My Love/Hate Relationship With "Riverdale"

It’s no secret that I’ve watched my fair share of teen dramas—"Gossip Girl," "One Tree Hill," "The Vampire Diaries," "90210," "The O.C."—honestly, the list could go on forever. My friends and I were obsessed with the various characters, romances, friendships and the overall “soapy” aspect of the shows. It was impossible not to get addicted to the sheer drama and convoluted plot lines, no matter how ridiculous they actually were. Yet as I got older I started transitioning into more “serious” programs mostly devoid of cliches and stereotypes, especially ones that contained some sort of social commentary, like "The Handmaid’s Tale" and "Westworld."

 Before starting my freshman year at college, I realized I had ran out of new shows to watch because I basically binged the entirety of Netflix and Hulu. “Riverdale” popped up on my suggested list, and I decided to give it a try, mostly because I noticed Cole Sprouse’s name on the cast list (I love him). If any of you haven’t heard about the show yet, it centers around the characters from the Archie comics—Archie, Veronica, Betty and Jughead—residing in the quaint town of Riverdale, dealing with the aftermath of the mysterious murder of one of their classmates, Jason Blossom. It’s definitely a subversive and modern take on this relatively light-hearted comic series, but from a ratings perspective it’s pure gold since our generation seems to be particularly intrigued by everything “dark” and “edgy.”

There seems to be a trend of me cringing within the first few minutes of a new show, and that was definitely the case with “Riverdale.” Cole Sprouse is the narrator, and I tend to despise shows that contain any narration, but luckily it only lasts temporarily. Except his opening line of the series is “Our story is about a town, a small town, and the people who live in the town.” Wow, really profound, Cole! Nevertheless, the plot actually picks up pretty quickly once the murder storyline is introduced, so naturally I began guessing who the culprit was. The characters are archetypes of what you’d expect from the “teen” genre—the jock, the brooding outsider, the girl next door, the rich girl and the mean girl, of course. Not to mention they’re all super attractive. Besides the characters, though, as each episode passes you see familiar elements such as backstabbing, choosing between sports and music (High School Musical, anyone?), love triangles, teenage rebellion and crappy parents. It actually seems a lot like Pretty Little Liars, except the dialogue is even worse because the teenagers talk like they’re pretentious adults as they roam the halls of Riverdale High, with declarations like “a tragedy of epic proportions”—Who says that?!

I know I’m being hyper-critical, but I do somehow love this show. The dialogue and the characters become more endearing over time, once you understand the tone and overall atmosphere in which the characters live. And, it is aimed at teens, so I should not expect a masterpiece of any sort. One of the main things that draws me in is the classic, old-timey feel—it’s apparent in the retro attire the students wear every day, like Veronica’s pearls, Cheryl’s red cloak and Jughead’s black beanie. Each of the characters’ contrasting apparel reflects their unique personalities. They also get milkshakes and burgers at their favorite hang-out place, a rustic diner known as “Pop’s.” “Riverdale” seems to be set in a different time period or alternate universe, one in which there exists modern technology but also classic aspects resembling the ‘50s. Even though it’s riddled with stereotypes and unexpected moments, it’s remarkably self-aware and always finds a way to confuse, disturb and make me laugh all at once. It probably won’t win an Emmy or Golden Globe any time soon, but I’m definitely going to stick it out until the end of its run. If you haven’t watched yet, the first two seasons are available to stream on Netflix, and it’s currently in the midst of its third on the air!