A Queer Look at a Betty and Veronica Comic
by Travis Hedge Coke
Tradition is to assume that all Archie characters are straight unless explicitly designated otherwise, however there is enough queerbaiting and straight male gaze homoerotica, that I am not exactly comfortable treating any Archie as default straight. The infamous song, written in-story by Veronica Lodge, goes, “Veronica and Betty are going steady,” as Ronnie imagines what life would be like if her name came before Betty’s in common parlance. She only hastily adds a line about two boys after. This is the traditional flux.
Case in point, Sisters, by Dan DeCarlo and Frank Doyle, originally printed in Archie’s Girls Betty and Veronica #81, 1962. This lead story is framed around the titular Betty and Veronica deciding to dress just alike to show solidarity, to show freedom, to exhibit sisterhood.
In 2016, Chip Zdarsky confirmed Archie’s traditional best friend, Jughead Jones, be asexual. At least in the realm of then-contemporary comics.
In 1962, Jughead was still self-describing as a, “woman hater,” while never actually hating, or even disliking women or girls, and simply being disinterested in romance or sexual engagement. Language changes.
In stories between 1962 and 2016, we see various attempts to clarify Jughead’s position, including references to if and when he may start to be interested in such things, and making it clearer and clearer that his issue is not with individual people or their gender.
In Sisters, this comes into play when Jughead is the only male unconcerned with and unthreatened by Betty and Veronica choosing to dress like and get along. Sororal solidarity poses no threat to Jughead Jones.
When Betty Cooper approaches Jughead for advice on what to wear, later in the story, not realizing the girls are specifically trying to dress different from one another now, Jughead remembers seeing Veronica comfortable in dungarees and an old sweatshirt, and recommends the same to Betty.
Both Veronica Lodge and Betty Cooper feel comfortable in blue jeans, a sweatshirt, and flats with plenty of room in the toe.
Jughead, throughout the story, is encouraging a Veronica and Betty’s newfound unity.
The girls are smiles and hugging one another when dressing a like intentionally, walking hand-in-hand, and only ruined by the reminder that Archie Andrews exists and he’s going to pick one of them.
At the end of the story, in their blue jeans and sweater, their body language has again changed; confident and strong. While it is unacknowledged, they’re dressing the way Jughead dresses.
Once again, as soon as Archie Andrews is present, the girls want to change to please him. He believes they look too masculine. There is no appreciation in Archie Andrews, for how the girls feel, what they are wearing, what clothes do to or for them.
Archie leave them, followed by Reggie Mantle, both boys dressed garishly and not particularly in style.
Archie, in the middle of the story, is also quite afraid that Veronica is going to take off clothes in front of him.
Archie is both more antagonistic and more uncomfortable with the girls than supposed woman-hater, Jughead.
Betty and Veronica show more physical contact, smile at one another more, and spend more time together, than either spend with Archie or Archie spends with girls in general.
Later stories in the same issue involve Veronica trying to get Archie to dress more stylishly and regretting it, and the girls and the boys arguing over whether or not boys are essentially pointless.
In Doyle and DeCarlo’s Boy’s Life, Betty and Veronica attempt to be boys for a day, even though Betty says she would, “make a very unsuccessful boy.”
They essentially do prove most of what are supposed to be Archie Andrews standard boy behaviors are pretty dopey. Overeating. Kicking stones. Whistling at the opposite sex.
Boy’s Life climaxes with the girls meeting two boys who are actually explicitly sexually interested in them and Archie and Jughead observing that, “They’re making out like they’re boys,” and, “I can see that they’re making out.”
In both Boy’s Life and Sisters, Archie declares Betty and Veronica to be boys based on their clothing or behavior. For some reason, everyone makes Archie Andrews the arbiter of these things, but if he is so, clothing and behavior connote and denote gender.
In both stories, Betty and Veronica engage in activities principally together, homosocial physical contact, and pursue heterosexual sexual activity together. Their violation of the expected, of social and gender rigidity may make either of them, individually, nervous, but they can attempt it as a group project.
In both stories, gender uncertainty is highlighted more than any certainty is nailed down. An intangibility to both gender and sexuality are presented despite the surface appearance, and probably intended goal, of rigidity and reaffirmation.
In both Boy’s Life and Sisters, Jughead is amused observer, non-judgmental of the girls.
And in both stories, Archie Andrews engages in no physical contact with the girls, makes no attempt at physical contact with the girls, and is condescending and the meaning of them. His primary and seemingly only connection to Betty and Veronica is an attempt to exert control over their style of dress, their mannerisms, or their dating habits.
A Queer Look at a Betty and Veronica Comic
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