Since Filipinos in general are quite fond of American culture, it’s no surprise we’ve taken to one of their iconic pop culture phenomena, Archie Andrews and his merry gang from Riverdale. I, as a young teen, used to collect the single and double digest versions of the comics and read them fervently like, I assumed, every other kid in the world was doing at the time. So imagine my surprise when I learned during my 8 year stay in Sydney, Australia that almost no one there has ever read Archie comics, with some people having never even heard of it in the first place. This got me to thinking, “Why then is the popular title and its characters so endearing to Filipinos?”
So what exactly is it about Archie that we, as Filipinos, relate to? How many of us can associate with living in a ‘Smallville’, USA type town, having milkshakes and burgers at the corner mom n’ pop store on lazy afternoons? How many can identify with having their own car to drive at such a young age? Or playing for the high school football team? Or better yet, having red hair and freckles? None too many I would think.
Going the more character-specific direction, let’s look at the lead character, Archibald “Archie” Andrews. Auburn hair and freckles notwithstanding, the most significant aspect in Archie’s life that I think not many people in the world can relate to is that he has 2 very attractive, young girls (3, if you count Cheryl Blossom) pining for his attention. Now unless your name is Jude Law, this seems an unlikely scenario for you. Maybe it’s because we Filipinos think and like to believe that “gayuma” or a love potion indeed works! Ah but we all know that it’s because this setup is every man’s fantasy. I liked an observation I read about how Veronica and Betty, aside from the hair color, are virtually identical (looks-wise). So Archie is playing out the fantasy of having twin sisters and then eventually getting them to make out with each other. That is every man’s fantasy, right? Anyone? No?
Next up, we have Forsythe “Jughead” Jones. A total slacker (and hero, in my opinion) who wears a flippin’ crown and detests girls. Personally, I think Jughead is ace. He is a non-conformist who honestly doesn’t give a rats ass about what other people think of him. If he were into the female of the species he’d be a god among men. But then again, if the only girl chasing after you were Ethel Muggs then maybe I’d stay celibate myself. (For those who watched/read To Riverdale And Back Again, you all know that Ethel outgrew her adolescent unattractiveness and turned out to become a supermodel.)
Now for the infamous Reginald “Reggie” Mantle. Reggie is good-looking, athletic, talented, and according to some storylines, he’s also pretty well-off. Sure ol’ Reg can be a bit of a jerk, but you gotta admit, he’s pretty funny too. So why can he never get the girl (we all know girls love assholes, right)? Realistically speaking though, most dudes can lay claim to only about 1 or 2 of those attributes. So Reggie is probably one of the hardest to relate to and is testament to the saying that “looks aren’t everything” (nor is money, talent, or athleticism).
And now for ze ladies. Elizabeth “Betty” Cooper is the quintessential girl-next-door (no, not the Playboy-style girl-next-door). She is pretty, sweet, smart, down-to-earth, and according to some renditions, has a Bo Derek “10” figure to boot. So it really is a mystery as to why Betty is single and why none of Riverdale’s boys are after her. Maybe her breath stinks, did ya ever think about that? Hmmm?
Finally we have Veronica Lodge. Veronica comes from a family of multi-billionaires and… Ok, wait, let’s stop right there. If you can relate to that last sentence then why are you even reading this blog? Why aren’t you doing lines of coke with Paris Hilton right now? Hmmm now that I think about it, Veronica is Paris Hilton, only brunette, a bit smarter, and hotter. Ok I think I’ve given Paris a little too much credit and you know that’s unheard of.
Suffice to say, there isn’t much that Filipinos can relate to in terms of the characters from the comics. I guess I’ll try and be bold and say that what we Filipinos get out of reading the comics, besides the obvious escapism, is it strengthens our ‘romantic’ view of America. I am no elitist and wholeheartedly include myself in that as a kid, the only other country that mattered besides our own was the U.S. of A. So the Archie comics was nothing more than another link to the oh so greener pastures of the western world.