Charmed’s queer representation has lost its magic

Charmed -- “Someone’s Going to Die” -- Image Number: CMD302b_ 0585r -- Pictured (L-R): Bethany Brown as Ruby and Melonie Diaz as Melanie Vera -- Photo: Colin Bentley/The CW -- © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Charmed -- “Someone’s Going to Die” -- Image Number: CMD302b_ 0585r -- Pictured (L-R): Bethany Brown as Ruby and Melonie Diaz as Melanie Vera -- Photo: Colin Bentley/The CW -- © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved. /

It was just announced that Charmed will have three new showrunners for their fourth season on The CW, and this shocking news, which comes just two years after switching showrunners ahead of their second season, is more exciting than not.

Hopefully, this new trio will bring about positive change within the show, and specifically within a department that’s been lacking: The show’s LGBT representation.

The first season of the Charmed reboot, which premiered on The CW in 2018, was everything you would want a supernatural series to be: Campy, fun, heartfelt, and exciting. On top of all the wonderful things about the series, it also featured great sapphic representation in the form of Mel Vera and her complicated love life.

Mel’s initial storyline turned into a love triangle between two different women, Niko Hamada and Jada Shields, who were both instrumental to the plot of that first season. Though, despite the lack of a happy ending, the storyline still wrapped itself up in a satisfying way and closed out a season of great representation all around. Mel’s love life was perfectly balanced with her sisters’, getting an equal amount of screen time and narrative weight as the other two relationships on the show, Maggie and Parker and Macy and Galvin.

Queer representation got lost between Charmed seasons 1 and 2, with both a literal setting change for the series and new showrunners at the helm. 

Season 2 involved a move to Seattle for the Charmed Ones as they were forced into ‘witch-ness’ protection, orbed away from their old hometown of Hilltowne, MI. This offered a clean slate for the series and allowed for the addition of several new characters and many new love stories to be explored. For Maggie, her new love interest came in the form of Jordan Chase, a cursed boxing instructor who seeks the help of the Charmed Ones to break his curse. For Macy, she set her sights on Harry Greenwood, their trusted Whitelighter, as well as Julian Shay, the owner of the building their magical command center resides in.

For Mel, it’s a bit of a different story. Throughout the second season, she is romantically linked to two different characters; one of whom is Katrina Chandra, a medium who helps Mel and Harry access another dimension. Due to this spiritual road trip, Katrina begins to hallucinate, and she leaves Seattle midway through the season to get professional help well before Mel could act on any kind of feelings she might have for her.

Later in the same season, we’re introduced to Ruby, a witch who is not even afforded a last name, but who still serves as Mel’s love interest after her introduction, but barely.

Ruby appears in 10 out of the 26 episodes that aired since her first appearance in season 2 episode 12. Over the course of those 10 installments, the audience learns one key fact about Ruby: She’s a retired witch and no longer wants to associate with the magical world.

What a great match for one of the leaders of that same magical world, right?

Wrong, clearly, because their screen time is nonexistent. In fact, during season 3 there’s a stretch where Ruby doesn’t show up for six whole episodes.

Adding their lack of screen time to the overall storyline of season three, which involved the Charmed Ones being afflicted with a magical allergy that prevented them from touching any magical creature, it’s hard for the audience to understand why Ruby sticks with Mel.

From Ruby’s perspective, she’s staying six feet apart from a woman with whom she has a fundamental difference in ideology and doesn’t even see that often, so why continue to try?

During episodes 14 and 15 of season 3, it seemed that the writers were trying to rectify their lack of screen time by featuring Ruby as Mel’s caretaker throughout those episodes, but the damage was already done. When there are hardly any scenes between this couple, and most of them feature the two of them talking about just how much they differ in their wants and needs for the future, it’s nearly impossible to get an audience on board.

Representation hinges on visibility, and even though Ruby and Mel had some sweet scenes together, the lack of capital they built in their time together on the series forced that sapphic representation to the back-burner while relationships like Harry and Macy became all-consuming.

But Mel’s love life is just one area where Charmed falters with their LGBTQ representation.

During season 3, the show introduced the Charmed Ones’ cousin Josefina Reyes, a trans woman from Puerto Rico, played by newcomer Mareya Salazar, an out trans actress. While this is incredible and a huge step forwards not only in representation on Charmed but on The CW as a whole, it’s hard not to compare to other representations of trans characters on the same network, namely, Supergirl’s Dreamer/Nia Nal.

