I will be doing a critical media analysis on the Netflix series, Riverdale (based off of the classic comic, Archie). This analysis of the series, will be through the critical lenses of class and normative representation of schools. The story line for Riverdale revolves around a group of adolescents; Archie, Betty, Veronica, and Jughead trying to figure out adulthood in a small town.
Riverdale’s genre is that of a dark and mysterious vibe whereas the Archie comics are more of a fun read. The characters names remain the same, however, a notable difference is the family dynamics. In the Netflix series, Veronica and Cheryl is seen as the high class/high culture, wealthy family. These two characters come from a family that own successful businesses and participates in fine arts (Norton, 2017). Archie and Betty’s family is in the middle class, where their family does construction or are reporters. Jughead is portrayed as the lower class/ low culture family, as he struggles to find a place to live and father is the gang leader of South Side Serpents (Norton, 2017). Each family struggles with divorce, or a spouse that is no longer in the picture. In contrast, in the comics, all the families are still together. The change in representation for Riverdale’s family dynamics could be for it to be more relatable for the viewers; allowing many different family relationships and socioeconomics to be represented. This may be intentional for directors to capture the interest of the viewers, for them to empathize with the characters. Stack& Kelley (2006), states that television is the ways we imagine ourselves to be connected to the social world (pg.6). When Betty (middle class) get into a relationship with Jughead (lower class), the parents disapprove. However by the couples choosing to stay together, it shows acts of resistance (Stack & Kelley, 2006). As Betty’s family associates the lower class as being less than themselves (power imbalances and inequality).
Looking at Riverdale through a normative representation of school lens, each characters embodies stereotypical social roles. The popular kids that are highest on the social ladder, are the athletes: Archie (football player) and Cheryl Blossom (cheerleader). Wood (1994) states that in media, the male character is always seen as an active, adventurous and in power. This is everything Archie embodies as a character. The character that excels in everything and active in participating in school events is Betty. The pretty girl with a strong personality is Veronica. The media often represent girls as thin and beautiful; characteristics that describe Veronica (Vonderen & Kinnally, 2012). Lastly, the quiet outcast, Jughead. These five characters alone represent social roles within schools and across different media. An interesting character in Riverdale is Ms.Grundy, as her character in the series strayed the furthest from the comics. In Riverdale, Ms. Grundy is a young and pretty teacher that has an inappropriate relationship with Archie. Wood (1994), states that women in media are often seen as sex objects, thin and incompetent to make the right decisions. This accurately describes Ms. Grundy’s character. The intention of the change can be to bring awareness to the viewers that unfortunately, these inappropriate student teacher relationships has happened before in society. Therefore, Riverdale addresses life issues that occur within the society. In Stack & Kelley’s (2006) article, they state that media “has an influence on how we come to know the world” (pg.9) and that people learn through what they see in the media, and modify their own behaviour accordingly (Vonderen & Kinnally 2012).
Norton, W. W. (n.d.). Popular culture, mass media, and society. Mix It Up, 134-151. Retrieved October 21, 2017, from file:///C:/Users/SohGa/Downloads/Grazian-rules-of-the-game.pdf
Stack, M., & Kelley, D.M. (2006). Popular media, education, and resistance. Canadian Journal of Education, 29(1), 5-26.
Van Vonderen, K. E., & Kinnally, W. (2012). Media Effects on Body Image: Examining Media Exposure in the Broader Context of Internal and Other Social Factors. American Communication Journal, 14(2), 41-57. Retrieved October 22, 2017, from http://ac-journal.org/journal/pubs/2012/SPRING%202012/McKinnally3.pdf
Woods, J. T. (1994). Gendered Media: The Influence of Media on Views of Gender. 31-39. Retrieved October 22, 2017, from https://www.nyu.edu/classes/jackson/causes.of.gender.inequality/Readings/Wood%20-%20Gendered%20Media%20-%2094.pdf.