FIRST SPOILER ALERT: This week’s column is going to reveal all sorts of dark, nasty, sinister and provocative stuff about the new Riverdale series on The CW. If you haven’t seen the show and you intend to do so and you’re not going to be illegally downloading it, you might want to avoid the considerable amount of wit and wisdom that follows.
SECOND SPOILER ALERT: The aforementioned wit and wisdom will implant an image in your brain that you may never be able to get rid of. You have been warned!
Archie Andrews has sex with Miss Grundy in the back seat of a Volkswagen.
I guess I should applaud any 75-year old dude who gets to have sex with his high school teacher. And maybe I do, except that Geraldine Grundy did commit statutory rape. Then again, Archie’s probably tired of being harassed by Waldo Weatherbee and if he knew Waldo has the hots for Geraldine, he might have been indulging in an act of revenge.
Also then again… in the Riverdale television series Archie has been established as a sophomore. That puts him at the age of 15 or 16, and if Archie really is your “typical teen-ager” if given the opportunity he’d have sex with a plot of warm mud. And a tip of Waldo’s toupee to Lenny Bruce for providing me with that lovely illusion.
I’ll assume they’re setting up a storyline wherein Miss Grundy gets busted for statutory rape and Archie is left trying to explain the situation to his sundry objets d’ amour. And he’s got a lot of them: Veronica Lodge, Cheryl Blossom, Betty Cooper (in fact, she’s the one in love with Archie, a love that has been unrequited since before the attack on Pearl Harbor), and – I’m guessing here –Josie McCoy of Pussycats fame.
And, since I have your attention, shouldn’t the Pussycats trade-in their little kitty-ears for pink knit caps? C’mon, get on the bandwagon, ladies!
The Riverdale teevee series has been well received by critics and either loved or hated by Archie comics fans. It’s not your father’s Archie. It’s not your grandfather’s Archie. But it absolutely is Archie if said universe were to have been created today – and if it were not done as a comedy.
As every critic has pointed out, Riverdale is very much in the vein of The CW’s stereotypical programming. It’s a romantic thriller with all sorts of dark nooks and crannies. Archie Comics have done these types of stories before, particularly in the recent Life With Archie and Afterlife With Archie series. In fact, the latter was (or is, depending on if they’ll ever continue the series) written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, the creative director for Archie Comics and the writer/executive producer of Riverdale. There’s nothing wrong with that, and the sundry Archie characters have been so well established that they make the transition from comedy to melodrama with ease.
I enjoyed the Riverdale pilot, which is noteworthy in that I am far, far removed from The CW’s target audience. Of course there is a lot of set-up in that first episode, and Jughead was barely in it outside of his role as narrator. Much of the comic relief falls to Kevin Keller, which works nicely. As for Hiram Lodge being the show’s Gordon Gekko, leaving his wife Hermione to try to renew her relationship with a now-divorced Fred Andrews and thereby complicating the Veronica/Archie side of the romantic polygon, then Riverdale might not be your cup of tea.
Actually, reread that last sentence and remember my opening bit about the Volkswagen. If you can’t handle those truths, then Riverdale certainly is not for you. But I’ll be watching it, at least until I walk away muttering about what’s wrong with these kids today.
As you know, Anya is a huge fan of the Archie comics (those were her comics gateway drug) and she also fangirls hard over CW teen dramas, so Riverdale, premiering on The CW January 26, 2017, is kind of a big deal.
It’s a dark, film noir, take on the characters from Archie comics written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Greg Berlanti. In the pilot, Cheryl Blossom’s twin brother is murdered and they need to find out why. Jughead narrates the show and there’s of course a love triangle between Betty/Veronica/Archie. But there’s also a music component with Archie starting a band that seems to clash with Josie and the Pussycats.
At Comic-Con, Anya was able to sit down with the cast to ask about the show and here’s the interview. There are some really great bits in there. Like K.J. Aga (Archie) has a cute New Zealand accent and Luke Perry (Fred Andrews) is totally what you’d expect of the guy who played Dylan McKay on Beverly Hills. And speaking of actors on old shows we love, Cole Sprouse (Jughead) talks about why he returned to acting for this role and proves to be a total comic nerd.
What we’re really looking forward to on Riverdale is that strong feminist vibe in this version. Well, at least that’s what Camila Mendes (Veronica), Lili Reinhard (Betty), Madelaine Petsch (Cheryl Blossom) and Ashleigh Murray (Josie) seem to be saying. There’s a lot about the pressure to be perfect and topics that will really speak to teen girls today.
Watch the press table interviews and the trailer and tell us what you think!
Veronica Lodge:“Bring it on, Blondie. Bring it on!”
Betty Cooper: “Oh, it’s brung! It’s brung!”
