Hateful Harriet/ Be Nice to Nancy

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

  • Hateful Harriet–  Bunty:  #668 (31 Oct 1970) – # 677 (02 Jan 1971)
  • Reprinted- Bunty: #1164 (03 May 1980) – #1173 (05 July 1980)

Plot

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.

hateful_harriet_03

 

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

Plot

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.

be nice to nancy_02

Thoughts

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).

hateful_harriet_02

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.

be nice to nancy_03

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.

hateful_harriet_01

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.

be nice to nancy_01

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.

28 thoughts on “Hateful Harriet/ Be Nice to Nancy

  1. Thank you for posting a feature on Be Nice to Nancy (aka Nikki)! It was a story that certainly stuck with me. If they do a Judy reprint volume I wouldn’t be surprised if Nancy is included.

    It turns out that Nancy has been expelled for bullying as well, but unlike Harriet this is not revealed until the end. Mr Norden tells the Baxters that Nancy’s previous school closed down. He secretly hoped that having nice friends like Yvonne would help change Nancy. No, no, Mr Norden, you have it backwards – Nancy has to change her ways before she can have nice friends!

    But yes, Nancy isn’t wrapped up all that neatly. Conspicuously absent is the reaction of Yvonne’s parents. In particular, the reaction of Mr Baxter and the effects this could have on his relationship with Mr Norden are not shown. Perhaps it is better left to the imagination

  2. Yes, unlike Harriet, Nancy is shown with no redeeming characteristics whatsoever or a background that might account for her bad behaviour.

    Mr Norden is a lot nicer than Harriet’s father, so she can’t be imitating him. In fact she is the direct opposite: he is nice and kind-hearted, she is nasty and spiteful who takes great pleasure in deliberately spoiling things for her classmates; he is down-to-earth, she is a dreadful snob who enjoys comparing her new school unfavourably with the posh school she used to go to (before she was expelled).

    But there seem to be clues. The most conspicuous one is the complete absence of Nancy’s mother. Why? And what effect does it have on Nancy and her home life. The father is nice, but could it be he can’t spend as much time with her as he ought because he has his company to run? There are also hints that he has spoiled Nancy, such as the posh school and an expensive bracelet he gave her. And it is possible that the posh school went to Nancy’s head and turned her nasty and snobby. This has happened in other stories, such as Lindy’s “Hettie High and Mighty!”

  3. Actually, Yvonne’s mother does seem to understand what’s going on. It’s just that she doesn’t do anything to help.

  4. The M&J reprint of Nancy (retitled Nikki) began in #290. They cut the essay-cheating episode out for some reason, so it had 11 episodes. Perhaps it was because the Christmas issue did not feature Nikki; instead it had a Christmas story, also drawn by Andrew Tew.

    The original would have begun in Judy #1561 and ran for 12 episodes.

    Thanks for the issue references. It can help me track down issues now.

    1. Thanks for the issue numbers, I wasn’t too sure when it started due to missing a few issues, turns out I was only missing the first issue though!

        1. Yes I have most Judys from 1563 onwards, (I thought at first I had 1562 as well, but my mistake!). I’m still a good bit away from my goal of having a full Judy collection!

        1. Harriet gets Mrs. Roberts to write her a note to get out of school, but she is seen by a teacher having lunch at a cafe. At the same time the caretaker finds a torn up exam, that proves Harriet copied Peg’s work then destroyed her papers. She is also unapologetic when confronted with this.

  5. One Judy bully story that’s a bit different is The Power of Petra. Here it’s not one hapless pupil in Petra’s power but the whole school. Even the headmistress is in Petra’s grip. So if any pupil crosses Petra, she orders the headmistress to expel. But our protagonist isn’t going to stand for that, of course. She is determined to find out what hold Petra has and break it.

  6. So sometimes there is a mystery surrounding a blackmail/bully story. The protagonist finds a group of victims in the grip of a bully. It is clearly some sort of blackmail but the details are a mystery. The protagonist sets out to unravel it. Other serials with that theme included ‘Wendy’s Web’ from M&J and ‘The Power of Penny’ from Spellbound.

