This Netflix re-boot of the “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” comics comes with a modern, neo-punk twist highlighting the darker elements of the original story with an unprecedented edge. While the series falls short in terms of actual horror and veers into the rather cheesy elements typical of scary movies, the set design and overall concept is refreshing, especially in regard to its presentation and cinematography.
The show’s main character is Sabrina Spellman – a 16-year-old, half-witch, half-mortal. The plot explores her conflicting identities, which manifests in a conflict between the imposing institutions of her corresponding selves. Because her father was the high priest of the “Church of Night” – a church for witches and warlocks who serve Satan, Sabrina is expected to follow his footsteps and consign herself to “The Dark Lord.” But her father himself disobeyed the Church of Night and married a mortal woman, which is a forbidden union under his religious creed. Their controversial relationship followed Sabrina even after her parents perished.
As the Church of Night seeks to convert Sabrina, the independent, outspoken teen soon realizes the drawbacks of converting. Her witchy powers are granted to her under the agreement that she serves the Dark Lord, completely renouncing her free will, despite what the church might preach otherwise. Sabrina contends the Church for their hypocritical commandments, a conflict that while shrouded in fiction, echoes of very real issues women face today.
What really ties this re-boot together is its underlying message.
Sabrina opposes both the Church of Night’s oppression of female witches, as well as the patriarchal human world she encounters daily as a regular high school student. Her struggle to quell the upheaval between her labels is relatable: as a witch, she is to renounce mortal affairs, and as a human, she cannot exist as anything else. For audience members who have similar internal conflicts, such as viewers who identify as queer and religious, Sabrina’s turmoil symbolizes a conflict that transcends the TV screen.
As a strong-willed teen, Sabrina’s resilience echoes that of thousands of young women today. She dukes it out with her school principal to establish a women-empowerment club, simultaneously protecting her bullied friend, Susie, who also represents an important minority voice as a student struggling with gender expression. Besides this, Sabrina’s boyfriend suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder which arose due to childhood trauma, and she must cope with another friend who is losing both her eyesight and faith. To elaborate more on the sheer depth of these characters, Sabrina’s boyfriend also deals with poor parenting on his fathers’ side and a seemingly absent mother while Sabrina’s cousin is a queer man of color who copes with overbearing loneliness.
This is only the tip of the iceberg regarding the diversity Sabrina brings to Netflix’s cinematic landscape. With the show’s apparent popularity, there was also a Christmas episode streaming Dec. 14. Torch readers don’t sleep on good TV – trust me when I say Sabrina caters to all kinds of audience members with its pleasant cinematography, muted sociopolitical discourse and character diversity.
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