As Netflix launches The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, we’ve decided to look back on the original Nineties show – and revel in all the bewitching life lessons we took away from Melissa Joan Hart’s character.
Sabrina the Teenage Witch was one of the best kids shows on television – not to mention one of the most #girlpower shows ever.
As long-term fans of the show will remember, Sabrina (Melissa Joan Hart) lived with her two aunts. The non-traditional family unit was incredibly strong, particularly the bond between Hilda (Caroline Rhea) and Zelda (Beth Broderick), who had lived together for around 600 years.
Yes, they often had boyfriends and went on dates – and, yes, they clashed on occasion – but they were always there for one another. Romantic interests came and went, while theirs was the true love story, and they worked together as parents to instill their wisdom upon their teenage niece.
We’ve rounded the best nuggets of wisdom from the show right here. You’re welcome…
1. There’s no quick-fix for addiction
Oh yes. In Pancake Madness, we giggled as Sabrina developed an insatiable appetite for pancakes – but, as her lust for all things battered turned into an addiction, it quickly became apparent that this was an episode with a big lesson at the heart of it.
“I don’t wanna be hooked on pancakes,” a distressed Sabrina tells an oversized maple syrup dispenser (hey, things get kooky in the Other Realm sometimes). “I-I-I’ve forgot about my friends, I’ve forgot about my family. All I could think about was getting more pancakes, eating more pancakes, the butter, the syrup.”
It’s the wake-up call that Sabrina needs; once she realises she’s pushed her friends and family away, she takes the steps necessary to fight her addiction. And she doesn’t fight her cravings with magic, either; there’s no quick-fix solution to addiction, and working through it takes time.
“How do you feel?” asks Hilda, towards the end of the episode.
“Like I want pancakes,” says Sabrina, “but I guess that’s how I’m always gonna feel. I’ll just have to take it one day at a time.”
2. There’s only one cure for embarrassment
In Boy, Was My Face Red, Sabrina accidentally farts in front of the entire class – and, this being high school, everybody notices. And points. And laughs. And comments.
To make things worse, Sabrina’s half-witch tendencies cause her face to permanently turn a vivid shade of red – which, naturally, doesn’t go help to reduce her embarrassment levels.
While Salem suggests using her magic to force her classmates into similarly cringe-worthy situations, thus rendering her own bodily functions nothing more than ‘yesterday’s news’, Sabrina can’t bring herself to do it.
“I’ll just ride it out,” she tells herself, “just like everybody else.”
It’s not long before Gordie – aka the victim of school bullies everywhere – comes up to Sabrina to have a chat with her.
“Sorry you got humiliated the other day, but at least I finally got a day off,” he says, before adding: “I always used to think you were perfect, almost like you weren’t human… but it turns out you’re just one of us.”
Voilà. Sabrina’s face magically transforms to its natural peachy hue, and she leaves having learned a valuable lesson about humility and grace.
3. Labels don’t mean a thing
Geek like Me saw Sabrina transform Libby into a geek for the day – with disastrous consequences. The high school bully quickly rises through the ranks to become the queen of the geeks, turning them on everybody else and forcibly excluding others from their clique.
Cue Sabrina donning stereotypically ‘geeky’ attire and crashing Science Club, where she desperately longs to be, and teaching Libby a valuable lesson about cliques.
“I feel smart and you know what?” she says. “I learned something today. No matter what we’re labelled, Libby will always be Libby, and I will always be me.”
Yup, she really did have to become a geek to figure out that it’s what’s on the inside that counts. Go figure.
4. Take a moment to address your prejudices
In The Crucible, Sabrina and her classmates head to Salem for a week of immersive history lessons; you guessed it, everyone’s favourite witch was forced to don pagan attire and learn all about the 1692 witch trials.
However, when their teacher reveals that one of them has been singled out as a witch, things quickly become very frightening – with Libby and her team of bullies taking Jenny, and then Sabrina, to trial as a witch. Rumours, hearsay, and accusations soon spiral out of control… and one unfortunate teen ends up in the stocks.
But, as they ready themselves for their journey home, their teacher has a very important lesson for them.
