Search Results for: get out

“Riverdale” react: Veronica and Jughead get dramatic

This photo is kinda misleading, since the rest of the Pussycats don’t really factor into this episode. Good composition though. (Katie Yu/The CW)

Riverdale, Episode 7 | “In a Lonely Place” | Aired March 9, 2017

I’ll give Episode 7, “In a Lonely Place,” this: there were some real moments of touching sentimentality. Some genuine moments of feeling and disappointment were palpable among Veronica and Jughead, and finally, some parents were held up to some consequences, even if it was only for a little while.

First, though, before we get into the sentimentality, let’s talk about the elephant in the room once again: Jughead and Betty’s relationship. The more I see it flaunted in my face, the more uncomfortable and upset I get. Jughead has never been a character that desired romantic relationships. Even when Archie Comics tried to put him in his own triangle (in a misguided effort to keep people from thinking the rumors of the character being gay were true) it didn’t work out; the fans wanted Jughead to remain Jughead and not become some Lothario like Archie. Was Jughead and Betty as an item floated by several Archie Comics writers/artists? Yes. If you go back to the ‘40s, you’ll find Archie covers with Betty flirting with Jughead (with Jughead not falling for it) and throughout the years, you’ll find Jughead show a little warmth towards Betty, not just because he pitied her for always pining for Archie (who was always chasing Veronica instead of her), but because she was his friend and he knew she deserved someone nice and caring in her life. He was the only person to recognize Betty’s worth even when Betty herself didn’t recognize it. (He certainly knew she deserved better than someone like Archie, and he’s Archie’s best friend!) In one comic, Jughead even went as far as to say that if he did like girls like that, he’d definitely consider Betty over anyone else.

But, keep in mind, he said “IF” he liked girls like that. Despite all of the behind-the-scenes shipping the Archie writers and artists had when they took over their own strips or stories, Jughead has remained girlless. Instead, he’s always been a good, close friend to Betty, an enemy to Veronica, and scared of Ethel (who loved him despite the horrible treatment he’d put her through to escape her). Being above the fray of relationships has been Jughead’s distinct hallmark as a character. That was definitely understood when Chip Zdarsky made Jughead canonically asexual. It fits Jughead’s personality and characterization to a T.

But to make Jughead not asexual, or at the very least averse to being in relationships regardless of his sexuality, shows  distinct misunderstanding of Jughead’s character. There’s a lack of understanding of what makes Jughead great. The fact that Riverdale is written in part by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who is a self-professed Archie mega-fan, should mean that Aguirre-Sacasa understands what makes the characters tick. He should know what makes the characters who they are. Making Jughead part of the muck of relationships shows a lack of understand about who the character is and where the character is now in terms of our current discourse about sexuality, representation, and diversity. Making Jughead just like everyone else makes him a completely different guy who just so happens to be wearing the classic whoopee cap. (Well, it’s a knit version of the classic whoopee cap, but same difference.)

Also, in the dream sequence scene, in which everyone is done up in classic Archie drag, Jughead dreamed of Betty wearing a wedding band. Again, we’re taking Jughead further and further away from what makes him him. STOP IT, SHOW.

Okay, back to the touching moments of the show.

Overall, this seemed like a half-filler, half-substantive episode, but what stood out to me were Veronica and Jughead’s problems with their parents. First, Veronica’s mom Hermione wrongly forged her name to the contract allowing Fred to get the construction job at the old drive-in. Why a mother would do something like that, I’ll never know. Why it needed to be done with this particular thing, especially since Hermione already has Mayor McCoy in her back pocket, is kinda weird to me. Couldn’t the both of them just collude to forge an entirely new document or something? I don’t know. But Veronica has every reason to be angry with Hermione, and while I’m not sure how clubbing works with getting back at your mom, Veronica’s monologue about how Hermione took the last thing that belonged to her—her name—was a deep moment for this character in particular.

CW/Screengrab

The other moment of the night was Jughead dealing with his dad F.P. F.P. is going through it and has been since Fred fired him. But F.P. was already doing some shady dealings anyway—maybe with the Serpents, perhaps?—but now F.P. is a drunken mess and his wife left with Jellybean, leaving Jughead behind to fend for himself. We find out in this episode that ever since the drive-in closed, Jughead’s been living in a school supply closet.

Finally, Archie got out of his own issues long enough to find out that Jughead’s not at home, and ultimately, he and Fred give Jughead a place to stay so he won’t have to stay with his dad. But until we get to that point (which involves Jughead getting pulled into the sheriff’s office for having the sheriff’s murder board), Jughead actually does go back home long enough to talk F.P. into working for Fred again. Archie does what he needs to do to get his dad to give F.P. another chance, and for the most part, things are as smooth as they can be between two Fred and F.P., two former best friends.

When we get to the part of the episode where Jughead gets pulled out of the sheriff’s office thanks to Fred covering for him by saying Jughead was working for him (which means Fred’s now technically a criminal too, since he’ll have to forge timecards for Jughead), we finally get to some ACTING. Not to say folks haven’t been acting before, but if we’re going to be a melodrama, let’s actually get to the DRAMA, not the shenanigans and antics. Jughead wants to trust his dad, who has broken his promises to get his act together over and over again, but F.P. looks so sorrowful and pitiful that Jughead, who is clearly angry with his father, still decides to give him another chance. I thought that was a great moment for a character who naturally leans towards the more soulful mindset anyway.

CW/Screengrab

I know I’ve skipped all around Polly and the baby and the Blossoms and the Coopers–frankly, I’m caring less and less about this baby and Polly. If Polly ends up being the killer, then I’ll end up being intrigued in her life once again. #Sorryaboutit.

(And yes, I’m planning on recapping/reacting to this season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. As a superfan, it’s a show I should have recapped/reacted to long before now.)

