Betty Cooper, who was primarily defined in the Archie comics by her crush on Archie Andrews, is often seen as a the “girl next door.” Everything from her blonde ponytail down to her love of automotive repair made Betty a prototype for wholesome Americana as it was defined when the comics debuted in the 1940s.
But the ‘40s have long since passed, and as we all know, looks can sometimes be deceiving. Often, the “girl next door” has a lot of secrets of her own, and while it’s easy to hide behind a smile, her outward appearance doesn’t tell the whole story.
When Riverdale premieres tonight on the CW, it will give Betty that reboot that she deserves, showing audiences that there’s a multi-layered and complex girl underneath that bouncy hair and jean jacket.
For Lili Reinhart, who plays Betty, that three-dimensional transformation of these characters was extremely important. In the comics, Betty is tangled within a love triangle consisting of herself, Archie, and Veronica that, despite Betty’s friendship with Veronica, serves as a huge plot for a lot of the comics. Pitting women against each other? We’re so not here for that.
And neither is Riverdale. The show puts Betty and Veronica’s friendship front and center, pushing the love triangle off to the side. That decision was important to Lili, who tells Teen Vogue, “Our show does not focus on the rivalry and on the love triangle. These girls have other things going on in their lives besides Archie. There’s definitely a friendship there, and the friendship is strong at the end of the day. They aren’t frenemies, they aren’t rivals; they’re best friends, and they do truly care for each other.”
She adds that it’s important to honor the complex friendship between Betty and Veronica, who may fight and clash, but deep down, love one another and care for each other deeply. As anyone who has had a fight with their best friend knows, there’s nothing more relatable than that. Lili adds, “That’s beautiful and very refreshing to see on television…to not portray young women as being catty against one another. They can actually have these beautiful, strong friendships,” and notes that Betty and Veronica especially “don’t need to be pitted against each other, like they were in the comics.”
As for being in love with the boy next door, Lili says that it was easy to tap into Betty’s affection for Archie. “K.J. is like the sweetest guy in the world and he’s so easy to love,” she says of the actor who plays Archie, “so that made it very easy. It kind of took a little bit to build that friendship, but now we’re very much a family.”
But Betty has bigger issues to deal with than the new girl in town and the unrequited love of her life. Riverdale departs from the original stories again by portraying her mother, Alice, as divisive and controlling, rather than the supportive character she was in the comics. (Nope, we’re definitely not in your parents’ Riverdale anymore.)
Though Lili notes that Alice “tries to micromanage every part of her life,” she thinks there’s a reason for Betty’s mother’s behavior. “Alice is damaged on the inside and she’s basically doing it out of love,” she adds. Though Alice’s perceptions are ultimately misguided, “she’s trying to protect Betty from falling apart and from succumbing to the ‘bad girl,’ Veronica. She thinks Veronica and Archie are bad influences on Betty, which is not true. It’s just Alice being an over-controlling parent.”
The dynamic is a far cry from Lili’s own life, as she says she had a great relationship with her mother while growing up, making this part of Betty’s life unfamiliar to her. “My mom is like my best friend,” she says, “and I tell her everything and we’re extremely close. Alice is more just like the authority figure in Betty’s life.” She adds that Betty “can’t really trust her mom,” possibly echoing the new, darker secrets that the all-American town is hiding in the reboot.
But that darkness isn’t diminishing the impact Riverdale is having on Lili’s life. The actress is content to let Riverdale – and Betty – fill her days for the foreseeable future. “I wanted to pour my heart and soul into Riverdale and into Betty until the very last second,” she says. “I’m trying not to even think about anything else to distract me from Betty. As of right now, it’s just Riverdale every day, all day for me.”
Source: Teen Vogue