Fort Salem (as it’s known in the UK) takes it several steps further than other shows of its kind, creating a fleet of witches fighting for humanity completely out in the open, as well as a group of rival witches explicitly painted as international terrorists. The lack of hiding their noble intentions, and fighting against villains that represent extremely contemporary fears, could be a symptom of the Marvel Cinematic Universe completely dispensing with its characters’ own alter egos for the most part. Everyone knows Iron Man and Tony Stark are one and the same.
For the women in Fort Salem, witchcraft isn’t a fun perk that can be used to create various weekly hi-jinks, but an ancient and non-optional calling that almost certainly means an early death for the young women involved. It’s dangerous and is in direct opposition to pursuing the ‘normal’ life that was so central to shows like Charmed or even the 1960’s trailblazer Bewitched.
Of course, being magical isn’t always painted as a positive thing, with Buffy the Vampire Slayer notably using it as a stand-in for addiction. Willow’s descent into dark magic spans across multiple seasons, and we’re shown that Giles’ own teenage rebellion also involved the misuse of magic. This is a take that hasn’t really followed the genre, with most stories equating power with just that – power.
Still, the persecution of magic during the witch trials is often used by television writers as a handy metaphor for the persecution of other minority groups, and that continues in Fort Salem. It’s heavily implied that some of the witches involved in the original army were there not of their own free will, but because they happened to be enslaved at the time.
It was an idea that The Vampire Diaries flirted with but never committed to in any meaningful way. Starting with Bonnie Bennet, almost every magical character to be introduced was black, and it was implied that high society vampires had benefitted from their magic as well as the atrocity of slavery. New Netflix drama Cursed also shows that the ‘Fey’ kind are routinely viewed with fear, their camps raided and their people murdered.