Tag Archives: CW

“Black Lightning” masterfully puts black pain–and black power– in the spotlight

I remember when people were up in arms about the fact that Black Lightning wasn’t going to be a part of the Berlanti-verse alongside The Flash and Arrow. Even though I don’t watch either of those shows, the news did sound like CW was making a negative “Whites Only” distinction between the Berlanti-verse and Black Lightning. However, after watching the Black Lightning premiere, I’m actually quite glad that Jefferson Pierce/Black Lightning (Cress Williams) has his own universe to play in. With the salient themes the show wants to get across, it needs a specific, concentrated point of view, and getting bogged down in the more comic booky setup established by The Flash and Arrow would, in my opinion, get in the way.

The show, brought to us by Maria Brock-Akil and Salim Akil, has a pointed message: too often, black pain is ignored or stuffed down, either to keep the peace or just so to stay alive. But at some point, enough is enough, and black pain turns into black power. In this case, that power is taken from subtext to text, with Jefferson revisiting his ability to generate and control lightning.

Jefferson’s pain isn’t just hinted at; it’s shown to us in stark moments, like the opening sequence which shows Jefferson as a well-regarded principal in his town and a few minutes later, he’s the victim of a racist police pullover. The pain is both external and internal, when his oldest daughter Anissa (Nafessa Williams) argues with him about his style of protesting–which could be critiqued as playing to respectability politics–versus her style of protesting, which is much more in line with today’s Black Lives Matter movement and other grassroots movements.

This particular argument is something I feel will come up in the show over and over again, as it’s an argument that is happening in the real world all the time.  It’s a discussion I often argue with myself over–technically I’m a “millennial,” but I’m of the older set; I’m much closer to Generation X than I am millennials, and on top of that, I’m someone who has always felt older than her age. I understand why Jefferson is more concerned with what looks like “keeping the peace” and focusing more on education and, to be blunt, status. For Jefferson, the way out of the existential predicament African Americans are in is through higher learning, and for many of us, including me, that’s what we were taught. I feel like I’m of the last generation when The United Negro College Fund was prominently on TV, drilling the catchphrase “A mind is a terrible thing to waste” in our heads. We were literally taught that the only path forward for us, the only path towards being treated with humanity and dignity, was through attending college, attaining that quintessential “good job with a 401K,” and getting that house in the suburbs.

However, there’s the other side of me that knows that protests are the only way we’ve been able to attain even that level of privileged thinking. The blood sacrificed for us to even establish a college fund means something, and to honor that, we have to continue putting ourselves on the front lines in whatever way we can. We have to fight for ourselves and our humanity, otherwise, the rights we have will be taken away from us. The Black Lives Matter movement and other movements like it are essential to the ongoing conversation our nation has had about race, privilege, power, and humanity.

But, as Jefferson pointedly said to Anissa, many young activists forget that the same older people they deride for playing “respectability politics” were fighting the good fight longer than they’ve been alive. The disconnect between the generations sometimes results in unnecessary animosity, with both sides not wanting to come together in the middle and recognize the similarities. The Black Lives Matter Movement, Movement for Black Lives, Dream Defenders, and others are just the ideological grandchildren of SNCC, CORE, the NAACP, the Black Panther Party, and others. Recognizing the history shared and coming together to develop solutions for going forward should be part of today’s activist movement instead of the isolation and chiding I’ve seen among some younger activists and some of the older generation.

It’s this combustible combination of a society gone rampant with fear and police brutality coupled with activism in the social media age that have put Jefferson between a rock and a hard place. At his core, he is an activist. A vigilante, even–Black Lightning is the scourge of the police, but beloved by many in his city. But as a father and a man who wants to reconcile with his wife Lynn (Christine Adams) after his do-gooding split them apart, Jefferson just wants to be able to work, come home, and have his family safe in America. He’s a hero who doesn’t want to be a hero, but is often called to be one. I think that’s one of the more interesting things about Jefferson as a character. It’s similar to how Marvel’s Luke Cage didn’t want to be a hero, but was called to be because the community needed him.

This calling is often the hallmark of black superheroes in both Marvel and DC Comics. Whereas some white or white-passing superheroes like Superman can think of heroism as a luxury, black superheroes arise because no one else will help them. A superhero has to be borne out of necessity. There was an episode of Superman: The Animated Series that shows the origins of Steel; in many ways, his story is the same; Superman wasn’t holding things down in Steel’s neck of the woods, and he had to rise up and take care of the crime in his community. What’s odd is that I don’t remember Superman ever getting called out on his oversight.

Overall, I feel Black Lightning is setting up to be, like Luke Cage was when it premiered in 2016, the superhero we need for these complicated and excruciating times. Black Lighting, like its Marvel counterpart, shows how these “feats of daring-do” can speak to our current fears and hopes. These characters might be fictional, but the carry a very real weight. They can also, when put in the right hands, carry messages to help us learn and grow and, hopefully, become better, more compassionate human beings towards each other.

