From Archie Comics to Riverdale: How Betty & Archie have remained a dynamic pop culture ship
The all-American boy and the girl next door: an irresistible dynamic as old as time. From their first appearance in a 1941 comic, Archie Andrews and Betty Cooper’s relationship captured the hearts of fans around the globe. Archie was introduced as a loveable, slightly clueless redhead who loves sports, cars, and enjoying milkshakes with his pals. Betty was a sweet blonde and his ever-reliable best friend who goes out of her way to be kind to everyone in the small town of Riverdale. The two would go on to become household names and establish a romance that’s been forever cemented in pop culture history.
Today, Betty and Archie are just as loved — thanks to The CW’s take on the Archie Comics characters, Riverdale. Now on its seventh and final season, the teen drama is a modern, darker, and zanier (think cults, superpowers, murder, and time travel) spin on the comics. But for all of the stark differences between the classic ‘50s comics and the series, one key element remains: Betty (Lili Reinhart) and Archie’s (KJ Apa) relationship.
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“There is not a day that goes by where we don’t hear from fans who want Betty and Archie to wind up together,” says Jon Goldwater, CEO of Archie Comics, Riverdale executive producer, and son of Archie Comics co-founder John L. Goldwater. “Both on TV and in the comics where everything started.”
Dubbed “Barchie” by fans, their romance continues to be one the most iconic, everlasting “ships” — even after hundreds of comics and episodes. They’re a timeless ship because they melt the hearts of everyone who loves a classic childhood-friends-to-lovers story, or sees a little bit of themselves in the girl next door.
[Courtesy of Jack Rowand/The CW]
For Riverdale creator and Archie Comics Chief Creative Officer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Barchie has been a crucial component of the show from the beginning. In the first episode, Betty gazes out her window at Archie, enchanted by the sight of her best friend and longtime crush. These “window moments” would end up being a staple of the series. “When you work on a pilot, you hope to craft something that is a touchstone for the entire series,” Aguirre-Sacasa explains. “For us, it was [what] started in those bedrooms, with Betty longing for Archie and Archie not yet having feelings for Betty.”
Barchie was in the beginning of the comics, too. Goldwater says, “When Archie made his first appearance back in Pep Comics #22, she was right there with him.” Betty’s best friend and Archie’s other love interest, Veronica (played by Camila Mendes in Riverdale), on the other hand, did not appear in the comics until a year later in 1942.
Betty and Archie’s dynamic has evolved throughout Riverdale. At the beginning of the series, Betty pined over Archie, but the feeling wasn’t quite mutual. Soon, she began a romance with Archie’s best friend, Jughead (Cole Sprouse), and Archie started dating Veronica. But the Barchie seed was still planted. In the season 1 finale (“The Sweet Hereafter”), Archie tells Betty that he likes Veronica a lot, but “a little part of [him] always thought” — only for her to cut him off.
Once both couples broke up in season 2 (“House of the Devil”), Barchie was teased and Riverdale returned to one of its window moments yet again. Jughead’s narration even proclaims, “As feelings that had long been buried shook loose, a boy looked out his window at the girl next door as if for the very first time.” Betty and Archie shared their first on-screen kiss in the next episode — and though it was dismissed and they both went back to their former partners, it was clear their relationship was forever changed.
[Courtesy of The CW]
From then on, Barchie was put through the relationship ringer, and fans who shipped them haven't stopped feeling heart palpitations. In Season 4, they pretended to be a couple. Later, they began an affair. In Season 5, they experimented as friends-with-benefits and eventually became a real couple. Then in true Riverdale fashion, they got engaged in the Season 6 finale, only for a comet to hit the town and send them all back in time to the ‘50s.
“God, they’ve been through so much,” Aguirre-Sacasa says.
One thing has remained a constant, though: their friendship. “They are friends as much as they are romantic interests,” Aguirre-Sacasa says. “They’ve always been close. There's a history. They've grown up side-by-side.”
The “best friend” dynamic is one of the things that made Barchie so appealing in the comics, too, Goldwater adds. “Betty is everyone’s best friend,” he says. “[She’s] smart, funny, and completely selfless. Who wouldn’t want that in a partner?”
Season 7 of Riverdale introduced viewers to a different version of the pair. Their memories of the past six seasons have been wiped, and they’re back to being teenagers and next-door neighbors — only this time, they’re in the ‘50s. While Aguirre-Sacasa confirms Riverdale will return to the present, the show is currently making the most out of its nostalgia timeline, especially when it comes to Betty and Archie’s relationship.
