When The CW's Charmed reboot was announced, I was frustrated. You might have caught this article I wrote on the reactions of the original show's cast, or this piece I produced with a similarly bitter title. Like many diehard fans of The WB's Charmed, I resented that the reboot wasn't connected to the original series. As a whole, I didn't agree with how the networks chose to handle the continuation of a show that meant so much to so many. Charmed wasn't just another supernatural series, it was a true feminist series, and one of the first shows I remember with a female-led cast.
When I saw the pilot of the reboot at San Diego Comic-Con this year, it was clear it wasn't made for me — an OG fan of the original Charmed in her mid to late twenties — and, at first, that validated my stance (and bolstered my resentment). To me, Mel, Macy, and Maggie were not believable characters. Mel — a single character — was *clears throat*: a Latina lesbian, a "strong-willed feminist," a "passionate, outspoken activist," a student of women's studies, and someone who punched tone deaf men in her free time. Why, I ask, did all these qualities need to be stuffed into one young woman? As much as I appreciate all of these things, in my opinion, Mel's character was a stretched archetype of the "perfect" feminist. The role was taken to an almost stereotypical level that did more to lessen her validity than it did to strengthen it. Mel's older half-sister, Macy, was described as an "intense science nerd" and had a Ph.D. in molecular genetics. Meanwhile, Maggie was just trying to get into the sorority she liked.
These characters feel nothing like the Halliwell sisters. in the early 2000s, watching Piper, Prue, Phoebe, and Paige carry out normal lives while saving the world and defeating evil was a joy and inspiration to watch. Despite her many responsibilities, Piper never let go of her dream of becoming a chef — and eventually a successful business owner, wife, and mother. Phoebe used her abilities to help people at home and at work as a popular columnist, and Paige healed people every day as a half witch, half White Lighter. The concept of three powerful witches taking up space on TV is also influential. Throughout history, the witch has represented female strength and resistance.
Cut to today, and Mel, Macy, and Maggie are just too young to be relatable to me. I am not the demographic for the Charmed reboot, which finally premiered last month, and I will always be disappointed by that. The Charmed of today is not the Charmed of yesterday, and that's a bummer — but it's a bummer I can make peace with if the show has the same influence on young girls today that the original did on me 15 years ago.
Thanks to the women behind the project — Constance M. Burge (the creator of the original series), Jennie Urman Snyder, Gina Rodriguez, Jessica O'Toole, and Vanessa Parise — I have hope that it will. These are talented women who have broken down barriers in order to provide vital content to young women. Once I started to accept that this show wasn't made for me, I realized it doesn't matter if it's good — it matters if it's empowering.
This feeling only strengthened when I heard from Parise, who has worked in the industry since the late '90s. Her insights opened my eyes. She's the first to admit that getting a directing job at all is a major accomplishment for women.
"The biggest challenge has been getting hired," Parise explained to Zimbio via email. "More specifically, getting hired for larger budget gigs that are in the system [directing episodic television and studio features]. I started out in the indie feature world – writing, directing, producing and starring in my own films. I never felt any discrimination. But as soon as I wanted to get into the system – where you can potentially make a lot of money — I felt a huge shift. Since then, it’s felt mostly like I’m pushing a boulder up a mountain."
Still, she powered ahead because making projects for women is her passion.
"Like most of my friends, I thought the old normal was just the way it was – that as women, we just had to navigate around the obstacles," she said. "At home, my parents were forward-thinking and incredibly supportive, so I had enough confidence to persevere and find different ways around, over, or through the challenges. With #MeToo and TimesUp, we're now realizing that the world can be different. There's a new awareness amongst
women and men. I want to tell stories that empower women, that show us as multidimensional, unique, imperfect beings striving to find our way in the world. I want young women to recognize themselves onscreen and feel inspired to forge ahead with their hopes and dreams."
I was thrilled to discover Parise is also a big fan of the original Charmed series.
"Alyssa Milano was starring in Charmed when she starred in my first feature film, Kiss the Bride, which was about four sisters and their dysfunctional (but very loving) family," Parise shared. "I watched a lot of the original series at that time – and loved it. I’ve always tried to write interesting, multidimensional female characters into my scripts, and to hire as many women as possible below the line as well. To be given this great opportunity to be producing director [and co-executive producer] on the reboot feels like the perfect culmination of all my work to date... like this was meant to be."
Parise acknowledged Charmed's influence on women of the '00s, but also sees a necessity for the modern day iteration.
"We are moving forward, but we still have much more work to do to reach equal footing," she explained. "Both the original and the reboot of Charmed have helped to empower women and sisterhood. Both are feminist, necessary – and awesome."
This, of course, leaves room for both OG fans and newcomers to the story.
"Charmed speaks to how 'our differences are our strengths,' and that 'we are stronger together,'" she said. "I’m beyond grateful to be working with this extraordinary team on a show that's political, topical, and inclusive – all told in an elegant, poignant yet humorous way."
Years after the original series aired, when young women need it most, Mel, Macy, and Maggie have just as much potential as the Halliwells. They may be almost implausibly high achieving and at different life stages with different personalities, but they share several qualities of P3, including duality, intelligence, and radical courage. Right now, with a sexual predator in the White House, exercising sanity seems to be a subversive act. Despite what's happening in our country, and our world, women are encouraged to remain respectful and reserved — to sit and listen, only arguing against social atrocities when it's their turn to speak. We're forced to pretend what's happening around us, at every level, is normal when it is so not normal. Now more than ever, young women need people like M3 on their TV screens.
Parise's involvement in the project contributed to my change of heart and has given me hope the series could be meaningful for young women.
I may not tune in for the reboot the way I did for the original, but I hope it means just as much to girls today as the original meant to me years ago.
Catch the Charmed reboot Sundays on The CW.