Chilling Adventures of Sabrina sets up world of religious patriarchy for witches


Chilling Adventures of Sabrina sets up a world where witches are ruled by a patriarchal religion. What’s up with that?

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is being talked about by many as a feminist show with a feminist main character. While this argument has its merits, it might not be that simple. While some people are already talking about the issues with how the show deals with race and sexuality, a deeper dive into how it addresses gender is worth looking into, too.

This article from The Guardian notes that witches are definitely back with a vengeance in pop culture and also touches on how witches have been used (both in real life and in pop culture) as a metaphor for female power and activism. There are many witches in recent pop culture from Hermione in Harry Potter to the witches in American Horror Story to Elphaba in Wicked.

Usually, witches are seen as powerful women who have the kind of strength that scares patriarchal institutions. This is probably why so many women identify with the word and claim it, whether they actually practice witchcraft seriously or not. In pop culture, witches are often shown as fighting against oppressive institutions and standing up against male-driven religious structures.

In Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, there, of course, has to be conflict. It makes sense to me that there would be some sort of pushback against the witches, whether that came from mortal beings or a subset of supernatural beings. I was confused and a bit disappointed, however, at how sexist the entire society and religion of witches was. Throughout season one, the Church of Night is presented as sort of an inverse of the Catholic Church; they even mention the Catholic Church multiple times in the show.

The Church of Night is also a patriarchal institution where Satan, a man, is worshipped. Young women are asked to sign their lives and autonomy over to him. The high priest, the pope if you will, is a man. While it’s clear that High Priest Blackwell is just a bad dude who also looks to be putting together his own male-centered society that’s even more extreme than the Church of Night, the fact remains that the power structure seems to be mostly made up of men in charge.

This seemed strange to me. I could understand having warlocks and witches and some sort of tension there. But, throughout the series, women were placed in lesser positions of power and usually the ones asked to sacrifice themselves. From the Feast of Feasts where a witch is chosen for a ritual sacrifice to the fact that Sabrina was supposed to remain a virgin before her dark baptism, there’s a lot of similarities between the Church of the Night and gender issues in real life churches.

It was hard for me to buy the idea that Sabrina was the only one to ever seriously question this setup. I love her being this feminist hero, and I am glad she is supposed to be exceptional. But, the world building is just hard to buy sometimes.

Given that we see so many examples of patriarchal institutions in our own world, it would have been nice to see their society and religion run by women and feature women as powerful, autonomous beings. Maybe I wanted something a little more hopeful to watch. Given what’s going on in our own world with Trump, Kavanaugh, and all of it, I wanted to see the witches have more equality and be less subjected to the desires of men.

We already know what these kinds of religions look like. It would have been nice to see a counter-example instead of something that upholds the status quo. Sometimes it felt like the show struggled to know what tone it was trying to take or what message it was trying to send. Take, for example, Aunt Zelda as a midwife and the pregnancy of Lady Blackwood. The entire storyline seemed like something from the 1950s, and there were many moments like this that had me scratching my head.

Related Story. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: 10 spookiest moments. light

Hopefully, season two will reveal more about the world and the Church of the Night, and the witches will actually get a chance to have their due.