NETFLIX’S “THE CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA” LOVES REAL SATANISM—BUT DOESN’T KNOW IT
Netflix’s “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” hadn’t even started streaming yet when it managed to open up a generous stream of legal trouble for itself.
The Satanic Temple has not yet initiated any actual lawsuit against the show’s producers. But if I were Warner Bros. I might bet that something litigious this way comes.
Chances are anybody reading this is already painfully familiar with the “Sabrina” complaint, especially since it’s possessed nearly every news media outlet and inlet in the country this week.
The story also seems to have conjured a sudden and miraculous outbreak of meritless legal expertise claims all across social media. Like imps escaping the open mouth of Hell.
But beyond the copyright cataclysm, a thornier question sticks in the craw of a lot of the show’s Satan sympathizing viewership: Just how sensitive should we be about the way media depicts Satanism? And who gets to advocate for the devil when he needs it?
The 2018 series’ unfortunate events have to do with TST’s ever-photogenic monument of Baphomet, designed by artist Mark Porter in 2015.
Now let’s be clear: Nobody owns the rights to Baphomet. The original illustration dates to 1856, and royalty-free variations sit in the home of virtually every Satanist in the world. Hell, I’ve got three, which I think means they can vote me out of the house if they ever put their horns together.
But Porter’s monument is a distinct work of his own. Notably, it features three figures, and all of them—Baphomet plus the two kids—appear almost identical to imagery conjured sans permission on “Sabrina.” Which is a problem, because TST says it owns that copyright to that image.
I’m a pretty freewheeling guy when it comes to the law. But I know too many artists not to take IP protections seriously—lest I have a chilling misadventure of my own when their lawyers come calling.
Temple cofounder Lucien Grieves told the San Francisco Chronicle that TST isn’t interested in monetary payment. But if Warner Bros. really did steal their design they’d be entirely entitled to one.
So that’s one thing. But Grieves’ grievances also extend to the show’s damning attitudes about Satanism.
In “The Chilling Adventure of Sabrina” (based on the 2014 comic of the same name), all witches are default devil worshipers, per the witch finding generalities of American/European folklore.
This is Hollywood Satanism, so of course you know what that means: human sacrifice, cannibalism, black magic, talking cats, etc. I’m waiting for the show’s in-universe Geraldo special exposing this any episode now.
On top of that, the hypocritical, devil-worshiping Church of Night on “Sabrina” preaches about personal freedom but in practice delivers patriarchal authority.
I really want to interpret this as a satire of the Church of Satan, which also talks a good game about individualism but in practice is crushingly authoritarian. But odds are I’d have to sell my soul for a show that savvy.
Most of our Bay Area Satanists who have seen “Sabrina” like it despite all of this toil and trouble. And I’ll admit, I do too; was expecting something supernaturally stupid, but in truth I find the program’s seeming naivety charming.
Some viewers take offense at the show’s witchy-washy take on Satan though. Greaves calls it “asinine Satanic Panic fiction.” So let’s say he’s on the fence.
Fellow Satanists called it “dissonant,” “a shitty take,” and “idiotic.”
On one level I feel this should bother me too. After all, urban myths about “Satanic” conspiracies are on the rise again, and mythtaken Americans sometimes translate this to threats or violence.
But almost all of my favorite Satanism-themed media is as bad. And Satan is almost always stuck being the bad guy in Hollywood—typecast to the last.
“Sabrina” may be a particular case though. Notice, the show’s titular teen witch doesn’t fight the devil by finding Jesus. Instead she questions authority, asserts her own identity, works with likeminded people, and reforms the status quo.
Despite its pigheaded treatment of goatheaded idols, “Sabrina”—and Sabrina—showcases GREAT Satanic ideals. It might be the most authentically Satanic piece of media in decades—if not for the devil in the details.
Like most of America, “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” loves real Satanism. And like most of America, the show doesn’t know the difference.