Betty V Veronica: Dawn of Pegging

This article was originally published at Comics Bulletin on December 23, 2015.

Betty Vs Veronica

  • Original art created by Edgar Vega

Love or hate… life or death… Betty or Veronica…” – Paul Kupperberg, Life with Archie

Mark O. Stack: My whole life has been a treatise on the subject of brand loyalty. My shoes are Vans, my soft drink is Coca-Cola, and my movie theater candy is Red Vines; taste is something irrational and singular that defines us in ways our standardized test scores could only dream of. If you drink Pepsi and enjoy Twizzlers, then you’re weak shit.

Much like the important things in life, comics has its own set of irrational binaries that one must forcibly adhere to. Marvel or DC, writer or artist… Betty or Veronica. Archie Comics’ series Archie is about a teenaged boy named Archie who lives in the town of Archie Riverdale. Archie, as indicated by the repetition of his name, is the center of that entire universe but the center of his universe is the choice between his paramours, the resourceful girl-next-door Betty and the worldly socialite Veronica.

Let’s get one thing out of the way: Archie sucks. In an ideal world, that boring freckle-headed fuck would have nooptions and especially none as good as Betty or even Veronica. But this is Comics so young cishet white males are prioritized by the patriarchy and we are not allowed to view these female characters in a prism that isn’t inherently competitive over this worthless white bread motherfucker. Though Betty is far superior in most every way, both she and Veronica deserve better than being a loser kid’s chosen cum dumpster but this is Comics so we are forced to choose who would be the best wastebin for the pale child’s seed.

Who is the better character and who is the better girlfriend for Archie are two very different questions with verydifferent answers. Some people are right and some people are, well…

Chase?

Chase Magnett: Whoa there, Emperor Ankle-Biter! I know you and Mark Waid both have a thing for blondes in overalls, but you’re packaging this showdown like it’s a done deal. Unlike Batman V Superman, this column didn’t come with a trailer that gives the whole thing away and I suspect Betty may not enjoy quite the sweeping victory you expect.

You are right that this is a two-part battle though with two very different questions: Who is the best love interest for Archie Andrews and who is the superior character? Those lacking your boyish fetishization of girls designed to keep you comfortable will likely come to see the answer to both of these is the same (and comes with a better fashion sense), but let’s tackle them one at a time. Since we are both “young cishet white males”, we might as well start with the question obviously geared towards us and figure out who makes the better love interest for this small town sadsack.

I get why you like Betty and why she seems like the default answer in this debate. Just look at the first few issues of the recent Archie relaunch penned by Mark Waid and it’s plain to see the man has a favorite. Betty is the girl Archie grew up with; Betty adores Archie for the man-child he is; Betty takes care of all of Archie’s numerous flaws. She’s not just a nice fit, she’s designed to keep him in his place.

Betty Cooper - Guardian Angel

Art by Fiona Staples

There’s nothing wrong with having a relationship where your significant other supports you and helps balance your flaws, but it’s important to remember that we’re not talking about an adult relationship. Archie isn’t a fully formed man, he’s an eight-year-old’s fantasy of what a teenager might be like. He falls backwards into all of his victories, exhibits limited skills, and doesn’t seem to grasp the world outside of football and kissing (I can’t imagine sex education is a part of Riverdale’s curriculum). Archie is nice, but nice isn’t much more than nice without something to back it up. This isn’t someone who needs to be reassured of his place in the world; this is someone who needs to be challenged and pushed.

Veronica comes from a world outside of idyllic Riverdale. She is aware there’s life beyond hometowns: places to travel, careers to pursue, and lives to be lived. Archie may just want to keep tripping over his own shoelaces into a house beside his parent’s, whatever job comes his ways after high school, and whatever opportunities are handed to him, but that shit is not going to fly with Veronica. Maybe the best possible life does lie in Riverdale, but he’ll at least have to consider alternatives if Veronica is involved in planning that future. Maybe Archie is the whitest piece of Wonder bread ever baked. We’ll never know if he sticks to his comfortable life in Riverdale because there’s nothing to bring out any flavor or at least toast it for some peanut butter or jam.

