Oct 9, 2012

Archie and Jughead

Though there are lots of hints and signals about same-sex desire in Archie Comics, Archie himself is ludicrously girl-crazy. He is failing French until Veronica helps him “study” by seductively reciting French words  – and then he gets an “A.”  He is an expert artist, but only when he paints girls.  Advised to chose a future career, he selects fashion photography because then he can be surrounded by girls all day.

Archie’s girl craziness rarely receives any criticism from parents or peers, and when someone does complain that he's "too" girl-crazy, he retorts that chasing girls is the only thing worth doing in life.  In “The Andrews Family Tree” (Archie Digest 108) , teenage brain Dilton discovers that all of Archie’s ancestors just missed brilliant scientific discoveries because of their girl-craziness  – they didn’t notice the apple falling because they were busy flirting, for instance. “I feel sorry for your ancestors,” Dilton says, “They were a bunch of losers.”  Archie responds  “And I feel sorry for poor Dilton!  He can’t tell us winners from the losers!”

It seems odd that this acme of girl-craziness has a best friend who "hates" girls. Or at least "hated," from the 1940s through the 1980s, until the character was retconned.  Jughead actually liked girls as friends, but he did not want to date. kiss, or cuddle them.  He was not attracted to women.

Archie and the gang generally accepted this "quirk," but on those rare instances where Jughead seemed to be interested in a girl, they were beside themselves with joy.  In “There’s This Girl, See” (Archie Annual Digest 74) Jughead says that he needs money because “There’s this girl,” and his friends joyfully hug each other and take a collection to finance his date.  When it turns out that the girl merely owes him money, which he needs for a date with a boy, his friends spend a spread panel banging their heads together and kicking themselves in frustration.

Jughead’s most passionate relationship was with his “best pal” Archie, a fact recognized as natural and inevitable by almost all of the other characters. In Archie Double Digest 9, Jughead is so closely attached to Archie that he even tags along on his date with Veronica.  She banishes him, but the softhearted Mr. Lodge intervenes and reunites them

In Archie Andrews Where Are You Digest 66, Archie is dumped by a girl, and his father cheers him up not by introducing him to another girl, but by sending him out on the town with Jughead.

In “Best Friends” (Archie Andrews, Where Are You? 43), Jughead invites Archie to a dance, explaining that “you know I don’t go with girls.” Archie agrees, but at the last minute Jughead receives an invitation to a pizza cook-off that he would rather attend, and gives the tickets to Betty.

When Betty presents herself as a substitute date, Archie is nonplussed.  “[Jughead] stood me up!” he exclaims, treating the snub exactly as if he were expecting a romantic date.  There is no hint that anyone perceives the event as “buddies hanging out”; if we knew nothing about the characters but this single story, we would certainly conclude that Archie considers both Jughead and Betty appropriate romantic partners.

Jughead was also frequently paired with Betty or Veronica, or both,  as a competitor for Archie’s affection. When all three successively try to lure Archie to fates unknown, he balks.  “How much can a man take!” he exclaims.  “Is it my fault I’m so desirable?”  Although this is a satirical story that ended with all of them characters rejecting Archie, the implication is clearly that Jughead, like the girls, has a romantic interest in Archie.

Gradually becoming aware of the existence of gay people, Archie Comics tried -- not always successfully -- to heterosexualize the character of Jughead during the 1990s.  But not to worry, in 2011 they made up for it by introducing a "real" gay character.

Most recently, Jughead has been retconned as asexual, adding to the sexual diversity of Riverdale High.