Netflix has ordered two more seasons of “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.” The streamer has ordered another 16 episodes of the series, which will be split into two parts like Season 1 and 2. Season 3 and 4 will begin production in 2019. Season 2 is set to premiere April 5, 2019. “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” imagines […]
If you’re watching The Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina on Netflix, you’ll know that it’s a very funny, occasionally petrifying, ultra-progressive, extremely emotional TV drama. Well, that’s what we think. But what do actual witches think about the way their culture is represented in the show? We pulled together a coven of witches to tell us what’s what…
Please introduce yourselves and explain your relationship to witchcraft and the occult…
“My name is Tania Ahsan. I’ve been a practising witch for 25 years and was previously the editor of Prediction magazine, a now-defunct occult magazine. I write the witchcraft column for Kindred Spirit magazine.”
“My name is Evelyn Hollow, I was raised with a mixed background of Celtic Pagan beliefs & Mediterranean Roma blood. As an adult, I obtained a Master’s degree in Psychological Research specialising in Paranormal Psychology. I have been an academic of the occult for more than six years and was a lecturer of Psychology for the last few of those years.”
“And my name is Anna McKerrow. I’m a fiction writer and eclectic Pagan witch. My work is always about witchcraft, and I’m passionate about representing modern, contemporary witches in realistic and thoughtful ways.”
So the new Sabrina, let’s start with what you think the show did well… and what it didn’t.
Anna: “I’ve read so much comment about the new Sabrina show from other witches. I think most of us are enjoying it for what it is: a fun TV drama. If you want to talk about realism… well, someone walking in the woods chanting to themselves or meditating or even a group ritual isn’t going to fit this kind of high-action, stylised TV format. Witches and those following alternative, broadly Pagan/polytheistic or pantheistic beliefs often tend to be philosophical about the inaccurate ways that they and their spiritual beliefs are depicted in fiction, partly because the stereotypes are so pervasive, partly because of an attitude that runs ‘whatever — allows me to stay under the radar’ and, I would say, a mindfulness of the still-recent repeal in the UK of the witchcraft laws in the 1950s.”
Tania: “There are Satanic witches but it is only one type of witchcraft. A far larger sect of witchcraft is Wicca, the way devised by Gerald Gardner in the 1960s. But I’m not surprised that they decided to go with the Satanic type. This seems to be a bit of a wet dream for the Bible Belt and is the antithesis of the feminist witchcraft that is currently seeing a huge revival. The idea that a woman can only have power when she is an evil cannibalistic Satan-worshipping minx is one that has been put about to keep women down. It breeds fear of witchcraft and the occult. The salt baths to cleanse energetically is pretty accurate though and some witches work with animal guides. Although I don’t think they call them ‘familiars’ as this is again something that is rooted in the literature of a tradition that persecutes and wilfully misunderstands us.”
Evelyn: “I think it’s an improvement on the original series. I liked the original series, but it was more about the pitfalls of being a weird teenage girl than it was about witchcraft. I think this one is one of the better paranormal horror shows to come out in recent years. I also applaud its use of diverse casting and inclusion of important narratives that intersect race, gender, and socioeconomics.”
Anna: “Sabrina is good in my view because there has been a reasonable amount of research done in the detail; cleansing bad energy/curses with salt, the fact that worship takes place outside in nature, the reference to the historic, inherited trauma of the witch trials and how that still affects women now. How we still feel and fear that punishment for standing in our power. I believe they have witch and occultist consultants for the show, which is a good thing. I also like that Sabrina practices magic in ‘ordinary’ ways too – forming a support group for the girls at her school, doing things in her world that makes change in positive ways. Magic is the changing of one’s experience of the world in a beneficial way. Witches know — or should know — that writing good CVs, voting and earning money are all necessary and effective things as well as journeying, meditating, chanting and being in nature.”
What would be your main criticism of the show?
Evelyn: “Perhaps the Hollywood glamourizing of witchcraft as high-drama rituals involving getting naked and spilling blood in the woods under a full moon. Everyday rites are more small moments of ritual crafted in order to create spaces that have positive effects on our mental health and restore feelings of control to our lives.”
