A defining mark of the Churchian is his inability to recognize evil. Or hers; I didn’t realize this coming review was written by a female until the very end. I haven’t watched this show which makes reviewing it problematic, but I’m actually interested in the reviewer missing the real Evil for the fake one.
The Problem of Evil in ‘The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’
By S.D. Kelly, 5 April 2019
It has been two decades since the Harry Potter series emerged as a cultural phenomenon. When the story of the boy wizard who attends the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry began to dominate children’s literature, evangelicals wondered if it was okay to allow their children to read the books.
It was okay because magic was just a gimmick, another word for engineering. Magic has been in stories since before Greek mythology. In hindsight, the anti-Potter crowd’s problem was the witch stuff being unavoidably public. Probably hit too close to Daddy’s suspicions about what little Princess was most likely learning in college… not differential equations.
I remember being suspicious that Mrs. Dudley was vocally anti-magic to the point of maltreating young Harry, she being an otherwise typical housewife, but Mrs. Weasley was also a housewife (and of much higher quality) so my suspicion that the Dudleys were a metaphor for the ills of traditional family life didn’t pan out.
That sort of thing is what real evil looks like. Human behaviors twisted away from God’s designed standard. Horns and hooves are very secondary.
As the series continued, however, it became increasingly clear that the mechanical nature of the magic practiced by Harry and his friends carried with it very little of the occult. Ultimately, Harry Potter seems more concerned with matters of the material world than the spiritual, despite the occasional contention with ghosts.
You know what the major difference is between the material and spiritual worlds? The material world is rigidly right and wrong, actions and consequences. Masculine. But the spiritual world is murky, poorly defined and experienced not studied. Matriarchal. Not feminine, because the feminine appreciates the masculine. Only feral wimminz despise male headship.
So for the majority of Christians, the question of whether or not Harry Potter was a sort of gateway drug for the harder stuff of real witchcraft fizzled into nothing. Evangelicals, just like everyone else, waited eagerly for each new book to be released, doing their part to enhance the series’ sales, currently pegged at around 400 million copies.
On the one hand, the books aren’t good enough to stand the test of time. (Especially with Rowling retconning sodomy into the series.) On the other hand, kids started reading books again. So, a net gain for society.
Now a new generation is experiencing their own moment of cultural resurgence when it comes to wizardry and witchcraft. Only this time around, it doesn’t seem quite so benign.
We’re Not in ‘Potterville Anymore’
This fall, Netflix released The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (with a bonus Christmas episode released in December). The series, which returns for a second season today, is based on the comic books published in 2014 by Archie Horror, which were a darker take on the character of the young witch Sabrina Spellman. Since first debuting in an Archie comic in 1962, Sabrina has made multiple appearances in various pop culture media, her fortunes rising and falling with the corresponding interest in the supernatural in pop culture. Before The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, the most well-known of the recent iterations (among comic books, TV shows, and animated series) of Sabrina was the popular 1990s sitcom Sabrina the Teenage Witch, starring the bright-eyed and chipper Melissa Joan Hart.
Doesn’t sound much different from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. More on the 90s sitcom at the end.
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina may be similar to the ’90s sitcom in that it features a 15-year-old protagonist (the compelling Kiernan Shipka), but this is no show for kids. True, Sabrina Spellman is dealing with some ordinary teen problems in her beloved town of Greendale: the ups and downs of her relationship with her boyfriend, Harvey, her social life at Baxter High, and confronting the school’s smarmy principal as he refuses to stop the bullying of one of Sabrina’s best friends (who, in one of many of-the-moment plot threads, is attacked for not conforming to gender expectations). Domestic considerations are in play as well. Sabrina is the product of a love match between her high-born wizard father and her human mother. Orphaned as a young girl, she lives with her two aunts and her cousin, who, fittingly, are in the business of embalming and interring the dead as proprietors of Greendale’s mortuary.
