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Editorial: Deconstructing Riverdale; how to craft a hit teen drama

Often in our current pop culture landscape, the remake, adaptations, and never ending sequels reign supreme, while fresh original content takes a backseat.  For the most part, people are okay with buying into the comfortable and predictable entertainment we’ve consumed for decades. Star Wars can continually tell the same story and somehow get away with it. And no, the collective bitching from super-fans won’t do much when the Force Awakens worldwide gross of 2.06 billion USD was more than the entire country of Libera’s GDP  in 2015 (2.05 billion USD).

So you can’t blame me for being skeptical when I heard a dated comic series about small-town white America was being revamped into a teen drama/murder mystery (and all thanks to Netflix). I remembered as a kid, skimming through issues of Archie’s Double Digest while waiting for my mom at the grocery store, thinking “Why the hell is a Jughead wearing a crown-thing on his head?”

Fun fact: Jughead’s hat is actually called a Whoopee hat, and it was cool in the 1930s. Think that sounds lame? You can’t blame me for not acknowledging Riverdale‘s existence in the trending section.

One Friday night, I was trying to make plans with some friends from highschool, to my surprise, I was greeted with “Yo okay, but first the boys gotta watch the new Riverdale.”

Yes you read that correctly, Friday night plans for a house full of grown-ass males in their mid twenties including watching the new episode of Riverdale.

The only naysayer in the group, rolled his eyes, saying “they’re all addicted.”

In fact, most of my peers that I spoke to were addicted to the show, so I eventually drank the Kool-Aid, and found myself cussing out the CW network when the series deciding to take a three week break. Most don’t necessarily think the show is all that good, but still religiously tune into new episodes.

Why? We’ve all seen this exact show before (The O.C., Degrassi, One Tree Hill). How was the CW able to hook grown adults to a teen drama series based on a comic that has the same coolness factor as socks and sandals?

Five reasons.

5. Throwback America is extremely topical

The first Archie comics came out in the 40s and you’d think that we’d have moved away from the same bullshit, slut shaming, racism, educators going after jailbait.

Ha, ha, ha, of course we haven’t. Trump is president. Why the hell not revisit the same problems from a century ago.

4. Cole Sprouse

Sprouse’s casting and character is crucial to the success of the show. The Jughead of Archie comics past was a human sloth that ate an absurd amount of cheeseburgers. Riverdale‘s Jughead is the perfect embodiment of post-emo artistic #sadboi that embodies most of the people on tumblr. However, by far the most important thing about this casting is the connect Sprouse has to mid 2000s Disney channel favourite, The Suite Life of Zack & Cody. Since we live in a pop culture landscape based almost entirely off of references, (what do you think posting memes is?) this creates huge potential for twitter jokes, memes, and Riverdale x Suite Life conspiracies of the shows existing in the same universe.

3. It’s hot

Having a smokin’ hot cast is a staple required by the majority of teen dramas. The characters of Riverdale especially shine whenever they roll into Pop’s for a shake— Betty and Archie under the red neon glow of the diner? Damn. Archie is in better shape than most professional baseball players. Betty and Veronica do some pseudo-dominatrix shit. The CW doesn’t beat around the bush showcasing sex appeal. Teen viewers get to idolize attractive adults without acne pretend to be in grade 11, while the experience for younger adult viewers is a bit more awkward. Gushing over people playing teenagers is a tad gross, but Camila Mendes (Veronica) is 23. So it’s all good.

2. The cinematography

An attractive cast combined with stunning cinematography is extremely easy on the eyes. In Riverdale, everything is gorgeous. Watching the characters walk through a dreary forest seems a lot less depressing when you realize how absurdly cartoonish they look. Much of the cinematography seems like it could be borrowed from Drive; the over saturated colours, use of dull blue and orange throughout. Not too many teen dramas have been this visually appealing.

1. Riverdale‘s target demographic (age 14-30) are fucked

a) For the older end of the spectrum (24-30) most of us don’t have careers, nor will we anytime soon, at least until all the baby boomers die out. More of us live at home and are still supported by our parents, so of course we want to relive the high school experience.

b) For the entire target demographic, most of us struggle communicating face to face. The younger half have grown up almost exclusively with cell phones and social media, while people in their late-twenties have been using platforms like Facebook for about ten years now. Ten years of Facebook has sacked most people’s ability to communicate face to face. People break up over text, talk shit over Facebook, and consistently send screenshots of said arguments with friends, to their other friends so they can bitch about it. When a young adult is confronted in person with a problem in 2017, most turtle and have no idea how to deal with it.

Riverdale is astounding for its non-stop drama, endless tension, lack of comic relief, but especially it’s consistent confrontation.Whenever the character’s have an issue, they immediately communicate it to each other for better or for worse. Do you personally know a young adult, in the year 2017, who would confidently ask with a straight face “Did you kill my brother?” to one of their friends? Unheard of. It’s the serious life none of us have, but we all deeply desire.

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