Oct 12, 2012

Jughead's Girlfriends

Today Archie comics is unique in children's media in featuring an open, out gay teenage character, but during the 1980s and 1990s, it made an attempt to heterosexualize its most famous "woman-hater," Jughead Jones.

In a story prophetically entitled “Genesis. . .the Beginning” (Jughead Digest  36, 1985),  Jughead is up late one night when a beam of light flashes out of his TV set and renders him unconscious.  The next morning he has received a facelift, and there is an odd masculine symbol affixed to his beanie.  “I feel reborn. . .” he exclaims.  “I have strange tingling sensations. . .It’s like I have an inner power.  I have a desire to talk to. . .to touch. . .my gosh! A girl!”

Reggie doesn’t believe that his friend has suddenly been converted to heterosexuality: “That boy is one sickie!”  But Archie comes to his aid: “This is going to make him more normal!  He’s always been an oddball!”

Further stories during the late 1980s and early 1990s indicated that the publisher John Goldwater expected the readers to buy the explanation that Jughead had always liked girls, but was inhibited by lack of self-confidence, that his real self was a “self-confident, girl-loving, prowling wolf."

In a letter to the readers reprinted incessantly during the period, he noted slyly that Jughead had “changed” (but failed to give any details), and invited readers to comment on which version they liked better.

The consensus was overwhelming: readers liked the old Jughead, needed someone to stand apart from the boy and girl-crazed antics of his peers and demonstrate that heterosexual desire was not necessarily an universal of human experience.

Nevertheless, the girl-loving Jughead remained.  During the last 20 years, Jughead has been involved in  passionate affairs, tempestuous love-hate relationships, and casual dates with amateur psychologist Trula Twyst, health food nut Googie, jazz fan Debbie, and long-time admirer Big Ethel.

Paradoxically, the girl-hating Jughead is still around, often in the same issue; in Jughead 130 (2000), Jughead is in love with Trula Twyst in one story, but in another he saves an attractive female movie star from drowning and refuses a kiss as a reward.  For several years, his capsule biography on the Archie comics webpage referred both to his girlfriends and to his “rather abnormal dislike of girls."