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The Evolution of Archie Andrews

There+is+a+marked+difference+between+the+CW+show+Riverdale+versus+class+Archie+comics%2C+which+does+not+necessarily+define+whether+it+is+a+good+show+or+not.
There is a marked difference between the CW show Riverdale versus class Archie comics, which does not necessarily define whether it is a good show or not.

There is a marked difference between the CW show Riverdale versus class Archie comics, which does not necessarily define whether it is a good show or not.

There is a marked difference between the CW show Riverdale versus class Archie comics, which does not necessarily define whether it is a good show or not.

Laina Segel, Copy Editor

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A thousand year-old wooden bridge arches across two forests in southern China, stretched between two villages whose people regularly find new timber to replace the bridge’s broken parts.  After so many centuries, every inch of the bridge has been replaced.  Is today’s bridge still the original bridge? Or, composed of entirely new parts, has it transformed into an entirely new bridge? When does renewal become replacement; when does adaptation become conversion?
I ask this question because last Thursday at 8:00, the CW debuted Riverdale, a TV show about the long-running comic book character Archie and his Riverdale friends.   I love Archie.  I learned to read by reading Archie comic books.  I had hundreds of them.  I took them everywhere.  In my Archie collection, some of the stories took place in the 50’s, but most of them were contemporary.  They dealt with high school dances, malt shoppes, and innocence.  I’m not going to lie:  I was right there in front of the TV at 8:00 when Riverdale came on.
Fine, judge me.  You and I both know that your Buzz Lightyear action figure lies in the back of your closet, suspended in the ether between toy and trash.
The show is very dark; the characters haunted. What’s with the existentialism? There’s no angst in Archie. The camera cuts to a cute twenty-something year old.  Veronica? Betty? No, it appears that this is Miss Grundy.  In the comic book, Miss Grundy is a stern yet fair teacher; a white-haired source of wisdom.  On the TV show, Miss Grundy wears a miniskirt and has an affair with Archie.
Archie’s website says that “the live-action series offers a bold, subversive take on Archie, Betty, Veronica, and their friends, exploring small-town life and the darkness and weirdness bubbling beneath Riverdale’s wholesome facade.” After watching for half an hour, I just wanted to be back in the old Riverdale. Before he died, longtime Archie artist Tom Moore said, “It is kind of sad that the idealistic world of Riverdale is turning so dark with violence, death, and murder.” Violence means ratings, questionably earned with a revamped, vampy Miss Grundy.
I understand that Archie needs to stay relevant.  Like the old bridge needs new wood, Archie needs the support of new plotlines to survive.  However, I wonder what support derives from giving Miss Grundy long brown curls, a short red skirt, and poor judgment. After seventy years, Archie felt it had to abandon thoughtfulness to attract viewers. Riverdale eradicated a character who offered her students trust and guidance, and replaced her with a young…well, let’s call her a woman of questionable morals.
In book form, these comics represented people who struggled through life’s challenges.  They were soldiers, protestors, and minorities who called attention to the need for change.  However, unless I am remembering incorrectly, none of them were picked up for a class B felony.
Archie focused on civil rights, gun control and homophobia.  In 2010, Kevin Keller moved to Riverdale because his father, Colonel Keller, was transferred; and one day, Kevin hoped to join the military, too, which was okay in 2010 because that was when the U.S. repealed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. His inclusion by all of Riverdale and his role as a trusted friend brought Archie into a modern era—an era of acceptance. In issue #36, “The Death of Archie”, Archie jumps in front of Kevin to stop Kevin—now a senator—from being assassinated.  Archie comics then followed Kevin Keller’s position as a gun control advocate.
Those who feel different, or who feel that they are battling a problem alone, see their dilemmas acted out onscreen or on the page and realize that somebody knows how they feel.  These same problems existed years ago, but no one wanted to talk about them, and certainly no one wanted to air them on TV; but it was safe to discuss them within the pages of a comic book.
Recalling the lessons she drew from the pages of Archie comics, Bugle advisor Ms. Jacobson said, “I read Archie comic books long before I understood the character dynamics. But I did start to learn about fair and unfair—like it wasn’t fair that Veronica got away with more stuff than Betty. And it helped me understand those situations in my own life. Maybe it prepared me for life as a high school teacher.”
This month marks Archie’s 75th anniversary, commemorated with a special double digest.  Ironically, in the very first story Jughead yearns for the new, exciting road not taken.  Jughead dumps the old fashioned Chocklit Shoppe, tempted by a new diner’s daily special: two pizzas topped with mini cheeseburgers.  Jughead makes a deal with the witchy waitress: trade his best quality for the new, exotic meal.  Soon Jughead learns that the food, while tantalizing, has robbed him of part of his identity.  One by one, the characters  trade the best parts of themselves for their dreams to come true.  The catastrophic result leads them to trick the witch into reversing the spell; they succeed because, as Archie says, the witch’s temptations are no match for their best qualities.  The next story is a contrast, an original written over half a century ago.  The storyline?  Jughead worries that he is a nobody; but when he abandons his principles to become famous, he realizes that he’d much rather be an unimportant yet geniune person.  Being famous seems fun and exciting, but Jughead feels lonely and depressed when he pretends to be someone he’s not.
This brings me back to the bridge that has stood for a thousand years in China.  Can it still possibly be the same entity, even when it has none of its original parts? Will Archie still be the same, even if the CW manipulates the characters physically and morally?
I think the answer is, the bridge remains the same because its purpose remains the same; a link to connect two villages. Riverdale works like Archie used to when people watch together, talking to each other about the story, and sharing the ways that it affects their lives.  Parents should explain to their children why their values conflict with the show’s message and why they are changing the channel; others should be able to state publicly and without fear that they don’t feel Riverdale has, as the FCC puts it, “literary, artistic, political or scientific value.”  What’s important, though, is that Riverdale remain uncensored and on the air for the audience who does see its artistic value.
Archie will remain the same if its purpose remains the same; a creation that notes the need for societal change through humor and creativity.  My unsolicited advice to the producers?  Book Miss Grundy for a felony, and place a call to her great-aunt, the elder Miss Grundy.  That’s the one who expected the best from her students and treated them equally, fairly and decently; and those qualities are as relevant today as they were seventy years ago.

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The Evolution of Archie Andrews