This desire to push Archie may come off as being “shrewish” or “demanding”, but life experience isn’t all about money and travel with Veronica. She’s dealt with more than many of the comfortable kids found in the pocket universe of Riverdale. Losing her mother and having an absentee father has driven Miss Lodge to grow up much more quickly than her peers. For all of her privilege, she’s had a lot more life to live as well. That experience and knowledge is the key to understanding her inability to be sated or to settle. She wants a partner who is going to be in to win it, for her and any potential kids.

Jumping back to the sex ed program at Riverdale, I imagine they at least mention the missionary position in the literature handed out senior year of high school. A life with Betty is going to offer Archie plenty of opportunities to climb on top and do his duty. I imagine it’ll be enjoyable enough and as life wears on the two might even figure out how to mix things up with something like “doggy style”, oh my! Veronica isn’t going to be satisfied with the plainest of lives, love or otherwise. She’s going to encourage Archie to explore his boundaries and try things that he otherwise never would have considered. Veronica Lodge is the only girl who will bend Archie over and teach him what pegging is, and when you look at Archie Andrews, that’s probably just what he needs.

Mark O. Stack: Chase, I’m going to share a few words with you that you’re probably not all that used to hearing: I love you you’re absolutely right.

Archie Andrews has never fallen into a situation that he didn’t find himself immediately content with. If he were to fall down a manhole without Jughead there to immediately pull him out, he’d find a way to be happy with it before the bathroom issue raises its ugly head. As demonstrated in the Mark Waid-penned reboot currently being released, Archie wanders through life with no concept of his place in it while all of his friends have to run interference in the background to prevent calamity. They may think they’re helping the boy but they’re really hurting him by preventing him from ever having to learn a lesson and grow the fuck up.

Veronica Lodge is going to push Archie out of his comfort zone and transform himself in a manner that would make Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle blush. He better shape up because she needs a man and, for whatever reason, her heart is set on him. Another musical theatre reference. But even if Archie does learn to take life seriously and apply himself, he can’t change who he really is. And who he really is happens to be a boring guy who is defined less by his positive attributes but his complete lack of any, positive or negative. Mold the lump of clay however you want but it’s still clay.

Veronica Lodge - Popular Girl

Art by Fiona Staples

Maybe that’s what Veronica wants; a submissive boy that will become whatever she wills him to be. But Betty deserves more than just a willing participant. And she definitely deserves better than Archie.

Betty is truly selfless, willing to commit herself to helping her friends at the drop of a hat. Even in the terrible, no good Archie #3, Betty takes time out of her day of preparing for her big birthday party to get her ex-boyfriend’s car up and running without him ever suspecting a thing. That’s the kind of person she is.

Veronica, on the other hand, is the kind of person that would blackmail someone into being her personal servant the minute she had any leverage over him. There are things to like about Veronica; she’s a young woman unafraid of appearing unlikable as she singularly pursues the lifestyle she desires. However, every interaction with her is a study in give and take with her playing the role of taker every time (except in the hypothetical pegging scenario, natch).

Betty is made of more altruistic stuff than Veronica and most everyone else in Riverdale.

Chase Magnett: I didn’t expect you to concede the first round that quickly, but I guess we’ve already agreed that Veronica has a certain way when it comes to convincing young men to bend over. Before I follow along with those goal posts you appear to be moving to the second part of this debate, I want to finish discussing why Veronica is the superior girlfriend to Betty. It has a lot to do with why she’s also a superior character.

You’re spinning Betty’s willingness to hold Archie up in spite of himself as a good thing, as too good of a thing for Archie. I’d argue that it’s quite the opposite. Propping up somebody because you like them isn’t a sign of strength or purity, it’s the beginning of a toxic relationship. As much as we both like to dump on Wonderbread, I think you sell him short. He isn’t without favorable qualities. He’s loyal, kind, and ethical. There’s a good man buried in this clumsy doofus, if he’d just bother to try and be anything besides a good kid. Betty is happy to take the child though and that isn’t doing anyone any favors, Archie and Betty included.

