I have a confession to make: I haven’t been a “Riverdale” fan for very long. I’m sad to say that I never read the Archie comics growing up, and my major investment in the Riverdale universe pre-CW adaptation was an extreme love for “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” and a sneaking suspicion that Betty and Veronica should almost definitely be the major romantic pairing in the series.
When the TV series debuted in January, though, my ignorance quickly turned to true love. With my newfound enthusiasm and rookie knowledge securely in place, I arrived at GeekGirlCon ‘17 convinced that the panel The Road to Riverdale: A Look at the Evolution of Archie and the Gang was going to be a joyful, geeky celebration of all things Riverdale, and it did not disappoint.
Source: Giphy. Description: Betty Cooper clasping her hands together and looking excited.
Moderated by Mary Gallacher, panelists Mia Gipson, Devi Sword, and Jeremy Huff explored not only their own hopes, ships, and disappointments surrounding the show itself, but delved into the history of the Archie comics as well.
They described how the characters of Archie and his friends have been staples of pop culture for 75 years, encompassing multiple comic and television spin-offs and becoming a sprawling and beloved franchise. After each of the panelists spoke about their own journey with the Archie comics, and their arrival at “Riverdale,” they explored the way that Archie characters have populated other films, television shows, and spin-off series, such as the Melissa Joan Hart “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” series and the “Josie and the Pussycats Movie.” In fact, all the major characters from the Riverdale universe have been given comic spin-offs of their own, leading to a rich and highly populated universe. As part of this background, the panelists highlighted a YouTube video from NerdSync called “The Bizarre Origin and History of Archie: From Comics to Riverdale Explained!” This video gives a fascinating glimpse of how such an iconic franchise has expanded and evolved over its long history.
After providing background to the series, the panelists were able to fully delve into their love for “Riverdale,” pointing of the show’s highlights, exploring concerns and critiques, and expressing their hopes for the series as it continues.
Though many aspects of the show were enthusiastically celebrated in the panel, a couple specifically stood out. One was the level of diversity in “Riverdale.” While the show has a long way to go to provide adequate representation for many identities, its portrayal of Veronica as a latinx character and the strength of the characters Josie, Valerie, and Melody are highlights that point to where the series could go in terms of greater representation in the future.
The panelists also agreed that the moment when Alice Cooper stands up to Hal over what has happened to Polly (only vague spoilers here!) felt absolutely triumphant, especially given the fact that so many parents on the show are problematic to say the least.
Concerns and Critiques
One common criticism of the show is that it diverges from the comics. The panelists, however, believe that while the show has put its own signature spin on the original stories and characters, it retains the spirit of the Archie universe, and, moreover, was never meant to feel exactly like the original. Part of what makes it so compelling, after all, is its darker tone and more mature themes, capturing the concerns of its teenage-and-beyond audience.
On the other hand, a critique that is merited is the major, deeply unfortunate change in the Ms. Grundy storyline. This problematic storyline proved controversial for fans and represented a huge overhaul – and, for many, a betrayal – of Ms. Grundy’s character. The panelists pointed out that they were at least satisfied that none of the characters treated the predatory relationship between Ms. Grundy and Archie as though it was okay or acceptable.
Source: Giphy. Description: The character Ms. Grundy looks up with a sad expression on her face as she plays the cello.
Another major controversy is the portrayal of Jughead’s sexuality. In the comics, Jughead’s sexuality has been portrayed in various ways, but as of 2016 his asexuality has been part of the canon. The show, however, has not identified Jughead as asexual, and his relationship with Betty has caused fan concern that this aspect of his identity won’t be addressed at all, leading to even further disappointment and a near-total lack of representation for the ace and aro community in TV and media. The panelists agree that the handling of Jughead’s sexuality has been disappointing, but notes that there may be cause to hope. After all, long-term the show could be providing representation of ace people who have relationships if Jughead is identified as asexual, or even that this characterization of Jughead could be demisexual rather than asexual.
Source: Giphy. Description: The characters Betty and Jughead kiss.
At the time of the panel, the second series was about to premiere in only 10 days, and the panelists were feverishly excited about what they were looking forward to seeing as the upcoming season, as well as hopes for the show’s future more broadly.
Among these hopes and expectations was more representation for Josie and the Pussycats, since Josie, Valerie, and Melody are often under-utilized characters, a more in-depth exploration of Moose’s sexuality, an appearance by Jughead’s little sister Jellybean, more screen time for Kevin, and a bigger glimpse at Riverdale’s Southside.