Other things of note: We had our first sighting of Ginger Lopez!

CW/Screengrab

Will we see more of her? I hope so.

Also, we’ve seen some more of Reggie!

CW/Screengrab

I can’t wait for his storyline to open up. Since the show has the Season 2 greenlight, they’d better give us more Reggie (and possibly Josie/Reggie).

Lastly, I really did like the dream sequence. I know it’d be a sexist storyline, but if the show was literally a hyper-realistic version of the old-school comic book, I’d watch the heck out that. The dream sequence art direction was really nice. Check it out:

What did you think of that episode? Are you sick and tired of Betty and Jughead? And why are fans calling Lili Reinhart “Daddy”? (I legitimately want to know that question.) Leave your comments and answers in the comments section below!

“Riverdale” react: Let’s talk about Jughead’s sexuality

How do we feel about Jughead and Betty as an item? (CW)

Riverdale Episode 6 | “Faster, Pussycats! Kill! Kill!” | Aired March 2, 2017

As I wrote before, love was in the air on the latest episode of Riverdale, Faster, Pussycats! Kill! Kill!” and maybe it’s just me, but one of my early criticisms of the show thus far is that it is trying wildly hard to impress as the new pulpy, soapy teen show on TV, so much so that it overshoots its mark on several occasions. The first two were involving Chuck and Ms. Grundy, the third being how ridiculously evil the parents of Riverdale are towards their kids (as explained by Black Girl Nerds’ Chelsea A. Hensley). The fourth mark against the show is how Jughead’s sexuality has been treated.

For those of us in the know (which includes a lot more kids and teens than I gave Archie Comics credit for despite being a fan of the comic when I myself was a preteen, which means its rebranding as a fresh new comic book franchise has paid off in dividends), Jughead has been officially canonized as asexual. We don’t have to speculate over his sexuality anymore (although, I have to admit that creating your own headcanon for Jughead was kinda fun–there was one point early in my Archie Comics fandom that I would swear that Jughead and Betty would hook up, then I felt like Jughead and Veronica could make a good opposites attract pairing that clearly wouldn’t last long but would have huge fireworks, then when Kevin came along, I would swear that Jughead and Kevin would be together through their shared love of burgers and competitive eating.)

In any event, Jughead being clearly defined as asexual (and maybe, in an unspoken fashion, also canonized as aromantic seeing how he hates the idea of relationships outside the realm of close friendship) put a lot of Jughead’s behavior and preferences into focus. It all made sense. Why wouldn’t Jughead be asexual? In fact, he’s always been asexual, even though the 1940s didn’t have a name for it yet. What’s even better about the current run of “Jughead” though–aside from the sharp wit and seriously laugh-out-loud moments, is that Jughead is portrayed as a confident, imaginative, semi self-absorbed teenager whose priorities include loafing, playing video games, eating, and hanging out with his best friend Archie. Everything and everyone else can kick rocks, especially Reggie, Jughead’s historic nemesis-now-turned-frenemy. In short, Jughead has become even more Jughead-like, and part of that is due to cementing his sexuality.

Now, though, that positive step towards representation and sexual diversity has been shortchanged by “Riverdale” making Jughead kiss Betty, thereby starting a romantic, sexually-implied relationship. Now, of course, there are various types of asexuality, which does include kissing, but as a character, Jughead has never shown an inkling towards liking kissing, let alone willingly engage in it. This TV characterization of Jughead goes too far—it has begun erasing the core of what made Jughead great.

I wrote a little bit about my feelings about Jughead and Betty’s moment as a Twitter moment:

Of course, as I say in my Twitter thread, I am not asexual so while what I have to say may be well-intentioned, it certainly isn’t the end-all-be-all of opinions. Enter Jordan Crucchiola, who wrote “An Asexual’s Defense of Jughead Kissing Betty on Riverdale” for Vulture. She writes that Jughead is allowed to be a character who is still discovering his own sexuality.

An important thing to consider is that Jughead’s preferences are being reduced to whether or not he is asexual, which takes away from the nuance of the asexual spectrum, which is wide and varied. Some of the better articles discussing Jughead’s orientation point out that he might not necessarily be aromantic, even if he is asexual. I, for example, identify as a pan-romantic gray asexual. That means I’m capable of having nonsexual crushes on anyone, regardless of gender or sex, and that my asexuality isn’t written in stone. There’s that “gray” area where I’m philosophically flexible. I am not motivated by sexual desire, and have never had any sexual partners, but I do experience deep love through my friendships and have experienced many instances of “crushing” on people I take a strong liking to.

I am also a very affectionate person, and many asexual individuals appreciate, enjoy, and seek out physical feedback from others, just like gay, straight, or bi individuals do. The ultimate end game just looks different than we’ve been taught to expect in health class, on TV, and in the movies. It’s about setting the correct boundaries with people in your life who are comfortable sharing such closeness without it leading to a sexual relationship. It takes some searching for the right people, but it can be done.

Again, I’m not asexual and I highly respect Jordan’s view on this subject. With that said, though, let me just say this: Jordan states at the end of her article that she hopes that the writers are going in the direction of eventually making Jughead understand and realize his sexual orientation, and I certainly hope so as well. But the one thing that irks me the most is that while Jughead might be given the “let him find his way” scenario, Kevin, who is also in a similar boat as far as sexual representation goes, is never portrayed in that way. Kevin, on the other hand, gets the straight-up (no pun intended) confident gay teen storyline, a storyline that would have been the “let him find his way” storyline just 10 years ago or less. The fact that Kevin being gay is played as passe while Jughead’s canonical sexuality seems, at least on the surface, is ignored, is a sticking point.

Some of this is addressed in a thread by Twitter user TheShrinkette, who states in her Twitter profile that she identifies as gray aromantic asexual.