Betty & Veronica #1 • Adam Hughes, Writer & Artist • Archie Comics, 2016
So I finally got a chance to read through my stack of comics, and the one that elicited the most positive reaction, the one that left me incredibly eager to read the next issue, the one that left the biggest impact on me was…
Betty & Veronica #1, by Adam Hughes.
Like so many others, I have loved those two iconic frenemies since I was a kid, which is mmpph years ago now. Sometimes I was Team Betty Cooper, and other times I was Team Veronica Lodge – there were times when I thought that Betty was just too good for her own good I and wanted her to pull off some nasty stunt to get back at Veronica… but then again, every time it seemed that Veronica’s nose was permanently up her own damned stuck-up ass, the girl would reveal her heart of 24-carat gold. I never really got the yearning both girls had for Archie; redheads have never done it for me. Besides, he was all too often incredibly mean to Betty, dumping her the minute Veronica waved her finger, and, at best, seemed to treat her like a pair of well-worn sneakers, the kind you put on when your feet are aching and tired after a long day at work.
Veronica’s adoration of young Mr. Andrews was a complete mystery to me, except that having a thing for the son of an ordinary “Joe” was possibly some kind of rebound complex against her rich-as-Croesus parents, especially her father. Although I seem to remember reading a story in which Mr. Lodge said he and his wife sent their daughter to the Riverdale public school system instead of to some private school so that she would grow up with an appreciation and awareness that not everyone in the world was wealthy – or something like that. Was there such a story? To be honest, I’m not sure – maybe it’s just an idea that I made up in my head to explain what the hell the Lodges were doing in Main Street, U.S.A., instead of the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Then again, the only Riverdale that I knew was a leafy and wealthy conclave just north of Manhattan that was a pretty exclusive area, boasting the might-as-well-be-private Horace Mann Public School and the absolutely private Riverdale Country School, both which, if I may digress for just a moment, offer a superb education…
But to get back to and finish the original thought of the above paragraph, if Daddy Lodge wanted daughter Ronnie to mix with the peasants, then why did he object to her going out with one? Of course, there are peasants and there are peasants, he might say. He didn’t seem to object so much to Reggie, did he?
Archie’s Girls Betty and Veronica was first published by Archie Comics in March 1950, although Betty made her first appearance in Pep Comics #22 (1941) and Veronica four issues later. Although friends, their adventures pretty much revolved around the girls’ rivalry for Archie. Hannah Rosin, who authored a recent article about the blonde and the raven-haired teenagers for Smithsonian Magazine (“Why Betty and Veronica Are the Real Stars of Riverdale,” July 2016) noted:
“If the comic were a field guide to teenagedom, what did Betty and Veronica teach these girls? At best they are complementary archetypes, saucy and sweet, like Ginger and Mary Ann. At worst they are poison to the developing female mind. For decades, all those two ever did was “accidentally” spill lemonade on each other’s dresses. The duo conveyed that being an American teenage girl meant being a boy-crazy aspiring pinup who hated her best friend.”
It’s a good point, but I guess I never got the complete message. I never felt “boy-crazy,” although I had my fair share of crushes (which, like most crushes, were never really acted upon) and I don’t remember ever actually “hating” my best friend over a boy – sure, there were girls I was jealous of, but that was because I thought they were “prettier” or “more popular” than me, the two usually going hand-in-hand, and they were never girls I would say I was friends with, anyway. There was one girl who thought I deliberately stole her boyfriend, but I didn’t even know he was dating her when he asked me out to make her mad after they had had a fight, and was it my fault that he ended up liking me better than her? I only found out about this teenage guerre des coeurs (“war of hearts”) after the fact, when her crowd ganged up on me one day after school, called me all sorts of horrid names, warned me that “you’ll be sorry,” and sent me home crying. But that’s another story….
But I did love those fashion pinups, Ms. Rosin, the ones that were basically splash pages of Betty and/or Veronica in “different looks” – sometimes it was for “Fun In The Sun” with the girls modeling bathing suits (classic pinup, although rated “G”) and sometimes it was “Haute Couture,” featuring Betty in the latest fashions. Other times the page(s) would feature Betty and/or Veronica in different hairstyles – Betty with a short, chic pixie cut or Veronica in a pony tail a la Betty or both in “updos.”
But always, and always, no matter what, Betty and Veronica were friends, real friends, who always and always came through for each other. Yeah, they got on each other’s nerves, yeah, they would attack and solve problems in their own ways, and yeah, sometimes they would swear that the friendship was over for good! But it never has been and it never will be, because Betty and Veronica are forever. My daughter Alix read them, and so does the next generation of my family, my 16-year-old niece Isabel. That’s because, as Hannah Rosin said in her piece: “The idea that Betty and Veronica truly cared about boring old Archie was always comically implausible. The real chemistry, and all the fun, happened between the two girls.”