This gave me a chuckle. Strong&Independent wimminz successfully breaking the glass ceiling into the funerary-industrial complex! Enjoying the Male Privilege of embalming Baby Boomers! Then I noticed her antagonism with the (apparently) only father-figure in her life, the school principal. If that principal didn’t protect a “trans-gender” kid from being bullied for claiming to be a freak then he’s a good guy. The openly-committed sexual violation of children called “transgenderism” is one of several reasons that barring plague or starvation, I expect to see Aggro Jesus work out some frustration upon the planet before I die.
Yo, clergy. God made us male and female, yes? Remember reading in the papers that mothers are forcing sex changes upon children as young as infants? Are you not connecting the dots? Because they hate God, they want to deny that God made us male and female. First upon themselves, then upon those they can force themselves upon.
Sabrina’s conflict with her aunts ranges from the usual issues with curfew to the slightly more unusual: her strong desire to avoid pledging her life to Satan.
In healthier times, she could complain to the local priest, who would confirm the accusation of witchcraft, burn the witches at the stake and help Sabrina find adoptive parents who won’t sacrifice her to the literal devil in a world made safer for kids by the intolerant servants of the Cross. Or maybe the principal she doesn’t like but is the legitimate leader of the school? That’s a show I’d watch.
Who does the author think IS watching this show? And why? Serious questions.
Sabrina is just days away from her 16th birthday, which happens to fall on an important day for her family and coven: the convergence of a blood moon and the holiday of Samhain. It is also the date of her dark baptism, when Sabrina will renounce her humanity and pledge her soul to the devil. This pledge is sealed by cutting her hand and using her own blood to write her name in Satan’s Book. This act can never be revoked, and Sabrina will have to obey every wish of the dark lord for the rest of her very long, sordid life.
This is where the red flags start. A girl’s 16th birthday is the milepost of sexual maturity. Engineering crossed with magic isn’t a concern but sexuality crossed with magic absolutely is.
Also, that’s a disturbingly negative portrayal of marriage, a lifetime commitment to a guy who will command her obedience forever. Forget Satan, this slander against marriage is the True Evil in this picture.
The show is (sort of) set in the 1960s of the original Archie comic, although with plenty of anachronisms (a reference to the 1985 movie The Goonies, for instance). More to the point, Sabrina also borrows liberally from other entries into the witchcraft genre, with Sabrina’s admission into a boarding school for witches as a central conceit—the Netflix version of Hogwarts. The show also borrows from other, more disconcerting sources: a statue of Satan stands in the inner courtyard of the school, an exact replica of the very showy statue of the goat-headed Baphomet that the real-world members of the Satanic Temple have placed in front of the Arkansas capitol building. (The free publicity notwithstanding, this tribute, complete with adoring children gazing up at the devil, was not well-received by members of the Satanic Temple, who initially sued Netflix for copyright infringement before eventually settling out of court.)
Posting occult symbols in public can easily backfire on the perpetrators. Similar to the “Piss Christ” art installation which came close to ending the National Endowment for the Arts, such symbology reminds people they need to choose one side and fight against the other. For us Christians, everything is easier when it’s exposed to the light.
In spite of all this, for much of the series The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina manages a light touch. The show does not lose sight of the fact that it is ultimately intended as a piece of pop culture. The fast-paced dialogue and whip-smart acting (a combination of Gilmore Girls and Buffy the Vampire Slayer) bring a wryness that is a welcome contrast to the dark—very dark—imagery. Sabrina herself is bright and cheery, if annoyingly earnest. When she’s not contemplating whether or not to be the bride of Satan, she is taking on moral crusades in the hallways of Baxter High, outwitting her principal to found a school-sponsored book club for girls. The name of the club is long and confusing, but succeeds in forming the acronym W.I.C.C.A. Subtle, Sabrina is not.
Subtle enough to fool you. Per this account, the WICCA club came into existence by thwarting legitimate male authority. That’s the evil. Not the name.
But neither is the real world. Something of a resurgence of interest in witchcraft is taking place in our culture, even though it hasn’t reached mainstream levels. Over an 18-year period beginning in 1990, Barry Kosmin of Trinity College conducted three studies on American Religious Self-Identification. Research indicated a sharp increase in the practice of Wicca, with the self-identified number of Wiccans growing from 8,000 in 1990 to 340,000 in 2008.
