For decades, the Archie comics have depicted the fictional world of Riverdale and while doing so explicitly and implicitly addressed era-relevant social issues. Two Archiverse characters, Betty Cooper, sweet girl-next-door, and Veronica Lodge, privileged debutante, have been reinvented and freshly envisioned in the CW’s series, Riverdale. Their new depictions in the show offer the opportunity to inform on present attitudes of gender politics, such as commodification of sexuality and gender performativity.
Despite, or perhaps because of, being a broadcast television show, Riverdale intersects with mainstream popular culture. As part of that culture, the series should represent the interests and concerns of its audience. The world surrounding Archie Andrews has been updated, intensified, and othered. This multilayered amplification of setting provides an effective backdrop for the revitalized Archie characters but also complicates the understanding of the degree to which Betty and Veronica have been recrafted in a way that makes them currently relevant when situated in the conversations and politics of this #metoo era.
Intergenerational family dysfunction, secret societies, predatory men, marginalized women—all are classic elements of gothic fiction and all are present in CW’s Riverdale. Deconstructing the strategic and central role of setting in Riverdale provides a fuller opportunity to evaluate the influence of these tropes on the characterizations of Betty and Veronica. Have the characters truly been recrafted in ways that acknowledge the changing roles of heroines in present popular culture? Or has their potential been undervalued and are used as tropes themselves? Once the impact of the gothic setting is identified and disconnected from the overall narrative, an isolated assessment of the depictions of Betty and Veronica will be accomplished.
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