Published: Judy Picture Library #271. Reprinted: Bunty Picture Library #428
Artists: Norman Lee (cover); Ana Rodriguez (story)
Jayne and Jean Gentry seem to have everything going for them in the activities they pursue: ballet (Jean), and athletics (Jayne). They are set to go to the top in their various activities and the school even makes allowances for it. But there is one problem – it has bred favouritism among their parents. Dad favours Jayne because she pursues sport, Mum favours Jean because she does the same with ballet, and neither parent pays much attention to the other girl. The root of the favouritism is that each parent only cares about one activity, which they once pursued themselves and are pursuing again through their respective daughter. Neither is willing to be more generous to the other activity; Mum does not care for athletics (“athletics don’t do anything for me”) and Dad is the same about ballet (“ballet nonsense”). Both say they don’t understand the other activity but neither makes an effort to understand it more.
Each parent thinks that the other is too single-minded about the activity they do care about while deriding the other activity unfairly. Neither parent comes to the other activity to lend support to their other daughter. For example, Mum is annoyed that Dad doesn’t come to see Jayne perform on stage because he cares more about an athletics convention. Dad is likewise annoyed at Mum for not coming to watch and support Jean perform at an athletics event because she took Jayne to watch the Royal Ballet Company. This is not the case with the sisters themselves, who make the time to watch the other and give moral support.
Jayne and Jean decide enough is enough and they need to find a way to change their parents. They start with trying to win something in the other activity, with the other’s help. But they forget that there is a reason that one pursues ballet/athletics and the other not – one has the aptitude for it, and the other not. And they soon find that out the hard way. When Jean tries cross-country running with Jayne’s help, she ends up in such a state that she is not fit for ballet class. When Jayne tries ballet with Jean’s help, she ends up with a foot injury that leaves her unfit for a sports event. In both cases the parents blow up, each blaming the other girl and the other parent unfairly. Each parent ends up quarrelling with the other about how they go over the top with the activity they favour, play favourites with their pet daughter, and don’t pay any attention to the other daughter. When Jayne, Jean and their dog Timmy return home wet after unwittingly using a leaky boat, Mum unfairly blames Jayne, thinking she encouraged Jean again, and this leads to a similar row between the parents. Mum and Dad can see it in each other all right – but they can’t see it in themselves, which is what they must do if things are to change.
Jean and Jayne then try to talk to their parents about how they carry on in playing favourites. But both take offence, saying they can’t help not liking ballet/athletics. The girls realise how set the parents are in their ways and it is going to be very difficult to change them.
The stress of the failure takes its toll on the girls, and they lose form at ballet/athletics. Their teachers recommend a break, so the parents stop making their daughters spend so much time at their various activities.
During the break, Jean and Jayne try something else. Jayne has a go at Jean’s other activity, which is skating. But the coach says that although Jayne is good, she is not good enough to make competition standard like her sister. When Jean tries Jayne’s other activity by making a bid for the school swimming trials, she fails because of the same thing – good but not good enough.
Then, after the swimming trials, Jayne grumbles at how fed up they are, and still wondering how to change their parents. A schoolteacher, Miss Maybrick, overhears and asks what is wrong. The girls explain the problem, and Miss Maybrick comes up with an idea – an activity that combines athletic and artistic ability.
So for the next few weeks, the parents are disappointed to hear that the girls are on strike over ballet/athletics because of a school project that they are very secretive about. When the time comes, the school invites the parents to a gymnastics competition, which Jayne and Jean have been giving up everything else to train for. And it is here that both parents watch their daughters together; Dad sees Jean in action for the first time and Mum watches Jayne for the first time. When Mum watches Jayne’s floor exercises, she sees and appreciates the artistic side while Dad grasps the athletic part. When Jean goes on the bars, Dad is impressed at what she can do there, and Mum says it’s due to ballet, which has given her grace and strong muscles. Before long, both parents are cheering their daughters on. They are thrilled to see them win medals, and finally wake up to their earlier mistakes. Afterwards, they take Jayne and Jean out to a celebratory dinner. The girls know that they are both favourites with their parents now.
The premise is a refreshing one – two sisters who are the best of friends but suffer because each parent takes favourites over one child while ignoring the other, just because they are not a fan of the activity the other child pursues. It makes a change having two protagonists suffer in this way. Usually it is just one, who is overshadowed and put down because her sibling(s) excel at their various activities and make Mum and Dad proud while she doesn’t seem to shine at anything.
The portrayal of the parents is rooted in realism and real life, which makes their characterisation so effective. They are not intentionally neglectful or mean; it is just that they are both so single-minded about the activity they are interested in and the girl who pursues it to the exclusion of everything else in life. They are also narrow-minded about the other activity. Both parents make disparaging comments about the other activity, neither will give it more of a chance, or at least try to tolerate it enough to come and watch their daughter. They are too wrapped up in the activity they are interested in.
The resolution is realistic and also refreshing. The girls confide in someone (which does not often happen in girls’ comics) who comes up with an idea that could be the answer. The girls can’t believe they didn’t think of it themselves.
The teacher and the headmistress are so wonderful in the way they bend over backwards to help the girls with their problem: excusing the girls lessons to train for it, and helping to keep it a carefully guarded secret until the parents are actually watching the event as they don’t know how the parents will take it if they had prior knowledge of it. The girls come away with a whole new appreciation for teachers, as do we. Sometimes teachers are not the idiots or meanies that they are in other stories. Sometimes they are the ones with the brains and wisdom to put everything right.