Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is a lot spookier than the original Sabrina the Teenage Witch series from the late ’90s. Sabrina’s house: creepier. Her aunts: meaner. Her warlock cousin: hotter? Her high-school boyfriend: broody and weirdly handsome? Her cat: never speaks.
There are some similarities, though. Like the original—which starred Melissa Joan Heart, Caroline Rhea, and Beth Broderick—the new Sabrina focuses on the life of a young woman (Kiernan Shipka) navigating high school, friends, romance, and being a witch. But as Shipka explained at the series premiere in Los Angeles on Friday night, the Netflix adaptation is also more explicitly feminist, pitting an enterprising Sabrina against the male-dominated world of witches. “She’s a woke witch,” Shipka said.
Sabrina, who is half-mortal, half-witch, is reluctant to leave the real world behind for the patriarchal magical world. Per Variety: “I think that [premise] in and of itself is very feminist and she’s a strong independent woman and she stands up for herself and does what she thinks is right,” Shipka said.
The term “woke” should probably be retired at this point, given that these days, it’s mostly used as an insult. But the show is actively trying to be more progressive and inclusive of different gender identities and sexualities. (Sabrina’s cousin, played by Chance Perdomo, was billed as pansexual at the time of casting.) Shipka’s co-star Lachlan Watson also referred to the show’s intersectional feminism, as demonstrated by their character Susie, who is non-binary (as is Watson):
“Susie provides a side of feminism that really represents that you really don’t have to be female to be a feminist. It really encompasses all minorities and all misunderstood people, or gender inequality as a whole, I think,” they said. “Throughout Susie’s sort of queer journey — specifically a bit of a genderqueer journey — which really speaks to me, it’s having that group of incredible feminists behind their back.”
That’s nice! Will Sabrina’s cat decide to speak up against the pitfalls of toxic masculinity, too? Only time will tell.