Does The Betty/Veronica Dichotomy Still Hold Up? Riverdale Flips The Script

Photo: The CW
It's no secret that women have long been pitted against one another, and often, it's what these women represent that are truly at odds. There's the innocent, sweet, chaste woman... and then there's her rival: a darker, sultrier, sexier vixen capable of stealing away the virtuous woman's man. (Does the Angelina Jolie vs. Jennifer Aniston tabloid war ring a bell?) It's this archetype that gave birth to Betty and Veronica of Archie Comics: two women who are locked in a perpetual battle for the heart of boy-next-door Archie. When new CW series Riverdale announced it was bringing Betty and Veronica to the small screen for a neo-noir version of the comics, it was worth wondering: would the good girl vs. bad girl dichotomy still loom large?

The first few scenes of Riverdale's pilot hints that it will. Sweet, blonde Betty (Lili Reinhart) is giddy over seeing Archie (K.J. Apa) after summer vacation, and unsettled when Veronica (Camila Mendes) — a sultry new student who insists she's "Breakfast at Tiffany's" while Riverdale is "more In Cold Blood" — grabs the attention of her redheaded BFF. Yet, as with everything in Riverdale, nothing is quite as it seems.

The truth? Betty is no good girl. She's been shoehorned into perfection by overbearing parents who fill an Adderall prescription Betty knows she doesn't need. Betty has spent her life playing by a rulebook she no longer wishes to follow — she just doesn't know how to keep going without it. Riverdale portrays her as a ticking time bomb, one who digs her nails into her hands until they bleed to cope with frustration.

There's something particularly refreshing about the show giving Betty and Veronica personalities that go deeper than their archetypes.

As for Veronica, her sophisticated attitude is a shield. Her father is in prison for a Bernie Madoff-like scheme, and she's friendless in a new town. Veronica only has good intentions when she befriends Betty: being a mean girl in Manhattan didn't stop Veronica's life from falling apart, or her friends from abandoning her the second she lost her fortune. What Veronica wants is a genuine connection.

That's not to say that the love triangle Archie Comics is so famous for doesn't exist in Riverdale. It's well-established that both Betty and Veronica have the hots for Archie, and that Archie is intrigued by Veronica. However, while Archie and Veronica do kiss, it's not due to some "bad girl scheming" — at least not on Veronica's part. While playing "Seven Minutes In Heaven" at the behest of cruel head cheerleader Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch) Veronica and Archie succumb to a case of teen hormones and share a kiss. Not because Veronica is a scheming seductress, but because, like Archie, she's a teenager who makes mistakes. And it is a mistake on Veronica's end: she instantly feels regret — not exactly how a true "bad girl" would react to kissing the crush of a girl she's known for 24 hours.

There's something particularly refreshing about the show giving Betty and Veronica personalities that go deeper than their archetypes. By the end of the episode, Betty and Veronica feel like the two most honest characters on Riverdale. Their established archetypes no longer seem fitting or fair. Instead, they're a reminder of how women — especially young women exploring romance and their sexuality for the first time — are often put in tight boxes. Cheryl wants Veronica to be the vixen who steals Archie. Betty's mom wants her daughter to be a sweet, well-behaved teen. Betty and Veronica just want to get through high school with minimal heartbreak.
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