‘Riverdale’ is the dark and sexy television reboot of the 1940’s Archie Comics universe that disappointed LGBTQ+ viewers everywhere just as quickly as it reeled them in. The show is infamous for its queerbaiting of characters Betty Cooper and Veronica Lodge, erasure of comic book favorite Jughead Jones’ aromanticism and asexuality, and a plentiful amount of problematic cast members. Along with sidelining its once promising characters of color and misrepresenting mental illness, in only one season, ‘Riverdale’ has pretty much become a train wreck.
But regardless of its countless flaws, the mystery and physically attractive cast have managed to pull the show to renewal. The second season was teased at San Diego Comic Con (SDCC) with many new characters and aspects, to get us to keep watching of course. One of the promises made was officially introducing a bisexual woman of color – Toni Topaz, played by Vanessa Morgan (‘My Babysitter’s A Vampire’, ‘Shannara Chronicles’).
Lots of teens in ‘Riverdale’, including main character Veronica Lodge, were speculated to be bisexual, but nothing was confirmed. The closest we got to good LGBTQ+ rep was Kevin Keller, who ended up alternating between a personification of the “gay best friend” trope one episode and a plot device in the next. A confirmed bisexual character is a first in the show’s history.
Fans were initially ecstatic to hear that Toni Topaz would be coming to their screens but quickly became suspicious — because if there’s one thing that ‘Riverdale’ and The CW does expertly well, it’s screwing up LGBTQ+ representation.
And guess what? They’re already doing it.
The weekend of SDCC, Toni was announced by executive producer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa as being trouble for the show’s most popular relationship, Bughead (Betty and Jughead).
Bughead is pretty strong, and pretty undeniable, and pretty epic, but you know even the most epic of romances has trouble — and trouble often comes as a third party. So yes, it is conceivable that Toni will potentially test the limits of Bughead.”
– Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, ‘Riverdale’ Executive Producer
Introducing a groundbreaking bisexual character only to have her be an obstacle and potential reason for separation of a heterosexual couple isn’t a good move for a show that’s already on thin ice. This gives immense fuel to the common TV trope and real world assumption that all bisexual people are home wreckers. It also gives more fuel to the hatred that the LGBTQ+ community has for this show. Way to go, ‘Riverdale’ writers!
Now, it’s unknown how much damage Toni Topaz will actually cause for Betty and Jughead’s relationship. Maybe, instead of a shipper’s worst fear like breaking them apart, she will flirt with Betty or Jughead once and leave them alone. However, the point is not that she’s going to cause trouble but that the show’s first ever bisexual character is being discussed as nothing more than someone who negatively stirs up the Bughead pot. Where are the season teases of her impact on the Southside Serpents plotline? If she’s a female version of Jughead like said at SDCC, will she be there to help him cross the bridge into the gang world? It wouldn’t be surprising if ‘Riverdale’ is bringing in a bisexual character for the sole purpose of currying favor with its diminishing LGBTQ+ fanbase. But not doing it right only has the series digging its own grave.
so when people get tired of their queerbaiting they add an assuredly minor bi character to keep the queer viewers. cute https://t.co/kbSqQzdVYx
— veronica sawyer (@deadgrIwaIkng) July 22, 2017
Another season two thought that the ‘Riverdale’ crew has been instilling in the minds of hopeful women-loving-women is the potential relationship between Toni Topaz and queen bee Cheryl Blossom. Their respective actresses Vanessa Morgan and Madelaine Petsch are long time best friends and have been subtly teasing a possible on-screen romance, making social media interactions with fans who ship the characters that are still yet to meet.
— Madelaine Petsch (@madelainepetsch) July 24, 2017
Madelaine Petsch has voiced on numerous occasions that she would love to have Cheryl be bi and has confirmed that in season two she gets an unexpected love interest.
I believe [Cheryl’s love interest] is someone new, and it’s somebody you wouldn’t expect. It’s not the typical thing you would expect for a young girl. That’s all I’m gonna say.”
– Madelaine Petsch, x
These bread crumbs the actresses have left just a few days ago are already getting vigilant fans excited.
Can Toni be Cheryl's unexpected love interest instead of causing trouble for bughead please
— Maggs ♛ (@jugsangel) July 24, 2017
— Eleanor (@demosey_e) August 8, 2017
i think i'm the only one excited to see cheryl and toni as girlfriends
— Elyse (@jarchiedaIe) August 7, 2017
Then again, it could just be the cast getting us excited for no LGBTQ+ content at all and just exploiting us for views — the very definition of queerbaiting.
I’m not saying ‘Riverdale’ is going to misrepresent Toni Topaz through stereotypes and queerbaiting LGBTQ+ viewers with a relationship that will never happen, but with the way the show has been going in the past, I wouldn’t be surprised if they did.