Panel Recap: The Road to Riverdale: A Look at the Evolution of Archie and the Gang

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.

Show Highlights

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.

Future Hopes

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.

Hanna Hupp
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Panel Highlight: Truth, Justice, and the American Way

This year has been a challenging one for most of us who follow politics. From the Women’s March to the March for Science to the numerous Black Lives Matter Marches, activism and getting involved in political action has been increasingly prevalent in our everyday lives.

How we understand politics is also pervasive throughout pop culture and the media we consume, and this is reflected in several of the panels that will be presented at GeekGirlCon ‘17. Even if you’ve never written political slogans on a square of cardboard, nor marched in the street, there’s a place for you to start learning about how your can take what you’re passionate about and transform it into effective activism.

JC Lau
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Panel Recap: Stardust – David Bowie’s Lasting Influence on Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Horror

The room was abuzz with anticipation. David-Bowie-loving con guests talked amongst themselves, excitedly trading ideas about what would be discussed at a panel about Bowie’s influence over the genres they love.

Then the panelists began singing “The Man Who Sold the World.” It only took a few lines before the audience joined in, turning a simple, beige conference room into a wonderland of magical notes.

As the first verse came to a close in the transformed room, the panel began. The panel moderator, Evan J. Peterson (author and teacher), introduced himself, followed by Grace Moore (podcaster), and Sara Depp (musician).

Evan explained that the panel would focus on Bowie’s influence on visual content, such as film and television, although his music would be touched upon as well.

Adrienne Clark
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Panel Recap: Sex Geeks Mobilize!

GeekGirlCon ‘16 dove into new territory with the addition of sex geek content for the eighteen-and-over crowd. Over the past few years, sex education has become more peer-oriented and pleasure positive. With these great evolutions to modern thinking in mind, we created the panel Sex Geeks Mobilize!

Our panel was comprised of several important voices in the sex community:

Allison Moon, Author

Liz Andrae, Sex Geek Comics Artist

Sandra Daugherty, Podcaster at Sex Geek Sandra

Tobi Hill-Meyer, Creator of Doing it Online and Author

 

SEX POSITIVITY AND NEW MEDIA

The focus of this panel was in large part about new media and how it has contributed to their sex-positive work. Sandra jumped on the topic immediately, saying that her work at was made possible by new media. Her podcast, Sex Nerd Sandra, is part of the Nerdist studios, and all of their work has grown from these new media arenas.

Allison’s work has also been tied to new media through the self-publishing of her book, Girl Sex 101. She also Kickstarted the book, which was an interesting experience because not only was she using new media to fund the work, but she was able to hear what people were hungry to learn. In this way the author and the audience could engage in a dialogue even during the funding of a project.

There are drawbacks, as Tobi pointed out. Kickstarter, Paypal, and other e-commerce sites have very strict rules on sex-based media. This means that some content is unable to be featured on or bought through these sites. It can be a frustrating setback for indie artists.

 

Adrienne Clark
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Reminder: Programming Submissions Due April 30th!

Do you have a stellar idea for a panel, or have you been working hard on developing your first tabletop game? Own a trendy DIY business, and have a great idea for a workshop? Never fear, it’s not too late to submit Programming Submissions for GeekGirlCon 2017!

Whether you and a small group are geared up with an idea for a panel, or you are an individual interested in being a panelist or moderator, we’re looking for mission-aligned panel ideas for #GGC17. We’re also accepting applications for performance and event submissions (such as musical performances, variety and game shows, and networking events), workshop submissions, and tabletop game host submissions.

Photo via Danny Ngan, GGC Flickr.

So make sure to mark your calendars, because the following forms are due on April 30th, 2017 at 11:59 PST:

 

Questions? Feel free to reach out to our team at programming@geekgirlcon.com.

Indigo Boock
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GeekGirlCon Wants Your Panel Ideas!

If you are at all familiar with GeekGirlCon, you’ve surely noticed the high standard our community has for con programming. Before being offered a slot in the GeekGirlCon lineup, all programming (panels, activities, workshops, and performances) is carefully reviewed by our excellent Programming department. This is what makes GeekGirlCon so magical and so welcoming.