A key moment of this is when we see how Anissa is affected by almost every black male villain in this episode calling her a bitch or pulling a gun out on her. Black men take a lot of abuse, no doubt, but black women take a very different and very specific kind of abuse, one that’s leveled by men outside and within the race. This type of abuse leveled against black women by black men can be intellectualized and understood–as shown on the last season of Underground, abuse within the black family can be traced back to slavery, when some black men would take out their aggression for their white slavemasters onto their black wives, who had no recourse for help or understanding outside of their home or in the nation at large. It’s shown in The Color Purple, in which Whoopi Goldberg’s character Celie is a constant victim and Oprah Winfrey’s character Sofia talks about the sexual and physical abuse she’s faced from every man in her life, including her own husband. But that doesn’t make the lasting effects of it in today’s society any less painful. After being jerked around, called ou of her name, kidnapped, almost forced into prostitution, and nearly killed, Anissa has had enough. Now, like her father, her own powers bubble up from black pain and become transmuted into strength.

Black Lightning airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on CW. 

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“Riverdale”: How to get that Southside Serpents look without joining a gang

After losing interest in Riverdale in the middle of the first season, and after learning about the wild, incest-filled ending, I’ve long since come to the conclusion that Riverdale wasn’t the show for me. As a longtime Archie Comics fan, this show was clearly not marketing itself towards me; it was marketing itself towards tweens and teens.

However, the second season promises the introduction of more badasses–more Southside Serpents are coming, including the appearance of late-in-the-game Archie Comics character Toni Topaz (Vanessa Morgan). Other Serpents include Sweet Pea (Jordan Connor, right) and Fangs Fogarty (Drew Ray Tanner, middle).

South SiDeee🐍 The Serpents are coming 😈 @thecwriverdale @archiecomics

A post shared by Vanessa Morgan (@vanessamorgan) on

The more Southside Serpents there are, the more I’m considering at least keeping up with this upcoming season, since they are so cool (lest we forget good ol’ Joaquin). I’ll be especially keen if, as Digital Spy suggests, Toni could break up the Betty-Jughead power couple, otherwise known as “Bughead.” (I hate Bughead, so I’m rooting for Toni to successfully break up the party.)

If you’d like to get your Serpents fashion on, look no further than Hot Topic, which has quite a bit of Southside Serpents gear.

You can cop these shirts for men and women:

Hot Topic
Hot Topic

But the most valuable thing to get, I think, is the Southside Serpents patch, which comes in both a small iron-on size (pictured) or a big back patch size.

Hot Topic

Sew or iron it onto a jacket and you’ve got instant Serpent street cred.

The Serpents are, by far, the coolest part of Riverdale. They’ve got the cool jackets, the coolest of the show’s characters (Jughead, Joaquin, Jughead’s dad), and the coolest storylines. It’d only make sense that they’d have some cool merch. Now if Toni can break up Betty and Jughead, the Serpents will be the ultimate rulers of Riverdale.

Gina Rodriguez to shine light on immigration rights with two new TV shows

Gina Rodriguez is making moves and preparing to educate the viewing public on immigration rights in the process.

According to Jezebel, the Jane the Virgin star has sold two shows with immigration as its focus. The first, Have Mercy, is based on a German series format and tells the story of an immigrant Latina doctor who opens her own clinic after working as a nurse’s assistant. This show has been sold to CBS, which, combined with Gloria Calderon Kellett’s History of Them, makes CBS’ new commitment to diversity seem a little more legitimate.

The second, Illegal, has been sold to The CW and is based on the life of Jane the Virgin writer and co-executive producer Rafael Agustin, who immigrated to America from Ecuador and discovered his undocumented status while attending high school.

According to The Hollywood Reporter Illegal will be an hourlong dramedy and is currently in development.

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“Riverdale” recap: Now, a warning

Pictured (Front L-R): Tiera Skovbye as Polly Cooper, Lili Reinhart as Betty Cooper, (Back L-): Nathalie Boltt as Penelope Blossom, Hayley Law as Valerie, Asha Bromfield as Melody, Camila Mendes as Veronica Lodge, and Madelaine Petsch as Cheryl Blossom — (Dean Buscher/The CW)

Riverdale Season 1 | Episode 8 | “The Outsiders” | Aired March 30, 2017

AAAAAUUUUGGGHHH!!!!

Yes, this is how I feel right now about Riverdale, and all of that got bottled up and compacted into this particular episode. Yes, Polly had her baby shower, she’s moved in with the Blossoms, Archie and Betty found out that Jughead’s dad is a Serpent, Kevin’s Serpent boyfriend Joaquin is having second thoughts about deceiving him, etc., etc. Now, let’s get to what really needs to be discussed: JUST WHERE IS THIS SHOW HEADING?! 

I feel like this show is treating us like how Lisle Von Rhuman treated Madeline Ashton in Death Becomes HerRiverdale is teasing us with a show beyond our wildest imaginations–inclusion, diversity, a fresh take on Archie and the gang, etc.–and it gives us what we think we want. But then, it comes back to us and says, “Now, a warning.” To which we say, like Madeline, “NOW a warning?!” For us, that warning would have been that the show would begin to lose its way and forget what made its characters great and, indeed, avatars for those who didn’t feel included in their everyday lives.