Anna: “For me, the main problem is the Beast as Sabrina’s witch family’s deity or spiritual leader. Now, that is not to say that there aren’t witches who might work with the Lucifer energy and do what is called ‘shadow work’, which is absolutely nothing to do with the schlocky Hammer Horror devil stuff we’ve all been brought up on. Shadow work is the absolutely necessary healing and recognition of our full selves by loving all that we are; the balance of ourselves as perfectly imperfect beings. The ‘Beast’ is, as witches see it, also not a problem — that’s Aleister Crowley’s naming of the sexual life force of humanity; the horns of the wild horned gods of nature. The main problem with these terms and representations is the Christian duality of light/good and dark/bad that lies under them. This duality is at odds with a witch’s worldview, which tends more to the holistic and embraces the dark as a necessary complement to the light.”
Tania: “I think it is actually quite racist. Why is good always white or light? Why is evil always dark or black? The fact is there is no easy dualism in the way that it is described. The reason it has played out this way is that monotheism needs to find a way to suppress the Paganism that went before so the Horned God, the representation of the male divine, was co-opted as the image of the Devil and witches were all meant to be butt-kissing this goat-legged fallen angel. They absolutely hate that instead women might have freedom and power and so they have to attribute it to a male overlord. Yeah, good luck with that.”
Can you think of any other areas of pop culture where witchcraft has been covered well?
Tania: “Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics had a character called Thessaly who I felt was an accurate depiction of a witch. She played by rules that weren’t those that we attribute to either a hero or a villain, again she moved beyond the duality and basically just did what worked and made her way in the world in the manner she wanted. She was also depicted as a very plain-looking bespectacled woman who was quiet and watchful. She definitely did not wear a Grand Puba cape and put up a website with many different colours and fonts and a predilection for writing IN CAPITALS. Another top description is Gandalf in Lord of the Rings; he feels fear and goes through a journey in which he faces his greatest fear and emerges stronger and better. Of course, his hair is all white afterwards so the trope of white being right is still there, but props to him for facing his demon.”
Evelyn: “The Craft is one of the better displays of young women developing their path via witchcraft. The kind of spirit invocation and binding practices they use are relatively common in covens.”
Anna: “I always enjoy The Wicker Man, to be honest – apart from the grisly end, it’s quite nice to imagine what a free-spirited Pagan island might look like! And I liked Willow Rosenberg as a witch in Buffy because she learns to be a Wiccan witch. It’s very ’90s but she’s a normal girl, she’s a lesbian, she studies, she gets things wrong, she’s part of online witch groups. It went quite supernatural with the witch storyline in the end but the beginning was good. Oh, and Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon is a hugely popular book among witches because, though it’s fantasy and set in the King Arthur myth, it was one of the first — and still very few — fiction works to celebrate the empowerment of the goddess on Morgan, the witch character. It shows her route to power, her learning her witchcraft as a priestess of the moon and her adoration of the goddess.”
Thank you for your time! Before we go, tell our readers anything you’d like to plug…
Anna: “Thank you! My current book Daughter of Light and Shadows is available on Amazon…”
Tania: “My insta is @Tania_The_Witch and my website is taniaahsan.co.uk — there’s an e-book of candle spells on there isf you fancy having a go yourself!”
Evelyn: “I’m a resident author on a publication called Esoterica Zine, which may be of interest to anyone interested in the obscure. In fact, the next issue to be released is themed around witchcraft! Issues can be accessed at https://gumroad.com/esotericazine Other than that my Twitter, @_EvelynHollow is the best place to find me!”
WARNING: This articles contains spoilers for the first season of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Proceed at your own risk, witches.
If you know what’s good for you, you’ve binged all of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and are ravenous for more. Even though it’ll probably be a while until we get more episodes, we have some delicious morsels to tide you over.
Back in September, we got to visit everyone’s favorite Greendale witch up on set in Vancouver and chat with all the brilliant creative minds behind the show — from cast members to behind-the-scenes crew. Here’s everything we learned, and everywhere you can literally find the devil in the details.
