Riverdale: Where Happy Childhoods Go To Die

Pop Culture

Riverdale: Where Happy Childhoods Go To Die

Illustration: Shivali Devalkar

Do you remember that scene in Archie‘s Pals ‘n’ Gals in which Betty Cooper calls Veronica Lodge a “shallow, toxic rich bitch who ruins everything in her path”? Or that issue in which Jughead ditches his crown for a beanie and his constant hunger for a MacBook? The reason you have no idea what I’m talking about, is because you haven’t seen what the creative director of Archie Comics, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, has done to ruin our childhoods and make a “gritty reboot” of our beloved American love triangle comic book, called Riverdale, after he seemingly binge-watched the entire Pretty Little Liars series.

There can be no other explanation for why our beloved, harmless, and overall good-guy characters are entangled in a teenage murder mystery loaded with over-the-top fake intrigue. Featuring Archie Andrews as a struggling musician jock boy, Betty Cooper as a passive-aggressive bitch, and Jughead Jones as a serious hipster who doesn’t flit anywhere near a burger, the new Riverdale is now the place where happy childhoods go to die. Why else would they have the spindly, long-nosed Miss Grundy have sex with Archie, and raise some really awkward questions on statutory rape?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all about updated storylines. I understand that in a brave new world Veronica and Betty can have phases of bisexuality, where they casually make out as friends, so that they can get into a cheerleading team, and that Moose can be gay (poor Midge!), but what I absolutely do not get is the blatant millennial baiting that perpetuates in the name of an update. Only three episodes of the show are out so far, but it’s clear already that the script is all about inane millennial tropes, considering the parents of most of the main characters are in some sort of an unhappy marriage.

Moreover, Mr Lodge is embezzling money; Archie’s dad doesn’t support his music career and wants him to work on his construction site instead. I don’t recall a single story from the Archie Comics ever entering real-world zones like construction sites or oil rigs. Or for that matter, bodies casually lying by the side of a river.


Veronica, Betty, and Archie seated in a diner inspired from the original comics.

Courtesy: The CW

The real world is manifest in this interpretation of life in Riverdale, keeping in line with the ever-growing trend of taking a massively popular franchise and converting it into a “noir film”, “more reflective of our time” with words like “purposeful” and “resolve” sprinkled in the description. Christopher Nolan started this trend by making a story about a billionaire superhero, who runs around dressed up as bat, into an “anthropologically nuanced” thriller. Then Netflix upped the ante by turning Jessica Jones and Luke Cage into urban poor superheroes, who grapple with existential angst over Starbucks coffee. And then we got Jughead. Instead of being Archie’s best friend, who throws in smile-worthy one-liners, he is a loner, hiding a massive secret and nursing a grudge against his former buddy.

Why do they have to do this? Why? If scriptwriters are attached to this absurd dramatic storyline, why not come up with an entirely new series, with whole new characters? It’s about time people stopped trying to ruin childhoods with this cashing-in-on-nostalgia tactic. When they made Iron Man a teenage black girl, it sparked a whole debate about the need for diversity, and people went head over heels with this aww-worthy gesture toward the African-American community. But I’d argue that this would have more impact on diversity, if they’d simply scripted a separate teenage black girl superhero storyline, rather than giving her a role previously occupied by a rich white man.

Courtesy: Netflix

As a millennial, who has had a relatively happy childhood growing up with Archie and the gang, and who may now have switched to Breaking Bad, I want to reassure the makers of Riverdale that Archie has a cherished, sunlit spot in my world, and that I don’t need him to “bang MILFs” to be relevant to me. I may drink soy Starbucks coffee, but that doesn’t mean Archie can’t enjoy a good old banana split. Or gags at the Chock’lit Shoppe or pranks on Jughead. Or Moose can’t simply beat people up over Midge.

My favourite series growing up was Enid Blyton’s The Faraway Tree. It was recently greenlit for the big screen and I am now terrified that they will turn it into a story about some kids who need to metaphorically “get out of this place” because of their dark past, starring a ghoulish Steve Buscemi as Moon-Face and a dire Al Pacino as the tree.

I’m also terrified that the powers that be have decided that we millennials are strictly out of bounds for any handouts of happy and must be weaned on a strict diet of complicated characters doing truly crazy things. Dear 40-year-old marketing heads, cash in on all the old books and shows you want, but please stop calling them “millennial reboots”. It makes my millennial brain cringe with embarrassment, and frankly, makes you look ridiculous.