by Michele Christopher
After leaving a comment about Archie comics on Matt's article yesterday, I got to thinking about Archie and the gang.
Yes, I read Archie and Veronica. I was about seven when I started reading them and, as I mentioned yesterday, Archie was my gateway drug to a lifetime of comic book addiction.
I wasn’t really into superheros at the time and Archie comics were the only other genre available on the shelf at the store. Well, the only ones I could reach. So Archie it was. I admit it, I got hooked. I got to know the characters. They became my friends. I lived in this imaginary world where Archie and Betty and Jughead were my buddies.
Hey, you do what you have to when you’re friendless and bored. I was one of those kids. Stuck in my room after school while all the other kids were doing whatever it is kids with friends do after school. I’d go home, close my bedroom door and start reading. I lived vicariously through the gang at Riverdale High. Sad, but true.
The thing is, I was way too young to realize what was really going on in Riverdale. On the surface, in my little kid mind, this was just a typical town with a typical high school filled with typical teenagers who had all kinds of fun escapades with each other. I couldn’t wait to get to high school! Malt shops! Dances! Jalopies! Ok, so I wasn’t that lame. I knew this really wasn’t typical stuff. But it was all I had. So these guys were my friends. Archie. Veronica. Betty. Jughead. Reggie. Forget the rest of them. I never cared much for Milton or that chick with the perky tits he always chased who was dating the dumb football guy. Moose? Was that it? I only cared about the gang and Pop’s Choklit Shop. Pop was a cool guy.
When you think about it, this was the pre-cursor to 90210. A gang of kids hanging out at a cool place where they could eat and listen to music. A friendly guy who runs the shop and gives them jobs/advice. And if you really, really think about it, all the same social dynamics were there.
Because I did really, really think about. Years later, under the influence of something or other, I thought about it.
Life in Riverdale was definitely on a soap opera level. Love, lust, jealousy, secrets, rumors and violence. It's all there. Yep, even violence. Didn't Moose beat the shit out of Jughead or Milton a couple of times? If not, I'm sure that he smacked Midge around off-panel. All it really needed was someone with a drinking problem. Reggie was a frat boy type guy. I bet he started hitting the gin right after Veronica got knocked up. What, you don't remember that one? I think the took the abortion issue off the shelves. Hey, if Little House on the Prairie can have an episode about heroin addiction, Archie comics can cross the abortion threshold. Archie comics were the steamy, heated stuff that afternoon soaps were made of. Maybe you couldn’t see it when you were a kid, but look back on it now and it’s all so obvious. I can’t believe my parents tried to take my Mad Magazines away and left this smutty stuff for me to read. Little did they know.
Here’s what I don’t get about the whole set up. And I’m sure you have had this discussion before. Don’t lie. You have talked about this. Archie. Betty. Veronica. The greatest love triangle of all time. But why? Archie was such a doofus. Pasty skin, a face full of freckles and his red hair always had that tic tac toe board thing going on. Plus, he was way emo. Archie had more angst than the dude from Dashboard Confessional and Brandon Walsh combined. I’m surprised the Archies never came out with a song called “The Darkness of My Despair on a Fall Day in Riverdale,” or something like that.
Anyhow. I don’t see the attraction. Especially when you take into consideration that Archie was playing both girls at the same time and they both knew it. Who puts up with something like that? Well, for Veronica, it was more of a challenge. She wanted to see how many times she could fuck with Betty’s head by taking Archie’s attention away. She was just a C U Next Tuesday kind of girl. She didn’t want Archie at all. She was getting plenty of play from Reggie, who had a fast car and thick wallet and was probably hung like John Holmes and knew what to do with that. Veronica spread her legs for the cash. I don’t mean in a hooker kind of way. I mean that as long as Reggie was spending money on her, she was gonna put out. Archie had no money. All he got from Veronica was blue balls. And all Veronica wanted for him was a way to fuck up Betty. She just wasn't into Archie in that way. He was a means to and end.
When you think about it, Betty kind of deserved what she got. If you want to be that passive aggressive in a relationship, you are only going to get dumped on. A wise person once said to me “You get what you tolerate.” And that goes for Betty. She tolerated Archie trying to get some on the side with Veronica. She tolerated his being a vain, shallow guy. She tolerated being second string. Hey, if that’s your gig, go for it. But don’t get all weepy when it’s prom night and Archie hasn’t shown up yet because he’s still standing outside Veronica’s window playing “In Your Eyes” on his boombox and begging her to dump Reggie and go the prom with him. He knows damn well he has a willing and able Betty on the backburner. She’ll wait for him. He could show up at 11:00 and she would still jump into his arms like he was her god damn savior. He knew this and he used it. You think Archie was all innocent and shit, but he was playing poor Betty bad. One night he’d be in her pants telling her he loves her, the next night he’d be saying “we’re just friends, Betty. Just friends.” And Betty just took it. The only thing that saved Betty from slitting her wrists and bleeding out all over her depression poetry was Ethel. No matter what Betty did, there was always a girl in town who was uglier, nerdier and more of a loser than her.
Meanwhile, Veronica laughed at Betty's plight and Reggie knew he had it made because he had the hot chick and all he had to do was throw a trinket at her every once in a while to keep her wet and willing.
See what I mean? There was way more drama and decadence in Riverdale than in Beverly Hills. It was just subtle. You had to know how to read between the lines.
Ok, maybe I was just a very bored kid with an overactive imagination. Maybe Mad Magazine was warping my mind. Maybe I needed to start reading Superman instead. Maybe I should have put the comics down and gone outside. Well I did, but years later. And you could still find me many nights after being out partying and getting high and whatever else we did, sitting on my bed all tweaked out reading the latest issue of Archie and Veronica and wondering why Betty was still letting Archie pinch her nipples while Veronica was in his thought bubble.
Michele just might need a new hobby
[actually, I do have another hobby (besides over analyzing comics) and I have started a new project for 2007 to go along with it, which you can see here]