It’s a Sunday night: you’ve just finished your job delivering leaflets for a local takeaway, you have algebra homework to do, you haven’t cleaned your room and your mum’s on the warpath. You’re sat in bed with ice cream watching serial killer documentaries and listening to The Smiths. Everything’s fine.
We’ve all been teenagers, and it isn’t easy. Puberty’s happening. You’re trying to do homework instead of going out with your friends every night. All your friends are making out with friends of friends. You have to think of clever tweets and take aesthetic selfies for Instagram. Your phone cannot be out of your line of sight for a second. It’s the apocalypse.
And your parents don’t understand, they’re just in your face all the time, trying to make you do chores or last week’s essay. To make them go away you slam the door (complete with an edgy ‘Keep Out’ sign), leaving them to contemplate what you’re hiding. Drugs? Alcohol? Cigarettes? A sex life? They aren’t easy to get along with when they’re reading into your every move. But at least they’re attempting to understand, even when they’re way off the mark, and all they do is out of love. Your parents could be so much worse.
The Bad Parent isn’t a new trope, it’s been an archetype on television for decades, and covers parents from the unknowingly negligent to the cruel. In 13 Reasons Why the parents are detached from their children’s lives. Two and a Half Men’s Evelyn (Holland Taylor) takes no responsibility for her actions, and cares only for maintaining her wealth and lifestyle. Everybody Loves Raymond’s Frank (Peter Boyle) and Marie (Doris Roberts) hated one another, with the former displaying no emotion to either of his sons, and the latter neglecting one to interfere in the life of the other. In Heroes Angela Petrelli (Cristine Rose) planned to make her eldest son President material by any means. Smallville’s Lionel Luthor (John Glover) groomed his son to take over his corporate empire, ruined his most valuable friendship, plotted to kill him, and then became a mentor to his former friend.
Riverdale is peak Bad Parent. Almost all of the inhabitants of the titular town who are parents to teenagers are bad decision makers and terrible influences. Hermione (Marisol Nichols) and Hiram Lodge (Mark Consuelos), questionable to criminal business practices; Alice Cooper (Mädchen Amick), controlling and domineering; Hal Cooper (Lochlyn Munro), controlling; Penelope Blossom (Nathalie Boltt), cold and distant; Clifford Blossom (Barclay Hope), aggressive; Mayor Sierra McCoy (Robin Givens), overbearing stage mum; Myles McCoy (Reese Alexander), arrogant and unsupportive; FP Jones (Skeet Ulrich), leader of Southside Serpents. With such upstanding mummies and daddies, the teens of Riverdale were doomed from the day they stopped adorably laughing at their own farts.
The murder of Jason Blossom (Trevor Stines) acted as a catalyst for opening Riverdale’s closets of skeletons. As they investigated the death of their classmate, the town’s teens uncovered secrets their parents had kept, mistakes they’d made, and unmarked graves they’d dug. All of which had impacted their lives in unseen ways: the break-up of Jughead’s (Cole Sprouse) family being directly connected to FP losing his at Andrews Construction, the Cooper/Blossom family bloodline, and Hiram Lodge’s fraud. Although the parents’ past crimes are only the tip of the iceberg, with their misdirections (shitty behaviour) continuing into the present.
Like the best villains, Riverdale’s parents truly believe they know best (that they’re the heroes, even) and are unable to learn from their mistakes. Which is reason enough for them to ruin their children’s lives too. To escape from Alice’s attempts to micromanage her life, Betty (Lili Reinhart) creates a ‘dark’ persona; Jughead becomes a Southside Serpent (just like dad); and Ma and Pa Lodge manipulate both their daughter Veronica (Camila Mendes) and Archie (KJ Apa) in their scheme to secretly purchase the town’s real estate. None of the parents acknowledge that their basically re-living their adolescence through their children, complete with awful choices. Or if they do, they just don’t care, as long as they have a world-conquering heir.
The downfall of the Bad Parent type is inevitably an act of rebellion by the offspring they’ve moulded in their own image. In Smallville Lex killed his father. The 13 Reasons Why parents’ lives were changed as much as their children’s when one of their daughters took their own life. For Riverdale‘s parents, the future does not look bright. They should’ve been satisfied with chronicling every day of their children’s lives on Instagram.