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The Problem with Katrina


Somebody save Katrina from Sleepy Hollow.

I have to admit, I’ve been on Team “Why is Katrina even here?” before. In the past, she hasn’t been given much to do except play the damsel, she’s a “powerful witch” only because people keep insisting it’s so, and her lack of chemistry with the other actors made her few scenes less than compelling.

But after the past couple of episodes, she’s been catapulted into the camp of “female characters grossly misused by their writers,” along with, to a lesser extent, Abbie herself. It made me regret everything I have ever said about her being the weak link in the show, about her needing to be written out, because dear lord, this was bleak, bleak stuff. She needs to not be in the show any more, because I don’t trust the writers to write another word about her. Because when they want Katrina drama, it seems, they turn to some of the worst misogynistic tropes in the book.

First, and most obviously, she’s the damsel in distress, despite her supposed witch-y powers. She runs and screams and screams and runs, and is taken captive, and talks to evil, and wears floaty dresses, and never uses her supposed great powers to make her “undercover” captivity worthwhile. After a couple of episodes of supposed adventure, she’s back where she started, except now instead of her floaty dress, she’s wearing a form-fitting corset and skinny jeans, because of course those were the only clothes available to her after being in hospital.

All of this is bad enough. But her “poor damsel” status was ramped up beyond bearable in the recent episode Deliverance, when Katrina fell victim to the demon pregnancy trope. Feminist Frequency has a whole video about this trope, but I’m sure most sci-fi/fantasy/horror viewers are familiar with it without any further explanation. A female character is impregnated with a demon, in this case through an evil spider crawling through her mouth. The pregnancy grows at an alarming rate, usually taking less than a day, and the woman spends a huge chunk of that time writhing in agony and watching evil moving within her stomach. The time comes to give birth, and she screams, and the end of the world is nigh, and she either dies or comes close to death before someone else swoops in to save her and the day.

Kill me now.

I really thought Sleepy Hollow was better than this, but it follows the trope to the letter. Katrina writhes and screams as horrible veins cover her stomach. Ichabod throws a fit about how she could possibly be pregnant, even though they’ve already discussed the fact that there’s something supernatural and evil going on. We get scene after scene showing Katrina’s pain, Katrina’s helplessness, as her stomach shifts and bubbles and she comes closer and closer to death. And she can do nothing to help herself, instead forced to wait for others to come back and save her.

It’s hard to put into words how horrific this trope is, especially since most of the notes I made during the episode are just capslocks and swearing. But let’s try. It steals a female character’s agency and bodily autonomy. It metaphorically rapes female characters without that element ever really being addressed. It puts a supernatural horror spin on the genuine fear of unwanted pregnancy, but takes away any chance for the female character to fight it herself, leaving her helpless. It turns the female character’s biology against her, physically forcing her deeper into the helpless damsel role. And it’s sickening to watch.

Then we have the fact that, through this episode, Katrina lost any previous power or moral ambiguity, and simply became “the mother that believes in her son.” She knows that Henry is good and that he’ll help her if Ichabod asks nicely. She knows that he can be saved, and she’ll continue to insist it the following week. He’s her son, and she won’t ever give up on him! In any other context, this is frustrating and seems lacking in character depth. In the context of Katrina as the pregnant vessel of Moloch, it feels like she’s been reduced to being The Mother and absolutely nothing else.

If that wasn’t enough, she ended the most recent episode looking entranced at a baby that, it seems, she’ll now be willing to fight to protect. Thanks to the hints about the necklace, it seems likely that it’s a demon, if not Moloch himself, but she sees it as a baby, and she’s going to protect it. Not only does this again put her in The Mother role, it also again steals her agency for the sake of a “baby.” If Katrina saw the creature as helpless or with the potential for good, at least she would have a story arc of her own. But she’s been hypnotized. Once again, she doesn’t have any choice.

And these sexist trope-filled moments are replacing the show’s more compelling, non-insulting elements. Where has Jenny been the past few weeks, apart from the occasional chance to flirt with Hawley? Abbie continues to be the most sensible of the group, but she’s been sidelined too, and has even been pulled into a sideplot with her and Katrina practically fighting over Ichabod, apocalypse be damned.

Let’s not talk about how the show followed up a demon pregnancy episode with an evil succubus episode. Mothers and whores, amirite, guys?

In a few quick strokes, Sleepy Hollow has gone from one of the most progressive and downright fun fantasy shows on TV to a mess of problematic tropes and gross misogyny. And it makes me very reluctant to tune in again.



Rhiannon Thomas is the author of A WICKED THING and KINGDOM OF ASHES. She lives in York, England.

4 thoughts on “The Problem with Katrina

  1. What allways wondered in this “supernatural pregnancies” is why never consider abortion. I mean, you don’t want to be pregnant. You are probably going to die. The thing (because in this case isn’t even a human phoetus) is a demon and is going to end the world/do something evil, etc. And never, ever, someone considers to just end it. Why? Seriusly, why? Neither it’s considered suicide (to avoid the creature to be born).

    As I said, the problem in this show it’s that writters or producers consider Ichabot the most important character and his plots the most “interesting”. And Katrina it’s not a character, but an Ichabot’s extension. That’s it. She could be interesting, but she’s not even given the chance to be boring, she’s just plot device to create drama for Ichabot.

    Anyway, it would be interesting to see a change in the show.

    1. I agree – I wanted Katrina to just go away so that Ichabod and Abbie could have their moment, but now that she’s above ground and, in the last few episodes, physically in the same space as Ichabod, I can see why Ichabod is so hell bent on being with her.

      But then the writers didn’t actually USE her to her full advantage. (And I know that this is due to dramatic reasons – but COME ON.) Not only did we leave Katrina as a captive of Abraham (again), but with the introduction of Moloch!baby and her hypnosis, I don’t really see how a). she’s going to succeed as a spy for Ichabod and Abbie b). either realize that Henry is totally bone-deep evil or overpower him and c). actually DO anything now that the writers have given her a sense of baby fever as well as a cute baby to satisfy that fever.

      1. The worst part, well maybe not the worst part but close, it’s that in making Katrina a plot device instead a character on her own, it’s that the drama that comes from her fate has less impact. Of Katrina were a well developed character we could really understand an emphatice with Ichabot. Or her.
        PS: You are right about prometheus, I forget that because the film is just bad. Not because the actress, but because the plot is really weak. But yes, the “abortion” scene makes sense in the context.

    2. Oops! I meant to write my own comment and then reply directly to yours to say that Noomi Rapace’s character in Prometheus actually does give herself an abortion when she’s impregnated by her infected boyfriend (one of them is sterile so the pregnancy itself is a shock). It’s this crazy scene but her character is so bad ass that you just know she’s not going down without a fight.

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