'Riverdale' Wants To Be More Socially Conscious, So Here Are Feasible Ways To Make That Happen
The CW brought Archie, Betty, Veronica, and the rest of their friends into the 21st Century when Riverdale premiered last season, and the show's Twin Peaks for teens style helped make it an instant hit. That doesn't mean the show is without its flaws though. Riverdale Season 2 wants to be more socially conscious, according to a recent Forbes interview with Madelaine Petsch, who plays Cheryl Blossom. And there’s no doubt it’d be a wise move for the series to make. How the show plans to achieve its goal remains to be seen, but by committing to the characters and storylines initiated in Season 1, Riverdale's road to social consciousness doesn't have to be a bumpy one.
Season 1 of Riverdale had all the hallmarks of being progressive. Not only did it have one of TV's most racially diverse casts, it also handily subverted the triangle trope with Betty and Veronica's friendship, and it spotlighted subjects like slut-shaming and mental health. Somewhere along the way it became clear that Riverdale's progressiveness was mostly surface level, however. Characters of color were routinely marginalized, the show featured queer-baiting, and the chance to feature a canonically asexual character in Jughead was squandered.
Just because Archie, Betty, and Veronica seem to be more interested in crime-solving than schoolwork doesn't mean this teen show can't address subjects its target audience cares about in a meaningful way. By making just a few changes, Riverdale could nail both its retro cool murder mysteries and offer up authentic coming of age storylines. Here are just a few ways, Riverdale could become more socially conscious in Season 2.
Put Josie & The Pussycats Front And Center
One of the best moments from Season 1 was when Josie schooled Archie on his privilege. That, combined with the high expectations she faces from her musician father and mayor mother, made Josie a standout even as she was given far less story than other characters. Season 2 needs more of Josie, and way more of her fellow Pussycats, Valerie and Melody.
It's absurd that even though Valerie dated Archie, the show's main character, she was still reduced to a background player. As for Melody, the only character trait she has is singing. Giving these three talented women of color a story of their own that focuses on their friendship, struggles, and ambitions would be a major step in the right direction.
Address Mental Health Issues In A Meaningful Way
Cheryl's suicide attempt, as well as Betty's issues with self-harming and dealing with stress are subjects that need to be addressed. Mental health is a subject that affects teens directly, and seeing characters seeking treatment and discussing their emotions with their friends and family could help viewers who are experiencing similar struggles.
Tell More LGBTQ Stories
Kevin and Joaquin had a romantic subplot in Season 1, but Riverdale failed to fully explore Moose's sexuality, or to touch on the possibility that Jughead could be asexual, as he is in the comics. Add in that scene of clear queer-baiting between Veronica and Betty, and this is one area where the show has lots of room for improvement. Given its large cast of characters, several of whom fall on the LGBTQ spectrum already, Riverdale is in a unique position to tell stories about teens exploring their sexual and gender identities. Season 2 can and should do better than the first season by giving LBGTQ characters complex stories.
Delve Into The Social Inequality Of Riverdale
Throughout Season 1, it was clear that Jughead dealt with social inequality on a daily basis due to his family's socioeconomic status. Now that he will be attending school on the South Side, the show has the chance to explore issues of poverty, gangs, and what life is like for students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds compared to their financially stable peers.
Stop Marginalizing Characters Of Color
Having a diverse cast is great, but actually utilizing said cast is better. Not only does the show need to beef up its storyline offerings for Josie and the Pussycats, it needs to make Archie's foil, Reggie, a key character; let Dilton Doiley be more than a quirky scout leader; and give Trev literally anything to do.
Riverdale has all of the makings of a socially progressive show, now it just needs to turn its good intentions into actions. And thankfully, based on Petsch’s recent comments, touching on real issues seems to be a priority in Season 2.
Editor's Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly called Petsch's character "Sheryl" instead of "Cheryl."