The reboot series Riverdale has brought Archie comics back into the pop culture spotlight. Whether you detest the series for its absurdity or are a diehard fan, no one can deny that the show is here to stay. Currently the show is in production of its fourth season.
On March 13, UFV hosted its second ever Riverdale conference: a conference available and accessible to academics, students, and the average joe. With seven scheduled panels and 16 presentations, the discussions ranged from religion and revolution to gender and goblins. Overall, the conference dealt with Riverdale and its related series, occuring in the same fictional universe, Sabrina. The conference served as an opportunity for both nerds and the academically inclined to discuss and review the varying series with a critical eye.
Ron Sweeney in his presentation “Archie Must Die Again: Parody and Adaptation in the Riverdale Universe,” suggested in his critique of the televised series that the story will ultimately end with Archie’s death. He also acknowledges how the series differs from the mass market comic publishings.
“I do think the series needs to regenerate as a whole; then again, Archie is a publishing company and it will adapt to various media landscapes,” Sweeney said. “So much of the show is self-conscious. The idea here is that the show acknowledges that we have changed Archie.”
Not only is the series a binge, and possibly cringe, worthy show, but it’s well known for filming around the Fraser Valley. The local ‘backyard nature’ of the show draws a connection between the residents of the Fraser Valley and the series. This connection was clearly felt during the conference proceedings. It was fitting that a show filmed in the valley has a conference local to the valley.
Heather McAlpine, the conference coordinator and associate professor of English, can attest that Riverdale is overtly capable of sparking intense conversation, skepticism, and fandom across not just the Fraser Valley, but all over the Western world.
“It was a weird organic mushroom of a process in which on Twitter, we shared our experiences,” McAlpine said. “We soon decided to organize a conference in which we could just talk things out. It happened last year because all of us wanted to just sit in a room together and hash out all of our various takes on the show. It was so much fun that we decided to do it again.”
This year, like the last, the conference demonstrated that cultural studies can also take form in a contemporary setting, and that people from all backgrounds can come and enjoy the process of looking at a production of pop culture and viewing it through a critical mode of thought.
“I hope what we can do with the conference is show people that doing cultural works isn’t just about looking at the great works. It’s about everything. We can interrogate everything produced around us culturally,” McAlpine said.
The cultural critique that is available to us, by watching the two series and thinking on their popularity, should not be forgotten and the Riverdale conference was an excellent reminder that critical perspectives can be applied to any cultural production. Naturally, critiquing one cultural production will lead to the critiquing of another. This rabbit hole of reviewing and dismantling modern cultural works is not only a fascinating process but a fun one. This was clearly demonstrated in the energy shown throughout the conference. People and the presenters were there because of a mutual love, interest, and fascination of an absurdist TV show. Conferences such as these serve as a gateway into the broader field of cultural studies and are definitely worth visiting.
Image: UFV Flickr