When I sat down to watch the first three episodes of Riverdale – Netflix’s new drama series based on characters from the Archie comics – I was confused.
Upon the credits rolling for the third episode (unlike other series, Netflix only releases one episode of Riverdale per week) I sat up in my almost-pitch-black lounge room to audibly ask “Wait, what?” to a room of precisely no one.
Don’t get me wrong, this show is great in some moments – it’s witty and progressive and aware. But in others? It’s frustratingly obvious, outdated and stale, like a bad nineties hangover.
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The most obvious example of this is the relationship between “boyish high school sophomore” and adorable red head, Archie Andrews, and his music teacher, Miss Geraldine Grundy.
Yep. A teacher-student relationship.
Given we saw a similar storyline over a decade ago in Dawson’s Creek, something about this plot line in Riverdale feels old and tacky, particularly considering the way the relationship is depicted.
Raunchy, naked, hot sex in a car during a storm. Lingering moments of desire in the dimly lit music room. A romantic morning spent on a rug by the lake. Physical chemistry. Lustful glances. Sexy librarian-esque outfits.
Abs, teacher glasses, a lacy bra and underwear.
By all accounts, this illegal relationship is alluring and intoxicating.
The Riverdale scriptwriters want us to lap up this story without acknowledging the fact that it’s, you know, borderline paedophilia. And in doing so, they’re not just making something that’s illegal look desirable; they’re glamourising statutory rape.
And when you step away from the glittering dialogue and cinematography, you realise just how screwed up that really is.
Because Miss Grundy isn’t just sleeping with her student. This isn’t just a “forbidden romance” as the show’s official description suggests. This is sexually abusive. A teacher is grooming a student.
At multiple points, Archie tells Miss Grundy he wants to come clean to the school and the police. And every time? He’s turned away and threatened with “We’ll both end up in jail if you do”.
I highly doubt the producers would have seen it reasonable to include such a "relationship" if the dynamic was reversed to be between a male teacher and his vulnerable female student.
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And yet, growing evidence shows that teen boys who are sexually preyed upon by female authority figures suffer psychologically in a similar way that girls do when exploited by older men.
Riverdale could have been a fantastic drama - and yes - perhaps the writers will correct this glaring misstep in judgment. But to paint an abusive relationship as "sexy" to an audience of impressionable young people is wrong, even if it is just for three episodes.