Riverdale may be one of the most popular shows in the world right now but when you peel back the veneer of small-town mystery, teen romance and chiseled abs, you’re likely to realise that it isn’t as great as people say. Here are five reasons why people should stop obsessing over Riverdale.
Poor Minority Representation
Many consider Riverdale as a ground-breaking show, thanks to its plethora of diverse characters. However, this praise is severely misplaced as despite the array of LGBTQIA+ and minority characters, the show has done nothing to flesh them out.
Kevin Keller, a gay male character, is a Riverdale fan-favourite, but besides his sexuality and his father being a former Sheriff, next to nothing is known about him. Similarly, the character Josie McCoy is known for pretty much nothing beside being a woman of colour and a budding musician, remaining as a total background character unless interacting with the show’s main (and predominantly white) cast.
Toss in the showrunners’ decision to ignore Jughead Jones’ comic-canon asexuality and to cut out other minority characters, one realises that not only is Riverdale‘s status as a ground-breaking show misplaced, it’s completely unjustified.
How can a show be considered ‘ground-breaking’ or ‘woke’ if it falls for the same tired pitfalls that have plagued television for decades? Shows like Brooklyn-99, Shameless and Orange Is The New Black has shown us that you can flesh out characters beyond their sexuality and ethnicity in mere episodes. What’s Riverdale‘s excuse after four seasons in?
Seriously, Riverdale writers, if you fix anything with the show at all, please start with this.
Plenty O’ Plot Holes
Each show has one or two major plot-holes per series, but Riverdale seems to have one or two per season. For example, the show reminds us (constantly) that Cheryl and Jason Blossom are twins and yet, they seem to be in separate school grades. Cheryl shares classes with Archie, Betty and Veronica, but Jason shares his with Betty’s older sister, Polly. Was Cheryl held back or something?
Betty Cooper is established as the ‘girl-next-door’ as she and Kevin peek into Archie’s bedroom window from Betty’s room. However, none of the houses adjacent to Betty’s even resemble Archie’s house, so how was this possible?
Also, the Black Hood killer’s most distinguishing feature was his dull green eyes. However, his identity was revealed to be Hal Cooper, a man with dark blue eyes. Was he wearing contacts? Or did the writers just forget? I didn’t!
And that’s not all. How does a borderline impoverished kid like Jughead have a wardrobe with $150 designer Levi’s jackets? How did Penelope Blossom heal from severe bodily burns in only a few episodes? How did Betty’s phone register the Lollipop ringtone for the Black Hood when all of his calls came through as an unknown number? And how the heck does Veronica Lodge have a speakeasy when minors cannot legally own property in America?
Having this many plot-holes so often can give audiences the impression that the writers are being careless with their work. Which, incidentally, brings us to the next point…
Poor Attention To Plot
What made season one of Riverdale better (using the word sparingly) than those following it was its restriction and simplicity; one murder mystery, a small cast and thirteen simple episodes.
The show has forgotten it’s roots, with a much larger cast and over twenty episodes per season, it ends up dragging many of its plot lines out, succumbing to the ‘sagging middle’ pratfall.
The first example came with the Black Hood killer mystery in season two when the killer was thought to be revealed as the Riverdale High janitor, Joseph Svenson. Sure, it might have been anticlimactic, but Svenson had the motive, the backstory, and had the Black Hood’s dark green eyes. But after a few episodes, the showrunners dug the plot line back up again, not only wasting characters with potential (RIP Midge) and ruining a resolved plot line, but also rendering the previous episodes completely useless and forsaking the writers’ opportunities to focus on other subplots.
This mistake was echoed in season four with the conclusion of ‘The Farm/Edgar Evernever’s storyline, wherein it was revealed that the cult’s big ‘Ascension’ plan from season three wasn’t some kind of enlightenment or dastardly religious plot but actually Edgar’s plan to live out some Evel Knievel wet dream with a homemade rocket. What about all his religious talks? The organ harvesting the Farm had done? The weapons Edgar? All for nothing, it seems.
Learning how to write a story is important folks, but so is learning how to execute it as well.
Poor Mental Health Representation
If sub-par minority representation wasn’t enough, Riverdale wasted no time throwing mental health awareness under the bus as well.
Season one and two’s ‘Dark Betty’ storyline saw Betty Cooper exploring her inner darkness following a string of self-mutilation (scarring her hands with her nails, to be exact) and the emotional toll left by her tumultuous personal life.
But rather than explore mental illness in a meaningful way, the writers instead decided to dress Betty up as a dominatrix and have her spirals coupled with pseudo-sexual acts; almost drowning her classmate, doing webcam videos, and who could forget season two’s infamous Serpent Dance? When she pole-danced in a bar full of middle-aged bikers and got applauded by her boyfriend’s father?
I could go on with further subplots from season three onwards, but let’s face it; Riverdale‘s writing team tossed out any hope for positive mental health awareness the second they cleared the Dark Betty story. Great work guys…
Overall, the characters in Riverdale are terrible. There, I said it.
They aren’t just terrible on their own, they’ve also got the writers to thank for discontinuing their characterisation and letting their most shallow traits define them. Archie Andrews was presented as a handsome but starry-eyed town boy with a budding passion for music. But now he’s just the handsome (always shirtless) boy who’s so naïve that it borders on stupidity. Veronica was the flirty city-girl wanting to move beyond her family’s affluence and crime-stained past. Now she’s just the affluent flirty girl who does little besides sleep with Archie and swoon over his good looks (and abs).
As previously mentioned, Betty went from a girl-next-door in the springtime of youth to a sexualised, mentally unstable Nancy Drew rip-off. And Jughead? Once the witty, loner boy with a love for writing has now left as nothing but a movie reference machine and the male half of #BugHead – because the writers are too scared of upsetting Riverdale’s hostile shipping fandom.
Characterisation is a critical and inevitable piece of every story but the thing is, characterisation is supposed to flesh-out a character, not devolve them.
What are your thoughts on Riverdale? Tell us in the comments below!