There’s a new era of Charmed premiering on The CW, but after watching the pilot (and with everything that’s gone on behind-the-scenes), I won’t be watching any more as I don’t believe this series honors the original.
(Update – October 11, 2018: The end of this article has been updated with new concerns over the show’s casting choices.)
I didn’t watch the original Charmed live. It began when I was the young age of two-years-old and was a show that I gradually began to watch at around the age of seven.
However, over the years, Charmed has become one of the shows, if not the show, I’ve rewatched the most (I’d say, give or take, 20 times). Suffice it to say, I love the Halliwell sisters and continuously enjoy watching the hectic, tragic, demonic adventures in their lives play out on my screen.
Watching Prue, Piper, Phoebe, and eventually Paige deal with the struggle to balance their family and romantic lives and their careers with their witchly duties and a new demon coming after them every month was inspiring. The Halliwells never had it easy, nor would they ever. They were normal, modern women living in this world where it seemed like everyone was out to get them.
I honestly believe Charmed made me a more compassionate, understanding, and hopeful individual. The sisters saved everyone, even those they thought didn’t deserve it, and used their powers to make the world a better place, regardless of race, circumstance, or any other factor. They were genuinely good people, and they had their dark moments, but each found their own way back to the light and continued on their destiny to help people and save the world.
No matter how much time passes, Charmed will always remain relevant in the world, and isn’t that what makes great television? Their personal stories, while intertwined with their witchly world, allowed them to depict the average life of the modern woman and the struggles and triumphs of love, money, and career.
Sure, the graphics make me a bit outdated and their outfits are a travesty at times, but Charmed didn’t need to rely on anything but the lives of the Halliwell women to be successful and reach out to fans at various stages in their lives.
When the Charmed “reboot” was first announced a few years ago, I’ll admit I was not thrilled. It seems like every year there’s been a new attempt to recreate the series, obviously to replicate the success of the original in a Hollywood world full of lacking original content. Each year, it has failed, but this latest attempt managed to earn a season order, though not without a shadow of disrespect to the original.
The reboot has been controversial, well, always, but especially since the newest attempt was announced with each of the cast members who played the four sisters (Shannen Doherty, Alyssa Milano, Rose McGowan, and especially Holly Marie Combs) speaking out about how the idea to bring back Charmed without them was lame and disrespectful to the show they worked so hard to create.
Their comments wavered from the lack of originality to the fact that studio refused to include them in discussions about the future of the show (most notably Combs and Milano who served as Producers for the last four seasons of Charmed).
Plus, the description for the new series was, as Doherty put it in a response to a fan on Twitter, terrible and offensive. It reads: “This fierce, funny, feminist reboot of the original series centers on three sisters in a college town who discover they are witches. Between vanquishing supernatural demons, tearing down the patriarchy, and maintaining familial bonds, a witch’s work is never done.”
From here, the reboot already had already left a bitter taste in my mouth, but I tried to remain open to this new era. Check out the trailer for yourself:
I recently had the opportunity, through Hypable, to watch a screener of the first episode of Charmed, and I was not impressed. Not only is this not a “reboot” of Charmed, it’s a reimagining of the series.
Gone are the Halliwell sisters in this universe as the new Charmed Ones don’t even share the same powers as the Halliwells, the powers of other magical beings differ (so far), and, you know, there are animal demons now, too.
My biggest issue with the reboot, as the original actors have expressed, is that the new series has been continuously marketed as “feminist” since its inception as if the original was not.
The feminism in the original was subtle, strong, and deeply embedded in everything the three women did. It didn’t have to be the entirety of dialogue for one of the sisters to be a major part of the series, which is what I hope gradually happens with the reboot, so the message feels more genuine.
For premiering in 1998, Charmed was very ahead of its time, so why is the network constantly dragging the show down as if it isn’t still relevant today?
The Halliwell sisters faced sexual harassment and misogyny in the workplace, which are still very big issues today, and showcased three women taking on those terrible men (not all of which turned out to be demons). Through the eight seasons, the sisters weren’t reduced solely to being love interests, either, which is a common trend on female-led television shows.
By showcasing four powerful women as the greatest witches on Earth, but still depicting the realities of the world and how these women were treated by men and even other women, Charmed is arguably one of the most feminist TV shows of all time.
In the pilot of the reboot, Mel, the middle sister, has such terrible dialogue that everything that comes out her mouth feels incredibly forced and almost like it’s there to prove the series is conquering feminism, whereas the lines should feel like a natural part of the story.
She’s extreme to the point of it almost coming across as disingenuous and satire, which is counterproductive to the message the show was trying to send. And, at times, her lines about consent and empowerment came across as a mockery of very real issues.
It’s in no way that the feminism and stance the show took on issues were “wrong,” but the way they handled it was enough to question whether it was to be “more” than the original.
There’s nothing wrong with being loud and proud in your views, as Mel is, but the writing often used her views as the butt of a joke or as a plot device to make her younger sister (and her sister’s friends) uncomfortable.
Overall, it’s not about the message the reboot is trying to send that I took issue with, it’s about the handling of the delivery.
