Re-imagining the Teen Drama for 2018: A Darker Teenage Witch

Curator's Note

Following a darker tone from shows like Stranger Things and House of Cards, Netflix has added an ominous reboot of Sabrina the Teenage Witch this season. The shift from the original Archie Comic’s Sabrina, to the 1990’s sitcom Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and finally to Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is quite stark. Based on a 2014 graphic novel series of the same name, Netflix’s reboot of the classic storyline contains Satanists, dark magic, struggling high school students, and death coupled with big and sometimes difficult topics like sexual orientation, love, and religion. I argue that this dark tone, besides following in the footsteps of other successful series, is a specific way to approach the issues to overtly emphasize the struggles young women face specific to 2018.

Many scholars have utilized a “prime-time feminism” (Mayne & Dow, 1996) theory of analysis and have pointed to the high amount of “girl power” and feminism aired during prime time in the 1980’s and 1990’s (Projansky & Vande Berg, 2000). However, this televised feminism is generally not very intersectional and does not necessarily progress the conversation around feminism forward. But it does allow female viewers to interact with the show in a critical way. I believe that the darker reboot of “Sabrina” uses extreme extensions and allegories, like the “Feast of Feasts” in episode seven to emphasize the importance of the conversation about feminism, updating “prime-time feminism.”

The “Feast of Feasts” is a long standing coven tradition where one of the witches is chosen as “tribute” to have her throat slit and get eaten by the other witches and wizards. Sabrina seems to be the only person appalled by the practice and sets out to make a point. To accomplish this goal she must blackmail the male leader of the church into banning the event, but an extremely “pious” witch slits her own throat anyway. This cannibalism of women is clearly an allegory for violence against women and patriarchy, and Sabrina is disappointed by the lack of positive outcome. In combination with other shows’ dark tone, these overemphasized allegories works to get to young women interested in the feminist conversation.

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