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Siempre Bruja

TV review by
Jenny Nixon, Common Sense Media
Siempre Bruja TV Poster Image
Time-travel telenovela is marred by problematic storylines.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Carmen puts her own needs aside in hopes of saving the life of the man she loves -- however, the nobility of this sacrifice is sullied by the fact that man she loves also happens to own her. There's a storyline involving a young man who dies by suicide.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The lead actress is an Afro-Latina woman, a rarity for shows filmed in Latin America. This diversity is laudable, it's just too bad the show has her cast as a slave who is the love interest of her owner's son. Still, Carmen is a likable and optimistic woman who grows stronger with each challenge she faces.

Violence

Carmen is tied to a post and burned alive, but the special effects are so cheesy it doesn't have any major gross-out impact. A character is shot, others are whipped. A character dies by suicide, which is referenced but not actually shown.

Sex

Some mild makeout scenes, no nudity.

Language

Damn, hell, f--k.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adult characters drink alcohol and smoke. Witchy potions work like knockout drops when slipped into someone's drink.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Siempre Bruja, which also goes by the English title Always a Witch, is asupernatural-themed series from Columbia about a 17th-century witch who escapes being burned at the stake thanks to a mysterious wizard and his time travel skills. Carmen (Angely Gaviria) isn't only a witch, she's a slave -- and the show depicts her being sold to a light-skinned Latinx family, and quickly becoming romantically involved with the son (they are literally shown flirting with one another as she's on the auction block). The special effects are pretty low-rent, which makes any potentially scary or violent scenes less so. Some mild kissing and makeout scenes, language includes "damn", "hell", "f--k." Characters smoke and drink, there are witchy potions brewed that act almost like "roofies" when slipped in someone's drink. The show is available to watch in a dubbed English version, or in the original Spanish with English subtitles.

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What's the story?

SIEMPRE BRUJA (in English, ALWAYS A WITCH) is the tale of Carmen Eguiluz, an Afro-Latina witch living in 1600s Columbia. Carmen is sold as a slave to a wealthy family in Cartegena and soon begins a love affair with their son, Cristobal (Lenard Vanderra). Carmen finds her life in danger when Cristobal's mother accuses her of using witchcraft to seduce her son, and would have been burned at the stake without the intervention of enigmatic wizard Aldemar (Luis Fernando Hoyos), who uses a time travel spell to save Carmen. The series follows Carmen as she adjusts to her new life in 2019 Cartegena, where she tries to carry out the task Aldemar assigned her in exchange for her life (while also dodging a witch-hunter, Lucien) and counting the minutes until she can be reunited with her lost love, Cristobal.

Is it any good?

While it's exciting to see an Afro-Latina woman in the lead role of a series set and filmed in Columbia, the exploitative "slave romance" storyline undercuts the progressiveness of this choice. Siempre Bruja simply lacks the depth to adequately explore the sticky issues of consent and exploitation inherent in this type of story, even going so far as to show Carmen making goo-goo eyes at her prospective new owner's son while she's on the auction block. Cristobal, meanwhile, is portrayed as "one of the good ones" -- not like the other members of his light-skinned family, who own Carmen -- and he does heroic things on her behalf. This cheap treatment of a complicated subject is nothing we haven't seen before, and is especially disappointing to see in 2019.

The series is much more successful when it focuses on Carmen's adventures in modern-day Cartegena, finding her way as a magical fish-out-of-water who must adjust her 17th Century sensibilities while learning basic skills like how to use a smartphone, along with more advanced subjects like interacting with the opposite sex as a free woman. She's a fun character, and definitely strong, if underdeveloped. It's an imperfect show overall, but hopefully, future seasons will find stronger and more empowered footing in stories that focus more on these aspects of Carmen's personality than in ill-advised romances.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the popularity of witch-themed shows in modern media. From American Horror Story to The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina to the Charmed reboot, stories about female spellcasters have never been more popular. How does Siempre Bruja compare to these offerings?

  • Talk about what motivates the choices Carmen makes when it comes to Cristobal. Is it possible for someone to be owned by another human being, and to still have true agency within that relationship? Why or why not?

TV details

For kids who love spooky stuff

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