Tuesday, October 6, 2009

In Riverdale, there's no need to choose

As a kid, I envied Archie. He had the easy life: the clever friends, the car, the adoration of beautiful girls. The number one hit song in 1969. He never had to grow up. The only thing I didn't envy was the stupid hair, but at 12 years old I guess that's a price I'd have paid.

Archie was different from my other comic favorites: Green Lantern; Flash; Sgt. Rock; Turok, Son of Stone. He was always in his street clothes, for one thing. Maybe that made him easier to identify with. He never faced down any fiends, never killed any Krauts, never tussled with any pterodactyls. The only problem he ever had was which nubile maiden would win his affections in the end.

Turns out he didn't even have to worry about that. Archie finally married Veronica in May, but next month he'll marry Betty too.  Archie Comic Publications is framing the story as an alternate history, calling it a meditation on Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken." Never mind that Frost was talking about the singular, irredeemable choices we make in life; in Archie's hometown, you get to have your cake and eat it too.

No mystery why the story line has brought a whole bunch of new fans to the redhead from Riverdale. We're tantalized by the idea that diverging roads at major intersections lead to distinct destinations -- and if only we'd taken that other one ...

But really, the few big milestones matter less than the thousands of small ones that multiply over decades. You stay too long at a party, you have another donut, you pick up an Archie comic when you could have picked up Dickens. You tell a lie or you text while driving. Or, in the case of Archie himself, maybe you shrug amiably and string the girls along for another issue, secure in the knowledge that none of you are getting any older. Or any wiser.

The places in the road that matter aren't really forks at all, just gentle curves in the yellow wood. Each step along it is a choice in itself, toward a destination you realize only when you reach it. Unless you're Archie, you have to live with that. But why he didn't pick Betty in the first place is beyond me.


pundy said...

Thought-provoking post. I must read that Frost poem again.

Glad you're blogging regularly again too.

Gammahorton said...

I've only recently discovered what a great poet Frost was. One thing that held me back was the way so many idiots try to justify a bad idea as "the road less traveled".

For me, the part that really hits home is these lines:

Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.