Cole Sprouse, who portrays Jughead in the series, gave his his opinion on the controversy, showing his in-depth Jughead knowledge in the process. First, according to Bleeding Cool:

I think, first and foremost, this conversation deserves more time than something that we can quickly do here. There are two forms of representation Jughead has received over time. In [Chip] Zdarsky’s Jughead, he’s asexual. That’s the only Jughead where he is asexual. He’s aromantic in the digests, which is a different thing but deserves attention as well.

But what I found when I was really diving in — because once we started putting Jughead and Betty together, I started doing research to see if that was a narrative that even existed in the digests, and it turns out it is. It’s a narrative that’s existed for a long time. There are a handful of digests in which Jughead would say things like, ‘Oh, Betty, if I did like women, I guarantee you would be the one I would marry outright. You are the best person around.’ He would say these things that are really romantic and cute with an appreciation for Betty and I think it’s become clear to me now that Roberto [Aguirre-Sacasa] has taken off with that trend.

While I think that representation is needed, this Jughead is not that Jughead. This Jughead is not Zdarsky’s Jughead and this Jughead is not the aromantic Jughead,” he said. “This Jughead is a person who is looking for a kind of deeper companionship with a person like Betty and Betty ends up being this super nurturing, caring, care-taking person that with Jughead’s screwed-up past they end up diving into each other and it ends up being a beautiful thing.

How are people going to respond? Truthfully, they’re probably going to be quite incendiary about it at first. Do I think that’s ill-placed? No. Do I think they should give it a shot? Yeah, I do, because I think now — after filming thirteen episodes — it makes sense to me and, if it makes sense to me as the person who’s dumping so much time and especially so much argumentation into trying to represent Jughead correctly, if it makes sense to me, it will make sense to other people as well.

Also, here’s what he said to Glamour before the show in February:

So, the day I was cast was actually the same day he was announced as canonically asexual. It wasn’t in the digest—it was in Zadarsky’s universe, so it was in one of the newer comics that was written. But Jughead’s always been a romantic in a way that he, in the earlier comics, stayed away from girls and put his attention toward his food fetishism. So he’s always kind of had this narrative, but when I started doing my research into Jughead’s sexuality specifically there’s always been little areas where he got close enough to potentially suggest that he might like either Betty or Ethel, or even some comics where he gets kissed by Veronica. I don’t think it was really cemented in the digest too much what stance Jughead took.

I think, in this show, he’s not a romantic and not asexual. I argued in the beginning, creatively, that he should be both, but in this show, he’s kind of a tortured youth that ends up finding a comfort and a resonance with another person who’s going through a lot of trauma. They end up forming this kind of beautiful, honest union, and I think that, to me, is a narrative that works with this universe of Jughead. But I think that kind of asexual and a-romantic representation is really important. If it ends up finding a place in Riverdale and in future seasons, then hopefully we’ll do it with tact and in a way that respects what it is and how it resonates.

It should also be noted that Sprouse did fight for Jughead to be asexual and, as far as I believe—and from what his quotes suggest—is still fighting for Jughead to be asexual.

With all of this said, what do you think? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

“Riverdale” react: We’re getting Archie and Valerie!

“Riverdale” Episode 5 | “Heart of Darkness”| Aired Feb. 22, 2017

CW/screengrab

This was a fascinating episode. Not just for the drama-filled funeral for Jason (which provided us more backstory on Cheryl and her awful parents), but it also gave us the beginnings of the canonical Archie/Valerie relationship!

In the comic books, Archie writer/artist asserted his own headcanon that Archie actually ends up with Valerie, with Betty and Veronica finally coming to terms with the new monogamous relationship (of course, Valerie actually has to slap some sense into Archie, literally, to make him realize that unlike Betty and Veronica, she will not be played with). Looks like we’re getting into that canon, and I’m excited for it.

Personally, I have to admit that I’ve been rooting for Josie and Archie, mostly because Ashleigh Murray looks like how I’d envision Valerie to look and act in real life (dark skin, more coily hair, can back up her talk with her walk). Of course, I’m not saying that the actress playing Valerie, Hayley Law, is terrible. In fact, it was great seeing another black girl other than Josie finally get more than one line of dialogue in this show. But I hope that the show doesn’t pull a colorism thing in which the darker-skinned girl ends up with nobody and the lighter skinned girl with the blue eyes gets the hot, sensitive guy on the football team. That wouldn’t be cool. Since it looks like Josie’s not ending up with Archie, let Josie and Reggie become a thing. Murray would certainly co-sign it, for sure (and Ross Butler, too, since he retweeted her tweet about her lusting over Reggie).

Since Valerie’s becoming a bigger player in the show, her brother Trev is also getting more shine as well. And here I thought we’d never see him again after he was used as the Anti-Chuck in his inaugural episode. It seems like the Trev/Betty dynamic (also part of Parent’s Archie canon) is being set up as well, but Betty seems way too conniving right now to actually be interested in Trev seriously. I mean, she certainly think he’s cute and all, but she’s way more interested in the information he has and how she can use him to her ends than actually dating him. Meanwhile, he seems to be way more interested in her romantically. Poor guy.

One thing I did like about this episode in regards to Cheryl is that we finally get some more clarity as to why she’s always a bitch. Turns out her whole family is that way, especially her mother, who has a serious death wish for her daughter. Everyone in that family seems to have clung to Jason in an absolutely ridiculous way, and now that the Golden Child is gone, everyone in the family (except for the grandmother) is pinning all the blame on Cheryl, who has always been the black sheep, apparently.

