Skedline takes on Riverdale: Can millennials relate?
EntertainmentSpecials Apr 4, 2017 Fallon Hewitt
By Alyssa Croezen, Fallon Hewitt, Rob Lowrey and Danila Neves.
As both critics and viewers of major TV shows and movies, it’s easy to spot the inaccurate representation of young people. Often times, misconstrued to a point where the character they’re attempting to portray is completely different from the character in real life. Through classic stereotypes, mainstream TV and movies are guilty of doing this. However, for the first time in what seems to be a while, there’s an accurate representation of young people.
Riverdale, the hit CW Network show, has grabbed the hearts of young people across the world. Based off of the original Archie characters, Riverdale is a dark twist on the classic comics. It takes on issues that the millennial generation can relate to.
After conducting a survey with 75 respondents, 74 per cent of participants were between the ages of 18 and 24. Out of those responses, 27 per cent said that they related most with Jughead – making him the most relatable character.
When asked why in the survey, one responder said: “I too rely on sardonic and morbid humor to relate to things. I also grew up in a home situation similar to Jughead. I am also asexual and I hope the Bughead [Betty and Jughead’s relationship] situation is just a character development stage for Jughead to learn more about himself.”
However, not all viewers believe Riverdale is relatable. Myles McNutt, a TV critic for Culture Learnings, says that relatability amongst television shows doesn’t exist.
“I don’t believe that relatability represents a meaningful metric for analyzing the effectiveness of this or any other television show. Relatable to whom? In what way?”
Though when asked about if there is a relatable character, McNutt agrees that Jughead would be it.
“Riverdale’s most effective storyline is Jughead’s homelessness, if only because it’s the one situation anchored in a situation that feels grounded,” said McNutt, “I don’t care whether or not Archie can be both a musician and an athlete, and Veronica and Betty are caught up in wacky family situations. It’s really Jughead’s story that—despite the gang element—resonates as a legitimate human struggle.”
Graham Wright, the co-creator of the Toronto-based podcast, Stay Outta Riverdale, says that, as a 30-year-old man, there shouldn’t be a need to relate the show to his age. “I’m in this Facebook group that has 150 adults who are all talking about this show and it’s really fun but sometimes it’s like, this isn’t what the show is for,” says Wright. “The show wasn’t designed to stand up to critical scrutiny of woke 30-year-olds, it’s not it’s job.”
At the same time, Wright recognizes that people find it hard to separate their own experience from the media they consume.
“You always think that it’s for you. They made it for you and it is presided over solely with you in mind,” says Wright, “That’s how everyone is going to consume media at the end of the day but I’ve got to assume that that’s not their primary objective when they are putting the show together.”
As far as what hasn’t been discussed on the show, the survey responses say that there’s a few topics that need to be touched on.
One participant said: “They don’t really focus on the issues that arise with schooling, and how difficult it can be to keep up while you’re dealing with so many outside issues.”
Respondents believe that mental illness is prevalent in the day-to-day lives of millennials – but has yet to be a central theme on the show. “There have yet to be storylines realistically depicting mental health, except for Polly being put in an insane asylum. Nothing about everyday depression or anxiety issues.”
Perhaps moving forward, the show will go in a direction that relates to millennials in ways it hasn’t done yet.
For more on the show’s characters, relationships and themes, listen to our three-part, in-depth podcast about Riverdale and millennials below.