After it was announced in 2014 that the writer and creator Lena Dunham was writing a Betty and Veronica mini-series, some fans suggested to her that she make the girls lesbians. I think I understand why that would be important and an interesting, um, twist on the two teenagers, and in the right hands it could be an absolutely terrific story, but I also think it would work better outside the established Archie universe, the way that the zombie apocalyptic Afterlife with Archie is or Archie Marries Veronica/Betty was, if only because I also think it’s super important for girls (and women) to know that sisterhood is, indeed, powerful for all girls and women, and that possible to have a wo-mance while still desiring men as sexual partners. (See Dunham’s Girls or Sarah Jessica Parker’s Sex and The City.)
But maybe I’m just being an old fuddy-duddy the way some Star Trek or Star Wars fans are, resenting and rejecting any change in canon. Like making Hikaru Sulu gay, which I thought was terrific, although some others did not.
I’ll have to think about that.
Right now, as Adam Hughes has written, the girls on the outs. I mean waaaaay outs. It’s over the effort to save Pop’s Choklit Shoppe, which is about to bought out by the evil Starbucks Kweekwegs Koffee, “that big chain from out West,” Pop tells the kids. Betty is immediately on it:
“We cannot let this happen! We will not be frightened by some big, dumb corporation and their gaspacho tactics.” (I think she means Gestapo. Good one, Adam!) “If we allow this to happen, what’s next? Where will it end? Trendy eateries, fast-food franchises…Riverdale will become just another highway stop for truckers, holiday drivers and…and tourists! If we give in now Riverdale will just become like any other town. It won’t be special anymore. Not even for us. The big corporations will win…the tourists will win. If we let Pop’s close down, then the tourists already won.”
So Betty Cooper is organizing a drive to raise money so that Pop can pay off the mortgage on his Shoppe and tell Kweekwegs Koffee to go to hell, while Veronica Lodge is just tagging along, too busy sitting on her ass and texting and tweeting or whatever the hell she’s doing to say or do anything.
And then Betty finds out that Kweekwegs Koffee is owned by Lodge Industries.
Luckily, we have each other, right? We can band together and support our shared passions, especially as they relate to pop culture, can’t we? Isn’t that why we have the Internet?
Well, sure, unless you’re a woman, queer, a person of color, or a member of some other group of random people that someone decides to insult gratuitously and, usually anonymously. The most high-profile recent example is what happened to Leslie Jones, but there are a zillion others we can cite.
Up until now, there is nothing anyone could do about it except ignore it, and shudder in despair at the hatred that eats away at certain human souls. And, when it gets personally threatening, tell the police and take out a restraining order, if possible.
However, there may be hope that haters will no longer be able to hide behind a fake user name. Technology might be able to discover which anonymoustrolls actually are in real life. We will, virtually if not actually, tell their moms how badly they behave.
Let me be clear here. I’m all for freedom of speech. You can say anything you like, no matter how hateful. However, if you don’t say out loud it in public, or if you don’t sign your name on media, I will think you are a weasel and a coward and deserve to be ridiculed. And if you make credible personal physical threats, the law says you have moved beyond free speech and into criminal activity.
Look, I understand baseless rage. I feel it several times a day. It’s a characteristic we all share, proof of our inner two-year-olds. Is the line too long at the ATM? Is my food delivery delayed? Does my elevator stop at every floor? Is it hot in the subway station? All these things make me want to rant and rave and call people horrible, abusive names.
But I don’t. I’m an adult. And my inner two-year-old is properly terrified that my inner Mom will yell at her.
Mine will be tested this fall, when Archie Comics publishes Archie Meets the Ramones. One of my pet peeves is that many more people now claim to be Ramones fans than ever supported them in the late 1970s or 1980s, when they could have used the money. They couldn’t even get radio play. And now AT&T uses their songs to sell their wireless service and most of the Ramones are dead.
I went to see them a lot when I was young enough to go out at night. And I took as many people with me as I could, famous and not. Those memories not only bring me pleasure, but they contribute to my sense of self.
I sure as hell never saw Archie Andrews and his ilk at CBGBs. Nor, despite what the actual story might depict, did I see his father, either.
So, perhaps in a way that might provide me with some empathy for those who don’t want anyone to remake Ghostbusters, I’m skeptical of this. I don’t know if it will seem true to me in the ways that the best fiction is true.
And then I remember how much the band liked comic books, and how much they probably would love being in an Archie comic, and I try to let go of my resentment.
I’m not promising to love the story when it comes out, but I promise not to anonymously make threats about its creative team on the Internet.