Unsinkable Ship: Veronica and Betty Are Going Steady [Love & Sex Week]
I’ve been thinking a lot about Betty and Veronica lately. With Archie ‘n’ pals riding high in pop culture again thanks to Riverdale, it’s hard not to. Even with a faux-lesbian kiss that went nowhere, Riverdale reaffirms my belief that Betty and Veronica are totally in love. Hear me out.
Betty and Veronica have long been portrayed as competitors going after the same guy, our beloved but boring Archie Andrews, but I can’t help but think their interest in Archie stems less from him being a cool dude (arguable) and more from him just being an eligible bachelor.
Betty see Archie as the kind of guy that she should be in love with. He’s sweet, he’s handsome, he’s athletic --- but he’s also uninterested in her. Archie is safe to have a crush on, precisely because he’ll never return that interest. For someone maybe struggling with her sexuality, afraid to come out to her controlling parents, Archie is a risk-free crush. Betty can use him as her excuse to stay single --- “I’m just so in love with Archie, why would I date anyone else?” --- and feel comfortable in the knowledge that she’ll never have to be with Archie.
Veronica, on the other hand, sees Archie as a conquest. He’s a boy to be taken and used. Their relationship is never very sexual; he’s often more an errand boy than he is a lover to Veronica. In the 1974 story “Ladies Man” from Laugh Digest #1, Betty asks Veronica what she sees in Archie, and Veronica responds “You!” Her interest in Archie is more about competition than anything. Competition, and staying close to Betty.
Betty is the kind of girl who will come out of her shell once she goes to college, away from her controlling mother and her role as the town’s perfect good girl. She’ll go to a gay club and get flirted with by older lesbians who make her nervous, but she’ll like it. She’ll meet a nice girl and have her first relationship, then get her heart broken. Then she’ll meet another. Over summer break, she’ll go back to Riverdale with newfound confidence in herself and her sexuality, and finally ask Veronica out now that she has the language to understand and describe her feelings for Ronnie.
Ronnie’s a rich girl from New York; there’s no way she hasn’t made out with other girls before. Veronica knows herself, she knows what she wants, and she doesn’t let anything stand in her way. She hasn’t pushed Betty about their relationship before, because Betty means too much to her, and Betty wasn’t ready, but she spends all of her time and energy on that relationship. Veronica is invested in Betty, but she’ll wait until Betty’s begging for it before she kisses her.
Riverdale gives us peek at this kind of intensity from Ronnie. When Veronica kisses Archie in the closet at Cheryl’s party, she goes overboard in her attempt to apologize to Betty: flying in cupcakes from New York, buying her flowers (yellow, which she says are for friendship, but which can also mean the promise of a new beginning), scheduling hers and hers mani-pedis.
Veronica’s supposed to be the confident leader of their relationship, but she’s so in love with Betty that she’ll follow her anywhere, even to Ethel’s hot tub, where Betty dons a black wig and lingerie to boil a man, or to Ms. Grundy’s car, where Betty shows off her hidden criminal skills.
She looks at Betty like Betty is the most amazing thing in the world. Give Betty a few years and she’ll realize what she’s got with Veronica.