Veronica’s attraction to Archie makes perfect sense when you consider those good qualities though, and she isn’t going to be okay watching him do nothing with his life. As someone whose parents literally and metaphorically abandoned her, Veronica is looking for a good, supportive person that will always be there for her. That’s absolutely Archie. She also knows that accepting what is, isn’t good enough. She never got a choice to accept her father’s dedication to work over her, so why should she accept a numbskull’s dedication to childhood over her now that she’s grown? There’s a good husband and father to be molded in Archie and baked in the kiln of Veronica. If you leave him as is, you’ll just get the soft, lumpy pile that Betty loves.

That’s also why I find Betty to be less of a character than an idealized Midwestern girlfriend. She cooks, cleans, and cares for you, but then is also one of the boys as she fixes cars, wrestles, and makes fart jokes. I’m not saying there isn’t a woman like this, but it sounds more like what a freshman in high school thinks his girlfriend should be as opposed to what she actually is. Just take a look at the issue you mentioned, Archie #3. Betty is obsessed with doing whatever she can to please Archie, and what leads to their breakup is her putting in too much effort to dress up and use makeup. Then even after they breakup, she still tries to take care of him and wants to invite him to her party. We should all just be grateful that Archie Comics keeps it G-rated based on how Betty will do literally anything to please this boy.

So is Betty’s fatal flaw that she can’t allow herself to escape Archie’s orbit? Or is it that she was really only designed to be an angelic ideal for young men to imagine dating? I think it’s the latter, and that’s why I’d much rather read about the very real Veronica over this blonde wet dream any day of the week.

Mark O. Stack: You go too far, Mister Magic Magnett Man. Though they have existed longer than you and I have been on this Earth combined, these are still underage fictional girls. Wet dreams are frankly inappropriate topics for discussion here. Also, what’s pegging?

Chase, what did you think was going to happen if Archie got behind the wheel of his jalopy if Betty hadn’t fixed it? He’d have died (again) and then there would be no more Archie comics (again). You can go on and on about the potential that Veronica sees in Archie but she doesn’t know him in the same way. And in the case of the reboot, she hasn’t put in the time with him.

Betty has at least once if not countless times prevented the premature death of Archie Andrews but maybe you’re right. Maybe she should cut bait and run, let the boy die on his own. You seem to think that I want Betty to coddle Archie but all I really want is for her to separate from that boy completely. A life with Archie (*wink*) is less than the life she deserves. To cop a line of thought from our brilliant acquaintance Megan Purdy, Betty needs to leave Riverdale and experience a world outside of Archie’s orbit in order to self-actualize.

Life in Riverdale and with Archie is a life doomed to supporting cast status or worse, love interest. Archie’s name is the name of the PUBLISHER that prints his book, he’s a black hole that swallows everything in his orbit. You describe him as “loyal, kind, and ethical” but why should a person be rewarded for passing the bare minimum of requirements to be considered a decent person? He doesn’t deserve to have the selfless Betty in his life but she loves him anyway because we both know that when it comes to love, deserving has got nothing to do with it.

Veronica and Archie deserve each other. Betty deserves better than Archie and doesn’t that ultimately make her love more selfless? Does that not indicate a greater capacity for compassion that would mark her as a better person than either Veronica or Archie?

Chase Magnett: Speaking of dying, I’m going to drop this stick we’ve been using to wail on this long since expired horse and quit discussing Archie. We’re both in agreement that freckled turd is the least interesting member of this triangle by leaps and bounds. You’re right that Betty deserves better, and so does Veronica. Not only are they too good for this guy, each of them being smarter, more resourceful, and more interesting, but they’re also both far better characters. Seeing them play against Archie reads like we’re only seeing the shadows bouncing against the wall of this cavern, not the actual source of those shadows.

However, as we turn our heads to look at the twin suns of Betty and Veronica, I’m certain that one of them shines brighter. Again, I think you’re right that Betty is probably a better person in broad terms. She’s undeniably sweet and selfless, an idealized small town girl. Being the better person doesn’t make one a better character though. Being incredibly good doesn’t necessarily make a character boring (Superman, at his best, being a prime example), but it certainly presents challenges. Betty’s goodness is fascinating in the context of something like Afterlife with Archie, but it’s typically bland. There are lots of great characteristics to be found, but no hook or arc that really lands within her history or current situation. Betty is a character with plenty of potential, but it’s hardly realized and doesn’t even compare to the potential found in her romantic rival.

