When witches refuse the Dark Lord

November 15, 2018

Krystal Kara looks at what the Netflix series The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina has to say about #MeToo and women’s right to decide their futures.

ON HALLOWEEN night, a witch was born...well a half-mortal-half-witch named Sabrina Spellman. And her life is wanted by the Dark Lord himself.

On October 26, Netflix released The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Based on a comic that shares the same name, this dark take on a beloved character allows viewers to dive into complex issues.

The series starts by introducing the audience to the world of Greendale and the world of the coven. These two worlds are separate and only through necessity do they interact with one another — but that all changed when Sabrina was born.

Sabrina’s father was the High Priest of the Church of Night and her mother a mortal. The borders between these two worlds got crossed when they fell in love and had a child. Sabrina’s parents tragically died when she was very young.

Kiernan Shipka as Sabrina Spellman in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
Kiernan Shipka as Sabrina Spellman in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

On Sabrina’s 16th birthday, she was supposed to give up her mortal life to join the Church of Night. During her Dark Baptism, a symbolic initiation into the Church of Night and the Greendale coven, she is expected to sign her name and life to the Dark Lord.

On Halloween night, she refused, saying, “My name is Sabrina Spellman. I will not sign it away.” This decision begins Sabrina’s struggle against what witches have always done, giving up their bodies and souls to the Dark Lord.

When we meet Sabrina for the first time, she’s conflicted about her Dark Baptism. Sabrina wants her freedom, to choose who is in her life, what she does with her body and what her future will be. She quickly realizes that once she signs the Dark Lord’s book, she will have to give that all up, and the Dark Lord will own her.

When she refuses, she recalls that High Priest Father Blackwood told her she would have freedom. But Blackwood only said this to try and convince her to go through with the signing ceremony. “He told me I would have free will...In the woods it was the exact opposite of free will.”

IT’S EERIE that this show came out just a few weeks after Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court, while the anti-abortion “40 Days for Life” campaign was underway, and when the topic of reproductive rights and women owning their bodies is coming up time and time again.

On International Women’s Day in 2017, the Revolutionary Workers’ Party in Mexico wrote in a statement, “Questioning the role assigned to us socially and the value given to the work we perform in this system will be a starting point from which more women will join in and initiate a movement, ever more unified and revolutionary on an international scale.”

This is exactly what Sabrina is doing. Sabrina may be alone at first going against the coven and the Dark Lord. However, her questioning the role assigned to her allows more witches and mortals alike to join the fight for their voice.

In the mortal world, the students at Baxter High start a club called Women’s Intersectional Cultural and Creative Association, aka WICCA. WICCA was formed to help support individuals who are oppressed as well as fight for justice and equality.

WICCA is similar to the activist group WITCH (Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell) founded in the 1960s by New York feminists who would dress as witches and cast spells at activist actions.

“WITCH drew on the role of women at the edge of society,” Chicago activist Heather Booth told Broadly. “It also referred to medieval times and to Salem. One way to reclaim to your identity in the face of oppression and to take the sting out of attacks that may be made on you is to take the word of opprobrium, of criticism, and say, ‘OK, I’ll own that.’ In WITCH, we used it as guerrilla theater.”

IN THE coven, Sabrina actively fights for the right to her own body — and for all the witches to see the value that they have and for them to have ownership over their bodies.

Before the Dark Baptism, witches are told to save themselves for the Dark Lord. Once they sign the book, they no longer have control over the decisions in their lives. They no longer control their bodies — the Dark Lord does.

Sabrina actively fights against this and, throughout the series, shows the other witches how ridiculous some of the rituals they do are and how they deserve to have freedom to make their own decisions.

As Tithi Bhattacharya wrote for SocialistWorker.org: “Reproductive choice cannot be just about control over our ovaries. It is about control over our lives: about whether and when to have children, how many children to have, to have time to take care of them, to have public schools to send them to, to have them and their fathers not be behind bars and, most importantly, to have a decent wage to be able to make decisions about all those things.”

Along with ownership over your body, Sabrina supports living true to your decisions about who you want to share that body with.

Susie, played by Lachlan Watson, is questioning and attempting to come to terms with their gender identity. Their character is very open about being non-binary and helping to bring their experience into the role. Throughout the show, the characters talk about polyamorous relationships and how it’s natural, despite what the mortals believe.

Though this show has 10 episodes so far and Sabrina still seems to be in this fight without many on her side, you can see the potential for this show to grow and become a beacon for so many young people to keep fighting.

I have no doubt that you will see more protest signs that are about witches in the upcoming months. After all, we all have a little witchyness in us. This show is giving people hope. As SocialistWorker.org pointed out, “The year of #MeToo has shown how a spark can be fanned into a wildfire. But it also underlines how far we have to go to keep the fire burning.”

This show reflects that — and shows that we must always keep fighting.

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