Tuesday, 21 May 2024

Satanic Temple Sues Over Goat-Headed Statue in ‘Sabrina’ Series

The Satanic Temple filed a lawsuit on Thursday against Warner Bros. and Netflix, alleging copyright violation of its goat-headed statue, which appears in the new “Sabrina” series.

The temple objected to the use of the statue’s likeness in the “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” which features a much darker portrayal of the teenage half-human, half-witch immortalized decades ago in Archie comics.

In the lawsuit, filed in United States District Court in Manhattan, the plaintiffs ask for at least $50 million for each alleged infraction: copyright infringement, trademark violation and injury to the business’ reputation. They also request an injunction barring the companies from redistributing the series with the image of the statue. The temple argues that the television show not only copied its conception of the deity — a muscled figure with two young children staring up at it — but also that it gives the statue and the Satanic Temple itself a bad rap.

The Satanic Temple, based in Salem, Mass., defines its mission, in part, to “reject tyrannical authority” and to “encourage benevolence and empathy among all people.” Last year, the temple drew headlines for sponsoring a billboard in Texas that condemned corporal punishment.

The Satanic Temple designed the statue, called “Baphomet With Children,” about five years ago as a response to religious displays on public property. In 2015, the Satanic Temple pushed to install a bronze statue of Baphomet — hooves, horns and all — to counter a Ten Commandments display at the Oklahoma Capitol. (The state Supreme Court later outlawed the Ten Commandments display from appearing there.)

“The reason the statue was commissioned was to be a symbol that they could bring out when they felt government wasn’t separating church and state,” said Bruce Lederman, the lawyer for the Satanic Temple.

But in “Sabrina,” the lawsuit argues, the statue is an evil symbol representing the show’s antagonists. The statue sits at the center of the academy where Sabrina is sent to learn magic, and it is considered a homage to the “Dark Lord,” whom Sabrina is fighting against.

Mr. Lederman said the concern is that the next time the temple uses its statue to send a message about the separation of church and state, people may associate it with the television show instead.

Warner Bros., which produced the show, declined to comment. Netflix referred questions to Warner Bros.

Baphomet, described as a goat-headed hermaphroditic deity, is not a character invented by the Satanic Temple, the lawsuit said. It was depicted by an occultist, Éliphas Lévi, in a mid-19th century drawing, which the temple put on a T-shirt.

The lawsuit argues, however, that “Sabrina” copies particular details from the Satanic Temple’s Baphomet statue that have not been reproduced elsewhere. For example, it argues that the appearance of the children staring up at the goat-headed deity is identical to what appears in the Netflix show.

Lucien Greaves, a co-founder of the Satanic Temple, said designing and constructing the statue took over a year and cost about $100,000. Mr. Greaves said that the icon had become a sort of logo for Satanists and that it was distressing for him to watch it get swept up into the plot of a major television show.

“It makes you feel that all the work you’ve done can be totally eclipsed by this mega-giant media company,” he said.

On Twitter, Mr. Greaves compared the depictions on top of each other, with the show’s image below.

In an interview with VICE last month, Lisa Soper, the production designer for the show, said she thought the similarity between the statues was “kind of a coincidence.” She said hundreds of depictions of Baphomet existed, some with people surrounding him.

Mr. Lederman said that depending on how the lawsuit progresses, one remedy for the situation could be editing the image of Baphomet out of the show.

“It won’t cure what’s been done,” he said, “but at least they should go back and change it in each of the scenes.”

Follow Julia Jacobs on Twitter: @juliarebeccaj.

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