Clone High

A friend recommended the cartoon “Clone High” so I have gone through the first few episodes. Early on and repeatedly I noticed how the relationships between the characters are a lot like those in Archie comics.

Abraham Lincoln is the straight man or the stand-in for the reader. Like Archie, his main emotional drive is dealing with two different possible romantic or sexual partners. He has humanizing weaknesses which are meant to endear him to the audience and make him a protagonist who they enjoy seeing win. It’s easier to cheer for a down-and-outer (like Bruce Willis’ character in Die Hard or Sarah Connor at the beginning of Terminator) than for a character already recognized within the fictional world as excellent and likely to succeed. For one thing, such characters are less threatening because some aspect of their deficiency is emphasized. For another, there is little drama in a plot where it’s obvious from the outset and never inverted or called into question that particular characters will win out.

Joan of Arc is like Bettty. Her top choice of partner is Abe/Archie, but she is rarely that person’s most desired choice. She’s sometimes morally torn about opportunities to advance her interests in underhanded ways, but chooses the noble option. She’s also obviously the more attractive partner from any caring or generosity perspective, as seen by the audience, but is universally seen in-world as much less attractive than her somewhat sociopathic but glamorous classmate. She’s the sort who does humdrum volunteer work at a soup kitchen or animal shelter and then never tells anyone.

Cleopatra is like Veronica. She’s overwhelmingly interested in herself and romantically most inclined to pursue whoever seems to be socially on top at the moment. Generally she is drawn to JFK/Reggie, being unbothered by his questionable behaviour but drawn to his popularity and stature. She’s happy to lie and scheme to get what she wants, and has the benefit that most of her classmates are too starstruck around her to properly maintain their judgment.

JFK is like Reggie — arrogant and popular, but not necessarily smart. He can usually count on Cleopatra/Veronica to pursue him and is sometimes in rivalry with Archie/Abe. If that happens, it’s likely that Reggie/JFK’s approach will be underhanded in some way, Archie/Abe will probably pursue a less-promising-seeming but more upstanding approach, and as a narrative “surprise” the underdog who played by the rules wins out. It’s not much of a surprise given the narrative structure of the show and comic, but it’s not what the characters in the story expect to see happen during the peak action.

You could say the controversial and obviously somewhat offensive and annoying Gandhi character is the version of Jughead in Clone High, except that here he is desperately desirous of sexual partners but inept at persuading them, as opposed to indifferent or hostile to potential sexual partners but somehow highly attractive (at least to some) as a result. Here’s generally there to be someone with comic quirks who is never a serious contender in any of the recurrent love triangles between Abe-Archie-Betty-Cleopatra-JFK-Joan-Reggie-Veronica.

Perhaps another reason I thought of Archie is because of how all the romantic relationships are about friend-group scheming and not about what the members of the couple actually do directly with each other or alone. It’s more like controlled exposure to the opposite sex in a chaperoned dance held by two boarding schools, and less like the raw emotional and psychological entanglings of real teenage romances. The high school settings and social expectations about comic/cartoon content are sufficient to explain this approach in both cases, but it contributes to the narrative similarity between Archie and Clone High.

I can see why people are big fans of the show. I thoroughly enjoy the pause at the end of each of Mr. Lynn Butlertron’s – the school principal’s robotic butler comic relief character foil – statements where you wait for whether or not there will be a very acoustically pleasing “Wesley” at the end.

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