  7. I find it ironic that M&J #301, which finished Nikki, started another story with the same theme: ‘It’s a Dog’s Life’. In this story the nasty girl uses a dog to blackmail the protagonist into being ‘nice’ to her. Maybe the story was inspired by the reception to Nikki, which must have been popular.

  8. In Tammy’s “Dear Diary – I Hate You!” an incriminating diary is the reason for the protagonist to be blackmailed into being ‘nice’ to an unpopular girl. A diary also leads to blackmail in “Debbie’s Diary” from Bunty.

  9. I just came into some episodes of the original run of Nancy. It looks like they cut three episodes out of the reprint, not one as I first thought. That means there are 15 episodes in the original, not 12, which puts the starting date at #1559.

  10. Correction – #1660 (drat, what’s happening to my maths?).

    Another object that has been used for blackmail is deliberate lies. For example, in M&J’s “Wendy’s Web” the blackmailer uses false information, and at one point, threats to spread false rumours (but the heroine calls her bluff) to blackmail her victims. Or the blackmailer uses false promises, as in Mandy’s “April Fool”, where Shirley leads April Mason to believe that a successful eye operation for a relative depends on her being a good blackmail victim.

    Amnesiacs are often targets of blackmail because they are so easy to blackmail for as long as they can’t remember the truth. For example, in Mandy’s “The Double Life of Dolly Brown” Dolly Brown is blackmailed into taking part in a fraudulent act because she has been led to believe she is a wanted criminal, and she can’t remember what really happened.

  11. They must have changed the bully’s name to Nikki in M&J for legal reasons. I wonder if they renamed her after Nikki the DCT title?

  12. Not many bullies in girls’ comics do reform. Harriet was one who did. Another was Sandra Simkins from Tears of a Clown (Jinty). The Clock and Cluny Jones (Tammy) is really unusual to have the bully as the star of the show. It is of course, all about how she changes her ways. But most end up expelled or punished other ways. For example, Evie Moore in a The Blsck and a White World of Shirley Grey (Tammy) lost her power, just as Danni Johnson from The Quiet One was, but did not reform.

    1. Another twist on the formula was Ann’s Sad Secret (Diana), Ann befriends Shirley the most unpopular, mean girl in school, because she has found out that Shirley has a dangerous heart condition. She must keep the heart condition secret, so of course she loses friends and gets in trouble with teachers while trying to cover for Shirley. I’ve no idea how it all ended though!

      1. Knowing girls’ comics, I would not be at all surprised if it had ended with Ann discovering she had been fooled/misled and there is no dangerous heart condition.

  13. “Waves of Fear” from Jinty portrays what is arguably the worst handling of a bullying situation in the history in girls comics. In most bully serials the school or parents don’t know what is going on or don’t listen. But here they are fully aware of what is going on, yet they do nothing about it. Why? Because they think the victim, Clare Harvey, brought it on herself by acting cowardly in an emergency and then started lashing out at everyone when in fact it was … oh, why spoil it. As a result they treat Clare in an increasingly harsh, aggressive manner and even express more sympathy for the bullies than for her. For a full summary, copy and paste this link: https://jintycomic.wordpress.com/2014/09/13/waves-of-fear-1979/

  14. We’re not shown what goes on in the Norden household. So it could be her parents nagged her just as much to be friends with Yvonne, and kept plying her with questions on how she was getting on at school, was she making friends, did she like Yvonne, was she keeping out of trouble, and she’d say yes, yes, yes, yes.

    In one episode they put pressure on Nancy into entering an essay-writing contest (which she blackmails Yvonne into writing for her), which suggests they may be a bit demanding. Or it could be because she is not putting as much effort into her schoolwork as she could (she can’t even copy the essay Yvonne write for her correctly and she makes spelling mistakes).

    It is not really established what has made Nancy what she is, but it sounds like the parents must take some of the blame for it. Certainly Mr Norden must take the blame for the bullying of Yvonne because of his bright idea of her being friends with Nancy.

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