Apart from their hopes for the series itself, the panelists were all deeply excited about the upcoming adaptation of “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.” Though this new show means that the character of Sabrina most likely won’t be a regular in “Riverdale,” the panelists were hopeful that this series might provide representation for paganism or wicca.
After the bulk of the panel, the panelists opened up the discussion to the audience, welcoming a variety of questions from fellow enthusiastic “Riverdale” fans. One audience member spoke about the Ms. Grundy storyline and how it furthered the problematic trope of predatory student-teacher relationships in TV (such as the uncomfortable love story between Aria and her English teacher Ezra on “Pretty Little Liars.”) Another question revolved around what forms of diversity the panelists would love to see represented in “Riverdale,” especially representation of trans and nonbinary characters. Another audience member wondered hopefully if the CW might legitimize the love triangle between Archie, Betty, and Veronica as a polyamorous relationship. Lastly, the problem of queer-baiting in “Riverdale” was addressed, with an audience member hoping for more actual queer femme representation and a move away from this destructive trope, which has especially been present in the relationship between Betty and Veronica.
With the show about to wrap up its second season in January, and “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” on its way, this panel couldn’t have come at a better time and served as a fun-filled, hilarious, and thoughtful reminder of all the reasons that so many of us have fallen hard for “Riverdale,” whether we’ve read Archie comics our whole lives or – ahem – only began our infatuation a few months ago.
Source: Giphy. Description: The character Cheryl dancing in her cheerleading uniform.
Let me get the obvious out of the way first: I’m a fan of G. Willow Wilson’s work. Her storytelling finesse, and experiences as being at the intersection of several identities speaks to me. I recently saw her in conversation with KUOW’s Jamala Henderson as part of Humanities Washington’s speaker series, talking about identity, the comics industry, and of course, Ms. Marvel. Part of the flyer for the event introduced Willow (the G is silent) thusly: G. Willow Wilson lies at the epicenter of multiple fault lines of American identity.
Not going to lie, when I first read the description for Refill Your Hearts: Fandom Librarians Recommend Stories to Get You Through the Bad Times, I was a little skeptical. The panel was meant to be a group of fannish librarians providing personalized reading and viewing recommendations for the audience. According to the description, they would focus on uplifting fanfiction, online and self-published fiction, webcomics, tv shows, movies, and other media created by and centered on women; queer, trans-, and nonbinary people; people of color; neurodiverse people; and other marginalized groups. As someone who has read fanfiction for over sixteen years, I was specifically doubtful that the panelists would have read enough fanfiction in enough fandoms to make useful recommendations to the audience. I did love the idea that they might have a couple story suggestions that would fit my preferences, though, and I wanted to see how the panel would play out, so I gave it a try.
One of the hardest things about GeekGirlCon is that point on Sunday night when you realize that the con is coming to its inevitable conclusion. It’s such a bittersweet moment, but it’s also a good time to reflect on the cultural phenomenon that is GeekGirlCon.
I don’t know about you, but with just a little over a week to go until the Con, I’m currently in full strategic planning mode, obsessively highlighting my copy of the panel schedule and inevitably overscheduling myself in the hopes of catching all of the amazing panels we have lined up.
That moment when you realize you’ve scheduled yourself to see two (or three…or four…) panels at the same time
In the leadup to #GGC17, we’ve been highlighting the incredible panels you’ll have the opportunity to see, including ones centered around Social Justice, Diversity and Inclusivity, GGC After Dark, and Pop Culture! I couldn’t be more excited about each of those topics, but today I’m here to introduce you to a group of panels that are especially near and dear to my heart: the ones Focusing on Fandom. As geeks, we are basically Olympic medal-ers in fandom, so let me give you a sneak peek at some of the panels that will let you revel in the joy, excitement, and possibility of fandom.
Ever wondered which fandoms and tropes are most popular in fanfic? Are you curious how comments affect an author’s writing skills, or how fans navigate the sexual content in fanworks? Join a panel of fandom analysts, moderated by Ruby Davis, for By the Numbers: The World of Fandom Statistics. This group of amazing analysts will present their findings on these topics (and more!), showcase data visualizations, explain their methods, and answer questions.
