The Riverdalepremiere is filled with great moments that both reinforce and subvert some of the most iconic characters, settings, and tropes from the Archie comics series. But where does the kiss between Betty and Veronica that happens in the Riverdaleseries premiere fit into comic book canon? And where does it fit into the show?
It’s an odd moment in the context of the episode because it’s unclear what the kiss means to either of the girls, and feels a little queerbait-y, especially when used in the marketing. It also prompted us to ask some questions about where Riverdalewill fall in its depiction of sexuality moving forward…
Are Veronica and/or Betty queer in Riverdale?
We chatted with Camila Mendes (Veronica) about the moment during a set visit back in October. Here’s what Mendes had to say about the possibility of Veronica being queer:
I mean, that moment, I don’t think it was supposed to be a romantic one … I think that was a way to kind of get Cheryl’s attention, you know? Veronica is a manipulative person. She just kind of wanted to take hold of the situation. But, that being said, I do think it would be out of the question for her to be bisexual and maybe she is? Maybe that’s something that could be explored one day. It’s not something we’ve really decided on. But, if it were the case, why not?
Speaking to HollywoodLife specifically about the possibility of Veronica and Betty as love interests, Lili Reinhart (Betty) more or less shot the idea down, saying:
There’s a group that very, very much wants it. It’s just in our show, they’re not romantically involved… They’re soulmates in a friends’ way. Our show is not meant to be fan fiction. We give them a taste of it when they kiss, but that’s all it is. People love Beronica and they want to see them together, but that’s just not our show.
Though Betty and Veronica have never had a love story within Archie comics canon, The CW show is obviously looking to do its own thing and purposefully subvert many of the comics’ tropes. However, it doesn’t seem like having a romance between Betty and Veronica will be part of that subversion, which could be a missed opportunity.
Reinhart’s comments are unfortunate in the way that they subjugate queer characters and relationships to the province of fanfiction when they deserve to be represented in mainstream, canon stories, as well. (And, increasingly, are. Betty and Veronica would be in good company on The CW as queer protagonists, as The 100‘sClarke is also bisexual.)
Will Riverdale’s Jughead be asexual?
Perhaps Riverdalewill diversify its depiction of sexuality in other ways. It does have a canon queer character in Kevin, who is one of the highlights of the show so far, but doesn’t get much to do in the series premiere. However, Cole Sprouse (Jughead) recently spoke to HollywoodLife about the show’s decision to change Jughead’s character. Although he is asexual in the comics, he won’t be in the TV adaptation. (At least so far…)
I come from an educational environment that really praises, as do I, the forms of representation that are otherwise lacking in our public media. But at the end of the day, I still had to do my job. Jughead will have romances with women . . . and burgers.
Sprouse said he will keep “fighting for [Jughead’s canon asexual identity] pretty heavily” moving foward, adding:
I think there’s still a lot of room in Riverdale for that. Asexuality is not one of those things in my research that is so understood at face value, and I think maybe the development of that narrative could also be something very interesting and very unique and still resonate with people, and not step on anyone’s toes. I think sexuality, especially, is one of those fluid things where often times we find who we are through certain things that happen in our lives …
If season one is one of those events or something like that needs to happen in season one for Jughead to eventually realize that kind of narrative, I’d love to play with that, too.
Jugheadcomics writer Chip Zdarksy addressed the subject of Jughead’s asexuality at last year’s New York Comic Con (via io9), saying:
My view of Jughead is, over the 75 years [of his existence] there have been sporadic moments where he has dabbled in the ladies, but historically he has been portrayed as asexual. They just didn’t have a label for it, so they just called him a woman-hater.
But he’s not a misogynist — he just watches his cohorts lose their minds with hormones. People have asked me if there is going to be a romance if I’m writing Jughead, because I’m very romantic, and the answer is no, because there is enough of that in Archie. I think something like asexuality is underrepresented, and since we have a character who was asexual before people had the word for it, I’m continuing to write him that way.
During our visit to the Riverdaleset last year, Sprouse said that the show is “definitely going to be exploring that [romantic/sexual] angle between Jughead and Ethel.”
Explorations of sexuality in Riverdale.
This might seem like a lot of space to spend discussing the depictions of sexuality in a TV show that has barely started airing, but I don’t think it is. Archie has canonically been a story about desire. As our social framing of sex and sexuality has evolved over the years, these characters have (in some ways) evolved with it, but there is still much more room to tell new, different kinds of stories with this beloved world.
There’s no point in adapting, rebooting, or remaking a classic story if you aren’t trying to say something new with it. One of the most exciting things about Riverdalecould be the ways it uses these iconic characters to do that, specifically in regards to sexuality.
Speaking to MTV News about the subject of Jughead’s asexuality (or not) in Riverdale,Aguirre-Sacasa said:
Cole and I have talked about it a ton. The way we’re treating Riverdale, especially Season 1, is it’s an origin story. So I think all of the kids are discovering themselves, and a big part of that is discovering their sexuality, their sexual selves.
Rather than have everything fully formed — for instance, we’re not going to start with Archie’s band or Jughead’s asexuality or any of the things that have become canon — those are all stops on the way to the journey until the show catches up to 75 years of Archie history.
We’re excited to see Riverdaleexplore 75 years of Archiehistory, but we’d be even more exciting if the show uses that history to say something new about these characters, this world, and perhaps to challenge our current social framing of sex and sexual identity. In other words, we’d like to see Riverdaleearn its place in Archiehistory.