A Midwinter’s Tale: Sabrina the Privileged Witch
As much as I like Netflix’s rebooted Sabrina the Teenage Witch, newly titled “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” there are a few things that I take issue with. I can get past the lack of deep research when it comes to witches, I can get past the sometimes odd pace that can throw a whole episode off. I can even get pass the fact that Salem doesn’t talk. What I can’t get past, however, is the fact that Sabrina is the least likable character in the show. In her own show, Sabrina gets more eye rolls from me than any other characters. The more episodes I watch, the more eye rolls I give. Sabrina spent most of the first season going against everything she was told and everyone around her in an act we were to believe was a plot to defeat Satan. She was being this rebellious girl for the greater good. Turns out, that’s just Sabrina apparently. And it’s something we should get used to. I thought that perhaps in her Christmas special “A Midwinters Tale” we’d get to see a newer more mature Sabrina with everything that happened to her during S1. Unfortunately, I was very much wrong about that.
To be fair, Sabrina is a teenager and teenagers make mistakes. My issue with Sabrina’s mistakes is that she doesn’t seem to learn anything from them. She just finds new ways to lie to her family and new ways to move around rules that are honestly there for her protection. And when things turn bad, Sabrina cries and looks sad and quietly helps her aunts unravel the mess she’s made. Sabrina is very much a privileged white girl. It wasn’t as bad at the beginning of S1 as it now in the Christmas special but it makes me worry that S2 Sabrina isn’t going to have grown at all and will still making messes for the “greater good” instead of learning and honing her magic.
Christmas time to witches is usually known as The Winter Solstice, it’s a time to be with each other and celebrate the new year. It’s not Christmas by any means however with Sabrina being half witch, half mortal it seems the show decided to nix the explanation of Winter Solstice save for a few tips and tidbits and just hope that the audience grasps the concept of “Christmas for Witches”. Which isn’t a problem really, most shows don’t explain the things they should.
In the special, we find Sabrina still thinking about the fact that she saw her mother in Limbo and what that means. If her mother has unfinished business that’s keeping her from crossing over and being at peace, isn’t it her daughters’ job to figure out why? Instead of telling Zelda, Hilda and Ambrose (who are all three much better at magic than she is) Sabrina decides to have a secret seance with The Weird Sisters in the hopes of communicating with her mom. At first, it seems to be working, her mother’s spirit appears and is getting ready to tell Sabrina why she’s stuck. However, the Yule log that witches light to keep evil from coming down the chimney goes out and something not nice comes into the Spellman home. Now it’s really about to a holly jolly winter solstice.
In the world of subplots, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina does an excellent job of crafting side stories for the supporting characters. Ambrose’s side plot of being exiled to the Spellman house is truly fascinating even though it’s never really been explored. Ros’s impending blindness and newly realized visions that tell the future/truth. Harvey’s struggle with his alcoholic and abusive father. Mrs. Wardwell being Satan’s right-hand woman. And Aunt Zelda’s stealing of Father Blackwoods twin daughter makes for a compelling side plot as well. In an odd and ironic sort of way, even though most of the subplots somehow twist back around to connect to Sabrina’s story they’re still better arcs and development than hers. Especially in this Christmas special where Susie is kidnapped by the department store Santa who wants to make her into a doll. The subplot is barely given any development and only a few minutes of screen time but it still is more interesting than the main storyline that’s happening to Sabrina and her aunts.
Even though the subplots are great, we still have to focus on Sabrina because it’s her show. So, getting back to her we find that when the Yule log went out the Yule Lads made their way into the Spellman home. In one afternoon they terrorize Zelda, Hilda, and Ambrose, leaving the family scrambling to figure out what to do about them. Yule Lads are a special kid of spirits that can only come down from the mountains every midwinter, but once they’re in your home they’re almost impossible to get out. They only leave when their mother Gryla the Witch tells them to. Meaning the Spellmans are going to have to summon her and make an offering so she’ll tell her badass spirit children to leave. Simple right? It’s never simple when Sabrina Spellman is involved.
No matter how many times Aunt Zelda reprimands Sabrina, the younger witch doesn’t ever seem to get in through her head that she’s not all powerful. And that bothers me, almost to the point I’m unsure if I’ll be able to watch S2. Sabrina needs some serious character development, she’s a bad friend and honestly an even worse girlfriend. Her need to “fix” things for mortals but ignore the danger she puts her family in is getting old. She kept the fact she was a witch hidden from her friends but then once she does tell them she sends mixed messages by staying away from them (even though Ambrose suggested staying close to them) only to later ask them to join in a seance. Almost like the only time she wants to be around them is when it’s beneficial to her. When it comes to Harvey, her now ex boyfriend, it’s clear that magic makes him uncomfortable but Sabrina with her persistence keeps putting magic upon him and his family. No matter how much he keeps telling her to stop, Sabrina goes against his wishes because she for some reason knows what’s best for him more than he does. It’s nearly text book white girl behavior. And it’s getting in the way of this show being great. I want Sabrina to be a powerful, level-headed and grounded witch. I don’t want her to be a privileged white girl that just so happens to have the power to make people do what she wants. And to me, that seems to be where she’s headed. Sabrina knows she’s special, almost to the point where she uses the fact that others think she’s special to get away with things. Satan may want Sabrina ruling at his side and any other time I’d be down for that as well, I’d love to watch Sabrina turn absolutely evil and rule over everything. But not if she only uses the dark magic of white teenage girl privilege.