Veronica Lodge - Outsider

Art by Fiona Staples

I’ve been brushing over a lot of why I think Veronica is a better character in our conversation so far, so I’m going to try and focus all those tangents into a thesis here. Veronica Lodge is the greatest Archie character because she is the only character in the core Archie cast who both understands and responds to real conflict. Everything about Archie Andrews, Betty Cooper, Jughead Jones, and most of the Riverdale crew is pretty darn idyllic. Parents are active parts of their children’s lives and those children are capable of pursuing whatever niche pursuits their hearts desire. Veronica possesses an even greater advantage in doing what she would like, but it comes at a cost. The cost in this instance is that she is an outsider both at home and at school.

Veronica Lodge was raised by two parents who are so obsessed with their own status and wealth that they raised their daughter as if she would be put on display at Westminster. They gave her everything she needed except the social skills to succeed, taking a young girl with many of the same advantages as Betty (i.e. smarts, ingenuity, looks) and turned her into more of a villain than a hero. By the time she arrives in Riverdale, she has been damaged by a cold household and the isolation she feels within it.

This isn’t all about sympathy either. Much of Veronica’s outsider status at school is of her own doing, behaving as a better to those around her. She can be off putting, rude, and elitist. Veronica is becoming an adult in Riverdale and has to begin to take responsibility for her decisions. That doesn’t make her a bad character though. It makes her an interesting one and, I would say, a better one. Looking at how Veronica’s upbringing has placed her at a disadvantage in making friendships and being her best self is absolutely fascinating. Watching her overcome those problems in order to make the right decisions, to try and care for a doofus like Archie, and to even forge a friendship with the perfect Betty is an incredible journey.

Betty Vs Veronica - Friendship

Art by Fiona Staples

I believe that Veronica Lodge is a more interesting character than Betty Cooper, and therefore a better one. That’s a hill I’ll die on. That doesn’t mean I’m anti-Betty though. In fact I think Betty is a far more important supporting character to Veronica than Archie. She humanizes this isolated young woman and presents her with the opportunity to grow beyond the long, cold shadow of her parents. While my preferred Archie stories will always focus on Veronica, those stories will be better off with Betty in them.

Mark O. Stack: It’s hard to argue with the claim that Veronica, if not necessarily better, is a more dynamic character within the setting of Riverdale as one of the few characters to actually challenge the prevailing attitudes of the town. And it is a strength of Veronica’s character that she is allowed to be a shallow, vain, and materialistic young woman while still being considered worthy of love and affection from the rest of the cast.

And the true love of Veronica Lodge’s life is always going to be Betty Cooper, the only character with a strong enough will and a kind enough heart to push back against her when necessary and support her when she needs it. Betty will encourage Veronica to consider new perspectives and, in turn, Veronica will encourage Betty to consider prioritizing her own feelings. Theirs is a bond that goes much deeper than the schoolyard crushes that have characterized the ginger child’s life.

Betty and Veronica aren’t love and hate or life and death. They’re yin and yang, mashed potatoes and gravy, chocolate and peanut butter… These are two opposed forces that are actually complementary, working together in harmony. There’s going to be some friction between the two but it’s friction that creates the fire of life. A fire that will burn the aforementioned pale boy alive should he ever attempt to get too close to these phoenixes.


“Edgar Vega is a comics artist working in Austin, Texas. You can learn more about his work here or check out his series Rage Against the Jackal on Comixology here. You can also find him on twitter, tumblr or instagram.”

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About chasemagnett

Chase is a mild-mannered finance guy by day and a raving comics fan by night. He has been reading comics for more than half of his life (all 23 years of it). After graduating from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln with degrees in Economics and English, he has continued to research comics while writing articles and reviews online. His favorite superhero is Superman and he'll accept no other answers. Don't ask about his favorite comic unless you're ready to spend a day discussing dozens of different titles.
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