Team Betty or Team Veronica: Homosocial Relationships, Woman Archetypes, and Hair Colour

Re-reading the Archie comics coming out of a theory, or even any women studies class, complicates the childhood comic. At a first eight year-old glance, Archie comics are entertaining, they are predictable with uncomplicated plot threads. However, at university level glance there is so much more going on: the homosocial relationship between Archie, Veronica, and Betty; the archetypes that Veronica and Betty are complicit in; and the hair color controversy.

There has been much talk about how introducing a new gay character to the Archie comics effects its all-American, mainstream iconography. However, to me there are more problematic issues at hand then introducing a homosexual character, for example the debated issues of Archie secretly being in love with Jughead, causing his ambivalence towards Betty and Veronica. More than this, the competitiveness, and the thriving of social femininity and the homosocial that Betty and Veronica take part in. It is through fighting for Archie, or trying to win his affections, which Betty and Veronica take on an opposing persona than the courtly lover (two men, one woman), and become active, rather than passive, objectified, women. Further, in “Ladies Man”, Betty asks Veronica what she finds most attractive about Archie, and Veronica responds with a vociferous (and homosocial) responses of “You!”. Then, it is not necessarily that Veronica finds Archie extremely attractive, or his personality rather charming, but what is fueling her is the competition with Betty and perhaps even trying to get closer to Betty. This competition, then, not only fuels Veronica towards Archie, but also proves a social femininity that she is trying to prove—it is through being with Archie that Veronica will have won, Veronica will have been the most feminine.

Considering femininity, it is interesting to see how Betty and Veronica’s hair color plays into definitions of femininity. As someone pointed out in a lecture a few weeks ago, it seems that Veronica and Betty look like the exact same person but with different hair colors/cuts, but if, in fact, one was to shave Betty and Veronica’s hair off, they would look identical. Case and point:

luceybettyveronica

 

The facial expressions, body type/build, and hand gestures are identical here, the only thing differing is the hair color. Then, what are the connotations of hair color, presented a la childhood Archie Comics? Do blondes really have more fun? Are brunettes more vixen-like? It seems that Archie comics propel a stigmatic reading of hair color to match personality types. Then,  Betty Cooper is the fun-loving, exciting, wholesome girl next-door, and Veronica is the rich, sexy, self-assured brunette vixen. Further, it is through the antagonism of Betty and Veronica that speaks to a common convention of the nineteenth century. Northrop Frye describes this convention: “one very common convention of the nineteenth-century novel is the use of two heroines, one dark and one light. The dark one is as a rule passionate, haughty, play, foreign” (Frye 93). Then, the Betty and Veronica characters challenge the courtly love motif, but succumb to essentialist understandings of femininity, especially femininity that is determined by hair color.

Works Cited:

Frye, Northrop, and Robert Denham. Anatomy of criticism; four essays. Toronto:

University of Toronto Press, 2006. 93. Print.

 

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3 Responses to Team Betty or Team Veronica: Homosocial Relationships, Woman Archetypes, and Hair Colour

  1. AshShan says:

    I’ll start by saying this is a very well-written post and I especially liked the way you addressed the seemingly one-dimentional aesthetics of the Betty and Veronica characters in a more complex manner. Making sense of why these two characters look the way they do is not as easy as it seems. Is the nature of Archie comics really seeded in societal stereotypes? I think you answered this question in a thoughtful and enlightening way.

    I agree that the Betty and Veronica appearances are essentially used as to introduce default personality traits. Because Archie is not serialized, and is generally meant for a younger audience, it is easy to pick up an issue without having any prior knowledge of the subject, and enjoy the material presented. I think that if Archie Comics were to have reversed the personality of the two females, their physical characteristics would not align as well as they do. Maybe this would lead to more complex character dynamics in the long run, but this isn’t really what Archie is about. The fact that the Archie characters match the societal archetype was likely purposefully intended. Maybe the bigger question here is /why/ do we default particular personality traits with particular appearances?

  2. mloewen says:

    I completely agree that most of the characters of Archie are archetypes or…. “Archie-types”. What I find interesting is the desire of the comics community to dig deeper into the characters to push them beyond this archetype. To us, these characters must be more complex than they appear because how else can we relate to them in a complex, self-reflective, post-modern world? We look at whether or not Archie is in love with Jughead because we believe, there has to be some deeper meaning to his indecision concerning Betty and Veronica. I’m not saying that projecting ourself onto the characters we read about is in any way wrong, but we should at least attempt to be aware of when we are getting beyond the material that is written. Perhaps the messages in Archie, whether right or wrong, are as simple as they appear. Blondes do have more fun. Brunette are sexy vixens. Women like to compete over men. Men are afraid of commitment. It’s interesting to think of the author’s original intentions.

  3. Jessie Wilkinson says:

    WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOW!!!! I honestly loved Archie comics as a kid, however, having not read them for years, it was remarkable for me to read your post and have my eyes opened to the truth of all the hidden undertones and connotations the characters embody and represent. Although you do not implicitly state your opinion as to what you wrote, I can say, from my own opinion, that comics intended for children should not encompass the archetypes that this comic hold. How are we supposed to raise our kids as individuals, uninfluenced by the social stereotypes that are forced on them, if the material that they are exposed to at such a young age simply encourage these stereotypes? Not cool, Archie. Not cool.

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