Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Pride Month Spotlight: Cheryl Blossom from ‘Riverdale’

Welcome to the seventh installment of our 2020 Pride Month Series! Each day in the month of June, we will be highlighting a different member of the LGBTQ+ community who we think is a great example of representation and dynamic characterization. We will focus on fictional characters, celebrities, and activists alike – the positive voices within the LGBTQ+ community and in mainstream media.

As Riverdale High’s student body and LGBTQIA Alliance president, Cheryl Blossom, played by Madelaine Petsch, has proven more times than anyone should have to that she is fierce and a force to be reckoned with. From standing up for what she believes in, withstanding conversion therapy and surviving an organ harvesting cult, see why Riverdale‘s top Vixen deserves a spot in this series.

Image Courtesy The CW.

The first time we meet Cheryl is on that fateful Fourth of July day at Sweetwater River with twin brother, Jason. Cheryl seems to be hiding a secret about his death and soon is hallucinating him at a pep rally. She admits that Jason was supposed to “come back” that day at Sweetwater River but he never did. It’s revealed that Cheryl had actually tried to help Jason run away at one point and Cheryl’s parents, Clifford and Penelope, forbid her to speak at Jason’s funeral but Cheryl does so anyway and wears the white dress she had worn at Sweetwater River. Towards the end of the first season, a thumb drive contained video evidence that Clifford had shot and killed his own son. After Cheryl watches that video, after which soon Clifford kills himself, she is met with so much pain that she attempts to drown herself at Sweetwater River. The Core Four save her and Cheryl burns down the Blossom mansion, Thornhill. The season one finale shows Cheryl at her breaking point, a place so vulnerable that it changes her.

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On top of grieving Jason’s murder throughout the first season, Cheryl also finds out that Betty’s sister, Polly, is pregnant with Jason’s twins. Wanting to still be close to her twin, Cheryl offers to help Betty take care of Polly, and Polly moves in with the Blossoms. However, after suspecting that her parents may want something more from Polly, Cheryl has her move out so she and the twins can be safe from harm. Cheryl is noticing the destruction that her parents could cause and she was so close to Jason so having that physical piece of him so close makes her want to do anything she can to protect it, even if that means defying Clifford and Penelope.

Image Courtesy The CW.

In the fifth episode of season two, while at an open house event, Nick St. Clair, a friend of the Lodge’s from New York, manages to slip something into Cheryl’s drink and drugs her. He walks her away from the event and into his hotel room as Cheryl is unknowingly going along with it. As Veronica and the Pussycats are performing on stage, they see what’s happening and follow them. Just before Nick is able to sexually assault Cheryl, they stop him. The Pussycats beat up Nick and comfort Cheryl, who has experienced even more trauma. It’s later revealed that Nick has done the same to many other girls, including Veronica. Very quietly as the show goes on, Cheryl still deals with that trauma and hatred. Nick returns in season four and Cheryl is so traumatized that she can barely stand the sight of him.

Towards the middle of the season, Cheryl admits to Southside Serpent Toni that she once had a friendship-turned-lesbian-relationship broken up by Penelope and the two start getting closer. However, only a few episodes later, Cheryl confronts Penelope about her plan to get the house “in order” and Penelope ultimately commits Cheryl to conversion therapy at the Sisters of Quiet Mercy. Veronica and Toni find out what happened with Cheryl, and they, along with Kevin, devise a plan to break Cheryl out of Sisters of Quiet Mercy. When they successfully get into the building, Toni finds Cheryl, rescues her, and they kiss. The scene solidifies one of the show’s most powerful couples. The season ends with the Serpents and Cheryl joining them, Jughead giving her a red Southside Serpent jacket fit for a Queen. Seeing Cheryl’s development within a season, including her unexpectedly coming out, shows that although she may be broken and suffering, she still has found ways to overcome it. It has lead her to possibly finding “the one.”

Madelaine Petsch and Vanessa Morgan in Riverdale. Image courtesy of The CW.

In season three, Cheryl and Toni’s experience in the Serpents doesn’t last long as Jughead kicks them out after they help Veronica steal from Hiram. Cheryl forms a new gang just for Toni called the Pretty Poisons, almost like the Southside Serpents, but all female and all badass. Later, Cheryl helps Betty try to figure out Edgar Evernever’s game plan and what The Farm is all about but falls under his spell and his cult. Cheryl talks Toni into joining just so they can be together. When The Farm is revealed to be a ploy to harvest organs and Betty tells Cheryl about it, all Cheryl cares about is getting Toni out, who is about to have her procedure. Cheryl reaches Toni just in time and as they’re about to escape, orderlies are right on their tails. They find a window just barely large enough for them to squeeze through and Toni escapes. However, Cheryl shuts the window and is taken away and holds the orderlies off long enough for Toni to get away on foot.

