RATED TV-14 | 1-star
Netflix’s The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, adapted from a comic series of the same name, released just before Halloween 2018. While the 1990s series, Sabrina: The Teenage Witch, was (and is) a popular, light-hearted comedy, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is a decidedly darker take on the character Sabrina Spellman and her half-mortal, half-witch life.
Helmed by the executive producers of CW’s uber-popular Riverdale, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (CAoS) is still a teen drama. But instead of the G-rating and upbeatness of its predecessor, CAoS is bathed in bloody satanic rituals, cannibalism, occult witchcraft, demonic entities, disembowelment, possession, and devil’s bargains. Furthermore, Satan/Lucifer/The Dark Lord is an onscreen character and a regular presence to be worshipped.
It’s difficult to truly pinpoint the tone and message of CAoS. While many things have been referred to as satanic in the abstract over the years (most notably Harry Potter), Sabrina’s satanic themes are tapdancing neon signs of factual plot points. In the pilot alone, Sabrina Spellman is pressured into preparing for her 16th birthday’s “dark baptism,” which involves being anointed with blood (preferably human) and signing her name, in her own blood, in the “book of the beast.” Despite her hesitancy, Satan’s High Priest, Faustus Blackwood, claims her soul has already been promised to Satan and she is obligated to follow-through on the contract. But worry not, he assures her, doing so will unlock the full capacity of her witch’s powers and maintain her youth indefinitely.
It’s interesting, though, how directly CAoS’s Satan aligns with the Biblical account of him. CAoS has switched the narrative (more on that in a moment), but for Christians, there will be many similar ideas and ideologies. CAoS affirms Satan as a fallen angel (Isaiah 14:12-15), a deceiver (Genesis 3; 2 Corinthians 4:4), and the prince of this world (Ephesians 2:2).
The difference? In CAoS, Satan is fallen because he valued his pride and that is to be admired and worshipped. In CAoS, the High Priest deceives Sabrina herself by promising her freedom if she signs in the book…but when she is about to put pen to paper, she finds that is a lie. In spite of that, the narrative of The Garden of Eden is switched. Instead of Satan being the deceiver to Eve, CAoS spins the Christian God (or the “False God” as CAoS exclusively refers to Him) as the deceiver when Aunt Zelda reads to a group of children in a dream sequence, telling them how Eve didn’t die when she ate the apple, so who was the liar, really? Instead, Eve was granted knowledge and power by following Satan instead of God.
It’s easy to call the core concerns of CAoS gore, violence, and sexual content. After all, the aunts run a mortuary, one young witch slits another young witch’s throat to resurrect the dead, and even a child is cannibalized off-screen as a feast for the “Dark Lord.” Further more, the witches and warlocks are hyper-sexual—especially the three witch orphans and Sabrina’s cousin, Ambrose, with his boyfriend—leading to an orgy or two. But those are easier things to identify as “not okay.” (I’m fairly confident that most of our readers would agree eating children and/or murdering your classmate is BAD.) What’s more difficult to navigate is the reversed theological narrative.
Eve didn’t physically die, immediately, in the Garden, after all. From Christian theology, we understand that Eve’s death was one of a spiritual kind. Her relationship to God had been cut off, and from that point forward, she was dying. Her life was long, but it would, still, end (Genesis 3).
But for young Christians who are struggling to understand the nuance of their theology, CAoS is a scary curveball. The witches aren’t portrayed as role models, but they’re also not portrayed as exclusively evil. Even one of Sabrina’s friends, the daughter of a Christian minister, has to struggle with this. If Sabrina is a witch, is she evil? Can she still be her friend?
While I wouldn’t identify The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina as directly antagonistic to Christianity, it certainly has no love for Christians. In Aunt Zelda’s dream sequence, when she is seeking to prepare a meal for the Dark Lord, she prepares a human child. Satan is so disappointed in her…not because she cooked a child, but because it was a warlock child instead of a Christian child. CAoS likes its Satanic sandbox and has a crayon-colored sign stapled to a door that says “No Christians Allowed.”
Sabrina does endorse positives values—rarely, but they’re still there. Sabrina’s relationships with her Christian friend, Roz, her sensitive boyfriend Harvey, and her trans-curious friend, Susie, are strong anchors to her own core values. But even still, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina plays in a land of morally neutral—no matter the subject. The High Priest focuses on tempting Sabrina to the witch’s side not with power, but with a promise for complete freedom; freedom from right and wrong, good and bad. This gray area is one CAoS rarely strays from, which can cause even more confusion to believers still struggling to establish a foundation.
My final thought for those wanting to watch The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is to listen, and listen HARD, to the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Will this shake your foundation? Encourage doubt in your heart about God’s goodness? If you have even the smallest hesitancy toward watching this, I’d strongly suggest passing. 1 Thessalonians 5:19 tells us to “Not quench the Spirit.” The Chilling of Adventures of Sabrina will still be there in the future if you decide that right now it would be a stumbling block to your faith, not just another mindless bit of entertainment.
September is an aspiring novelist, book
hoarder collector and movie watcher. She has a black feline floof named Faust, an assortment of plants that seek global domination, and a distinct lack of awareness for where she is at any given moment.