Confessions of a Comic Book Guy is a weekly column by Steve Bennett of Super-Fly Comics and Games in Yellow Springs, Ohio. This week Bennett looks at a potentially controversial element that surfaced in recent Riverdale promotion.

Well, they released another trailer for Riverdale, the CW’s frisson revision of the Archie Comics characters, which included a scene of Betty and Veronica vigorously kissing (see “Sinister New ‘Riverdale’ Trailers”).  Maybe because I’m a latecomer to the Archie oeuvre, I was frankly unaware that there’s apparently “a ravenous base of Riverdale fans who are holding out hope for more than just a friendship between the blonde and brunette.”

I mean, I was aware it’s a popular internet pastime to get cheap laughs by taking supposedly innocent, random panels from old Archie Comics entirely out of context.  Just Google “out of context panels from Archie Comics” and see for yourself. Quite by accident, I myself came across the cover to Pep Digital #148 Betty and Veronica Wedded Bliss.  The advertising copy of the issue seemed to only confirm the new context; “Betty and Veronica are getting married?  Well, no, not yet, but they are thinking about it!”   But finding out there were those hardcore shipping “Beronica,” that came as a genuine surprise.

Not that I actually expected the show to actually “go there.” Riverdale may be all about pushing boundaries and exploding expectations, but there are limits.  A sixteen-year-old Archie having sex with his teacher, Miss Grundy, sure, and though LGBT representation is definitely important, having your female series leads either be gay or Bi is most likely still a bridge too far for most middle American audiences.  Or at least, that’s what television networks continue to believe.

No, it was entirely more likely that the kiss was just a cheap bit of fan-service to give the series a little extra heat.  Or as David Opie put it in his piece “Does This ‘Riverdale’ Trailer Prove That Betty & Veronica Are Gay Or Just Stereotypical Archie-Types?” that appeared on the Movie Pilot website, depict just a case of “the two friends...enjoying a bit of girl-on-girl action for the benefit of someone watching, including perhaps even Archie himself”.

This was just verified over on the Hollywood Life site in a piece titled “‘Riverdale’: Betty & Veronica’s Romance? Lili Reinhart Shuts Down ‘Fan Fiction’” where the actress playing Betty Cooper says it’s “a strict friendship.” She then went on to say:

“They’re soulmates in a friends’ way. Our show is not meant to be fan fiction. We give them a taste of it when they kiss, but that’s all it is,” she said. “People love Beronica and they want to see them together, but that’s just not our show.”

So, that’s that.  It’s just more than a little sad that the producers of the show felt they had to sink to the titillation of a fake lesbian kiss to promote their product when real ones are still uncommon on prime-time TV.  In Variety there’s a piece, “‘Riverdale’ Producers Talk Wild Archie Pitches, Archie Musical, Miss Grundy,” where the show’s executive producer Greg Berlanti, while talking about Archie CCO Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, is quoted as saying, “Roberto loves these characters and I don’t think anyone’s being salacious to be salacious.”  They can spin the kiss any way they want, but for me, this is a perfect example of being salacious just to be salacious. 

Given the boundaries pushed and expectations exploded, it’s a little surprising that so far there hasn’t been any notable protest against Riverdale.  The only thing I could find that came even close was in a piece from the Deadline website, “‘Riverdale Hoping For ‘Backlash’ As Latest Offering In Small-Town-Gone-Weird TV Trend - TCA.”  In it, one unnamed TV critic attending the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour warned there might be some kind of unspecified “backlash.”  To which Archie Comics CEO Jon Goldwater replied, “That backlash was all good.”

Meaning, I suppose, that while there may be some people who are made a little queasy by the idea of a Teen Twin Peaks, Archie and Company (what’s next, a remake of the movie Cape Fear starring the gang from Scooby Doo?), most people are perfectly OK with the premise.  Just so there isn’t any confusion for the record, I have nothing against Riverdale, it’s just that having reached a certain age, I happily have no interest in sweaty teen sex and murder fests.   But I’m sure Riverdale will do just fine ratings wise, especially considering it’s on The CW, the low expectations network*.

It’s the same way I don’t have a problem with Archie promoting the shows with ads on the covers of their older-skewing comics; that’s a perfect bit of synergy.  But they really don’t belong on the covers of the digests.  They just don’t.

*The CW just made the unconventional move of giving mid-season renewals to eight of their shows; Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, Supernatural, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Jane the Virgin. And Crazy Ex-Girlfriend was literally the lowest rated show on network television, making it official; I have no idea how television works anymore.  Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is also the only show that I watch on The CW, which probably helps explain its low ratings.

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.