The quaint small town of Riverdale was turned upside down after it was struck with the mysterious death of Jason Blossom, a popular high school student and member of the most powerful family in town. The series features a main cast based on the characters of Archie Comics: Archie Andrews, Betty Cooper, Veronica Lodge, and Jughead Jones. Archie and his friends explore the struggles of everyday life while taking on the haunting case of Jason Blossom. However in order to solve this mystery, this rag tag team of four must first unlock the secrets that lie buried deep beneath the surface of their hometown.
Jughead Jones, best friend/ex-best friend to the show’s obvious heartthrob Archie, is the narrator of the series. Riverdale marks as Cole Sprouse’s return to the acting scene, and he did not disappoint with his portrayal of the character. Although there are several differences from the original comic book series, here are some of the reasons why Riverdale’s Jughead Jones deserves more appreciation and what we can take away from his character.
1. His passion for what he loves
Jughead is introduced as a passionate writer and a well-learned individual. His vigor for writing was motivated by a “be unafraid to tell the story no one was going to tell, or even knows how to tell” approach, and this was something refreshing in the view of journalism, as a major of modern journalism has been skewed to a world of exaggerated gossip rather than the simple notion of putting the truth out there as it is.
He is also very perceptive about what is going on around him and yet being firm in his stance. After his father read a copy of his ongoing manuscript surrounding the topic of Blossom’s death, he had asked Jughead on his opinion on who he thought was the murderer. Although that was the most obvious question to ask, Jughead surprised his father by distinguishing the actual point of his investigation: it was beyond pointing fingers to blame, but rather the effect it had on their community – what they did about it and how they responded to the tragedy instead of the tragedy itself. Was Riverdale a breeding ground of good or of darkness and evil?
2. His demeanor and character
Throughout the season, we are exposed to greater depth to Jughead’s character — who he was beyond the “intellectual social outcast” persona. He was very apt in his description of himself in saying, “I’m weird. I’m a weirdo. I don’t fit in and I don’t want to fit in.” The idea of fitting in seems to be a subject that is brushed off lightly by Jughead. However, his nonchalance over this concept was tested time and time again. Although Jughead gives a big show about how he doesn’t care about others’ opinions of him, he seems to be very much aware of his incompetence in comparison to his girlfriend Betty. This vulnerable side of him shows how much he actually cares about what the people he loves thinks of him, and it also shows how he cares for others more than himself.
It is no secret that being a social outcast would possibly lead to being bullied relentlessly. When a classmate offhandedly accused him of being the one behind Jason’s murder and that he had “done stuff to the body,” Jughead responded by educating him on the politically correct term for it. Although it was a minor scene, it shows how he was not irked by the wrongful accusation and rather found humor in it. It is interesting to see how Jughead takes it all in despite not deserving the way he is being treated.
It was revealed that Jughead was secretly living at the school after the drive in he used to live in had shut down. When confronted by Archie on why he hadn’t said anything about it, Jughead had assured him that his current living situation was temporary and he would figure something out. He always does. This brings to light the independence he possesses, knowing he will find a way to make things work because he has to instead of giving up.
Jughead had made the impulsive decision to transfer schools after all the constant drama. Upon being confronted about why he decided to jump ship, Jughead admitted that maybe he could blend in better there and he wanted to keep Betty safe. The subtlety of Jughead’s actions shows a form of genuineness, as he never parades around his pursuit for the greater good nor does he expect anything in return. When Betty was worried sick about the disappearance of her sister, Jughead had wordlessly offered a squeeze on her shoulder as support. Upon wanting to confess his feelings to Betty, he seemed hesitant as though asking for her permission to kiss her. Jughead stands as both brave, yet compassionate.
3. Don’t judge a book by its cover
Jughead’s character seems to embody “there’s more to it than it meets the eye”, and this is explored not only in how he approaches the investigation but also the events surrounding his personal life. Despite his cool demeanor, Jughead is just like every high school kid underneath his exterior — terrified of not being able to be himself, of people’s opinions and the fate of his family. The root of Jughead’s angst typically would come from a place of pain. By being raised “from the wrong side of the tracks”, teens such as Jughead would not be accustomed to kindness or niceness without strings attached.
Probably one of the most heart-breaking scenes from the Riverdale series was after Jughead found out about his father’s arrest. The emotion of betrayal, sadness, and disbelief portrayed in this scene was evident as he trashed their old home. The grief that literally got his frame shaking shows how much Jughead actually trusts and cares about his father, and this applies as well to the people he calls his friends.
Jughead’s relationship with his girlfriend Betty earned the endearing petname “Bughead.” Betty’s role is poignant to the development of Jughead’s character. Betty had revealed that there was an overwhelming darkness within her, which is a big contrast to her “perfect girl next door” personality. In response, Jughead had just held her hands tight and kissed them wordlessly. Betty had listened quietly and observed Jughead while he ranted on about being distrusting of others. When Jughead confesses why he is the way he is, it was heartbreaking because in this world we’ve all become accustomed to getting hurt, of being rejected if we are being ourselves. Despite so few words exchanged, we can see the unconditional love and acceptance between the pair.
4. The effect of family upbringing
“We’re not our parents, Betty. We’re not our families.”
A lot of our generation is familiar with the idea of broken families — either growing up with a single parent, divorce, or alcoholic or drug addicted family members. And it is comforting to see a character on TV being very real with the reality of such family situations. The relationship between Jughead and his father gives great weight to their characters as family situations are not as clear cut. The desperation in FP Jones’s voice in asking if his son believed he would get his act together and Jughead’s hesitant “yes” tells us about how there isn’t a completely correct or wrong side in family situations. Another shared perspective of kids that grow up with family problems is the child’s tendency to blame themselves for them. When Betty discovered more about her family, she started to question both her family’s sanity and her own.
Happy situations can also be skewed in a negative light. Upon being asked about why he doesn’t acknowledge his birthday, Jughead opened up about how things were always messed up at home and his birthday became a day that everyone was forced to act as though everything is okay. This perspective of loneliness is commonly experienced by kids growing up in broken homes.
5. Love and being vulnerable
“You are so much stronger than all the white noise.”
It is interesting to see the dynamics of “Bughead,” for despite having strong opinions, neither are playing the dominant role in their relationship. Rather, the duo make it a point to work together both in their personal problems and the investigation. Relationships require effort. We all know that planning or even attending a baby shower is the last thing we ever expected Jughead to do, but he stayed by Betty’s side regardless because he understood how important it was to her. He was also very enthusiastic when Betty’s mother invited him and his dad for a meal, and he expressed how he believed it was good for their families to get to know each other.
Jughead is often seen as Betty’s encourager, but there are times when his strong exterior also crumbles. The very fact that Jughead mentioned how he was so happy when his father paid attention to him shows us how much emotion he is capable of feeling. When Betty was threatened after exposing the South Side Serpents, Jughead got too into his head and wondered why he didn’t do everyone a favor and just up and leave. Being happy seems to be something that Jughead was hesitant to feel and this was something I could relate to. Sometimes when you feel that happiness bursting in your chest, you start to become afraid that it will be taken away from you just as quick.
As much as we give love, we hope to receive as much or more love in return – and that is okay.