The popular Netflix series Riverdale is the subject of a conference this week at the Abbotsford campus of University of the Fraser Valley.
The second annual “The Riverdale Universe: A Semi-academic Conference” features 16 presenters, a full day of panels and a choose-your-own-adventure-style interactive project.
It wraps up with a milkshake social at Rocko’s Diner in Mission, where parts of the Riverdale pilot were filmed.
The name of Netflix’s reimagined Archie Comics universe is familiar to just about everyone in the Fraser Valley.
It’s not only a binge- and cringe-worthy fast-paced teen drama with questionable plot points, but a show that has become well-known for filming in and around Aldergrove, Vancouver and Langley.
As conference coordinator and associate professor of English Heather McAlpine can attest, Riverdale is capable of sparking a vibrant conversation at the crossroads of fandom and academia.
“When I made my opening remarks at last year’s conference, I think I said something like, ‘Welcome to what we believe to be the first, and very likely the last, academic conference about Riverdale.’ The whole thing seemed so impossible, and equally as wonderful,” McAlpine laughed.
The whole thing started as an inside joke on Twitter, when McAlpine and several other UFV professors, graduates, and students started comparing their experiences of binge-watching Riverdale in 2017.
“We were cracking jokes about it, and someone made a joke about starting a conference,” McAlpine said.
And then, suddenly, it wasn’t a joke. It blossomed into a full-fledged conference, drawing presenters from around the country.
“Here we are, a year later, and it’s still gaining momentum. We have more presenters, some of them coming from as far away as Ottawa and Montreal.”
It’s something she finds hilarious but also amazingly gratifying. And while sometimes she gets odd looks when she lists Riverdale alongside her other research interests — which largely focus on Victorian poetry — she sees it as all related.
“This conference shows how the tools and techniques that you learn by studying the humanities can enrich your experience of everyday life and the culture that’s all around you,” McAlpine said.
“The humanities, and English, are not just about studying ‘great works’. They’re about making sense of the culture we think of as ordinary, too — understanding how it’s doing what it’s doing, whether you love it or hate it.”
Registration and the full schedule are available online at FraserValleyRiverdale.Wordpress.com.