March 3, 2017 by readlisaread
I have watched, at first reluctantly and then with growing interest the TV series “Riverdale”. I’m not too sure what the appeal is for me, a *mature* woman, to engage in a what is essentially a teen drama (ala the OG Beverly Hills 90210 or Gossip Girls), and I was honestly reluctant to have the Archie gang’s memory sullied. I’m one of many generations of girls who devoured the suite of Archie publications, including “Archie”, “Betty and Veronica” “Pals and Gals” and even the spin offs “Lil Jinx”, “Mad House” and “Sabrina the Teenage Witch”. We lived vicariously through their innocent, but exciting, teenage lives. We contemplated if we were more like Bette or Veronica, while secretly fearing we were in fact Ethel. We longed for Archie-boyfriends, or Reggie-boyfriends, but secretly feared we would only draw the attention of the Jugheads, or worse….Dilton Doilys.
The production of the series “Riverdale” is only the latest attempt to update Archie and the gang. A series of old-school style comic books came out a few years ago that tried to reinvent the Riverdale teenagers, by including story lines that included Archie actually making a choice and committing to either Betty or Veronica. There was a bit of “edge” to this series, but “Riverdale” takes the fictional town to a whole new place.
At first, I thought a lot of the edge or darkness was gratuitous– like in the first episode when Veronica fake-makes-out with Betty in order to secure them both a spot on the cheerleading squad. It turns out there is a whole lot more social commentary going on here than I anticipated– in fact the “faking out” did not shock or impress the selection committee– rather our heroines were chided for trying to leverage faux-lesbian shock tactics. Then there is the real Gay Character. He is gay…. and no one cares. Oh sure, there is a bit of tension between him and the football squad (though, some of that might be sexual), and he is a little stereo-typically campy, but then again, there are stereotypes for a reason. His dad not only knows of his orientation, he encourages him to find a nice boy. He is there to fill out the cast in a real way, not a “let’s add a gay character for schtick” way
But I mentioned the Darkness… where the comic digests delved into themes of jealousy, competition, maybe cheating on Flutesnoot’s biology test, the TV series takes on murder, criminal activity in the form of embezzlement and extortion, and there are more subtle sub texts around mental illness, child abandonment, catfishing/identity theft (this was a very clever ploy to work a fake Miss Grundy into the cast, in the form of a nubile and seductive young teacher…. who inappropriately seduces one of the main characters). There is also and invitation to poke around in divorce, rape-culture, elitism, gun control (or lack of), white supremacy, and general angst, nihilism and malaise of the post-modern American small town.
I’m enjoying, reluctantly, being encouraged to wallow in nostalgia while still facing reality. Much like a latter day Archie (originally a teenager in 1939) daydreaming about his first girlfriend, only to discover she is a puffy harridan with a cheap haircut and ill-fitting clothes. Or Betty regretting that one weekend with Reggie… but still getting a thrill when she remembers it 3 kids and 2 careers later. Oh yeah… it isn’t that hard to get to the dark…
PS Dear reader… points for the other place names in the title of today’s post….
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