HomeOur ObsessionsArchieverseDo ‘Riverdale’ characters have a problem with diversity?

Do ‘Riverdale’ characters have a problem with diversity?

Vanessa Morgan, who plays Toni Topaz on Riverdale, recently called out the show for its lack of diverse characters.

Do ‘Riverdale’ characters have a problem with diversity?

Hollywood has always had a diversity problem. The reasons why go to systemic racism that seems baked into nearly every sort of industry. While there have been baby steps to correct the issues, there is still so much more to go in having a truly diverse and fair landscape in the entertainment industry. Vanessa Morgan, who plays Toni Topaz on Riverdale, recently called out Riverdale for its lack of diverse characters.

Morgan tweeted on Sunday, May 31, “Tired of how black people are portrayed in Media, tired of us being portrayed as thugs, dangerous, or angry scary people. Tired of us also being used as sidekick non-dimensional characters to our white leads. Or only used in the ads for diversity but not actually in the show.”

Morgan also revealed that while she’s been a series regular on Riverdale since season three, she’s also the least paid of the Riverdale cast.

Before you go attacking the Riverdale cast, it seems that Morgan’s issues only extend to the behind-the-scenes creatives. Morgan clarified that she has nothing but good vibes to her fellow cast-mates, “My role on Riverdale has nothing to do with my fellow cast-mates/friends. They don’t write the show. So no need to attack them, they don’t call the shots & I know they have my back.”

To be fair, Morgan definitely should be annoyed with how Riverdale handles diversity with their characters. Toni Topaz has been reduced to the sidekick, essentially, of Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch), which is a shame. Anything interesting from Toni’s stories like how she wants to stand up against the whitewashed past of Riverdale or when she ran her own gang…it just sort of fizzles out? 

It’s the same thing with Ashleigh Murray when she was on the series. No one, it seemed, knew what to do about Josie McCoy or how to use Murray outside of her popping up from time to time to sing. Meanwhile, the majority white cast gets nearly all of the focus or the story lines. With only Camila Mendes and the other actors that make up the Lodge family being, what seems to be, the lone exception to this.

Morgan is more than right to demand better from her work environment. She’s more than right to demand better for the other diverse Riverdale characters on the series. We should have more stories about Toni Topaz, outside of her relationship with Cheryl. There should be a greater effort for diversity on Riverdale as a whole. Largely, the LGBTQ+ and characters of color are left to the wayside. 

Riverdale has a world of over the top drama, noir narration, and twists and turns. Stories focusing on a range of people of different races, creeds, and backgrounds should be at the forefront of media today, especially when the younger generations demand it. Riverdale characters should be more diverse, but that’s only if those in charge realize that a change needs to come.

And it does. It should reflect the need for a wider and broader range of stories out there. Even when they get over the top and call drugs Jingle Jangle.

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Bec Heim is a freelance writer who has contributed and edited for sites like NetflixLife, ScreenRant, and 4 Your Excitement. When not talking and writing about pop culture (especially superheroes or any show with a paranormal bent), she is usually tackling her mountain of books, writing scripts or stories, or listening to podcasts.

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