Panels comprise a large portion of the programming that takes place at the con. And so, we’re always seeking new voices and new ideas for panels. Just because you haven’t seen it at GeekGirlCon before doesn’t mean we don’t want it. In fact, it likely means we need it especially!

I talked to our Panel Program Manager, Marina Martinez, to find out exactly what makes a GeekGirlCon panel. If you’ve never submitted programming ideas to GeekGirlCon before, now’s your chance. Applications close on Sunday, April 30, so take your time and let these arguably-infrequently-asked Frequently Asked Questions be your guide.

Teal Christensen
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Five Things You Can Do Right Now To Prepare For GeekGirlCon 2017

The GeekGirlCon staff is abuzz with activity as we get preparations rolling for GeekGirlCon 2017. We’re extremely excited to put on another great con, just as I’m sure you all are excited to attend one! While we’re busy scheduling panels, perfecting layouts, and planning another spectacular weekend, here are five things you can do right now to prepare for #GGC17, commencing on September 30:

Indigo Boock
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Crafting with Feminism at GeekGirlCon ’16

There was plenty to do at GeekGirlCon ‘16–browse the expanded exhibitor’s hall, attend the numerous amazing panels, and socialize at meet-ups. But my favorite activity on each day was Crafting with Feminism, aka meeting up with a few dozen other attendees and Bonnie Burton to create superheroine wrist cuffs and tampon buddies.

Bonnie Burton is the author of several books, including Star Wars and Warcraft crafting titles, and her latest is Crafting with Feminism: 25 Girl-Powered Projects to Smash the Patriarchy. With Bonnie’s step-by-step instructions, you can create a Drinking Dames Flask, Power Panties, or, like we did, Superheroine Wrist Cuffs and Tampon Buddies!

Liane Behrens
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A Ton of New Stuff Coming to GeekGirlCon ‘16

It’s officially October, and do you know what that means? GeekGirlCon 2016 is less than one week away! When this post goes live, there will only be 5 more days until we all join together in glorious, geeky harmony.

Each and every year, GeekGirlCon grows bigger and better. This year, we’ve got tons of fabulous contributors, an amazing lineup of exhibitors, great panels on cosplay, gaming, and fandom, and so much more in store for the weekend. As we continue to grow, we get that much more room and opportunities to host a ton of events that are new to the convention, and we’re going to talk about those nouveau happenings today:

 

A Bigger, Better Con

For starters, this year’s convention is BIGGER than ever before! With the 4th floor expansion, we’ve got more space to cram in that much more awesome content. Our exhibitor hall is going to be gigantic, we’ll have tons of folks on the floor of our gaming and DIY Science sections — every nook and cranny is packed with panels, social events, and even a couple quiet spaces to sit back and relax for a minute in the midst of all that crazy fun.

GeekGirlCon 2015 at Washington State Conference Center in Seattle, Washington. October 2015. Photo by Danny Ngan

GeekGirlCon 2015 at Washington State Conference Center in Seattle, Washington. October 2015. Photo by Danny Ngan

GGC After Dark

As I wrote about in a former post, we’ve got some fun in store for our 18+ attendees. GeekGirlCon After Dark is a series of panels geared towards all of the adults joining us next weekend. Featuring more scandalous subjects, these panels will explore everything from sexuality in YA novels, the science of kink, to body positivity and BDSM. With hosts of contributors from internet-savvy filmmakers and published authors, there’s fascinating content with a more mature zing.

 

Indigo Boock
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Featured contributors: Pixar creators and engineers at GeekGirlCon

Pixar Animation Studios will showcase a variety of women within the studio ranging from animators to engineers

Pixar Animation Studios will showcase a variety of women within the studio ranging from animators to engineers.

Did Inside Out and Up melt your heart? Laugh endlessly during Monsters University and Finding Dory? Just have an overall appreciation and love for Pixar?

If you answered “yes” to one or all of those questions: prepare to be delighted by this fleet of featured contributors speaking and hanging out during GeekGirlCon.

Ashli Blow
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