Romanticizing Riverdale

How the TV Show Deals with Hard Topics

By: Helana Mulder, senior reporter

Throughout several generations, people have come to know the beloved characters of the fictional town, Riverdale. From Archie Andrews, Betty Cooper, and Jughead Jones, to the more minor characters of Josie McCoy, Sabrina Spellman, and Kevin Keller, these Archie characters have become near and dear to the hearts of many fans.

While the recent CW adaption of the Archie series is quite different from the original comics, the show has gained a large and dedicated viewership throughout their three seasons.

More recently, fans and viewers of the show have been left confused as to what it is that the showrunners have been doing with the show. While the first season followed the cast as they sought to solve a murder mystery, the following two seasons have dealt with more sinister topics.

The third season, specifically, has centered around a cult-like group called “The Farm” and topics like baptism and devil worship. The series has also had characters deal with a “Dungeons and Dragons” spin off game called “Gryphons and Gargoyles” that has players kill themselves in order to elevate themselves.

Topics such as these are often seriously dealt with in TV shows and movies, so it is surprising to see a show that portrays these things as part of a gameespecially with recent events surrounding the “Momo challenge” where kids are pressured to harm themselves as part of a game.

Right now, it almost feels as if the writers of Riverdale are trying to fit in as many modern issues as they can into their episodes. They have homosexual and bi-sexual relationships, they touch on the topics of incest and inappropriate relationships, they’ve had a sixteen year old girl perform a strip tease in front of a gang, and they have a drug lord as one of the main character’s parents.

Romanticising topics and characters has been an area of controversy in the last few years. Most recently, the character of Joe from Netflix’s series You has been romanticized by its teen viewers who have been falling in love with the character. The actor who plays Joe even called out the viewers on Twitter who were feeling this way and told them that Joe was a psychopath.

Perhaps this is what Riverdale is doing. While they may think that they aren’t sugar-coating topics like incest, cults, suicide, and drug-use, the way that they present these issues sure does feel like it.

The show is characterized by the “sexy” and “mysterious” feel it presents. The relationship between Archie and Ms. Grundy in the first season is seen as a “forbidden romance,” instead of statutory rape, considering the fact that Archie is around sixteen years old in the story. They have Betty strip tease in order to earn her place in a gang of drug dealers and thugs. They have the suicide of multiple characters be the result of an addicting game. All of these events are areas of concern and should be handled in a much more serious way, rather than romanticising and dramatizing them.

Especially with a rather young viewership, the showrunners of Riverdale should reconsider the ways in which they deal with controversial topics in order to bring awareness, not to make good television.