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Editorials

We Need to Acknowledge Vanessa Morgan’s Comments About Black Characters Being Portrayed as ‘Sidekicks’

Riverdale -- "Chapter Sixty-Five: In Treatment" -- Image Number: RVD408a_0565.jpg -- Pictured (L-R): Madelaine Petsch as Cheryl and Vanessa Morgan as Toni -- Photo: Jack Rowand/The CW-- © 2019 The CW Network, LLC All Rights Reserved.

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Vanessa Morgan is fed up with how black people are portrayed in the media. 

And she should be. 

Morgan, who plays Toni Topaz on Riverdaletook to social media to say she’s “tired of us being portrayed as thugs, dangerous or angry scary people. Tired of us also being used as side kick non dimensional characters to our white leads.”

“Or only used in the ads for diversity but not actually in the show,” she continued, adding, “It starts with the media. I’m not being quiet anymore.”

https://twitter.com/VanessaMorgan/status/1267086887535153152?s=20

We’ve seen many African American actors assume the very roles she mentioned, but one that stood out in particular was “sidekick” as it described the 28-year-old star’s character on The CW. 

While Toni’s on-screen girlfriend, Cheryl Blossom (Madeline Petsch), is far from one-dimensional, Toni often lurks in the shadows until it’s time to prop up Cheryl. She rarely gets any screen time without her other half, she has no storyline outside of her relationship, and she’s lucky if she gets a few sentences in a scene. 

This isn’t a fault of Morgan’s castmates, who she defended writing that her role “has nothing to do with my fellow classmates/friends. They don’t write the show. So no need to attack them, they don’t call the shots & I know they have my back.”

Toni Topaz has been reduced to a sidekick through absolutely no fault or her own, and being sidelined is not a reflection or her acting. And yet, she’s the one suffering, even noting that she’s the lowest paid regular on the series. 

To truth of the matter is, Toni has been underutilized in a series that should be tapping into her potential as one of the only few women of color. 

For this reason, Morgan has made it her mission to evoke change: “To my black fans, I have now made it my purpose to fight for us. To the six-year-old me who had no role model that looked like me on TV. This is for you. We aren’t your token black non-dimensional characters. This is being black in Hollywood. I will fight for YOU.”

https://twitter.com/VanessaMorgan/status/1268231377679417347?s=20

Toni isn’t the only character suffering as the writers seem to struggle to find story arcs for many characters outside of the core four, but it happens more often to the female character than it does to someone like Kevin Keller or Reggie, two characters we’ve seen the series attempt to integrate into the storyline as much as they can.

This isn’t the first time the series has struggled to write storylines for a woman of color as the same thing happened to Ashleigh Murray, who plays/played Josie McCoy on the series for several seasons. Despite having her own musical group in high school, Josie and the Pussycats, there never seemed to be a compelling storyline for Josie, the character which many argue was the strongest, most realistic, and most grounded. It was a shame, and thankfully, the TV powers that be pushed her towards the Riverdale spinoff, Katy Keene, where she gets the shine equally amongst her diverse counterparts. That series is still led by a heterosexual white woman, but the representation on the series far outweighs that of Riverdale.

Katy Keene Mama Said Review

Katy Keene/ The CW

Murray has gotten to shine and be included in the cast the way she’s always been meant to; she’s no longer a sidekick to meet a quota.

Murray supported Morgan writing, “These are the ways we can implement real change. The beginnings of concrete conversations and plans of action that will mold our future for the better. We are not asking for special treatment. We are asking for equal treatment.”

Morgan’s statements came on the heels of a since-deleted comment that claimed Murray was written off the series because she was a “diva” who refused to share the screen with others. 

“You don’t know what the f** you’re talking about and don’t talk about my friend like that. Another thing i hate BLACK women being called DIVAS for sticking up for themselves. Maybe the show should write for her like the white characters,” Morgan responded. 

The problem extends way past these two Archie Comic shows, however. It’s become all too common for shows marginalize black characters… The Vampire Diaries’ treatment of Bonnie Bennett (played by Kat Graham), one of the few character’s of color on the series, is a prime example. 

