What Riverdale finally gets right about female characters

Teen soaps on the CW have often included women who fight and compete against each other. Since the CW became the go-to network for teen dramas, its most popular shows always portrayed girls as frenemies, such as on The O.C., Gossip Girl, and even the CW’s newest show, Dynasty. For years, cat-fights were considered a huge viewer grab, almost as if no one wanted to watch a show where girls actually support each other, or at the very least, don’t cause trouble for one another. But that overused trope has ended with CW’s biggest hit, Riverdale.

Two leading ladies are common on CW dramas, but the network has never seen female characters quite like Riverdale’s leads: Betty and Veronica. The characters of Betty and Veronica span decades—over 75 years to be exact. And at their very core, Betty and Veronica served one main purpose: to fight over a boy. Yes, the Archie/Betty/Veronica love triangle has lasted almost a century at this point. But thankfully, as Riverdale creates a new universe for these characters to live in, it creates one where Betty and Veronica are more than just frenemies. They truly are best friends who support each other no matter what. The first episode of the series referenced this historic feud between the two girls, but quickly put it to rest to focus on the powerhouse that B and V become when they work together. The show is well into its second season, and the feud over Archie hasn’t been addressed since episode one. In this show, a silly feud over a boy is pointless and nonexistent. In the 21st century, Betty and Veronica are much more dimensional, and have way more to focus on than boys. They are passionate about their careers, their families, (and not to mention a murderer that is on the loose). But none the less, the evolution of these characters shouldn’t be overlooked. The Betty and Veronica friendship truly is the first of its kind for the CW, and fans, rightfully, are loving it.

With all the support Betty and Veronica lend each other, they spread that same attitude to the women in Riverdale around them. Case in point: Cheryl Blossom. Cheryl prides herself on being fierce, and sometimes catty if need be. When it comes to the Riverdale Vixens, confrontations between Cheryl and the girls do happen. But the second Cheryl is in trouble, the girls rush to her side. When Cheryl was mourning the death of her brother, Veronica was there every step of the way, encouraging her to go on. Season 2 saw the same support for Cheryl. When she was drugged and assaulted by Nick St. Claire, her gal-pals came to her rescue. Veronica, Josie, and the Pussycats dropped everything when they realized Cheryl was in danger. Upon finding her, they pummeled Nick St. Clair before he could hurt Cheryl. When Cheryl awoke and realized what had happened to her, the Riverdale girls were by her side. Cheryl Blossom doesn’t need saving, but when she needs help from her girls, they are there every time.

Even secondary female characters on the show are developed. Fans of the show will remember in episode 3 when Veronica went public with the appalling slut-shaming that was taking over Northside High. But Veronica didn’t think of herself as a victim—she took her situation and used it to help others. She used her experiences to teach women that they are to be believed, and they have the support of the girls around them. One particular character Veronica made an impact on was Ethel Muggs. Ethel was a victim of slut-shaming and kept to herself as a result. Veronica encouraged her to be honest about what she went through, and not to let it affect who she is. Later in the season, Veronica goes to support Ethel when her father is sick. But soon finds out that it was her own dad that caused such pain to Ethel’s family. Instead of turning her back on her morals, Veronica makes a vow to do what she knows is right, regardless of what her family does. In that moment of realization, Veronica breaks free from her family’s reputation, and begins to live her life on her own terms—not as a Lodge, but as Veronica.

Riverdale has taken characters who were created to be pitted against each other, and turned them into best friends. It took life altering situations that women go through every day, and started a conversation about them. It portrayed everyday teenage girls as strong and willing to fight for what is right rather than complaining or getting their boyfriends to solve the problem. And it accomplished this in a way that other shows should take note of. Riverdale’s approach to feminism and female empowerment isn’t just writing women that are strong, but women that are real.