Also, the only reason Cheryl has exalted her brother so highly is because he was the only one to treat her like a human being. Now that Jason isn’t around to protect her, Cheryl’s getting messed with all the time at home, to the point that she’s not even allowed to go to Jason’s funeral. Of course, with Veronica’s help, she still ends up going, but all of this blame being put on Cheryl isn’t fair. Turns out she’s only a bully at school because she has to work out her aggression on somebody. Is it healthy? No. But it brings some much-needed characterization to an otherwise static and stereotypical character.

Lastly, let’s talk about Betty’s dad. Turns out the mom might not the only loose cannon in the house. We learn that Betty’s dad’s family and the Blossoms have a blood feud, starting the day Grandfather Blossom killed Grandfather Cooper over their maple syrup business. First, I know people can make a killing off of maple syrup, but it just sounded ridiculous coming out of Betty’s dad’s mouth. I thought he was going to say something like “real estate” or “paper” or “oil” or something. Anything but “maple syrup.” Second, Betty starts putting two and two together and realizes that her dad, the only person who wasn’t present at the last night of the drive-in, was the person stole Sheriff Keller’s clue board. That means Betty’s dad could very well be Jason’s killer.

Speaking of the drive-in, where is Jughead living nowadays? We learned some startling truths about him, mainly that his dad is the head of the local gang, something must have happened to Jughead’s sister Jellybean (is she dead?), and now that the drive-in’s closed, Jughead is now…living on the street? Where is he taking shelter? And why hasn’t any of his friends come to his aid? Or has he not ever told his friends that he’s living in the drive-in? And where’s his mom? Where are any of his relatives (because if you’ve read the comics, you know he’s got a few zany ones that pop up every now and then)? So many questions, and no answers.

What did you think of this week’s episode? Give your opinions below!

Riverdale react: So…let’s talk about Chuck Clayton

Riverdale’s interpretation of Chuck Clayton might have done actor Jordan Calloway (pictured in character) a disservice. Chuck deserved better than this characterization. (CW/screengrab)

Riverdale Episode 3| “Body Double”| Aired Feb. 9, 2017

Chuck Clayton has gone down as the first character Riverdale‘s penchant for reinvention has revamped in the worst way possible. This is not the way for the show to enter its first Black History Month.

Before I get deep into why this is, I hate that the first article I’m writing for Riverdale is something that’s about a disappointing plot point. Up until this particular intro of Chuck, I was with the show. Technically, I’m still with the show, since Jughead is coming through for me. (Seems like Jughead is going to turn out to be one of the standouts from this show, like I’d hoped he would be.)

Also, I’ll have a bit of a refresher on the past three episodes in the foreseeable future. Work has kept me away from having time to write.

Thirdly, I’d like to apologize to actor Jordan Calloway, who is a fine actor and played the role he was given expertly well. Jordan, if you happen to read this, I commend you for the role you played and I agree with your tweet about this episode; it highlighted a big issue concerning women’s rights that should be addressed more often in the media. If you happen to find this post, I hope you’ll be able to see where my complex feelings about the character you portrayed are coming from and I hope you don’t begrudge me for it (because if I’m still in the entertainment journalism business, I’m sure I’ll be interviewing you at some point and I want us to start off on the right foot. I’m one of the most agreeable and nicest people ever, if may toot my own horn). This is not personal and I sincerely hope you’ll get more high profile roles in the future. (You’d be great as a leading man in a romantic comedy, for sure!)

In any event, though, we’ve got to talk about Chuck. Or at least, I have to talk about Chuck.

I have several points that need to be addressed during this particular episode, “Body Double.” In fact, I think the writers’ interpretation of Chuck might have done Calloway a disservice. Not because his character was a bad guy, but because the writers saddled his character with unnecessary layers of racial stereotyping, despite the fact that this version of Chuck truly deserves no favors nor sympathy. However, he could have been a cad without that hot tub + handcuffs + “Good boy” scene. Let’s get into it.

Chuck has always been one of my favorite characters from the Archie Comics series. In the comicsverse, Chuck is an artist, a sensitive soul, and an all-around good kid. And he’s the loyal boyfriend to Nancy, who seems to support his artistic dreams, but also seems mildly annoyed by her boyfriend’s flights of comic book fancy. In short, Chuck is Riverdale’s Favorite Black Guy. We can get into how his being one of the only black characters in Archie Comics reflects the inherent tokenism black people in white spaces feel all the time in another post, since Chuck and Nancy both resonate to me on that level, too, having been one of the few black kids at my arts high school. It’s tough having to be the only black person in a white space. #SeatAtTheTable.

Chuck Clayton, as drawn by Archie Comics artist/writer Dan Parent.

Now, I get that Riverdale is all about reinventing these characters—I mean, Dilton is now a hardcore survivalist who shoots guns underage—so I get that Chuck was going to be a little different than what we’ve read before. However, did he have to be that different? And so problematically different?

Why is Chuck problematic now? Because it seems like low hanging fruit (strange fruit, perhaps) that Chuck, the first black teen boy we’ve seen thus far, is introduced as a sex-crazed maniac with no remorse for the girls he’s hurt. To be honest, the appearance of Chuck as a black man who only thinks with his dick and kept a book of how many girls’ lives he ruined smacked of stereotypes of the past, of the black “Mandingo” who lusted after so-called “saintly” white women. Not a good look for what is supposed to be a progressive show.

With all of the inventive portrayals we’ve seen of the main characters thus far, portrayals that still retain the core of the characters from the comic books, it seems like there could have been a lot more done with Chuck than just give him a complete 180 with now seeming justification for it. If Veronica is still a rich girl (despite turning over a new leaf) and Betty is still The Girl Next Door (despite having some clear mental instability) and Archie is still America’s Favorite Teenager (despite being jailbait for “Ms. Grundy,”who we’ve learned from next week’s promos isn’t Ms. Grundy at all), how come Chuck still couldn’t be a comic book artist? Even Dilton, who is probably the most altered of the core group, is still a dweeb; now, he’s just a dweeb who wants to prove his masculinity to the world.

