Comics, Pop Culture

I used to love reading Archie comics as a kid, until I recognized the harm they’re doing

I was surprised that something I had been reading from such a young age was so offensive and I never even realized it.

I used to be a huge Archie Comics fan. I got it from my dad, who grew up reading a whole lot of comics about the Riverdale gang. There was a whole bunch of comics that he passed down to me and I devoured them. I read a lot of the content and didn’t think twice about much of it. Now though, I don’t read Archie Comics much anymore. The material feels dated to me.

The jokes in these comics are largely predictable. I’ve read Archie Comics dating back decades, thanks to my dad’s extensive collection. The sense of humor is by and large the same now as it was 50 years ago.

But something else has started bothering me in recent years. There seems to be a pattern of chauvinistic, sexist, toxic masculinity in them that’s being written off as funny. And I don’t know how that is still okay.

Some of the themes of Archie Comics leave me wanting to throw them out the window. Now I know this is a stronger reaction than a funny children’s comic is supposed to warrant, but I can’t believe these stories are still being written. Here are some of the themes that really need to stop:

1. Betty’s desperation to win Archie’s affection 

image description: A comic strip showing Betty repairing Archie's car while he asks her to hurry so Veronica isn't kept waiting
[Image description: A comic strip showing Betty repairing Archie’s car while he asks her to hurry so Veronica isn’t kept waiting.] Via Archie Comics
Something a lot of Betty’s stories revolve around is being a doormat for Archie. She’ll basically do anything it takes to get his attention. Fixing his car, helping him with homework, cooking for him, and helping him in any other way she possibly could, only to be casually thanked and then left behind for Veronica. And in the stories where Archie comes back to her in the end, it’s usually because Veronica rejected him. The only thing consistent is that she is never his first choice. And yet story after story we keep seeing her chasing after him.

2. Betty and Veronica are best friends, until Archie comes along

image description: a comic strip
[Image description: A comic strip of Betty and Veronica fighting over Archie.] Via Betty and Veronica Digest
The competition between Betty and Veronica goes completely against the idea of them being best friends. There are stories where they are shown to be doing great things for each other, and then others where Veronica is being catty and putting Betty down and they’re having fights over Archie. And these are best friends? You can’t portray girls acting like this anymore. And there are often stories that will end with them declaring that no matter what either of them achieves, winning Archie’s affection is the only “real prize” that matters.

image description: a comic strip from an Archie comic
[Image description: A comic strip about Miss Riverdale.] Via Archie Comics
image description: Archie comic strip
[Image description: Archie comic strip about girls competing for boys] Via Archie Comics
image description: a strip from Archie comics
[Image description: A strip from Archie comics about boys being more important than prizes.] Via Archie Comics

3. Archie lets two girls openly fight over him while still dating other girls

image description: a page from an Archie comic
[Image description: Archie being an asshole to Betty.] Via Archie Comics Digest
This main character is an open playboy. He knows that there are two girls who are best friends that are constantly fighting for him; he lets it happen without trying to stop it and still goes around drooling over any girl he can and dating anyone that would date him. And yet he is still supposed to be the adorable nice guy.

4. There are often sexist comments and these are sometimes the whole punchline

image description: A panel from an Archie comic
[Image description: A misogynist panel from an Archie comic.] Via Archie Comics
There are some constantly recurring themes in the comic that irritate me to no end: the toxic masculinity, the misogyny and the plain disrespect. Themes that clearly the writers have been carrying forward since the beginning of the comics and even now, in this day and age, don’t make any attempt to renew or change.

The male characters very often make sexist comments about girls, often insulting women who don’t look like Barbie dolls, and hold old-fashioned gender stereotypes and ideas. The story will rarely do anything to change this.

I honestly don’t see how this comic book series is still going and who is letting this go unchecked. This is a pretty famous series. They should use fame to educate, not insult. I promise you that your current readers are going to appreciate it, because I for one do not want to keep picking up comic books that I used to love and keep getting offended by sexist punchlines and chauvinistic attitudes that would do better to be left behind in the 40’s.

image description: comic strip from Archie comics
[Image description: A comic strip about girls not rooting for other girls.] Via Archie Comics Digest
Comic books, especially iconic ones, need to do better. Spread healthy ideas about friendships and relationships. In this day and age they still write about fighting over boys, letting a guy use you or valuing a guy more than your friend, and continue to draw girls with one body type unless they’re being made fun of or being shown as unattractive.

image description: a comic strip showing Archie and a friend making fun of ugly girls
[Image description: A comic strip showing Archie and a friend making fun of ugly girls.] Via Archie Comics
A lot of their readers are teenagers and if you portray teenagers behaving this way without any hesitation, you will either raise a readership that grows up thinking these toxic behaviors are how things are supposed to be, or male chauvinists who chuckle at these jokes wishing that’s how things were.

Or in my case, you’ll lose faithful readers altogether.