“Even though it hasn’t reached mainstream levels”? Satanism doesn’t start with voodoo dolls or dancing around pentagrams with sacrificial chickens. It starts with destroying fathers, leaving children vulnerable to a predators & sexual perversion… for the second phase. By the time a female reaches the point of open declaration, she’s long past the Slut Event Horizon.
Fatherhood is a symbol of Father God. Thus, female independence/empowerment is rebellion against God. Monogamy is a symbol of Christ and the Church. The death of monogamy is blasphemy against Christ. Only after a full generation of such hatred against God is society beginning to sprout idols of Baphomet.
Connect the dots, clergy. It’s only your job.
Still, even at its verifiable peak, this represents a tiny fraction of the American population, and it is unclear if the numbers have increased as dramatically in the decade since data from the last study was released.
Per the study, Wicca grew 4,150% in 18 years. Be honest, author: it hasn’t fallen just as quickly. Don’t pretend it might have. Heresy and blasphemy are becoming so obvious that you church box tyrants are having trouble keeping your incompetence and disengagement secret from the sheep.
“Why are all the men leaving Church?”
“Don’t worry. When they repent, I’ll forgive them.”
“What should we do about gender-neutral bathrooms and sodomy being elevated to a civil right?”
“Don’t worry, that’s happening outside the Church.”
“They just installed the Arch of Baal on the Capitol lawn!”
“It’s only a protest.”
“My daughter just asked for a Satan-themed birthday party!”
“Uh… uhhh… it’s a… metaphor… Don’t blame me! What did I do?”
That said, the sense that interest in the practice of witchcraft is spreading is fueled by the anecdotal and aesthetic—an increased disaffection with organized religion…
She blames the people who abandoned the Church because it didn’t confront the rising tide of evil, for causing the rising tide of evil?
..an increase in Etsy sales of sage bundles and crystals, and a pop culture boom.
The reason it’s spreading is not crystal knickknacks being on the market. “How pretty! What’s it for?.. Shrug, sure, I’ll try to summon Hastur. What could go wrong?” No. Just no.
Similarly, magic has been everywhere in literature since before Greek mythology. It isn’t evil until it’s twisted into an evil pattern.
Writer and filmmaker Alex Mar wrote of the rising profile of witchcraft in her 2015 book Witches of America. Initially taking on the detached perspective of the documentarian, Mar becomes increasingly attracted to the practice of witchcraft by meeting witches who convey a sense of purpose and self-fulfillment—qualities Mar longs for. She decides to study … witchcraft, with the goal of becoming a full-fledged, practicing witch.
Something easily predicted from her name, the masculine-sounding Alex Mar, her home, New York City, and her husband, who doesn’t exist. Real witchcraft is the religion of female rebellion, God without intermediary, power without rules. Not the religion of some neo-paganism.
As a thoroughly secular person, one studiously raised to be open to all truths and committed to none, Mar longs for the certainty and reassurance of belief. In the end, she is struck by the religious aspect of witchcraft. “To have a legitimate, unpretended connection to God or Goddess or an entire army of godlike forms,” Alex Mar writes, “to have sincere religious beliefs at all—you have to connect on a level that is more than intellectual.” In the end, Mar cannot commit.
The chick crack of You Shall Be As God.
The real-world Alex Mar is never confronted in the same way as the fictional Sabrina Spellman: No one asks her to pledge her soul to the Prince of Darkness himself. But she does come to realize that she is being asked to believe. The practice of witchcraft is to take on and attempt to channel the power of a force outside of ourselves, one we cannot understand.
The chick crack of Taming the Unicorn.
This truth, in a way, is the great gift that The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is offering to a culture increasingly enamored of witchcraft. The series does not sugarcoat what is happening to the characters; it does not wrap Sabrina’s dilemma in a charming veneer of quirky house elves and Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavored Beans. Sabrina cannot gain the world—in this case, the magical world—without losing her soul.
