In Defense of Riverdale

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Written By: Audrey Waggoner

Art By: Grace Monahan


*Piece contains Riverdale spoilers!*

To the uninitiated, the questionably-acclaimed CW show Riverdale is probably best known for this scene (a classic scene from the first season where one of the main characters proclaims his “weirdness”). It’s cringy, right? Easily written off as another dumb teen drama that’s more of a vehicle for product placement than, you know, musings on the human condition. Well, you’d be right and wrong, and therein lies the beautiful paradox at the heart of this show.

To understand Riverdale’s excellence, you need to know a little bit about the source material. If you didn’t grow up reading the Archie Comics as I did, here’s a primer: the Archie Comics are a long-running comic series about clean, wholesome, all-American kids trapped in a quaint small town, where it’s perennially 1953. It’s cute for a while, but eventually, you start craving something a little more subversive.

And that’s the thing about Riverdale. It takes all your wholesome childhood faves, and makes them fuck their teachers, join cults, join the mafia, become drug mules, and start violent vigilante groups. It recruits them for the FBI, kills off their families, harvests their organs, and digs up their brother’s corpse for a nice family dinner. Riverdale will take a mundane plotline about corporate-mobster infighting and transform it into the most semi-articulate takedown of America’s prison-industrial complex I’ve ever seen in a piece of mass media. It switches tones and genres at a whiplash-inducing pace, from camp, gothic horror, and high school melodrama, to soap opera, psychedelic mystery, and a slightly-anachronistic period piece encompassing all our favorite tropes from the 50s-90s. The Riverdale writers room must be the most manic, adderall-and-hot-cheetos-fueled, chaotically brilliant environment in the industry. Literally my dream job. 

To enjoy Riverdale, you need to get over yourself. If you think a show’s plotline should be logically coherent, you’re fucking boring. If you can’t suspend your disbelief to enjoy absolute gems of dialogue like these (a Riverdale cringe compilation), you’re not fun at parties. If you want believability and sincerity, this isn’t the show for you, but if you’re in the mood to check out from reality for a few hours and take a whirlwind trip into the phantasmagoria of Riverdale, the first 3 seasons are streaming on Netflix.

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