If You’re Still Not Watching ‘Riverdale,’ You’re Missing One of TV’s Most Queer-Progressive Shows
Since Riverdale returned from its winter hiatus, we’ve been eating up every episode. Season 2 has been ramping up the wild, trashy nature of the Archie Comics-by-way-of-Twin Peaks teen drama, and we are here for it. But aside from the trash element, we’re also loving how queer Riverdale is.
Take this week’s episode — not only was there an Andy Cohen cameo, but it looks like the show’s about to explore the horrors of conversion therapy. And Riverdale‘s queerness isn’t a new thing; it’s been there since the beginning.
Queer Riverdale beginnings
Riverdale was created by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and is produced by Greg Berlanti. Not only are both men openly gay — Berlanti is also the director of Love, Simon — but Sacasa’s got a long history with queering Archie.
Aguirre-Sacasa’s currently the Chief Creative Officer of Archie Comics and creator of the Afterlife With Archie comic series. But before that, Aguirre-Sacasa’s first brush with fame was as the playwright of Archie’s Weird Fantasy. Archie’s Weird Fantasy was a play about Archie Andrews coming out as gay and moving to New York. Unfortunately, Archie Comics sent him a cease-and-desist. The play went on as Weird Comic Book Fantasy with character names changed.
While we’ll be surprised if Aguirre-Sacasa ends up adapting Archie’s Weird Fantasy for a Riverdale arc, it does explain why he’s so comfortable with changing the Archie characters while staying (somewhat) true to their original personalities. While Betty might not bust murderers in the comics, she’s still the tomboyish, clever girl who works on cars.
Facing queer issues head-on
With (at minimum) two prominent queer voices behind the camera, it’s not surprising Riverdale heads with queer issues head-on. While Archie’s gay pal Kevin Keller admittedly got short-shrift in Season 1, Season 2 promoted actor Casey Cott to series regular. As such, he’s been much more involved with the story. Keller’s gone cruising, he’s cammed with a sex worker and more. Hopefully his next love interest won’t be put on a bus to San Junipero.
Kevin Keller’s not the only queer character in Riverdale. Not only was the new character Toni Topaz introduced as bi, after a tease that she might go out with Jughead, she’s going out with Cheryl Blossom. And it’s not a bit of “faux-lesbianism” like the Betty-and-Veronica-kiss Cheryl rightfully called out in the first episode.
The “Cheraz” relationship is turning into a springboard for exploring the horrors of conversion therapy. The latest episode of Riverdale ended with Cheryl’s mom committing her to Sisters of Quiet Mercy, the same Catholic home for wayward girls the Coopers shoved the pregnant Polly in during Season 1.
Queer Riverdale shortcomings
That said, Riverdale isn’t all perfect. We’re less than thrilled about the removal of Jughead’s asexuality. There’s so little asexual representation on TV, it’d be nice to have one of the biggest asexual names in fiction be represented. (Though, for what it’s worth, Jughead’s actor, Cole Sprouse, has been lobbying for Jughead to be asexual — arguing that Jughead could still be figuring himself out. Here’s hoping!)
And while we’re talking about shortcomings, was it just us or was the Love, Simon plugging in the March 7 episode a little much? We know “subtle” and “Riverdale” don’t really go together, but jeez. We get it, the executive producer wanted to plug his new movie. If the show had done anymore the entire episode would have just been the Archie gang talking directly into the camera, telling the audience to see Love, Simon or the Black Hood would strike again from beyond the grave.
Still, overall we love Riverdale‘s focus on queer issues. We wish more shows were like it — and not just because Riverdale‘s brand of ultra-heightened melodrama is delightful.