Bonnie was technically a “core character” but never got the core character treatment. She was a strong-willed, selfless, and badass witch, but she was reduced to a character that was constantly forced to make sacrifices for her friends, put their needs above their own, and carry their pain.

A moral compass, fixer, and the only woman bold enough to call out Damon Salvatore, Bonnie had the potential to have some of the best and most powerful storylines, and instead, they always revolved around her besties, Elena and Caroline. It wasn’t about Bonnie as an individual, it was about how Bonnie could help them achieve greatness.

Bonnie was always the loophole, she lacked proper character development, and for a series that thrived on ships, she barely got a love interest until the very end. And even then, he was killed off leaving Bonnie to suffer in silence… again. 

Bonnie Bennet

The CW/ The Vampire Diaries

Bonnie held her own, but she never got her own.

We’ve seen this play out in other shows like Dynasty. Jeff (Sam Adegoke) and Monica Colby (Wakeema Hollis) could make great antagonists for Blake Carrington, and there is a lot of family drama to dig into when it comes to the Carrington’s and the Colby’s, but instead, they are reduced to having limited storylines that are constantly getting dropped and downplayed. The lack of direction was so evident that Monica has taken a hiatus from the series. 

Even shows that are getting many issues right seem to fumble when it comes to representation and characters of color. 

Season 3 of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina started on the right track with Prudence (Tati Gabrielle) and Ambrose (Chance Perdomo) venturing to New Orleans to seek out help from a Haitian Voodoo Priestess in New Orleans. MarySue writes it best explaining that the scenes set up the exploration of African traditions before sidelining the storyline completely and watering down the character of Mambo Marie. The series aims to be inclusive, but it reduces its impeccable talent from Prudence, Ambrose, and even Roz (Jaz Sinclair), who is turned to stone for a lot of the season, seem to be there, to being sacrifices that allow white characters to shine and become more powerful. 

Prudence and Ambrose

Netflix/ Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

It’s 2020, the Black Lives Matter movement has gained more momentum and support than every before (tragically, due to the a heartless death of George Floyd, a black man, a the hands of a white cop), and while it may not seem like empowering black characters is something that tops the list of priorities, it should be. Representation starts at home and on our TV screens. 

It’s past the time to make necessary changes in storytelling. 

People want to feel represented, they want diversity, and they want relatable characters on shows that are well-rounded and representative of our societies. There’s no excuse.

And yes, there’s room if you write for people of color as human beings who are just as worthy of good storylines as their white counterparts. 

Morgan’s voice was heard by Riverdale and Katy Keene creator, Roberto Aguirre Sacasa, who apologized and vowed to “do better,” and “honor her and the character she plays.”

“Riverdale will be part of the movement, not outside of it,” he wrote. 

The intention should have been there from the beginning, but progress is progress. Let’s hope he keeps his promise. 


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Lizzy Buczak is the founder of CraveYouTV. What started off as a silly blog in her sophomore year at Columbia College Chicago turned her passion for watching TV into an opportunity! She has been in charge of CraveYou since 2011, writing reviews and news content for a wide variety of shows. Lizzy is a Music Business and Journalism major who has written for RADIO.COM, TV Fanatic, Time Out Chicago, Innerview, Pop’stache and Family Time.

Editorials

‘Riverdale’ Season 5: What Every Character Is Up to After the Seven-Year Time Jump

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Riverdale Killing Mr. Honey review

Riverdale will embrace a seven-year time jump a few episodes into Season 5!

The move is not only exciting for fans of The CW drama but also for the cast as it allows them to leave high school behind (and the Riverdale as we know it) and play with some more mature storylines for their characters.

Of course, fans have spent much of the hiatus wondering what this means for their favorite characters. Who will they be seven years from now? Where will their journeys take them?

A lot is still unknown, but the cast and crew have given some sneak peeks as to what we can expect! 

Here’s what we know so far: 

 

Archie Andrews

KJ Apa revealed the time jump gives the show a chance to “freshen up the characters,” according to TV Line. 

In fact, he revealed a lot more than he probably should have about the jump forward, which is great for us! 

