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Netflix’s “Sabrina” is a fresh take on its comic predecessor

Brian Luck

Contributing Writer

“Who doesn’t enjoy a good scare every now and then, especially this time of year?”

The new Netflix series, “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” was released Oct. 26. It follows the story of 16 year old Sabrina Spellman: a half-witch, half-mortal who must decide whether to follow the Path of Light or the Path of Night.

The Netflix series derives from the popular comic books of the same name published in October 2014 by Archie Horror, a sub-group of Archie Comics. These newer comic books draw inspiration from the older comics of “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch,” which had their own television adaptation in the 1990s, and three cartoon adaptations.

Fans of the old “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” television show will be surprised at the drastic differences between the old and new series. These changes occur in the context of different comic books.

Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) lives with her two aunts, Zelda and Hilda, (Miranda Otto and Lucy Davis, respectively) and her black cat, Salem. Since the 1990s, Salem has taken over the role of Sabrina’s cousin Ambrose (Chance Perdomo). The Netflix Salem is not a warlock trapped in a cat’s body who speaks sassily and offers advice like that of the 1990s. Rather, he now acts as Sabrina’s “familiar,” helping her silently. Ambrose is under house arrest for attempting to blow up the Vatican and tries to provide his cousin with the support she needs.

As a half-witch and half-mortal, Sabrina lives a double life. She attends Baxter High with her boyfriend Harvey (Ross Lynch) and friends Susie and Rosalind (Lachlan Watson and Jaz Sinclair), where she creates the feminist group W.IC.C.A., or the Women’s Intersectional Cultural and Creative Association. There, she also interacts with Mary Wardwell (Michelle Gomez), a secret witch whose true intentions are blurred throughout the series.

In the world of witches, Sabrina faces harrowing, the witch form of hazing, from the Weird Sisters, Prudence, Dorcas and Agatha (Tati Gabrielle, Abigail F. Cowen and Adeline Rudolph). She befriends warlock Nicholas Scratch (Gavin Leatherwood) who comes to her aid frequently at the Academy of Unseen Arts, headed by Father Faustus Blackwood (Richard Coyle), the high priest of the Church of Night.

Chilling is indeed an appropriate description for the show. It centers around Satanic subjects and the occult and involves numerous graphic scenes of blood and gore. The series is rated TV-14 for these reasons as well as profanity, cannibalism and sexual themes. Certainly “Sabrina” is not for the faint of heart.

Despite the horror and thriller aspects of the series, “Sabrina” functions as a drama of fate, love, bravery, and friendship. It keeps the audience in suspense, with layers of complexity and intertwining story lines, while still providing the satisfaction of family, self-discovery and dark humor.

“The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” received a 90 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, proving its worth to the entertainment world. Now that Halloween has passed, “Sabrina” can be our source of “a good scare every now and then.”

(Photo from Inverse)

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Zeal & Ardor make bold statements in their debut album

Ben McKone

Contributing Writer

The first track on Zeal & Ardor’s debut album begins with the simple and dreadful rattle of chains, instantly conjuring images of blazing Southern sun, droning insects, white authority and forced black servitude. 

Manuel Gagneux’s unpolished voice rises above the sounds of labor. “Little one, gotta heed my warnin” *clank, a chorus of voices* — all Gagneux’s call out in response. “Devil is kind!” “He come in early mornin!” *clank* “Devil is fine!”

The listener has been taken around an unexpected corner. This seemingly pious Deep South hymn holds as its object not Jesus Christ or the Christian God, but Lucifer himself, for such is the central question of the Zeal & Ardor project. Manuel Gagneux, the African-American/Swiss multi-instrumentalist who founded the group, wondered what the effect on history would be if enslaved African-Americans had not embraced the faith of their oppressors, but had instead chosen Satan. To explore this, he combined two musical genres that would seem diametrically opposed to most: vintage African-American work songs of the South, such as those collected in the recordings of Allen Lomax, and traditional Scandinavian black metal, influenced by seminal bands like Bathory and Darkthrone.

It’s a combination that will put many listeners on their back foot. Gagneux knows this and is more than happy to indulge in the more shocking aspects of his black metal heritage; Zeal & Ardor’s tracks contain samples of Anton LaVey, Alesteir Crowley’s Gnostic Mass and lyrics like “The river bed will run red with the blood of the saints and the blood of the holy.”

This blasphemy, while always enjoyable, can be found in any black metal release. What sets Zeal & Ardor apart, however, is how skillfully Gagneux uses the unlikely combination of spiritual sorrow and metallic fury to create a deep undercurrent of melancholy and betrayal. The sound is at once furious and mournful, revolutionary and resigned. They are the perfect anthems for our troubled times. 

