Girl, You’ve Gotta be an Ally!
I’m really enjoying the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, but…is it an accidental critique of white feminist culture? With season two, I kept waiting for our antihero ‘Brina to make better choices, to save the world, to do things unselfishly for other people, to act in the spirit of inclusivity, to acknowledge her flaws, and to grow. But it never really happens. The delicious visual overhead parallel shots invite us to judge from a moral high ground.
In the first episode, they set us up to go all Zeitgeisty feminist, let’s bust up the boys’ club. But it never really lands. It’s awesome to watch Theo’s transition, his joining the boys’ basketball team, and Roz’s struggle with her vision and coping with tremendous amounts of loss. Then those story lines tend to fade away as Brina becomes consumed with investigating the depths of her own personal power. It feels like second wave feminism dressed up with modern sexualilty and better casting, but it’s actually regressive and missing the mark.
By episode two, the show gives us lots of moral food for thought with lines like Zelda’s “Is anyone truly innocent?”, and Sabrina declaring “I’m the reason Roz has chicken pox”, but no one is really eating or digesting that food. We see the physical manifestation of the Dark Lord (Sabrina’s bad choices) appearing on her skin and in her bedroom. She makes a big to-do about defying him, because feminism? However, in her own personal life (sans Dark Lord) Brina goes on making bad choices, being a bad friend, niece, and girlfriend without a worry or a blink of an eye. So it’s a tough watch. I want to root for her, her potential, and her resistance to the patriarchy, but she’s not really doing anything consistently great with her power. She’s a bad community member!
The writers seem to acknowledge our antihero’s lack of personal strength when they give her the love she deserves in the form of Nick, the devious warlock who can’t be trusted. She bi-shames him in episode four and I had to take a break. In episode five, here come more milquetoast moral nutritional offerings! Someone gives Brina her deceased father’s manifesto, which helps guide her on her mission to overthrow the church of night. However, it’s just a short list of ways to subvert the church’s overtly patriarchal tendencies.
This is where the show just keeps missing the bullseye for me. Yes, let women be priests, let women have power, but also once they achieve this status, let’s subvert the actual structure and share that power, not just act like those who created the flawed system in the first place and call it a great day for equality. Likewise, don’t ignore your friends who are LGBTQIA, POC, and low-income, and only call on them when you need help. They don’t exist only to serve Brina, or as plot devices.
Despite the show’s shallow exploration of feminism, I found a lot to celebrate: the performances of Michelle Gomez (be still my heart), amazing cameos of sci-fi and occult heroes Mark Frost and the Cigarette Smoking Man, tons of gothic and occult themes, and a lot of queerness. Though it’s a bit too shallow for me, I’ll keep watching, giggling, shaking my head, and praying Pru gets a spinoff.