Susan Orlean on the television show “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch,” and its then 22 year old star, Melissa Joan Hart:
I grew up in the sixties and seventies, under the spell of the old television show “Bewitched.” I saw every episode, and I loved them all. But lately I have been watching the television show “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch,” and I have come to regret that I was fifteen in the “Bewitched” years rather than now. Samantha Stephens, the witch on “Bewitched,” was a high-strung, self-doubting, cringing pre-feminist, who tidied her house and suppressed her magical powers and her intellect to mollify her wanky husband, Darrin. Sabrina, on the other hand, is a modern girl. She is independent, spunky, friendly with boys but not obsequious toward them, moderately athletic, unabashedly sentimental, and assertive in the way that only girls who have grown up taking feminism for granted are able to be. “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” is shown Fridays at nine o’clock on ABC, and this year the network also broadcasts a rerun on Fridays at eight. The nine-o’clock “Sabrina” is watched by more young women, teens, and little kids than any other television program in that time slot, and both the eight-o’clock and the nine-o’clock episodes rank in the top-ten shows among all kids. For many millions of people, the embodiment of modern girlhood is Sabrina the Teenage Witch.