5 Easter Eggs in ‘Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’

Warning: Contains spoilers for the first season of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.

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Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is just what it claims to be. It’s a throwback to the supernatural television shows marketed to teens that were proliferate in the late 90’s/early 2000’s, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Charmed, which could revel in the kitschy and absurd, but also tackle dark subject matter and serious issues. It’s already stirred up controversy for multiple reasons, and not for the reasons you’d probably expect. However, those heavier themes are to be tackled here at a later time. For now, let’s set those topics aside, and get into the things every true nerd hungers for — EASTER EGGS!

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1- The Names

There are many names with significance in Sabrina. Besides more obvious ones like “Spellman” and “Salem,” here are some names with more remarkable meanings:

  • “Puttnam” and “Hawthorne” were the names of families involved in the Salem Witch Trials.
  • Ironically, the name “Wardwell” is probably a reference to warding spells, which are used to repel evil spirits.
  • “Faustus” is taken from the play Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, wherein the main character sells his soul to the Devil.
  • “Scratch,” as in “Old Scratch” or “Mr. Scratch,” is a nickname for the Devil.
  • The mentioned-but-never-seen “Doc Phibes” gets his name from the titular character of the 1971 horror flick The Abominable Dr. Phibes.

 

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2- “Criminal”

Of course you noticed the inclusion of Fiona Apple’s 90’s hit “Criminal” in Chapter 7: Feast of Feasts. However, if you’ve never seen the music video for the song, you might not get the connection. The video portrays the then-18-year-old Apple in her underwear, and lounging around with other teens on the floor, in what looks to be the aftermath of a party. The images are highly suggestive of some risque stuff going on, a lot like what’s taking place in Prudence’s room at the time.

 

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3- The Weird Sisters

The term “Weird Sisters” has its origins in the Norns of Norse mythology. They were three prophetic witches who were the daughters of a seer named “Wyrd.” The term was later anglicized to “Weird” and used in Shakespeare’s MacBeth. It just goes to show, trios have always been powerful in witchcraft. The number can represent past, present, and future; the maiden, the mother, and the crone; the Rule of 3; father, mother, and child; the Furies; the Fates; and too many other examples of the power of the number three to recite here.

 

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4- Other horror references

Besides names of characters, Sabrina contains some homages to the horror genre. Some include:

  • On a couple of occasions, characters refer to the blessings of Satan as “delicious.” This most likely is pulled from a famous line in the 2015 horror film The Witch, in which (SPOILERS – highlight to read) the Devil asks the protagonist, “Wouldst thou like to live deliciously?” The scene in Chapter 10 where the Devil coaxes Sabrina to sign the Book of the Beast, he whispers in a way reminiscent of the Devil in The Witch.
  • Chapter Five is titled “Dreams in a Witch House,” a slight variant on the title of the H. P. Lovecraft story Dreams in the Witch House.
  • Chapter Six shows Harvey wearing the same outfit as Johnny Depp’s character during his death scene in Nightmare on Elm Street.
  • The Spellman house has the same stained glass skylight as the ballet school in 1977’s witchsploitation film Suspiria.

 

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5- The exorcism

The incantation for the exorcism in Chapter Six contains references to many significant figures in Witch/Wiccan culture. Apart from the mythological characters, there are several historical figures, including:

  • Anne Boleyn, the wife of Henry VIII, who was accused of bewitching Henry to make him marry her. Her being a witch was also said to be the reason for her later miscarriage.
  • Hildegard of Bingen was a German Benedictine abbess, but became respected by modern Pagans as a healer and mystic.
  • Mary Bradbury and Tituba, both women who were accused during the Salem Witch Trials, but manage to avoid execution.
  • Moll Dyer, a witch said to have lived in Maryland in the 1600s. Her spirit is still said to haunt the area where she was killed.
  • Sybil Leek, one of the most prolific writers on the subject of modern Witchcraft.

 

That’s it for now, but I will certainly, in the future, dive deeper into the themes of Sabrina and possibly put a couple theories out there. So stay tuned!

 

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The Problematic Treatment of Titans’ Heroines [Spoilers]

In lieu of a standard review of Episode 2 and 3, I’d like to address a trend that has been bothering me in the new Titans thus far: The problematic portrayal of the female heroes. Many bloggers have already covered the disturbing behavior of Dick Grayson, and with Beast Boy so far barely getting any screen time (which needs to change ASAP, I’m stoked to see him more), there’s not much to say about the male heroes at this point. Hopefully, once they are more fleshed out, I will be able to discuss their portrayals, whether good or mad or neutral. For now, I’m going to focus on our heroines, Raven, Kory, and Dove.

