Casting a spell on feminism: a rhetorical analysis of Sabrina Spellman and the dialectic of feminist liberation and patriarchal control

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University of Alabama Libraries

Witches have long captivated the public’s imagination as symbols of both the oppression and liberation of women. This tension between control and liberation is precisely why the witch is such a powerful symbol for feminism. This thesis explores how gendered representations of witches in popular culture index the status/strength/struggles of feminism at any given time. This thesis is a feminist rhetorical analysis of one witch in particular: Sabrina Spellman. Originally a 1962 Archie comic character, then the 1996 live-action series Sabrina the Teenage Witch starring Melissa Joan Hart, Sabrina returned again in the 2018 Netflix reboot the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina staring Kiernan Shipka. Due to Sabrina’s rich history and persistence, she serves as a reflection of feminism at different points in time. This thesis explores the rhetorical strategies through which Sabrina is depicted as a symbol for feminist liberation, but also the ways patriarchal control is enforced in each of these texts to limit her power.

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