I’ve just binge-watched the available Riverdale episodes on Netflix and it’s a thumbs up from me so far. There’s an undercurrent of something rotten in Riverdale. It has lots of familiar references, such as the dreamy, electronic sound of Josie and the Pussycats that reminded me of Julee Cruise in Twin Peaks. The set is lush and colourful with strange old houses and graveyards, dark institutions, a river which holds a multitude of secrets and characters who all seem to be hiding something.
I'm excited to see how this televised take on the Archie comics unfolds and if I get into the later episodes I'll write about Riverdale again, but for now I just want to talk about the kissing.
I’m tentatively hopeful that the kiss was a more than a marketing ploy to pull viewers in with the promise of progressive queerness which it never actually delivers. Women making out for the benefit of the male gaze is a pretty tired and outdated trope. What would be far more interesting is if the moment was staged right at the beginning of the series to deliberately make viewers think about romantic potential for the show’s main characters in a non-binary way. It made me wonder about Veronica’s unnamed (and ungendered) former love interest and saw possible romantic potential in relationships between women in the show in a way I usually expect to find refuge for in fanfic as opposed to the show itself. If Riverdale actually does go on to explore future same sex relationships for either Veronica, Betty or both, it would be a great step towards breaking down binary notions of sexuality which are continually enforced by mainstream television. With shows like How to Get Away With Murder and Crazy-Ex Girlfriend finally doing a decent job with bisexuality, I’m all here for a show like Riverdale joining the list as opposed to being another ‘could have done better’ disappointment.
The second kiss which made me nervous is the kiss between Jughead and Betty. This has cast uncertainty around whether or not the show is going to explore Jughead’s asexuality, a comic canon feature of the character who is asexual. One kiss isn’t at this stage isn't definitive proof this important character feature is going to be ignored and I can extrapolate about as much from it with respect to the intention of the writers as I can from the kiss between Betty and Veronica, without resorting to serious hypothesising and speculation. Nevertheless, I can fully see why fans might be worrying about ace erasure. I will be keeping everything crossed that the show is planning a storyline where a character negotiates asexual identity in a way which hasn't been attempted on television to date, giving visibility to a vastly underrepresented group of people.
With an element of trepidation around the way the show is going to go on to explore queerness and marginalised sexualities, I plan to continue watching the series to see how these facets of the characters and complex sexualities play out.