Instead of using the platform to showcase the real struggles in the world with the trending topics they wrote about, it seemed like the various lines of dialogue and story choices they made were less about actually empowering women and people of color and more to pretend to be relevant and progressive in today’s social climate.
This is far from the only problem with the new series, too. If they were really set on respecting the original, the writers wouldn’t have changed the basic rules of the world. Even a whitelighter’s orbing looks different, which was an important piece of the original since Paige’s powers were based on her whitelighter abilities.
The family dynamic doesn’t feel the same either. It’s been teased that the oldest sister, Macy, was given up at birth by their mother, and the premiere doesn’t give any insight into this, either, which makes the show feel less about the familial bond and more about being witches.
Charmed is supposed to be a show about three sisters who happen to be witches, not three witches who happen to be sisters.
The change of one sister’s powers was an extremely poor choice. Premonitions were arguably the most important power for the Halliwells as it helped them save hundreds of innocents from death.
Maggie’s ability to read minds seems like a way to make identifying demons a bit easier, but will lead to much more death. Without premonitions, these girls are much more open to demons ruling their life because they’re not going after the demons before something bad happens.
Changing one of the powers would have been more understandable if it was to avoid the complaint of not having an active power as we saw repeatedly from Phoebe, but reading minds is even worse.
It’s not just Mel’s dialogue that feels forced; the dialogue throughout the entire episode doesn’t quite sit right and the few comedic lines don’t quite break the tension, instead the lines just make the scenes awkward. Also, there’s a ridiculous way to identify demons this time around that is so infuriating and takes the fun out of the magic.
I applaud the new series for attempting to take on major issues in today’s society; the pilot includes a story around sexual harassment and the #MeToo movement, while showcasing three powerful women of color as the stars and most powerful witches in the world.
There are a lot of great things about the series, like representation for people of color and even opening up some sort of discussion of current issues (especially on a college campus), but there are still so many bad things, too.
(Added October 11) For instance, in October it was revealed that two of the main three stars are not Latina, which has, in some ways, been the calling card for this new show.
It was supposed to be a new take on Charmed with three Latinx women becoming the most powerful witches of the century. However, Sarah Jeffrey, the actress who plays the youngest sister Maggie, and Madeleine Mantock, the actress who plays the oldest sister Macy, are not Latina.
Marketing by The CW (even during the same press tour where Jeffrey declared she is not Latina) has always said the Charmed Ones come from a Latina mother and have different fathers, and the series will further explore their “unique heritages.”
However, during Television Critics’ Association’s summer press tour, Jeffrey stated she is not Latina but “African-American” and her mother is Indigenous Canadian.
I have never once claimed to be Latina. Not once. Thanks.
— Sarah Jeffery (@sarahmjeffery3) October 9, 2018
Meanwhile, Mantock has shared on Twitter that she is also not Latina, but Afro-Caribbean and Caucasian. Her Caribbean roots are Jamaican, to be clear.
I am Afro-Caribbean and Caucasian. The internet is wrong about a lot of things! https://t.co/8xPD5Zx5G6
— Madeleine Mantock (@missmads) July 4, 2018
Fans are not happy either. People took to Twitter to share their distaste for this newest revelation on the already controversial Charmed reboot.
#Charmed is the perfect example of doing diversity to profit from latinx but not to commit to having good representation.
To cast Latinas and sell your show at multiple events as a Latina show only to make 2 of the sister non-latinx and the mom white….its shit.
— 💀 basic bruja 💀 (@OhMyMithrandir) October 9, 2018
So, to recap: only one of the three actresses in the new Charmed is actually Latina. Also, seems like the reboot will continue to center European witchcraft and mythology, in spite of the rich history and culture of brujeria.
— Jeanna Kadlec 🌈 (@jeannakadlec) October 10, 2018
A few have pointed out that some of the outrage from the original show’s fans was because the original was dragged, repeatedly, for being about white women. And, while it’s wonderful to have three women of color in starring roles, getting accurate representation should not be as difficult as Hollywood is making it.
The #Charmed reboot is what happens when media companies realize that Latinx buying power is outpacing that of the entire US population but don't care enough to actually cast and hire Latinas for our stories.
— 💀 basic bruja 💀 (@OhMyMithrandir) October 9, 2018
I distinctly remember part of the huff being that it was better than og charmed bc it was latinx
If the mom is now not latinx and only one daughter is latina then what is the mom… white? that means their magic comes from whiteness aka the exact thing they dragged the og for
— Charmedteacup (@charmedteacup) October 9, 2018
So apparently 2 of the actors from the new #Charmed aren’t actually Latinas yet they’re playing Latinas. They’re promoting this show as a latinx representation and they didn’t even cast the right people.
— Vanessa M (@mdzvanessa) October 9, 2018
It’s clear the new writers tried a little too hard and it completely backfired. Even if the reboot featured the original cast (or continued the Halliwell line) and it had the same sort of dialogue and storytelling of the new Charmed, it would have flopped, and that’s honestly what I expect to happen with this show.
Add the failure of the show to the backlash about casting and this entire experience is just a mess.
Even despite the backlash and outrage about rebooting Charmed without the Halliwell sisters and having non-Latina actresses playing Latina women, this just isn’t a good show.