Halloween weekend bingeing was at its height with the premiere of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina on Netflix, the latest incarnation of the beloved Archie Comics character, Sabrina the Teenage Witch. While Sabrina battles demons living in the mortal world as a half-witch, the show managed to insert a well-read black girl storyline.
Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) is adjusting to high school in the mortal realm with her three friends, who are conveniently battling their own demons: Susie (Lachlan Watson) is being bullied by the football players for identifying as nonbinary, Harvey (Ross Lynch) is reconciling flashbacks of a demon he had seen as a child in his father’s mines, and Roz (Jaz Sinclair) is trying to read as many as books as she can before she loses her vision to a degenerative eye condition.
When a black girl appears onscreen in a recognizable story, I get excited. Especially when the comically sweet ’90s Melissa Joan Hart version of the TV series spent a season disastrously failing to make Sabrina have a black friend named Dreama. So seeing Roz in the new Sabrina was a great surprise, and even greater when she asked the school administration to incorporate Toni Morrison’s classic, The Bluest Eye, into the literature curriculum.
The administration says no. Of course, this upsets Roz. She asks Principal Hawthorne why students can’t read such a masterpiece, and the principal rattles off other books not allowed in the curriculum such A Clockwork Orange. Roz leads the gang to the school library where they look for books they feel should be there but can’t find them. The librarian tells them a “purge of bad books” had occurred years ago.
Devastated, Roz later confides in Sabrina and Susie that she’s losing her vision — the reason why she’s fighting for the books. But in a turn of events, Sabrina’s secret witch teacher Mrs. Wardwell helps the girls organize a secret banned book club.
Schools across the country are still dealing with banned books. This year’s list of banned books can be found here: https://bannedbooksweek.org/about/ Many books are by marginalized writers with content surrounding race, culture, sexual orientation and other so-called controversial issues. This clever statement of a storyline spans a few episodes but eventually does get swallowed by the demon haunting of the characters.