February 17, 2017

Riverdale: the Grundy problem

I’ve been watching Riverdale for the last four episodes.

I’ve started and stopped so many posts about this show it isn’t funny. About the apparent erasure of Jughead’s identity of being asexual and aromantic (as the comics have spelled out) – as Cole Sprouse spilled in an interview before the show started airing. About how Kevin Keller’s written as though we’re still in the days of Will & Grace. All snark, sex, and stereotypes – but no real substance. About the continued queerbaiting with Betty & Veronica in promos, the awkward references that are sometimes out of date by the time the episode aired….

But I have a real issue with what was seemingly wrapped up in last night’s episode. The Grundy problem. From the pilot onward, we witnessed the incredibly uncomfortable and illegal relationship between 15 year old Archie Andrews (yes 15 – he’s a sophmore, remember?) and the hot music teacher Miss Grundy.

The show tried to pitch it as a taboo romance, even though Jughead wisely knew it was just wrong and that Archie was being taken advantage of. Betty, too, though her actions were tempered by Archie’s own feelings on the matter.

Literally every week, I was asking friends how Archie Comics could have approved this. And as we found out, it’s because she wasn’t really Geraldine Grundy – who sadly, died. She was someone else entirely (I’m a little disappointed that Betty didn’t start digging into who she was once they had her driver’s license)

Last night’s episode saw Betty’s mom find out about the affair after finding Miss Grundy’s gun in Betty’s dresser and then reading about it in Betty’s diary (which, Bets – you’re the smartest girl in Riverdale. Why would you not realize your overbearing newspaper editor mother would 100% go through your things?). But instead of coming down hard on Miss Grundy…. the actual adult, she was trying to use this to prove what a bad person Archie is.

And here’s the issue. Archie is not an adult. Archie cannot legally consent to a relationship with an adult. If you look at “Miss Grundy”‘s actions through the series, regardless of her attraction, she manipulates Archie using sex. He can’t tell anyone they were at the river, because it might hurt her. He can’t tell anyone about them because they wouldn’t understand, they’d tear us apart. (It’s also highly suspect that as soon as he confronts her, she comes up with a story that she knows Archie’s bleeding heart would believe – that she was in an abusive relationship and was hiding from that. More on that in a paragraph or two)

Betty points out that it’s unhealthy – that Grundy was isolating him from friends and family. That Grundy had taken on Jason as a project the year before – someone that Archie is constantly seen as being, the “new” Jason.

So for Mrs Cooper to victim blame Archie came off as weird – I’m sure it was meant to be an indictment of her personality, but the show as a whole could have come down as hard on this icky squicky relationship as they did on the whole slutshaming incidents of last week. After all, predatory adults are a problem, as are people who insist that the underage part of the couple are complicit in the guilt.

The only positive thing in how the adults reacted is that Archie’s dad was supportive of his son. His only concern was protecting his son and making sure that his son wasn’t hurt any further. You could see how angry he was, but he let Betty’s mom last out, and made sure he protected his son as best he could.

Now. The last shot of Miss Grundy is important. It bookends how we saw her in the summer. Sunglasses, the glasses from Lolita (that’s 100% intentional) and slurping on a frozen drink. Eyeing the hot guys (who may or may not be underage) as they go by- same way as when she first spotted Archie over the summer. It’s a clear sign to me that she’d been lying to Archie about why she was using the fake name.

I’m sure who she really is will be important. I’m sure that them letting her go will all bite them in the ass. And while I’m relieved that this part of her story is done… it just leaves a bad taste in my mouth that this is how they handled the story.

Sex between an adult and a teen student is rape. END OF STORY.

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