First of all, I feel like, and have always felt like, Riverdale has the potential to be amazing. There’s so much raw stuff inherent in the Archie Comics canon and it’s so frustrating to see how little the show is using what it could use. Instead, it’s pulling from every kind of pop culture reference from the past 30 years to show it’s “smart” and “edgy” and “hip.” And yet, it still comes off as dated and try-hard.

I think Emily Nussbaum hit the nail on the head in her review of the show for The New Yorker, “Archie’s and Veronica’s Misconceived Return to Riverdale,” in which she eviscerates the show for the reasons presented above. To quote her:

“…[S]even episodes in, it’s devolved into dull cosplay bracketed by bogus profundity. Betty and Veronica don kink-wear and roofie Chuck Clayton, a slut-shaming football player. The girls’ tart-tongued gay bestie, Kevin (a character from the new version of the comic strip), seduces a bi-curious Moose. Archie, when not working out shirtless, pursues a songwriting career. “Your songs,” a critical music professor sneers at him. “They’re juvenile. They’re repetitive.” That’s true of ‘Riverdale,’ too, but the show clearly knows it and doesn’t care. Every time a plot feels corny or prurient or preachy, there’s an acknowledgment in the dialogue. It gets exhausting, like hanging out with someone who keeps saying, ‘God, I’m such a nightmare!'”

It’s like the show desperately wants to prove that it’s new and fresh. “This isn’t your mom’s Archie!” is what it wants to say. But it’s consistently showing that it’s a a show that doesn’t realize that teenagers, in general, don’t talk in decades-old references, which makes it seem like this is a show actually for older Archie fans who recognize all of these references from their own childhoods. As Nussbaum said, the show brings up Lolita, Rebel without a Cause, Wild Things, Gossip Girl, Beverly Hills 90210, Pretty in Pink, Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill, and plenty of others they off-handedly mention in snarky asides. Like, what do you actually want to be, show! Are you for the young kids or are you for 30-year-olds? Make up your mind!

I have been growing frustrated by the plot becoming a spinning-of-the-wheels type situation. Jason’s killer is no closer to being found, and clues seem to keep simultaneously popping up and disappearing at the same doggone time. At this point, I’m not sure if I’ll even be shocked when I find out who the killer is because I’m just so bored with the whole procedural element. Again with the references, with the murder mystery itself, the show is trying to be Twin Peaks, another reference for someone much older than the target audience. But, if the show is trying to pull a Twin Peaks-ian surrealist-fest, then when are we actually going to get into the surrealism? Again, Archie Comics has tons of surrealist moments, and that’s not even counting the amount of side-universes they have. Surrealism could come in the form of simply introducing Sabrina, a teen witch who often wants to use her powers for good, but usually ends up messing things up and has to right everything back to how it was. Sabrina could come into town, learn about the murder mystery and, after becoming friends with Cheryl and learning of her sadness, reverse time so that Jason is still alive. That could also be a good opportunity to introduce Afterlife with Archie at this moment, since Jason would be, in a way, undead. There’s your second season.

Or, the show could become a true deconstruction of the idea of classic Americana, something it was billed as being but hasn’t truly delivered on yet. Instead of having Jughead tell us that’s what the show is every week in his voice overs, we could actually see some depth of character and real explorations of race, class, gender, sexuality, and anything else that could use a thorough prodding. I’d say that if Riverdale wanted to take notes from a show doing that right now, it’d be Atlanta. This show, like Riverdale, uses the backdrop of a well-known city to explore the underpinnings of American society and culture, and it does so in a specific, tailored way. It doesn’t have to prove to the audience that it’s “edgy”–it shows its edginess in each episode by delivering on its synopsis each week.

If any place needed a deconstruction, it would be a fictional town like Riverdale, which has stood as a the center for clean-cut “American” life, which usually means white life. With much of the cast race-bent, this would have been a great opportunity to see just how destructive and soul-wrenching it can be to live in a town in which you’re the minority (which, in turn, provides context for the larger conversation about living in a country which still harbors racism against you). We could see how some folks in the football stands might be surprised to see Reggie as the captain of the team. Or, there could be some townspeople who resent that Mayor McCoy won over the white candidate (something the character actually brings up in an episode). Or, we could get more insight into the life of Moose, who doesn’t yet have the courage to live his life as an out gay young man due to fear, pressure to be “manly” or what have you. We definitely could have used Chuck, Josie, and Trev to explore life for black kids in a majority-white town.

Pictured (L-R): Cole Sprouse as Jughead Jones, Lili Reinhart as Betty Cooper, KJ Apa as Archie Andrews, and Camila Mendes as Veronica Lodge (Dean Buscher/The CW)

I write about this in my piece for Ebony, “Riverdale’s Woke Report Card: Does the Drama Get Its Black Characters Right?”. I give the show a passing grade, ultimately, but I still write about how the show really needs to do better by its black characters.

