With the debut of the Netflix original show “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” last month, many people including myself were surprised at the new, darker elements that had been added to the remake of the cult TV hit. The heavy reliance upon Satanic beliefs and the depiction of their idols was for some a pleasant and refreshing feature to the show; but within others it stirred up a controversy that would come back to bite Netflix for all of its overconfidence.
A group that were increasingly offended by such representation was The Satanic Temple, a group themselves who are based in Salem, Massachusetts. Although strongly promoting that as a group they do not worship Satan himself, they insist that they work to “encourage benevolence and empathy among all people”. After releasing a statement last month, stating that Netflix and Warner Bros used a depiction of their deity, Baphomet, in the form of a statue within the show that was almost identical to that of the church’s; a legal battle was launched upon the two production companies for $50 million (£38 million) and it has been announced this week such lawsuit has been settled “amicably”.
The Temple’s founder Lucien Greaves posted on Twitter, “So ends one of the most over publicized of copyright claims. Press can now stop pretending this was unique & momentous, or even interesting. So, too, hopefully ends the parade of stupidity from online amateur legal experts”. This comes after the organisation received a barrage of online hate from Sabrina fans, who claimed that their lawsuit had no basis and should not be entertained. In a blog post that was linked with the tweet, Greaves continues on to state that “I particularly loved the confused claim from the people who said we were “playing victim,” with the alternative being that we simply stand silent when we feel our work may have been exploited”.
Within the same blog post, Greaves informs that the lawsuit that his Temple began was settled, stating that “the unique elements of the Satanic Temple’s Baphomet statue have been acknowledged in the credits of episodes which have already been filmed. The remaining terms of the settlement are subject to a confidentiality agreement”.
So what does the loss of the lawsuit (and the loss of $50 million) for Netflix imply for the future? It simply showcases that TV shows that intend on portraying and representing religious organisations of beliefs need to remember that such beliefs exist within our own world, and that credit and acknowledgment needs to be given. With American Horror Story also being called out last month by the Church of Satan on Twitter for their depiction of their leader Anton LaVey in their latest season “Apocalypse”, stating, “lazy writers appropriated his name and image for their Devil worship drivel is unimpressive and boring”; it is clear that TV production companies are failing to see Satanism as a legitimate and upstanding religion that needs to be respected.
Perhaps this is simply a case of Netflix exerting their overconfidence surrounding their powers of representation within their original TV shows. However, it could perhaps be an issue that needs to be further addressed regarding the use of satanic religions as a means of exploitation for entertainment purposes within the world of film and TV.