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Top 10 The CW Scandals & Controversies

VO: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Caitlin Johnson
The CW has been through some controversial incidents! For this list, we’re looking at controversies relating to network decisions, the cast and crew, and sometimes the storylines themselves, rather than controversial actions carried out by the characters in their shows. We’ve included things like Taylor Mommsen’s behaviour, Betty Cooper striptease, 90210 cancellation, casting Candice Patton, the backlash against Marc Guggenheim and more!

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Top 10 The CW Controversies

Is there really no such thing as bad publicity? Welcome to MsMojo and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 The CW Controversies.

For this list, we’re looking at controversies relating to network decisions, TV show casts and crews, and sometimes the storylines themselves on the broadcast television network. We won’t really be touching on controversial actions carried out by the characters in their shows though.

#10: Taylor Momsen’s Behavior

“Gossip Girl” (2007-12)

Before her career change from aspiring young actress to fronting successful rock band The Pretty Reckless, Taylor Momsen starred in “Gossip Girl” as Jenny Humphrey. But according to some sources, her departure from the show wasn’t remotely amicable. Momsen was allegedly fired from her role for her increasingly “bratty” behavior, even after being downgraded from a main to recurring role in season four. Guest star Tim Gunn was quoted as calling her a “diva” and “pathetic” for not remembering her lines. However, a few years later Momsen herself said that she was not fired, and in fact has “never been fired in [her] life.”

#9: Betty Cooper’s Striptease

“Riverdale” (2017-)

In order to become a member of the Southside Serpents gang, Betty Cooper performed a pole dancing routine on-stage in front of Jughead, Jughead’s father, and her own mother – as well as the other members of the gang. The scene was found to be widely controversial by critics and viewers, who didn’t like the fact that Betty is only a teenager performing a routine for many significantly older men. However, Lili Reinhart came out and said the scene was supposed to make people feel uncomfortable – though she didn’t anticipate it causing as much of a stir as it did.

#8: “90210”’s Cancellation

“90210” (2008-13)

A return to the long-running “90210” franchise began in 2008, but ended abruptly five years later. However, according to leading cast member AnnaLynne McCord, none of the actors were actually told about the cancellation ahead of time. Instead, they found out via a Twitter announcement... along with the general public. McCord said that she thought it “wasn’t cool at all”, and added that she absolutely hated the ending written for her character Naomi. In fact, she hated it so much that she rewrote and filmed her own spoof ending and posted it online for fans to enjoy.

#7: Casting Candice Patton

“The Flash” (2014-)

Ever since her 1956 debut, DC character Iris West has been canonically white. All that changed when black actress Candice Patton was cast in the iconic role in “The Flash”, causing tremendous backlash from some fans of the comics who didn’t want to see any diverse representation.. Speaking to the Washington Post a few years later, Patton says she had no idea her casting would cause so much controversy, but also that she has “solidified the role” – to the point where another black actress, Kiersey Clemons, has been cast to play Iris in the DC Extended Universe.

#6: Backlash Against Marc Guggenheim

“Arrow” (2012-)

Gun control is a hot topic that needs to be handled carefully, and “Arrow” writer/producer Marc Guggenheim aimed to be sensitive when his show tackled the real-world issue in early 2017. But people on all sides of the gun control debate ended up unsatisfied when the show failed to actually take a stance. Instead of trying to make a political statement, Guggenheim used the subject matter to no real effect, and the fifth-season episode has now become a highly-criticized hallmark of how not to engage with real-world problems through mass media and entertainment.

#5: Threesome Advertisement

“Gossip Girl” (2007-12)

When a preview for an episode of “Gossip Girl” was shown to feature a threesome between some of the main characters – which also involved a same-sex kiss – there was outcry among concerned parents. The Parents Television Council practically demanded that the episode be pulled before it could air, deeming it “reckless and irresponsible”, and worrying it might convince the network’s young audience to copy the behaviors of the characters. However, The CW refused to respond to them and then aired the episode anyway – so nobody stopped Dan, Olivia and Vanessa from having their fun.

#4: Miss Grundy

“Riverdale” (2017-)

It was enough of a shock for fans of the classic comics to find Miss Grundy was significantly younger than her illustrated counterpart, but throw in an illicit relationship with the series’ protagonist and you’re in for a world of trouble. Portrayed by the show as something forbidden and romantic, it didn’t take long for media outlets to come out and condemn the affair as being coercive and immoral at best and statutory rape at worst. Archie actor himself K.J. Apa has described it as a “romance”, and yet it’s been widely criticized as insensitive to fans of the show who may have suffered this kind of abuse themselves.

#3: Mary’s Rape

“Reign” (2013-07)

News of this storyline was leaked a few months before the episode was due to air and sparked backlash before it was ever even seen, with petitions circulating on social media to get it preemptively canned. Despite this, The CW went ahead and allowed the episode on to the small screen, and viewers watched Queen Mary be violently raped by enemy soldiers attempting to assassinate King Francis. “Reign’s” showrunner, Laurie McCarthy, later defended the decision to run with the plot in interviews, saying that “it felt political” to “see a woman of arguable power be attacked in this way.”

#2: Killing Off Lexa

“The 100” (2014-)

At the forefront of storyline-related controversies is the death of Lexa in “The 100”. Lexa was a fan-favorite and one of the show’s few openly LGBT+ characters. Killed by a stray bullet in the scene immediately following the much-teased consummation of her relationship with protagonist Clarke, her death caused tremendous outcry from the show’s fans. Many abandoned or boycotted the show, citing it as an example of the “bury your gays” media trope in which gay characters are frequently killed off. Showrunner Jason Rothenberg eventually apologized for the decision to kill Lexa and admitted that if he had a do-over he wouldn’t have had things end this way.

#1: Mark Schwahn’s Misconduct

Various CW Shows

When former “One Tree Hill” writer Audrey Wauchope accused Mark Schwahn of sexual harassment on Twitter, 18 other female cast and crew members added their voices to confirm the allegations. In a joint letter signed by all of them, they say that they were “manipulated psychologically and emotionally” by Schwahn, and that years later they are still suffering the effects of his traumatic abuse. In addition, 25 cast and crew members of Schwahn’s other show, “The Royals”, also spoke out against him. Similarly, former executive producer of the “Arrowverse” shows, Andrew Kreisberg, was fired in 2017 because of sexual harassment allegations following an internal investigation at the network.

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