Often relegated to be the tormented gay best friend from a small town, or any stereotypical gay character trope we often see, Kevin Keller is dismissed as anything but the walking personification of his sexuality.
Before embarking onward with criticism on how Riverdale has handled Kevin’s character since inception, it’s important to address that Kevin is an incredible character, and his sexuality is very much a part of his journey, especially through high school as he attempts to discover who he is.
However, Kevin’s sexuality should not be his sole personality trait. Yes, he’s gay, but he isn’t always in heat and looking for a man to go down on in the woods just beyond the secret tunnel leading into an asylum.
Kevin is often treated as either the gay best friend (mostly for Veronica because, let’s be real, Betty and Kevin are barely friends despite the insinuation that they’re practically best friends), the gay son of Sheriff Keller who is, luckily, accepting of his son’s sexuality, or the random gay student at Riverdale High School.
Even his relationship with Joaquin in season 1 was all about the serpents, and it didn’t result in much other than a connection between the students of the North and the gang members of the South.
Worse, in season 2, Kevin’s final moments were him “comforting” Moose with a kiss as he sobbed about his dead girlfriend in the men’s restroom. This kiss is awful in so many ways; Moose crying over his dead girlfriend, kissing Kevin for comforting him, and Kevin returning the kiss is gross and a terrible way to begin a relationship.
This could potentially make Kevin fall into the predatory gay trope, as it could be seen as manipulative that he kissed Moose while he’s obviously heartbroken, but it honestly just seems desperate.
Which isn’t necessarily wrong considering Kevin is in a small town with very limited options, but where’s the self-respect? It makes Kevin seem pathetic, which doesn’t fit considering he always seems like such a confident person.
Riverdale often uses Kevin’s sexuality as a plot device, for a certain amount of shock value, or just to inundate all of Kevin’s other traits.
The cruising storyline in the beginning of Riverdale season 2 is perhaps one of the best of the show, and while it had faults, it opened up another side to Kevin that we don’t get to see very often.
We also didn’t see this side of Kevin after the early episode, which was quite disappointing given the writers covered gay conversion therapy with Cheryl later in the season.
As Riverdale continues, Kevin can no longer be written as he has been for the first two seasons. Kevin has no depth; he’s the embodiment of gay stereotypes, and it’s disheartening to see.
We know the writers are capable of writing about various sexualities in creative ways, as we’re seeing with Cheryl embracing this side of her, so why is no effort put into Kevin’s character?
If the writers are unsure of where to take Kevin’s character, explore the inner shame Kevin clearly feels inside, especially if a relationship between Kevin and Moose is pursued. His sexuality can certainly be a part of the story, but it shouldn’t be the overall focus.
For example, dig into his relationship with his father (or mother), help us understand what’s happened in Kevin’s life, or develop Betty and Kevin’s friendship so we can understand how they considered each other best friends because we haven’t seen anything to make this believable.
(Also, can Betty and Kevin have a scene together where Archie’s hotness isn’t mentioned at least once?)
Kevin is a teenage boy; he’s exploring high school, just like everyone else, and trying to find out what he wants to do with his life and what he wants his future to look like. Let’s see Kevin be an actual high school student.
As it stands, we really don’t know much about Kevin aside from the fact that he’s gay and feels incredibly lonely. What are his interests? What does Kevin want to be when he grows up? Kevin is on the wrestling team, so what is his motivation for that? There’s so much to be explored with Kevin Keller beyond his sexuality because we, the fans, really have no idea who Kevin is.
With everyone else, we know their hobbies, likes and dislikes, and where their paths seem to be headed, but not with Kevin. Not everything Kevin does has to be tied to his sexuality. It would even be interesting to see how growing up gay in a small, accepting town is pushing Kevin outside of his comfort zone, and whether it’s making him consider alternate paths for his future.
Honestly, I just really want to know who Kevin Keller is.
Riverdale returns later this year on The CW!