Correction, Sabrina cannot become Strong and Independent if she gives in to the temptation of marriage.
This is a choice Harry Potter never has to make. His dilemma is framed more generally as being between light and darkness, of choosing the noble Dumbledore over the wretched Voldemort. Sabrina, on the other hand, faces the nature of evil itself head-on.
The choice between light and darkness IS facing the nature of evil. This world has one truth and ten million lies. Although I admit, Harry never had a choice. When the villain tried to murder you once and is Jonesing to do it again, choosing Good is easy. One reason Harry Potter will never be taught in literature classes.
*checks* I take that back.
Satan in Sabrina is not somewhere offstage, an unseen dark force animating a range of haunted house villains. In this story, Satan is front and center, and he has not been rehabilitated for a secular, 21st-century audience.
He’s been reinvented to represent the evil of monogamy rejected by a heroic, newly sexually active girl.
Yet as a pop culture artifact in keeping with its times, the show still cannot resist glamorizing Sabrina’s eventual decision to throw in her lot with him. That decision, according to TVLine, gave her “a new look, a new attitude and a new outlook on the screwed up world around her.” The show’s star, Kiernan Shipka, says, “It’s the right amount of heartbreaking and sexy and intriguing,” and suggests that the character’s new power may help her beat Satan at his own game, even as she has taken a blood oath to serve him forever.
She gives in to marriage intending to twist the marriage against her husband and break her vow.
The references to sexiness come from this show being at least half a soap opera.
But underneath the sexiness, Sabrina’s story is still a dark, disturbing tale, one reminiscent of the foundational human story found in the Garden of Eden. We are all asked to choose, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina seems to be saying, between good and evil, between God and ourselves. But while the show evokes the temptation of Eve in the Bible (in a scene with Sabrina plucking an apple from an ancient tree in order to gain knowledge), Sabrina never truly confronts the very human dilemma of choosing between God and the self. Instead, Sabrina’s trouble is framed as that of choosing between different kinds of self-empowerment: her life lived according to the dictates of her own power or one in which she submits her power to Satan. In this way Sabrina’s dilemma is, perhaps, a false one, since she is choosing her self either way. The concept of submitting to a good God is never even mentioned, let alone framed as an option.
Like I said above, ten million lies. One truth. Should Sabrina submit to an evil marriage or live free and selfish? The correct answer is not even hinted at.
The choice Sabrina makes—regardless of the nobility of her motives and the resulting increase of her power through her self-knowledge—means that she cannot, in the ultimate sense, possibly do good.
The chick crack of Not Her Fault.
And if The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina continues to be honest about the devil’s purpose…
It hasn’t begun to be honest. We just discussed how it set up a false dilemma.
…it will eventually have to acknowledge that all the glamour and empowerment in the world can’t enable us to use his power for our own ends. “You cannot serve two masters,” Jesus said. We can cloak the choice in vagaries and obfuscation, in fantastic stories of fulfilling destinies and personal empowerment, but, in the end, we must make an answer, and there is no middle ground.
Remember the questions I asked above? “Who does the author think is watching this show? And why?” It’s young women watching it because it ties in with, simultaneously, their healthy desire to get married and their unhealthy desire to not submit. Watching it be portrayed as one evil balanced against another absolves her of consequences while indulging fantasies of either Eat, Pray, Love or Tame the Unicorn. During which, she snubs men in authority over her because they deserve to be snubbed.
Original Sin is female rebellion and male capitulation. The devil appears in this show only to illustrate the hatred feminists have for the institution of marriage.
The Harry Potter series didn’t try to depict marriage as a terrible evil. Harry had respect for the men in his life from Dumbledore to even (grudgingly) Mr. Dudley. Chilling Sabrina does depict marriage as evil. It does show disrespect for men. That’s why the Potter series is harmless and Sabrina is not. Not because the devil makes an appearance.
