With a film and television industry as booming and busy as ours, the Fraser Valley seems home to many worlds. These worlds include Smallville, Arrow, the Flash, or more recently, Riverdale. Familiar with Riverdale? Or just curious to see what all the fuss is about? The conference “Riverdale: A Land of Contrasts” is taking place in the Fraser Valley on the UFV Abbotsford campus, Sunday, March 11, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at U-House.
The purpose of this event is to present and discuss papers and other projects surrounding narratives of the show. Topics will include themes of race, the inclusion of gothic tropes, why the show has a narrator, and an analysis of its use of dialogue. It is the hope of Heather McAlpine, UFV English professor and one of the event’s organizers, that people will bring their “critical toolkits” to analyze this piece of popular culture, and ultimately to have fun doing it. Anyone with an interest in critical discussion surrounding the TV show Riverdale is encouraged to attend.
So why Riverdale? The Vancouver and Fraser Valley areas have recently been home to a number of big-time television shows. McAlpine stated two reasons why this show in particular was selected. With the show being filmed just up the road from UFV, many local landmarks are recognizable. This makes it an interesting experience watching the show, while trying to imagine the setting as a fictional American town. Another reason is the mix of familiar and strange elements in the show. Many viewers are quite acquainted with the Archie comics series, but this version turns that familiarity on its heel, adding dark twist after dark twist.
Interestingly enough, the conference’s origins began from a conversation between several UFV professors on Twitter. McAlpine began watching the show on Netflix last fall and immediately took to Twitter to post about it. This was how she discovered that many other faculty members at UFV watch Riverdale as well. During one particularly energetic Twitter-based discussion, one professor suggested that McAlpine plan an entire conference around this show. While McAlpine recognized that the idea was meant in humour, it occurred to her that organizing a conference around the same ideas they had been discussing and opening it up for more critical minds to add their voices would actually be a brilliant idea.
The notion was certainly a success, and many UFV students and staff have since contributed. For example, UFV student and local photographer Sarah Sovereign has produced a photo series inspired by Riverdale and the Betty & Veronica clothing line, and UFV grad Alexandra Schuurman is scheduled to speak about her experience working for the casting agency in Vancouver associated with Riverdale, and how that affected her impressions of season one.
These are only a few examples of many fascinating and engaging projects planned for the event. Presentation will run approximately 10 minutes each, and will then be opened up for discussion. At the conclusion of the day’s schedule, attendees will be invited to drive to Rocko’s Diner in Mission for burgers and shakes, as it was the filming location for Pop’s diner in the early first season episodes.
McAlpine hopes that if the event is a success, it will have the opportunity to continue in the form of conferences devoted to other shows filmed in B.C., such as the X-Files, or Twin Peaks.
If you are interested in attending “Riverdale: A Land of Contrasts,” you can register ahead of time at www.fraservalleyriverdale.wordpress.com so the organizers have an idea of how many to expect. The website also lists a conference schedule to give you an idea of what is happening, and when.
Image: The CW