Riverdale, among its many flaws, attempts to re-examine what we see as “normal” in media marketed to teens. Riverdale uses sex as a form of empowerment for 15 year olds, however, there’s no mention of safe sex practices, and an extreme voyeuristic narrative, both of which raise a few eyebrows - Phoebe Lefebvre
Riverdale, a CW show about murder, mystery, and sex, all revolving around a group of friends who are sophomores in high school. Riverdale, among its many flaws, attempts to re-examine what we see as “normal” in media marketed to teens. Riverdale uses sex as a form of empowerment for 15 year old's, however, there’s no mention of safe sex practices, and an extreme voyeuristic narrative, both of which raise a few eyebrows.
Let’s start with Archie Andrews, the boy next door, back from his summer vacation with a hot bod and an even hotter secret. A steamy romance with his music teacher, a 35 year old woman, Gereldine Grundy. We follow their “relationship” and get to experience Archie's emotions first hand, but despite his tendency to yell and dramatically take his shirt off, it's a topic that lacked a true depth until later in the show, and even then, was done very poorly.
Sure, we see tears from the eyes of both characters, but we still manage to avoid the blatant manipulation that Archie went through. The audience often views Archie as mentally mature because he’s physically mature, so we can easily forget that Archie is a naive 15 year old boy. And in forgetting this, we bring up some other questions.
What if the gender roles were reversed? What if it was a female sophomore and a male teacher? The conversation completely changes. Instead of addressing it as a ‘relationship’ we view as rape. We solely blame it on the older party, we look at a young girl and say “she’s naive, she’s pure, she was coerced!”
Why don’t we give boys the same condolences? Would we if Riverdale was cast in a different way? If teenagers were played by teenagers rather than fully matured adults?
Riverdale makes constant sex seem “empowering.” I’m all for women owning their bodies and knowing what they want, and teenagers in real life definitely have sex, but is there really such an active need for it to be so sensationalized in teenage media?
The extremely graphic sex scenes between teenagers in Riverdale are constant. These are supposed to be teenagers who are going through puberty, discovering what they like, instead, Riverdale throws around random surface-level sex that does absolutely nothing to drive the plot forward.
Sex does have a place in shows targeted towards a teenage age group: but the sexualization of minors doesn’t, especially since Riverdale has absolutely no mention of safe sex practices.
Considering how many raunchy scenes we get, there's such limited conversation about teens being responsible or using protection, and the only reason Riverdale can get away with that is because they use adult actors.
What about condoms? Birth control? STDs and infections? How does the CW manage to completely gloss over and ignore such a prominent problem in high schools? Especially considering some characters have multiple sexual partners.
Is this really acceptable as the new normal? Why are current TV shows forcing an adult narrative in a show that’s marketed towards a younger audience? By trying to change what’s normalized in TV we’re trying to change the audience who watches it. We shouldn’t be telling 15 year old's that constant, unprotected sex is okay, or that they should be trying to act like adults as soon as possible.
Current media, Riverdale included, should stop sexualizing minors, and instead find a way to discuss sex in a safe, and healthy way.