Search This Blog

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Imperfections of Archie Andrews

I'd like to start this blog entry off by posting a song. And, while I am perfectly aware that the Sunday Jukebox isn't until tomorrow, I think that this song is the best possible one to get us in the mood of today's theme.

The name of the song is “Betty”, and it was recorded by a Canadian country music artist by the name of Chris Cummings. He's not very well known in the United States, but has developed a modest following here in Canada. Born in New Brunswick in the summer of 1975, Cummings has had two #1 hits on the Canadian Country Charts, and has released five studio albums, two compilations, and thirty singles. Not a bad resume indeed.

But this entry is not about Chris Cummings. Instead, it's about the song “Betty”...or rather, one of the characters that is prominently featured in the world of Archie Comics.

And, surprisingly enough, it's not Betty.

The song perspective is through the eyes of Chris Cummings, but he does it in such a way that he is telling the story through the eyes of the comic's main protagonist.

That protagonist being Archie Andrews, of course.

And, well, the whole song basically reads like a classic comic story one might find in Pep Comics, Laugh Comics, Archie's Girls Betty & Veronica, Archie's TV Laugh-Out, Life With Archie, Archie At Riverdale High, Archie's Christmas Stocking, Archie 3000, etc, etc, etc...

Just get a glimpse at the song's first chorus.

I was Archie, he was Reggie
I guess that made her Veronica
The competition was getting heavy
Fighting for her unrequited love
And sugar sugar, I was so blind and wrong
You know that Archie should've seen this all along

And, then the chorus.

You're my Betty baby, strong and steady baby
You get me ready to face about anything
With you I cannot fail, I'm the King of Riverdale
Sell my jalopy baby just to buy you a ring

FIRST THOUGHT: I really wish there were a music video to accompany this song. I think it would have been a hoot!

And, SECOND many stories have you read that detail this very scenario?

I mean, let's face it. When it comes to many aspects of life, Archie Andrews does have a brain in his head. He can string sentences together, gets fairly average grades in school, is quite a likeable figure at Riverdale High, and he does seem to engage in a healthy social life.

It's just too bad that when it comes to romance, Archie is a complete moron, and sometimes comes across as a complete jerk.

How many times has Archie tried to bend over backwards trying to impress Veronica on a date? How many times has he competed against the snobbish Reggie Mantle to get time, love, and tenderness from the equally snobbish Veronica? And, how many times has he shoved Betty off to the side (a woman, who might I add, has unconditional love towards Archie on any given day) just so he can get a simple peck on the cheek from Veronica, Princess of Lodge Manor?

Needless to say, I'm not a huge fan of how nasty Veronica treats Archie. At the same time, I'm not really a big fan of how Archie treats Betty like a second class citizen either. So, therefore, there's a part of me that thinks that Archie is kind of getting exactly what he deserves.

And, then there's the second part of the song, in which Jughead is brought into the equation.

You know my best friend, let's call him Jughead
Come to think of it it's not much of a stretch
But even he says I've come to my senses
Chasing Veronica is like walking on a ledge
The view is so sweet if your balance is sound
But she will push you just to see how far you'll bounce

Yep...judging by the lyrics, Chris Cummings appears to know his Archie comics!

It's really no secret that Jughead is not now, nor will he ever become Veronica's biggest cheerleader. Then again, Jughead's not really any girl's cheerleader. That said, I always think that he respects Betty the most, and it's not because she makes him tasty goodies and lunches either. It's because Jughead can see that Betty's intentions were always good, and pure, and kind. And, Jughead would rather see Archie end up with someone like Betty, rather than someone like Veronica who sometimes comes across as self-absorbed. Of course, stupid Archie just tunes Jughead out. To Archie, landing a date with Veronica seems to be more of a challenge for him. I do think that Archie's feelings for Veronica are genuine, but Veronica's reciprocation of those feelings sometimes ends up flatter than a Pepsi that's sat out for two days.

So, that's the end of the argument, is it? Archie Andrews is a heartless creature who treats people like garbage in order to hang around other people who treat him like garbage?

I think not.

After all, as you have read in the chorus of the song, Chris Cummings gives “Archie” and “Betty” a happy ending, as “Archie” finally wakes up and sees just what a treasure “Betty” really is. And, there have been some stories in which Archie has actually turned down Veronica to spend the day with Betty. Not a lot, mind you, but some.

Still, the Archie/Betty/Veronica love triangle certainly doesn't seem to paint Archie in the most beautiful shades of colour. I suppose that Archie could gain back a lot of his integrity if he just smashed the triangle in a billion pieces and chose one woman right off the bat...but considering that triangle has been a huge part of the company's seventy-two year history, I doubt that will happen anytime soon. Not even in the Archie Gets Married storyline was Archie allowed to make a choice, as they had Archie marry both women in separate tales!

