It’s no secret that I was a huge critic of the Charmed reboot when it premiered.
The series had marketed itself as decidedly “feminist,” with Jennie Snyder Urman and other writers and producers patting themselves on the backs during press interviews.
The pilot was a disappointment, to say the least (you can read my take here). The “feminist” themes they had bragged about were nothing but a farce. The show used forced one-liners about consent and introduced cliche characters like Mel, a lesbian Women’s Studies grad student.
But I’ve continued watching the show and, although they’ve maintained their girl power mantra, they’ve also significantly toned down their overt, garish writing.
Watching Charmed has made me rethink my own privilege. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a household where my mom was a badass lawyer who passed on feminist ideals. I went to an extremely liberal university where I took women’s studies classes and learned about feminist theory from some of the best academics in the country. So for me, Charmed‘s female empowerment felt shallow and static.
But there are tons of girls who didn’t grow up this way. For some, this is one of the first times they’re seeing young women stand up for themselves. They look at the Charmed Ones and see girls who are realizing their power for the first time and using it to stand up to injustice. For those who didn’t grow up with this kind of female empowerment, this can be revolutionary.
It can also be a gateway. There will be some who will take what they see on TV and yearn to learn more about the feminist movement and about their own agency. So in that sense, Charmed can serve an incredibly important purpose.
I’m still wary to call it “feminist,” per se. Feminism is a complex theory that takes into account the historical events that have led to inequality; how the intersection of race, gender identity, sexual orientation, ability, and socioeconomic status impact a person’s place in the world.
But, at the end of the day, Charmed is still full of girl power and female agency and that certainly has its place in pop culture.
I want to be clear here, though: I am not endorsing all pop feminism.
I still find the monetization of commercial feminism appalling (ahem Dior, who sold “We Should All Be Feminist” tees for more than $700 each). And I believe companies that lure young people in with “woke” feminism (ahem, Feminist Apparel) should seriously reconsider their somewhat seedy branding.
But in terms of media representation, simplistic views of female empowerment can serve a purpose. Even if it is just a very small window into a larger movement, it still is a window, and I’ll take what I can get.
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Lena Finkel is the Editor and Founder of Femestella. Prior to starting Femestella, she worked at People, InStyle, and Tiger Beat. Her favorite Housewife is Bethenny Frankel and when she’s not watching RHONY, you can probably find her obsessing over her tuxedo cat Tom or hoarding drugstore lipsticks.