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Riverdale’s Veronica and the Spoiled Rich Girl

Archie Comics’ Veronica Lodge is the classic spoiled rich girl. So what’s so different about her Riverdale update? How does Veronica deal with her entitlement and reinvent herself in our “Check Your Privilege” era?

TRANSCRIPT

Veronica Lodge: “I don’t follow rules, I make them. And when necessary, I break them.” - Riverdale, 1x3

Archie Comics’ Veronica Lodge is the classic spoiled rich girl. Like other archetypal rich girls, Veronica is selfish, shallow and believes that other people are beneath her because of her wealth. But while the Archie Comics character is content to remain a bratty princess, the Veronica of the CW’s update, Riverdale, decides it’s time to make a change.

Veronica: “I made a pact with myself to use this as an opportunity to become maybe hopefully a better version of myself.” 1x1

Riverdale’s decision to update Veronica reflects our culture’s shifting attitudes towards wealth and inequality. Today there’s an ever-growing pressure to “check your privilege” —to be self-aware of the disproportionate advantages that money and status can provide.

Veronica: “I’m going scorched earth on these privileged, despicable miscreants.” 1x3

Veronica 2.0 demonstrates the need for the privileged woman to adapt to a society that’s far less likely to tolerate her indulgence and arrogance. Ultimately, Veronica’s journey toward self-improvement exposes the system that has long created and corrupted spoiled rich girls like her,

Veronica: “I’m back to being the shallow, toxic rich bitch who ruins everything in her path, which is unfortunate.” 1x2

but it also reveals this character’s unique ability to dismantle that system.

Here’s our Take on how Riverdale’s Veronica Lodge represents the spoiled rich girl character type reimagined for a modern “Check Your Privilege” era—one who seeks to use her privilege for good, rather than for herself, and for whom entitlement is a potential form of empowerment.

Veronica: “I did this for me, Daddy.” 3x21

Poor Little Rich Girl

Betty Cooper (to Veronica): “Spoiled rich girl: check, major Daddy issues: check.” 2x18

Since her introduction in Archie Comics in 1942, Veronica Lodge has been depicted as a posh, arrogant rich princess. Veronica is so defined by her wealth because she is one of very few characters in the Archie universe for whom wealth is even a factor. As Bart Beaty writes in his book, Twelve-Cent Archie, “Veronica’s atypicality is… a function of class privilege in a fictional world in which class otherwise does not exist.”

Veronica: “Look at us, throwing money away on bejeweled eggs like we’re a family of Russian oligarchs when there are people in this town who can’t even afford their medical bills.” 2x9

All her worst traits—her shallowness, selfishness, and general snobbishness—are understood as a consequence of Veronica’s wealth. And since she’s one of the only wealthy characters, these defects of her personality can be read as a commentary on the upper class as a whole. Since our earliest stories, the spoiled rich girl has served as a universally understood symbol for all the worst character flaws of the wealthy and powerful.

Frances Stevens: “Money handles most people.”

John Robie: “Do you honestly believe that?”

Frances Stevens: “I’ve proved it.” - To Catch a Thief

Veronica shares a number of traits with classic rich girls from history and culture. Like Marie Antoinette, she’s trapped by her “spoiled rich girl” identity inside a life of bountiful resources but limited prospects.

Marie Antoinette: “I have enough diamonds.” - Marie Antoinette (2006)

Like Salome, she exploits her station and her ability to command the male gaze to get what she wants. Like Jane Austen’s Emma —or her ‘90s update, Clueless’s Cher Horowitz—Veronica seems to enjoy meddling in other people’s relationships, however well-intended her manipulation may be.

Cher Horowitz: “God, this woman is screaming for a makeover. I’m her only hope.” - Clueless

And like Estella in Great Expectations, due to her upbringing, Veronica finds it difficult to be trusting or vulnerable or to express her emotions the way other people do. Veronica’s haughty attitude is also reminiscent of some infamous, real-life heiresses, whose blissful ignorance of ordinary life is a point of stuffy pride.

Real or fictional, and regardless of their era, what unites these ice princesses most is their sense of privilege— a belief that, for them, the rules simply don’t apply.

London Tipton: “Law is something you get to break if you’re rich!” - The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, 3x9

Veronica even says this explicitly in Betty and Veronica #144 when she tells Betty “I’m rich you’re poor. That makes me better than you.” The comics’ version of Veronica embraces her entitlement, behaving selfishly and cruelly even toward her friends. As part of a recurring joke, Veronica schemes to ruin Betty’s clothes or hair. But even when she’s chastised for her behavior, her friends never abandon her. So it’s understandable that Veronica thinks the rules don’t apply to her. She almost never faces consequences for breaking them, so she has no reason to change.

The Veronica we meet on Riverdale, though, is different. To begin with, she’s a fallen rich girl. Veronica’s father is in prison. This has not only humbled her — but it’s also left her with the desperate need to prove she’s not on the same immoral path.