“Out of the Pussycats, Josie is the one who has been given the most screen time; Valerie has only just now started coming up the ranks, but only because of her relationship with Archie. Meanwhile, Melody still hasn’t spoken more than two words during the run of the series and Pop Tate and Mr. Weatherbee may have been racebent, but they also don’t say much either—and in the case of Pop Tate specifically, nothing at all. Pop Tate is a conundrum; even though it’s great to see more representation on screen, it’s also puzzling as to why he has to be characterized as a silent, kindly butler of sorts, even though he’s the owner of the teen hangout, The Chocklit Shoppe. Basically, Riverdale’s Pop Tate reminds me too much of Uncle Ben, and I don’t like it.”

The show proved my point once again by making Valerie merely a sounding board for Archie this episode. She had three lines, and not one of them was about her point of view or her opinion on the matter of Archie’s dad being driven to near bankruptcy. Instead, her lines were there just so Archie could say he was going to go after the Serpents, as well as to give the appearance that they’re in a loving, stable relationship (which we see in the previews for next week that that might not be the case after all). The next time we see Valerie, she and Melody are at Polly’s baby shower, saying nothing.

If the show wants to be actually inclusive, the least it could do is not make its brown and black characters set dressing or talking props. The most it could do is not create a problematic plotpoint of a black boy in handcuffs at the mercy of a white girl who is acting out a revenge fantasy. 

Also for diversity, the show could do well to actually eliminate Bughead and reinstate Jughead as an aromatic, asexual boy, since that’s what he actually is.

Comics Alliance’s Andrew Wheeler wrote “Jughead, Bughead, and the Need for Asexual & Aromantic Heroes in Comics” to point out just how demoralizing Riverdale‘s asexual erasure is (and how it flies in the face of their “inclusion” standpoint).

Wheeler interviewed colorist Sigi Ironmonger  (a grey-asexual nonbinary trans-man); webcomic creator Sarah “Neila” Elkins, (romantic asexual), webcomic creator Jayelle Anderson (demisexual) and literature student LuciAce (aroace) about their opinions on Jughead in the comics and in Riverdale. They mentioned how important it is to have asexual representation in the media, especially for young kids still figuring out who they are. As Elkins said:

“To me it’s important because, growing up, I didn’t know it was a possibility to be asexual. I thought there was something wrong with me that I wasn’t interested in the idea of having sex like other girls my age. Friends called me a ‘prude.’ These were good friends of mine, friends who were also queer, that didn’t know that asexuality is a queer identity. Even among the ‘weird kids’ I was the odd one out.

I think if there was more representation (or any) of asexual and aromantic characters in comics as well as other books aimed at young readers, and other media, that my friends, and myself, would have known I wasn’t broken or weird. I didn’t learn about asexuality as an orientation until I was out of college. I stumbled across it online and thought, “Oh, wow! That’s what I am! This makes so much sense!” I don’t want anyone else to have to go through that, so I write asexual characters in my stuff. I hope to write something in the future, be it a comic or a novel, that’s aimed at younger readers.”

They also discussed how disheartening it was to see Jughead and Betty actually become an item, erasing the canonical asexuality the character had before (and, as far as I’m concerned, has always had). To quote Ironmonger, Elkins, Anderson and LuciAce:

Ironmonger: “Honestly, as soon as I heard about the erasure, I’ve steered clear of the show, so I can’t speak of the storyline at all. I don’t watch a lot of TV as it is and I don’t feel like prioritizing something like that, you know? I don’t really understand a decision like that and I can’t stand shoe-horned relationships of any kind but especially at the expense of LGBTQ+ ones.”

Elkins: “I really had my hopes up about that show before it came out. I was so hopeful I know I dismissed friends who said “you know they’re just gonna screw it up, right?” My friends were right. They announced online that Jughead in Riverdale “wouldn’t be asexual” and that he’d “totally want sex” or something like that. It deflated the big hope balloon I had clung onto that we’d finally have some representation on TV in a show aimed at younger viewers. It was crushing. I can’t even bring myself to look at the commercials for the show. Each time I hear the music for them I mute the TV or change the channel.”

Anderson: “Getting rid of this trait in Jughead for the television show just perpetuates the cycle of normalizing often hypersexual behavior that doesn’t fit everyone’s life. Sometimes young people’s only role model are the characters they see on television, so it is important to show that asexuality is a thing, too.”

LuciAce: “I’m really angry about the way they’re handling things. Having aroace representation on TV would have been huge, and instead, they… made him straight? Because apparently there aren’t enough allo straight characters on TV yet. I’ve never seen a character like myself on TV, and I would have been a die-hard fan of the show if they’d kept Jughead aroace and touch-averse like he is in the comics. As it is, the show just makes me furious and sad.”