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While Cheryl sneaks away from her room, she finds Kevin and Fangs and tries to convince them that The Farm is just a plot but they don’t believe her. When she goes off to find proof that The Farm is harvesting organs, she opens a door and finds Jason’s corpse. She confronts Edgar, who sends her back to confinement. Alice comes into Cheryl’s room, holding Juniper, telling her she’s there to help. The two of them make their way down a tunnel, which leads out to Fox Forest. Alice hands Juniper off to Cheryl, telling her to reunite with Dagwood, find Betty, and stay safe from The Farm and Edgar. At Thistlehouse, Toni rallies the Serpents and Pretty Poisons to rescue Cheryl but much to their surprise, she has already escaped and is ready to take down Penelope and the Gargoyles, which they do successfully.

Image Courtesy The CW.

In season four, Cheryl and Toni are living at Thistlehouse with Nana Rose and the twins. However, Cheryl spends most of her time downstairs in the chapel with Jason’s corpse. For the first part of the season, Cheryl treats Jason’s corpse like he’s still alive. It’s a way for her to still have that part of Jason with her. She talks to it, reads to it, protects it. When she talks to the school’s guidance counselor, Mrs. Burble, she admits to what she’s been doing, finally breaking down from all of the trauma that she’s had over the last couple of years. After much consideration and support from Toni, Cheryl decides it’s time to give Jason the peace that he deserves, the peace that Penelope has kept her from. Cheryl and Toni, along with Betty, Veronica, Archie, and Jughead, go to Sweetwater River. Cheryl wanted them there because they were there when she tried to take her life. Jason’s corpse is laying in a boat and it’s soon lit on fire and Archie and Jughead push it out to the river. Even though it’s hard, Cheryl knows it’s time to let her brother go and be free and at peace.

The second half of the season has Cheryl and Veronica teaming up to start their very own rum business to form maple rum. They turn La Bonne Nuit into a dance club to cover up the rum so Hiram doesn’t find out. But he does anyway and Cheryl suggests they use her family’s old Gentleman’s Club that hasn’t been used in years while they keep La Bonne Nuit open to distract Hiram and his guys. Cheryl and Veronica create Maple Claw and their business is booming, with Toni’s help, even stopping Veronica’s sister, Hermosa, from selling them out. However, after a run-in with competition, Cheryl realizes that this isn’t what she signed up for. She wanted to do this business with Veronica because it’d be fun, but now all Veronica cares about is one-upping her father. Cheryl tells Veronica she can no longer be in business with her and Veronica understands.

Throughout Riverdale‘s four seasons, Cheryl has gone through relationships, loss, sacrifice, fighting for what she loves, standing up for what she believes in, all while keeping the River Vixens in check. She’s grieving when you first meet her and absolutely traumatized by the end of season one. Cheryl takes that pain in season two and stands up to her mother, she finally finds her true self and feels accepted. She finds love and solace in Toni, a Southside Serpent, a member of a gang she wanted nothing to do with and becomes part of it because of her girlfriend. Season three is where you get to see more of Cheryl and Toni’s relationship, how they’re doing with the Serpents, forming their own gang, their break in the middle of the season and Cheryl’s sacrifice for Toni because she wanted her safe and away from The Farm. You see their own individuality in season four while still working together on certain aspects. Toni supports Cheryl through her grief with Jason while Cheryl is at her breaking point but still standing strong. She helps her friends along the way because that’s who she is. Cheryl Marjorie Blossom is strong and brave and is everything that makes a warrior stand out from others.

Vanessa Morgan and Madelaine Petsch in Riverdale. Image courtesy of The CW.

Watch all four seasons of Riverdale now on Netflix and see why Cheryl Blossom is an LGBTQ icon. Season five premieres in January 2021 on The CW.

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Megan has been passionate about writing since she was little and has been passionate about all things pop culture and nerdy since almost as long. Joining Nerds and Beyond in 2019, she also graduated from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh in 2020 with a Bachelor of Arts in Multimedia Journalism. Megan is constantly binge-watching shows and finding new things to obsess over. 9-1-1 and Marvel currently reign as the top obsessions. You can find her on Twitter @marvelstaylena if you ever want to discuss some certain firefighters.

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