A representation of my feelings after Sense8 was cancelled
I personally had a day of mourning when I heard that Netflix had cancelled Sense8, and am eagerly awaiting next year’s two-hour finale special, which will hopefully give us heartbroken fans some much-needed closure. Sense8 has become a global phenomenon, earning itself an extremely diverse and loyal fanbase in only two short seasons. The panel I Am Also a We – A Sense8 Panel, moderated by Meagan Malone, will discuss the show’s successes and shortcomings, with panelists sharing their hopes for the upcoming special.
Me, deep into a binge-watching session of “Sailor Moon”
This year is the 25th anniversary of Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, so it’s only fitting that the panel Humans of the Moon Kingdom: 25 Years of Sailor Moon, moderated by Misu Russell, will celebrate the impact that Naoko Takeuchi’s epic manga has had on countless fans around the world. Come discuss the ways you’ve been affected by a cute young girl in a Sailor Suit!
“I belong in the refrigerator. Because the truth is, I’m just food for a superhero. He’ll eat up my death and get the energy he needs to become a legend.”
–– The Refrigerator Chronicles, pg. 144
If you’re a woman, girl, or other gender-marginalized person who loves comics, you’ve probably heard of “fridging.” Also known as being “refrigerated,” or “women in refrigerators,” fridging is a term coined in 1999 by comic writer Gail Simone, after reading a Green Lantern comic in which Kyle Raynor comes home to find his girlfriend, Alexandra DeWitt, killed and stuffed into a refrigerator. Since then, the term has spawned a website cataloguing the many ways in which women in comics have so often been treated as disposable plot devices within the broader narratives of male protagonists. Too often the wives and girlfriends of comic heroes, as well as other women comic book characters, are abused, injured, disempowered, or killed in order to provide a catalyst for the heroic actions of their male counterparts.
Drawing on this trope’s long and complicated history––as well as the format and mission of the Eve Ensler-created Vagina Monologues––prolific author and comic book fan Cathrynne M. Valente’s most recent book, The Refrigerator Monologues, began with her own Gail Simone-like call to action. As she describes in an article for The Mary Sue, after Valente saw The Amazing Spider-Man 2, she left the theater in tears, enraged and disappointed by the filmmakers’ treatment of Gwen Stacy. When Valente’s partner told her that, as much as they both might want to, there was nothing they could do to fix Gwen Stacy’s death because “‘she was always going to die. She always dies. It’s kind of a thing,’” Valente responded with redoubled enthusiasm to directly address that very inevitability.
“On Monday, I am Julia Ash. I dye my hair cranberry red and live in a trendy suburb with three cats, two teakettles, and one first edition Jane Eyre on which I have never once spilled ramen broth.
On Tuesday, I eat a star.”
–– The Refrigerator Chronicles, pg. 25
What results is a series of linked, monologic short stories, each centered around a different member of the Hell Hath Club, a tightknit group of “fridged” badasses, relegated to the monotonous obscurity of the underworld while their husbands and boyfriends heedlessly continue their above-ground heroics. Illustrated by amazing artist Annie Wu, the stories are by turns tragic and hilarious, snarky and earnest. Those who are familiar with comics will likely be able to place the inspiration behind Valente’s characters, and part of the fun is identifying the incredibly creative ways that Valente updates the stories of Jean Grey, Gwen Stacy, Alexandra DeWitt, Harley Quinn, and others. By drawing on familiar themes––updated and embellished by propulsive, acrobatic prose and galvanizing anger––Valente is able to honor the importance of comic books while simultaneously drawing attention to the very tropes that can hinder such pure enjoyment for us comics fans who aren’t cis white men.
At the same time, there are certainly limitations to what Valente is able to accomplish in The Refrigerator Monologues. The stories themselves––like those that inspired them––are, with few exceptions, heteronormative narratives involving white, cis men and women. Additionally, while Valente’s characters are given a voice and a spotlight through which to tell their own stories, the fact remains that they are still dead. United by shared experience and empowered by mutual storytelling, these powerful and complex women are not able to enact physical retribution on those who have hurt, oppressed, and used them.
Still, as someone who loves comics and graphic novels, I view Valente’s work as a celebration of the comic book genre precisely because it refuses to ignore the problematic tropes and themes so often contained within it. By putting a spotlight on abuse, misogyny, and the perceived disposability of certain bodies, The Refrigerator Monologues is a book that comes out of a deep love, addressing the anguish that results when that love is betrayed. As a nerd, that’s exactly the kind of representation that I’m looking for.
