Are Riverdale's Teen Characters Too Sexualized?

Riverdale - Camila Mendes as Veronica Lodge

Riverdale has earned itself a reputation as one of the hottest shows on TV. It's dark, brooding, full of wildly beautiful people, and delivers crazy storylines that somehow we're all okay with because this is Riverdale. The writing is sharp, the cinematography is stunning, and the acting is on point. But there's one aspect of Riverdale that people are becoming more and more uncomfortable with, and it's not the color of Archie's hair.

Riverdale is a sexy show. It has been since the very first episode of season 1, but in recent weeks it's changed from being a slightly risque teenage drama to something altogether more overt and sexual. This actually started in season 1, and has been building steadily ever since. Let us not forget the scene of Betty and Veronica making out in their tiny gym kits, or dark Betty coming out to play and torturing Chuck in the hot tub. But what really gave Riverdale its darker, sexual edge was Archie's relationship with his music teacher, Miss Grundy.

Related: Riverdale Midseason Premiere Trailer

You could argue that it was entirely consensual, but if you follow the (admittedly vague) timeline that Riverdale has, Archie was 15 the summer that he was in a sexual relationship with his teacher, meaning their encounters would be classified as statutory rape. Is a 15 year-old boy really capable of dealing with the complex range of emotions that surround an illicit affair with a much older woman? Miss Grundy's behavior was predatory as well as illegal; she used her age and experience to guilt-trip Archie into lying to the police over his whereabouts on the day of Jason Blossom's murder. Moreover, we learned this season that Grundy's relationship with Archie was part of a pattern of preying on underage boys, not an isolated incident. In light of that, the shots from Miss Grundy's perspective of a shirtless Archie showing off his abs are more problematic than sexy.

Then there was the dual storyline at the end of season 1; Archie and Veronica, and Jughead and Betty were all set to take their respective relationships to the next level. While Bughead shared their cute I love you's before getting interrupted, Veronica and Archie wasted no time on sentimentality and just got right down to it. Both scenes accurately reflected teenage relationships - though again, given their supposed ages, that might be a little uncomfortable for some to digest. Still, it happens, and while some teens will have sex for the first time with someone they love, many don't.

Lili Reinhart as Betty Cooper in Riverdale Dark

Moving into season 2, the sexual overtones of Riverdale have only increased, and it's given us some truly uncomfortable viewing. Archie and Veronica no longer seem like innocent teens; we've had scenes that clearly insinuate sex in the shower, sex in front of a fireplace, and overnight stays. Archie seems to be permanently shirtless. It feels like something you'd maybe expect from a couple of college kids, not a couple of high schoolers. Veronica's parents also have a lot to answer for; they seem to pay no heed to her nighttime activities, and also regularly allow her to have hard liquor. To each their own and all that, but doesn't it seem a little unrealistic?

If that's stretching the boundaries then a recent scene featuring Betty (Lili Reinhart) smashed right through them. With all the Riverdale regulars attending a party in a bar to welcome FP Jones home from prison, Betty took it upon herself to perform a striptease on a pole while singing the Gary Jules song, 'Mad World.' While Reinhart herself is 21, it still made for uncomfortable viewing; Betty is surely far too young to be behaving like this? It seemed as though only FP was concerned enough to usher her from the stage.

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