Mandatory bughead post #2: My thoughts on Bughead and why it is important.
I’m aware that the words ‘bughead’ & ‘important’ in the same sentence seem like a misfit but there is a good reason why I’ve chosen to write it so. This thought came to my mind whilst trawling through the morass of ‘ships’ & ‘ship-wrecks’ on tumblr & twitter about Riverdale.
Now, I’m not someone who watches a lot of TV shows ,however, Riverdale was a serendipitous discovery that happened to me two weeks ago.
I have been a fan of Archie comics since I was little & my two favourite characters were Jughead & Betty, in that order. Watching Riverdale was a revelation as it brought me back to the Archie’s world and I saw it in a new light. I went into it without expectations.
What I was not prepared for was how Bughead would gently creep up on me and reign over my entire existence in such a short span of time.
You see, I have had a few ships, some fleeting and some enduring,some canon and some fantasy, however nothing as rabid or as intense that’d induce an “I’m SHOOK” moment. Until bughead happened.
When I used to read the comic books, I had wanted Archie to one day wake up & realize that Betty was the one for her, because I could so relate to her as a kind & sweet girl, being taken for granted every time and with a history of unrequited love. I’m 30 now and life-experiences, especially of the bitter kind has certainly changed my perspective about these things, especially about romantic relationships. No more suffering fairy-tale princesses for me.
In the comics, although Jughead and Betty were my favourites and they always were good to each other, the thought of them as a potential match had never crossed my mind. I was intrigued and amused by Jughead’s woman-hating stance and had imagined that one day an extraordinary woman worthy of him would come and sweep him off his feet.I had no concept of sexuality and its associated complications that we see today, it was only a pure and innocent fantasy in my mind.
I had only been familiar with the ‘classic’ and humorous golden age Archie comic digests and was unaware of the modern reboots and the various universes. Therefore, when I started watching Riverdale, I was immediately hooked to its modern,quirky & dark narrative and had my assumptions broken down bit by bit with each episode. When I started with the show, five episodes were already in so I binge watched them in a single night, which left me with little time to process the minute details and subtleties, which is why I missed noticing the growing chemistry Betty and Jughead.
It was only when I began exploring the show on the internet and understood the whole narrative and tone of the show,re-watched the episodes, saw the interviews, trawled Tumblr & youtube and accidentally saw the leaked bughead kiss is when it hit me like slap on the face and a swift kick in the ovaries. It nearly felt like enlightenment!
Once I had seen and felt it, there was no going back. It was a like a virus firmly implanted in my psyche. I resurrected my dormant and inactive tumblr and twitter accounts only to ship bughead. I’m sure fellow bughead fans know the drill of our coming undone so I won’t go into much detail.
Coming to the next part. Riverdale or rather Bughead has come into my life as a breath of fresh air when I am going through a very dark and stressful phase. I have been going through a very difficult divorce from a man, who caused mental abuse and cheated my family of money & absconded and left me to deal with the consequences and legal battles, triggering my anxiety,fear and depression. A man whom I had trusted with my everything and was completely vulnerable to, used me and left me with a deep fear and mistrust of relationships, trauma and some very hard learnt lessons. I’m an eternal romantic but a part of me has become cynical about it.
Riverdale is a unique show as is evident in its excellent writing,for those who care to notice the nuances and characterisations. The symbolism, fore-shadowing, word-play, subtle body-language cues of the characters, parallelism and of course, a quality mystery is the gold-standard of writing. Can we also talk about the wonderful and talented cast who have given life to the characters? The show is a slow burn and not for those with a shallow mind who are looking for popcorn entertainment with a lot of mindless drama and illogical and unstable romantic pairings based on lust and superficial chemistry,
Bughead is not just a run of the mill ship that people are fangirling over. It is beautiful union which tells you the story of two woefully young and tender yet jaded individuals, thrown together by a tragic fate, who are battling the darkness within and without, fighting for something that’s bigger than them and their personal problems. They are fighting for justice, light and hope. In spite of their struggle with their personal demons. Can you imagine what they are going through? For any child, parents are the safe space when the world around them crumbles, but both Betty and Jughead’s parents let them down with lies, manipulation and broken promises and the possibility that their families could be the perpetrators of murder. Under such horrible circumstances, they find the safe space with each other.
They both are mature beyond their years, insightful, righteous, kind, compassionate, supportive and caring and there for each other without being asked. They communicate with their heart and eyes (sometimes with heart eyes too ;) ) It is not a connection based on lust and hormonal surges. Something very old-fashioned and real in the era of hook-ups. An oasis in a desert.
