Girls comics were full of bullying, blackmail and nasty girls. As evidenced in this interesting article: http://www.booksmonthly.co.uk/bully.html. So I thought i’d take a look at some of these, starting with two similar stories:
- Hateful Harriet– Bunty: #668 (31 Oct 1970) – # 677 (02 Jan 1971)
- Reprinted- Bunty: #1164 (03 May 1980) – #1173 (05 July 1980)
Peg Roberts has to keep Harriet Marlowe out of trouble in school, or else her widowed mother will be fired by middle manager, Mr. Carrick. Harriet has been expelled from many schools, and is sent to live with the Roberts as well. At the same time as this, Peg is competing for a drama scholarship, which also relies on her getting a good character reference from her teachers. Of course Harriet causes Peg all sorts of trouble, and has the teachers fooled that she is a sweet girl. Mrs. Roberts can’t do anything to help as she is also at the beck and call of Harriet. Finally Harriet gets caught out and expelled and Mr. Carrick fires Mrs. Roberts. Luckily for her she gets a job in a travel agents. Harriet is to be sent to school in Switzerland, though she doesn’t seem happy about it. On the day of Peg’s big interview for her scholarship, Harriet is in an accident with a bridge collapse. After Peg misses her interview to save her life, Harriet turns over new leaf and helps Peg get a second chance with the scholarship. She in turn is given a second chance with the school and is allowed to come back.
Be Nice to Nancy
- Be Nice to Nancy – Judy: #1559 (25 Nov. 1989) – #1573 (03 Mar. 1990)
- Reprinted as Be Nice to Nikki – M&J: #289 (23 Nov. 1996) – #300 (08 Feb. 1997)
- Artist: Andy Tew
Yvonne Baxter has to be nice to Nancy Norden (or in the reprint Nikki), or she fears her father will lose his job. Nancy is openly nasty and a bully and is not popular at school. This of course causes many troubles for Yvonne as she keeps covering for her. She loses friends and gets in trouble in school. When she tries to explain how nasty Nancy is to her parents, they don’t listen. Only her best friend Maggie knows what’s going on. Eventually Mr. Norden catches Nancy out and he apologises to Yvonne. He was hoping that she would be a good influence on Nancy. He is going to send her to a special school instead and of course Mr. Baxter isn’t going to be fired.
A girl forced to be friends with a nasty girl for fear of a parent’s job is a common theme. There were ,any variations of this theme such as the family’s reputation, rather than a job, being in jeopardy. The link at the start of this post discusses a lot of the different types of bullying that went on in these stories.
Both Hateful Harriet and Be Nice to Nancy have an overall similar storyline. Even their looks correspond with the long blonde hair for the antagonist and the shorter dark hair of the protagonist. Both Harriet and Nancy get up to similar trouble and share a lot of the same personality traits. At the same time Peg and Yvonne both feel helpless and dislike having to cover for the other girls. There are differences though, in how the stories develop and conclude. In the case of Hateful Harriet, Mrs. Brown knows what Harriet is like but not only can she not help Peg she also has to give into Harriet’s demands. (Incidentally this story would not work today, as Mrs. Roberts boss could be charged with wrongful dismissal, at first he wants to fire her because of her age and only keeps her on as long as she keeps his boss’s daughter out of trouble).
Yvonne on the other hand tries to tell her parents what Nancy is like but they don’t listen. Her father in particular keeps the pressure on her to be friendly with Nancy. While Nancy does use this to her advantage, Yvonne seems to feel the most pressure from her father and Mr. Norden rather than Nancy herself. Harriet likes to constantly remind the Roberts that they have to keep her happy.
Harriet does get redeemed in the end but Nancy hasn’t learned her lesson. This contrast could be to do with the way their fathers deal with their daughters. While Nancy’s father is actively trying to help her out (though he may be going about it the wrong way!). Harriet’s father doesn’t appear at all, instead his orders are passed through lower manager Mr. Carrick. Clearly Harriet is not used to people being kind to her for no reason, she seems to be following her father’s behaviour of using power and threats to get what she wants. She is used to being shipped around and her behaviour becomes more understandable when it seems she hasn’t had a very caring home life. When Peg shows her friendship, even after Mrs. Roberts gets a new job and then saves her life, Harriet turns her life around and starts to appreciate her friendship.
Nancy is a less sympathetic character. Mr. Norden does try to help his daughter but he goes about it the wrong way. He puts the pressure on Yvonne to be friends with her thinking that if she is not with a bad crowd then she will be a better person and stay out of trouble. He dosen’t realise that she needs more help than that and that it is unfair to expect Yvonne to be responsible for keeping his daughter on the right path. At least Nancy does get the chance to go to a school that will help her, but she doesn’t have the excuses of Harriet for her bad behaviour.
Hateful Harriet is a bit more dated, and Peg is such a good person that she goes to support Harriet in a play that she should have been lead in (this is after Mrs. Roberts gets her new job). It’s a bit unbelievable that a girl could be this nice! Harriet’s change of heart may be a bit sudden but after a near death experience not unlikely. Be Nice to Nancy is a story that is remembered pretty well so it must have stuck in people’s mind. It is more realistic in it’s portrayal of characters and everything isn’t all wrapped up neatly in the end. Still most importantly the protagonist gets a happy ending, free of Nancy!
It’s interesting to see how a similar theme can develop differently, and of course very telling is the different time periods as they were first published nearly 2 decades apart.