Before delving in, I’d like to make a few distinctions. There will be spoilers for the first three episodes of Titans, so if you’re not caught up, I recommend stopping now. Secondly, my references to the comic book materials will be drawn solely from the Marv Wolfman and George Perez run on The New Teen Titans from the 1980s. As I am not as familiar with their iteration in the more recent New 52, I will not be talking about it. Furthermore, as a Progressive Feminist, this article will be written with that mindset. If you don’t care for that, you may wish to click away from this, rather than sending us hate mail. Much appreciated.

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I will first address Raven’s loss of agency. In the comics, Raven is the one who brings the Titans together. Knowing the arrival of her father, the dreaded devil Trigon, is imminent, she takes action, finding heroes with specific characteristics that will be able to take down the fiend. At first, she is portrayed as a woman with unshakeable willpower who is in control of her emotions. It was only later that we discovered that she was someone who needed help. She could be vulnerable and tender, and she truly loves her friends, despite her icy demeanor.

In Titans, the writers have opted for the inverse. Raven is, straight away, a damaged individual who needs protection. She’s basically helpless on her own. Even when she does “save herself” from dangerous situations, it is actually the dark spirit inhabiting her that takes action. Yes, Raven is much younger than she is in the comics. But I feel it would have behooved the show to show her as an old soul, with wisdom remarkable for her age. No, she doesn’t need to be perfect. It would make sense that she is less disciplined and more flawed. But, I would have liked to see Raven possess more agency, and more able to defend herself.

KORY

Our next subject is Kory. Volumes have been written on the unfortunate wardrobe, and I fully agree it was a poor decision to dress her in such a way. It’s an odd choice, and led to a lot of PR problems that sadly dissuaded many from watching the show. It wasn’t worth it. Kory is vastly different from her comic book portrayal, showing almost no relation to the endearing but powerful alien girl we came to love. Don’t get me wrong, Kory is a compelling character in her own right, but if you’re going to do an adaptation of Starfire, you need to retain some of the traits that have made her such a classic character. Kory is all toughness, no heart. And that was what made us love Starfire: She beautifully juxtaposed a warrior identity with compassion. She could be filled with fury, she could luxuriate in a pool party with her friends, she could be tender with Dick, and merciless with her enemies. She was naïve, but she had convictions. This complexity is what made her beloved by fans.

Minor gripe: When Kory meets Dick, sparks should have flown. They’re one of the best couples in the DCU, and the show needs to do justice to that.

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Finally, we come to Dove. And my goodness, despite a good performance by Minka Kelly, and a comics-accurate costume, I have a lot of problems with Dove’s characterization. I’d like to first call your attention to the Women in Refrigerators trope, a term coined by veteran comics writer Gail Simone. I suggest perusing the page linked above, but the basic idea is that there are countless female comic characters who are mistreated in various abhorrent ways, often of a sexual nature, solely to provide motivation for the male characters. In Titans, Dove is not only weaker than she is in the comics (though her male compatriot Hawk is depowered as well), she is given a previously nonexistent sexual history with Dick Grayson, and is swiftly put into a coma before we can really get to know and care about her.

Why? What does this do to service the plot, other than to give emotional motivation to our brooding male heroes. It actually robs the story of an intriguing character. Okay, sure, she’s in a coma, which is TV code for “She’ll definitely positively absolutely be back soon,” but in the meantime, her absence is just a testament to the fact that writers often don’t care about their heroines, viewing them more as plot points than as active protagonists in their own right. I’m not saying writers don’t create complex, amazing female characters. I’m not saying such unfortunate treatment doesn’t befall male characters. I’m saying, by and large, these kinds of tropes are imposed upon female characters.

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Within her first episode, Dove gets refrigerated. Raven’s adopted mother, Angela, is also refrigerated in her first episode. Rather than develop her into Raven’s biological mother, Arella, whose actual name is Angela, they kill her off to motivate Raven. Arella, also a fascinating and powerful character, who stands against Trigon and leads the forces of Azarath, seems to be inconsequential in the context of the show.

I would like to sum this up by saying, I don’t hate everything about the heroines in Titans. I honestly think the show is worth checking out. As I mentioned earlier, Kory is an intriguing character, and, while she’s not our Starfire, she could go to some very interesting places. Raven could grow into a stronger, solid character in her own right. And Dove is comics accurate and likable. As I said, the show has potential.

All that said, my biggest complaint is the way Raven drinks her coffee. There’s a handle there for a reason: So you don’t burn your hand holding the ceramic cup. Because coffee is hot. Drink your coffee like a normal person, Raven! Jeez. Also, Raven likes pineapple on her pizza. It’s canon. Get it together, people.

(I have no life, help me.)

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