Postscript, the comparison with this older sitcom “Sabrina” is telling. Wikipedia helps me out:
Season 1:The pilot episode opens with Sabrina asleep on her 16th birthday, levitating above her bed. In the morning, her aunts reveal to her that she is a witch, but Sabrina does not believe them until she has a magical talk with her father from inside a book, where her father reveals that he is a witch and her mother is mortal. It is also revealed that Sabrina cannot see her mother, who is in Peru for two years, or her mother will be transformed into a ball of wax. After a rough day at school, Sabrina accidentally turns Libby Chesler, the most popular girl in school, into a pineapple. Fearing that she will appear “weird” to her crush, Harvey Kinkle, Sabrina asks the Witches Council to let her relive that day. The first season follows Sabrina as she tries to keep the balance between being a teenager and having magical powers.
Sabrina learns self-control.
Season 2: At the beginning of the second season, Sabrina turns seventeen and learns that she must earn her witch’s license or otherwise lose her magic. However, she neglects her aunts’ warnings to study for the test to obtain the license and consequently fails it. She then has to attend witch boot camp to earn the chance to take a makeup test. She passes the makeup test, but only receives a learner’s permit. Her aunts explain that she will be able to earn her license when she turns eighteen (“when she can pay for the insurance”) and that she will be tested throughout the year by a Quizmaster, a witch whose job is to instruct witches earning their licenses. Also introduced during the second season are Sabrina’s neurotic friend Valerie and the new school vice principal Mr. Kraft, who finds Sabrina to be very odd and has a crush on Hilda.
Sabrina has to earn a license, like driving a car. Responsible. The sentence about the school VP makes me wonder if Chilling Sabrina is a shameless reboot of this series.
*winces* I must know…
*clicks on a YouTube trailer*
Yep, it’s a reboot.
Oh, Gawd. It’s just like Star Whores. You think Jar Jar Binks is the worst ever, then you want to go back to those happy days of innocence.
Season 3: At the beginning of the third season, Sabrina earns her license, but then learns that in order to use her license, she must solve her family’s secret. (“Every member of the Spellman family is born with a twin”).
She must invest in family.
Season 4: At the beginning of the fourth season, Sabrina is assigned to be a mentor, which is like a Quizmaster, except “Quizmasters get paid”. Sabrina’s charge is Dreama, a witch newly immigrated from the Other Realm. A new student, Brad Alcero, who is also Harvey’s best friend, transfers to Sabrina’s school. Because Brad has a witch-hunter gene (which allows him to turn a witch into a mouse if the witch reveals his/her magic), Sabrina must keep herself and Dreama from using magic in front of Brad. Also, Sabrina begins working at Bean There, Brewed That, a coffee shop, where she meets and is attracted to Josh (played by David Lascher), a college student who is the manager of the shop, which leads to her kissing him and thus cheating on Harvey, who ends their relationship, but they soon get back together. Both Dreama and Brad are written out of the series without explanation over the course of the season. At the end of the season, Harvey reaches his “spell quota” (meaning that no spells can be used on him anymore) and discovers that Sabrina is a witch, and later breaks up with Sabrina off screen and is written out of the show prior to the start of the next season.
Older women teaching younger women is even Biblical, although I see why the audience left at this season. Rights were sold off and the series rebooted with:
Seasons 5 & 6: [Irredeemable soap opera trash].
Season 7: In the series finale Sabrina calls off her wedding with Aaron and runs off with Harvey, her soul mate… In the last scene of the series, Sabrina and Harvey ride off on his motorcycle to the song ‘Running’ by No Doubt, Sabrina’s favorite band.
She gets married after suitable sitcom theatrics. A standard love triangle.
Obviously a worthless and completely immoral show, but I’m talking about the soap opera-ness and not the magic, which was a vehicle to drive the plot. To the extent that witchcraft was a central issue, it was something Sabrina had to control and direct as part of her maturity, and not just sexual maturity. All was well with puerile, low-brow entertainment.
New, Chilling Sabrina is a Third Wave appeal to the fallen female id of rebellion and romantic-sexual indulgence. Overt demonic activity is only used to vilify marriage.
What a difference a couple decades makes during Convergence. But you already knew that from Star Whores.