The Internet Has Feelings About Betty's Riverdale Striptease & Mostly It's "Girl, Why?"

Photo: Courtesy of the CW
We met the dark side of Lili Reinhart's Riverdale character Betty when she nearly boiled Chuck Clayton (Jordan Calloway) in a hot tub, but Wednesday's Riverdale episode "House of the Devil" introduced us to...Burlesque Betty?
At a party for the just-released F.P. (Skeet Ulrich), Ms. Cooper took to the stage of the Whyte Wyrm to perform a very steamy striptease to Gary Jules' cover of "Mad World," in order to be initiated into the Southside Serpents. Unfortunately, Betty's boyfriend Jughead (Cole Sprouse) wasn't here for the vampy performance — and neither were many uncomfortable Riverdale fans.
There's no question that Reinhart is an excellent singer (you can watch some of her videos, including this cover of Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game," on YouTube). However, it wasn't her voice that made some fans on Twitter cringe. For one thing, while Reinhart is 21 years old, Betty is only about 16 — a whole lot younger than the middle-aged crowd who attended F.P.'s so-called "retirement" party. It didn't help that Alice Cooper (Mädchen Amick) was also in the crowd, having attended the event as Betty's guest.
Here were some of the reactions to the scene from Twitter:
"Still not over the fact that a underage girl literally [stripped] on stage."
"Disgusted. The legalities. I love FP whole heartedly but when I realised that he was the one that started the applause, I felt a bit ill."
"I love the song so much but this scene made me feel like so uncomfortable I can't get over it."
"Who thought that that scene was a good idea, she is SIXTEEN."
"This was such an awkward, unnecessary scene. Exploitative much?"
It's worth noting that the reaction from fans to this Riverdale scene is a lot different from how people reacted to another, very similar scene that was also on The CW. During Gossip Girl's first season, Blair Waldorf (Leighton Meester), just shy of 17 at that point in the series, performed a similar striptease at a nightclub.
What's the difference between these two moments? For one thing, I think the audience was supposed to feel uncomfortable with Betty's performance. Betty gets on stage because she feels that she has to in order to ultimately protect her boyfriend, whereas Blair did it because she was feeling sexy and powerful. Earlier in the episode, Toni Topaz (Vanessa Morgan) even calls out the Serpent tradition as sexist and misogynistic. It's quite possible that this scene was not supposed to be titillating at all, but an example of how vulnerable a situation Betty was putting herself in at the time.
Still, in the moment, many Riverdale fans weren't here for Betty's teen stripper routine. Given the character's age, and the circumstances that led to this "Mad World" performance, it's hard to blame them for feeling uncomfortable.

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