'Chilling Adventures of Sabrina': Susie Putnam's gender is not defined at the end of season one and that's iconic
The 'Chilling Adventures of Sabrina' has taken this Halloween season by storm and the underlining messages of the dark Archie Comics thriller is here to stay forever. Even though the binge-worthy series is about 16-year-old witch Sabrina Spellman battling her half-witch, half-mortal identity, there's Susie Putnam, Sabrina's queer best friend, who is an established protagonist rendering the beginnings of a trans or non-binary storyline.
The character of a bullied teenager is portrayed by Lachlan Watson, a non-binary actor. The 17-year-old North Carolina native, who also appeared on 'Nashville' and 'Drop Dead Diva,' entered the show as a "potential platform" to tell positive stories for viewers struggling with gender identity.
When we first meet Susie in episode one, we see a teenager bullied by homophobic jocks. “They pulled up my shirt,” Susie tells Sabrina revealing bruises and cuts on their face. By the end of the season, we see Susie as a fearless kid, standing up for those around. Serving as an inspiration, we also see the struggles, especially after Susie's dad suggests being queer is a "personal demon" and is punished by physical illness. Susie, who is described as “an outgoing and rambunctious farm kid,” is emotionally stirred by the comment and begins wearing a floral dress instead of the usual sweaters and pants.
But that doesn't last very long as Susie gets a visit from their ancestor, Dorothea, a long-dead relative who was also queer known to dress traditionally in men's attire. Known for valor, Dorothea becomes Susie's inspiration and a driving force. Even though at the end of season one, Susie still hasn't figured their gender and sexuality, the journey to self-discovery has been sparked and the farm kid goes back to wearing trousers and knit sweaters while warding the ghost of a dead witch.
The actor themselves believe in the importance of confusion and uncertainty en-route to self-acceptance as Watson said in a recent interview that it was a struggle to transition into a man, as it was to stay a woman. Watson loves the fact that they get to tell Susie's story as their own because of the experiences Watson has been through. In various interviews Watson has cited that there were high chances of Susie coming out as a trans man but Watson could talk to the writers and hold them off from labeling Susie's gender.
While Susie's story may help reach struggling teenagers, Hollywood has much to learn from the teenage flick show that has been immensely praised for its diverse cast, topical themes and addressing burning issues. With very few transgender actors and even lesser non-binary actors in Hollywood, Watson's portrayal of Susie is a gentle reminder of exploring diversity in the industry. A handful of shows take upon non-binary representation fearing the chances of success, but Netflix's 'Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,' is a proof that important stories can be a commercial hit too.
If a '90s reboot can turn the tale into a modern 2018 show then we wonder what is stopping Hollywood from coming up with its original present-day content with issues that need to be addressed.