Comics, Essays

#TeamVeronica: Why Veronica is Better than Betty

When it comes to the ever-concerning question: which girl will Archie pick? The general consensus seems to be Team Betty. I guess it may seem obvious. Betty is kind and smart. She can bake and fix that oil leak in the jalopy. She’s always there to lend a helping hand, and she wears a ponytail so well. Betty, is, well, with the exception of her taste in men, perfect. She’s the everywoman and a total bore.

Growing up, the Betty & Veronica comics were my jam. I didn’t particularly care about Archie, but Betty, Veronica, and the rest of the gang were a continual source of entertainment for me–not to mention, most importantly, my entry into the glorious medium that is comic books.

I adore Betty. How can you not? But, I could never understand how she could let Archie walk all over her the way he did. Veronica sure as hell didn’t. She’s spoiled and snobby with just enough moments to make her redeemable, and she is larger than life.

Cordelia Chase Motivational Poster by Buzzfeed

Cordelia Chase Motivational Posters, courtesy of Buzzfeed

On the spectrum of likeable and unlikeable female characters, Betty is the girl loved by men and women alike, and Veronica is a very specific type of unlikeable girl. The Cordelia Chases, the Regina Georges, the Santana Lopezs. They are super sexy, they are manipulative, and at the top of the social hierarchy.

Sometimes I love hating them, but usually I just end up loving them and cheering them on.

These women want power; they like power. They throw their figurative weight around whether it’s money, sexuality, and/or sheer will. No one walks over them, and they ask for what they want with no reservation. In most cases, they usually get it or, in some cases, don’t get it in order to learn A Lesson, but are back to their usual shenanigans by the next issue or episode. They are ruthless, but they show just enough traces of vulnerability to not be entirely deplorable. They make for great soundbites and take shit from nobody.

They are out to please only one person: themselves.

On the whole, this is generally not considered a socially desirable trait, but in the context of fictional media, these kinds of female characters are crucial.

Growing up as a kid who was accused of having too much attitude and told to smile, these badass bitches were a cathartic escape for my feminist angst. No, they aren’t archetypes of strong female characters or even feminist characters. They often work against other female characters at the expense of winning the male attention that solidifies their position in the patriarchy, but they also do this while being very “unfeminine.” It’s a contradiction that makes them compelling and so damn fun.

I tease with the title – there’s room for both Betty and Veronica, but make no mistake I am #TeamVeronica. And don’t even get me started on the awesomeness that is Cheryl Blossom and Alexandra Cabot.

  1. Gehayi

    August 1, 2015 at 4:16 pm

    I always thought that Betty would be the better friend…though I could never understand why she kept going after a guy who plainly considered her second-best. I wanted to be Veronica, but I never felt that I could be like her. Veronica got away with being selfish, ruthless, etc. because she was rich. I always had the feeling that if Veronica’s father suddenly went broke (and my parents were Depression-era babies, so the possibility of losing everything has been a constant in my life), his daughter’s quirks would be a lot less acceptable.

    I supposed, even as a child, that it was a class issue. Veronica was rich, which made her powerful. Rich and powerful people didn’t have to be nice. Betty was lower-middle-class (I remember the company her father worked for going on strike a few times, and Betty seemed to do a lot of odd jobs and babysitting to earn money for clothes). She was, compared to Veronica, poor. She didn’t have the money or the power to be unpleasant and get away with it.

    I think that, ultimately, is why I never considered Veronica Lodge empowering or a game-changer. There were lots of rich, powerful, not particularly nice women in fiction–but I never saw them showing other women (in-universe or not) how to become more powerful legally, socially or economically. So far as I could tell, the only way that you gained power in Veronica’s world was to be born rich. After that, you used your money to buy pretty clothes that no one else could afford, went to social events that were out of everyone else’s price range and did whatever the hell you wanted because your dad’s money could make anything bad go away. Bonus points if you were pretty and popular.

    Watching Veronica win over and over again felt like the artists and writers were rubbing my nose in how much I failed as a girl. I wanted to be Veronica…but I also hated her. Even at eight or nine, I did not believe that I would ever become as rich as Veronica Lodge, and I knew that I was neither pretty nor popular. I wanted to be all three, but I saw no way of making it happen.

    So what you saw as cathartic, I found extremely painful. I didn’t identify with Veronica because I couldn’t. Both she and Betty were the girls I couldn’t be. Veronica was rich and powerful; Betty was unfailingly sweet (even in the face of insurmountable odds) and skilled at everything; and both of them were extremely pretty and popular. They were impossible ideals. By contrast, I was homely and unstylish, the one who was no good at socializing and who got laughed at regularly. I was Big Ethel–and I knew very well what the Archie writers thought of girls like Big Ethel.

  2. Ginnis Tonik

    August 2, 2015 at 5:43 pm

    I think your experience and interpretation is one many readers probably felt. Like Veronica, Cordelia, Santana, and Regina are all upper-middle to upper class. What they offer as catharsis for me is definitely based on their privilege. But given the two, even if I could never be rich like Veronica, I found it easier to enjoy her (I don’t know if I would say identify, I don’t know if there has to be identification to be catharsis) because like you said Betty was skilled at everything, the perfectly sweet girl…which given the alternative seemed worse for me than Veronica. It’s a forced choice. But yeah Big Ethel, she is treated horribly, and it definitely says a lot about what type of girl is desirable in the archie verse.

Comments are closed.