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What’s Going on With Betty Cooper?

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Riverdale is coming back in just over a week, so let’s speculate on what’s happening with Miss Betty Cooper for a minute, shall we?

Lili Reinhart as Betty Cooper

Betty Cooper is arguably the most compelling character on Riverdale, and I suspect she’s about to get more interesting in the second half of the season (Full Disclaimer: I’ve been on #TeamBetty since I was a kid. I even had Betty Underroos). The Betty-Archie-Veronica love triangle has always been a major theme in the Archie comics. Archie and Veronica are great, but in Riverdale seem to lack some of the complexity that Betty’s character has. Archie had his Red Circle moment, but otherwise is generally pretty predictable. Veronica’s got that bad girl vibe, and I dig her, but too often her rebellion comes off as entitled petulance.

But my girl, Betty. There’s something going on with her, and I don’t think we fully understand the mind of Betty Cooper yet.

One of the things that makes Betty so intriguing is that Betty is learning not just about family and town secrets, like the others, she’s learning who she is. Pushing her way out from under the thumb of a controlling mother, Betty is becoming strong and independent. She rebels against her parents, and really anyone, who gets in her way. Betty’s resistance is a process, and it’s happening in fits and starts, but she is done with the good girl act.

From the start of the show we’ve seen Betty rejecting her characterization as being “nice” and “perfect.” We were all shocked when Bad Betty showed up in season 1, but the hints of that anger had been there from the beginning. Re-watching season 1, I noticed that Betty’s clenched fists have been showing up since Chapter One. However, as she pulls free and is no longer forced to repress anything that isn’t nice and good, Betty doesn’t need to have such a break to release her anger. Bad Betty’s still in there, but she’s much more in control of that anger now, like when she wisely smacked Mr. Svenson in the head with a shovel. The Black Hood has forced Betty to face her darkness and the fear she has of it this season too, and I think she’ll be wiser and stronger from that in the future.

Betty’s also experimenting with her sexuality. From responding positively to a kiss with Veronica to Bad Betty’s dominatrix vibe, in the first season Betty was trying out new facets of herself, culminating in nearly sealing the deal with Jughead at the end of season 1. That energy was tempered more in season 2 as she was preoccupied with the Black Hood. Repression can lead to explosive outbursts though, and I think that’s what pushed Betty to do the Serpent dance. Her relationship with Jughead was strained and she was losing hold of someone she cared for, and that, unfortunately, manifested in an explosive demonstration of misguided sexuality. But, that’s what repression leads to, unhealthy expressions of that which has been held back.

As much as I am not a fan of the whole Serpent dance scenario, and I think it will come back to bite her later, it did give Betty the chance to make sure Jughead understands that she gets to make her own

choices about her life. As Jughead gets further entangled with the Serpents, Betty needs to be able to run with him on her own terms, and not as an innocent he needs to protect. Betty doesn’t have it all figured out yet, I mean, the girl’s idea of sexy is that dang chambray shirt, but she’ll get there. And I really hope she gets there with Jughead (#teambughead).

When we last saw Betty, she was closing the case on the Black Hood, but she held on to that hood, didn’t she? Does she think the Black Hood isn’t as gone as he seems? Is Betty ready to go “full dark, no stars”? Is she dealing with some kind of dissociative identity disorder which makes her the Black Hood, as some suggest? I don’t know, but I hope we see some more Boss Betty in the second half of the season because I know my girl has it in her to run Riverdale. What do you expect/hope to see?

Riverdale returns January 17 at 8/7c on the CW.

Cara spends way too much time thinking about subtext and, when not watching TV, can generally be found with her nose in a book.

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