A few years ago, Archie Comics unveiled with fanfare Kevin Keller, the first gay character in their comics universe. There was some backlash, but overall the character proved enormously popular. So popular, in fact, that he was given his own comic book. Take that, right wing!
So naturally, Archie Comics’ very popular character was given a slot on CW’s RIVERDALE. And I’ve been watching, trying to decide if I like the show or not.
First, I’m glad to see Kevin is there. A gay teen with a major role. Cool! And he has a dating life. Well, sort of. We’ll give it a reserved thumbs up. -Ish.
However, on a show filled with hyper-masculine male characters (even the morose, artistic Jughead is a boy’s boy), Kevin is the feminine gay guy. He dresses overly stylishly, the actor’s lipstick and rouge are redder than the other males’ on the show, his hair is heavily moussed and styled (instead of artfully tousled, like every other teen male on the show), and he speaks half a hair below the “you GO girl!” register. And he’s the Gay Best Friend of one of the female leads. Although we’ve only had two episodes to work with, we’ve seen no hobbies, no family, no background, no nothing for Kevin. He exists pretty much to give Betty someone to talk to. In other words, he’s a stereotype.
On the other hand, we have Moose.
In the comics, Moose was a big blond bully who in the early days beat Archie up for his lunch money. Over time, Moose evolved into a big lunk with a secret big heart. The bully thing faded and he and Archie became friends.
On the show, Moose has a semi girlfriend, but the real object of his affections is Kevin. He pursues Kevin with a fair amount of single-mindedness, in fact. Kevin, however, isn’t so sure about this. Kevin finds Moose attractive, but Moose insists he just wants a . . . physical relationship, no strings, no emotion. “I’m straight,” Moose stoutly maintains. Kevin refuses to believe this. He thinks Moose is gay, but he doesn’t want to get involved with someone who can’t admit he likes guys. It’s an interesting dynamic, though it’s had very little screen time.
Moose himself is as hyper-masculinized as the other males on the show.* We also don’t have the neutered-gay-boy problem I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this blog, which is great. I’m interested in seeing how this plays out. If it gets some actual screen time.
*I’d prefer that NONE of the males were hyper-masculine, really, and instead represented more realistic teenagers. However, if we’re going to have a show filled with Chiseled Hollywood Boys, I’d rather not have the gay character be the only one standing out as different in that regard.
–Steven Harper Piziks