Maybe in the Riverdaleverse, Chuck could have been a comic book artist who has angst over his career choices (something both comicverse Chuck and many artists, including the artists who drew Chuck and artists in other fields like me have all the time). Maybe Chuck could have channeled his depression about his future (or any home issues the writers could have come up with) into his art. His dad’s Coach Clayton—maybe, like Archie and his father, Chuck and his dad don’t see eye to eye when it comes to the arts; his father might want him to go into football as a career, while all Chuck wants to do is draw on his drafting table in the garage and buy oil pastels from the art store. (This could have also made for great friendship drama between Archie and Jughead; Chuck is one of Archie’s supposed “best friends” in the comic book; in the Riverdaleverse, Chuck could have been friendship competition for Jughead, who might want his “Best Friend” spot back after he knows there’s competition.)  For the ultimate in dramatic effect, maybe Chuck’s dad could have even found Chuck’s artistic pursuits too “fey” to handle (this gets into more stereotypical territory when it comes to the black community’s overly-generalized view on LGBT individuals, of course, but at least it would have been something to work with that would make Chuck a human being instead of a caricature). What I’m getting is that a number of things could have been done with Chuck, a character ripe with severely untapped potential. But instead, Chuck is one step from being a rapist. Okay.

The show seems to know that they were doing something dangerous with Chuck, because in this episode, we also met another black guy, the foil to Chuck’s badness, Trev. Trev’s character is angelic to a fault almost. He’s shy, meek, and wants to bring Chuck to justice. In many ways, he’s what Chuck was in the comic books. It’s interesting that the show decided that this was the time to introduce more than one black guy on the series, and it’s a calculated move; they want to give the sense to the audience that 1) they know Chuck would appear even worse if he were the only black guy we saw and 2) we know they’re in on “the joke,” as it were. They want us to be like, “Oh, they’re aware of the stereotypes, so they’re actively combating them. This is cool.” It’s not that cool, actually.

Trev (Adain Bradley) and Ethel (Shannon Purser) speak to Betty about the elusive slut-shaming book circling around the Riverdale High football team. (CW/Screengrab)

I know one argument against disliking Chuck’s reinvention is that making Chuck a “good guy” character could also be seen as a “One Size Fits All” black guy stereotype. Too often, we as black people are portrayed as either being absolutely bad or the Most Perfect, Inoffensive, Special Black Person (as shown in this exact episode with Chuck and Trev). It’s like we as a race deal with the saint/whore dynamic on a daily basis, especially in the media. It is great when a show portrays black characters (and characters of color in general) as complex human beings, capable of both bad and good. There will be some bad guys who are black, just like there will be some good guys who are black, and all of that is welcome. However, there’s a line that can be easily crossed, the line that separates “complex bad guy” from “bad black guy stereotype”. Seems like Riverdale crossed that line.

However, the show also put Betty in a bad light as well. I’m not sure how aware the writers were of what they were making Betty do, but putting a black male youth in chains (in order to punish him and taunt him sexually), having a her, a white girl and therefore in racial power over Chuck, say “Good boy” and then abusing him is not a good look either. Someone should have reread that scene, particularly the part with the handcuffs, and said, “Hey guys, I don’t know about this part. Can he at least not be chained up and can she just say ‘good,’ not ‘good boy’?”

Betty goes dark(haired) for her revenge on Chuck. (CW/Screengrab)

Look, I know Riverdale was exercising its campiness in that scene; I mean, saying “Good boy” to a dude while wearing a wig and some cliché lingerie is, in any other situation, one of the heights of sexual camp. It’s also supposed to be the juicy, soap-operatic version of “I am woman, hear me roar.” But, the optics of this particular scene were just wrong. Did Chuck deserve some comeuppance? Sure. No one’s disputing that. Did we really have to invoke some slave/master’s wife stuff though, however indirectly? In the words of Randy Jackson, “That’s a no from me, dawg.”

The final question I’m sure your asking is this: Do I think Riverdale is racist? Surprise (maybe), but no, I don’t think it’s actively trying to be racist, however that particular episode had an f-ed up scenario with Chuck and the entire Chuck concept.

The show still did some interesting things with race this episode, such as have Josie give Archie the white privilege primer we as POC wish we didn’t have to recite or think about most days of our lives. The writers are at least aware of some of the aspects of being black in America. (In some ways, that particular scene of Josie telling Archie how he can waltz into a room and get the respect and breaks she and her Pussycats can’t get is also meta commentary on K.J. Apa himself, who has Samoan heritage, but can easily pass for white.)

But there seems to be a hyper-awareness of how white privilege affects black women on this show, whereas the plight of black men still seems to escape the show’s themes, which was made apparent by this episode in particular. Do not misunderstand me—it is great that this entire episode was about women’s rights. The plot of this show was timely, seeing how we have a President who has said that he grabs women “by the pussy.” We need our television to keep reminding those who either don’t know or somehow forget that yes, a woman has a right to choose everything that goes with her body and she should never be objectified and psychologically abused by male chauvinist pigs. But the decision to cast Chuck, the very first black teen boy we see on this show, as that dude we all hate seemed to be too easy of a decision to make. Yes, there are black men who need to be schooled on male privilege, but the first black male kid we’ve seen on this show has to be the one that has to learn that lesson?

The only other images of black manhood we’ve seen on Riverdale are men who are tertiary characters at best, like Chuck’s dad Coach Clayton and race-bent Mr. Weatherbee and Pop. These guys as characters are sparse, to be kind; they don’t really say much, and, like some of the other adults in the show, are only there as set dressing. The most vocal has been Weatherbee, and even then, he’s saying stuff a stock principal character would say. With so little of black male diversity on the show, it would have behooved the writers to at least make Trev the first black male teen we saw in this episode, or make Chuck more complex as a character. Or, even better, they could have made sure we saw black male teens from the beginning, as well as more black girls other than the Pussycats. They can’t be the only black girls in town, right? Where’s Nancy??

