The New 'Charmed' Is A Feminist Take On The Original & Spoiler: It's Great
You may have heard that some fans don't want there to be a new Charmed series. They say the original was perfect and that no one can ever recreate it. And sure, that's true. There's no world in which someone could perfectly recreate the Halliwell sisters and their journey into (and out of) the depths of hell. Luckily, Jane The Virgin creator Jenni Snyder-Urman's Charmed reboot isn't trying to do that. It's doing its own intersectional feminist thing. And it's actually pretty fantastic.
The pilot episode premiered at 2018 San Diego Comic-Con to uproarious applause from the fans who lined up to be the first to see the new series. The new Charmed centers on another set of three sisters — Macy, Maggie, and Mel Vega — all learning to harness the Power of Three in the wake of their mother's death. Many of the boundaries of the series match up to the original (the Book of Shadows, the Power of Three, the presence of a White Lighter, etc.), but these sisters are definitely forging their own path inspired by, but not copying the original series.
It doesn't feel like the real world not to have [an LGBT relationship].
For starters, the series is a little less chaste than the one that bore it — there certainly was sex, but it was always treated as such a gasp-worthy moment. Within minutes of introducing middle sister Mel, she's walking down a dark street and texting her girlfriend "Get naked." Later, they very casually wake up in bed together — no scandal, so muss or fuss. Sex is just another part of life, and that's how the series treats it.
And while it is very open about the fact that these young women are, well, women with wants and desires, it's also entirely clear that the point of the series isn't to follow a will-they-or-won't-they between lovers (although the show's creators did promise some romance during their Comic-Con Q&A). The main relationship is between the three sisters. So while the youngest sister, Maggie, is clearly a spiritual surrogate of Alyssa Milano's Phoebe Halliwell — she's pledging sororities, has a taste for fashion, and wields a mental power (she reads minds, while Phoebe had premonitions) — but rather than being wrapped up in a tumultuous romance like Phoebe always was, Maggie opens the pilot attempting to pump the brakes on a relationship with her ex-boyfriend. For older sister Macy, there's clearly a potential BF in her social circle, but the pilot spends more time creating a bond between her and her sisters than it does creating sexual tension with her old pal.
If there's a main couple at all, it comes courtesy of Mel, whose girlfriend broke up with her when Mel's anger was inflamed by her mother's death. That 'ship is clearly gonna be a rocky, but passionate one based on the fireworks between the two characters during pilot. But what's even better is that the series doesn't seem to expect a gold star for including an LGBTQ character in the starring trio, likely because, as executive producer Jessica O'Toole said during the post-premiere Q&A, "It doesn't feel like the real world not to have that."
But the piece de resistance of this whole enterprise is the fact that it practically waves an undoubtedly, unmistakably feminist banner — it's basically as if witchcraft, the CW, and a women's studies class had a fantastically entertaining lovechild.
The idea that we're sisters and we love each other and we care about each other is the first foundation of what feminism is.
Here's the set-up: The girls' mother is a women's studies professor who is mysteriously killed one night, right around the time she starts to publicly support a young woman who accused a college professor of sexual harassment. The professor gets exonerated, the girl ends up in the hospital, and Mama Vega winds up dead. So while there is a demon in the pilot episode, the true demon facing the Vega sisters is the patriarchy, straight up. Mel ends up punching a guy who tells her that the case of the harassing professor is a "he said, she said" thing and that the accuser is a loony (he also says some nasty stuff about Mel's dead mom, but still). The eldest sister Macy is a brilliant scientist, who surpasses instructions from their White Lighter (a British guy throwing off some serious Wesley from Buffy vibes) and instead uses science to defeat a demon. And the big final baddie of the episode is a demon who is known to steal the life force of powerful women; he's found in the midst of a feminist protest and defeated with a spell that translates to "strong women can bring down toxic demons" (loosely, anyway, per O'Toole and Snyder Urman).
And that strong thread of feminism is definitely something that pleases the actors. Melonie Diaz, who plays Mel, is particularly proud of the sisterhood element. "The idea that we're sisters and we love each other and we care about each other is the first foundation of what feminism is — loving each other and supporting each other despite anything else," she says when we speak after the pilot premiere.
Madeleine Mantock, who plays Macy, says she's focused on just how complex the sisters are as characters. "I love it that we are the heroes of the story but we also get to fail and you see the duality of just being a human, despite the fact that we're women," she says. "To have that equality that you don't usually get to see onscreen is just fantastic."
And for the youngest sister, the physical manifestation of feminism is the most empowering piece of the pie. "There's like a protest that goes on in it. And I think it's really cool to see [feminism] brought to life, like you're seeing it onscreen and it's so realistic and it's so appropriate for the time we're in right now," says Maggie actor Sarah Jeffrey.
And OK, yes. The series' brand of feminism a bit on the nose. I'll give you that. But it's just so freaking fun to watch it play out. Plus, it comes with a healthy serving of self awareness and bubbly humor — much like EP Snyder Urman's other beloved series, Jane The Virgin.
Tl;dr: The haters will most certainly hate. And tweet. And unrelentingly complain that Charmed was ever rebooted in the first. But the series "comes in peace" (as Mantock professed at the Comic-Con Q&A), does right by the Halliwells' legacy, and most importantly, reignites the all-important Power of Three.