Many decades have passed since we last checked in on Archie, Jughead, Betty, Veronica and the rest of the Riverdale High School gang that populated the “Archie” comic books, but we still regarded them as childhood pals. Now we hear that Archie is about to be killed, sacrificed on the altar of liberal dogma, and it seems unfitting.
From its debut in 1941 until just a few years ago, the “Archie” comics were blissfully free of any political. A charmingly cornball account of a redheaded teenager’s carefree existence, his only problem being the constant attention of a wholesome blond beauty and slightly sultrier brunette beauty, and except for the slang and the fashions and the music playing on the jukebox at the local malt shop nothing ever changed. Apparently Archie finally grew up about four years ago, at a time when everyone else’s adolescence remained arrested, and since the comic has tried to achieve “social relevance” by detailing the divorces and diseases and financial struggles and other adult problems from which the characters formerly provided escape. One of the plot lines involved Archie’s obligatory homosexual friend, who of course got married and ran for Senate on a strict gun control platform, and now it seems that Archie is to be shot while thwarting the predictable assassination attempt.
.We don’t mind so much that Archie is leaving the earthly comic book realm, as anyone who was a teenager in 1941 has by now lived to a ripe old age, but he shouldn’t have to suffer the ignominy of dying for such absurd propaganda. The “Archie” comics were always intended for a very young audience, too young to consider the many arguments made about such issues as same-sex marriage and gun control, and it’s a rather sleazy enterprise to indoctrinate such impressionable readers.
Children’s entertainments are full of such propaganda, however, and usually with the same lack of subtlety. Environmentalist talking points are especially common, and have rendered a generation of youngsters neurotically fearful about the survival of the planet, but guns and same-sex marriage and a celebratory attitude about all the alien cultures that are sneaking across the border are also routine. If there are any messages being sneaked into children’s books and movies and television shows that celebrate free market capitalism or traditional values or anything else that might plant a seed of Republican inclinations in young mind we have not noticed them. Perhaps the Archie comics in their socially irrelevant era were guilty of teaching heterosexism through Archie’s romantic back-and-forths with Betty and Veronica but never with Jughead or even that hunky “Moose” character, and perhaps the lack of ethnic diversity that prevailed at Riverdale High until the ’60s or so taught a racist wariness of The Other, and any post-modern deconstructionist worth his salt could find any number of other offenses against today’s more enlightened attitudes, but we can’t recall any issues when Archie and his pals went gay-bashing or gun-slinging.
The Archie comics of our long-ago youth helped us learn to read, gave us a hopeful idea of what the coming teenage years could be, and imparted no lessons other than a proper respect for old folks and a friendliness toward our peers. The were occasionally amusing, too, which does a kid more good than a ham-handed gun control tract. Archie deserves better, and so do today’s comic book reading children.
— Bud Norman