Sabrina's Back and She's A Bad Bitch
Updated: Apr 1, 2019
Returning as a combination of Wednesday Addams, Nancy Drew, and the classic bubbly witch you may remember from the 90s, Sabrina Spellman reclaims the silver screen in the new Netflix series “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.” As a lover of the original “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” series starring Melissa Joan Hart, I was excited to see a new rendition of the show. I went into the show blind having heard nothing but a few murmurs about a revamp and seeing the brief Netflix preview. So I set out to relive my childhood, opened my laptop, and curled up in my blankets with a hot chocolate to see what America’s favorite witch was up to 20 years later.
As it turns out, the Spellmans have been up to a hell of a lot. In this reboot, Sabrina is living with her aunties Zelda and Hilda along with her sexy cousin Ambrose and snuggly cat Salem. Her life is now set in Greendale, neighboring her Riverdale comic pal Archie Andrews, rather than in an upscale Victorian home in Massachusetts, and is filled with much more intense issues than were tackled by her quirky, vintage predecessor.
Unlike the original series, 2018 Sabrina is fully aware of her lineage and powers well before her sixteenth birthday. We join Sabrina, her sweetheart Harvey, and friends Susie and Rosalind as they progress through what seems to be the typical high school experience for Gen Z before we get a real glimpse into the dark depths that comprise season one. Without creating spoilers, all I can say is Sabrina’s new world of dark baptisms and the Academy of Unseen Arts will leave you clamoring for a trip to the Other Realm through the linen closet. As the first episode drew to a close, I wasn’t sure what I thought about the show. I sat puzzled and initially indifferent to what I had just watched. It was utterly unexpected that a classic sitcom had become a genuine spooky, occult drama. Perhaps it was because I was so attached to “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” that I was unable to separate Sabrina from the warm and wacky environment in which comedy thrived and tension was a brief accent. Despite my confusion I thought I would continue on and see how Sabrina and her family faired in Greendale. By the second episode it was clear that this series was operating in a much deeper framework (rooted in the comics) and set out to give Sabrina a depth of character befitting a true heroine in an increasingly dark time. Sabrina still maintains the qualities we loved about her in the original series. She is still perky, determined, good-humored, justice-oriented, and kind-hearted, but is now operating in a world where she is no longer a spoiled child living with ever-forgiving aunts.
Overall I found the series enjoyable and look forward to season 2. I thought the characters were diverse and well-rounded in their own rights and found myself genuinely interested in all of their plotlines. (This is worthy of particular praise as I am constantly guilty of fast-forwarding through tedious character’s subplots.) The show’s plotline was new and kept me guessing, but more importantly, had no major loopholes that left me confused as to the outcomes and subplots that followed. I especially appreciate that we see much more of Sabrina’s witch life (A.K.A. the old-school Other Realm) and begin to understand the responsibilities of a coven, the strength in faith, and the struggle to find balance with power.
While I did enjoy the series and recommend it to anyone looking for their next good binge or Halloween pick, I have to admit I have one qualm with the reboot. The portrayal of witches is not indicative of real life practitioners.
For those who know me this is not a shock. For those getting acquainted just now---hold on to your socks. I was raised in a family of elective witches who worship Mother Earth (the goddess), cast spells, smudge houses, read tarot cards and runes, dance barefoot under the moon, and always have a familiar nearby. My female relatives chant over blue pentagrams of protection the same way Catholics pray with rosaries at the altar. They light candles for incantations, burn incense for clarity, and carry healing stones for prosperity, strength, health, and protection (shout out to amethyst). Growing up it wasn’t uncommon to see my female kin gathered around talking about the power of three, reading and writing in bound books made from leaves, and trading recipes for balms, oils, and medicine. We did not, as this reboot would have you believe sacrifice animals, participate in any form of a baptism (be it dark or light), sign the “Book of the Beast,” surrender ourselves to Satan, or vow to avenge unfortunate witches of the past.
As elective witches, my family can be most easily understood as a mix of Wiccan and Pagan. We believe in worshipping nature (which only sometimes involves dancing naked in the rain) by growing gardens and taking in all the stray animals that happen upon our doorsteps. We believe in doing no harm unto others, lest it come back to you tenfold. For us, life is about appreciating the natural world in all its splendor, taking time to be in tune with yourself and those around you, and protecting and blessing your own as best you can. We wish it, we think it, so mote it be.