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Archie: Brightly Colored Dualities

Archie, with Betty & VeronicaSo Archie has chosen. And by choosing, he’s taking us down a dark path.

Not since Rene Descartes polished off a sixth bottle of wine and slurred the famous maxim, “I drink therefore I am”, has there been a more culturally critical dualism. I’m talking about the Betty and Veronica dichotomy that has shaped generations of youth — both male and female.

For men, the Archie comics have spread the pernicious idea that it is possible to eat your cake and have it too; yes, you can have both the sweet everygirl Betty and the raven-haired wildchild Veronica, and they will love you for it. Archie may have been a red-haired (ginger) tool, but that didn’t matter: they were into him. (As a marginally klutzy guy with red hair, this latter fact helped me live a much more fulfilled life, though I never accepted the false dualism at the heart of the Archie comics.)

For women, the comics have modeled an even more harmful dualism: either you are a nice girl that lets men take advantage of you, or you are a spoiled “high-maintenance” babe who gets what you want. On the one half of this duality — the light side represented by Betty’s blond locks — your lot is to be loyal, friendly, safe, reliable. On the dark side of this duality, Veronica gets to be the risky choice, the high-drama queen, replete with glitz and money.

I certainly hope Archie isn’t marrying for money. Because it’s going to be an expensive reason to choose Veronica. But it could be, as Ogden Nash once quipped: “The reason for much matrimony is patrimony.”

Maybe Archie is tired. He has been juggling two sides of the duality for 67 years, and let’s face it, he’s not the teenager he used to be. (Really, he’s gone to college.)

There is another interpretation. Instead of the gawky — if likable — sexual opportunist we knew as kids, Archie has been trying to show us a more noble path. A path that rejects dualism by embracing (yes, pun intended) both sides of an apparent dichotomy. The writers of the Archie comics do not want us to see him as a shallow American everyman, but as a modern-day Zen mystic, reaching through the brightly colored comic panes to instruct us and enlighten us.

Then again, they just might be trying to sell comics.

I’m having trouble choosing between Alltop and Cross-posted at When Falls the Coliseum.


  1. Of course in a few years he can divorce her and marry the other, or go and find a younger one.

    Congrats on the review to.

  2. Mark A. Rayner Mark A. Rayner

    My bet is V will ask for a pre-nup. (Her father will insist.)

    Thanks — my hope is The Amadeus Net will continue to find an audience.

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