In short, I think the show’s writers had an inkling that what they were doing was “pushing boundaries,” and while it is problematic, I don’t think the show, at its core, meant true harm. However, that doesn’t mean a lesson can’t be learned here. In the future, I hope the writers think about how black men—and black people as a whole—are portrayed. That same sensitivity shown in the scene in which Josie is giving Archie a white privilege primer should be used on all black characters, as well as characters of color in general. It is time that stereotypes such as the black Mandingo be put to rest once and for all.

Make sure check out my #Riverdale livetweets at The Choklit Shoppe (@ChoklitShoppe), the unofficial Riverdale aftershow and podcast! We’re also on Tumblr!

5 things Sherlock forgot about itself (and suffered for it)

How much do we miss Anthea?? I know I do. (BBC Sherlock Fan Forum)

As I was relaxing this past weekend, I was re-reading one of my favorite Sherlock fanfiction stories, and, since this particular story was written in between Seasons 1 and 2, I was reminded of all the cool stuff that made Sherlock such a great show to begin with. That made me sad.

The Daily Mail review of the last episode of Season 4 (and maybe the last episode period) of Sherlock encapsulated everything I felt about the episode and, frankly, the entirety of Season 3:

“To call the show self-satisfied barely begins to convey how delighted it is with its own puerile posturing, its superficial cleverness, its tedious campery. Never have two writers been more intoxicated on the fumes of their own shallow talent than Steven Moffatt and Mark Gatiss.

The plot was incompetent. The dialogue was dreadful. The scenes were disjointed, the premise absurd, the ending made me want to reach for a plastic bucket and, most heinous of all, a classic creation was ruined.

Gatiss and Moffat may have just done what Moriarty never could, and finished off the marvellous character of Sherlock Holmes.”

Now, keep in mind that none of my feelings about this actually stem solely from the active and passive queerbaiting that makes up this show. That’s an even bigger issue (I’ve discussed it more in these articles). I’ll also say that unlike The Daily Mail‘s Christopher Stevens, I don’t think Moffatt and Gatiss are shallowly talented. I think their immensely talented when they aren’t, as Stevens said, “intoxicated on the fumes” of said talent. I think the first ever Sherlock episode showed us just how talented they are when they have a concrete direction for the character and the world he lives in.

Again, to quote Stevens, when Sherlock first premiered, it was “furiously watchable.” I can tell you myself that I was obsessed with Sherlock and was the hugest fans of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman (not like I hate them now–I’m stI think where things got both lazy and self-indulgent is because they might have stopped seeing Sherlock as a loving homage to an enduring, popular character and more as their own playground to create their own detective show. Sherlock might be a creative spin on a legendary character, but it’s certainly not a show that can take its characters forgetting the core of who they are. Otherwise, why call it Sherlock?

There are five key things that the show forgot as it forged a path from “loving tribute” to “WTF!” and these five things are what defined what made the show great, fun, and new. If only

Sherlock‘s hyperfocus on 21st century technology: I read somewhere on Tumblr that Sherlock‘s claim to fame was its insistence on making technology a character. Indeed, that is what made Sherlock so cool. Sherlock Holmes was no longer a character relegated to the musty tombs of someone’s bookshelf. He was a hip, slinky dude in a cool overcoat with a ton of gigabytes on his cell phone.

Sherlock could solve entire cases, keep track of his homeless network of informants, and fabricate new identities on his phone, and we could see everything he typed on screen. And he wasn’t the only person on his phone; everyone was on their phones. And it was glorious, in a very 2012 “We’re in the future!” kind of way. Speaking of being hooked on technology:

Anthea:love Anthea! I can’t believe she didn’t make it through to other seasons. I’m sure some might say, “What was the point of her? She was an irrelevant character!” Was she though?

Anthea was like the more relatable side to Mycroft, even though they were both mysterious. Even though you didn’t know what Anthea did outside of being Mycroft’s assistant, she was definitely an enigma you loved seeing on screen. Did it matter that we didn’t know what she did at the end of the day? The fun of the character was piecing together her life from the bits of info we did get and our own fandom imaginations. Anthea could be anything wanted her to be, from a spy (perhaps a more believable one than Mary) to Mycroft’s love interest (???) to just Mycroft’s assistant/secretary Mycroft hired because of his own adherence to the Mad Men days of British Intelligence. Whoever she was and whatever she was, she had a very important role in the show: to give John, as our straightman in this show of wayward characters, someone semi-normal to bounce off of. John’s first girlfriend served that purpose as well, and dare I say, I’d argue she was a more fully realized character than Mary because she wasn’t forced into an “I’m a weird person” archetype. She just was a nurse who lived life like a regular person. I did like her a lot and wished she could find someone who wasn’t tied down to a (wrongly) self-described sociopath.

The trio of Lestrade, Sally Donovan, and Philip Anderson: Lestrade is the only person to like out of this trio, but the trio itself had a purpose. Lestrade was an unwilling disciple of Sherlock’s almost always vouching for his methods and allowing him to do what he needed to do mostly unencumbered. But Donovan and Anderson made up the Tweedledee and Tweedledum of the police outfit. They both derided Sherlock and showcased their own ineptitude, making us more on Sherlock’s side when he decided to read them for filth about their infidelity and lack of smarts. In short, if the show wanted to be a dramedy, these two certainly helped the show fill that mold without the show twisting itself into a pretzel to be such. Were Donovan and Anderson characters you hated? Absolutely. But they were also characters you probably loved hating, in spite of yourself. They only made Sherlock seem that much more glorious of a character.

