The Power of Fandoms: Keeping the Mess of a Show ‘Riverdale’ Afloat

You know a teen epidemic has completed its quest for total domination when Sterling K. Brown loses Best Actor to Cole Sprouse’s insufferable Jughead Jones.

Courtesy of TheMusic

Sunday night’s annual Teen Choice Awards was absolutely dominated by Netflix melodrama Riverdale. Taking home the surfboard trophy for a whopping 10 categories including Best TV Drama Series, Best TV Actor and Actress for Cole Sprouse and Lili Reinhart, the tidal wave of popularity and praise for the terrifically bad series is beyond baffling. Every ounce of its unoriginal fiber is flawed, and not in the so-bad-it’s-good ethos. A purely horrendous display of disoriented “teen” drama riddled with insanely over the top, robotic acting from scripts fresh off a 16 year old’s Tumblr page. Why does Riverdale’s milkshake-retro fantasy continue to command our cultural zeitgeist?  Seriously, I’m genuinely intrigued. Someone please tell me why.

It’s hard to think that a year ago, I binged the first season in one easy viewing session. Sleep deprived and twitching, I was a woman obsessed with the love triangle between Archie Andrews, girl next door Betty Cooper and new girl in town, Veronica Lodge. I fervently read every fan theory on who killed Jason Blossom and why Jughead deserved better. Now, I am ashamed to have ever liked the series, and it will rightly remain ignored in the ‘recommended viewing’ category on my Netflix. The feeling is mutual among those my age – 20 something year old’s, who turn to the unnecessarily sinister world of the once-optimistic Archie Comics universe for thoughtless viewing. Background noise, if you will.

It only got more unbearable from the very opening monologue of the second season, delivered by angsty ~weirdo~ and  fan-favourite Jughead. Feast your eyes: “Riverdale was still, at its heart, a haunted town. Meanwhile, Archie Andrews, who doesn’t even have a driver’s license yet, is at this very moment careening down the streets of Riverdale, trying to outrace death.”  An actor is only as good as their material, so it explains a lot when it comes to the suburban nightmare that is Riverdale. With a script this clichéd, marks the inevitable demise of any remaining shred of artistic integrity. It became apparent that there was no addictive drama being pumped into the stale characters and their story arcs, despite the soap operatic spectacle lurking in the Diner’s neon lights. For a ‘coming of age’ show, the aging never transpired. The teens became trapped in a dismal, repetitive loop of murder, romance, then murder again, incest (?) then revisited romance.

Coutesy of Vulture

What happened to the good ol’ wholesome teen drama from the simpler days of The O.C or Gilmore Girls? The sexual tension, best friend betrayal, unrequited love. It’s not a complicated formula to stick by when catering to a new generation of teenage viewers. With an infinite amount of characters and stories to explore, how did re-cycled plot lines of killer fathers and the disturbingly creepy evolution of Betty’s ‘dark’ side seem like the only viable options for 22 tedious episodes? What kept the first season surprisingly afloat was the classic ‘whodunnit’ murder case. Attempting to re-create the exact same reveal with season two’s anti-climatic unveiling of the Blackhood was by far the single most disappointing uncovering, matching a Scooby-Doo level of exposing the bad guy.

Our Riverdale teens’ stunted character development seems to have no impact on the mass of devoted fans and the actors portraying the brought-to-life comic book characters. In an extension of their on screen personas, each of the labelled core four (Sprouse, Mendez, Reinhart, Apa) have become idolised through their social media accounts. Each with millions of followers, their young fans’ manic admiration of the good looks of the core four prove that it isn’t necessarily the plot that keeps them coming back. Every choice made in the second season confirmed that the show wasn’t breaking any ground, but simply decided to sit comfortably in the realm of cringe-worthy fan-fiction antics. It mainly centred around the wooden chemistry between Apa and Mendez and their excessive sex montages. But, hey, they’re only giving the fans what they want, and they are evidently eating it up.

Filming for season three has commenced, with cast members uploading their on-set shenanigans to their respective Instagram accounts. Astounding. If I’ve learnt anything from Riverdale’s sweeping of the Teen Choice Awards, it’s that teenagers have the final say on what is or isn’t culturally relevant. Artistic merit is pushed to the side, it’s alarmingly obvious that the infatuation with Riverdale wouldn’t be the same without the saturation of 50s nostalgia and a handful of extremely photogenic 21 year old’s. Burger and milkshake anyone?

Do you agree with our thoughts on Riverdale? Let us know in the comments below.