“They’re coming closer just to kill us,” Gagneux laments bitterly in the track “Built on Ashes,” with the line “You know they’re never gonna help us.”  Other lyrics, such as “Nobody waitin’ on you, you better run, son,” or “Don’t you dare look away, boy” evoke deep memories of racial terror in the United States, a cultural heritage much older than rock and roll. To listen to Zeal & Ardor is to be brought on a tour of a nightmarish antebellum South, a reminder of the true evil greater than any occultism could pretend to be — that has been the rule, not the exception, in the Land of the Free. As Gagneux put it in an interview with Billboard, spirituals come from “a viciously, grotesquely dark place… There might be an upbeat melody, but there’s this immense sadness being conveyed.” The chants are the surface; the screaming, raging black metal lies beneath. So too, this nation. On the surface are lofty ideals of pride, liberty and equality; beneath lies centuries of oppression and destruction. 

Seen in this light, Gagneux’s Satanic affectations gain a new power. As with most occult-themed musical acts, there is no literal “devil” being worshipped. Rather, what is being expressed is the fury of the oppressed. The sign of the cross has for countless centuries hung over fields of forced labor and been wielded by agents of tyranny, particularly in the United States. Zeal & Ardor forces us to take an honest look on the “Christian” history of this country. Looking at such a sight, one can only say to themselves that, perhaps, the devil is fine. 

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The Scene: Growth with Music

Despite music being pretty much all I talk about, I’m not a very fun person to talk about music with. I can spend all day going on tangents about which artists and genres I like or dislike, and I could probably waste my life writing a Master’s dissertation on why Modest Mouse was the best band of the 90s. But like many a sweaty boy with guitars, my musical journey started with pop-punk. So if you have the time, listen to me whine and wax nostalgic about a not-so-innocent genre that defined my years of innocence.

Before music was collecting records, playing in bands and making mixtapes for girls I liked, it all started with me buying Green Day: Rock Band, a game I’m convinced, in retrospect, nobody bought or even remembers. While other kids my age did normal shit like go to summer camp or make friends playing Pokémon, I was a dorky, goody-two-shoes 11 year old immersing myself in a world of stoners and burnouts who wasted away their 20s watching daytime TV and masturbating so much that it wasn’t even fun anymore. I was throwing myself feet first into Billie Joe Armstrong’s “mental cave” back when I was afraid of getting in trouble for listening to songs with “fuck” in the lyrics and when I thought Blink 182’s “Take Off Your Pants and Jacket” was just an allusion to getting changed. Looking back, I’m genuinely surprised and grateful I never asked my parents what an “Enema of the State” was.

I can’t help but reminisce fondly on the time, because if music is one of my great loves, then that means pop-punk was my first musical courtship. Green Day and Blink 182 were bands that could be my life half a decade before I knew that was a Minutemen lyric. Going with the analogy, though, it’s impossible to go nine years without having a willingness to change or experiences that alter how you look at the world, and I naturally drifted to other genres that fit with my shifting interests. Now I was more interested in Paul Westerberg telling me that my “age was the hardest age” or Mark Kozelek lament that “at 15  [he thought he’d] have it down by 16,” because it just  felt so real  to moody, misanthropic teenage me.

I mostly forgot about the genre and the bands I’d loved so dearly in the past until I was listening to a “Chapo Trap House” episode where one of the hosts had just, while recording, suddenly got the admittedly not-that-funny double entendre behind “Take Off Your Pants and Jacket,” and all of a sudden I went back into a nostalgic dive in which I made a key realization: I wasn’t too old for pop-punk as I got older, I was too young and oblivious to fully comprehend the music I loved. I still don’t think it’s the best music out there by any means, even if Green Day’s “Dookie” absolutely still holds up and Blink-182’s misogyny on “Dumpweed” and “Dysentery Gary” feel like precursors to the online incel movement. Still, it’ll always be an important, if embarrassing first step on my musical journey.

Andrew Kilbride, a Staff Writer for the Voice, can be reached for comment at AKilbride21@wooster.edu.

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Scotlight: Simon Weyer

Simon Weyer ’19 discusses running cross country and track, his interest in brewing beer and how he became interested in calisthenics and bodyweight fitness.

What, outside of academics, are you most proud of in your time at Wooster?

I’d say I’m most proud of my time with track and cross country. Personally, I’m most proud of breaking two minutes in the 800 meters, but more important than that has just been the connections I’ve made with people on both those teams and the people I’ve met there; Wooster wouldn’t be what it is without those unexpected connections and relationships.

Sounds like you’re busy -— how do you balance all the things you do?

I think being so busy helps to keep a good schedule and keeps me organized. Practice is at four o’clock every day, so I try to get as much done from when I wake up until four o’clock. Ideally, I have the evenings where I don’t have too much to do — with I.S. that’s changed a bit — but having a lot of things to do keeps me motivated.