“I hope you enjoyed your stay at Salem but before we get on the bus I wanna let you in an a secret,” says Mrs Hecht. “What we’ve been studying is not just seventeenth century life but human nature. The persecution, the hysteria of three hundred years ago arose again today and all it took was an idea planted in your head. The idea that someone different was among you.
“No one had the witch card. Every single card said ‘townsperson’ I didn’t create the witches, you did. Now think about that on the ride home.”
Of course, Sabrina’s card magically transformed to read ‘witch’ (because magic), but the lesson still stands.
5. Never stop fighting the patriarchy
In one fateful episode, Sabrina accidentally sent everyone back in time to the 60s – and, while the fashion was fun and the guitar sing-alongs frequent, there were a lot of negatives. Like, for example, the fact she couldn’t get into university – nor did she have the right to vote.
She eventually managed to whizz everyone back to the modern world, but she learned a few important lessons along the way. In particular, she had a newfound respect for the suffragettes – and a desire to carry on their good fight for women’s rights.
As Mrs Quick put it: “Men rule the world, and they do it by oppressing women, forcing us into stereotypical roles and shoes that create permanent foot problems… remember, a woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.”
6. Don’t make decisions to please everybody else
Sabrina, like so many other teens, found herself utterly bewildered by all of the options available to her at the end of high school. More stressful than even that, however, was the fact that all of the people she loved most had very different designs on her future; Hilda wanted her to travel the world, Zelda wants her to go to The Other Realm University, Josh (ew) wants her to go to Emerson, and Harvey is desperate for her to join him at Boston.
Unwilling to hurt everyone’s feelings, Sabrina does her best to make all of them happy, and ends up tearing herself into four different versions of herself in the process – hence the title, the Four Faces of Sabrina.
Towards the end, all four versions of the teenage witch determine to do what’s best for Sabrina, and she nervously gathers the gang around her; the school she really wants to go to is… Adams.
Cue cries of “that’s a great school” from all corners, causing Sabrina to ask them if they’re angry at her.
“No, we’re fine with wherever you want to go,” they reassure her. “We just want you to be happy.”
The lesson here is simple; stop worrying about what everyone else wants, and do you, girl.
7. A healthy relationship needs three things to make it work
Ever since the very first episode, Sabrina and Harvey’s relationship was very special; the best friends confided in each other about everything, supported one another through rough times, and happily devoured entire vats of raw cookie dough together.
So, when they locked lips in First Kiss, we expected things to go swimmingly. What we didn’t expect was for Harvey to turn into a frog and, literally, go swimming.
Sabrina is forced to head to the Other Realm and undergo a series of challenges in a bid to prove that their love is true (a big ask, considering this is her first ever kiss and she’s just 16).
We watch her pick her Harvey out of a batch of clones, ignore the advances of a topless muscle man, and leap across a fiery chasm… and, in the process, she confirms that their relationship is based on the three important Fs; friendship, fidelity, and faith.
8. … but not every relationship is meant to last forever
As we pointed out in the above, Sabrina proved that Harvey was her true love in First Kiss – something which her Aunt Zelda wasn’t surprised by one bit.
“At sixteen, it’s always true love,” she said wryly, “now she’ll think it’s extra-special.”
And, as it so happens, she was bang on the money; Harvey and Sabrina may have been high school sweethearts, but they didn’t stay together forever.
Instead, our favourite teenage witch soon grew out of her first crush, embraced her independence, and dated lots of different and interesting people. There was Josh, her boss at the coffee shop, and musician Kevin O’Connor. She also enjoyed a night out with Chad Corey Dylan (made from man dough, so we’re not sure if he counts), dumped bigoted Derek, and was whisked off fora true date with Destiny (yup, the human version). And let’s not forget half-mortal gent Dashiell, merman Barnaby, nor her unlucky one-time fiancé Aaron Jacobs.
Sure, she wound up with Harvey in the end – but not until years later. Instead, she focused on pursuing her dreams, learning who she truly was, and becoming her own person. Then, and only then, was she ready to commit to an adult relationship with Mr Kinkle.
9. It really is what’s on the inside that counts
Sabrina isn’t all that concerned with her style or appearance – but, while preparing for the school dance in her senior year, she becomes worryingly obsessed with her weight. It’s not long before she embarks on a dangerous crash diet and starts taking a magical substance called Blubber-Be-Gone, which renders her invisible.
