Is General Pickens From 'Riverdale' A Real Person? The Town Is Reckoning With Its Troubled Past
It seems that the well of darkness in Riverdale's past is an endless resource, as the commemoration of a local war hero drudges up some painful memories for some people in the town. On Wednesday's episode, a celebration occurs at Riverdale's Pickens Park, named after General Pickens, whose legacy is contested by those who protest that he unrightfully kicked the Uktena tribe off their land. The episode ends with the statue of Pickens having its head removed, but is Riverdale actually using the legacy of a real general named Pickens to tell is tale of town legacies?
Like nearly everything present in Riverdale, Pickens Park and General Pickens are pulled from the Archie comic, according to Business Insider. While there is a real historical figure named Andrew Pickens that did serve as general, there's no evidence in the Archie comics that connects the real figure to the fictional. Besides, General Andrew Pickens was based in South Carolina, which is out of place with the distinctly midwestern or northeastern America vibe of the town of Riverdale.
The General Pickens of Riverdale is as fictional as the Uktena tribe that he's blamed for chasing off the land. Uktena is the Cherokee name for the mythical Horned Serpent, which could have served as the inspiration for the Southside Serpents of Riverdale. So, while the people involved in Riverdale's clash over their past are from a fictional tribe, the show is using this to bring real issues to the show.
Once Jughead is back in Riverdale High, it doesn't take long before he's stirring up controversy with his latest article. The new hottest take in Riverdale — that the fictional General Pickens was actually a bad person — is reflective of how many real towns in America are reckoning with their flawed pasts and discussing how to treat the controversial men that used to be considered heroes. The national debate over whether to keep statues of problematic men began in the first half of 2017 when, as NPR reports, "The New Orleans City Council had declared the city's four Confederate monuments a public nuisance."
While the statue of General Pickens on Riverdale isn't explicitly a Confederate statue (or even real), the show still manages to raise questions about how America treats its past and ignites a conversation about monuments to figures who may not be worth idolizing. On the show, Jughead Jones and Toni Topaz are doing their part to fight for the memory of a Native American tribe in a country so comfortable with that part of its past that the man on the $20 bill is associated with the genocide of Native Americans. For a show that's usually interested in relationships and serial killers, the plot involving the stature of General Pickens may be Riverdale's most political plotline ever.
General Pickens may not be real, but the real issues he and his statue represent are about to infect the town of Riverdale in a major way. After a major protest at Pickens day, commemorating the legacy of General Pickens, someone decides to go Bart Simpson on it and cut Pickens' head off. It may seem like a low-key mystery, especially compared to solving the murder of Jason Blossom and the identity of the Black Hood, but this crime could have some serious implications on Riverdale's future. The town could end up dividing itself over its troubled legacy, and at the very least Jughead and Toni have made an enemy out of Hiram Lodge. So, destroying a problematic statue could have a major impact on the town's future — and on the larger real world conversation that it references.