11 Irrefutable Reasons Why Veronica Lodge is the Better Character (and a Better Catch for a Certain Improbably Lucky Redhead) Than Betty Cooper
1. She knows what she wants, and she goes for it.
It’s one of the most enduring love triangles in the comics, and for good reason: there’s nothing male comic readers can relate to more than having two impossibly gorgeous women fighting over them. Alas, sooner or later a choice must be made, and in Archibald Andrew’s case the answer is obvious: Veronica Lodge is clearly the better option. The proof? For starters, she is rarely, if ever, painted as a passive victim of fate; her attitude towards everything in life can be summed up in two statements: (1) I own that and (2) I will own that. Where some fair-haired teenagers we could mention are more apt to toss in the towel and sulk when life starts handing out lemons, Veronica is the type of gal who will take those lemons, hire the best lemonade chefs in the land and market the hell out of those suckers. Call it moxie, call it entitlement, call it whatever you want — the bottom line is, a woman with the confidence to go for what she wants is a woman to treasure.
2. She spreads the wealth.
Speaking of treasure. Much ado is made of Veronica’s status as a well-to-do socialite and how her inherited wealth has made her a little spoiled… all right, let’s just put it out there, she can be a real rhymes-with-witch at times. And yes, there have been a few times when she tried to use her wealth to secure an unfair advantage over a rival, in romance or otherwise (a story about her trying to buy a school election with the help of professional political operatives comes to mind), only to be served her proper comeuppance. But consider this: you could comb the entire library of Archie stories, from the 1940s to today, and you will find far more stories in which our well-heeled heiress shares the wealth than not. The cost of a meal? Free and extended use of her family estate? Unlimited pool privileges? A new dress for a friend in need? Requisite funds for the gang’s trip around the world, or whatever extravagance is required to advance the plot? Been that, did that, bought the Gucci T-shirt.
3. She could have gone to any private school in the land, but didn’t.
Perhaps it’s envy that drives some readers to overlook Ms. Lodge’s nobler attributes and focus on her occasional lapses into snobbishness and selfish behaviors; if so, that’s a real shame. Because when you think about it, Veronica has no real reason to even be in Riverdale in the first place. According to Wikipedia (the most authoritative source on this issue, I swear to DeCarlo), Mr. Lodge moved his family to the small town and sent his only daughter to a public high school so that she wouldn’t end up as spoiled as the children of the other rich folks he knew. (Said efforts are undermined by him allowing her access to numerous credit cards, but we’ll save that topic for another day.) In all her years as a Riverdale High student, has she ever once demanded a one-way ticket to a private school, or choose to hang only with the country-club crowd? To quote Wikipedia: “Veronica’s best friend is Betty Cooper, and the two enjoy countless activities and interests… Her other friends include Ethel Muggs, Midge Klump and Nancy Woods, and they all enjoy having slumber parties and shopping at the mall together.” So there.
4. She refuses to define herself by her relationship with Archie.
Most fans forget that Veronica wasn’t there at the start; the very first Archie story featured Archie, Betty and Jughead in a typical teenage romp; Veronica didn’t come along until four issues later, debuting as the out-of-town debutante who accepted Archie’s unintentional invitation to a dance because she thought it would be fun. And while she has done more than her share of scheming over the years to ensnare Archie’s heart (and, it must be asked… him?), rarely if ever has she achieved the same level of obsession over Archie as her blonde rival. Where Veronica is content to rely on her wealth and raw sexuality to woo her man, Betty presents herself as a consummate homemaker, ace mechanic, top scholar/eager study buddy — pretty much anything that demonstrates her usefulness and/or eagerness to relate to Archie on his level. And, you know, more power to her; in the game of love, you’ve got to use every advantage you’ve got. But underlying all that handiness was the notion she was only interested in oil pans and pot roasts because she assumed that’s what Archie wanted from a mate. And no man is worth that much effort — especially a jerk who, say, takes advantage of a girl willing to do his chores for him…
5. She’s truer to Archie than he’s ever been to her, the cad.
And while we’re on the subject, let’s turn our attention to Mr. Andrews, shall we? It has often been said that, in the case of Archie v. Veronica, the former is a guileless, lovestruck naïf enthralled by a wily temptress’s charms, while the latter is the more opportunistic “user” in the relationship, stringing our poor boy along to satisfy whatever rich-girl whims pop into her head. As Mr. Weatherbee is prone to say, “Poppycock, malarkey and horsefeathers.” Putting aside the obvious fact Archie is clearly aware of (and enjoying the sight of) two buxom beauties fighting over him, our copper-headed conquistador is forever seeking out new territories to explore, putting the moves on anyone and everyone from Moose’s steady, Midge; Sabrina the teenage witch; Josie of “and the Pussycats” fame; Cheryl Blossom; and a countless parade of walk-on ladies — sometimes right in front of his supposed main girl (see below). By comparison, Veronica is as steadfast and true as a Civil War widow; aside from an occasional flirtation with Reggie (who, it must be noted, seemed content to be a mere pawn in her grander schemes), her attention has almost always been focused on Operation: Archie. Why? God only knows. But still, there it is.
