Here’s Why ‘Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’ Got Sued by Satanists
Sabrina the Teenage Witch is a classic comic book character. Both the Sabrina comics and the pair of family-friendly sitcoms based off of them are lighthearted and silly. When Netflix decided to re-imagine Sabrina as a devil-worshiper who commits human sacrifices, they were certainly trying to be provocative. However, it’s doubtful that Netflix was trying to provoke legal action against itself.
A monumental controversy
The series depicts a statue of Baphomet, a mythological goat/man/angel hybrid creature that is often associated with the devil. Baphomet and other folkloric figures are in the public domain; however, The Satanic Temple, a religious organization fittingly based in Salem, Massachusetts, owns the copyright to a well known statue of Baphomet in Oklahoma City. The Satanic Temple felt that the similarities between their statue of Baphomet and the one used in the series were so strong that they filed a 50 million dollar lawsuit for damages. Lucien Greaves, a spokesman for the organization, noted that “Unlike most imagery associated with Satanism, the unique Baphomet statue designed and built for TST is copyrighted, which grants the creator exclusive rights to determine whether, and under what conditions, this original work may be used by others.”
The Satanic Temple felt that Netflix hadn’t just copied their statue; they also felt that Netflix had defamed their organization by associating the statue with the various evils committed in the series, such as cannibalism and murder. The Satanic Temple also said that they were surprised by Netflix’s supposed appropriation of their statue, commenting “What makes this case particularly striking and significant is that it arises in the context of Defendants who are highly sophisticated media production and distribution companies which blatantly misappropriated Plaintiff’s unique expression of an idea even though they have a long history of vigorously protecting their own intellectual property.” Greaves also decried Chilling Adventures of Sabrina as “asinine Satanic Panic fiction” and was mortified that The Satanic Temple’s intellectual property was being used to promote it.
Though some fans of the series felt a little sympathy for Greaves and company, others were upset by The Satanic Temple’s actions. Greaves said “I have gotten quite a bit of hate mail from people seemingly basic enough to conceive of the situation as one in which a large powerful Satanic organization is using its might to bully an uncertain and innocent teenage witch who has just been newly exposed to the wide, cruel world.” He added “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.”
Patching things up
While The Satanic Temple was not pleased by the hate mail that they received, they did get some compensation from Warner Bros. The organization was included in the credits of the four episodes of the show that feature the statue. It is unknown what additional compensation the organization may have received thanks to a confidentiality clause. The Satanic Temple has expressed disappointment that this lawsuit has garnered so much more attention than their religious activities, though they felt that the lawsuit was settled “amicably.”