Veronica: “I know that I need goodness in my life. I need you in my life.” 2x9

Meanwhile, Riverdale turns Cheryl Blossom into the spoiled Queen Bee of Riverdale High. By having Cheryl start out with most of the same qualities Veronica had in the comics, the show provides a contrast that highlights what Veronica is running from.

Veronica: “I was like Cheryl, I was worse than Cheryl.” 1x1

It also helps to illustrate a key difference between the two-dimensional world of the comics and the three-dimensional characters we meet on TV. While the short-form slapstick narratives of Archie Comics rely on its characters remaining static, audiences weaned on modern serialized TV dramas have come to expect that every action has a consequence for its characters and that they should change as a result.

Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (Riverdale series developer): “The Archie Comic book they’re always 16, they will always be 16…but that’s not how it’s going to be on Riverdale. The characters are going to change and grow and learn.” - Comic Con 2016

But is it really possible for the rich girl to evolve—to escape being spoiled rotten by her privilege?

Veronica: “Don’t you think some people can’t change. Like it’s just in their DNA to be bad?” 2x2

Daddy’s Little Rich Girl

Veronica’s main obstacle toward becoming a better person is her family, which represents the larger system of wealth and inequality that the spoiled rich girl helps to perpetuate.

Veronica: “No, I didn’t ‘achieve Harvard’, once again my father meddled in my affairs and apparently bought my way into their ivy-covered walls.” 4x8

Her father’s life of crime makes this family an especially dark symbol of power. But we can also interpret the link here between wealth and crime as symbolic. In the spirit of the saying “Behind every great fortune, there is a crime,” (Honoré de Balzac) some argue that being disproportionately wealthy while others are poor is in itself already a grievous wrongdoing.

Bernie Sanders: “And then you also have three people owning more wealth than the bottom half of American society. That is a moral and economic outrage.” - October 15, 2019 Debate

Veronica’s parents exploit her love and her loyalty to convince her to act immorally. To them, she’s a tool, much as the spoiled rich girl is also a tool of a wealthy society. The rich girl is a product of age-old class structures, and she’s expected to act in certain ways to prop up the system, thus maintaining her own family’s power.

Hermione Lodge: “Get back in line with this family. Because you are a Lodge before anything else.” 2x1

This highlights one of the key reasons children get spoiled in the first place: to prepare them to be the spoiled adults of the upper class, defenders of the existing class hierarchy.

Blair Waldorf: “Some people are simply better than others.” - Gossip Girl, 3x6

Throughout the show, Veronica struggles to balance her loyalty to her new friends, whom she sees as fundamentally good people, and her duty to her family, who repeatedly asks her to manipulate those friends.

Like other spoiled rich girls, Veronica realizes that her privilege is borrowed— her power stems from the powerful man in her life. In the comics, Veronica’s power is mostly limited to exerting influence over the men around her. Beyond her reliance on her father, it’s implied she’ll be expected to marry a certain type of man, while Mr. Lodge worries that Archie will try to wed his daughter. In Archie #157, he tells his butler Smithers, “Just being in the same room with him is flirting with death!” Mr. Lodge’s obsession with Archie arises from his knowledge that Veronica’s future husband will eventually assume control of the Lodge family empire—and by extension, all of Veronica’s money and power.

Although Riverdale generally operates on a more modern set of values than the Archie Comics of the ‘40s and ‘50s, we can still see the many ways Veronica is expected to yield to the family patriarch in order to maintain her privilege.

Hiram Lodge: “You had the audacity to try and deceive me.” 3x9

—whether it’s her father wielding his influence over her boyfriends or Veronica bearing the consequences for her family’s actions.

Ethel Muggs: “For your crimes against the town of Riverdale…for everything you and your family have done and continue to do we find you guilty.” 2x16

So even in this modern telling, the rich girl’s power isn’t really hers to control. To maintain her privilege, Veronica still has to serve the same rigid class structures that also preserve the ultimate power of men at the top. We’ve become familiar with the narrative of the spoiled rich man who’s been groomed to take the reins from his successful father. Often this expectation is placed on him without his ever being given the chance to consider whether it’s what he actually wants. In this case, we recognize the stereotypical behavior of the spoiled rich man as a form of overcompensating for his unreadiness—or unwillingness —to have this power forced upon him.

But the spoiled rich girl often isn’t being prepared for a formal position of leadership. The expectations that come with her status can be limiting, not only cutting off opportunities for personal or moral growth but also presenting her with few socially acceptable options of what her future might look like.

Veronica: “Walking through those ivory towers, I’d be letting you dictate the rest of my life. I’d graduate, get my MBA from Oxford, run a Fortune 500… the next 20 years would be mapped out by you.” 4x8

Meanwhile, unlike so many examples of the spoiled rich kid —or even like Cheryl Blossom— Veronica’s wealth doesn’t come from generations of privilege. Her father built (and is still building) his fortune himself.

