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Riverdale Star Vanessa Morgan Speaks out About Treatment of Black Actors and Characters

Riverdale -- "Chapter Sixty-Five: In Treatment" -- Image Number: RVD408a_0565.jpg -- Pictured (L-R): Madelaine Petsch as Cheryl and Vanessa Morgan as Toni -- Photo: Jack Rowand/The CW-- © 2019 The CW Network, LLC All Rights Reserved.

There are lots of problems with how Riverdale has treated Toni Topaz (played by Vanessa Morgan) throughout the years, mainly because Toni’s storyline has almost always reliant on another character. If it wasn’t Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse), then it was her direct connection to Cheryl Blossom’s storyline and how she was pigeonholed into the girlfriend role without her own storyline.

As someone who regularly watches the show, the last I can really remember of Toni having her own moment was when they were doing Heathers the Musical, and Toni sang “Dead Girl Walking,” and it was still tied to Cheryl and something she did.

With everything going on in the world, Vanessa Morgan has been speaking out about the roles that Black characters are often smashed into in pop culture, and especially within her own show. On Twitter, she tweeted that she will not be quiet anymore and shared what she was tired of in regards to Black characters.

Morgan went on to point out that she is the only Black series regular, and she’s paid the least.

Showrunner Robert Aguirre-Sacasa responded to Morgan’s public posts with one of this own.

The thing is he has often promised more for Toni, and instead, we’re still seeing her attached to Cheryl’s storyline. And yes, his donation and his promise to change things in the writers’ room are great promises, but we actually have to see the change. Toni Topaz and Vanessa Morgan deserve more than just being a sidelined character so that a white character can shine. Sure, we all love Cheryl Blossom, but that doesn’t mean Toni Topaz’s storyline has to completely be surrounded by everything and anything that Cheryl does.

Hopefully, Vanessa Morgan gets her due and will actually get a storyline in the next season of Riverdale, and maybe, while we’re at it, give Josie (Ashleigh Murray) her own show instead of making her a secondary character on another show led by a white actress (I’m talking here about Katy Keene).

Riverdale isn’t the only show that needs to make changes, and it’s far from the first to do this, but with Aguirre-Sacasa stepping up and trying to make a change, hopefully other showrunners will join in and we can start to see changes in these already established shows. That being said, new shows should also step up and start to realize how Black characters have been treated and begin to change how they write these characters. The first step would be to include Black writers in your writers’ rooms.

(via Entertainment Weekly, image: Jack Rowand/The CW)

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