While wandering around the hall, unseen by her classmates, Sabrina soon discovers that they’ve voted for her to be ‘Queen’ of the ball – and that her looks had zilch to do with it.
“She’s really level-headed and totally down to earth,” says one.
Another remarks: “She’s nice and definitely doesn’t follow the pack.”
A frustrated Sabrina suddenly realises that she dieted until she became invisible, and spent a lot of money on a dress, and all for no reason. “They voted for me because I don’t normally do that,” she says, suddenly becoming visible again.
Overjoyed, she rushes up to the podium, where she shares her lesson with her peers.
“All I needed to restore myself was a little self esteem, and I definitely don’t need to diet,” she said. “Tonight I realised that what a person looks like on the outside doesn’t matter half as much as what she’s like on the inside.”
10. It’s always best to face your fears
Sabrina may have been imbued with magical powers, but she still found herself feeling afraid on occasion. And, in Fear Strikes up a Conversation, she finds herself overwhelmed with panic when Mrs Quick arranges for her to read out an essay in front of the entire school body. Cue her ‘fear shadow’ stalking her around the place, causing chaos, and infecting everybody else with anxiety, too.
Luckily, the Quizmaster is on hand to help Sabrina to get a hold of herself – and he soon reveals that the only way to tackle her terror is to face it head-on.
Cue her nervously stepping up in front of everyone and reading out her essay – which is, coincidentally, all about how she overcame her fear of maths.
“At first math seemed so complicated I was afraid of it, but once I took the time to study it wasn’t scary to me anymore,” she tells them. “Which proves that knowledge and experience are the best weapons against fear.”
Her fear shadow soon dissolves – but a teeny patch remains, pinned to her blouse.
“He’s there to remind you that fear is something that’ll always be a part of you,” the Quizmaster tells her. “You just have to be willing to deal with it.”
11. Love means saying you’re sorry
The opposite of what people usually say, we know. But just because you love someone doesn’t mean you should take their feelings for granted – something which Sabrina learned the hard way when Harvey back in their high school days.
He walked in on her kissing Josh, the pair of them broke up – and it was horrible. She did everything in her (magical) power to try to salvage things, including turn back time, but to no avail.
It only figured itself out when she said those two magic words: “I’m sorry”.
“I’m so glad to say I’m sorry, she tells him. “I’m sorry I didn’t say I was sorry sooner.”
Harvey says his own apologies and their friendship is restored.
12. Procrastination is bad
Well, not always. Sometimes you can avoid tackling a task and get lots of things done in the meantime (such as tidy your bedroom, rotate your mattress, clean out the freezer) – but, at other times, it can lead to disaster. Like, say, your teenage boyfriend being sucked up a beanstalk, locked in a witch’s lair, fattened up for dinner, and almost gobbled up.
“No more procrastinating!” announces Sabrina, once Harvey is (thankfully) safe and sound. “Procrastinating is bad, it only leads to terrible things. I will never procrastinate again.”
She then promptly abandons her project to eat unbaked brownie dough. Because, sometimes, a lesson takes longer to learn than it should.
13. Choose your pets wisely
As Salem Saberhagen points out: “Dogs guard, but cats watch… and judge.”
14. Our actions determine who we really are
In The Good, the Bad, and the Luau, Sabrina learns she has a twin, Katrina – too bad that one of them is evil. The pair are forced to undergo a series of rigorous tests to work out which of them is the truly twisted one, with Katrina coming out on top. Cue the Witch Judge asking her to throw Sabrina into a volcano – which Katrina does, happily.
The volcano was, thankfully, a mirage – and Sabrina is safe and sound.
As for Katrina? Well, she’s the evil twin. Duh.
The Witch Judges nails this lesson when they point out: “No good witch has ever had the heart to do away with their evil twin, although one Hilda Spellman did come very close. This proves Katrina is the evil twin.”
15. Never be afraid to unleash your inner witch
So what if you don’t have magical powers? Even Libby manages to summon the magic from within every once in a while. Just be sure to stay true to yourself, speak your mind, and don’t take any s**t from anyone.
Images: Getty / Sabrina the Teenage Witch / Nickelodeon