It’s been just over a month since Vanessa Morgan spoke out about the Archie Comics-based series’ treatment of Black characters. Now her costar, Riverdale actress Bernadette Beck, also spoke about her experience. In an exclusive with Elle, Beck described a set and a show that seemingly gives little thought to Black characters. Or, for that matter, the actors who play them.
Who Is Riverdale Actress Bernadette Beck?
image via The CW
There might be no better evidence for Bernadette Beck’s statements than this: I have watched and reviewed every episode of Riverdale since the beginning. However, it was not until today, reading Beck’s statements that I realized her character had a name. Now I’m not that oblivious–I sometimes do a ridiculous amount of research for simple weekly reviews. (Uh, not for this show–for shows with coherent plots.) But I cannot for the life of me remember anyone ever addressing Beck’s character by name. Maybe that’s because it’s Peaches ‘n Cream, which is less a human name and more like something you’d call a resident of Strawberryland.* (I mean, yeah, there are characters with names like Moose and Jughead and Sweet Pea, but they at least get to speak and do things.)
Anyway, if you’ll recall, Cheryl assembled the girl gang Pretty Poisons after Jughead kicked her and Toni out of the Serpents. You remember, he kicked them out because Cheryl, in a $555 top, was like, “I’m poor,” so they broke into the Pembrooke. And even though they pointed out that they were not the only ones who broke Serpent code–Fangs was selling Fizzle Rocks, after all–Jughead was resolute. So Toni, a blood member of the Serpents, lost the only real family she’d ever known. And uh, what was I talking about? Oh, yeah–Peaches was one of the Poisons.
If that seems crazy that I barely mentioned Peaches in talking about her character, then you’re getting it. As the kids say, that’s it–that’s the show.
What Beck Said Specifically in Her Interview
In her talk with the magazine, Beck expressed a frustration not unlike Morgan’s. But where Morgan’s character Toni seemingly exists largely to serve her girlfriend Cheryl’s storylines, Beck’s character is basically a glorified extra. Her role is often only to stand in the background looking “sassy,” as producers requested. They also told her that character, who rarely has any lines, is the type of gal who “always speaks her mind.”
Beck also described an environment in which she felt as if she were there, as she put it, “…to fulfill a diversity quota.” Basically, she was there so the show could check some boxes. And sometimes they weren’t even checking for her at all. Specifically, she mentions multiple times that production or directors apparently forgot she was there, because they gave her no direction. She wouldn’t even know where to stand. Even for a show as notoriously sloppy as Riverdale, it’s almost astounding.
Worst of all, though, is the fans’ reaction. Perhaps because Peaches is little more than a sassy shell on the show, she’s not a fan favorite. In fact, on the contrary, Elle says, “…Beck became an easy target for Riverdale’s very young fanbase. She was body shamed, received death threats, and experienced severe anxiety attacks.” That, of course, would be bad enough, but as Beck points out, she also has to think practically. If she can’t build a fanbase, then that can affect her future career prospects. And not to use pay-channel language but HECK, she sadly may have already damaged her career just by speaking out. Obviously, though, that shouldn’t be. Two months ago, Riverdale’s network was tweeting stuff like this:
— The CW (@TheCW) May 31, 2020
But while statements like these are nice and all, it’s unclear whether networks like The CW or the producers whom they employ will actually put any muscle behind them. We’ll see.
What are your thoughts on Bernadette Beck’s interview? Let us know in the comments here or over on the social media. And if you sent a death threat to Beck, please explain to me why in the purple-spangled eff you thought that was necessary.
*But don’t y’all “well, actually” me–I know the Strawberryland character is actually Peach Blush. And she’s actually from The Land of the Magnolias, like me.
featured image via The CW
Salomé Gonstad is a freelance writer who grew up in the swampy wilds of south Alabama. She now splits her time between the Appalachian wilds (of Alabama) and the considerably more refined streets of New York City. When she's not yelling about pop culture on the internet, she's working on a supernatural thriller about her hometown. Also, we're pretty sure she's a werewolf.