When I began seeing posters for Netflix’s The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, I was really excited as I loved watching the ’90s version with actress Melissa Joan Heart called Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Heart’s show taught me valuable life lessons with all the mistakes that Sabrina makes using her magic. One episode that stood out for me was ‘Sabrina Through the Looking Glass’ where Sabrina is in a bad mood so takes it out on everyone around her but then has to make amends by going through her other-realm mirror. Another favourite was ‘As Westbridge Turns’ where her and her friends feel they are not living exciting lives so Sabrina opens a magical can of worms and ends up living a soap opera of her nightmares. I was upset when Heart’s show finished in 2003, which is why I started binge watching this new version on Netflix — and I haven’t been disappointed.
Just two episodes into the show and I was in for a shock as it was completely different to the Sabrina I knew. Satanism becomes a key feature, Aunt Zelda is a chain-smoker still stuck in the 1950s and Salem the cat — doesn’t talk. Every episode seems to be a mini horror film with scary-looking creatures and the Devil himself quite literally coming to life! One thing for sure, Kiernan Shipka who plays Sabrina, does not stray away from real issues faced by young women. The new version is layered with modern-day feminism and how women want to make the right choices for themselves instead of being ruled by outdated patriarchal systems. This Sabrina is willing to take a stand against men who want to rule free-thinking women by having them sign their life away in ‘the Book of the Beast’. Well, thanks, but no thanks.
From the start Sabrina and her friends are faced with men who have privilege and power. An example of this can be seen when Sabrina’s friend is getting bullied by boys, their response is to form a group for young women to help one another in time of need known as ‘WICCA’. Another example is when Father Blackwood, known as the High Priest of the coven and the head of the school for witches, sets our on making Sabrina go through obstacles every time she wants to help others. Blackwood is truly a symbol of men who seem to think they own women, whether this be their brains or their bodies.
Two scenes show this presumed ownership particularly well. One, is when Blackwood does not allow Sabrina to take proper witch modules as he feels she is not prepared enough or clever enough; another, is when a ceremony takes place. This ceremony is for women to sacrifice their life for other people’s appetite, known as the ‘Feast of Feasts’, but Sabrina isn’t prepared to do that. What is interesting though is the underlying issue of older women being scared to change traditional ways from the past. Aunt Zelda in particular is always fearful of her and her family becoming outcasts from the coven, as well as fearing ‘The Dark Lord’. She is someone who willingly gives in to male dominance and is happy to follow strange traditions even if they oppress her.
The new series is also popular because the script provides its characters with solid narratives so audiences can understand the motivation behind their choices. One such narrative is when Sabrina’s friend is going blind, but is able to see things others cannot.
I wasn’t that keen on the series at the beginning, but having finished watching Season One I can honestly say that the spooky Sabrina has grown on me, and I can’t wait for the second instalment. Oh, and, I like her red coat!