The show seems to have an understanding of just how offensive Betty and Jughead as an item are, which seems evident in how they are doubling-down on shoving it down our throats (or so it seems, since the episodes have been filmed months before now). Having Jughead and Betty kiss in almost every scene seems and feels unnatural, just like how it felt unnatural when writers would try to give Jughead an interest in girls in certain comic book issues. Jughead’s characterization just isn’t one in which he’s a guy who is interested in the opposite or same sex like that, and that’s perfectly fine and normal. However, the show’s insistence on making him straight and sexual feels like a very 20th century thing to do. If we’re in an age where Kevin Keller can be proudly out as a gay teen, then we should also be in the age where Jughead can be proudly out an asexual aromantic teen. Teens in general, regardless of sexuality, shouldn’t be made to feel like they have to be in a relationship to be normal.

Pictured (L-R): Lili Reinhart as Betty Cooper and Cole Sprouse as Jughead Jones (Dean Buscher/The CW)

The last grievance I have is about that twist of a plotpoint with Hal Cooper, who apparently forced Alice Cooper to have an abortion. ¿¿Qué??

Why, what when and where did this plotpoint have to come up? Why have we had such little to show for Hal’s characterization until now? I know we had that part where he told Betty that Polly was with the Sisters for whatever dire reason they have, but I wish we had gotten the sense that Hal was a total abusive husband way before now. If that had been built up from the very beginning, that would have been really interesting and it would have given us more reason to try to understand Alice until this very episode. We would already know why she acted like someone driven to desperation–it’s because she’s been brainwashed by her husband’s fruitless demand for perfection from his family.

I guess what I’m getting at ultimately with this point is that for this to be a dramatic show about a murder, there are literally no dramatic stakes coming out of these characters. Yeah, we get it every once and a while, like with Jughead confronting his father and still trying to find some hope in his heart for him, and Cheryl coming to grips with her brother’s death. But the show is quickly losing the plot of both what it wants to say and who these characters are. The reason we have connected with these characters for 50+ years is because of their relatable cores. We all know some hapless goof like Archie, who is a great friend, but is endearingly clumsy (and sometimes emotionally tacky) all other areas of his life. We know someone like Jughead, who is so cool and interesting, yet they’re so enigmatic, you feel you know nothing about them. Veronica is definitely that person that many of us wish we could be–cool, rich, and a boy magnet–while Betty is who we feel we are at the present moment–the girl or boy next door, nice, loyal, but just “regular.” Their strengths and flaws are what make them so much fun, and either you see yourself or you see your best version of yourself in these characters. Right now, I’m not seeing anyone I relate to anymore. I was seeing it at the beginning of Riverdale, but now, as Nussbaum points out, all we’re getting is some great cosplay without the real commitment.

I’ll say that the only person in the main cast who feels like they are with their character in spirit is Cole Sprouse. Not too many of the main cast have read the comic books back to front, but Sprouse has said in many interviews how he studied his source material and, in so many words, came in with a gameplan as to how to approach Jughead from a position that would remain true to the character. However, the show itself is limiting him from actually playing Jughead the way he truly wants to play Jughead, I feel. While the powers that be want Jughead to be a sexual being, Sprouse has been advocating for Jughead to be canonically asexual, as he is in the comics. However, the powers that be aren’t hearing him, and it’s a shame, since not listening to the actor who knows the character is what could actually make this show a whole lot better and definitely a whole lot more interesting.

In short, I hope the show quits trying to prove that “It Goes There” like Degrassi and actually goes there. If this is going to be a teen murder mystery, then by all means, up the murder, up the mystery, and definitely up the characterizations, plots, and respect for the differences in others.

“Riverdale” react: Love is in the air for Archie and Valerie

Archie and Valerie are canon! (CW/screengrab)

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

Love is here! But love isn’t all it’s cracked up to be some cases. And by “some cases,” I’m talking about Jughead and Betty. Jughead “Archie Comics’ first asexual character” Jones. Read more about the controversy behind that kiss here.

In other news, Archie and Valerie are together! Whoo! Canon seems to stay around when it’s involving traditional sexual couples! The double standard between utilizing new canon featuring Archie and Valerie’s relationship and disregarding the new canon stating Jughead is asexual is…fascinating. And by “fascinating,” I mean “annoying.”

But for what it is, I’m glad Archie and Valerie have finally tied the knot, as it were. They were circling each other like sharks for two whole episodes. I was hoping the tension wouldn’t be drawn out indefinitely, because I don’t really need to see the triangle gain steam, as much as it was trying to with Veronica’s jealousy peeking its head. Thankfully, she didn’t have long to focus on Valerie, since her mother and Archie’s dad are smashing now and Veronica can’t take her mother’s infidelity. The threat of Archie and Veronica possibly becoming stepsiblings has killed the romance. (I hope. Don’t let this become like the ending of Clueless, writers.)

In the comics, Valerie was good for Archie and in the live-action version, Valerie is still good for Archie. She supports his dreams with a gentle, guiding presence. In both the comics and Riverdale, Archie seems to respond to that approach the most (dare I call it a motherly approach, which could lead to some possible Oedipal stuff since in Riverdale, Archie’s own mother isn’t in the picture). Since Valerie has given so much of herself to Archie, Archie in turn starts to give a lot of himself to her, mainly by stopping his selfish tendencies to hoard everyone’s attention and time. He realizes that Valerie feels lost without the Pussycats, despite her own decision to leave after fighting with Josie. Instead of keeping this knowledge to himself and simply using Valerie for her talents, he decides to get her back in the group so she can be her best self. He wants to see her shine. He cares!