“The Hell Hath Club walks its newest member out into the Lethe Café, into music and moonlight and steaming cups of nothing that taste like remembering. Her frozen blue skin gleams like the bottles behind the bar. We help her into the booth, hold her hand, slip her a joke or two to make her smile.
What’s the difference between being dead and having a boyfriend? Death sticks around.”
It’s that time again when the Convention Center’s doors are now closed, and thousands of happy, smiling con attendees have spent a fun-filled weekend attending panels, playing new games, meeting awesome people and buying all the things.
Our last official event of the day was our traditional closing celebration, with a brief speech from GeekGirlCon co-founder Jennifer K. Stuller, who acknowledged the things that GeekGirlCon has done in its five years. “Our atmosphere is joyous and celebratory,” she noted. But Stuller also recognized that it could not have been done without the thousands of GeekGirlCon staff, vendors, panelists, attendees and other supporters. “You and I are part of this community… and I want to thank you all for being a part of us.”
Fandom is a powerful thing. It can connect, inspire and frustrate—often at the same time. I’ve my fair share of important fandoms, which I participate in to varying degrees. There’s the movie I’ll reblog any picture from as long as it has my favorite character, the musical I’ll talk about to anyone who looks like they might care, the book series I’ll push on you as soon as we talk. But fandom isn’t just about the actual work of art: at its most powerful, it can also be a source of community.
GeekGirlCon 2015 has, of course, a variety of panels focused on individual fandoms and also a few that will discuss the idea of fandom on a larger scale. Whether you’re a fantasy fan interested in science or a dystopia fan interested in utopian ideals, there’s a panel or two for you.
Carol Corps-inspired cover art by Joe Quinones. Image source: Marvel Wiki
Written by GeekGirlCon Copywriter Winter Downs.
If you’re wondering whether to get an early jump on passes for GeekGirlCon ‘15, here’s a sample of the kind of programming you can look forward to!
The Carol Corps has put in a great showing at every GeekGirlCon since 2012, and this year it’s especially excited about the recent announcement of a Captain Marvel movie, set to hit theaters in July 2018.
Why is this a big deal? Well, as Ashley Leckwold of Nerdophiles pointed out, before Kelly Sue DeConnick launched her as Captain Marvel in 2012, Carol Danvers was “a third string Marvel character.” And then came the Carol Corps, a spontaneous upsurge of readers old and new rallying around this inspirational character and bringing her to the forefront of Marvel fandom. I’m not saying it was solely due to the Corps’ efforts that Captain Marvel got her own movie, but it surely is a factor.
All this explains why we were so excited to have a panel about the Carol Corps on the schedule at GeekGirlCon ‘14!
What’s up, everyone! Shubz Blalack here! For those of you at the Con, join us in Room 303 for this moderated roundtable discussion with Anita Sarkeesian, Alejandra Espino, Suzanne Scott, and moderator Miley Martinez!
Alejandra Espino (AE): How can we create being politically engaged while not losing the pleasure of creation?
Anita Sarkeesian (AS): How can we be fans AND be critical? What does that mean and how do we actually do that?
Suzanne Scott (SS): Race, fandom, and social justice. Teaches about race, fandom and video game culture. How do you manage the “squee” in a critical fashion? We need to find a meaningful critical ground.
Check out the organization of transformative works!
Topics and questions raised:
How do we talk about representations of economic classes?
Chauvinism in favor of the STEM fields.
Creating characters in a feminist context in a culture of sexism.
Points made: AE: Being critical is what fuels creativity.
Who is being represented in geek culture is not always who is consuming geek culture.
What times of fandom are industrially valued?
AS:There are a lot of interpretations of feminism and what that means.
AE: I create fantastic characters with the idea of the “outsider” in mind, someone that is marginalized.
AS: Storytelling needs to be the way we change the world.
AS: Art is to make change.
SS: More attention towards the industrial structures that promote not promote social change.
It will take a social movement for oppressive storytelling to change.
We need to spend more time to what will create change versus what will pull the focus away from it.
Closing Statements SS: Discomfort often exposes the prejudices people have. Having a conversation about that will be a great step towards social justice.
AE: Don’t let others cease the criticism you may have.
AS: Your anger towards social injustice can be used to create something to fight it.