Is there anything that ties together your academic and non-academic interests? Or are they separate?

Well, with my I.S., I’m actually combining archaeology and brewing — in  the simplest terms, I’m looking at how three different ancient cultures brewed beers, looking at their processes and their ingredients and how they used to do that. So that ties some of them together pretty neatly.

My next question was going to ask what job you’d pick if you had to choose something totally outside of your academic major, but it sounds like you’ve answered that! Would you be a brewer?

Yes!

How did you learn?

I was always sort of interested in beer, and then one of the guys I’ve lived with for the past three years talked to me about if I’d be interested in looking into brewing. So we just started doing it together, learning more and more, and then it kind of just took over and it became a passion of mine. 

What’s your personal review of the Wooster beer scene?

Well, there’s not a ton of places. The brewery downtown is absolutely amazing; I love the people down there; they always have good beer. So, it’s only one spot, but it’s top notch.

What do you think has changed the most in yourself over your years at Wooster?

I think I’ve definitely become more open to different ideas and beliefs.

 Especially in high school, I just had one friend group and we all thought the same things, believed the same things, had the same political ideologies — and then you come to Wooster and it’s just so different and so diverse. It’s different from what I was used to, and I think I’ve really grown in that sense, grown to respect and understand and be aware of a lot of other peoples and cultures.

I’ve heard about your “Flag Fridays.” What are those about?

Flag Fridays are when every Friday I go out and do a human flag: it’s where you grab a pole or a tree and you hold your body out sideways, like a flag. It’s part of calisthenics, which I do as one of my hobbies. I started working out with my older brothers when I was in high school, and I got really into bodyweight fitness and calisthenics and found all these incredible isommetric holds and fell in love with doing it. I just think it’s a lot more fun than weight lifting — I’m getting fit, and I’m having so much fun doing it, so it’s a win-win.

Have you ever participated in calisthenics competitively?

I’ve done Alpha Warrior, which is similar to American Ninja Warrior. I didn’t make it through to the next levels, but it was an incredible experience, and I want to do American Ninja Warrior in the future. 

What motivates you when you’re doing or training for all these incredibly exhausting things?

That’s a good question — I don’t really know if I have a good answer. It’s just something I really love to do. I really enjoy movement, and being able to perform movements that a lot of people just haven’t seen before drives me a little bit, and in another respect it’s just pushing myself to my limit and the limit of the human body, just to see how far I can go. 

Interview by Robyn Newcomb, a Viewpoints Editor for the Voice (Photo taken from Instagram).

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Fall Dance Concert highlights student artistry in Freedlander

Holly Engel

Staff Writer

The autumn light is beginning to dwindle, and scarlet leaves twirl down to the pavement in a dance of their own, so there couldn’t be a better time for the Wooster Dance Company’s Fall Dance Concert. Opening on Thursday, Nov. 15 in Freedlander-In-The-Round and directed by Professor of Dance Kim Tritt, the concert will include several student-choreographed numbers, which have been rehearsed since the beginning of the semester, as well as student-designed lighting.

Tritt is very proud of everyone involved for the many hours of hard work they have put into the concert. “The vision of their dances come to life, and working with them is one of my favorite things to do!” she said. “As a group we have sharings every Monday to watch each other’s dance pieces and provide valuable constructive feedback. As well, I meet with each choreographer once a week so that I can provide more specific help as they are in the process of making their dances.”

According to Claire Smrekar ’19, one of the company’s three co-coordinators, there are eight student choreographers in total, five of whom will be choreographing for the first time. “Fall concert is unique in that it is performed in the round, so choreographers must expect their dance to be viewed from all sides while choreographing,” she commented. Though the concert in its entirety has no overarching theme, Smrekar stated that each choreographer approached their dance with something in mind. “The pieces in this year’s concert are very diverse in movement and energy … the concepts are all exceptionally varied and interesting.” Smrekar is also a choreographer and a dancer in the concert.

Co-coordinator Rachael Lau ’19, who is a choreographer, dancer and lighting designer for her own piece as well, is excited for the production’s opening. “I really enjoy the collaborative process of putting the production together,” she said. “The evening performance is only made possible because of the creativity and dedication of all the participants.”

Dance contains a beauty all its own, and Smrekar makes it clear that much of the fall concert’s beauty comes from the way the dances themselves have been created mainly by students. “People should attend Fall Dance Concert because it is a unique opportunity to see a show that is entirely student produced,” she said. “I am always thoroughly impressed by the talent and ability of my peers when I watch the show, and I hope that our audiences feel similarly. If anything, it’s an awesome opportunity to see something really cool produced by your friends.”

