From ‘Riverdale’ to ‘Bates Motel’: Revisiting Classics With Progressive Images of Women

TV shows that draw on decades old source material are not exactly a new phenomenon, but there is certainly a new trend arising from it: the revitalization of classic, but problematic, material. The fact is, there is an overwhelming number of great stories out there that, by today’s standards, are burdened by their historical baggage — perhaps most notably in their politics of gender and sexuality. A good example is the cover of a 2011 Archie & Friends comic, in which Archie is asked how he tells apart his set of twin girlfriends, and with a big smile he replies: “I don’t even try!!”

As popular culture becomes increasingly progressive, looking back at some of our favorite classics requires a certain amount of whistling passed some pretty unfavorable images of patriarchal and heteronormative values. But we do it because, hey, they’re the classics! And we justify it with extensive contextualization, which is fine. But what’s braver, is questioning those images. And that’s exactly what we are seeing on TV these days with shows like Bates Motel (2013 – 2017) and (2017 – present). These shows are more than simple remakes, reboots, or re-imaginings, they are subversive re-contextualizations; and though they aren’t perfect, they’re rather brilliant.

Let’s take a look at why.

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images credit to The CW and A&E

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