I thought I’d switch gears a bit and give some insight into things we do in our house besides read books! My 11-year old son and I also tend to find popular tv shows (some old, some new) and binge watch them together – 1 episode per evening. I think this tradition started with Survivor when he was about 9 and progressed through Lost, Lost in Space, Stranger Things, The Umbrella Academy and others but we generally have at least one series going at any given time. While he tends to watch movies with his dad, he and I seem more drawn to tv series – we like following the characters and having a consistent story to engage in over a long period of time. It’s a way (outside of books and some other activities) for us to unwind and bond each day.
Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely challenges to finding tv series to binge watch with an 11-year old. Primarily, I find that:
- It’s difficult to know what’s going to be appropriate for an 11-year old prior to starting to watch, and
- It’s difficult to ensure that, if I find a show that’s appropriate for an 11-year old, it’s actually engaging for both of us! I definitely don’t want to spend weeks watching a show I can’t stand just because it’s appropriate for his viewing!
All that being said, this spring and summer, we’ve been dedicated to Riverdale. Let me say up front: unless you are dedicated to some pretty open conversations with your tween, Riverdale is not for you! He has a number of friends who watch it and I’m not sure how their parents handle it…I wouldn’t allow him to watch this show alone as I spend a fair bit of time asking him to pause it so I can explain rather mature concepts and we can have conversations about such topics as drugs, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, gang violence, etc. Given the storylines that Riverdale has embarked upon this season, I’ve also had to devote some time to talking about believability. While it’s definitely on the mature side of what I think is appropriate for my tween, Riverdale ticks most of my boxes for entertaining, appropriate viewing for both of us. *Note: it’s very important to me, however, that we watch this show together. I would never allow my son to watch Riverdale alone…there are just too many controversial topics that require guidance and discussion.
For those who don’t know, Riverdale airs on the CW (I believe at 8pm EDT on Wednesdays) but we wait until the season has concluded and watch it on Netflix. It covers the story of Archie, Jughead, Veronica and Betty and their escapades in high school and Riverdale proper. Warning: These are not the Archie, Jughead, Veronica and Betty of the comics of your youth. These are teenagers with a great deal more freedom and agency than they should have. 🙂 Nonetheless, my son and I really enjoy watching the four main characters (plus a host of really interesting side characters like Josie, Kevin, Cheryl and all of the parents) get in and out of trouble. Each season focuses on a ‘mystery’ that the teens get involved in solving and trust me, these are some strange and twisted mysteries! Everybody’s a suspect and (much like Game of Thrones) you never know who is going to die (or almost die) this week!
The show is kind of like a soap opera for teens with better acting and better film quality. The love triangles and quadrangles are intense…the politics and ensuing violence are disturbing…and the lengths to which the young people go to save each other and solve the season’s mysteries are unbelievable! Riverdale is not for those looking for a healthy dose of plotline or life lesson. It’s tv candy at it’s best. The rich kids are extremely rich and the poor kids seem to be pretty well off too! Even Jughead’s (who lives in a trailer with his alcoholic father) ‘poverty’ looks pretty attractive in this series.
My son and I have talked several times about the fact that none of the Riverdale characters are ‘good guys.’ Each character is intrinsicly flawed in one way or another and I’m sure to point out their misdeeds whenever possible. I think it’s important to point out that likable and ‘good’ are not necessarily the same thing. My son doesn’t seem to have a problem differentiating between the characters popularity and their moral compasses but, if that’s a concern for you, I would shy away from this show.
What can I say? We enjoy it. It gives us plenty of fodder for discussion about topics that I feel are super important for discussion. As my son becomes a teen, these topics will, I’m sure, get harder and harder to engage in so I’m taking this opportunity where I have his attention to draw lessons (almost all negative) from the Riverdale characters’ behavior. It’s a fun romp…we both recognize the parts of the show that are incredible (Veronica owns a diner and a speakeasy, Archie steals a car despite the fact that he’s supposedly never driven and doesn’t have a license) but are willing to suspend belief for the sheer entertainment value of the escapades. We aren’t prudes in this house, as you can probably tell. And, as long as you’re willing to allow your tween to view and discuss some mature topics with you, Riverdale might be just the ticket for spending some time enjoying a show with your son/daughter as well!