There are two new shows out there right now that tweens and teens simply can't stop talking about: 13 Reasons Why, which offers a unique perspective on teen bullying and suicide, and Riverdale, which is . . . well, it's a modern adaptation of the Archie comics. And while the latter might sound entirely innocent, there are definitely some things to be aware of if your kid is obsessed with the CW show (or begging to watch it).
The show is like an interesting mix between Twin Peaks and Gossip Girl, and comes with all the dramatics and dialogue that you'd expect from a high school drama on Thursday-night TV. Parent reviewers on Common Sense Media agree that the show is ideal for kids aged 13 and up, and there's a decent chance that you'll become as addicted to the series as your teenager! But before taking the plunge into this roller coaster of a show, there are a few things to know about its content. Read on for what to expect from Riverdale — and the conversations it may inspire — before you press play.
- It represents a wide array of social issues, including "slut shaming," bullying, gang dynamics, teen homelessness, and illicit romantic relationships . . . and not always with satisfactory conclusions. For example, the teenage protagonist carries on an illegal romantic relationship with a teacher at his high school, and there are no real consequences for this behavior that come to fruition. However, other social issue plot lines are resolved well and can even be empowering; the "slut shaming" storyline clearly emphasizes the need for women to support one another, especially when they're faced with men who don't respect them. In any number of these social issue plots, there are easy opportunities to open dialogue with your tweens and teens about what's playing out on screen.
- There are a few mildly disturbing images, mainly a cartoonish dead body. If your tween or teen is exceptionally squeamish, keep this in mind!
- Riverdale touches on mental health topics in a way that you may want to explore in more depth with your child. When one character enters a fugue state in the face of an emotionally traumatic trigger and when it's revealed that she takes medication for her mental health, you may feel the need to expand on the topic in conversation with your kids. There is also a suicide attempt mentioned in the show.
- It also includes several less-than-stellar representations of marriage and parenting. Among these, you'll find adultery, crumbling marriages, and borderline abusive confrontations between spouses on the marriage end, and manipulative or neglectful moms and dads on the parenting side. However, this is an excellent opportunity to be frank with your kids about the struggles parents face and discuss what makes for a healthy, lasting relationship. Plus, negative representations aren't all that exist in the show; there are several parents who are clearly making an effort and supporting their kids the best they can, despite all of the melodramatic chaos of their small town's happenings.
- It breaches the topics of abortion and teen pregnancy. The possible termination of a teenager's unplanned pregnancy is a major point of discussion in later episodes of season one.
- The show offers an encouraging perspective on female friendships and forgiveness for teen girls. Unlike many iterations of the classic comic digests, the relationship between Betty and Veronica is a close one; rather than catty bickering over boys, the best friends make a pledge never to let their love interests come between their friendship. This girl-power theme is repeated over and over again in the show, and presents lasting female friendships as preferable to flirting and flings . . . which can't be said for many of the teen-interest shows on TV right now.
- Riverdale relies on (and reinforces) some overused teen character tropes, but so did the old-school Archie comics. The snobby rich cheerleader, pompous jock, flamboyant gay best friend, and more classic teen stereotypes make an appearance in the show. It's cheesy in many ways, and melodramatic to a near-comical degree, but it's refreshing in others; if you decide to watch with your kids, you'll either hate it or become completely hooked!