murderous revenge, which Charlie must then solve.
Not that I’m condoning domestic terrorism or the murder of children, but as someone who has known a fair few private school model UN kids, I think these ladies may have actually been onto something. We mean — crones, they’re just like us! — sometimes they’re bad people. But crone-hood is not really about being good or bad. It’s about using your iron will and fierce determination to shape the world around you. And if you can do it in some cool outfits, all the better.
- Age: early 70s maybe
- Wizenedness: yes, but in a groovy way
- Cackling: 9/10
- Likelihood of actual magical powers: very low, unless you count tarot
5. Flamme (Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End)
Image via Crunchyroll.
Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End follows Frieren, an ambiguously hundreds-of-years-old elf, as she retraces the heroic journey she shared with dear, short-lived friends 80 years before the story begins. While not the focus thus far (at least within the anime, which debuted last fall), viewers also get glimpses of another significant figure in Frieren’s past: her mentor Flamme, a legendary mage who defined how humanity would think about magic for the next thousand years.
Frieren’s memories of Flamme span decades: we see Flamme as a fiery-haired woman with seemingly limitless power, and we see an elderly Flamme as her time begins to flicker out. These memories are a mix of warmth and sadness, connection and foreboding. As the story wears on, you can’t help but wonder about how things ended between student and mentor. Was their final parting the catalyst for Frieren’s centuries-long withdrawal from the human world? And if so, was Frieren struck by grief? Or betrayal? Regardless, we’re grateful to Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End for giving us some literal crone energy to close out 2023.
- Age: We see so much of her entire adult life, but Flamme seems to be in her 80s in the latest flashbacks so far
- Wizenedness: Very gentle
- Cackling: More likely to chuckle sadly
- Likelihood of actual magical powers: an actual nigh omnipotent magical prodigy
4. Buttons (Our Flag Means Death)
Image via Reddit.
For many, Buttons was a fan favorite when Season 1 of Our Flag Means Death first dropped. (He even ranked in at #3 among our 2022 Crones of the Year). His love for the sea, his communion with seagulls, and his penchant for threatening cannibalism made him the exact kind of weirdo that many of us love. Buttons regularly partakes in “moon bathing,” where he stands naked on the deck of the ship under the full moon to absorb her essence. When Carl, his beloved seagull buddy, gets murdered by a whip-wielding, drunk old buddy of Blackbeard, Buttons hexes the perpetrator and it works — that man is shortly blown away by a navy cannonball. But it’s not until Season 2 of OFMD came out this year that all our hopes and dreams for Buttons were confirmed — he is officially a SEA WITCH. He is recognized as such by a fellow sea crone, and, SPOILER ALERT, he manages to successfully turn himself into a seagull using an actual spell scroll. We love this for Buttons, this is the peak of his self-actualization. He is now closer to the sea, his only real love, and that’s all he’s ever wanted.
- Age: Maybe 40s but given the hard life of a pirate, this dude is probably actually like 29
- Wizenedness: Somewhat mild given the competition, but the hair alone should give him points
- Cackling: Less cackling and more long, eyebrow-less staring into the ocean depths
- Likelihood of actual magical powers: CONFIRMED, SEA WITCH!!!
3. Madam Ju (My Demon)
Image via Dramabeans.
Is there anything more powerful than the love between two absolutely stone cold bitches? My Demon is, in the tradition of many K-Dramas, an incongruously goofy thriller — this time about a beautiful young CEO who is the target of assassination attempts due to corporate machinations, and who therefore simply must employ literal Satan (except oh no, he’s hot) to be her bodyguard. And also they have to get contract married, oops.
These deadly corporate machinations are really set into action in the wake of the show’s primary murder mystery — who killed Madam Ju? the ice queen, self-made millionaire with a comically incompetent (and yet sincerely evil) family, who has bequeathed her company to our protagonist, her ward, under the stipulation that she be married within the year.
Madam Ju leaves her own shitty loser children nothing, in favor of her ward, whom she has raised in her own image of calculating competence. And yet, the love between the two of them — two people who truly understand each other in a world full of others who doubt and underestimate them — runs so deep and so pure. We cried A LOT, let us tell you, every time these two interacted, because life had hardened both of them so much, yet with each other they could finally be soft! Oh what a gift to be understood, accepted, and loved! And that’s the lesson Madam Ju teaches us — it’s what has put her in this year’s top 3 crones: you can be a bitch and a boss, you can shine like gloss, without sacrificing true love and connection. You can love and be loved. You can choose your family.
- Age: Late 60s
- Wizenedness: Tasteful. Distinguished.
- Cackling: 10/10
- Likelihood of actual magical powers: Low, unless you count ghosts as magic
2. Auntie Ethel (Baldur’s Gate 3)
Image via Siliconera.
Spoilers ahead for Act 1 of Baldur’s Gate 3, but that sweet old lady from the druid’s grove camp? A hag! A true H-A-G! An evil crone in the most traditional sense! Many of our crones in past years have used their powers for good, but 2023 has given us a handful of undeniable crones who are also somewhere on the spectrum from bad to just truly evil. Maybe that’s the energy we need to be leaning into. Who’s to say.
What I can say for sure is that Auntie Ethel is the real deal. She’s a charming old lady who will fuss over you, and she is also an evil hag who takes children as payment for disingenuously literal magical bargains. She is functionally unkillable because she has divided and stored her life force into loads of magic mushrooms. She has a lair! She’s a crone’s crone through and through, and we personally cannot help but respect it.
- Age: mid-60s, maybe?
- Wizenedness: yes
- Cackling: 11/10
- Likelihood of actual magical powers: confirmed evil hag witch
1. Kiriko (The Boy and the Heron)
Image via IMDB.
As the requisite grandmother figure of Miyazaki’s third final film of his long career, Kiriko instantly stole our hearts from the moment she appeared on screen. Though she is initially only one seemingly indistinguishable auntie in a pack of old biddies, she quickly makes her status as Head Crone in Charge known with her wickedly sharp tongue and equally keen wiles.
In many ways, Studio Ghibli crones are kind of the blueprint for what we here aspire to in our own cronedom. This witch barters with men for cigarettes and then reneges on her promises, because who’s gonna check her? No one guts a fish like Kiriko, and no one has more badass scars — not even the film’s protagonist and titular Boy, Mahito. She is a bit of an amalgam of the complex, heroic women that tends to populate Miyazaki films: a more grown Fio Piccolo, a more civilized San, a more solitary Sophie, that combined is even greater than the sum of her exemplary parts. For Mahito and for us, Kiriko is a human spirit guide — a balance to the wild animal spirits whose allegiance is to an unconquered natural world — showing us that death is not the end of a story, but instead a portal to an infinite realm of stories. In these neverending end times, what could be more powerful or aspirational than that?
- Age: 80s or 90s
- Wizenedness: Varies
- Cackling: Boisterous!
- Likelihood of actual magical powers: Demonstrated several times
Happy New Year, POMEs! Maybe 2024 will see the world at least a little less actively in peril and supply a wide selection of increasingly wizened role models to inspire you through the days ahead (we can dream).
Interested in our previous offerings? Check out all of our Crones of the Year lists here.
And Ko-Fi subscribers: head on over to our Ko-Fi for something completely new: our dishonorable mentions — our least favorite crones in 2023.