Declawed: Where are Josie & The Pussycats?
Comics are huge. They always have been which is why the small screen is following the example of silver-screen giants like Marvel Universe. CW is now hub to a host of DC Universe legend shows like Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl so it wasn’t a complete surprise when I heard they were adapting another comic for TV. Until I discovered it was Archie Comics, the famous publishing comic’s namesake. No more superheroes just a red-haired white guy from a small town filled with drama. Yawn.
Then I saw a promo image of a face that looked like mine. Josie McCoy was black! I was excited because I knew that she had been reimagined with darker flesh than the original. Even the Pussycats had been changed and Melody Valentine who was once a bubbly blonde (Asha Bromfield) was now full of black girl magic. Yes, all 3 band members (who can all sing in real life too) were finally women of color! During the group’s 1971 CBS series was Valerie’s first introduction as a black character and she was going to do it again as Valerie Brown…on the CW.
A network with a long rap sheet of neglecting women of color. Arrow’s Vixen, Supergirl’s Miss Martian, The 100’s Raven Reyes, even Flash’s Iris West had all fallen victim to screen time treatment.
But I gave the CW a chance to atone for the wrong they’d done on other shows. Fool me once.
Halfway through the first season of Riverdale, the fictional town where Archie and his friends dig up murder mystery drama, and the CW has done it again. Riverdale has already started down a path of putting Josie & The Pussycats on the back burner. The network went through the trouble of casting an all black girl group, just to bench them.
Where have we seen this before? Cough...TVD’s Bonnie Bennett.
Josie, Melody and Valerie were once celebrated as the town’s leading musical talents but over the season have faded into obscurity at such a quick rate, it’s baffling. The Pussycats have been virtually declawed.
Speech has been taken away from the band’s drummer, Melody. Never saying more than a few lines, if any, in an episode. Most times she doesn’t make an appearance at all. Even Wikipedia has noticed saying “due to a lack of onscreen presence, Melody’s personality is never revealed.” If she’s never allowed to speak, how is the audience to connect or understand her character? Trick question, we can’t. Right now she falls under the “silent, pretty face” trope and that’s dangerous for any character who happens to be a woman, especially on the CW.
Moving along to back up vocalist, Valerie (Hayley Law). Her sense of agency has been taken in away in so few episodes. Her desire to stand behind her convictions after quitting the group in episode six dissolved simply because she’s been paired with Archie Andrews, her future husband according to the comics. I’ll explain by saying love interests do enhance storylines but they can also eclipse the characters inside them. This is what happened to Valerie Brown, who was only seen or referenced in Archie’s company. Women are more than accessories to be worn on the arms of men. Brown spent too much time at “girlfriend status” for potential solo storylines to appear seamless now.
Between Melody and Valerie’s combined ambiguous home lives and personal interests, the audience is left to fill in the blanks with our imaginations. A step down from Riverdale’s answers about Josie McCoy’s life.
Josie (Ashleigh Murray) seemed to have it all in the beginning. Talent, fame, finesse, a town mayor Mother. Until her strained relationship with her record-executive dad was revealed and a blossoming friendship with Veronica started from shared daddy issue experiences. Josie was honest and vulnerable which was a refreshing change from the laser-focused lead singer we were used to. Then it disappeared. As did her cameos in episodes altogether. With McCoy as such an iconic character, her usage has been slim at best. Unacceptable.
These characters are primed for amazing storylines but first, CW needs to flesh out their individual roles. I say, return Josie & The Pussycats their claws, stand back and prepare to witness black girl magic in action.