Netflix’s “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” conjures up real-world problems in witchy setting

Illustration by Megan Rowe

Illustration by Megan Rowe

Growing up, I spent many mornings watching “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” and was fully dedicated to the quirky characters on the screen. It was fun. It sparked my imagination and had colorful characters.

This magic became such a big part of my life. I was never fully ready to start my day in middle school without eating a bowl of cereal and watching a rerun episode of it beforehand; the witches on the show had their rituals and I had mine.

So, it came as no surprise when I became extremely excited when I discovered that Netflix was conjuring up their own version of the show: “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.”

When season one of the reboot was released on Oct. 26, 2018, I dedicated an entire evening to marathon it with my friend, and yes, pumpkin cookies were included for the spooky event.

I went into the first episode knowing it would take a darker turn than the original show and was prepared for that change; however, I became bewitched by the other differences I was not completely expecting.

The high quality of cinematography and acting cast a spell on me along with the present day issues that were being addressed: feminism, representation of diversity and the LGBTQ+ community.

“Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” is filled to the brim with metaphors and symbols reflecting our current-day culture. It addresses what it means to have multiple identities and being asked by society to choose one over the other. Other large themes are how people worry about not following the path their family wants them to take, having women stand up for themselves, and people accepting who they are even if they’re afraid to be different.

One of the scenes from the show that gave me chills and reverberated through my bones was when Sabrina Spellman realized that she shouldn’t have to choose between her two identities of being a witch and being a human. She stood up for herself when no one else would.

“My name is Sabrina Spellman and I will not sign it away,” Kiernan Shipka, who plays Sabrina, yelled in episode two.

The inspiration and intensity of the scene had me crouching on the couch waving my hands in the air cheering her on. It was spellbinding. It acted as a turning point for her character along with ringing true for many people who may feel forced to choose between one of their identities over the other.

Ideas similar to this are continually brought up throughout all ten episodes of the season.

One of these ideas was protecting and helping those who are weaker in power than you.

This was highly relevant in the season finale when both witches and mortals were facing the same risk of dying from immortal forces. Aunt Zelda, the less sympathetic of Sabrina’s aunts, surprised me with her determination to protect the mortals instead of only taking care of herself when selfishness had become a theme for her character.

“We are Spellmans so that means that we stand tall with dignity and do what is right,” Miranda Otto, who plays Aunt Zelda, said in episode ten. “The mortals may be weak but they do not deserve this grim fate. Doom has been unleashed by witches so it must be averted by witches.”

This shows that even the most hardened people still feel the need to protect those with less power than them. Since her people are the cause of a problem, she wants to try to make it better for others than only looking out for herself.

The way this line was placed in the narrative allowed for this theme to seamlessly weave into the storyline.

Another line from the season finale that drew my attention was one of the interactions between Sabrina and her teacher Ms. Wardwell. As a woman, this line resonated with me and had me thinking about it hours after finishing the season.

“I know you’re scared, Sabrina, because all women are taught to fear power,” Michelle Gomez’s Ms. Wardwell said in episode ten. “Own your power. Don’t accept it from the Dark Lord. Take it. Wield it. Save your friends.”

While, in context with Wardwell’s character, this line may have come across as pushing Sabrina into taking hold of the dark power she’d been running from, I believe there is validation in what Wardwell said. Own who you are and do not be afraid of that scaring other people. It’s inspirational and stirs something within me.

The show integrated real world problems in a fictional, witchy setting that allowed creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa to brew these problems in different perspectives that could reach the minds of different people.

While “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” will always be part of my childhood, “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” is brewing something different and more substantial due to its take on serious issues and beautiful cinematography.

“Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” has a cast of characters for everybody. Along with the quality storyline, directing and acting, it is inclusive and self aware of the world it’s coming in to.

Luckily, the show has been picked up for a second season and began filming shortly after season one premiered on Oct. 26.

VoicesBrianna Taggart