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Ammer, Annalise

Abstract:

When trying to come up with a topic to write this paper on I thought back to the first comic books I ever read. When I was a little girl a refused to read anything at all. My parents tried everything, they would even bribe me to read. In a final attempt to get me to read something my father went out and bought at "Betty and Veronica" comic book. At first I was hesitant to read it but I decided to give it a chance. After the first three pages I was hooked. I immediately related to both characters on different levels. I felt like Betty because she looked like me and she was a very down to earth girl. While I also wanted to be like Veronica because she was beautiful and had everything she could ever want. As a young girl I felt like these two best friends were the most empowering role models that I could look up to. They were both smart, attractive, successful teenage girls. Never once did I stop and think about the one issue that in reality undercut their empowering roles; Archie. In almost every issue of "Betty and Veronica" the two girls are participating in the various day-to-day lives, usually enjoying one another's company or improving themselves in some way. Then like clock work, the two would turn against each other in the pursuit of their boyfriend Archie. First off I could never understand why they liked Archie so much, they were both much smarter and successful than him. He was constantly portrayed as a bumbling fool that tried very hard to make both of his girlfriends happy. Looking back on this issue now I am awestruck by Archie's undercutting of Betty and Veronica's success as young women. It is as if the writers of the comic wanted to empower young girls, but they couldn't help leave in a little of the 'old school' sexism.

 After thinking this "Betty and Veronica" issue through I have decided to write my essay about the portrayal of women in comics. Although I haven't nailed down my exact thesis yet I have a relatively strong idea of what I want to say. I want to discuss the portrayal of women in comics that are geared towards young girls and explore the issues that come up in this genre ("Betty and Veronica"). From there I want to compare those portrayals to more empowering portrayals of woman such as in "Fun House" and "Persepolis". In a more detailed aspect I want to discuss not only how these two comics portray women in a more realistic light but also relate back to the fact that these comics were written by women. Going a long with the theme of women in mature comics I wanted to discuss Laurie's portrayal in "Watchmen", the lack of women portrayed in "Jimmy Corrigan" and the sexual symbols that women are in "Concrete".

Overall I want to explore the use of women in comics as both positive and negative symbols, objects and characters. Women in comic books are used as tools to convey various issues and messages, I would like to explore how there are manipulated into portraying these various ideas. I have done some preliminary research to help me further develop my thesis and support my ideas. These sources include:

The Archie Code: A Study in Sexual Stereotyping as Reflective of as Basic Dilemma in American Society. By Ronald Glasberg Breaking the Mold with Humor: Images of Women in the Visual Media. By Sheri Klein Women in Comic Books. By Michael R. Lavin

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3 Comments

  1. For me, the heart of your project is the intimacy with which you know Betty & Veronica; there's really no substitute for that autobiographical knowledge and would urge you to make it integral to the project.  You'd be able to show an economy or "ecology" of how that comic book functioned amidst many other factors in your development.  Probably you might want to show some knowledge of how the series has changed (or not) during it 50+ year run.  Probably there had to be some grrl power gestures during the 1970s, however insincere.  Is it your sense that the majority of the series' readers are, in fact, girls?  If so, they might have similarities to romance or soap opera series.  Toward the end of your abstract the topic spreads alarmingly: "Women in Comic Books" may be the ultimate horizon of where you're going, but I'd encourage you to work in-tensively for most of the essay before gesturing ex-tensively -- think of this as a way of showing me how to re-read comics, with perhaps a few suggestions toward the end or brief comparisons along the way.  The secondary sources you mention all look to be promising.  I also think that a lot of writing has been done on Barbie that might be useful to you: are women simply to dismiss this aspect of their childhood as false consciousness or brainwashing?  Or are there other, more subversive things that female readers do with the comics in opposition to their "intended" meaning?  In order to pull this off, perhaps you might think of the project as a work of creative non-fiction: your role is an essayist more than a scholar (and in any case not a deferential college student).  I'm looking forward to seeing how this turns out!

  2. Unknown User (era6)

    I hate to toot my own horn, but I'm actually doing a lecture on this topic!

    I am not so familiar with Betty and Veronica, but I definitely recall not liking them so much because they would be at each other's throats over Archie. I can't think of any other comics geared toward young girls, but for mature comics, I could definitely point you in a few directions. More positive women definitely appear in important roles in V For Vendetta by Alan Moore and The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller. I can't guarantee the value of this one, but Ghost World by Daniel Clowes. If you aren't too terrified of the sheer volume of X-Men material, you might want to check some of that out. I think it would provide you with some very interesting women to examine...

    You might think I'm insane to suggest this, but I think the best avenue for your research starts at Joe's Comics on Main Street- the owner knows EVERYTHING there is to know about comics. I am unfortunately unfamiliar with some of the really pervasive women of comics books like Lois Lane and Wonder Woman, but I think some degree of examination of these women is almost necessary- they have had runs just as long as Betty and Veronica, and they are incredibly dynamic. If you do decide to look at some female superheroes, I think Joe is going to be a big help in sifting through the endless stock of potential comics. Breaching a comic series with a history as long as Batman is a little mind-blowing, so it helps to talk to someone who is familiar with all that development.

    Good luck!

  3. Unknown User (da9)

    I definitely think that this topic will work well for especially with all your knowledge on the "Betty and Veronica" comics.  I think you definitely should include comics in which women play a positive role too.  I think that is an important aspect; not all graphic novel women are reduced to stereotypes.

    I just wanted to say that as I was growing up I read a lot of "Archie and Jughead" comics during car rides and such, but I never read the "Betty and Veronica" version.  You might want to look into this side of the same characters because I didn't find Veronica to be independent and empowered.  It would be interesting to see the same characters from another angle.  Also you could explore this idea: is "Betty and Veronica" the girl version of "Archie and Jughead?"  And what does this say about the companies that create and the people that read these comics?  Because the Archie version has a lot more of the girls fighting over Archie and less stand alone stories of them.

    This is an expansive topic and you should have tons of material to work with.  Good luck tackling it!