25 Feb A Psychological Analysis of Archie Comic Book Characters
Why We Love to Love Archie and Betty &
Love to Hate Reggie and Veronica
Archie Comics … there’s so much you could write about them but you can’t say all that much in about five hundred words .. So let’s consider this blog as just a starting point. Jughead, Betty, Veronica, Reggie and of course Archie are unforgettable. Even if you weren’t an avid reader (I have serious doubts anyone of us from the baby boomer generation can claim that) I’m sure you know the characters; they’ve become household names. Archie made his debut in December 1941, as a character in Pep Comics #22 and he and his original buddies, with a few additions, are still in print today. The triad of initial creative and business genius behind the Archie Comics was Vic Bloom- writer, Bob Montana- art design, and John. L. Goldwater- editor and publisher.
While the comics lack a strong plot or intricate story line, what made (and continues to make) them a hit were the fictional, but psychologically genuine, characters.
Archibald “Archie” Andrews is a red headed teenage boy from a middle class family who’s obsessed with girls. (i.e., in the boomer years we referred to this as ‘dating”). He’s a bit awkward and pretty accident prone. (Baby boomer parents may have found him reminiscent of the film character, Andy Hardy played by Mickey Rooney).
Betty, Elizabeth Cooper, is the boomer version of the all American cheerleader or girl next door. Betty is sweet, open hearted, good at school and athletics, and in her spare time, doesn’t mind getting dirty by doing mechanical work on a car. She’s indeed the all rounder.
Ronnie, Veronica Lodge, the dark haired rich elitist beauty, is Betty’s best friend and along with Betty, a contender for Archie’s affections. She’s considered a raven haired knockout when compared to Betty’s blonde sweet wholesome looks, but actually Bob Montana drew Betty and Veronica with identical face and figures; their only difference is hair color and clothing. Now who said that blondes have more fun? Not typically in Archie comics as Ronnie and her huge wardrobe usually had the upper hand over Betty in winning Archie’s attention.
Jughead, Forsythe Pendleton Jones III, is Archie’s best friend, known for his jaded sense of humor, and enormously large appetite. Jughead is smart, stick skinny and not interested in girls; he reminds most of us of some boomer guy we knew who used sarcasm as a way to cover up his ill ease, awkward teenage stage.
And Reggie, Reginald Mantle III, is the privileged rich, snobby, arrogant male conter to Archie’s adolescent naivety. Reggie is on the high school tennis team, (considered an elitist sport in 1941) and is fond of flaunting his upper crust athletic prowess in Archie’s clumsy adolescent face.
Archie and his friends grow up in the “fictional’ town of Riverdale, (probably fashioned after the real Riverdale (Bronx, New York) where Goldwater attended Horace Mann High School.
The real Riverdale, NY is indeed a middle class American community, but Horace Mann high school, located in Riverdale, is anything but an average middle class institution. Over the past years, the Wall Street Journal has consistently ranked Horace Mann as the seventh best high school in the United States as measured by student admission rates to exclusive colleges such as Harvard, Yale, and Princton. Admission to Horace Mann is highly selective and Horace Mann’s Boys Varsity Tennis team is noted for it’s excellence and has won many New York City Mayor’s Cup Team Competitions. As Reggie would say, “Tennis anyone?” Well probably not Archie.
Archie is the embodiment of a classic small town 17-year-old teenager attending a Middle American public high school. He’s portrayed throughout as affable, generous and well mannered. He’s perpetually in pursuit of Betty and Veronica and can’t seem to decide which one to date. Archie’s the lead singer of his band and an average athlete. So what’s Archie’s appeal? Simple. He is representativative of many baby boomer teenagers, an all around average teenage guy.
Ronnie is the daughter of the richest man in Riverdale. She gets her first name from the actress Veronica Lake and her last name from the Lodges, a prominant 1940’s Boston political family. She’s seen as busty, (i.e., “stacked”) black haired, beautiful and slender. Numerous psychological articles have informed us that eyebrows have been raised at the way girls have been portrayed in the comics. Veronica represents a certain type of sex appeal, though this isn’t as evident in the comic since sexual stereotyping can easily be passed off as a certain naivety or teenage wit. She’s rich, and doesn’t have to work hard for anything. At a time when the baby boomer generation was in its teens, she became the fancy of many girls who dreamed of a lifestyle like hers; and certainly coveted her wardrobe.
However, Betty Cooper, the sporty cheerleader, was many a teenage baby boomer women’s favorite. Her middle class upbringing and the fact that she actually is Archie’s neighbor makes her the quintessential girl next door. She plays the tambourine in Archie’s band and is fond of writing and keeping a journal. Betty’s the one you’ll find no reason not to love. She’s smart, works hard, and she’s got a great heart.
Jughead Jones as the lanky, tall, hamburger loving best friend is a bit of an oddity and non-conformist; but he is really smart. A fast runner, Jughead hones his skills trying to be the first in line for food. But this brainiac, (possibly modeled after the many brainiacs at Horace Mann high school) often surprises snobby Reggie and Veronica with what he knows about Shakespeare, history, sports and science.
In doing a psychological analysis of the characters it is impossible to overlook the strong division between the wealthy and middle class and the paradox that existed in the baby boomers generation society regarding sexual stereotyping. Archie is shown as a teenage boy who is constantly battling between going for the rich, beautiful Ronnie who has material success, and Betty, who is sweet, intelligent, good humored, low maintenance, and what many baby boomers parents would have considered “marriage material”.
While most baby boomers were great fans of Archie and his friends, many psychological articles have pointed out that the characters hid their stereotyped motives behind forced wit and juvenile behavior. But just because it lacked overt sex and violence it doesn’t mean that the baby boomer generation were fooled by the characters deep desires. Nope, we got it. We loved to love Archie and Betty because so many of us identified with their middle class status and need to struggle to succeed in an unfairly balanced world. And we loved to hate Ronnie and Reggie because many of us were jealous that they did not have to work hard and so many life advantages were handed over to them just because they were born rich.
And then there were the times when the baby boomer generation may have mistakenly been accused of viewing the characters as too shallow and only linearly developed. But wrong again. We baby boomers got that in Archie Comics, the male led the way and acted as the “deciders” and the women were supposed to be the “passive” objects of these decisions, or cat fighting against each other to vie for the boy’s attention.
Ah, and there it is. The seemingly simple Archie Comics are the psychologically sophisticated embodiment of the baby boomers generation class and gender warfare.
Or at least that’s how we see it at Boomer Yearbook. What do you think?
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