[Courtesy of The CW]
Aguirre-Sacasa says that he saw this “reset” as a way to explore a simpler version of the characters — one that’s more in line with the source material. “Things had become so fraught and, I often say the word Baroque, and weighted with so much trauma,” he says. “It's nice to discover these kids and be with them when they're a bit lighter and brighter and can have a little more fun. There's a sort of innocence and newness to [Betty and Archie’s] relationship. This Archie is so much more innocent. Betty is, as well. I think that it embraces the ethos of the original comics much more than we had in previous years.”
Unlike the Archie who was framed for murder, nearly died from being mauled by a bear, started a vigilante group, and had superhuman strength, season 7 Archie is a simple guy who loves his mom, hangs out at Pop’s, and “has two left feet” when it comes to dancing. Betty is once again the girl next door, although this time she’s not weighed down by her family’s serial killer genes, the Trash Bag Killer, or her duties as an FBI agent. Instead, she’s busy teaching Archie how to dance in preparation for the school sock hop, offering him advice on impressing girls, and (once again) finding herself longing for him from her bedroom window.
Another nod to the comics this season is the “push and pull” between Betty, Archie, and Veronica — although Aguirre-Sacasa doesn’t consider the show’s version to be a “love triangle,” per se, saying “that story is not done.”
Whether Archie should be with Betty or Veronica has been a question throughout Riverdale, and Aguirre-Sacasa felt it was important for the show to explore both relationships. “I think the idea was always to fully play out Archie with Veronica [and] Archie with Betty. It wasn't just going to be one of the girls from the OG comic books. Or, if it was, we hadn't yet determined who that would be and explored who would be the best match,” he says.
He adds that it was important to him to “not break the female friendship code” between Betty and Veronica over Archie. In fact, he says they’ll actually be exploring Betty and Veronica’s friendship much more this season.
This is also in line with the comics, Goldwater notes. “Despite the fact that they’ve both been vying for Archie’s attention for over 80 years now, the most important thing in Betty and Veronica’s lives is the unbreakable friendship with each other,” he says.
[Courtesy of The CW]
In the comics, Archie dated both Betty and Veronica. In 2009, the 600th issue of the Archie Comics seemingly put the “Betty or Veronica?” debate to an end when Archie proposed to Veronica. Initially, there was a lot of backlash from fans. But then another comic was released, this time with Archie proposing to Betty. This became the Archie Marries… series, a collection that explored both possibilities, and was a decision made by Archie Comics as a “way to please everyone.”
“These are characters whom everyone feels extremely passionate about. We know that there are readers out there who will only be happy if Archie winds up with Betty. Likewise, we know there’s a contingent who will only accept Archie and Veronica getting together,” Goldwater says. “That’s the thing with these characters — they are so firmly embedded in the fabric of popular culture that everyone has an opinion about them.”
For Goldwater, the beauty of Betty and Archie is that they can find a way to flourish in any story. “They can be thrown into any situation, be it a zombie apocalypse or a traditional small town brimming with mystery, and still maintain their core selves,” he says. “Riverdale understands this. We’ve had Betty the high schooler, Betty the FBI agent, etcetera. And despite these storylines, Betty always remains recognizable. Same with Archie.”
[Courtesy of Justine Yeung/The CW]
While we may know these characters through and through, it seems the best is yet to come on Riverdale. “I would say that my favorite Barchie moments are coming up,” Aguirre-Sacasa says, noting that from episode 5 on, Apa and Reinhart have a handful of “amazing scenes in practically every episode” that point their characters “towards a relationship.”
He also teases that the show will revisit Betty and Archie’s childhoods, promising that there’s “a real charm” to the scenes. As fans may remember, they did share their first-ever kiss as kids, after all.
As for which Archie ship is endgame, Aguirre-Sacasa isn’t quite ready to firmly commit one way or the other just yet — but he does have a pretty good idea. Regardless of how Riverdale ends, Betty and Archie’s relationship carries a rich legacy that’s paved the way for some of the greatest romances in pop culture history. They represent friendship, innocence, and a love that’s timeless.
“Archie and Betty endure because they reflect the best things about youth, about love, [and] about life itself,” Goldwater says. “They inspire us, and make us laugh and wonder. They’ve enriched my life and the lives of fans across the globe. Everyone can appreciate that — even if you prefer Veronica.”