Poppin the Culture Cherry: Why Riverdale works


Riverdale is a TV show known for its over-dramatisation, all-round average acting and completely far-fetched plotlines. But Olivia Locascio has been watching it religiously since its first release.

I was never one to watch TV shows like Vampire Diaries or Pretty Little Liars, because admittedly, I judged those books by their covers. I’m generally not the kind of person that feels driven towards any piece of art form that has completely unrealistic events and cliche-filled characters, and is largely girly. Turns out, I was wrong. I began watching Gossip Girl when it first came out in 2007. I was 11 years old and went to a private school. God knows what would’ve happened if you weren’t watching Gossip Girl and didn’t have photos of Zac Efron in High School Musical taped to your schooldesk.

But I very soon gave up on the show, as I knew it went way too far when they decided to bring Bart Bass back to life. I have since watched the show all the way through, and you best believe I enjoyed it every single unrealistic plotline.

Here we are again with Riverdale. A TV show that first sparked interest with the presence of our beloved Suite Life of Zack and Cody’s Cole Sprouse, reminding us that the Sprouse twins didn’t fall off the face of the earth. The show is now at Season 3, and I’ve noticed that many friends of mine who were fans have given up. And in many ways, I understand. For me, the third season has fallen into the trap of creating more plots than resolving them. And yet, I am still waiting every week for Thursday 6pm for the next episode to arrive. So yeah, it works.

Image Credit:  The Mary Sue

Image Credit: The Mary Sue

The genre of mystery

Honestly, it can be the most convoluted set of events to happen but the mystery genre is a safe bet for a piece of art to have the audience wanting more. The first season had the mystery behind the sudden death of Jason Blossom, the twin of the town’s hard-ass bitch Cheryl Blossom. The season was intriguing, dark, sexy, dangerous - all the ingredients necessary for a modern-day murder mystery. The plot twist at the end was strong too, the murderer being Jason Blossom’s very own drug dealer, incest advocating father. As absurd as the plot could’ve been, it was very well received. The second season brought on the mystery of the serial killer ‘the Black Hood’. You’d think an even more stronger sense of intrigue would follow coming from the antagonist being an unknown character, but in all honesty, this series quickly became quite dull. Finally, the third season implements the deadly, supernatural game ‘Gryphons and Gargoyles’ as the cause for the main antagonist ‘the Gargoyle King’, which in my opinion, is a complete rip off of Stranger Things. But the mystery genre has been stretched in a particularly original way, through creatively tying in the antagonists from the first two seasons. And believe me, it sucks you in completely.

Image Credit:  E! News

Image Credit: E! News

Sex, drugs and rock’n’roll

Yes, it has all three. Well, not exactly rock’n’roll specifically, but there have been attempts at implementing musical elements into the show. I’m not the biggest fan of musical numbers as such, but in its sparing use, it can be quite refreshing. It also proves to be quite entertaining when you see the likes of Cole Sprouse attempting to sing (his voice isn’t too bad), as well as the resident beefcakes KJ Apa and Charles Melton. A teen show featuring sex scenes may not be original, but at least you can respect the creators for trying to create a balance between a teen show and an adult show. But the pushing of sex in the show can sometimes divert from the character’s original story arc creating holes in the character’s development. Jughead Jones began as the town’s social outcast, an enigma whose nutshell couldn’t ever be cracked. But one managed it: Betty Cooper, having been rejected by town heart throb Archie Andrews. Don’t get me wrong, I do like Jughead and Betty’s relationship and it upset me when they briefly broke up. But in an attempt to further this balance between a teen and adult show, Jughead very quickly upgraded from social outcast to Serpent King. Perhaps it is trying to teach its audience that your inherent personality traits can change very easily when faced with danger? Finally, the drug theme is very rarely explored further than its presence. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t tie in a few of the plotlines, so I’ll allow it.

Image Credit:  YouTube

Image Credit: YouTube

The actors’ social media presence

This might not have anything to do with the TV show itself or its creation, but it is a lot of the reason why Riverdale has lasted. The four main actors - KJ Apa, Lili Reinhart, Cole Sprouse and Camila Mendes - have a very strong social media presence. Even though I’m a big believer of separating the art from the artist, their social media presence contributes to the reasoning behind following the show. KJ Apa is no doubt incredibly attractive, and his New Zealand background makes the show just that little bit more interesting for us viewers from down under. Cole Sprouse is an avid photographer and photographs for many different publications like Vogue. But the most exciting part is his IRL relationship with Lili Reinhart. Something they attempted to keep hidden for some time but their true fans quickly discovered their relationship. Lili Reinhart herself is a big advocate for mental health awareness, as she’s very open with her struggles of depression and anxiety. I don’t personally follow Camila Mendes, particularly because I don’t like the character Veronica Lodge, but this also furthers my point of the actors’ social media presence and their relation to the show. To me, Veronica Lodge has an unnecessarily wide vocabulary which makes her sound pretentious more often than intelligent. I understand what they’re doing as a character, not that they’re necessarily implying that the other characters aren’t as intelligent, but for me, it appears Veronica Lodge is unable to feel the room and drops any sort of literary reference she can in conversations with characters who have absolutely no idea what she’s talking about. Especially to her beefcake boyfriends. Camila Mendes looks like a lovely girl, nevertheless.

Olivia Locascio is a last year Communication student majoring in Journalism, and penultimate year Law student. She’s got her whole future planned out: columnist, author, screenwriter, and Oscar winner for Best Adapted Screenplay. Watch out for this one.