'Riverdale' – A Triggering Device

Post by: Linda Martindale 27 May, 2023
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Riverdale has now caused a stir. I haven’t seen anything about the relationship between Cheryl and Toni or Kevin’s search for identity. It’s not even that they went on the strange journey of superpowers from last year. This year the big issue may come down to folks being “triggered” over the Betty and Veronica episode. Now what in the year 1955 could have caused this? Let’s dive into the episode and see.

Riverdale has never been shy about addressing issues. Most of the time, they are camouflaged, and you don’t see what the issue is until the end of the story. We’ve been seeing that already this year with the LGBTQ+, the Civil Rights movement (early), and even the abuse of the child of an international family can cause for his place in society (who knew that Reggie was half Korean?). I have seen none of this discussed on Twitter. The trigger came from the Betty part of the episode and her dreams of sex. And to be honest, I was questioning this whole setup before now.

Let’s deal with the set-up. I’ll take it from the late 1960s/early 1970s. As a teen, we played the usual games like “spin the bottle” and other kissing games. I’m sure there was some “you show me yours and I’ll show you mine” going on (except in the rural areas where this was harder). Those two parts in the episode told me that this wasn’t the normal 50s. I had a feeling that this was all building to something more which began with the “peep show” episode.

I admit I got creeped out by some of the things done in the “Betty and Veronica” episode. Thursday morning, I woke up to see messages on Twitter about how people were being triggered by the sex dream of Betty teaching and having sex with a student. I’ll be honest. I never heard anything about this as a child. I’ll also be honest that today the story makes the news at least once a week. It surprised me that people were calling the show out on this. I’m not objecting but found it surprising after some of the other stories like the body organ farm that Riverdale has done. I guess the harvesting of organs isn’t as pronounced as the “teacher having sex with a child.”

I’m sure that the executive producers and writers know of the news stories. How can they not? I know that they built this episode around the possibility that some may have objections. I also know that we as people need to be aware of what is going on in the world around us. While in the old days, no one knew about it, today it is common. 

When I was growing up, I think things were different. Schools were smaller and community-based. Everyone knew everyone else. Riverdale chose to address the situation head-on. Betty admitted to having dreams about sex. She even described them. The real problem I had with it is that they had a psychologist in school asking students to describe their dreams behind a closed door without a woman in the room. In our society today, as Betty pointed out to him, the door should have been left open. She was afraid to meet with him after this because she thought he might be a pervert himself. But to me, the dreams weren’t the only issue.

After seeing the triggering comment, let me point out that there were several other issues in this story that could have served as triggers. I’ve mentioned that the counselor, a male, saw Betty with no one else present. Then, we have the book he kept locked in his drawer. I have never heard of Lolita. I googled it to see what it was (and will never read it). The thing that really triggered me on the Betty side is that she was the only one blamed. In “Peep Show,” Archie was just as guilty and they gave him a pass. In the “Riverdale Dance,” Betty was punished for swirling her dress up. Never mind that Marilyn Monroe had stood on a vent and her dress blew up for a movie (Seven Year Itch, I believe). The thing that really (and I’m using this loosely) is that the men looked at women as beneath them. The principal and counselor saw them as “objects” that were not to be mentioned. 

Here’s what I saw as worse. The minister Alice called in for the exorcism, seemed to ogle Betty, and made the comment that she had changed since the children’s choir. That comment was over the top.

And let’s not forget the major issue I had with the Veronica end of this. Her parents are unreal for this era (or any era). Who sends their teen daughter off to live by herself at sixteen. Sure, there was a butler but now she has no “real home.” Veronica’s parents are so wrapped up in themselves, television, and money that when their daughter outsmarted them and bought the movie theater they wanted, they punished her. What parent would deprive their children of a home and make them live at a movie theater? Oh, right! This is the Lodges.

One more thing that wasn’t addressed. When Betty came in and her mother exploded over the counselor canceling the sessions, Betty asked her just to sit and talk with her. Hal heard this and exploded. We must remember that Hal, in the present day, was the Black Mask Killer. I seem to remember that he seemed to have a strange fascination with Betty. To be honest, his attitude toward her creeped me out. Alice told Betty once that she went along with Hal’s killing spree to protect Betty. Could there have been a hint of this infatuation in the earlier episodes of the series? I think so. To me, in this episode, I saw signs of Alice being abused by Hal. Could he threaten Betty? I’m afraid the answer is yes.

I’m not as triggered as students growing up in the 2000s with the sex because I didn’t know it as a school student. It wasn’t an issue. Today, even where I live, it is. The thing we need to step back and realize is this.  Riverdale is subtly using the setting of a 1950s small town to show us what today’s world has become. The theme is “bend towards justice” and I see where it’s going. I will wait until a little later to elaborate on this and how I think it will happen. What I think is that we need to be triggered but not by this one incident. We need to be triggered today but not only about the “sexual issues” but about the hostility and the other attitudes that exist today which the adults on Riverdale (1955) seem to see as normal. I expect we will see much more of our present echoed in their past.

Read 602 times Last modified on Saturday, 27 May 2023 14:49