Disclaimer: Yvonne is not a TV viewer (Weather Channel, Al Roker and a few cute guys on HGTV are her preferences). She would review books, as many as possible with as many words as possible here. Our culture demands some attention to websites and television that she is not willing to exercise, so this is fully Jo’s blog entry this month.
Sabrina, The Chilling Adventures
Sabrina has resurfaced on the radar in recent months with Netflix’s new iteration of this series. The old series starring Melissa Joan Hart was a fun favorite, but not enough for today’s better acknowledgement of teenage angst, fem-power and gender fluidity, among other things. Archie Comics are also releasing a new comic iteration of Sabrina which is previewed on their site.
For what it is worth, children and teens have always been more delightfully engaged with their darker natures than what parents are willing to acknowledge. Gavin and Yvonne unwittingly entered into this fray with Scotty Hollander’s “Herne’s Promise.” What children are doing and what their parents hope they are doing can sometimes be a gulf that a few conciliatory words cannot bridge. We have always wanted children to be safe, in open, loving trusting parental relationships that can mean having tough conversations or experiences, sometimes harder for the parent than the child. The new Sabrina does some of this, for sure.
It is amusing to watch Netflix’s Sabrina. I have always enjoyed this series of comics, especially Archie, and this series suggests to me that watching Riverdale might also be fun. It would be amusing to you to watch me watch this series. There are so many cringeworthy moments, and I get quite a work out cringing at all the appropriate moments! My mother’s voice is certainly one that is in my head, and when they say silliness such as “Hail, Satan!” or “Satan be praised.” There I go, cringing away. Stick a needle in a poppet (cringe)! Possession (cringe)! A darker person might turn this into a drinking game, but that person would be unwell by the time they finish watching me watching Sabrina.
Older Gods versus Newer Gods
The new season, January 2020, amps up the cringeworthy moments with Pagans as the bad guys demonstrating mostly the negative aspects of the older gods. It seems that nobody is “good” in this series, just as nobody is shallow, either.
For the record, no, modern Witches are not Satanists. This has been hashed and rehashed. I really do not need to explore this here. No, modern Witches that I know of, do not bathe in blood or have virgins make pacts with the devil (refer to not worshipping Satan above). There are some interesting moments though, and some thoughtful comments about Satan embedded within the dialogue that you might miss. Most appealing are a couple of comments made to the effect that Satan accepts us for who we are, as the flawed beings we embody and loves us for that. Whoever wrote that, kudos.
Salem, the Black Cat
How Salem is handled in this iteration of Sabrina is more kind than the previous Nickelodeon series. I really enjoyed a snarky black cat as a victim of circumstance, although old-Salem was more a victim of his undoing and his punishment reflected his crime. Doesn’t mean a person can’t resent the lesson after all. (Who doesn’t?) But, the new Salem, as an effective familiar, is pretty awesome too. That girl needs to show that cat more love – he’s a good guy!
Another positive addition, Sabrina’s cousin, Ambrose, is such a breath of fresh air. He helps alleviate the missing talking black cat, but he also addresses what today’s youth are facing more and more of. He doesn’t look, act, or feel like everybody else. Thank all that is holy. He will reach young people, just like Sabrina’s friends, that have not seen anyone like them on TV ever. And, oh my goodness, what a blessing paid television has become. I adore the characters of the hourglass figures, the unusual skin tone (paper bag test, anyone), the skin coloring that defies lighting for pasty white people, I just want more and more of this. (I will fight anyone that suggests that Tilley on Star Trek Discovery is not breathtakingly beautiful.) Prudence will become a fan favorite on Season 3, I hope.
Self-Esteem for the Win
Finally, another positive, Sabrina’s family (non-traditional – is anyone paying attention) have raised her with enough self-esteem that she has not sacrificed her virginity to teenage peer pressure. I am surrounded by teens daily that are acting like adults and it bothers me to no end. I want for them what a fictional character has – enough self-esteem to love and be loved without delving into the physical yet. I believe that I started with physical acts before I was ready and my students have started way before I did. How to convey that to them? Why, pop culture, of course. Why not? These children are often not having this kind of conversation with their parents.
The Value of Pop-Culture
Without doing it on purpose, pop culture is reaching young people who have been left out of mainstream for decades. No, there still is not a character that looks like me internally, but I can enjoy those that are more similar than they were before. We have had fantasy in our books, and mythology, thanks to many bold writers that set beautiful coming of age stories in the fantasy world and those were made into wonderful movies (JK Rowling isn’t alone in this, but she’s made so much money reaching a group of people that no one was smart enough to before.).
This new iteration of Sabrina on Netflix is fun and dark. It will reach teenagers and the writers are doing good things for these kids. They write about death in a way many families simply will not discuss. In one episode, Nick talks about being controlled by girls using sex in a way that is unsurprising, and that he no longer wants any part of that. And then the possessed teacher stabs a poppet and there I am cringing again.
There is so much contained within popular culture that is valuable. It can’t be all cringeworthy moments. The lunar ritual for the hare moon, one of many shown in this Sabrina series, brings me to tears. I have not had such positive, loving experiences. For a moment or two, I want to be Cerce, fierce in her beauty and rage. If you have kids, watch this show with them, and then talk about it. The Pagan community is talking about it, you really should with your family. If fertility among teenagers is more palatable on the small screen than on paper, so be it, as long as you have that conversation with your teen.
Enter at your own risk. Count your blessings Sabrina is on TV and not real. Watch this with your kids, because it might open the door to some meaningful loving conversations which we all need to be having. And, recognize, please recognize, that your children may be more familiar with the dark sides of humanity than you ever imagined. It is more harmful to ignore this than to address it, no matter what your discomfort level as a parent might be.