With its realistic characters, themes, and situations, 13 Reasons Why proves that not all teen dramas have to fall for the same overused tropes. And Riverdale has the power to follow suit.
Exploring topics many shows shy away from while at the same time having characters speak true for those awkward high school years, 13 Reasons has set a high bar for other teen shows. But the bar isn’t too high to reach. Riverdale is the perfect show to turn away from the same old tropes, and go toward a new era of teen television.
The good, the bad, and the ugly
Most teen shows has a story that allows for real emotion. In Riverdale a student has been killed and the town has been turned upside down. Like 13 Reasons, a tragedy doesn’t necessarily have to define characters, but the affects of his death, the accusations, and the uncertainty should be used to give characters depth. Life needs to move on, but why not explore deeper in how each character goes about it?
13 Reasons is oftentimes a difficult show to watch. There are scenes that are a little too real. You wish the story was exaggerated, but know deep down it’s not. A big message of the show is illustrating how we as humans have to help one another, and whether you like it or not you have some sort of effect toward one another. 13 Reasons does not shy away from some harsh realities, and sometimes those harsh realities are simple ones like losing friends for stupid reasons. Growing apart and then being too afraid to try and step in again.
Diversity amongst characters
13 Reasons excels in telling the story from various perspectives. Various types of families, wealth, and personalities play a part in how the story unfolds. Not only does it give the show room to explore, but also, again, gives that realistic feel we all crave. There is more opportunity to see yourself as a character when more realistic characters are drawn out.
Riverdale has some good starting points, namely Jughead’s broken family, Betty’s overbearing mother, and even Cheryl’s tough, mean girl shell with a vulnerability within. What Riverdale still needs to work on is exploring these characters to the point where changes occur.
Clay and Hannah, as well as others in 13 Reasons, each change before our eyes. In order for Riverdale to even try to be an equal to 13 Reasons, it needs to realize characters shouldn’t be afraid to change. Often you wonder, would these characters really still be friends? Should they be friends? With a second season coming up, Riverdale should take some chances in perhaps developing their characters on a less than perfectly straight line.
Not forgetting their age
Oftentimes teen shows forget they are about 14-18-year-olds. While handling adult situations is interesting to explore, losing the precious high school moments is a mistake. 13 Reasons does a great job at throwing in these everyday high school gems. Skye works at an after school job at a coffee shop, Clay rides his bike everywhere, Tony is a cool kid with a car. While it may seem small, these bring individuality to a character.
Although some of this is present in Riverdale, much of it is the focal point of a particular episode, such as Archie’s music or Betty’s newspaper, or cheerleading. In real life one interest doesn’t dictate their entire day or week. Having a car wasn’t Tony’s only reason for his existence in the show, nor was Skye’s to serve coffee. The job and car added to their character instead of overpowering it.
Riverdale still has some work to do, but in the meantime, we can hope for a second season of 13 Reasons Why.