Sexiest Interracial Couples on TV: Riverdale's Cheryl-Toni have a wild sex appeal, but is it to please male gaze?
When Cheryl and Toni became a couple, it was a major step ahead for LGBTQ+ representation; but even then 'Choni' has raised a few complaints
When it comes to representation across races, television still has a long way to go. As such, if you try to think of interracial couples on TV, you may not come up with many names. And even if there are, they are often created without paying much attention to the dynamics an interracial couple would go through.
Each week, MEA WorldWide (MEAWW) looks at the sexiest interracial couples on television and the impact that it has. This week, we take a look at Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch) and Toni Topaz (Vanessa Morgan) from on The CW show 'Riverdale'. They are undoubtedly one of the sexiest couples on television but the duo has raised questions about LGBTQ+ representation on the teen drama.
'Riverdale' has long been accused of queer-baiting. Remember the Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart) and Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes) kiss from Season 1 or the Archie Andrews (KJ Apa) and Joaquin DeSantos (Rob Raco) kiss from a promo for Season 3? Though a major gay character had been featured since Season 1 — Kevin Keller (Casey Cott) — the show never featured a major LGBTQ+ relationship, not like Archie and Veronica or Betty and Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse). That is until Cheryl and Toni became friends in Season 2. The once almost-rivals became friends as Toni offered Cheryl some much-needed companionship — someone Cheryl could talk to and be close to.
Their transition from friends to lovers happened quite quickly. 'Riverdale' did not show us much of the initial stages of the “Choni” relationship, and viewers had to assume key moments between them must have happened off-screen. It can be argued that Cheryl and Toni's relationship seems structured for the male gaze. While the two do have heart-to-heart moments, the show seems to focus more on the sex appeal of the couple. Here's the thing though. On a show like 'Riverdale', which overtly sexualized almost all its teenage characters anyway, we can't confirm for sure whether it's offensive or not.
But again, that's where the lack of representation comes in. Sure, there must be many couples like Cheryl and Toni — with two very feminine, very sexy women portraying them — but it gets established as the norm because other kinds of LGBTQ couples aren't featured, thereby giving an incomplete picture.
Take Kevin for example. We don't see any of Kevin's relationships treated with the same weight as the 'Choni' relationship. His biggest plot this season was the "tickle porn" scam he ran with Fangs Fogarty (Drew Ray Tanner). Moreover, while the straight men of 'Riverdale' are shown as hyper-sexualized, hyper-macho men, we don't see Kevin portrayed the same way, even though Casey is just as ripped as the actors who play Reggie and Archie.
Another question arises if we look more closely. We include them in our list of interracial couples because Toni Topaz is a woman of color. However, that difference is not one that is acknowledged by the show. Would it have made any difference to the 'Choni' dynamic had she been portrayed by a white actor? Moreover, there is a clear power imbalance between the two characters stemming from their different social backgrounds. We see Toni rely on Cheryl much more. Not only does Toni live with Cheryl, but any time they have a really serious argument, Cheryl somehow hangs the fact that Toni lives in her house over her.
Even so, the 'Choni' relationship is far ahead of what would have been the norm 10 years ago. There are many special moments where the two characters support and rely on each other. For example, when Cheryl created the Pretty Poisons as a support group in lieu of the Serpents for Toni, or when Toni stood by Cheryl as she repeatedly dealt with the trauma of the loss her brother.
Follow MEA WorldWide's (MEAWW) weekly column on the sexiest interracial couples on television every Friday.