Back when I was ten or eleven or so, my extended family wanted me to become a Jehovah’s Witness, because most of my family follow that religion. At that same time, I was heavy into Sabrina the Teenage Witch, I mean I absolutely loved that show (way more than I do today) and watched every episode. Besides Scrubs, I believe that was one of the only American sitcoms I had ever stayed dedicated to. Now when my extended family tried to coerce me into becoming a Jehovah’s witness, I, a young child, ignorant of the world, optimistic, and not yet the jaded writer who types these words today, was intrigued by this premise. I would be protected from Satan. I’d have a good support unit around me. And I’d have everlasting life in paradise after the world ended–I’d even be able to have a tiger as a pet (yes…they tried to coerce me by promising a tiger as a pet in the afterlife…woo…), but there was a caveat. In order to gain all of these wonderful (not real) benefits, I would have to give up belief in (not real) witch craft and all media pertaining to it. Of course I then asked if that meant giving up watching Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and when they confirmed my fears, I rejected that offer. I wasn’t going to give up watching magical hi-jinks and a sarcastic talking cat for anything. Now I reject the opportunity to be a Jehovah’s Witness for much different reasons that I won’t get into, and extended family, if you’re reading this, Hi. I’m sorry. Anyways, Sabrina the Teenage Witch saved me from a life of dedicating my time to things other than writing, video games, and being an asshole, so the series is near and dear to me, and of course when I saw that Netflix had a re-adaptation (I…I refuse to call it a reboot) of the series, I had to watch it. I even re-started my Netflix account in order to watch (which reminds me, December 4th I gotta cancel it, shit’s expensive and I’ve got a catalog of games to buy).
So having seen at least one trailer for the series, I already had the notion that this series would be darker toned, but the question was really if it were a taking itself too seriously dark, a middle school edgy dark, or a campy dark. For the most part it felt like the ladder, presenting itself with a delightful corniness that kept me watching. Though I admit, it was weird to see characters I had known and grown up with transformed and re-adapted.
I mean, Aunt Zelda went from a wise aunt filled with knowledge who was protective and kind to an overprotective WASP-y aunt who was all about keeping appearances and praised Satan…or what some Christians might know as a regular WASP-y aunt. Aunt Hilda, in this version, was less goofy and gained a British accent (yet Zelda, for some reason, didn’t have one and that confused me). Salem wasn’t a wizard turned into a cat as punishment, but was instead a goblin serving as Sabrina’s familiar (likely, and understandably, for budgetary reasons). And then we were given the addition of Ambrose Spellman, who kind of served Salem’s role as a punished (this case, house arrested) and sarcastic warlock (though he also had a British accent and I really need the show to address that). And at first I wanted to dismiss the character, but he’s black, so I welcomed him with open arms. And then we had Sabrina, who despite the darker tone, the more satanic magic, retains most of her character. And I’ll get to that eventually, but first I want to talk about the world of this show.
Greendale is one of those odd fusions of time, much like Archer or Dragon Ball, where everything feels kind of vintage, yet it’s pretty modern too. It’s a time that doesn’t make sense, seems lo-tech, yet isn’t, and it’s quite charming. When I watched the first episode with my roommate, I kept questioning what time period it was in, with all the…fifties? seventies? style clothing, but then there was a laptop. It’s funky. I like to call it a time, a world, where Donald Trump doesn’t get elected (so what if there are witches and all types of other paranormal perils? this world seems somehow less racist, still pretty misogynistic, but improving).
The cast, Sabrina’s friends, is pretty diverse too and that’s neat. They all have their own story lines to play into and it seems that they’ll develop even further as they get into Part 2 of the series. It was nice to see Harvey be more complex, have fears and progress as a character. Even the story lines, though it sometimes felt as though it looped around and went in odd directions, were threaded well enough into the overarching narrative for me to not mind. Now something I found problematic was just how easily everyone forgave each other for pretty problematic things. Misdeeds and attempted murders seem a bit too easily forgiven, and despite grievances that happen an episode prior, former enemies are quickly turned to allies without clear resolution, though due to the world building and the general campiness of the series, I was fine with looking the other way with these odd plot flaws. In a way, in my head, with of course some mind tricks in play, I tried to convince myself that it all made sense. This is just a wacky world, and regular logic doesn’t work.
Now back to what I find to be the best part of this series, Sabrina Spellman. She is exactly what I want her to be in this series. She’s smart, she’s headstrong, bordering on stubborn and bullheaded. She’s selfish, yet somehow selfless. And Kiernan Shipka’s portrayal of this 15 for a few days, but mainly 16 year old is wonderful (though, episode one really needed to chill with the almost nude scenes with her, the actress is legal, but we don’t need nude scenes of someone portrayed as a 16 year old, it’s weird). She continues to have this belief that she can do anything, when in fact, she can’t. She tries to use her magic to help people, but sometimes those selfless acts turn into weird selfish ones that ultimately backfire. I enjoyed that we got a character who seemed her age, acted how most teens in that position would have, and didn’t get away with their actions cleanly. The were consequences to be dealt with.
Then there’s the themes of the series, which kind of returns to me talking about religion. It’s all cyclical, y’all. It points out the problematic parts of religion, just this time it’s satanism. We see a lot of themes where Satan is afraid of women and wants to control women. We also see an aspect of this witch coven, where you have to consider if you’re giving up your freedom, your ability to live to your fullest, in exchange for great powers. And this can turn into a whole commentary about Christianity, but that’s a whole thing that I’m not gonna do. Anyways the series is great, you should watch it, it’s on Netflix now.
This go around, I’m not going to leave you with nothing. I’m just gonna say, be kind to people. You don’t know who you’ll lose. Later days.