I have been watching the new tv series, Riverdale. It’s a rethinking (AU?) of the Archie Comics Riverdale intellectual properties — Archie, Jughead, Josie and the Pussycats, etc. It is EXACTLY in line with current teen-oriented dramas like Pretty Little Liars, or Gossip Girl. There are murders, secrets, and sex, and everyone is gorgeous.
You can go look up reviews of the show. It’s pretty fun so far.
But I want to talk about Betty and Veronica.
On Riverdale, the characters of Veronica Lodge and Betty Cooper are capturing something true about female friendship, something complicated and messy and real. Their relationship highlights how women struggle with the roles we embody, ESPECIALLY when they are roles we have chosen for ourselves. The relationship underlines how we are attracted to friendships that nurture the parts of ourselves that we suppress, that don’t fit who we are working to be.
No woman is the Good Girl, no woman is the Bad Girl. Betty and Veronica are excruciatingly self-aware of this point. But rather than double down on impossible goals, they befriend each other and help each other be complete people. Veronica wants to support Betty, both in being the good girl AND in not repressing the rest of her feelings. Betty wants Veronica to be her best self, but ALSO admires and respects Veronica’s outsider strength.
Nearly every character in Riverdale is playing a role, and only a scant few seem to realize it. Archie yearns to be seen for all that he is. Jughead has fled to the land of cynical detachment. Kevin knows his gay part and plays it. But, so far, only Betty and Veronica understand that EVERYONE is playing a part. That EVERYONE has hidden depths and needs, and wants to be whole.
Now, Riverdale is a teen drama. There will of course be betrayals, misunderstandings, secrets, and conflicts. It’s that kind of show. But as of episode three, Veronica and Betty’s friendship is weathering the storms of plot and contrivance. As the only two characters who seem to be entirely realized, the show’s very best moments are when those two are interacting. The writers, thank goodness, so far recognize this.