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).
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.
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.
Jordan Calloway has had a rough time, what with the portrayal of Chuck Clayton he was tasked with while on CW’s Riverdale. Calloway will hopefully fare better on the second season of Hulu’s horror show Freakish.
In the second season of the show, the students of Kent High School are trapped inside by a deadly explosion and find their relationships tested when a new crop of survivors show up. Relationships and voyages outside of the school’s confines will be a matter of life and death. Calloway will play Zane Hiatt, a part-time college student and security guard of a company local to the show’s universe, Keller Chemical. Hiatt becomes the savior of a group of survivors.
(Ironically, Keller is the last name of Kevin Keller. The Archie Comics connection lives on, after all).
Read more at Shadow and Act.
Riverdale Season 1 | Episode 8 | “The Outsiders” | Aired March 30, 2017
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 Her. Riverdale 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.
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.
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, 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.
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.
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!
Will we see more of her? I hope so.
Also, we’ve seen some more of Reggie!
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 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.
Stop defending Riverdale with “he’s just discovering himself.” No, allosexuality is just normalized in our society is what’s happening.
— Erasure Isn’t Nuance (@TheShrinkette) March 5, 2017
Stop writing teens off. It is possible to be a teen and have a fair idea of your sexual preference/lack thereof.
— Erasure Isn’t Nuance (@TheShrinkette) March 5, 2017
Nobody bats an eyelid at Kevin, who is gay. Why isn’t Jughead’s identity afforded the same respect?
— Erasure Isn’t Nuance (@TheShrinkette) March 5, 2017
I am NOT saying Kevin should be portrayed w/ the struggling gay teen angle AT ALL. I’m saying it’s possible to have TWO queers on the show.
— Erasure Isn’t Nuance (@TheShrinkette) March 5, 2017
It’s not outside the realm of possibility, y’all. You can have a gay char. and an aroace character in an ensemble w/o the show imploding.
— Erasure Isn’t Nuance (@TheShrinkette) March 5, 2017
What’s happening here is blatant erasure, and a mockery by Riverdale writers of two very hurt communities.
— Erasure Isn’t Nuance (@TheShrinkette) March 5, 2017
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 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” Episode 5 | “Heart of Darkness”| Aired Feb. 22, 2017
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 Episode 4 |”The Last Picture Show”| Aired Feb. 16, 2017
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
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
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 Episode 4| “The Last Picture Show”| Aired Feb. 16, 2017
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.