Now, the question is how far and how monogamous are the writers going to keep this relationship? Is Archie going to eventually go full f*ckboy on Valerie, as he does in the comics just once, and is Valerie going to have to get him in line like in the comics? (Hopefully not with a slap, as in the comics, but she’s gotta pull some non-code-switching Black Woman Strictness at some point if she wants Archie to actually be a good boyfriend who doesn’t try to chase both Betty and Veronica at the same time.) I’m intrigued. I hope, though, that live-action Archie is a lot sweeter and less dickish than comic book Archie. He seems like a sweet guy; I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

What did you think of Valerie and Archie finally kissing? 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!

The only romance on “Riverdale” I’m rooting for is Kevin/Joaquin

Riverdale Episode 4 |”The Last Picture Show”| Aired Feb. 16, 2017

Joaquin and Kevin are the only relationship I want to see succeed on this show (so far). (CW/screengrab)

After discussing the horror that is the Ms. Grundy/Archie “romance” subplot, let’s cleanse our palettes a little and talk about a more appropriate romance. I’m talking about Kevin and his new boo, Joaquin.

I’m all about living vicariously through Kevin and Joaquin’s romance. It hits all of the classic “teen romance” buttons to a T, as well as provide some progress in the realm of TV representation. Let’s talk about them in bulleted form.

Joaquin’s the bad boy with a heart of gold

Joaquin is the perfect high school “bad boy.” (CW/screengrab)

There’s nothing that gets to teens quicker than falling in love with the guy who seems like (or actually is) the guy you shouldn’t have anything to do with. Joaquin’s that guy; not only does have the “tall, dark and handsome” thing going for him in the looks department, but he’s also a member of the Serpents, the local gang (whose leader, surprise surprise, is Jughead’s father). With Joaquin being a gang member, Kevin literally should stay far away from him. But he didn’t know that before he started snogging him, so now the danger is being treated as an added bonus to their relationship.

However, despite Joaquin’s “You’re not so strong without your beard” fakeout, it seems like Joaquin might not be such a bad dude. In quite a few ways, Kevin seems like the male Betty—he’s the classic “boy next door” type—and whether or not he has secrets to spill later on in the season, it seems like Kevin’s one of the few characters with his head on straight. If Joaquin is attracted to that, as well as to Kevin’s penchant for boldness (such as when he shushed the Serpents at the drive-in), then there’s got to be some goodness in Joaquin at the end of the day. At least I’m hoping that’s the case; I don’t want Kevin getting hurt.

Joaquin and Kevin = Romeo and Juliet

The lovebirds from two warring factions is such an old trope, but it’s a trope that always works. The push and pull of whether the couple in question will make it is what keeps us entertained and enthralled. Usually, the couple doesn’t work out. But we always hope for the best with each new Romeo and Juliet-esque couple. Joaquin and Kevin are no different. Once we learned that that they were going to be together, the questions began to circle. How are they going to keep this relationship up? What happens when the Serpents and/or Kevin’s dad, Sheriff Keller, find out about this relationship? I hate to think about the worst possible scenarios. Let’s hope that, somehow, Joaquin is able to get out of the gang and these two are able to happily ride off into the sunset together.

The fact that it’s treated as a normal romance

These guys weren’t given a salacious storyline; they were treated just like any other couple on TV, which is great. (CW/screengrab)

Thanks to the Shondaland-centric TGIT block on ABC, we’ve seen a lot of normalizing of same-sex relationships, which is great. I’m not completely sure as to how much of that we’ve seen on a teen-skewing network like CW, but it seems like there hasn’t been much, which is highly ironic. If the CW is all about listening to what the teens want, you’d think there would have been a show with a high-profile same-sex relationship by now. But I guess the network is skewing more towards what they think straight teen girls want to watch.

In any case, the CW is finally in the arena with Joaquin and Kevin’s relationship. Thankfully, it’s not treated any differently than any relationship Veronica, Betty, or Archie might have. Even more refreshing was how Sheriff Keller treated his son. There wasn’t any familial drama about Kevin being gay, and his dad didn’t have any stereotypical “I’m a good dad but I’m still getting used to my son being gay” qualms about himself. Seeing Kevin’s dad worry about him and tell him not to run off with any boys at the drive-in was very sweet. It’s a shame that seeing a parent act like a parent toward their gay son is such a rarity on TV, but let’s hope that we get more scenes with Kevin and his dad in the future, as well as more scenes of supportive parents on TV in general.

It’s fun drama

At the end of the day, Riverdale is nighttime soap, and what better way to up the soap factor than to have a character in a relationship with a bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks? You can’t help but love storylines like that.

What do you love about Kevin and Joaquin? Are you excited to see more of them? Give me your comments below!