Look Out For Horror All the Horror Movie References
1. The doors in Father Blackwood’s office are the same design as the iconic doors from the 1977 horror movie Suspiria.
2. The Spellman Family’s living room ceiling is also a nod to Suspiria.
3. All of the artwork in the Academy on Unseen Arts was supplied by horror icon Clive Barker. Over 150 of his pieces are on display throughout the show.
4. Father Blackwood has a table and stools in his office that, when pushed together, form the same shape as the Hellraiser box.
The Crew Used Real Magic On Set
5. When someone on the set of Chilling Adventures sneezes, everyone says “Hail Satan” instead of “bless you.”
6. The crew cast real protection spells around the set. If you look closely at the Spellman house, you might spot a real German protection spell engraved on the wall and a protection spell on the floor.
7. Sabrina’s signature color is red — it signifies power, femininity, and fierceness. Production designer Lisa Soper did a tarot card reading for every character in the show to determine their signature color palette, and for Sabrina, she drew the Magician card.
Pay Attention to the Colors
8. The witch world is associated with brighter colors throughout the show, and humans are associated with more muted and mundane colors. 9. There are small touches of red throughout the show that are meant to guide Sabrina on her journey.
10. The juxtaposition of Sabrina in her red clothing and the surrounding green woods of Greendale is also a subtle nod to Alfred Hitchcock’s use of the two colors. 11. Hilda and Zelda’s shared bedroom colors mirror their personalities: Zelda’s side is purple (symbolizing her fight to uphold the Church of Night’s established structure and rules), and Hilda’s side is green (symbolizing her progressive nature and ability to let things grow and flourish).
The Spellman House is a Work of Art
12. The shoes on the wall outside of Zelda and Hilda’s room all belong to Zelda. Every time Zelda casts a hex on someone, she binds the magic to a shoe and places it on the wall for safe keeping. As long as the shoe remains there, the person remains hexed.
13. There’s a movie poster for Whatever Happened to Baby Jane in Ambrose’s room, which is a sardonic nod to his aunts.
14. If you look closely at Sabrina’s bedroom mirror, you’ll see pictures of Harvey as well as the Tarot cards for judgement (signifying that she’s having trouble deciding which path to take) and the Queen of Wands (signifying the decision to finally embrace her own power).
15. Sabrina’s dollhouse includes an exact replica of her bedroom.
16. There’s a super creepy monster watermark on the hallway wall that leads to the embalming room.
17. The Spellman House is designed to appear more normal in the front, and then get gradually more magical and witchy as you get further away from where Hilda, Zelda, and Ambrose meet clients.
18. Nature is a huge theme throughout the show, and is meant to symbolize rebirth and earth taking over.
19. If you look closely, you’ll notice that Hilda and Zelda share a chair in the Spellman Mortuary office.
20. The living room wallpaper is the Gibson Girl, Charles Dana Gibson’s feminine ideal from the 1800s.
21. The Spellman’s front door is modeled after the door from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The House of Seven Gables — complete with the signature iron spikes, but updated and painted in Sabrina’s signature color.
22. Sabrina’s Dark Baptism was based on Goya’s famous “Witches’ Sabbath” painting, which hangs in the living room.
23. Everything in the Spellman House is built to be slightly off-kilter — from the walls to the staircase. It was a huge challenge for the crew to build.
24. Most of the paintings in the show are meant to reflect the theme of feminine strength, including “The Magic Circle” by John William Waterhouse hanging near the Spellman’s kitchen.
The Devil’s in the Details
25. Every object on Miss Wardwell’s fireplace is significant and has something to do with each episode — you can even see the Red Angel of Death.
26. Miss Wardwell has a specific doll for every single character in the show, and showrunner Roberto Augirre-Sacasa has a duplicate of every single one that’s been made.
27. The crucifix over Miss Wardwell’s fireplace turns upside side once she becomes possessed by Madam Satan.
28. Zelda reads newspapers in different languages because she’s a brilliant badass.
29. Susie’s room is full of nods to her gender identity and journey, including a quote from ‘Metamorphosis’ on her wall.
The Academy of Unseen Arts is Full of Surprises
30. All of the books in the Baxter High Library are real, but the books in the Academy of Unseen Arts are fake and built by hand.
