In promos for Wednesday night’s Riverdale episode “Chapter 40: The Great Escape,” fans caught a glimpse of Joaquin (Rob Raco) and Archie (KJ Apa) sharing a smooch. Yet the kiss between these two Leopold & Loeb inmates made some Riverdale fans angry — and not because they were shipping Archie with Veronica (Camila Mendes), or even Joaquin with one-time boyfriend Kevin (Casey Cott). Instead, fans were concerned that Riverdale was queerbaiting fans — without giving enough service to the actual queer relationships that exist within the show.
Urban Dictionary defines queerbaiting as “when a television series, book or movie makes statements on there being LGBT representation for views, when… there is none or less than they hinted at.”
Riverdale does boast multiple characters within the LGBTQ+ community, like Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch) and Toni (Vanessa Morgan), who began dating in season 2. Unfortunately, while heterosexual-identifying characters like Archie and Veronica receive love scenes on almost a weekly basis (hardly ever in an actual bed, by the way), Cheryl and Toni are rarely shown hooking up.
That's part of what makes fans annoyed by the same-sex kiss with Archie and Joaquin: It's an example of faux LGBTQ+ representation, when real representation is possible but often lacking. Essentially: Is it enough to call two characters queer if we never see them being intimate?
Fans were right about the promo not suggesting a real romantic moment between Joaquin and Archie: In the episode, Joaquin kisses Archie as part of a Gryphons & Gargoyles task… and then stabs him.
Fans took to Twitter to express their annoyance, with some coming (pretty unfairly) for showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who is reportedly an openly gay man.
He keeps queerbaiting Choni shippers and we just have no patience left and are kind of done with him at this point. I’ve read abt many members of the lgbt community who watch Riverdale who feel seriously invalidated and insecure bc of the way he treats his lgbt characters— liset | exams (@loviingdemii) November 13, 2018
Ok Riverdale seems to have a real problem with queerbaiting and Roberto is acting like he doesn't even care, i'm pretty mad about him— 🎀 Chilling Adventures of Typhanie 🌈 (@VioletteDaidoji) November 14, 2018
Unfortunately, queerbaiting is something Riverdale has been accused of as early as its pilot episode, when Betty (Lili Reinhart) and Veronica kiss during their River Vixen auditions. The controversy exposes just how hungry people are to see true LGBTQ+ representation onscreen... and how disappointed fans can be when shows don't deliver as promised.
Yes, representation is growing (The CW as a whole boasts many queer characters, and is developing a series with Ruby Rose as a lesbian Batwoman) but it's frustrating when queerness is hinted at to entice, rather than to be explored in any real way.
This is not to say that Riverdale can't do better. Right now, Kevin and Moose (Cody Kearsley) are dating — let's see them hit the shower (as network-chaste as need be), pearls optional. Let's give Cheryl and Toni dates that include more than hand-holding and meaningful looks. If Bughead and Varchie get to have hot love scenes, the queer stars of Riverdale deserve exactly that.