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Riverdale and the Student/Teacher Relationship Trope

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Kutztown chapter.

The CW has yet again produced another guilty pleasure show that is sure to keep me occupied on a Thursday night. From the creators of Gossip Girl and Vampire Diaries comes Riverdale, a dramatic take on the long-running comic series Archie.

Now I can say I have never read the comic series, but the minute I saw the first episode I was hooked. Like any other CW show the beginning was dark and mysterious mixed with kids who looked a little too old to be in high school. The town of Riverdale might be small, but it makes up for its size in the secrets that it holds.

The episode begins with a murder that shakes the small town and sends all those secrets jumbling. While the show definitely had kept my interest through the first five minutes, there was one thing that left me a little uncomfortable.

Archie isn’t the nerd that the comic readers are used to. He changed over the summer, and as Cheryl Blossom later describes it as his, “Efron-esque emergence from the chrysalis of puberty.” It’s not just Cheryl Blossom’s or the rest of Riverdale High’s eye he catches. It’s also Geraldine Grundy that notices his new look.

As Archie walks down the street, white t-shirt clinging to chest as the summer heat takes a toll on him, it’s Geraldine Grundy that slows down in her car to take a look. Or as Archie knows her: Ms. Grundy, his music teacher. Quick snapshots of the two characters are shown leading the audience to believe that their relationship became sexual over the summer. Now that school is starting they have to keep their relationship a secret, something Ms. Grundy is very adamant about.  

This relationship is just one aspect of the drama filled episode, and it certainly wasn’t shown to be a bad thing. It was portrayed as serious and risky and almost sexy. Even though the actor who plays Archie is not 15 in reality, his character is still a minor. This woman, someone he is suppose to trust, took advantage of him. Instead of addressing the issues of the teacher/student relationships the show played into the trope.

While TV shows seem to play on the trope of student/teacher affairs as some sort of forbidden love, in reality it is anything but that. It is sexual assault. Recently in the news, Brianne Altice pleaded guilty to sexual assaulting three teenage boys. Instead of keeping it a secret the boys and their family filed charges against her. She is currently in prison waiting for her next parole hearing in 2019.

Many stories like this one have come out of the news where a teacher has been arrested for sleeping with one of their students. Those types of affairs are not love stories. While reporting the countless stories about these types of situations, the media also sexualizes relationships like this. I’m not sure why the media plays into this trope, but maybe Riverdale will surprise its viewers and turn this trope into a lesson.