Netflix’s The Worst Witch reworks a classic children’s story for the era of ICE raids and acid attacks.

A classic children’s story for kids who see ICE raids and acid attacks on the news.

BBC

A naive British tween discovers an inner trove of unusual powers and whisks off to a foreboding castle to learn the magical arts. The kid cultivates strong friendships with talented peers, harbors dangerous rivalries with snotty elites, and always seem to incur the withering fury of a goth-y potions teacher. Naturally, only they can save the day when the hijinks get a little too hard.

Sound familiar? Before the name “Harry Potter” dominated the zeitgeist, there was Mildred Hubble, the clumsiest kid to ever barely scrape by at Miss Cackle’s Academy for Witches, an all-girls magical boarding school staffed almost entirely by women. The Worst Witch, Jill Murphy’s popular children’s book series about a ne’er-do-well young sorceress, debuted in 1974 and has since inspired five screen adaptations, including a jaunty ’80s TV movie starring Fairuza Balk and Tim Curry as well as a majestic cult-classic ITV series which ran from 1998 to 2001. The latter, whose cast included Byronic goddess Kate Duchene as martinet potions mistress Constance Hardbroom, may have featured some of the best lesbian subtext in the history of children’s entertainment.

The Worst Witch’s big-budget 2017 reboot, created by CBBC and now streaming on Netflix, does not attempt to tap into the series’ camp history. Instead, writer Emma Reeves has carved something modern and sophisticated out of Murphy’s classic work, reworking the story’s timeless fish-out-of-water conceit for a young audience growing up in a tumultuous age of socioeconomic fracturing. The only student of non-magical origin at Miss Cackle’s, Mildred faces relentless discrimination from peers and instructors alike, revealing the false meritocratic scaffolding of a culture where magical ability alone is supposed to determine one’s worth. The newest iteration of…

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