Part 2 of “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” released April 5 on Netflix, presents a new but darker lens on the characters originally popularized in the ’70s Archie comic book series. The characters were also displayed in the sitcom “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” (1996-2003).
“The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” appeared on Netflix after another Archie Comics adaptation “Riverdale” achieved remarkable ratings. The former coming-of-age series is about a young witch and her strife in learning to balance the magical and mortal world.
The series focusses on a strong but inconsistent feminist agenda, where Sabrina consistently stands up for what she believes as a mortal while engaging in witchcraft and participating in a religion that worships Satan. She does this by using her magic to help her misfit friends in the mortal world. This moral dilemma is often reflected in Sabrina’s use of magic for what she views as good.
For example, Sabrina helps her transgender friend Theo avoid bullies as he attempts to make it on the basketball team. Some characters in the show suggest he won’t make the team because of his previous identity as a girl, despite Theo being terrible at basketball. Sabrina then uses her magic to manipulate Theo’s basketball skills during tryouts and is later commemorated for her actions.
The show frames her use of magic as a way to promote inclusivity for her trans friend, even though he did not earn or work for his skills like other players on the team. This is just one problematic scenario occurring in the series.
The overall series is clearly advocating for feminist ideals, like protesting all-male clubs, trying out for historically male leadership roles and rejecting archaic and sexist rulings at the magical school, The Academy of Unseen Arts. Further, the show is geared toward teen girl viewers as it stars a teenage girl and centers around her life experiences.
The episode “Chapter Fourteen” is about a holiday “Lupercalia,” which is essentially the witch and warlock version of Valentine’s Day. Lupercalia is distinctly about passion and emphasizes sex with somewhat randomly picked partners. While the series has over-sexualized situations in other episodes, this episode depicts excessive celebration of sex, such that the high schoolers felt pressured by both adults and their peers to have sex with their partners. Despite the school insisting that they didn’t have to have sex during Lupercalia, it was certainly an expectation among the students.
While young people struggle with sex culture in the real world every day, the episode was not executed in a sex-positive light. Characters complained about who they were partnered, while Sabrina was still ridiculed when the night didn’t go as planned. Furthermore, the partnering system didn’t appear to facilitate a way for same-sex couples to be partnered together. This was just one solid example of how the series, which claims to be LGBTQ friendly and have a feminist appeal, can be alienating with its heteronormative lens.
It is possible that the writers are attempting to emulate what real people experienced in the ’60s, which is when the show takes place. Today, the show can easily be interpreted poorly for its controversial attempt at celebrating sexuality and feminist ideals. While problems persist in the overarching political commentary, the show is filled with tension and cliffhangers that make you want to continue watching. This unusual show is entertaining despite the questionable political overtones.