Americana is a term that means to summarize American culture through heritage and history. In regards to comics, nothing stands as stronger representation of americana than the series of Archie Comics.
Archie Comics and the spinoffs hold up today as a shining beacon of wholesome, light-hearted stories about a group of teenage friends dealing with typical problems. The gang stayed friends through it all, and any issue was able to be solved in the few panels of each story. Each comic had a few different stories, all revolving around various characters who lived in the fictional town of Riverdale- or occasionally Greendale, if it was a Sabrina the Teenage Witch comic.
Archie Andrews, Betty Cooper, Jughead Jones, and Veronica Lodge led each story. Archie and the female leads were caught in a love triangle, whereas Jughead was Archie’s best pal and really only had eyes for food (hamburgers, specifically).
In 2017, The CW adapted the comics to begin the series Riverdale… and Riverdale is the exact opposite of everything that Archie Comics stood for.
Archie is now an angsty teenager with a weird justice complex. Betty is a dollar-store dominatrix. Jughead is a social outcast (because he likes things like movies, how absurd of him). Veronica is still rich.
Not one character is likeable. No one has good fun anymore, they’re too busy solving murder cases or smuggling firearms.
Here’s an example of some stories from Archie Comics vs. Riverdale:
- Archie gets Betty and Veronica to help him study
- Veronica’s dad invents a super-fast sled for Archie
- Jughead writes a cookbook, because he loves food so much
- Archie buys a gun to track down a man who shot his father
- Jughead joins a biker gang
- A drug called Jingle-Jangle spreads its’ way through the city
Is the difference obvious?
The television adaptation takes nothing but the names of the characters and tries to sell nostalgia at a profit. It’s no surprise the show runner, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, doesn’t understand the characters though- in 2003, he had planned to debut a play he wrote titled Archie’s Weird Fantasy. In the story, Archie came out as gay and moved to New York City. He was sent a cease-and-desist the day before his production opened.
Riverdale is bad fan fiction based on Archie Comics. Why wouldn’t it be, with a developer who was only ever interested in changing the character’s fundamental personalities?
The wide-eyed wholesome innocence that made the original stories so endearing was thrown out the window, in favor of the sweeping bitterness that seem to dominate the scene now.
Maybe that’s just what audiences want. Am I the one who’s wrong? Would a show about a group of friends who just have wacky outings and date each other really work? Are there friends like that?
This show never had any interest in preserving what made the Archie characters great. Archie Comics was a shining light of escapism in classic American culture, and the dark hues and unnecessarily grim plots of Riverdale can’t compare.
Archie Comics, Riverdale, and the Death of Americana.
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