It's official: the relationship between Betty Cooper and Jughead Jones is the 'ship to talk about in the Riverdale fandom. Those who love it really love it, and those who hate it really hate it. Whether you believe, like I do, that they're the cutest and most stable couple since Monica Geller and Chandler Bing from Friends, or you believe, like some do, that they take up too much screen time and one or both of them would be better suited with someone else, there doesn't seem to be a person left in the fandom who's indifferent to the 'ship known as Bughead. But, even as a fan, I have to admit that there's a huge problem with Bughead, and it's time to stop ignoring it.
One of the cornerstones of the 'ship is how supportive of one another Betty and Jughead are through some pretty intense and crazy drama. They both come from some very unstable home environments, but, through it all, Betty and Jughead are there for each other, physically and emotionally.
But you know what they're not good at? Actually talking to each other.
The typical Bughead scene goes something like this: Betty (it's usually Betty) talks about how stressed out and upset she is about whatever latest unbelievable thing her family has done or said. Jughead (it's usually Jughead) holds her hand or hugs her or kisses her. The scene ends with nothing actually resolved, and the implication is that Betty's very serious problems or concerns all melted away in the face of Jughead's affection — which is really problematic when you think about it.
We see this happen all the time, like, for example, in the opening minutes of "La Grande Illusion." Betty talks about how her sister, Polly, hasn't contacted her since she moved in with the Blossoms and asks Jughead what she could have done wrong. Jughead insists that she's done nothing wrong, and then kisses her. End scene.
Then there's "Faster, Pussycats! Kill! Kill!", in which Betty freaks out about all newly uncovered family secrets and what they mean for her. Jughead tells her they aren't who their parents are, and then kisses her — for the first time. In a remarkably self-aware moment for the show, Betty is distracted for all of two seconds before she realizes some new key to the mystery, and a bemused Jughead asks, "That's what you were thinking about during our moment?" Well, why wouldn't she be, Jughead? The kissing doesn't actually help.
Now, don't get me wrong. There are plenty of other reasons to take issue with Jughead and Betty's relationship. The largest reason is, of course, ongoing backlash over Jughead's asexual erasure. He was asexual in some comics, but has been stated to be no such thing in the TV series — which makes Bughead a hard ship to love from the start, considering it was Jughead who first kissed Betty and not the other way around. But even if you keep the show and the comics separate like some Bughead 'shippers do, or if you, like me, believe Jughead is asexual but not aromantic, the formulaic nature of Betty and Jughead's scenes start to grate on you after a while.
And it certainly doesn't spell good things about Bughead's future.
Their first real fight in "The Lost Weekend" is the perfect example of that. Betty finds out from Archie that it's Jughead's birthday, and, although Archie and Jughead's father warn her that Jughead hates his birthday, she decides to throw him a party. When he's understandably upset about it, she asks him why he can't just be normal, which sparks a pretentiously angst-ridden speech of such hilarious levels that it became an immediate meme.
By the end of the episode, Betty is talking about her inner darkness and showing Jughead her palms, where she's dug her nails into them so deeply that she's cut herself. In a beautiful, poignant moment, he kisses her palms, and she rests her head on his shoulder. End scene. Never do they appear to discuss the fact that Betty completely and utterly disregarded his wishes and his feelings to throw him a birthday party that he didn't want despite warnings from literally everyone who knows him better than she does. Nor did they even really discuss Betty's confession and inner conflict with these warring sides of herself. Or discuss anything at all.
In fact, every time Betty has found out something about Jughead, like that his father is a local gang member or that he hates his birthday, it's been from someone else. Considering that, in the time between those two events, we witnessed a conversation about Jughead needing to open up more, that doesn't really give me hope for the future of their relationship.
As a fan of this couple, it pains me to have to say that the quiet support and stable companionship upon which this 'ship was founded is fraying at the edges. But it's becoming more and more obvious with every episode.
If Betty and Jughead's relationship can't grow and change instead of hitting the same emotional beats in every scene, then it won't be long before even the people who love them get tired of them, too. Then again, considering the Archie, Betty, and Veronica love triangle is the iconic romance from the comics, maybe these slowly fraying edges in the Bughead 'ship are the intentional beginning of the end.