6. She’s clever enough to know when a con is being played.
One thing no one can ever accuse Veronica of being is slow on the uptake. And when it comes to the pulling of a fast one, she can give as good as she gets. Case in point: “Switch,” a classic tale by writer/artist Sam Schwartz. Archie and Jughead have just spent an afternoon watching a television broadcast of Gaslight, a classic film in which Charles Boyer attempts to drive an increasingly terrified Ingrid Bergman insane by making her doubt her own senses. When an exceedingly annoyed Veronica shows up in a fury because Archie unintentionally stood her up, Jughead draws inspiration from the film and attempts to help his pal by attempting to convince Veronica that he is actually Archie, and vice versa. Archie plays along (“What have I got to lose? She’s angry enough to kill me anyway”), and for a few moments it appears she might actually be falling for it… that is, until she showers “Archiekins” with kisses, sending the female-phobic Jughead fleeing in disgust. “Now… where were we?” she says, teeth bared, as she pivots towards a terrified Archie. “Ah, yes! While being stood up, I was watching an old movie! Have you ever seen Gaslight…?” Would Betty have cottoned on to the boys’ ruse as quickly? Probably. Would she have so beautifully turned it around and reduced Archie to a whimpering heap for trying to pull something like that? Hell, no.
7. She’s so smart, she realizes she’s inside a comic book.
Every member of the Archie cast had a particular gift or ability that made them useful when it came time to plot stories. Jughead was the insatiable glutton and consummate cadger; Reggie was the schemer; Betty, the homemaker par excellence; Dilton, the genius; Moose, the strong guy; and so on. Veronica’s “gift,” aside from her wealth and business smarts, was a little more… surreal. As demonstrated in “The Phenomenon,” Veronica was acutely aware of the fact that she and her cohorts were (in the immortal words of R. Crumb) “just lines on paper, folks.” In and of itself, this talent (which was demonstrated more often in the 1970s, back when Archie stories were a little more experimental than today) doesn’t make her a better match for Archie per se, but it’s interesting that the Archie writers of the day bestowed this far-out ability on her. No vapid socialite she, Veronica is often depicted as the shrewd one in the group, the one who can see all the angles in a situation and, say, wrest Daddy’s chequebook from his person for the gang’s latest project before he even realizes what’s happened. Frankly, Archie needs someone like that to do the thinking for the both of them. (Recent comics have done much to establish Betty as a “brain” in her own right, which is great, but we’re talking street smarts here, which Ms. Lodge has in spades.)
8. She’s accepting of others, even when she has no reason to be.
Make no mistake, Veronica has occasionally gone astray when her vanity or sense of entitlement has gotten the better of her. But only the most dishonest pro-Betty propagandist would tell you the girl is devoid of bedrock-solid principles, or honest-to-goodness values. Back in the 1960s, for example, when Jughead flirted with the Flower Power movement, it was Veronica — not the normally more accepting Betty or Archie — who accepted his transformation and encouraged others to emulate it. When Kevin Keller blew into town a few years ago, Veronica was among the first to welcome him — and kept welcoming him, even when it was clear the handsome boy was not interested in her in that way. And in the classic tale “A Matter of Prejudice,” in which Archie thinks she’s telling him Chuck isn’t welcome at an upcoming party because he’s black, she chews him out mightily for making assumptions about her, making it crystal clear where she stands on the whole prejudice issue. Bottom line: you’d have to look far and wide for a story showing her any less committed to respect and tolerance than her best friend/romantic rival.
9. She’s just a more rounded and nuanced character.
Understand, my purpose here is not to suggest Betty would be a terrible person in real life, and if she and Archie ever did tie the knot (as they did in an “imaginary story” a few years ago) it wouldn’t be the end of the world. Heck, no less an authority than Archie Comics founder John Goldwater once said in an interview that “Betty, the nice girl-next-door, is the kind of girl Archie would marry if he ever got married.” Here’s the thing, though: When all is said and done, Betty is simply too nice. Sweet, kind, well-mannered, great with kids, willing to please, genuinely admirable in every way — the worst you can say about her is that she sometimes gets a little too fixated on the idea of making Archie her man. It was literally love at first sight for her, and over the course of more than 70 years, her determination to win his heart has never faltered. A gig’s a gig and no one faults her for the scripts she’s given, but the fact is Veronica has consistently been presented as a more flawed — and therefore more human and far more interesting as a character — than her best friend.
10. She has her own Elvis Costello song.
Ok, technically, that song isn’t really about her; Costello was instead inspired to write the song by his grandmother, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s at the time. But what else comes to mind when you hear “Veronica”? Veronica Mars. Veronica Lake. The Veronicas, a rock band from Australia fronted by two brunette twins. Veronica Sawyer, Winona Ryder’s character in Heathers. Now think “Betty” and what comes to mind is… Betty Draper from Mad Men, Betty Rubble, Betty Ford, Betty White, Betty Crocker. “Veronica” suggests moxie, sexiness, smoldering sensuality, and a little bit of edge; “Betty” is more, well, domesticated. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But it says volumes that Archie Comics once sued the Veronicas rock band for trademark infringement and did nothing to, say, stop the very blonde Betty Draper from teaching the world to associate “Betty” with “a woman possessed of an icy demeanor, horrible parenting skills and unresolved issues.” That’s likely because Archie Comics understands Betty is just a name. But Veronica? Veronica is attitude.
11. Sue me, I just prefer brunettes.
P.S. Love you, babe!