Love Hurts: ‘Nobody’s Going To Grab Me! I’m Too — Too Unfeminine!’
As we head towards Valentine’s Day, ComicsAlliance is offering up a daily tribute to love, as depicted in the somewhat dubious world of Romance Comics! Today’s entry: Young Romance #197′s “That Strange Girl!”
Hoo boy. This thing.
Billed on the cover as “The Story They Dared Us To Print,” this thing is drenched in as much subtext as it could get away with right from the start. The year was 1974, and the star of the show is one Liz Baker, “torn by doubts and mixed emotions” from a life full of “shame and torment.” Why?
Well, mainly because she wears jeans, and you know how people love to talk.
See, Liz often helps out with her father’s odd jobs, dresses more for practicality and comfort than fashion, and doesn’t date much because she considers the boys in her town to be a total drag. And because of this, everyone in this story, up to and including her mother, think she’s what they euphemistically term a “strange girl.”
Okay, admittedly, there’s also this panel from when she has a sleepover:
Yeah, that one kinda sells it.
But because everyone in this town is a jerk, constant snide comments about Liz being “strange” are the order of the day, and because everyone in this town is an idiot, nobody can figure out why Liz doesn’t want to hang out with people who make fun of her because they think she’s a lesbian.
Eventually, things hit critical mass when a boy named Fred finally convinces her to walk him home from one of her basketball games — because of course she plays basketball — and ends up kissing her. Unfortunately, the aftermath of that kiss doesn’t go quite so well:
Even as Fred admits it was a bad choice of words and tries to smooth things over, Liz calls him a “damned liar” and bolts. But a few minutes later, they reconcile, and they all chalk it up to being too in love to put words together right, which actually makes sense. They start going out, and Liz tells all the readers who might feel that they’re “different” that one day maybe they can find a boy like Fred.
On the one hand, it’s a pretty terrible message for any girl who might’ve picked this up hoping for advice on how to deal with being a lesbian in 1974. But on the other, it actually is a reminder that just because someone dresses differently or doesn’t like the same things that other kids do, it doesn’t necessarily reflect their sexual orientation.
So.. good job, Young Romance? Maybe?