By Jane Getchell & Rebekah Gorbea
Season two of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina was a total rollercoaster of feelings for me, albeit mostly bad ones.
For most of the season, I was bored or cringing at the more-than-occasionally poor writing and character development. Worse than that, the show's treatment of its minority characters ranges from thoughtless to downright disrespectful. Instead of writing these characters as fully actualized human beings, the writers allow Sabrina to play the savior over and over again and never question her innate demeanor of entitlement. To put it mildly, the show depicts the absolute worst aspects of white feminism.
First off, I simply can’t deal with Sabrina about 70% of the time. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE a good antihero but she has to be one of the most petulant, self-absorbed characters to ever be portrayed on television.
She is essentially the archetype of an obnoxious white feminist savior who takes up way too much space everywhere she goes. This would almost be not-so-cringey if they gave even a minute amount of proper treatment to the minority characters on the show, but they’ve been botching that since day one.
A big problem with the way the Sabrina character is written is that her arrogance and self-assuredness feel wholly unwarranted. The writers have made Sabrina to be the vehicle through which the audience learns about and experiences the witchy world these characters inhabit. And yet she is inexplicably naïve about everything that goes on in the Church of Night. The decision to make her totally fresh to everything going on makes her resolve that she knows better than EVERYONE about EVERYTHING really infuriating. Also, it does turn out that everything she did almost brought on the end of humanity so....?
There are SO many egregious missteps by the writers in Sabrina regarding its depiction of black folks (the hanging scene in season one, the SUPER white angels aka missionaries? and a whole HOST of things with Prudence/Ambrose) but I feel like the laziness in writing Roz is possibly the clearest example of how the writers of this show don’t seem to actually care about the subject matter they pretend to. All throughout season two, Roz’s only storylines are the Harvey romance and how Sabrina (white savior that she’s written to be) restores her sight. She’s a total badass, don’t get me wrong, and literally saves the world in the end. But what is her character development and arc beyond being the romantic rival, inevitable sad best friend who loses Harvey to Sabrina, and vessel for one of Sabrina’s miracles? It’s frustrating at best and would be easily avoidable if the writers put any deep thought into the screen time they gave to Roz instead of using her as a plot device. This sort of thing makes me think that the show is trying to capitalize on an illusion of diversity and “wokeness,” while treating its black characters with no real regard.
Let’s take a gander at Theo, the only trans character on the show. As a non-binary person myself, I found myself alternately grimacing and/or rolling my eyes at so many of the storylines involving him throughout season two. Mainly the basketball storyline. On the surface, it’s totally rad that this character tries out for the boys’ team, makes it and is eventually accepted by his teammates. But what about the journey getting there? The writers decided to frame Theo as being so inept at basketball that he has to be saved by Sabrina. Why not just write that Theo was really solid at basketball and Sabrina came by to cheer him on? Why did he have to earn his spot on the team solely through her intervention? Why is Theo infantilized in the situation in which he is supposed to be finding his power?
Another large aspect of the infantilization of this character is his desexualization. Why is he so starkly portrayed as Roz and Harvey’s uncomfortable third wheel? He was there for so many intimate moments between the two of them being like “yikes, I’m gonna go now,” that the character could easily been written as one of their kid brothers and the scene would have looked no different. Literally everyone except Theo has romantic and sexual connections. The lack of giving Theo that same treatment makes me feel all icky with fake wokeness. Theo is cute, give him some love.
Beyond a Bad Season
As you can see, there’s a lot I didn’t like in Sabrina. But the thing that really sucks is how much I really wanted to like it. I love witchy shows. I love the style of the directing. The actors are all SO talented. But it feels like it’s all being squandered by a writing team that is mired in white feminist belief systems.
I'm going to go as far as saying that The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is a dangerous show. It depicts non-binary and trans characters as asexual and helpless beings. It depicts black women as props that vacillate from being weak and unsure to strong and emotionless. We know this is not true and rather a simplified white feminist version of the truth. Sabrina espouses a dangerous idea of The White Woman’s burden and I sincerely hope that the show is cancelled because, put simply, we know better.