Others involved in the concert include Estelle Dowling ’21, Reyka VanSickle ’21, Crystal Sermon ’20, Madigan Strange ’19, Nicole Heusner-Wilkinson ’19 and Teagan Robinson ’19. Costumes are designed by Becky Callan, sound design by Chuck Findley and lighting design was aided by Technical Director Mike Schafer.

The concert will be running from Thursday, Nov. 15 to Saturday, Nov. 17. Each performance is at 7:30 p.m. at Freedlander-In-The-Round. All tickets are free but must be reserved at the box office. Seating is limited and sells out quickly, so get your tickets soon.

(Photo courtesy Claire Smrekar)

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Anniversary lecture explores the evolution of Frankenstein

Zoe Covey

Features Editor

Last Friday, Dr. Irene Herold, head librarian for The College of Wooster, gave a lecture on the enduring relevance of Mary Shelley’s most famous work, “Frankenstein: Or the Modern Prometheus,” for its 200 year anniversary. The inspiration for the lecture was an exhibit produced by the National Library of Medicine entitled “Frankenstein: Penetrating the Secrets of Nature,” which gave an overview of the environment, genesis and development of Shelley’s novel. Herold planned her talk before learning that the Wayne County Public Libraries were also holding events in collaboration with the exhibit. 

Herold was a teacher prior to becoming Wooster’s head librarian, and taught about novels that were in the same genre as Frankenstein. She said that the first time she encountered the novel, she did not get everything out of it that was possible to detect. “I thought I had read the novel shortly after I graduated, but I think I only read part of it.  I was teaching eighth grade and we read ‘The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ and then saw a theatre production of ‘Frankenstein.’ I realized as I read the novel, preparing for the lecture that I had not read it before.  There was so much more to the novel than I knew — characters, murders (three), how the Creature became educated, all of the various locations, the narrative structure with Walton the ship captain, the trials, etc.,” Herold said. 

The lecture largely focused on the environment in which Shelley’s novel came into being, as well as the faithfulness of film and theatrical adaptations. The environment included biblical stories that feature tales of rebirth and rising from the dead, such as “The son of the widow of Nain” (Luke 7:11-17), “Lazarus” (John 11:1-44) and of course, the famous story of Christ’s resurrection. Herold explained that these famous stories created a place for Shelley’s work to fit into. Shelley’s personal background also influenced her writing. 

Shelley grew up in a family of writers and was surrounded by friends of her parents, who were political scientists, artists, doctors and chemists who cycled through her life since her mother’s passing at a young age. Their discussions and sharing of work influenced her later on when she was writing Frankenstein. Herold said that she thought one of the most interesting parts of Shelley’s background was her relationship with her mother. 

“I knew that Mary Shelley was from a mother who was a feminist, but I had not realized Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin had died 10 days after giving birth to Mary Shelley, so her mother’s influence on her life was via reputation and not directly. The whole theme about life and parenting was familiar,” said Herold. 

Adaptations of Frankenstein have often been less than faithful to the original text. According to the National Library of Medicine website, in these adaptations, “The monster underwent a transformation. From a sensitive, reasoning and articulate being whose crimes resulted from his mistreatment at the hands of humanity, the creature mutated into a grunting brute, whose violent and cruel nature could only be understood as the product of science daring to usurp the god-like power of creation.” 

Though these adaptations are so different from the novel, many people’s main experience with the story of Dr. Frankenstein and his Creature has been through films or cartoons retelling the tale. 

Herold said, “The film versions are beloved, but they do the Creature an injustice by making him speechless and unfeeling.” 

Herold started the lecture by asking the audience some light warmup questions, such as “What does it mean to be human,” and, “What is the meaning of life?” She also stopped speaking several times during the lecture to leave room for discussion with the audience about these big questions. 

Audience members spoke about how they couldn’t understand the rejection of the Creature by the doctor and how they had always believed that the monster’s name was Frankenstein, as the doctor’s name and his monster have become synonymous. Discussion of the controversy surrounding breakthroughs in science, even today, prompted thought about what it must have been like for the people who first read the story of the doctor and his creation. People in attendance discussed Mark Zuckerberg’s senate hearings, enhancing the human genome and the militarization of the human brain. 

When asked what she believed we are meant to take away from the novel, after 200 years and many retellings and all of her research on the topic, Herold said, “I can only speak to what I took away from the novel. That’s the great thing about literature — we each bring our own experiences to the text and take away what is individually meaningful. My lecture highlighted a few of the major themes that I took away from it, but others will find what resonates for them as they read it.  It is a lovely, complex work with multiple depths that is a really good read today, as it was when published 200 years ago.”

(Photo courtesy Zoe Covey)

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