Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Review: ‘Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’

My Saturday mornings in middle school were spent watching 90s sitcoms on ABC Family. “Boy Meets World,” “Full House” and “Sabrina, The Teenage Witch.” Out of them all, Sabrina was always my favorite.

Sabrina Spellman’s powers as a witch made for great comedic entertainment and even though she was a high school student, I felt like I related to her on some level.

The Sabrina Spellman from Netflix’s new series, “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” is a not only a bold female lead but a relatable main character determined to do good.

The first 10 episodes of the new show premiered on Netflix on Oct. 26, 2018. It is the second adaptation of an Archie Comics’ series with a darker feel. The CW’s hit series “Riverdale” is a darker version of the story of Archie Andrews and his friends.

Both series are the creation of Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, the creative director of Archie Comics. “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” presents a world where Sabrina Spellman is pulled between the mortal world and the world of the dark lord.

Sabrina, half-witch and half-mortal, lives with her two aunts, Hilda and Zelda, in the town of Greendale. She has a cat named Salem and a boyfriend named Harvey Kinkle. But there’s a twist. Sabrina is approaching her 16th birthday where she will have to decide whether to become a witch or give up all magical powers and privileges to live as a mortal.

Sabrina’s father was high priest in the Church of the Night, the church that dictates witches and warlocks. Her aunts want her to uphold the Spellman name and be “baptized” during the blood moon on Halloween night, which is also Sabrina’s birthday.

Sabrina longs for a connection to her parets, who died suddenly in her early childhood but feels a pull toward the mortal world where her friends Susie and Roz and boyfriend Harvey reside. Sabrina’s commitment to the Church of the Night would require her to be educated at the Academy of the Unseen Arts, thus leaving her companions behind with no explanation of her disappearance.

Compared to the comedic and simple style of “Sabrina, The Teenage Witch” which premiered in 1996, the new world of Sabrina Spellman is the polar opposite.

Sabrina’s aunts are morticians, living in a large, eery looking house in a isolated, remote field and Sabrina’s cousin Ambrose is an exiled, cunning warlock who serves as her voice of reason.

Sabrina’s home of Greendale is similar to Salem, Massachusetts, in that it holds a history of persecution of witches. Thirteen witches were hanged in 1692, the same year of the Salem Witch Trials, and their ghosts have haunted the woods ever since the characters Mr. Hawthorne, Sabrina’s high school principal, and Susie Putnam, one of Sabrina’s best friends, are assumed to be named after Judge Hawthorne and the Putnam family from the Salem Trials.

With the reboot of a popular series like “Charmed,” the popularity of “American Horror Story: Coven” and the legacy of films like “Hocus Pocus,” witchcraft is in.

Stories of women practicing magic are no longer taboo but instead reinforce strong characters that won’t back down from a fight and in particular a fight against patriarchal forces. Sabrina Spellman’s rival is presented as the Dark Lord or Satan, a powerful male figure who harbors control similar to a deity. The simple pronoun used to describe him sends fear through those who disobey or turn their back on him. Sabrina is the outlier; she shows defiance and strength in his demands and threats.

The relatability of Sabrina Spellman as a relatable female heroine is still there. Issues of harassment against women, gender equality and tolerance are discussed in episodes making the plots not that far from the realities of its viewers. We all have a bit of Sabrina Spellman’s courage, determination and strength in the face of darkness in all of us.

Email Nyela Graham at cp@cardinalpointsonline.com

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