But in addition to being “new money” (and criminals), the Lodges are Latinx, a divergence not only from the Archie Comics but from most of the wealthy families we see on TV. Both of these factors combine to suggest that the Lodges’ wealth is more tenuous than that of a white establishment family like the Blossoms. This puts even more implicit pressure on Veronica to protect it, complicating her loyalties.

Veronica: “You always say: family is the most important thing.” 3x16

For Veronica, becoming a better person means breaking away from her criminal family. Yet, to challenge her father would also mean giving up his wealth, and the advantages that it provides her. This dynamic illustrates how, no matter how virtuously the spoiled rich girl may want to act, eventually she must choose between doing the right thing, and maintaining her power.

Veronica: “Blindfold’s off, Daddy, I can’t just put it back on.” 2x2

Simply being aware of one’s privilege (or paying lip service to inequality) does very little to change the status quo, unless you act consciously to rectify wrongs. Veronica is only able to counteract her father’s crime by sacrificing her own fortune.

Hiram: “If I make this deal with you, that’s it. That’s the last thing you’ll ever get from me…” 2x22

If the spoiled rich girl wants to overthrow the system that created her, she must be willing to go down with it.

Veronica: “Fine, it’s all blood money anyway.” 2x22

The Rich Girl Empowered

Veronica’s version of the spoiled rich girl also reveals the untapped power she holds.

Veronica: “Oh Archie, it’s adorable when you underestimate me.” 2x4

Because she hails from a system of privilege, she is uniquely positioned to subvert it. Those same characteristics that define Veronica as the spoiled rich girl— her attitude of belonging, her self-assurance, her knowledge of social rules— allow her to move confidently anywhere she chooses, as seen when her father frames Archie for murder, and Veronica intimidates her way into an illegal boxing match to help him.

While this entitlement is traditionally portrayed as a negative trait, Veronica demonstrates that it can also be a powerful tool when used for good.

Meanwhile, Veronica’s perception as a “spoiled rich girl” allows her to take advantage of men who underestimate her —to their peril.

Veronica: “That’s right, Daddy. I’m shaking you down.” 3x3

When her speakeasy is strapped for cash, she manipulates a mobster into a winner-takes-all poker game. And when Veronica finally succeeds in having her father arrested, it’s through cunningly using his own deception against him. In both situations, Veronica employs her rule-breaking confidence and exploits the male expectation that a woman can and will be cowed by force.

In his Glamour article, “The Enduring Allure of the Rich Bitch,” Christopher Rosa suggests that the reason we love TV’s spoiled rich girls is their freedom to speak their minds without fear of consequences, arguing that these “rich bitches” are actually inherently feminist in their fearless performance of traits that are usually discouraged in women.

Veronica: “You wanted fire? Sorry, Cheryl Bombshell. My specialty’s ice.” 1x1

Veronica’s fearlessness allows her to point out the irony in situations, or call out others when she feels they’re acting badly.

Veronica: “Cheryl, you’re acting like trash and I don’t wanna get a citation.” 3x2

And even though her power may originate from a man, she frequently wields it on behalf of her fellow women.

Veronica: “Call me, or any of these beautiful, young, strong, intelligent women ‘slut’ one more time.” 1x3

In the comics, too, even if many of her defining personality traits are negative, Veronica is also the most empowered female character. While nice girl Betty pines for a boy who is mostly not interested in her, Veronica commands the attention of everyone around her. She easily wins the heart of Archie and, even when she decides to date other boys instead of him, Archie is still intensely loyal to her. In Betty and Veronica #76, Veronica learns that she even has the power to control Archie with the literal movement of her finger.

So can the spoiled rich girl break free from the cycle of privilege and change herself for the better? This update to Veronica suggests it is possible— with the right support.

While Veronica’s family demands blind loyalty to their own self-interests, her friends challenge and inspire her to become a better person, standing by her when her quest for self-improvement leads her family to turn against her.

Betty: “You need to focus on yourself for a change. I’m saying this to you as your friend. Open the damn speakeasy.” 3x3

In the comics, Veronica’s money can’t buy her happiness or fulfillment— she’s always bored with Archie, or constantly scheming to outshine Betty. But on Riverdale, Veronica finds purpose in being a good friend and a committed partner.

Veronica: “Archie, I am not letting my dad take away the one thing that I love… it’s not happening.” 3x1

Ultimately, what the spoiled rich girl needs to realize is that it’s our relationships with other people that are life’s greatest reward. While Veronica’s redemption is a work in progress, through her unbreakable will, she’s able to use her privilege for good, even stopping her family from committing some of its worst sins.

This reforming rich girl offers hope that change is possible for anyone — even for those who would seemingly have no compelling reason to want it. Real improvements in our world happen when someone who has everything decides they want more— but from themselves.

Veronica: “Threatened much? Don’t worry: you might be a stock character from a ‘90s teen movie, but I’m not.” 1x4