Friday, May 29, 2009

Shock and 'Awwww...Archie...dude!'

‘What! Man oh man….’ was my first response when I heard about the hysteria that is now spreading faster than Swine Flu across the Internet with almost everyone, including present company, ranting about the illogicality of the whole thing. Yes, it seems to be true though. Archie is going to marry Veronica.

Now, for those of you who’d chuckle at this and nod your heads in hopelessness for people’s despair about something this … well, fictitious…here’s a thought. For blokes like me who had never even seen the map of America properly, Archie and many such comics (Tintin, Asterix et al) were the only major view to the world outside growing up in the 80s and 90s. Sure, there were movies and songs and what have you. But there was no Internet. There was no way to just ‘search for images of' or ‘view videos from’ that far flung land almost everyone alive seemed obsessed with at the time. And sure enough, I was one of them too. No shame in admitting it since it was actually cool being part of this kind of following. It allowed me to get a view, albeit a tad askew from the realism of it that came to me a decade later, of what a place like the US of A was like. Behind those clean roads and fresh snow, inside those white picket fenced barbeque lunches and generously peppered words like ‘Gotcha!’ and ‘Pizza’ and ‘Ahem…!’ and such. Behind every iconic word, image, action and square, ‘Archies’ transformed into something bigger than a comic. It became a metaphoric window that desis would look into and find wonderful things. Things that made them happy. Things that made them smile. Things that made them dream.

I followed Archie and the gang for as long as I could given my distributed attention to other majors like the home grown legends like Amar Chitra Katha and Tinkle. But I never missed a chance to pick up an Archie comic regardless of my location. Sure, it was never in sequence and sure, I might have easily missed a lot of juicy double digests but hey, at least I knew what to look forward to from that land of opportunities.

Reality is a strange witch. Its spell affects you much, much later after it has been originally cast. Once I flew out for the first time missing US of A by about a couple of countries (I was in Venezuela for 7 years) things started getting a perspective. Damn – the one word I have always loathed given the levels of truth it carries. Sick. And then with this P word came another equally nasty one – reality. After having been to the US at least a dozen times now for various reasons – both personal and professional – somehow the context Archie and his gang had set became blurred. The teenagers I encountered were much louder, a tad more disrespectful in public, wore bizarre clothes with their underwear showing, listened to violent rap music about killing self and others, smoked in public with a shallow display of the tattoos and piercing they had acquired over time. Hmm – I thought. Somehow the friendly and affectionate bunch from the ‘A’ comics didn’t quite seem so American now. Riverdale seemed as fictitious as Superman or Phantom. Or for that matter Tantri the Mantri or Chamataka.

It was in this sense of reality that I began to re-read Archies again a few years ago. This time, it was different. I no longer wondered at the crisp settings or mouthed new words like ‘Watcha doin’ Arch?’ since I had heard it all before. I instead started to look more closely at the characters – their personality. And it was there I guess that I began feeling, for the first time, immensely sorry for Betty. Ah good old Betty. She represented the rare breed of girls I had met thus far – friendly, kind, genuinely helpful and absolutely down to earth. The kind of girl you could sit with for hours and talk at length without being judged or categorized. The kind of girl who would never be so self obsessed that she would stop caring about those who came with a heart filled with love and friendship. The rare kind indeed - the endangered kind. (And trust me - the 'Ronnie' type girls are a serious and surprising majority from what I have seen!) The kind of girl I actually found myself falling in love with a few months ago – my current fiancé Jaya. Maybe it was this image of Betty that surfaced in her and made me wish that Archie too, despite his illogical adherence to Veronica’s seriously annoying demands of him as a boyfriend, finds that one ounce of happiness that will take him the whole nine yards.

But alas! With the recent developments I am sure Archie might end up marrying Ronnie anyway. There is no denying that chances are that will happen whether I (we) like it or not. But what I also hope he realizes, is that in the long run, despite the differences between fact and fiction, values like Betty’s, as ‘boring and stereotypical’ as they may seem to those who have been force fed alien morals to begin with, are the ones that matter. Ronnie is OK for short term highs and thrills but if he wants someone to keep him high and thrilled forever – Betty is definitely the way to go. Plain Jane? Certainly. But sane terrain? You bet!

I know this now from experience. I hope Archie Andrews gets to realize that too. Until then, all I can say is – All the best to Archie and Ronnie. And as for Betty - well, to use an expression quite orthodox - 'Hang in there, Betts!'


2 reflections:

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