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Monday, May 20, 2024

“Riverdale”: television’s counterculture masterpiece

Maybe YOU’RE cringe. Ever think about that?

*”Riverdale” spoilers ahead*

Perhaps my brain has melted from constantly consuming media for six months, but out of the countless TV shows isolation has coerced me to watch, none have impacted me quite like “Riverdale.” Over the course of three weeks, I watched every minute of all 76 episodes “Riverdale” has to offer. In those 58 hours, I experienced the rawest emotions I have felt in months, ranging from bewilderment to true euphoria. Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that “Riverdale” is the best current television has to offer. (I am being serious).

If you were in high school in 2017, you understand the sheer force of “Riverdale’s” success. The CW show exploded in popularity when the network struck up a deal with Netflix to make it available to stream just days after its finale aired. With this accessibility, young fans took notice. Those were the golden days when the yellow sleeved outfits of the Riverdale High School cheerleader costumes took over Instagram feeds every Halloween and detailed debates on who killed Jason Blossom took place in school hallways—but those days were short lived.

Despite its huge debut, the public’s perception of the show quickly switched from admiration to embarrassment. “Riverdale” is easily the most ridiculed show on the air. We get it. You think it’s cringe. You think it has bad writing. You think the actors are bad. Yes, from the outside looking in, the convoluted storylines and nonsensical one liners are somewhat repelling. It’s hard to admit, but before I watched, I too thought “Riverdale” was cringe. As someone who has dedicated over 58 hours of her life to this show, I now see the obvious difference between “Riverdale” fans and haters. The latter lack the awesome critical thinking skills and close reading prowess it takes to truly comprehend the depth of the show. 

Yes, sometimes it is hard to ignore the countless character flaws and blips in logic. Yes, there are many aspects that are so ludicrous that they hinder the viewer’s watching experience. (The names for example: Papa Poutine? Tall Boy? Midge Klump?). But a very smart viewer will do away with the simplemindedness of dismissing it as cringe and hone in on the real truth: it is entertaining enough to ignore its faults.

A common insult is to negatively compare it to its source material. Yes, the show is nothing like the comics. Who cares! I read them all the time when I was a kid and every single one was something along the lines of: “Archie broke his foot and now Betty and Veronica are fighting to see who gets to bring him soup! Oh no, Jughead spilled mustard on Betty’s dress and now she can’t go to the dance!” Why would you watch boring teens do stupid stuff instead of watching cool new Betty explore her serial killer genes while Veronica manages her speakeasy and Cheryl talks to the the two-year-old non-decomposed corpse of her brother? Why?

“Riverdale’s” strongest asset is its ability to fearlessly dive head-on into nonsense. For instance, Archie got mauled by a bear in the cabin where he lives alone after escaping from prison at age 17. Veronica’s dad makes a political power ploy resulting in a mass seizure that leaves the town quarantined. Cheryl is haunted by a doll that possesses the spirit of the triplet she absorbed in the womb. And somehow there is still time to fit in a musical that no one has ever heard of. Really, nothing is off limits. Each episode presents another world of possibilities.

Coronavirus tragically stole our last three episodes of season four, robbing us of prom, graduation and a presumably thrilling conclusion. Production on season five was halted indefinitely, but just last week, Instagram stories of flights to Vancouver followed by news articles confirmed that filming is back on (with a three times a week COVID test mandate.)

Once you let go of your preconceived notions and accept the fact that it’s not supposed to be realistic (never was!), you understand that “Riverdale” is different from other teen shows. True unfiltered campiness shines in every episode so much that it starts to seem a little brilliant. It boasts a genuinely talented cast and crew and characters you become connected to. When you let yourself enjoy “Riverdale” despite its flaws, you open yourself up to a world of entertainment.

Written by: Livvy Mullen — arts@theaggie.org


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