During my formative years of four, five and six, I forgot to learn how to read. I was too busy watching Titanic and making clothes for my American Girl Dolls out of Thanksgiving napkins. Every day in first grade, I was pulled out of the classroom to meet with a remedial reading tutor. I have some memory that these one-on-one sessions took place in a refurbished janitor’s closet with a floor covered in sawdust shavings, but that can’t be true, can it? That’s from the “MILF Island” episode of 30 Rock, I think.
In any case, the tutor didn’t help. A stack of Archie Comics was the real reason I started reading.
Classic Archie Comics, which took place in a riverside town called Riverdale, are almost offensively G-rated, but the drawings felt adult. The iconic beauty of Riverdale’s wealthy snob Veronica Lodge was rounded out by a great pair of boobs. Cheryl Blossom, the red-headed newcomer, charmed every man she met with Comic Sans font that dripped with innuendo. Sabrina had a real hunk of a boyfriend named Harvey.
I learned to find patterns in the words of the characters’ speech bubbles. Fifty percent of all Archies comics end with Riverdale’s bad boy Reggie standing under a bucket of cold water that has been dumped on his head while Archie’s best friend, Jughead, shouts, “You’re all wet!” The other 50 percent end in Veronica stealing Archie, the comic’s titular klutz/hottie, away from Betty, the town’s nice girl — or Cheryl stealing Archie away from them both.
When Riverdale, a sexier, spookier reboot of the comic came to The CW last year, I screamed my way through every episode. In it, Archie has been reimagined as a dark Lynchian/Shakespearean tale where class, murder, singer-songwritering and maple syrup run rampant along Riverdale’s Sweetwater River, where a boy named Jason Blossom (Cheryl’s twin brother) was last seen alive. And Jughead, the comic’s asexual cheeseburger fiend, is played by the hotter Sprouse twin. He eats only one burger the entire first season.
Obviously, I have Season 2 suggestions.
1. Archie, please retire (at singing)
In the comics, Archie has a band called The Archies, but for the most part, The Archies really only make an appearance when reruns of 1960s and 1970s comics are placed into modern-day editions as space-fillers.
On Riverdale, Archie sings 80 times per episode, which everyone in the town claims is a time suck that’s distracting him from his football career. When Josie and the Pussycats, the town’s best and possibly only all-girl musical trio, take Archie under their wing, and he eventually writes them a song called “All For Me,” it’s one of the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever seen on TV. My life’s work of destigmatizing some essential aspects of femininity is over. Archie, you broke me. Reclaim your masculinity. Go play football.
2. Make way for Reggie
Historically, Reggie Mantle, another scion of a prestigious Riverdale family, is a crucial member of the gang. Not so on Riverdale.
Remember the legendary “Sticky Maple” episode of Riverdale, in which Betty tries to cook a male classmate alive in a hot tub for spreading a rumor that he… ejaculated on Veronica? Still not sure what a “sticky maple” is. Anyway, Reggie only appears in this episode to whoop it up with his boys about sexual assault, and then he disappears for most of the show.
With the Season 2 recasting of Reggie, a widely circulated and important piece of news that broke in May, Riverdale should retcon him into the core gang. I’d like for Kevin Keller, Archie’s first openly gay character, to be part of the gang, too. He basically only functions as an earpiece for Veronica (who once said that in her former life as an NYC It Girl she loved going to the club with her “best gays”), but the more the merrier, I guess.
3. Please stop with the big construction plotline because nobody can follow the big construction plotline
On Riverdale, 50 percent of the action is devoted to a plotline about the movie theater where Jughead secretly lives and how it’s being sold to an anonymous buyer to create a new development called SoDale (South Riverdale). Riverdale’s gang, The South Side Serpents, who are meant to be terrifying but the worst we’ve ever seen them do is eat popcorn rowdily during a movie, have some stake in it. It’s boring and confusing, and only exists to give Luke Perry, who plays Archie’s dad, something to do.
Every weekend during Season 1, my beloved boyfriend would host something called Riverdale Brunch, where we’d gather in Bushwick (which is basically SoDale) to potluck and watch the series. Every weekend, I had to ask for a refresher on this construction plotline, which was once described to me via text in the following words:
Veronica’s dad, Hiram Lodge, secretly bought the land the old movie theater was on, using the Serpents as an intermediary, and gave the job to Fred Andrews, putting him at odds with Cheryl’s dad, Clifford Blossom, who hired thugs to harass his crew. He then hired the Serpents themselves to work construction. Veronica’s mom, Hermione, offered to buy Fred out to protect him from Hiram now that he’s out of prison and probably mad about his wife getting that hot hot 90210 dick.
Hard to fact check, and I still don’t get it.
4. Have an influential Hollywood type discover Jughead’s novel and suggest he turn it into… a comic
Hot Jughead has been sitting inside of Pop’s (Riverdale’s Luke’s) typing on his computer all season. Betty calls this document a “novel,” but I’m not so sure. As a creative writing MFA student, attempting to write a novel and being forced to reckon with questions like, Who is the audience?, and, Why did the author make this choice regarding form?, I hold Jughead to the same standard. I don’t think he’s really writing a novel because you can’t write a book and narrate it as yourself contemporaneous to the events of your own life and call it fiction.
Still, this document needs to get into the right hands. I mean, this is good stuff:
Guilt. Innocence. Good. Evil. Life. Death. As the shadows around Riverdale deepened, the lines that separated these polar opposites blurred and distorted. “I’m guilty,” Cheryl said in biology class, but of what?
My idea: Nancy Silberkleit should cameo in the show while on a forced hiatus from her company due to her alleged illicit behavior and encounter Jughead in a booth at Pop’s. She’ll ask what this young man is writing and Jughead will say something like, “Just messing around,” and she’ll be like, “May I take a look?” And Jughead will be like, “Be my guest,” and then she’ll read it and be like, “Son, this should be…a serialized comic book.”
5. De-problematize Chuck
In the comic, Chuck Clayton is a gifted artist and a gentleman. On Riverdale, he’s the smarmy football player that Betty tries to boil alive. Chuck is one of the show’s few black male cast members and one of the few black kids in Riverdale, period. In the course of a few episodes, Chuck is suspended from school, never heard from again until Jughead’s killer birthday party.
The decision to go off-plot to reduce one of the few characters of color to a damaging sketch of himself is unforgivable and they need to fix it.
How? I don’t care! Reveal that Chuck is actually his evil cousin, or that Betty boiling him alive was a hallucination she had after her secret anti-psychotic medication interacted with something she drank. Stranger things have happened in Riverdale: for example, Cheryl wearing a wedding dress and driving gloves to her brother’s funeral.
6. Less incest, possibly
On Riverdale, Polly Cooper (Betty’s sister) and Jason Blossom (Cheryl Blossom’s dead twin brother), are cousins and she’s pregnant with his child. I also fear viewers will soon discover that Archie is also related to the Blossoms because they’re all red-headed and because at Jason’s funeral, Cheryl’s mom pet Archie’s head in a sinister fashion. Also, pretty sure Jason and his sister Cheryl were hooking up before his murder.
I know this is a lot of change to ask a teenage audience to reckon with, but if the writing and production staff listen to my simple pleas, Riverdale’s plot lines will run swifter than the Sweetwater River, with its steady gurgling and bubbling sounds soothing an entire village, a single strand of red hair floating down its delta…