31. The Academy was designed in the shape of a pentagram, and is meant to have an infinite number of hallways and rooms.
32. The big satan sculpture inside the Academy is modeled after Baphomet, the Church of Satan’s sigil.
33. The sculpture is made of foam and took three days to hand carve. It’s super light and you can pick it up pretty easily. 34. Father Blackwood has fully functional fireplaces on both sides of his desk to make it seem like he’s always surrounded by hellfire.
Father Blackwood Is A Lot Like…Meryl Streep?
35. Actor Richard Coyle based his portrayal of Father Blackwood on Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada, as well as Paul Scofield in The Crucible and Charles Lawton in Spartacus. “There’s something clipped about all of those characters and they way they present themselves,” Coyle said. “And there’s something meticulous about Blackwood, and clean and reptilian and cold-blooded.”
36. Father Blackwood originally wore creepy false teeth, but Coyle said he “looked like Christopher Walken in Sleepy Hollow.”
37. According to actor Chance Perdomo, Ambrose’s style is equal parts “David Bowie and Jimmy Hendrix on a quiet day.”
38. Actor Michelle Gomez originally based her voice for Miss Wardwell on Maggie Smith, but was asked in her audition to try something else.
39. The prop heart Ambrose eats in Episode 5 was made of gelatin and corn syrup. Perdomo said it was “sticky and very chewy, sweet, both awesome and very unpleasant at the same time.”
40. Actor Kiernan Shipka, like her on-screen character Sabrina, is super hard to scare. Shipka said, “That’s why I think I really like horror, because I feel like it’s almost testing me to a certain level.”
Try to Find the Secret Jughead Easter Egg
41. There’s a secret Jughead crown and message (“Jughead was here”) carved into the Fiction (R-V) bookshelf in the Baxter High Library. There’s also a piece of Aguirre-Sacasa’s old homework lying around somewhere in the library.
WARNING: This articles contains spoilers for the first season of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Proceed at your own risk, witches.
Greendale is a town that’s been lost in time. It’s late September at Baxter High School and walking the halls feels like drifting through a montage of different decades: Posters about the upcoming school dance cover the walls, loose pieces of homework float around with Tumblr domains scrawled in cursive, and ghost-like black and white portraits hang in the school library. Teenagers amble around, dressed like Grease extras in tailored button-downs and a-line dresses, their lips rouged and their shoes shined.
If Greendale — the idyllic small town where Netflix’s new series, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, takes place — feels like someone handpicked the best parts of the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s, and then meticulously pieced them all together, that’s exactly what it should feel like. Chilling Adventures is supposed to make you feel nostalgic — even if you’re not quite sure for what.
“We’re trying to pride ourselves very much on being timeless,” production designer Lisa Soper said during a September visit to the show’s set in Vancouver. “You see cell phones [but also] Victorian dresses.” Soper described the show’s aesthetic as “a layering of history” that gives every viewer “a chance to grab onto something they’re nostalgic for.” But for all the nostalgia Millennials and Gen Xers might feel watching the genre-bending show — it’s part teen drama, part horror — Sabrina Spellman and her magical crew clearly belong to a new wave of young viewers: Generation Z.
Generation Z Questions Everything
Poised between girlhood and adulthood, half-witch and half-mortal Sabrina Spellman (played by Kiernan Shipka) is refreshingly unwilling to compromise. No, she will not sign her namesake away to the Devil in exchange for immense magical powers on her 16th birthday — but she also won’t forfeit those powers entirely. Sabrina refuses to conform to any easy definition, despite immense pressure from the female adults she loves and trusts — her two witch aunts, Hilda (Lucy Davis) and Zelda (Miranda Otto), and her deceptive mentor Miss Wardwell (Michelle Gomez) — and the male authority figures she refuses to follow — High Priest of the Church of Night and headmaster of her magical school, Father Blackwood (Richard Coyle), and the head of her mortal school, Principal Hawthorne (Bronson Pinchot).
