‘Sabrina’ isn’t some feminist manifesto, you weirdos
Just because a character says ‘intersectional feminism’ doesn’t mean the show is feminist!
All over the Internet, people have lauded the feminist messages in Netflix's "Chilling Adventures of Sabrina" reboot. Countless thinkpieces have been written about how feminist the show is, how radical and inclusive the cast and plot is, and how magic is, in fact, a metaphor for the patriarchy. Or wait, is magic actually empowering? Nobody really seems to know, but what they do know is that the show is "undeniably feminist."
Just look at all those strong female characters running around, being strong and female! "Women should be in charge of everything," an evil witch masquerading as a school teacher tells Sabrina. Girl power, am I right? Who run the world?!
And this isn't just your regular feminism — no, this is INTERSECTIONAL feminism. Oooh, fancy. We know this because it is literally spelled out for us: "Women Intersectional Cultural and Creative Association" or WICCA is the name of the school club that Sabrina founds. Get it, ladies? It's like a reference to how witchcraft is super empowering — and apparently also super intersectional, although we don't really see much of that. Just take our word for it, okay?
If you still don't quite understand, then there's a nice close-up shot of a "women supporting women" sign. Get it now, idiots?
See, here's the thing. The plotline that everyone is calling "empowering" and "feminist af" is actually contrived, shallow, and frankly condescending because of how it hits you over the head over and over again with the same message. FEMINISM. GIRL POWER. WHITE PATRIARCHY. There is no nuance, no subtlety, and no deeper message underneath all the sophisticated-sounding jargon and catchphrases. In fact, dare I say that the show is even…dare I say…problematic??
In the first episode of the season, we are introduced to Susie, a non-binary student and Sabrina's friend. Sabrina finds Susie crying in the locker room and finds out that Susie was literally assaulted by a bunch of football players who lifted up Susie's shirt to see if they have breasts.
Now before I go forward, a quick interjection. It is really, really good to see non-binary representation on this show, and it's awesome that they cast an actual non-binary actor for Susie's role. And it's incredibly important to talk about how people who fall outside the gender binary face higher rates of harassment and violence.
That being said, the show spends literally two seconds on Susie's crying face before devoting the rest of the time on Sabrina being filled with righteous anger and marching around the school yelling at people and declaring that she's the only one who wants to protect Susie.
First of all, it seems seriously messed up that Sabrina is running around school telling absolutely everyone, from the principal to her boyfriend, about what happened to Susie — especially since Susie refused to say the names of the football players. Kind of seems like you should respect the privacy of someone who was just assaulted…? Look, if someone confides in you that they were assaulted and don't feel comfortable reporting, YOU DON'T REPORT ON THEIR BEHALF. That's an unbelievably shitty and disrespectful thing to do, no matter how good your intentions are.
Second of all, the whole thing reeks of white saviorism. Well, since it's a cishet person saving a non-binary person, I guess it's more like…cishet saviorism? I don't know, but either way, it's lame. Literally the entire plotline is devoted to Sabrina "saving" Susie in the most condescending manner ever.
For example, forming the school club. Really, Sabrina? You even made YOURSELF the head of that club! Well isn't that convenient — you're saving your poor little non-binary friend AND also landing a sweet, sweet leadership position for your college applications. After all, everyone knows that true feminism is when privileged people co-opt the struggles of less privileged people and make the movement all about themselves!
And finally, there's a truly disturbing element of "feminism gone too far" in the first episode. You know how people are always saying bullshit like "#MeToo has gone too far" or "this is becoming a witch hunt"? Obviously this is not true — if anything, statistics show that assault survivors consistently under-report. Contrary to popular belief, assault survivors don't just run around pointing fingers at people to try to "ruin their life."
And yet, this is exactly what seems to happen when Sabrina talks to the school principal about what happened to Susie. Bear in mind that this is the scene that's supposed to make us HATE the principal and see him as "the most intolerant, the most buffoonish, the most misogynist of all." After hearing that Susie was attacked by four football players, the principal says, "If you could give me their names, I will have them in for a review." Sabrina then admits that she doesn't actually know their names. "Susie wouldn't tell me," she says, "But I can guess! Or you can bring in all the football players for questioning." The principal looks skeptical and says, "You're suggesting a witch hunt?"
In the year 2018, the phrase "witch hunt" has taken on a new meaning. Anyone watching this scene would immediately understand the reference to the #MeToo movement and how misogynistic men consistently use phrases like "witch hunt" to delegitimize assault survivors. But in this case, it seems like the principal is…right? I'm sorry, Sabrina, but you can't just guess which football players attacked your friend. You weren't even there for the assault! Now if Susie were the one talking to the principal about what happened and he accused Susie of wanting to start a "witch hunt," that would be extremely fucked up. But that's simply not the case.
So it's clear that the show really, REALLY wanted to be woke. And the writers of the show tried really hard to make Sabrina this "woke queen" but they ended up creating a super annoying and sanctimonious teenager who blusters on and on about "toppling the white patriarchy" while doing absolutely nothing productive. After all, the WICCA club did NOTHING to protect Susie from getting punched out in the next episode!
I honestly have no idea who this show is for. The dialogue is incredibly contrived and preachy, which seems to suggest that it's targeting young children. But at the same time, characters throw around words like "puritanical masculinity" and "intersectional feminism" that most people don't learn until high school or college.
It really just feels like the forced wokeness in this show is performative for the sake of receiving praise and adulation from other woke adults who are all patting themselves on the back for being #woke. And that's…pretty damn sad.
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