Pauline Kael’s, ‘Trash, Art and the Movies’ discusses how films do not have to be of a ‘high level of craftsmanship’ to be enjoyable . In her words, ‘…wit imagination, fresh subject matter, skillfull performers, or a good idea – either alone or in any combination – can more than compensate’ .
Riverdale is a television adaptation of the comic book series known as, ‘Archie Comics’. The television show takes the simple premise of the comics and places it into a theatrical, darker context, in which the characters are navigating high-school whilst dealing with the tragic murder or their friend, Jason.
In the clip below , the characters are seen going to a school dance. The setting and the action are cliche: the teens arrive to a decorated school gym and we watch as two characters tip-toe around their own romance. The show is filled with familiar tropes and is what many would refer to as a ‘guilty pleasure’. Kael notes, ‘Despite a great deal that is spoken and written about young people responding visually, the influence of TV is to make movies visually less imaginative, and complex’ . This is evident in the clip because it is composed of visuals that we have seen in many films/television shows before it.
The element of Riverdale that saves it from itself, is the self-awareness of the show. As Kael mentions, there only needs to be one saving grace for a film to redeemed from its technical failings. We see this in the clip through the characters’ dialogue. The characters say things that no regular teenagers would say to each other and they acknowledge the familiarity of their situation. For example, Veronica says to her friends, ‘Guys, can’t we just liberate ourselves from the tired dichotomy of jock, artist? […] Can’t we, in this post James Franco world, be all things at once?’.
 Pauline Kael, ‘Trash, Art and the Movies,’ American Movie Critics, ed. Lopate (Washington: Library of America, 2006), 132.
 Kael, 131.
 Kael, 132.