On Supergirl, Nia inherited her dream powers from her mother, something that can only be inherited from mother to daughter, skipping over Nia’s older sister, who is a biological woman. In doing so, Supergirl effortlessly establishes that trans women are women. On Charmed, though, Josefina is not afforded the same luxury. She seeks the help of her cousins in order to access and unlock her powers, which she eventually does, but it still feels like a missed opportunity.

Magic, as it’s presented in the world of Charmed, seems like it should just know that Josefina was meant to be a witch because she is a woman, but instead, she has to work to prove her womanhood to magic itself in order to finally gain the powers she deserves.

This extra step seems like a step backward in comparison to Dreamer’s story, and it feels out of place on a series that has never involved canon homophobia before. Why is it that Mel is free from any type of punishment for her queerness by the series, but Josefina isn’t? It feels like a commentary on gender and the trans experience that doesn’t belong, one that could’ve been avoided entirely had they just followed the example set by a different show on the same network.

Along with the odd treatment of Josefina, the series is no stranger to quite literally demonizing a certain group of characters by weaponizing their sexuality.

Their second season dealt with a heavy conflict between witches and demons, which is what led Macy to a demon club during season 2, episode 2. As Macy scans the club as she enters, the shot lingers on two women kissing on the couch, who then make eye contact with her.

The pointed inclusion of this shot seems deliberate, in order to highlight the uncouth nature of the demon world. By establishing that the place Macy was entering was a den of evil demons engaging in suspicious demonic activities, and then immediately showing two women kissing, the show suggests that the very act of sapphic kissing is in the same vein as whatever depravity demons get up to.

They then do the exact same thing again, in episode 11 of season 2, when Maggie and Jordan travel to New Orleans in search of leads in their hunt for an organization hunting magical creatures. They’re told to go to a rave by a man involved in said organization, and as they enter, the shot focuses on two women kissing.

Using the same method as the scene before, Charmed banks on its audience drawing the connection between whatever evil deeds that might come from this rave to sapphic women and sapphic love. This is a confusing message, to say the least, coming from a series where one of their main characters is a lesbian.

The demonization doesn’t stop there, though, as the second season also featured the introduction of Abigael Jameson-Caine, an antagonistic half-witch half-demon who becomes the Overlord of the demon world. She is canonically bisexual and is shown as such by engaging in two different threesomes within three episodes of each other with both men and women.

Each time her sexuality is brought up, it’s meant to add further villainy to her character, as shown in season 2 episode 7, when Harry, Macy, and Maggie orb into Abigael’s room, while she’s having a threesome with two different women named Susan. They’re there to accuse Abigael of killing a group of magical creatures and stealing from them, but the threesome they catch her in serves to further highlight her “depravity,” before she’s even proven guilty of the crime.

Abigael is shown to be untrustworthy, self-absorbed, and promiscuous, and each of these characteristics highlights negative stereotypes that have plagued bisexual people for decades, like the idea that all bisexuals are cheaters or cannot be happy in a monogamous relationship. It also skirts her into the territory of depraved bisexual, which is a trope that, according to TV Tropes, “establishes how a character doesn’t see certain relationships as taboo because they don’t see anything as being taboo.”

Abigael’s pension for murder or underhanded coups clearly leave nothing off the table, and her various threesomes and flirtations with anyone who breaths within her sphere leave nothing off the table romantically either.

The tired tropes and backhanded reminders of her sexuality don’t stop Abigael from being an incredibly complex and interesting character, especially in the third season when the show explores her redemption and budding feelings for Mel. Abigael’s redemption storyline takes some of the bite out of how her sexuality is portrayed, and that tiny victory makes me hopeful for the future of queer representation on the show.

Charmed: With all of that said, what now?

Well, I’d love to see Charmed improve upon their queer representation, and truly take into consideration the kinds of messages they’re sending to their audience and what that means for queer viewers and the community at large.

I’d ask them for better screen time for their queer characters, equal treatment for their queer relationships, and further improvement on the storytelling they use in relation to Josefina and other trans characters in the future.

They already have a tall order going into season 4 after Madeleine Mantock’s exit from the series and a significant power shift behind the scenes, but I don’t think it’s too much to ask to create a better environment for their LGBTQ viewers and characters, especially when that dedicated audience will serve them well as they navigate this difficult transition.

Next. Omono Okojie promoted to series regular for Legacies Season 4. dark

What do you think about how Charmed handles its queer characters? Sound off in the comments.