No mind palaces: I think this is pretty self-explanatory. The mind-palaces looked terrible and was the beginning of the self-indulgence.

John and Sherlock are at the center of the show and Sherlock’s uniqueness is celebrated, not erased: I think this is pretty self-explanatory too. Even when John had girlfriends, John and Sherlock stayed at the center of the show. It was all about Sherlock and John solving cases and growing their friendship. But the later season became more about…making Sherlock not who he was in the first season? That’s the best way I can describe it. I think the thing that resonates for me is that it seems like they were trying to make Sherlock into a type of person Sherlock clearly isn’t. Like is he supposed to be a drug addict? I’d say no one’s supposed to be a drug addict. But the question the show never really got into is why is he self-medicating? If the answer is “his brain is running too fast,” then why is his brain running so fast? And, should his fast-running brain be seen as a bad thing?

In other words, if Sherlock is not “neurotypical,” then why is Sherlock being himself a bad thing? Why should his character completely change?

Now, learning about friendship and such is one thing—I’m not saying Sherlock has to remain afraid of getting close to people. But couldn’t he have learned about true friendship without completely turning into Benedict Cumberbatch doing a Sherlock impression in later seasons? Like, just because Sherlock doesn’t like having tons of friends or even likes socializing doesn’t mean he’s a broken thing that needs fixing. John himself didn’t try to fix Sherlock; all he did was befriend him where he was. To Lestrade’s credit, Lestrade also didn’t try fixing Sherlock, even though he knew Sherlock could be an even greater man than he already was with the proper nudging. But in any event, becoming “great” doesn’t mean learning how to act neurotypical, which is what the seasons seemed like they were suggesting.

Instead, what could have been great is if the show explored the beauty John found in Sherlock’s way of thinking, something that was actively explored throughout the first season. If there was anything close to a romantic love, it was John seeing the world through the eyes of Sherlock, and he realized he liked the excitement that Sherlock’s way of doing things presented to him. If all of the seasons had been exclusively about John, a neurotypical person, accepting and reveling in Sherlock’s wonderful mind, then I think this show would be well on its way to a fifth season. Instead, the show got high off its own success instead of sticking to character. And lo, the writers forgot what made Sherlock special; his uniqueness and his special bond with John, whether that’s just deep friendship, romantic, or whatever else.

BONUS— Sherlock’s purple shirt (or as the fandom lovingly described it, “The Purple Shirt of Sex”): Come on, y’all. That purple shirt was THE BUSINESS. Must I remind you:

COME ON! I’m telling you I used to be a Cumberbatch fangirl! The purple shirt deserves its own Twitter account and the stylist for that season should be given an award for their color wheel skills. Purple is definitely a color Cumberbatch should wear more often, but only if he’s dyed his hair brunette/black. Maybe I’m more of a Sherlock fangirl than a Cumberbatch one…I don’t know.

In any case, what do you miss about early Sherlock? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

How “Star Wars” forgot about black women

I love the new direction Star Wars is taking with The Force Awakens and now Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. I even support the fact that Rogue One is rumored to be the first Star Wars film to not begin with the classic Star Wars preamble crawl. Rogue One is also running with the diverse platform The Force Awakens started, featuring a woman as the main character (Felicity Jones) and a main ensemble cast featuring Forrest Whitaker, Riz Ahmed, Diego Luna, Donnie Yen, Fares Fares, Jimmy Smits, James Earl Jones (as the voice of Darth Vader, of course), and Genevieve O’Reilly.

But for the most part, Star Wars has only been killing it when it comes to white women and men of color. Once again, it’s time to ask the age-old question: What about the black women?

In the latest Rogue One trailer, this lovely lady makes an appearance:

star-wars-rogue-one-black-woman
Lucasfilm/screengrab

But do we get to learn more about her? I’m already wanting to know the rest of her story and who she is in the resistance.

What’s the worst part of this erasure is that it’s not like Star Wars hasn’t prominently featured black women before. It’s just that the women are usually in the written tales of the franchise. For instance, Imperial naval officer Rae Sloane, who appears in various Star Wars books, her first appearance being A New Dawn.

Lucasfilm
Lucasfilm

And Sana Starros, Han Solo’s self-proclaimed former wife, is featured in the Marvel’s Star Wars comics, first appearing in Star Wars 4: Skywalker Strikes, Part IV.

But Disney and Lucasfilm might have not taken a prime opportunity to actually cast Sana or any other woman of color as Han Solo’s opposite in the upcoming Han Solo spinoff film. Emilia Clarke is set to play a prominent role in the Han Solo film, a role that Tessa Thompson, Zoe Kravitz, and Adria Arjona (Guatemalan/Puerto Rican) might have auditioned for. According to The Hollywood Reporter, it’s currently unclear if Clarke’s role is the same role the other actresses tried out for, if the film will feature multiple women. As it stands right now, though, Clarke’s is the only name we’ve heard since the news of Alden Ehrenreich and Donald Glover landing the Han Solo and Lando Calrissian roles, respectively. That doesn’t bode well for black female Star Wars fans who have been waiting to see themselves represented in a big way in what’s supposed to be a highly diverse intergalactic universe.

Also something that’s annoyed many a black woman fan—the fact that the one black woman we do have in the new Star Wars universe, Lupita Nyong’o, is playing Maz Kanata, a character that is completely CGI. (A similar annoyance with black men in sci-fi can be read about in this companion article concerning Idris Elba’s role in Star Trek Beyond.)

lupita-nyongo-maz-kanata
A.M.P.A.S./Lucasfilm

Another strike against Lucasfilm and the Star Wars universe is how often black women and other women of color are often cast as Twi’leks, whose women are often enslaved as sex objects. To quote Wookipedia:

“Since female Twi’leks were regarded as graceful and beautiful beings, many of them were forced into a life of slavery at the hands of the galaxy’s wealthy and powerful.”

