But early in “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” now streaming on Netflix, 15-year-old half-witch Sabrina Spellman (Kiernan Shipka) finds herself grappling with an important choice.
“I want both. I want freedom and power,” Sabrina tells Prudence (Tati Gabrielle), a fellow teen witch, wondering why the Dark Lord wants to end her friendships with mortals and transfer her to a private magical high school.
The specifics of Sabrina’s dilemma are fantastical – and a departure both from the bubbly and bubble-haired comics character who made her debut in 1962 and the sunny 1996 sitcom starring Melissa Joan Hart.
For all its riffing on a long-running franchise and its gloss of 1960s style, “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” couldn’t be timelier with its questions about power and how women might use it if they were free to act.
The show’s first season explores how the teen witch tries to strike a balance between gaining greater access to her abilities and winning increased latitude to use them as she sees fit.
It’s easy to read the series as a resistance parable, full of non-binary actors and intersectional feminist high school clubs.
But the series is more gimlet-eyed than that, full of observations about the compromises Sabrina’s aunts, Zelda and Hilda (Miranda Otto and Lucy Davis), have made over the years, and the occasions when Sabrina’s spellcasting leads her into
If “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” merely cheered Sabrina’s independent streak, it wouldn’t be nearly as interesting as it is.
Instead, the show captures an important real-world dynamic: Moments like this one, in which previously marginalized people rise to power, are cause for celebration – and for wrestling with tough conundrums.
It may be true that feminism has something on offer for everyone: Men have plenty to gain from the revision of old gender roles that forced them to shut down their emotions, put pressure on them to be sole breadwinners and pushed them to be hyper-physical, or even violent.
But it’s also the case that when women take on leadership positions in business and government, some individual men will feel as if they’ve lost out.
And as women take power, it’s inevitable that hoary myths about the differences between the sexes won’t stand up to the experience.
“When will the world learn? Women should be in charge of everything,”
That conviction leads Sabrina and her friends Rosalind (Jaz Sinclair) and Susie (Lachlan Watson) to get politically active and to push back against bad decisions by school administrators.
But it also encourages Sabrina to torment her principal (Bronson Pinchot) and to terrorize and blackmail the football players who have been harassing and bullying Susie.
Naomi Alderman’s novel “The Power,” released last October, chronicles the slide into dystopia after girls begin to develop the ability to deliver sharp electric shocks to men.
Because women are human rather than angels, some of them become powerful crime lords, others dictators.
The Washington Post