'Riverdale' accused of sexualizing teen girls for pole dance scene

Teenage Betty Cooper gave a controversial performance on <em>Riverdale</em> this week. (Photo: CW)
Teenage Betty Cooper gave a controversial performance on Riverdale this week. (Photo: CW)

In what’s being called “the most cringe-worthy event of your life,” the television show Riverdale featured a teenage stripping scene that no one is happy about.

This week’s episode from the CW adaptation of Archie’s Comics, which launched in the 1950s, features 21-year-old actress Lili Reinhart, who plays 16-year-old Betty Cooper (the blonde counterpart to Archie’s brunette girlfriend, Veronica Lodge), stripping down to black, lacy undergarments and performing a sexy, burlesque dance on a stripper pole. A group of middle-aged folks — including her boyfriend’s father and her own mother — sit in the audience.

Social media reacted.

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Cosmopolitan wrote of the scene, “There’s something unsettling about seeing a high school student do what Betty did at a business that’s probably serving alcohol to underage kids,” and Entertainment Weekly prefaced its recap with, “AND NOW WE’VE MADE IT TO THE MOST CRINGEWORTHY EVENT OF YOUR LIFE.”

The scene is reminiscent of a 2007 episode in the first season of Gossip Girl in which high schooler Blair Waldorf, played by then 21-year-old actress Leighton Meester, reeling from her breakup with Nate Archibald, hits a nightclub, drinks champagne, and strips on a stage. Scandalous 10 years ago; unimaginable in a #MeToo world where seemingly every day, men are accused of sexual misconduct.

“No matter the context, a scene involving an underage girl sexualized on a stage does nothing to further the cultural conversation about consent,” parenting expert Sharon Silver, creator of Proactive Parenting, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “That said, the public reaction is a gift — it forces us to examine ourselves and literally strip away the depth of systemic sexism.”

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