Welcome to Role Call, where we call up TV’s leading ladies to talk about their most vital, memorable, and feminist episodes.
In Wednesday night’s Riverdale, “House Of The Devil,” the teen soap took something we’re all very used to — yet another duet between sometimes-lovers Archie Andrews (K.J. Apa) and Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes) — and turned it into an iconic season 2 scene. It’s the moment Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart) strips down to a surprise set of black lingerie to snake herself around a stripper pole and serpent dance to Gary Jules’ “Mad World,” all in the name of love. And, her usually-straight-laced mom Alice Cooper is in the audience, also uncharacteristically wearing her “bad girl” best, as the character's portrayer Mädchen Amick described the ensemble to Refinery29. Altogether, the scene is Riverdale at its most Riverdale, as it likely had fans both applauding the Cooper women as they embraced the sexier sides of themselves they usually suppress and asking, “What in the ‘Devil’ is going on?” So, let’s figure out the answer to that question.
On the surface, it’s pretty easy to understand what the “serpent dance,” as slurring Whyte Wyrm patron Byrdie (Jenn Griffin) calls it, is: an extremely misogynistic tradition. Prior to all the black lace dancing in “House Of The Devil,” Betty explains to Toni Topaz (Vanessa Morgan), she would like to a part of boyfriend Jughead Jones’ world. Since Jughead (Cole Sprouse) is a Serpent, Byrdie says Betty needs to hop on the bar’s pole and perform — it’s the only way women can be accepted by the biker gang. This is apparently a rule as old as time, and likely the ladies' version of the violent initiation gauntlet Jughead stumbled his way through in “The Town That Dreaded Sundown.” Although Toni tried to abolish the sexist dance requirement, it still stands.
While that’s the simplest way to understand Betty’s big moment, there’s something a little more subtle going on. Really, we’re watching Betty start down the same road as her mom Alice, who was a full-fledged Serpent as a teen. As we see this transformation occur, Alice witnesses it too. “The apple doesn’t fall so far from the tree,” Alice’s alter-ego Amick said of the mother-daughter duo. In fact, the actress pointed out, “I think a lot of people have brought up, ‘Are they the original Bughead?’” The “they” in this situation is of course Alice and her first high school boyfriend F.P. Jones (Skeet Ulrich), Jughead’s father and a fellow Serpent.
This hanging question explains why Alice, usually the most judgemental person in a room, didn’t have a meltdown over her daughter’s sexy dance, or throw a puffer jacket on the teenager. “Alice saw Betty going down the same path she went down and it was more of a choice of understanding where she went and why,” Amick explained. “What [Betty's] reasoning was and her intent behind that.”
If Alice can appreciate Betty’s reasoning for performing in front of a pack of serpents, does that mean the typically “uppity” mom also did the serpent dance back in the day? “Yes. I think that’s why she’s probably so sensitive to it,” Amick admitted.
Alice would take the approach that … [the Serpents] need to change the dynamic of male dominance and women kind of having to prove their worth, prove their place.
The actress even figured out which strikingly perfect song Alice probably did her own pole dance to. “In my opinion, she probably would have broken out a good Vanity 6 or Prince song. Maybe like ‘Nasty Girl,’” Amick said, name-checking the classic Vanity 6 track. “‘Do you think I’m a nasty girl?’ She probably got two other girls [to join her] so they could play out the full routine.” This is obviously the flashback episode we all deserve.
Notably, both “Mad World” and “Nasty Girl” are cinematic favorites. The former hails from Donnie Darko, while the latter is a key part of a strip club-set Beverly Hills Cop scene.
All of these Cooper women parallels actually hint towards good news for Betty and Jughead, who seem to break up at the end of “House Of The Devil.” Yet, if they truly are Alice And F.P. 2.0, as even Amick acknowledges as a possiblility, these crazy kids probably aren’t done with each other yet. Just look at what’s going on with their parents, decades after their actual breakup and subsequent family-creating marriages.
While Alice claims she headed to the Wyrm to “chaperone” Betty, Amick agreed that’s not all that’s going on. “I think [her reasoning] was closer to supporting F.P.,” the Twin Peaks alum theorized. “I think she used it as an excuse that she should go and she should watch out for Betty… [But] I think it was also an excuse to be around F.P. and try to figure out, ‘What is he up to? Has he changed?’ That’s a very complicated relationship.” This speculation makes a lot of sense, since this is the episode where we see Alice asking her ex about “sexual frustration” and F.P. not-so-accidentally yelling at his former flame to “leave” her husband Hal Cooper (Lachlan Munro)... at home, that is.
It sounds as though things will only intensify for the Falice ship, as Amick said, “It’s an interesting tipping point for Alice with F.P. getting out of jail. I think she’s being hit with a lot of history and deep-seated feelings and this is just the [start of] an arc for Alice this season.” If Alice and F.P. are wrestling with “deep-seated feelings” at least 20 years after their split, it’s safe to assume Bughead won’t be able to quit each other about 30 seconds after their own, no matter how much Jughead swears this one will stick.
And, if all else fails, Bughead lovers, complain on Twitter as loudly as you can. As Amick said, “Keep those theories coming, because actually, the fans should know a lot of their ideas, theories, and ships — the writers listen.”
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