Riverdale finally gave its LGBTQ+ characters screen time but it can still do better
7 February 2019, 19:01 | Updated: 7 February 2019, 19:24
'Bizzarodale' hints at what Riverdale should have been doing all along...
Riverdale is one of, if not, the biggest teen drama in the entire world right now. Ever since it first aired on the CW in 2017, the hit show has captivated huge audiences internationally. From its brilliant cast (seriously what an ensemble!) to its completely wild plot lines (we will never be over the floating babies!!), there's no series like Riverdale. We can't remember what life was like before it and we wouldn't have it any other way.
One of the things which makes Riverdale so great though is its LGBTQ+ characters. Riverdale wouldn't be the same without Toni, Cheryl, Kevin, Moose and the rest of its queer leads. However, in spite of this, Riverdale has been heavily criticised for not giving its queer characters enough screen-time. Thankfully, that all changed in this week's iconic episode (Feb 6th): 'Bizzarodale'.
Why was 'Bizzarodale' so groundbreaking for Riverdale?
After almost ignoring its LGBTQ+ characters all season long, 'Bizzarodale' finally put Cheryl, Toni, Kevin and Moose front and centre. First thing first, Kevin asked Moose to go as his date to Tom and Sierra's wedding. However, Moose declined out of fear of coming out to his Dad. The moving scene acted as an important reminder that coming out is different for everyone. Well done, Riverdale.
Cheryl and Toni then faced some school drama. They both got their SAT scores but Cheryl found out that she was unlikely to get into her dream school, her mother's alma mater, Highsmith College. This is because the school introduced a new policy in favour of students outside the alumni pool. Good in theory but, as it turns out, Penelope initiated the policy out of homophobia to spite Cheryl. I can't with her.
Then, in a bid to help Kevin, Cheryl essentially outed Moose via intercom to Riverdale High. Toni berated Cheryl for being so insensitive and reminded her that she was rejected by her own uncle after coming out. Kevin then told Moose that he could not keep dating someone in the closet and that Moose would need to come out if they were going to stay together. Harsh but fair.
In response, Moose then came out to his Dad, who seemingly took it well, and he and Kevin had sex in the infamous bunker to celebrate. They were then kidnapped by the Gargoyle King. However, Cheryl and the rest of our Riverdale heroes saved them. It turned out that Moose's dad was pretending to be the Gargoyle King to scare Koose. A true Riverdale moment.
It wasn't out of homophobia, though. As a teenager, Moose's dad actually was attracted to Kevin's dad Tom and was sent to The Sisters of Quiet Mercy because of it. He scared Kevin and Moose out of jealousy. A complex father figure but still trash. Moose eventually decided to move to Glendale to live with his aunt and finished things with Kevin. Our hearts.
Meanwhile, Cheryl and Toni put an end to the new Highsmith College policy by exposing Penelope's brothel shenanigans to the headmistress and Cheryl, confident in her chances of getting in, organised an interview for Toni. Oh, and Cheryl also formed a new girl gang for Toni who Toni named the Pretty Poisons. Yeah. That name is a mess.
Bar some odd character choices (why would Cheryl out someone when her own mother is homophobic?), the episode was a triumph. It demonstrated how talented Madeline Petsch, Vanessa Morgan, Casey Cott and Cody Kearsly all are while putting LGBTQ+ narratives front and centre in varying and interesting ways that are still rarely seen on TV today.
Instead of just one coming out narrative, Bizzarodale presented multiple ones. Not only that, but we also got to see four very different LGBTQ+ characters all thrive and be messy and complicated in ways that don't just revolve around sexuality. And that's not even getting into the long overdue character development that Josie and Reggie got. Icons.
The whole episode acted as a reminder that these characters should be at the forefront of Riverdale alongside Archie, Betty, Jughead and Veronica. Their stories shouldn't be rushed into one episode or neglected all season long, but interwoven into the very fabric of Riverdale. It's no wonder why fans have reacted so positively to the episode.
Representation matters. It helps normalise minorities and give them a voice and a platform. However, representation isn't just a case of having a diverse cast. Representation is centring those diverse cast members and giving them interesting character arcs. Bizzarodale did that. Here's hoping that it's not a one off.