No One Is Happy About The Cheryl Conversion Therapy Plotline On Riverdale

Photo: Courtesy of The CW Network
A new Riverdale plot line isn't sitting well with fans of the CW series.
If there's one Riverdale character who has suffered more than any other, it's Madelaine Petsch's Cheryl Blossom. The cheerleader — a cross between Mean Girls' Regina George and Jessica Chastain's character in Crimson Peak — has dealt with a lifetime worth of trauma in just two seasons of the CW show. In season 1, she discovered that her beloved brother Jason (Trevor Stines) was murdered by her father Clifford (Barclay Hope). Following the revelation, Cheryl attempted to end her own life in Sweetwater River. In season 2, Cheryl was drugged and nearly sexually assaulted by Nick St. Clair.
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Now, after finally coming out as bisexual and starting a tentative romance with Toni Topaz (Vanessa Morgan), Cheryl's evil mother Penelope (Nathalie Boltt) has decided that poor Cheryl should suffer more. At the end of "Chapter 29: Primary Colors," Penelope sends Cheryl off to the Sisters of Quiet Mercy for horrifying gay conversion therapy.
There's no question that gay conversion therapy is cruel, damaging, and, obviously, completely and utterly ineffective — you can't change someone's sexuality, no matter how much physical and emotional pain you put them through. Sadly, this therapy still exists, despite many state efforts to ban the dangerous practice.
Of course, just because this vile, damaging "therapy" — and other forms of discrimination and violence against the LGBTQ+ community — exists, does not mean that Riverdale needed to do a plot about it. Many fans are wondering what the series hoped to say with this Cheryl storyline. While there are members of the LGBTQ + community on Riverdale who have come out to their parents without such troubling results (Kevin's dad has never had any issue with Kevin's sexuality, for example) it's a bit disturbing that Cheryl finally finding a potential girlfriend was met with such swift cruelty.
It's simply not the bisexual representation that many fans were hoping for — and it's definitely not okay with people who were hoping that Cheryl would find some light in her very dark life.
We won't know how Riverdale handles this storyline until next week — so far, the only thing we've seen is Cheryl in her room at the Sisters of Quiet Mercy, about to receive an injection. But seeing Cheryl — a bisexual teenager whose story arc on the series has been about finding love —trapped like an animal in a cage because she dared speak her truth doesn't sit particularly well with me. In 2018, shouldn't we craft storylines for people coming out that are at least a little more hopeful?
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It's hard not to compare this plot point to Love, Simon, a film directed by Riverdale executive producer Greg Berlanti, and one that encouraged Cheryl to reveal her sexuality to Toni in the first place. That movie showed the challenges of coming out without making a non-straight orientation look like a prison sentence. Obviously, the world of Riverdale is a bit more heightened than the one in Love, Simon, but given that the CW series let Betty (Lili Reinhart) dabble in webcam roleplaying and Penelope herself become the town's courtesan, you'd think that Cheryl and Toni could kiss without Cheryl getting sent to the American Horror Story version of a nunnery.
Riverdale clearly means well — they want to show that gay conversion therapy is a horrible thing no one should experience. But does Cheryl have to go through it for the audience to understand that? I'm not sure she does. As much as I'm looking forward to Toni's rescue attempt — which I hope will solidify the Choni ship once and for all — I really just want nice things for the queer teens of Riverdale moving forward. Is that so much to ask?

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