'Riverdale' Season 5: Why queerbaiting needs to stop on The CW show to allow LGBTQ+ couples to get their due
Wild, steamy and unpredictable. That's what comes to mind when you think of The CW drama 'Riverdale'. From the sultry cast to their pairings and sizzling chemistry, the show has become an addictive television staple for millions of fans. It's not the adaptation of the 'Archie' comics you would have ever imagined, because it involves grisly murders, the hit-coupling of Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse) and Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart) and a very young and dashing Ms Grundy. For those who watched the first season, you might remember her alliance with Archie Andrews (KJ Apa) and how that crashed and burned.
Well, 'Riverdale' is sure entertaining, but has been known to cross the line when it comes to over-sexualizing their characters, not giving their women of color enough screentime as Vanessa Morgan (who plays Toni Topaz) had addressed and queerbaiting. For those who are unversed with the term, it means “a media work’s attempt to lure an LGBT fanbase with either false hints of representation or stereotyped, non-essential LGBT characters.” And 'Riverdale' has a history of doing just this.
In Season 1, Betty and Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes) were shown to be kissing in the trailer. Rather than this adding anything to the storyline or being meaningful, it was just to get bratty Cheryl Blossom's (Madelaine Petsch) attention. In another episode, 'The Great Escape', Archie and Joaquin (Rob Raco) were seen kissing in the trailer. While it was established that Joaquin was gay in Season 1 itself, Archie has always been straight. Did this mean that Archie was coming out of the closet? Well, prepare to be disappointed, because that obviously wasn't the case. Joaquin tried to force a kiss on Archie and he pulled away rather bewildered, following which Joaquin stabbed him.
Jughead even referred to it as a 'Judas' kiss', signifying betrayal. Fans were furious with the episode as they felt that the show had tried to queerbait them with the teaser and utilized the false kiss as only shock value. Considering that 'Riverdale' does have queer couples, the show should utilize them for more meaningful storylines rather than sideline them. Kevin Keller and Moose, Cheryl and Toni are examples of queer couples, but they've barely had any attention so far. In fact, It can be argued that Cheryl and Toni's relationship seems structured for the male gaze. While the two do share some tender moments, their scenes are mostly focused on the sex. On a show like 'Riverdale', which overtly sexualizes almost all its teenage characters,it is difficult to pinpoint if this could this be considered offensive.
So, perhaps CW can focus on developing their arcs rather than just the steamy leads?
'Riverdale' Season 5 returns on CW, January 20 at 8 pm.