“Riverdale” react: Let’s hope Ms. Grundy never comes back

Riverdale Episode 4| “The Last Picture Show”| Aired Feb. 16, 2017

This image is not cool. This storyline was never cool. (CW)

It’s been a week since the episode “The Last Picture Show” aired, but I’ve been sitting on this gripe for too long, and I’ve got to let it out now, even if it might be old news. Ms. Grundy can never come back, because that plot line was the worst thing ever.

Let’s go over why it was the worst thing ever: Chiefly, it was because Ms. Grundy (or whatever her real name is, since the actual Ms. Grundy died years ago) is a full-fledged predator. Technically, she’s a ephebophile, someone who is attracted to “pubescent or post-pubescent youths,” but regardless, she’s a predator taking part in illegal activity. As a character, Archie has always been 16 years old, and as such, he’s clearly under the legal age for a relationship with an adult. So when Mrs. Cooper did her darnedest to get Ms. Grundy arrested and sent to jail, I applauded her for it. Ms. Grundy deserves to go to jail.

Throughout she and Archie’s “relationship,” Ms. Grundy has always been creepy, to say the least. Not only was she having an illegal dalliance with an underage teenager, but she used that relationship to emotionally control him. I’d go so far as to say that she emotionally abused him. She kept him from telling anybody about what he knew about the gunshot heard on the day of Jason’s death, and then she kept him from questioning her about her false identity too much by revealing how her ex-husband had abused her, a story I don’t believe. It was all too convenient, and anything she said that was supposed to get us on her side went out the window once she stared those muscular guys (who looked like either old-looking, muscular teens or just muscular young 20-year-olds) as she was getting in her car to leave town.

Overall, the handling of the plotline was quite irresponsible and excused criminal behavior as just a “lapse in judgement or a “bad decision.” Ms. Grundy not only had sex with a minor (which I again remind you is a jailable offense), but she also stole another woman’s identity. On top of all of that, she had a gun in her car, possibly evidence in the Jason Blossom case. There’s literally no way Ms. Grundy should be able to escape town on literally no charges.

There could be an argument made of this being a case of “white woman sympathizing,” as in Ms. Grundy being allowed white privilege by the script (consciously or unconsciously) in order to escape going to jail. But I think it’s more likely just overzealous writing. It was a case of trying to get every kind of “OMG”moment in the show instead of judiciously picking the types of moments that actually advanced the story. The Ms. Grundy-Archie plotline might have made for eyebrow-raising headlines in order to get people to tune in to the pilot, but once that plot played its only card, it was over. It quickly became a meandering and ultimately squandered story.

Riverdale writers: You overreached mightily on this one. The show is already an edgy teen drama; you guys don’t have to go overboard to try to convince us of this show’s juicy dramatic qualities. I mean, this show is a freaking murder-mystery—there are tons of secrets to uncover. All y’all have to do is just tell us the story in a fun, sometimes campy, yet convincing way. That’s all I require.

Above all, please don’t let Ms. Grundy come back. But, if she does, then she has to go to jail. If she’s able to escape scot-free a second time, I don’t think I’ll be able to handle it at all.

What’s in the cards for Riverdale’s Reggie, Josie and The Pussycats?

(From left) Ross Butler, Ashleigh Murray as Josie. (Ross Butler Twitter, CW)

If there are a couple of characters I’m super intrigued about (aside from my fav Jughead), it’s Reggie, Josie and her band The Pussycats. I feel there’s a lot of potential with these characters; the only question is if that potential will be mined to its fullest extent.

You might be asking, in the words of 1970s-era Violet Beauregarde, “What’s so fab about it?” What’s so great about Reggie and the Pussycats? A lot of stuff is great about them! Let’s look at the characters separately.

Reggie

Reggie and the crew (including Chuck Clayton) are chillaxing while being douches. Except for Veronica. (Screencap/Ross Butler Twitter)

Reggie, played by Ross Butler, is one of the game-changing characters on the show, or, potentially game-changing characters on the show if Reggie ever gets fleshed out.

What makes him so game-changing is that he’s been cast as an actor with Asian heritage. In one of the few times in television, there’s been an active instance of going against the Asian male stereotype.

Butler talked a lot about his groundbreaking role in Riverdale and several other roles on his resume that have defied stereotypes in an interview with Refinery 29. Some key points of the interview:

There’s a lack of Asian representation on TV, which is slowly changing. As an Asian-American actor, have you faced any particular challenges?

“This is something that has been a core [part] of me as an actor, ever since I [became one]. We’re a very underrepresented population in Hollywood, but we are the majority population of the world. It’s a weird dichotomy that we have here. It’s starting to get better and we are starting to see more Asians in roles, but we’re not seeing a lot of Asians playing roles [that are] not specifically written for Asians. So when I first started out, I was being sent on auditions for “the geek,” “the techie.” Let’s be honest guys, I don’t look like a techie [laughs].

