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The ‘Riverdale’ Finale’s Controversial Twist Isn’t Good Enough For This Polyamory Group

Riverdale is known for its bizarre plot twists, so it only makes sense that the series would end with one more surprise. At the end of its seven-season run, Riverdale’s main characters all ended up in one polyamorous four-person relationship — or a “quad,” as the show called it.

The twist got no shortage of reactions on the Internet, from confused to amused. Folks were especially up in arms about the show’s choice not to portray Archie and Jughead, the two male characters in the quad, having sex, despite showing all the other pairings getting it on.

But what did the polyamorous community itself think of Riverdale’s portrayal? 

OPEN (Organization for Polyamory and Ethical Non-monogamy) is “a nonprofit organization dedicated to normalizing and empowering non-monogamous individuals, relationships, and communities,” per its mission statement. That includes critiquing media portrayals of polyamory — and according to OPEN’s co-founder and executive director Brett Chamberlin, Riverdale’s wasn’t up to snuff.

Chamberlin told TMZ that though it’s “tempting to celebrate every portrayal of non-monogamy in popular media,” Riverdale’s attempt might do more harm than good. “It’s frustrating that Riverdale used its characters’ non-monogamous relationship as a ‘shocking twist’ rather than engaging with an authentic portrayal of non-monogamy as simply being part of people’s identities.”

“We didn’t see or hear anything about why these characters practice non-monogamy, what it means for them, the substance of their relationship agreements and communication practices, or any of the other underlying motivations and work that makes relationships of any type function,” Chamberlin continued.

Clearly, Riverdale’s stab at showing polyamory wasn’t up to OPEN’s standards. So, what could the show have done better? OPEN lays out exactly that in its non-monogamy media guide, a checklist of nine criteria for evaluating portrayals of polyamorous relationships.

According to OPEN’s guide, any media aiming to represent consensual non-monogamy should ensure the relationship is clearly consensual for all parties in the relationship (meaning no infidelity); has clear commitment and isn’t written off as a fling; goes beyond stereotypes; explores the existence of polyamorous family structures; is seen as morally neutral (rather than being a negative trait); depicts the people in the relationship putting in authentic work; has pure intentions and motivations; considers how polyamory intersects with other identities; and is not over-sexualized.

Looking at those standards, it’s no wonder Riverdale falls short. Let this be a lesson to all future content creators: if you want to portray an underrepresented community, be sure to do your research first.

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