(Credit: Netflix)

The duality of Lili Reinhart's Betty Cooper on Netflix hit 'Riverdale'

“I do everything for everyone. Everything to be perfect. The perfect daughter, the perfect sister, the perfect student. Can’t I do this one thing for me?”

The CW’s show Riverdale gained a lot of popularity on Netflix despite being quite poorly written. Filled with plenty of loopholes and with a script that seems to have been scribed by a group of angsty high-schoolers who never went to creative writing class, the show portrays a group of sixteen-year-olds doing questionable things — hooking up with mature teachers, murder, trespassing or partaking in burlesque dance wearing black lingerie.

Despite consent, logic and rationale being thrown under the bus, the show has amassed massive popularity due to its much darker and radically different take on the beloved Archie comics. Starring KJ Apa, Lili Reinhart, Cole Sprouse and Camila Mendes in lead roles, the series is set in the fictional town of Riverdale where family dynamics, friendships, love and loyalty are put to test under mysterious circumstances wherein the residents are plagued by murder, abduction, torture, street gangs, sinister cults, ghosts of their past and more. 

Lili Reinhart has reprised the role of Betty Cooper over the seasons. In the comics, Betty is Archie’s primary love interest who is inherently envious of the affluent Veronica and her showy charms that lulls Archie into a sense of blooming romance. However, in the show, Betty is a blonde, bubbly girl whose ponytail and sharp wit makes her seem like the typical ‘nice girl’ defying the “dumb blonde” stereotype enforced by films and series. Betty is actually a brilliant student with a knack for sleuth skills; albeit her skills are terrible and she ends up making her actions very evident, especially by expressing her hatred towards the dangerous Farm.  

Reinhart’s Betty is a sweetheart who is struggling internally. With the weirdest family dynamics in the show, her father is a serial killer who forces her to murder a cat as a child, permanently scarring her, and with a mother is emotionally distant, abusive and hooks up with her boyfriend’s father, later joining a cult that almost kills her only surviving daughter. Betty’s sister, Polly, who continues to haunt her, was almost sent to a questionable mental health facility. She has a shady brother and overall, her family life is absolutely terrible. Her childhood best friend, Archie, is her safe haven with whom she is unrequitedly in love — Betty’s life is anything but settled.

Rather than be swallowed up by such a suffocating set of circumstances, Betty is an absolute badass as well. However, her character is poorly written despite the staggering potential. When Dark Betty, a seemingly disturbed side of the character, surfaces, there is no difference between the amicable Betty and the seemingly mysterious and brooding one except for the black wig, skimpy lingerie (questionable once again) and the knack for wilder sexual escapades. Sure, she bruises her palms trying to calm her rage, but how does black make her seem scary? Even the actress herself spoke of how the concept felt a little clumsy.

Betty does, however, is struck by ‘nice girl’ syndrome. Archie and Betty have a lot of unresolved feelings and sexual tension. They make heart eyes with each other, get jealous yet take no action. It is probably for the best as the friendship is too precious for Archie to screw up. Defying the comics, the show sees Betty and Jughead get into a relationship and become the future Southside Serpents King and Queen. Their relationship is, once again, unhealthy and it seems ridiculous to even think of how high schoolers can break up and then patch up once again so many times. Do they really not have to study? 

Betty is indeed a good friend, especially to Archie. She tries to support him in every way and goes beyond her means to do so. Unlike the comics, Betty and Veronica are best of friends on the show despite their initial differences, they actually remain fast friends and fight against all odds. However, Betty is not all that nice. Despite being the most popular fan favourite, there are various sides to her personality that makes us rethink Betty as the absolute nice girl with a honeyed personality; her duality is sure to give anyone whiplash. 

Betty’s ideas of ethics and morality are extremely skewed. She is quite fickle and does not stick to a single decision. Her lack of decisiveness and resolve often makes one rethink her as a godsend character. While he admonishes Jughead for associating with the Serpents, she soon joins as well. Before, she helps him in his preparations for a drag race. Betty, who is seemingly smart, seems quite ignorant here, owing to her obliviousness regarding the brutal atrocities that are meted out in such races.

Another instance of Betty’s lack of ethics would be how far she goes to save Jughead’s father, FP when he is tried for murder, she blackmails her friend Cheryl Blossom, who is mourning her brother’s death, to testify on behalf of FP by threatening to leak the recording that holds evidence regarding Cheryl’s father murdering her brother, Jason. Exploiting someone’s grief and tragedy despite them being mean and obnoxious is the worst possible thing Betty could do to prove how low she can actually stoop to get what she wants. 

However, the worst thing Betty has probably done is her treatment of her so-called close friend Kevin who shared Betty’s sorrows and heartbreak as she pined over an emotionally unavailable Archie. Kevin, a great friend and patient listener, is dropped by Betty just like yesterday’s newspaper with Veronica’s arrival. She patronises him and does not show any sympathy for Kevin who feels incredibly lonely being the only openly gay kid, ostracised by many. Her judgemental nature and mean stares drive an unimaginable distance between them that makes Kevin feel small, unseen and unheard. 

Despite these small shortcomings, Betty is, overall, the lesser evils on Riverdale. Sure, she tries too hard to be the perfect person and the most well-lied character but we should not invalidate the hardships she had to endure and the toxic family she was brought up in. Notwithstanding all that, she turned out to be fairly tolerable and less loathsome. If they promise to not resurface the very awkward and strange Dark Betty once again, Betty Cooper might just make it into the list of my least hated Riverdale characters; not very sure about the show, though!

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