During the 10-episode first season of Chilling Adventures, Sabrina often marches around the sprawling, cozy-creepy Spellman home that doubles as a mortuary, announcing that there’s some kind of supernatural problem plaguing Greendale. On one such occasion, Zelda croaks back, “Mephistopheles, save us from the melodramatics of a teenage witch.” She’s not wrong: Sabrina’s conviction, stubbornness, and flair for the dramatic are emblematic of most teenagers wielding the confidence of youth. But Sabrina’s also grounded, logical, and uncommonly objective — and those qualities are especially emblematic of Generation Z.
“It’s so important, it’s so important, to ask questions all the time,” Shipka, who’s 18 years old and a member of Gen Z herself, said during the set visit. “I think that it’s really cool to see a character that is truly questioning these beliefs, and especially for younger people to see that.” Though she wouldn’t call her on-screen persona a role model, Shipka does want her peers to absorb Sabrina’s overall message. “I’m very excited that some 13-year-old girls are going to be watching this show and have [Sabrina] as a character to think about, or [to] be for Halloween. She’s a really strong, smart, educated girl and I couldn’t be prouder to be part of a show that has very clear intentions [on] that front.”
You Can’t Scare These Kids With Fake Blood
Like every generation that was once the youngest, Generation Z is a fascinating mystery to everyone who’s older than them. We know all too well that Millennials ruin everything and Gen Xers only care about themselves, but what about Gen Z? Do they really eat Tide Pods? What’s the deal with Zendaya and Mechee? Why don’t they understand the subtle art of burning CDs?
Cultural questions aside, the cut-off for Millennial birthdays is 1997, making the oldest members of Generation Z around age 21. By 2020, they’ll comprise 2.56 billion members of the population and 40% of all consumers. They have the potential to become major players in the upcoming 2018 midterm elections, as well as the 2020 elections. In short, they’re immensely powerful. But, like Sabrina, they’re still learning how they want to use that power; they’re not sure if they want to summon Hellfire just yet.
Chilling Adventures is a sister show to the CW’s Riverdale. Greendale is just a boat ride across Sweetwater River away from Riverdale. and they share a creator in Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. With both shows, Aguirre-Sacasa is pushing the envelope with teen content — characters in Riverdale use sex as an emotional coping mechanism (back in 2001, it took Pacey and Joey four seasons to do the deed on Dawson’s Creek), while Chilling Adventures is more horror show than teen drama, full of blood magic and devilry and heart-eating (we had to wait three seasons for Angel to finally suck on Buffy’s neck in 1999, and even then we only saw tiny trickles of blood). But TV alone can’t push a generation to maturity. Aguirre-Sacasa is simply answering the new demands of a generation forced to grow up too fast.
In Chilling Adventures, the adults are just as flawed and complex as the teens — they’re too busy murdering (and resurrecting) each other, engaging in religious BDSM, and stealing babies to keep tabs on the teens. More often than not, Sabrina and her friends help themselves. When no one will punish the Baxter High jocks for bullying, Sabrina and the three Weird Sisters (Tati Gabrielle, Adeline Rudolph, and Abigail Cowen) cast a spell to blackmail them with incriminating photos; when Principal Hawthorne bans books, Sabrina and her best friend Rosalind Walker (Jaz Sinclair) form WICCA (Women’s Intersectional Creative and Cultural Association). Gen Z has shown similarly fierce independence.
Reared on screens and nursery rhymes about how to survive when someone walks into your school with a gun, this new generation doesn’t just hang out on MySpace and tweak the emo lyrics in their AIM away messages. They’ve used social media to educate themselves on issues and hold political leaders accountable. They’ve called out authority figures that people twice (and thrice) their age fear. They’ve spearheaded national protests.
And we shouldn’t be surprised. Gen Z grew up surrounded by books and major movie franchises about looming dystopia and teens leading political revolution; even John Green’s wildly popular non-dystopian young adult fare centers around teen death (The Fault in Our Stars, Looking for Alaska) and abandonment (Paper Towns). Much like Sabrina gleefully watching a zombie movie while everyone around her shields their eyes from the horror, it’s really hard to scare these kids. They’ve been unblinkingly watching the horror play out on every available platform their whole lives.
