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“Riverdale” and Hollywood must reckon with its negative portrayal of Black characters

Two Black actresses from the hit CW show called out the show and the industry for their disregard of Black characters.

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In light of the recent movement for Black lives, many Hollywood stars have come forward to address the racism that exists in the industry.

Bernadette Beck, the actress who plays Peaches ‘N Cream on the CW show Riverdale, told Elle yesterday that the show portrayed her character in a very negative light and that she barely had any backstory or character development.

During her two seasons on the show, Beck remembers feeling like her presence on set wasn’t valued. There were even instances when it seemed that she was completely forgotten about during scenes. 

“The director would be walking off set and I’d have to chase them down because I had no idea where to stand, what to do — I just hadn’t been given any instruction,” she said. 

Peaches ‘N Cream was often in the background of scenes, chewing bubblegum and looking rebellious. Producers told Beck that she was meant to seem “sassy” and someone who “always speaks her mind,” yet she had very few lines.

Beck feels that Peaches ‘N Cream’s personality, or lack thereof, is part of a bigger problem in Hollywood, that depicts people of color in a negative light.

Due to her character being portrayed as so unlikable, Beck became targeted by the very young fan base of Riverdale. She was body shamed and received death threats, leading her to have severe anxiety attacks.

Beck said she is tired of feeling used by shows to show their audience that they don’t have racial bias. 

“You can’t treat people like they’re invisible and then pat yourself on the back for meeting your diversity quota for the day,” she said.

In May, fellow Riverdale actress, Vanessa Morgan, spoke out on social media about the way Black actors are portrayed.

“Tired of how Black people are portrayed in the media, 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 diversity but not actually in the show,” she tweeted.

She continued with messages to her Black fans and supporters that she is fighting for them, and will no longer take any roles that don’t provide accurate and nuanced representations of Black people.

Asha Bromfield, another Black actress who plays Melody on the show, replied to Morgan on Twitter.

“Don’t even get me started with how Riverdale treated the Pussycats. We had so much more to contribute than standing in the background and adding sass to a storyline. I stand with you,” she wrote.

Despite the singing group Josie and the Pussycats being a staple in the Archie comics, they were slowly fazed out with no explanation. Melody left the show to star in a spin-off and only then did she receive significant screen time.

In a conversation with writer Grace Medford on Twitter, Morgan said “I’m the only Black series regular, but also paid the least.”

These statements are long overdue and it’s time for Hollywood to do better.

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