The CW’s Riverdale’s Real Mystery is Ignoring Its Diverse Cast
The CW hit, Riverdale, has a major representation problem and it’s being severely overlooked. Despite being one of the most diversely casted teen dramas on the air, their representation of people of color and the LGBTQ+ community, is seemingly unimportant to the writers, this despite Kevin Keller and Josie McCoy being prominently mentioned and shown in the promotional material. While there is no arguing these characters are present in the show, they are primarily seen and not heard. The few characters who are given lines either disappear from the story altogether, are used to prop up the core four’s storyline, or simply ignored.
Josie and the Pussycats (Ashleigh Murray, Hayley Law, Asha Bromfield) have shown viewers musical talent and promise. Josie (Murray) is the only person of color who has been given significant screen time, dialogue, and backstory. Viewers are pulled in when they learn about her overbearing father pressuring her to follow his footsteps and supportive mayoral mother, but then only give the first eight episodes and disappears for the rest of the season. Not even a single line has been introduced to explain where she has gone. Even an “I can’t believe Josie gets to record a single in Los Angeles” would suffice.
Valerie (Law), has been Archie’s love interest, and seemingly the only thing that makes his character even remotely interesting. The show appeared to be on the right track, gradually building their inevitable relationship when they finally come together after the talent show, but then she quickly becomes a sounding board for Archie’s ridiculous rants and nothing more until she finally leaves him for ignoring her. Many viewers felt as though it wasn’t just Archie who ignored Valerie, but the writers, since fan are given virtually nothing about her other than she is a musician who won’t take any of his nonsense.
Melody’s character (Bromfield) is virtually non-existent. I’m pretty sure the actress hasn’t even had more than a single line in the entire first season. Josie and Valerie are given minimal agency, while Melody is given absolutely none, completely ignored. As of right now, Melody’s character serves no other purpose than completing the infamous trio of rocker women. That being said, my favorite fan theory is that Melody killed Jason and the motive was simply because everyone ignored her.
Other characters being blatantly ignored like this include Ginger Lopez and Tina Patel (Cheryl’s “minions”). You may have no idea who these characters are, as they are never properly introduced, but they are definitely there. Cheryl kicked them off the River Vixens because they didn’t vote for her during the infamous Veronica vs. Cheryl dance off. I’m supposed to believe these two girls just stood there without emotion while their alleged livelihood is being taken away from them? The lack of focus also took away any emotional impact from the scene. Without knowing them, it’s hard to care if they’ve been booted from the clique.
Kevin Keller is another character being treated unfairly. He is by far a fan favorite and one of the only LGBT+ characters with a major role. He gets some of the funniest lines and viewers are never disappointed with his hilarious reactions. We learn a minimal amount of his backstory—he’s the son of the sheriff who is accepting of his son’s sexuality—and I do give credit where credit is due, I appreciate the fact Kevin’s sexuality is a non-issue, only used to further drive a complicated plotline. What’s bothersome is the fact he is only given an implied storyline.
For example, viewers see Kevin connect with Joaquin and an exciting, new storyline is introduced. Then Joaquin is dropped and doesn’t appear again until a couple of episodes later, where it’s revealed that he and Kevin are now full-fledged dating. When did this happen? Viewers don’t get to see the relationship progress in the slightest. We only get to see them make out one more time at Jughead’s birthday party. It’s very possible the development of this relationship was cut and left on the cutting room floor, but the crew completely lost an opportunity to appease fan’s needs for a well-rounded gay character with his own storyline.
Another example is that it’s implied the infamous character Moose, is in the closet and is willing to hook up with Kevin as long as no one knows. This is a new piece of information for long-time Archie Comics fans, as he has previously been known purely for being the stereotypical “dumb” jock. This small piece of information makes a previously dull character, more complex and interesting, but it’s never mentioned again. The writers had an opportunity to expand here and dive deeper into this character but chose to only use him again several episodes later, as a punching bag to a gang of thugs. There was no character development at all.
The problem seems to lie in the story of Riverdale not being fully realized yet. The writers need to decide if this is a story about the core four or the town of Riverdale as a whole. With a focus on the parents, it would seem the writers have decided the whole. If this is correct, then they need to give their diverse cast’s characters more substance and agency. If the story’s goal is to center around the core four, then random, deep insights to other character’s past that were once introduced and then forgotten (i.e. Josie), need to be dropped. Once this is sorted out, many of these issues won’t be as prominent and the storyline will seem more consistent, although many viewers are hoping to see more of these forgotten characters, so let’s hope they don’t choose the latter.
In interviews, writers have mentioned one might consider the first season of Riverdale as a prequel to where we meet them in the original Archie comics. Where we meet the characters now, aren’t necessarily where they will end up, and there is a chance they might become closer to who their characters are in the original canon. Perhaps that means we will finally see an asexual Jughead (which is a whole other issue entirely), the epic love triangle that is Betty, Archie, and Veronica will finally rear its ugly head, and so on. That being said, this gives viewers hope that the character’s currently being mistreated or overlooked might have a bigger role and impact in future episodes to come.