On paper, Betty Cooper is a dream girl. She’s the sugar to Veronica Lodge’s spice. In the original Archie comics, she’s presented as the perfect girl next door, as sweet as apple pie and as interesting as vanilla ice cream. In prolific comics writer Mark Waid’s current Archie run, Betty is a pretty tomboy with big dreams who’s still hopelessly hung up on her best friend and ex, Archie Andrews. But The CW’s Riverdale gives us a version of Betty we haven’t seen before, one with depth and a whole lot of darkness.
Last week on the show, Betty (Lili Reinhart) went “full dark, no stars” on football player Chuck Clayton, nearly drowning him in a hot tub after losing her grip on reality. Of course, this isn’t the first time Riverdale has unleashed Dark Betty; she also snapped in Episode 2, when she threatened to kill Cheryl Blossom for making fun of her sister, Polly, who’s currently being treated in a mental hospital. The cracks in Betty’s perfect facade are worsening by the week, and the profundity of her misery is becoming clearer. This is not the Betty Cooper of yesteryear.
Reinhart chatted with MTV News about Dark Betty; the connection she shares with her soulmate, Veronica, and her best friend’s friend, Jughead; and why the last thing Betty needs is a relationship with Archie.
Betty has a lot of demons. In addition to dealing with her sister Polly’s breakdown, she’s also buckling under the weight of her mother’s excruciatingly high expectations and her own depression and anxiety. This is definitely a Betty Cooper we haven’t seen before, and it’s a type of female character we don’t see too often on television.
Lili Reinhart: I suffer from depression and anxiety, and having a show and having a character that portrays a young woman who is dealing with that and the consequences of it — how it affects her friendships and her relationships with her mom and her sister — it’s beautiful to see that. Someone who’s seemingly so perfect on the outside is very much broken on the inside and trying to piece themselves back together. That’s what Betty is doing in Season 1. She puts a lot of pressure on herself, and her mom puts a lot of pressure on her to be perfect, and it’s overwhelming for Betty. She definitely hits some breaking points. She’s just a young girl trying to navigate today’s world, and that’s hard. It’s hard for all of us.
That’s why her friendship with Veronica is so special, because they’re just two girls trying to navigate high school politics and first loves and their own personal family drama.
Reinhart: I have a best friend in my life who I know is my soulmate. Betty and Veronica are two people who I think were always destined to be friends. Even though they’re so different from one another, these two people are meant to be in each other’s lives. B and V are a powerful, dynamic duo, and their friendship is 100 percent the heart of the show. And I love how at the end of every problem, they come back to each other. They’re not enemies, and they’re not fighting over a guy. Maybe they did for a second, but that moment passed, and they got over it. This friendship is so much more important.
Archie is hot, and Jughead is mysterious, but for me, Betty, Veronica, Cheryl, and Josie run circles around them.
Reinhart: It’s definitely a girl-power show. It’s very female-driven. How cool is that? Not only is our show headlined by strong, powerful females, but it also doesn’t pit them against one another. All of these women don’t hate each other for no reason. … There [are] friendships and alliances and teamwork. B and V often stand up to Cheryl and her bitchiness, which comes in and out, but they both understand that Cheryl is a lot more damaged than she likes to present to the world. They take everything she says with a grain of salt because they know it’s not personal. Josie and Veronica also have a special relationship, which they explore in Season 1 as well. But it’s never catty with these women.
There’s also a bit of a murder mystery going on in Riverdale with Jason Blossom’s apparent murder. As the editor of the student paper, Betty has teamed up with her ace reporter Jughead to try to crack the case. How does that relationship develop?
Reinhart: Betty is best friends with Archie, which means she grew up with Jughead. They know each other, and they’re friends. Jughead is more outwardly dark and brooding, and Betty wishes she could be more like that. On the outside, they couldn’t be more different, but a lot of what Betty feels on the inside is what Jughead presents to the world — and that’s something that she hasn’t been able to do, out of pressure from her parents. She can’t present weakness to the world, and that’s what attracts her to Jughead. She’s attracted to his darkness because she relates to it. She feels like an outsider at the end of the day, which is why they make such a great pair. They’re both outsiders.
Does being outsiders give them an advantage in trying to solve Jason’s murder?
Reinhart: They’re trying to solve Jason’s murder because they think their legal system is completely corrupt and being manipulated by the Blossoms. So they take it upon themselves to find what they think is the truth. They’re little sleuths, and they sure as hell don’t think that Sheriff Keller or the Blossoms are trustworthy. It’s very Nancy Drew.
Betty also has a very complicated relationship with her mom, Alice. It’s really easy to paint her as a villain, but you know she really loves Betty and just wants to protect her. Will there be any cracks in Alice’s armor?
Reinhart: Alice is ruthless. She’s extremely manipulative to Betty and constantly hands her daughter Adderall to fix her problems. She’s trying to control every aspect of her daughter’s life. But Alice is so damaged and broken on the inside. Her exterior may be extreme and obsessive, but she’s not 100 percent the villain. She loves her daughter. Her behavior is a direct reflection of how disheveled she is on the inside. It’s almost like Alice is the child and Betty has to step up and be the adult. Betty learns to stand up to her mom, and in doing so, Alice has to learn to let go.
For all of the ‘shipping this show has inspired online, it doesn’t feel like romance is necessarily a priority. I think a lot of people went into this thinking, I’m Team Betty or I’m Team Veronica, but that’s really not the point. Archie can barely deal with his own problems! He doesn’t deserve Betty or Veronica yet.
Reinhart: It’s more about the relationships between the characters. A lot of people go into this show thinking that this guy has to choose between these two girls, and that’s the plot of the show. But that’s very much not our show. These characters are working through real issues. The main plot point of Season 1 is Jason’s murder. It’s definitely not the love triangle. I don’t think there’s even that much of a love triangle. Betty has already accepted the fact that Archie doesn’t love her that way, and she knows you can’t force someone to think differently about you. She needs to move on.
Archie’s a mess! You don’t want to get with him. He doesn’t know what he wants.
Reinhart: Archie is such a mess! They’re just two people who are so much better off as friends, but she doesn’t realize it just yet. That’s OK. She’s young. She’ll realize it eventually.
Real talk: Do you think Archie is a fuckboy?
Reinhart: Oh my god. I’ve been saying this! Archie is the original fuckboy. 1941: the birth of the fuckboy.
Why do you think Betty is so hung up on him?
Reinhart: I think our Archie is a lot better than the one presented in the comic books, who is just girl-crazy. But our Archie isn’t intentionally trying to hurt Betty. He’s not using these women. He has a heart of gold, and I think people don’t appreciate Archie as much as they should on our show. He’s just a confused teenage boy, and KJ [Apa] is so good. It’s impossible to dislike him. Everyone who meets him loves him — and I think that’s a little bit of the effect Archie has on people as well.
© Crystal Bell
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