The Chilling Adventures of a Controversial Lawsuit
For many people, myself included, Sabrina the Teenage Witch was an important part of our formative years. Finding that a remake was on the cards evoked a series of emotions - would it be able to live up to the legacy that the original series had left behind? It became apparent that, although sharing a name with the titular character, this Netflix original would be making its own mark on the world with a dark reimagining of the struggle between Sabrina’s (Kiernan Shipka) half-mortal and half-witch sides, giving rise to a new sort of comedic horror exceedingly different to its predecessor.
The series begins with a fairly innocuous view into the lives of four friends living in Greendale, one of which is 15-year old Sabrina Spellman and her boyfriend, Harvey Kinkle (Ross Lynch), both of whom are recognisable characters from the original show. The seemingly mild setting of their evening soon takes a horrific turn on her 16th birthday when Sabrina must take part in a ‘dark baptism’ which involves her writing her name in the Book of the Beast and, in essence, selling her soul to the Devil. To do so would mean that she completely sacrifices her relationships with her mortal friends and submits to studying at the Academy of the Unseen Arts, as opposed to her normal high school. The grisly murder and possession of her teacher is a quick reminder that this series will be dark in comparison to the light-hearted sitcom of the 90s.
An important difference is seen in the focus on witchcraft and satanism and how these two ideas, for the show, are conflated with the general notion that witches must sell their souls to Satan in exchange for power, prestige and youth. This change, whilst giving the reboot its own sense of self, has resulted in a substantial backlash within The Satanic Temple, a central feature of the controversy, threatening a lawsuit against the creators of the series for appropriating their design for the statue of Baphomet poised in the lobby of the Academy. Traditionally drawn with a woman’s chest, the Temple recreated the image with a male figure, and subsequently are suing Netflix and Warner Bros for copyright infringement, trademark violation and for propagating the connection between this statue and a cult known for cannibalism and occult practices. Co-founder Lucien Greaves alleged in a series of tweets, that the use of such a recognisable image within a world centred around Satan is problematic for the reputation of The Satanic Temple and is not something they want to be associated with them.
Personally, the connection between the statue and the organisation is not something I initially thought of or was even aware of until the story about the lawsuit came to light. The statue, whilst sitting in the Academy, is not used much within the show and does not take part in anything particularly gory or dark and actually goes unnoticed for the majority of the season. Whilst understood that for The Satanic Temple it is a clear representation of an intrinsic part of their organisation, it is less clear for the rest of the world and so begs the question: is the lawsuit really worth it?