Murky waters: Teen drama basks in badness


Laura Grimm

grimmla@mnstate.edu

This story is about a show, a young show, and the characters who live in the show. From a distance, it seems like an angsty teen show like any other: sex, drama and intrigue. Get closer, though, and you start seeing the shadows underneath. The name of this show is “Riverdale.”

The following contains mild spoilers.

As the show spirals more and more into soap opera territory, so do the characters fall into the abyss of darkness. Two of the main four started out as wholesome kids next door, but now all of them are dabbling in some pretty questionable places.

Veronica Lodge is part of the family mob. Jughead Jones literally mutilated a woman’s arm. Archie Andrews beat up a guy with two broken legs (he deserved it, but still). And Betty Cooper has fully embraced Dark Betty, “clients” and all.

Let’s not forget that these teenagers are sophomores in high school. Some of them aren’t legally old enough to drive. Despite this, they’re engaging in illegal and objectively immoral activities. Maybe it’s because all of the parents—with the exception of Fred Andrews—suck. They’re straight up awful, both as role models and human beings.

The show also suffers from plotlines that don’t get resolved and are simply brushed past (like Josie being stalked). Other plotlines disappear for multiple episodes and then pop up for two minutes like an afterthought.

Still, the show is addicting and immensely popular with viewers, myself included. “Riverdale” drew in 2.3 million viewers the night of its season two premiere. Compared to last winter’s premiere, viewership was up 140 percent with women under 35 and a whopping 467 percent with teenagers. It’s popular with MSUM students too, inspiring a slew of Halloween costumes last fall.

With the blatantly terrible characters and over-the-top plotlines, why do we love it so much?

Well, it’s an escape from the real world and real problems. We’ll (most likely) never have to solve a murder, then catch a serial killer, then worry about gang wars, all while attending a school with drama on steroids. Instead, we worry about classes and bills and boring things.

In addition to this, it makes us feel better about ourselves. We all have our own flaws, but hey, at least we’re not a psychopathic killer or someone who consistently makes terrible choices that can literally lead to life-or-death situations.

Of course, the show also has many redeeming qualities. The characters usually stay true to themselves, or at least their motivations, even though this is sometimes their downfall. The far-fetched events and circumstances are extremely entertaining as long as you suspend your disbelief.

The show tackles some pretty heavy modern issues like attempted rape, self-harm and minority discrimination while still gleaming with 1950s nostalgia. The neon lights of Pop’s Chock’lit Shoppe deepen these sinister shadows. But maybe the real reason we love “Riverdale” is because, just as the show’s characters slowly realize, we all have some darkness inside.

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