Apa explained that after graduation, all of the characters went their separate ways. Archie enlisted in the Army and upon returning back home several years later, learned that Hiram Lodge has turned Riverdale into a bit of a ghost town. Leave it to Archie to leave town and return only to reignite his feud with Hiram. 

Archie calls in reinforcements — aka he brings the gang back together — to essentially save Riverdale.

“They talk about how they can revive the town again. Archie very much takes the lead on this. He came back and saw Riverdale turning to s–t pretty much, and he’s like, ‘There’s no way I’m going to let this happen.’ So he wrangles the whole team in, and they figure out ways to revive the town, and the best way to do that is through Riverdale High,” he explained.

Does this mean Archie becomes principal? A teacher? A coach? The possibilities here are endless!

Riverdale Brave New World

Riverdale — “Chapter Thirty-Five: Brave New World” — Image Number: RVD222b_0192.jpg — Pictured (L-R): Robin Givens as Sierra McCoy, Camila Mendes as Veronica, KJ Apa as Archie, Ashleigh Murray as Josie and Charles Melton as Reggie — Photo: Dean Buscher/The CW — © 2018 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

Betty Cooper

Not much is known about Betty’s future life. Based on Riverdale Season 4, we know Betty will likely attend Yale University. It’s unclear what transpires between Betty and Jughead in the two episodes prior to the time-jump, but there’s a chance they break-up after finding out about her brief rendezvous with Archie. But what does a post-college life for Betty look like? We’ll have to wait for the series return to find out! 

Riverdale The Ides of March review

Credit: The CW/ Riverdale

Jughead Jones

Since Jughead’s escapades at Stonewall Prep, his chances of getting into Yale have been pretty much shot, so it’s unclear where he’s going to college, but word is he may attend the University of Iowa. This puts him on an entirely different path than Betty, which is fitting because if they do break up, I can see them going their separate ways anyway.

Maybe Jughead will focus on writing and be a published author by the time jump?

Cole Sprouse on Riverdale arrested during George Floyd protest

Credit: Riverdale/ The CW

Veronica Lodge

Veronica is a married woman in the time jump. Based on Riverdale Season 4, we know she was going to attend Barnard College in New York City, where she likely meets Chad Gekko, a Wall Street banker. But while that sounds super impressive and like the kind of guy Hiram Lodge would approve of, he’s not actually a great husband to Ronnie. He’s described as a “controlling and jealous alpha male.” 

“Chad is threatened by Veronica’s life in Riverdale, especially her friendship with Archie,” the official description adds.

So, is it safe to say that Ronnie and Archie will get back together when she returns to Riverdale?

Riverdale Witness for the Prosecution Review

Credit: Riverdale/ The CW

Cheryl Blossom and Toni Topaz

It’s not clear what happens between the Queen B’s of Riverdale High, but we do know that the writers have written in Vanessa Morgan’s real-life pregnancy into the storyline. Morgan made the reveal on her Instagram account shortly after wrapping up production and going on maternity leave. Is a #Choni baby on the way? Or did the duo go their separate ways and Toni is pregnant with someone else’s child? Both Cheryl and Toni were said to be attending Highsmith College in Riverdale, and since they are a fan-favorite ship, let’s hope they are one of the high school sweethearts that last! 

Vanessa Morgan says her pregnancy will be written into Riverdale. Is a #Choni Baby on the Way?

Credit: Riverdale/ The CW

Kevin Keller

We’ve actually seen Kevin five years in the future when he appeared on the short-lived spinoff, Katy Keene. When he visited Josie in New York on Katy Keene Season 1 Episode 10, we found out that Kevin was a drama teacher at Riverdale High, but he wasn’t entirely happy with his decision. There was definitely a ton of resentment towards the murderous town. 

Showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa also gave fans a glimpse at the filming of the upcoming season on Instagram and revealed that flash-forward Kevin got “hella swole.”

Riverdale's Kevin Keller crossing over on Katy Keene

Credit: The CW/ Katy Keene/ Scott McDermott

Are you excited about all the storytelling opportunities that follow a time-jump? What do you think everyone is up to?!


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Editorials

9 Political TV Shows & Documentaries to Watch Ahead of Inauguration Day

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9 TV Shows to Watch on Election Day 2020

Inauguration day is upon us.