“I told my agents, ‘Don’t send me out for [roles written for Asian actors].’ For a while, I didn’t get any auditions, or I’d get very few… But then I started to pick up momentum and started booking roles that weren’t [necessarily written for] Asian actors. For K.C. Undercover, my role wasn’t written for an Asian actor, and I was the only Asian in the audition room. That’s a trend I see today, when I go out for non-Asian roles: I’ll be one of the only Asian people in the room, if not the only one.”

Now you play a football player!
“When I was a kid, there wasn’t an Asian-American Ryan Gosling, or an Asian-American Robert Downey Jr. that you would look up to… Now, [on Riverdale] I play kind of a jerky football player, and on Thirteen Reasons Why I play a nice basketball player who does a bad thing, and on Teen Wolf I played a lacrosse player. Asians can be athletic, we don’t have to fit into this image that [the media] has for [us]. Booking these roles that aren’t necessarily [for Asian actors] is something I’m proud of and, hopefully, will keep doing.”

Can you tease a little bit about your character in Netflix’s Thirteen Reasons Why?
“I play Zach Dempsey, who is a basketball player, one of the jocks… He’s a guy’s guy, he fits in with all the guys, he’s one of the bros. What I’ll say about him is that he isn’t what you expect him to be. He is a jock, but he has a depth to him that you wouldn’t necessarily associate with a jock that hangs out in the popular group. He isn’t as smart as the other kids, but he has a sensitive side to him. How that ties in… you guys will have to see.”

In short, Reggie is very much needed on TV. However, when will Reggie be fleshed out from just being what he is now, which is a cardboard cutout of a jock? Coming back to this later.

Josie and The Pussycats

Ashleigh Murray as Josie in the pilot episode of “Riverdale.” (Katie Yu/The CW)

Again, Josie and the Pussycats represent a conscious effort to diversify the world of Riverdale. In the show, Josie and the Pussycats are a group made up of three black girls instead of the original version, which only features Valerie as the only person of color in the group.

The decision to make Josie and the Pussycats all black wasn’t just to give the cast more diversity for diversity’s sake; racial privilege (or lack thereof) is addressed in the third episode of Riverdale, when Josie schools Archie on how her and her Pussycats have to “claw their way” to the top of the charts while Archie could waltz into any recording studio and get catered to (being forced to work twice as hard and “claw” their own path to the top is why they’ve called themselves “Pussycats,” after all).

Actress Ashleigh Murray has complete faith in the show’s creative team when it comes to Josie’s storyline as she told ComicBook.com:

“I’m a huge admirer of them,” Murray said of the current creative team on the comics. “I read their interviews about the launch of the comic and it really put me at ease. Everything that they believe and see Josie to be is exactly what I’ve been saying about her myself. It gives me peace of mind that how I view her and how I believe her to be and the role model that I think she is and can continue to be for a lot of young people is represented right on the money.”

And she sees a lot of herself in Josie, as she told Yahoo.com:

I have a lot of similarities to Josie, which is why I enjoy playing her. She’s who I wish I was in high school. I was perseverant and headstrong, but I didn’t think I was quite as brave as Josie is. I have this image of her in my mind, and it’s adjectives about who she is rather than who she sounds like. It’s about who she wants to be and how she wants people to see her.

Also, even though she told Yahoo.com that a “duet” is in the future for Archie and Josie, she’s not keen on Josie becoming romantically interested in Archie. Instead, she’s got another person in mind.

[On if she’d want the writers to hook Josie and Archie up] Oh my god, no! [Laughs] I would be so shocked. People ask me if it’s going to be Archie and Josie together, and I go, “Ewww.” But just watch, by the fifth episode of Season 2, Archie’s going to be flirting with Josie, she’s going to be about it, and I’m going to be like, “What the hell is going on?”

Could she be talking about Reggie? Murray’s tweet seems to suggest that she’d like for her character and Butler’s character to hook up.

If so, that would be killer. It’d be yet another great moment for diversity; we rarely see black women/Asian men pairings on television, and if Josie and Reggie get together, then it’ll be something fantastic to see.

 

Worries

Now for my worries. All of which can be condensed to one sentence:

Will Reggie and Josie and her girls be fleshed out???

Look, I know we’re just in the beginning stages of this season, but I’d like to know if these characters are going to become actual characters instead of background. For instance, will Josie and the Pussycats become less of a Greek Chorus-type situation and become more integrated characters? In the Yahoo interview above, Murray revealed that Josie won’t be involved in the mystery surrounding Jason, but she’s still got to be involved in some of the other storylines, right? And by “involved,” I mean in a much more well-rounded way than just in relation to her music. And as I said in my Chuck Clayton article, there are more black girls in Riverdale, right?

Also, I’m well aware that Butler s currently filming another show, Netflix’s Thirteen Reasons Why, so he probably didn’t have a lot of time to be on set, much less become fully integrated as a character until filming Thirteen Reasons Why is over. However, if he was promised to have a bigger role towards the end of Season 1 and/or Season 2 (if we get a second season, that is), then will he finally become part of the mystery? I’m just anxious to see more of Reggie since Reggie actually is part of the main cast.

What do you think about Reggie and Josie and the Pussycats? Give your opinions in the comments section 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!