The New Generation Won’t Let Anyone Define Them
Older members of the Chilling Adventures cast agree that their younger castmates are different than they were at a similar age. Gomez said that Shipka has taught her “how to behave professionally.” She laughed, “At 18, I was dumb as hell. And they’re really together, these kids.” Davis echoed the sentiment, saying, “I was never that at 16; I was never that brave [or] outspoken, and Kiernan [Shipka] is that. She shows a very different generation nowadays. When I am around the young ones on the show, they teach me so much. I love being around them, their energy and their light that they bring with them; it’s wonderful to bask in.”
The new generation is also ushering in social change. Chilling Adventures includes storylines about intersectional feminism, toxic masculinity, workplace harassment, living with a disability, and, most centrally, gender identity. Sabrina’s warlock cousin Ambrose (Chance Perdomo) identifies as pansexual and is attracted to both men and women in the show, and her best friend Susie Putnam (Lachlan Watson) spends the season beginning what Watson describes as a “queer journey.”
“These new narratives [aren’t] necessarily spoken of or given light,” 22-year-oldPerdomo said about the show’s gender representation. “It’s kind of about time. We’ve seen the heroic white male story perpetuated throughout Hollywood since time immemorial. So now to have a pansexual person of color played with depth and as a multi-faceted individual is not only artistically satisfying, it’s gratifying to be able to showcase that. [Ambrose is] a human being that’s more representative of the world we live in.”
That representation is both a refreshing step toward more inclusive gender representation on TV and a logical narrative to include for the show’s key demographic: Studies show that 38% of Gen Zers don’t believe that gender defines a person, and 56% of 13-20 year-olds know someone who uses gender neutral pronouns.
Watson, clear-eyed and eloquent, has been through a queer journey similar to Susie’s and prefers male pronouns — and talking about gender is his favorite thing to do. “There were a lot of points in my life where I thought I knew who I was, but I didn’t,” the 17-year-old explained. “I knew who I thought I was supposed to be; I knew how I thought I was supposed to identify and how I was supposed to act and how I was supposed to dress. I was who I was for other people, and that’s never gonna be fulfilling.”
That refusal to meet past cultural expectations is a common theme among the young cast members. Tati Gabrielle — who’s 22 years old and plays Prudence, Sabrina’s frenemy and leader of the Weird Sisters — said, “I think [the show] can appeal to my generation in terms of figuring out who you are and going to the limits.” She also hopes Chilling Adventures can teach her generation, especially young women, “to believe in something and to stand strong by your beliefs. We can take a stand despite the pressures the world puts on us; we can, at any point, step out of that and defy the laws of social interaction, or defy the place we’re supposed to fit into.”
Gen Z is Growing Up and Growing More Powerful
If the first season of Chilling Adventures is a story about a young girl embracing her power and crossing the threshold into adulthood, the (unconfirmed but inevitable) second season will be about how she decides to use it. In the season finale, Miss Wardwell pushes her young pupil to embrace her prospective greatness: “Own your power. Don’t accept it from the Dark Lord. Take it, wield it.”
In person, Gomez takes a more measured approach about the moment when Sabrina finally signs her name away to Satan and receives her dark magic (and witchy platinum blonde hair). “It’s a girl in the last moments of her childhood as she becomes an adult,” Gomez said, “and what happens to all of us in those last moments when you cross that threshold into young adulthood — and the responsibilities that come with being that.”
It’s too perfect a parallel, too broad a sweep to say that Sabrina’s singular potential to power change mirrors that of an entire generation. But when the real-life equivalent of the Greendale Thirteen — ghosts of old political grudges, dangerous relics of times passed, specters of an outdated belief system — threaten the people they love and the values they hold, you can bet that Generation Z will follow Sabrina across the threshold and sign away their childhood comforts in exchange for power. That day is coming, and you can expect Hellfire.