People who keep harping on about how there is no chemistry at all between Jughead and Betty and that it was rushed and illogical, then I’m sorry that you’re oblivious to everything that is going on in the show. They have been friends since childhood.
I think we do not give the writers enough credit for writing something so profound and refreshing in spite of it being a teen drama. A homeless, abandoned, rudderless boy, an outcast who is bullied, selflessly helps a girl find her sister and uncover the truth, not because he wants to get into her pants. A stifled, lonely yet nurturing and loving girl giving strength, support and courage to a lost and scared boy failed by his father and society. They are each other’s guardian angels.
So I ask this to all the haters..can’t you see this? Are you so blinded by your superficial hate and violent desire to stuff your ship down everyone’s throats because it gives you some sort of false sense of control over others that you have lost the ability to objectively see what the show is striving for through this beautiful narrative within the confines of what is ostensibly a teen drama? Can we not rise above our pettiness of mindless and hostile shipping to learn from it? Everyone is free to ship whomever and whatever they want but it is another thing to be so vitriolic and spiteful towards the others to have your way. Isn’t shipping supposed to be all about love anyway? Bughead is so much above all this petty drama, it is transcendental.
There’s so much that all of us, teens and even adults can learn from this ideal of a super healthy relationship that both television and our lives need. We need to move away from toxicity both in entertainment and our lives. Can we not be inspired to work on ourselves and build supportive, organic and nurturing relationships? This should give so much inspiration to the teens of today. With Betty & Veronica, the show strives to re-build the idea of strong, female friendships which seems to have become an alien concept in the world of ‘frenemy’ culture. Why can’t two girls be healthy best friends without the assumption that there is something sexual between them? People are hating on Bughead also for a fact that they are a heterosexual couple. As I see it, love is love in any shape or form.
Also, I do agree that all sorts of representation must have a place in popular culture and thankfully it is happening. However, those who are unhappy with Bughead saying that it erases Jughead’s asexuality, I disagree. Are you saying that Asexual people can’t fall in love? That they don’t deserve an intimate bond with another?
Now, in the larger Archie comicverse, Jughead was never portrayed as being an asexual, he simply was smarter and wiser and had other priorities compared to his hormone crazed pals. He was always the voice of reason. I’m sure that there are people like that, not everyone who doesn’t choose to be a crazy, horned dog is asexual. Besides, Jughead is shown to be asexual in only one version of the comics. There can be multiple variations of characteristics in the larger universe. Riverdale chooses its own narrative and characters as it sees fit for the context of the show. Therefore, in this version, Jughead isn’t asexual or aromantic. There is no erasure of any kind. Even if he were asexual, I’m sure that Bughead still can have a loving and healthy relationship.
It is my personal opinion and I am not trying to belittle anyone or trivialising the serious issue of representation in anyway. However, I do feel that in today’s world where there is so much hate and strife, showing love and companionship in its true and purest form is the most important issue here, first and foremost. It doesn’t really matter whatever is the sexuality or orientation of the characters in question. So, let us all keep our differences aside and show our love and support to something is for the greater good. Love is universal and not restricted to a specific type or form. Besides, it is fiction,let’s remember that.
I also think that we must avoid pressuring or attacking the creative team, actors and show runners into bullying them to change their vision for the show. That truly doesn’t serve any purpose other than being detrimental to the quality of the show and making the team de-motivated. Let’s all appreciate the hard work and love everyone has put in to present to us something that is so beloved and cherished by all.
Why is showing a healthy, supportive, wholesome and stable relationship necessary? I can tell you why, because I have suffered greatly in an unsupportive, toxic and abusive relationship that was all about selfishness and greed with no regard or love for the feelings of the other person. Where one person only gave and gave and the other only took everything. I was left drained and battered and I’m still bearing the burden of its ruins.
So, when Bughead came along, it was catharsis and relief. It was about having the hope of bright sunshine in the pitch black darkness. It was about selflessness and having high standards and working for the greater good, something that is bigger than us. It was about women not wallowing and pining after some boy who had little value or regard for them and not allowing a man decide the course of their lives .It was about unconditional love and support without labels. It was pure beauty and art, like a perfect symphony.
Bughead isn’t merely escapism. It is the light of goodness that illuminates our hearts and fills us with compassion and hope for something beautiful. It is the delicate flower that grows in the parched desert of hopelessness and deceit.
Let us protect it all costs.