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Cougar Ms Grundy, Twisted Betty Cooper: New Series Riverdale Turns Archie Comics Upside Down

Riverdale, the much awaited series on the lives of the legendary comic book characters, Archie and Friends, is nothing like you anticipated.

Runa Mukherjee Parikh | News18 Specials@tweetruna

Updated:February 22, 2017, 5:39 PM IST
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Cougar Ms Grundy, Twisted Betty Cooper: New Series Riverdale Turns Archie Comics Upside Down
Riverdale, the much awaited series on the lives of the legendary comic book characters, Archie and Friends, is nothing like you anticipated.
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In CW’s Riverdale, Archie Andrews is a pained young man pining for, no, not Veronica Lodge or Betty Cooper, but Ms Grundy. And before you gasp that Geraldine Grundy is the white haired oldie from the books of your teens, hold your thought. She is an attractive young woman, probably only a decade older to the high school students. In the words of the show’s Jughead Jones, she is what can be called a ‘cougar’. Archie and Grundy have a tumultuous affair, lusting over each other inside cars and on the grass all summer. She then drops him like a hot potato and turns him into a sorry excuse of a man who now writes songs and wants to be a musician.

If this doesn’t sound like anything you read when you were a kid, then you’re absolutely correct. Riverdale, the much awaited series on the lives of the legendary comic book characters, Archie and Friends, is nothing like you anticipated. Chances are, the series has come as a shock to most. When the show makers sat and thought of how they could make the cult comics into a hit series, they chose the easiest way out by turning it into a dark, twisty, small town thriller. So what we have is a mysterious murder of one of the most popular kids in school, a grieving twin sister who is an exaggerated Cersei Lannister, a New York It girl who has come to live in her mother’s hometown because her father is facing jail time and a sweet girl next door who has major, repressed issues. Oh, did we forget a Jughead who sits at Pop Tates but doesn’t sip or bite anything?

Turning an idea on its head is not always a good thing, as we see in Riverdale – the fact that it resembles so many other shows that have already had their run time, like Pretty Little Liars, Vampire Diaries and Gossip Girl is definitely not a plus. People who may know nothing about the books but are watching the show today, will be hoping for novelty, of which there is none.

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It is easy to remember the slasher flicks of the 90s while watching this one – a sleepy town that’s rudely awakened by a murder with multiple people who might be guilty. Only this time, all the characters have names we know by heart. It is also the only detail we grudge.

What further mars the narrative is its preachy tone. Yes, it is the 21st century and we are dealing with a ton of societal issues – but to birth a show with the hope of dealing with every subject Twitter discusses is probably not a great idea. We have an African American Josie who tells Archie her music band is called the ‘Pussycats’ because ‘they had to claw their way into places where white people like him could waltz into.’ Her mother, who is refreshingly the mayor of Riverdale, apparently received plenty of hate mail when she was elected, so Josie walks around, condescending and unwilling to share space with anyone.

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Then there is Veronica Lodge, the vain and spoilt brat who always had an upper hand in the books, fighting her own battles here. Like when she is slut shamed by Chuck Clayton, captain of the football team and a sexually aggressive jock who keeps a playbook along with his teammates on how many women they score. Also, Fred Andrews, Archie’s father cannot fathom why his son wants to choose music over sports while Betty’s mother is a monster who imposes ‘good girl’ standards and thrusts high functioning drugs on her already docile daughter. Really, the list of issues is endless here.

It is hard to understand which part of the book’s reincarnation as a series do we scoff at the most; that there can be a competition on which character has been changed drastically (seriously, there is no one answer there) or at the many tropes and derivative writing it uses to flow its narrative. Even if we did look away from all diversions taken by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and team, we really don’t know what to do with the sexual predator Grundy who commits statuary rape with her teenaged student. It bothers us …a lot.

For anyone watching the show due to nostalgia or otherwise, it’s going to be an uphill task to come to terms with the bland and much ‘inspired’ story lines. Mostly because we suddenly have to deal with crazy sex and murder in a comic strip where the biggest problem used to be which girl the affable boy will take on a date. Geez.

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| Edited by: Shomini Sen
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