One season episode of the Riverdale TV Series features Veronica Lodge’s arrival into the community and her challenge to Betty’s unproclaimed love of Archie. Veronica is all conscious that Betty is crushed by Archie and that Archie has instead formed an interest in Veronica. Veronica is careful not to get into a complicated relationship with Betty, so she tries to protect her in the hands of Cheryl Blossom, whose delight is to spice up trouble between the two. The scene that is analyzed for interpersonal communication theories in this paper is that which shows Veronica kissing Betty to get the approval of Cheryl and her team. Betty and Veronica are showcasing their cheerleading skills which Cheryl rubbishes their efforts forcing Veronica into the kissing act. The events that follow after the kiss include expressions of hatred, fear, defense, politeness and social exchange.
As Veronica and Betty begin their performance before Cheryl and other ‘judges,’ the systems theory of interpersonal communication plays out. The theory stipulates that systems are created through interpersonal communication. That is evident in the conversation between Cheryl, and the would be cheerleaders (Explaining Theories of Interpersonal Communication). The panel and the performers are the beginning of a system that would grow into a bigger system that would engage with other system and communication would be the key driver of one system’s influence on another or the larger group of cheerleaders.
The interpersonal conflict in this scene is expressed in both verbal and non-verbal communication. The interpersonal conflict between Cheryl and Betty is caused by opposing viewpoints regarding the failed affair between Betty’s sister and Chery’ls dead brother. Cheryl tells off the two performers by asking them “Where is the heat, where is the sizzle,” (0.15-0.16). Cheryl also shows her disgust by handing over the clipboard to the girl seated next to her as a show of disappointment in what Betty and Veronica have just done. The action language used by Cheryl in that scene is meant to send a message to the people around her that Betty cannot deliver any quality performance. Wang, Haiyan puts it that non-verbal communication decides the result of interpersonal communication whether used correctly or not. In the case of the TV show, Cheryl’s actions and her facial expressions prompt Veronica to step in to defend Betty causing the communication to end up in a showdown of words and actions.
While the events unfold, Betty strives to maintain calm and meet a desired public image. Betty’s character is created to portray her as a naive person who fears public engagements, and that is why she reacts non-verbally by making a tight fist as a means of holding down her anger. At minutes 1:33-1:34, Betty’s hands are shown bleeding an indication of how the internal reaction is severe yet on the outside she struggles to keep calm at all the attacks by Cheryl. What Betty does can best be explained using the Politeness theory of interpersonal communication. The theory assumes that people place positive or negative faces depending on what the select individuals expect (Explaining Theories of Interpersonal Communication). Betty is striving to impress the panel of judges to accept her into the cheerleading team. Betty is aware of the problems between her sister and the case of the death of Cheryl’s brother that is why she puts a positive face so that she can be liked, admired and appreciated by Cheryl.
Another factor that puts Betty in a disadvantaged position in dealing with the interpersonal conflict shown in the scene is her cultural and value background. Betty plays naive and lets Cheryl exercise power over her. Betty plays the nice girl in the scene, and that helps to determine the actions of Veronica and Cheryl. According to Ramaraju, S, people intentionally behave in particular ways with the aim of eliciting or inducing a specific response from others. That means Betty keeps quiet intentionally to obtain a positive reaction from Cheryl. Also, the character of Betty as an eager-to-please person influences the manner in which she conducts interpersonal communication.
Veronica’s cultural background influences her into solving the interpersonal conflict on the scene. Veronica has lived a rich life and has been assertive all her life. She can identify the goals of Cheryl and to neutralize the meanness of Cheryl because of the social class and culture she has subscribed to since childhood. Giri, Vijay in the analysis of culture and communication style presents that culture defines for its members the behaviors to adopt in different situations as well as how to interpret the behaviors of others. That is why Veronica is capable of interpreting the behavior of Cheryl towards Betty. Veronica tells Betty, “You would rather people fear than like you,” (2:10). Moreover, there is a power struggle between Veronica and Cheryl which is considered typical of teenagers. A study carried out by Grobler, S on the patterns of interpersonal communication among adolescents revealed that they tend to listen to less and experience power struggle with the other person. The study also found that teenagers rarely focus on the feelings of others during the process of interpersonal communication.
There are several theories of interpersonal communication most of which explain the kind of conversation and behaviors seen in the scene discussed in this paper. Culture seems to play a significant role in determining the way people behave in the process of interpersonal communication. Apart from that, aspects such as age and the desired outcome also influence the patterns of interpersonal communication among people. Therefore, interpersonal communication is determined by several factors and the success or failure to solve interpersonal conflicts also depends on the same factors.
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Ramaraju, S. “Psychological Perspectives on Interpersonal Communication.” Journal ofArts, Science & Commerce, vol 3, no. 4 (2), 2012, http://www.researchersworld.com/vol3/issue4/vol3_issue4_2/Paper_09.pdf.
The World of Flash. “Riverdale 1X01 Veronica Kisses Betty (2017) 4K ULTRA HD.” 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFhWuJc-qTI.
Wang, Haiyan. “Nonverbal Communication and the Effect on Interpersonal Communication.” Asian Social Science, vol 5, no. 11, 2009, Canadian Center of Science and Education, doi:10.5539/ass.v5n11p155.