It’s more than a little disturbing that while women of color are all but absent in the Star Wars universe, they are readily cast as women who are sold into a sexual slavery.

twileks-lyn-me-oola
Lucasfilm

It’s even more disturbing that Oola, the only sex slave coded as a black woman due to the actress, gets killed moments after we see her on screen in Return of the Jedi. There could have been a better outcome for her instead of just being used as disposable eye-candy.

oola-main-image
Lucasfilm

Meanwhile, the Star Wars universe is proliferated with brunette white female protagonists:

star-wars-brunettes
Lucasfilm

This isn’t to disparage against these actresses, since I like all of them. But I’m trying to prove a point. Star Wars has a predilection, a tradition, in fact, of casting brunettes, when brunettes don’t signify all of woman-kind. If Star Wars is really going to be the franchise that puts women first, it’s got to put all women first. Black women and women of color in general have been historically forced to identify with women who do not look like us or experience life like us. You’d think that in a galaxy far far away, it’d be all too easy to find women of color, and not just women of color who happen to be sex slaves. In a way, Star Wars reiterates a fact of life that has been apparent to many women of color; we’re usually more palatable heard and not seen, and if we are seen, then we have to be as vampy and erotic as possible in order to matter. That’s not the kind of message Star Wars needs to bring into something as uplifting and inspiring as a sci-fi space opera that preaches equality for all people.

Am I still going to see Rogue One? Of course. Supporting it means I’m supporting the actors of color who are prominently featured. But my dollars will hopefully act as a means for Star Wars to increase their focus on diversity. Hopefully, this will mean that someday soon, we’ll finally have a sistah in space.

Get your No Face fix with Hot Topic and Her Universe’s “Spirited Away” apparel

Hot Topic
Hot Topic

Spirited Away is one of my favorite movies, so consider me intrigued when I found out that Hot Topic now had a section devoted solely to Spirited Away apparel.

The store has some of their own items as well as apparel from Her Universe decked out in Spirited Away motifs. There’s a variety of shirts and a Chihiro dress to choose from, but some of my favorites feature the darker elements of Spirited Away, most notably No Face.

I’d buy all the stuff I featured here, but if I had to choose between these items, I’d definitely throw down money for the No Face sweater, the socks, and the Haku bomber jacket.

I’m just going to be real and say that I’m a person who has moved away from buying stuff because of the geek factor; I don’t always want to advertise my geek interests on my clothes, if you know what I’m saying. I did that enough in middle school and high school as a shorthand for “being cool,” and I don’t want to revisit those awkward days as an adult. However, I will buy quote-unquote “geek clothes” if they can easily transition between geek fashion and mainstream fashion.

If you’re like me and want your geekier sensibilities to mesh within your closet of work clothes, jeans, and casual fashion, then I’d definitely suggest getting these items in particular. If you’re looking for something extremely graphic and bold in the vein of something from Forever 21 or Torrid, then I’d suggest going with these patterns and prints, since they lend themselves more towards the graphic styling that’s dominating a lot of mainstream fashion these days.

For me, these pieces are the most stylish, but there are plenty of other pieces where those came from; check out Hot Topic’s selection of Spirited Away apparel and see for yourself!

VP-elect Mike Pence gets booed at “Hamilton,” internet loves it

Twitter
Twitter

As many have said online already, it’s heavy irony that Vice President-elect Mike Pence expected to enjoy a nice night at Hamilton, a show created and acted by a non-white and mixed-sexual orientation cast, despite his previous policies that went right for the jugular of LGBT and non-white people’s lives. Hamilton is already a fan favorite in America, especially on the internet, so when fans saw Hamilton‘s cast take Pence to task for his rhetoric and his alignment with Donald Trump, Twitter escalated quite quickly.

First, there’s video of Pence getting booed as he sat down:

And here’s video of the cast standing in solidarity to let Pence know about the frustrations policies and his candidate have caused much of the American public. Brandon V. Dixon is the one who addresses Pence directly.

There’s also a video of theater-goers outside yelling “F*** MIKE PENCE.”

On the whole, the internet was on the side of the protesters, however there were some who felt like Pence should just be left alone. But there were others who felt like him being booed was the least of which they feel he deserves. Check out the Twitter moment for yourself.

What did you think of the Hamilton cast booing Pence? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

People Magazine actually gets it right! Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson named Sexiest Man Alive

It’s always once every decade or so that People Magazine actually gets their “Sexiest Man Alive” issue right. Turns out, we’re in one of those moments where the broken clock lands on the right time.

dwayne-the-rock-johnson-named-people-sexiest-man-alive-2016

Moana star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has been on people’s personal “sexiest man alive” lists for the longest, and finally, People has officially given him that title over Eddie Redmayne, who I figured would have won this title in any other year since he’s got Magical Beasts and Where to Find Them, despite Johnson also having a holiday movie (and several other films and projects this year) and being Hollywood’s most highest paid actor.

Johnson’s title comes just at the right time in this nation, when we could all use a much-needed pick-me-up. After being bombarded with so much racism and discrimination and sexism and everything evil, it’s nice to see a well-deserving (and brown) actor get some love in these trying times. It provides a little bit of hope, however shallow, that life isn’t as bad as some people are trying to make it become, and that life doesn’t have to be bad at all if we just love each other for their own brand of uniqueness and dare I say, sexiness.

Thanks, Dwayne, for being good looking and powerfully rich in Hollywood. Now, enjoy the reigning Sexiest Man Alive talk about his super-iconic fanny pack photo.

What do you think about The Rock getting this nom? Also, what do you think about the small number of folks People has deigned to give the Sexiest Man or Woman Alive title to? Certainly, there should be more.