As the U.S. gets ready to swear in a new president, we suggest tapping into a political show to fully embrace the moment: 

Here are some of our favorites:

 

Scandal

Who could ever say no to the madness that ensues when Olivia Pope and her White Hat advise President Fitzgerald Grant?

 

Veep

It’s a comical yet punchy look at the White House, which finds Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the second-in-line to the Commander-in-Chief. 

 

Designated Survivor

Kiefer Sutherland’s Tom Kirkman, a lower-level cabinet member, suddenly finds himself the President after an attack on the night of the State of the Union kills the president and nearly all of the Cabinet. 

 

 

Knock Down the House

AOC, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortnerz, is among four Democratic hopefuls profiled in the documentary that highlights the race dubbed as one of the most “shocking political upsets in recent American history.”

 

The Final Year

The documentary filmed throughout 2016 follows Barack Obama and his team in his final term. 

 

The West Wing

Aaron Sorkin delivered a series about the inner workings of the White House that has inspired many political shows that followed. 

 

House of Cards

Prior to those Kevin Spacey allegations, the series was one of the most popular amongst households as it followed Congressman Frank Underwood. After he was fired, Robin Wright took the lead.

 

Madam Secretary

In this political drama, Elizabeth McCord, a former CIA operative and political science professor, runs the world as Secretary of State. 

 

The Handmaid’s Tale

Critics have draw parallels between the series, a dystopian drama about a futuristic America where a society controls women, and Donald Trump’s America. The series has also inspired many protests around the world, most recently the women’s movement against the abortion ban in Poland. 


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Editorials

5 Powerful Shows, Movies, and Documentaries to Watch to Learn About Racial Injustice

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Shows, Movies, and Documentaries to Watch About Racial Injustice

Guest post: Hiba Abdillahi

There’s a problem in our country. If you’ve been watching new news or checked in on social media, you have seen the murder of African American men at the hands of police (most recently, the tragic death of George Floyd while in police custody), racially-motivated encounters, and, as a result, protests, riots, and lootings that have spanned nationwide. 

The conversation about racial injustice, racial inequality, and systematic racism has never been louder or more charged up, and for those of you who may not know much about it or have never experienced it first hand, it’s a time to get educated.

The list of shows and documentaries that cover what it’s like to be black in America and capture institutionalized racism continues to multiply quickly as streaming services. 

But we’ve narrowed it down to a list of 5 shows, movies, and documentaries that can be a starting point for you and your family to help you understand how root of violence against black Americans and how it affects everyone. 

 

1. When They See Us (Netflix)

The jarring Netflix mini-series by Ava Duvernay is based on the story of the Central Park Five, a group of five black Latino boys failed by the justice system after they were wrongfully convinced of raping and assaulting a woman in Central Park in 1989.

 

2. 13th (Netflix)

How much do you know about the U.S prison boom? Once again filmmaker Ava DuVernay explores issues of race, justice, and mass incarceration in the United States in the Academy Award-nominated documentary.

 

3. I Am Not Your Negro (Youtube or Amazon Prime)

Sometimes we need to look back, to see how we can move forward. This documentary is based on an unfinished manuscript by James Baldwin and covers the history of racism in America, focusing on the stories of Civil Rights leaders Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

4. Dear White People (Netflix)

We could all use some comic relief these days while educating ourselves, of course. This comedy-drama series on Netflix follows a group of black college students at an Ivy League (predominately white) college. The series covers plenty of racial topics young African-Americans face including cultural bias, social injustice, misguided activism, and slippery politics.

 

5. If Beale Street Could Talk (Hulu

It’s the story we’ve seen play out in our society time and time again. Based on the novel by James Baldwin, the 2018 drama focuses on a young black man imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit and a young back couple fighting for justice and the American dream.

 

Bonus: Just Mercy

Michael B. Jordan’s film follows the real-life story of defense attorney Bryan Stevenson, who fought to clear Walter McMillian (played by Jamie Foxx), wrongfully convicted of murder and placed on death row.

Warner Bros. announced it will be free on all digital streaming platforms during the month of June to teach people about systemic racism. 

 

 


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