But, even though Archie sometimes acts like at best, an immature teenager who has no concept of what real feelings are, and at worst, a complete jerk whose irresponsibility leads to either Betty or Veronica getting hurt. And, even though sometimes Archie gets his comeuppance at the end of each story (which usually leads to him getting pushed in a fountain, hitching a ride on a moving truck out of town, getting chucked out of the Lodge Mansion by Smithers or Mr. Lodge, or being forced to walk home in nothing but his boxer shorts), he doesn't really seem to learn from his mistakes as he goes right back to his wishy-washy behaviour.

But that's just Archie's only major flaw, as far as I'm concerned. Because my argument is that despite Archie's flippant attitude towards love and commitment, he has other qualities that make him likeable.

Let's take a look at the first one.

LOYALTY: Okay, so I see some of you thinking that I've gone and contradicted myself. I can already visualize you going all “Phoenix Wright” on me, pointing your fingers at me and yelling “OBJECTION” at the top of your lungs. Just hear me out here.

When it comes to Betty and Veronica, his loyalty flip-flops so much, you might mistake Archie for a gelatin dessert. But when it comes to his male friends, he's the best friend that one could ever ask for.

I already alluded to this when we were still talking about the Chris Cummings song, but Archie and Jughead are best friends forever. And, Jughead's allegiance is solely with Betty because Jughead knows that Betty would never break Archie's heart the same way Veronica does. He doesn't want to see his best friend get hurt.

The friendship between Archie and Jughead has lasted a grand total of seventy plus years. It seems almost ironic that the most stable couple in the world of Riverdale is the friendship between Jughead and Archie. They even had their own digest title which spanned a total of thirty-one years!

But when you stop and think about it, Jughead and Archie have been through a lot together. Archie was Jughead's very first friend when Jughead's family moved to Riverdale. Jughead was willing to share the secret of the letter “S” on his assorted turtleneck sweaters with Archie and only Archie. And, Jughead and Archie have bailed each other out of trouble more times than either one of them could count. And, hey, they have a common nemesis in Reggie Mantle, so this bonds them even more.

But perhaps even more impressive than Archie's loyalty to Jughead Jones is his loyalty to his school.

I think it can be a fair assessment that Riverdale High could very well be considered Archie's home away from home. After all, he spends ten hours every weekday there.

(Well, okay, so most people at Riverdale High were only there for eight...that's taking into account all of the detentions that Archie received from Mr. Weatherbee and Miss Grundy over the years.)

The point is that Archie would do almost anything for his school. Listen to some of the ways that he helped Riverdale High for the better.

  • Saved Ms. Beazley's job on more than one occasion
  • Has talked Mr. Weatherbee and Miss Grundy out of leaving Riverdale High on at least a dozen occasions
  • Has foiled the malicious plans of Central High and Pembrooke Academy whenever they tried to interfere in school sporting and academic events
  • Has put vandals, cheats, and troublemakers in their places, all to save Riverdale High's reputation

And, this leads into my next point. Archie might be stupid with girls, but in everything else, he has a really sharp mind.

In almost every single issue of the original Life With Archie series, Archie has taken on the role of detective on more than one occasion, solving crimes and exposing criminals so quickly that it made the gang from Scooby-Doo look like amateurs in comparison. And, back in the title's heyday of the 1970s, Archie wasn't afraid to face a knife-wielding maniac, a firebug who sets buildings on fire, or even a natural disaster like a hurricane or an earthquake. He faced danger regularly to save the lives of his family, friends, neighbours, complete strangers, and even ambassadors from foreign countries!

Some might argue that Archie was kind of an idiot for getting himself into these situations in the first place, but Archie's always exhibited that bravery in situations like this. If Archie could have gotten his personal life and romance problems in order, I think Archie would have made a great private investigator.

I mean, Archie is probably one of the more complex characters in the entire Archie series, because he has so many conflicting character traits. He's heroic, but he can also be quite selfish. He's loyal, but he's also immature. He can be romantic when the situation calls for it, but he is just as capable of completely screwing things up in the time frame of a minute.

Oh, and he probably owes Mr. Lodge close to four and a half billion dollars when you consider all of the rare Ming Dynasty vases, one-of-a-kind statues, and crystal stemware he's indirectly smashed into pieces over the years.

The point is that when you take all of these traits and combine them together, they kind of average out average personality. Mostly good, but with obvious flaws.

And, I think that's why I (and so many other Archie fans) can relate to Archie. Most of us are just like him. Mostly good, with obvious flaws. At least, that's how I see myself.

That's something that I plan to expand on in the next few entries. After all, I did promise to insert a lot more of myself into this blog this year...and sometimes it may mean that I admit to some faults that might not paint me in a positive light. But, whatever. It makes us more human, right?

No comments:

Post a Comment