This week, we examine an advertisement that was ubiquitous in most comic books during the 70s, one that was probably seen so many times that people simply learned to block it out as they skimmed over it to get back to the story (continued after following page). But the time has come to take a good, long look at this sadly neglected ad, and dissect its true meaning and purpose.
I give you... Deconstructing Margie.
So, this is an ad promising free gifts for the whole family. But that sounds too good to be true! As we read, we find that Margie is a disturbingly bad approximation of Betty Cooper from the Archie comics, and she appears to be reading "Love & Rockets", a comic that had yet to even be created. Margie is impressed by the promise of free gifts but her purse-carrying friend, who is either male or female (I have it narrowed down to THOSE TWO POSSIBILITIES) scoffs. Being either a butch female or an effeminate male in the 70s and receiving the abusive treatment society has for those who are different, he or she has become jaded, cynical and disbelieving that humanity could have anything good to offer for free.
Also, Margie wears onion rings in her hair for some reason.
Margie disregards her androgynous friend; in fact she doesn't acknowledge him/her in the least. This leads us to take another look at the previous panel. Perhaps the friend isn't really there? Look at the way he or she hovers in the air next to Margie's shoulder, very small. Perhaps this person of unspecified gender is actually Margie's conscience, or... perhaps the voice of her inner doubt. Could it be Margie is doubting her own sexuality?
This theory holds up in the subsequent panels, as we see how much bigger Margie is than her father... I guess that's her father, anyway. Either that or Sonny Bono, who, now that I think about it, was pretty dinky. Once again the androgynous angel sneers, unnoticed or ignored, by the rest of the characters. This leads us to our next theory-- perhaps this person is actually Margie's sibling, cast out of the family (but not the family home) for being gay. Or lesbian. Speaking of which, I think her mailman is Jim Nabors, but I can't confirm that.
At long last, the androgynous presence is acknowledged! And is named "Billy"! So, er, that probably means it's a dude, right? Because I mean, if it was a woman she'd be named "Billi" or "Billie", right? Now that he's admitting to the error of his ways, Margie finally acknowledges his presence. This is obviously a message to the youth of the day, "Societal acceptance is a FREE GIFT but if you experiment with bisexuality or unisex fashion, you will be ignored by society at large." Ironically, at this point Margie seems to be dressing like a biker chick, perhaps ready to test out society's boundaries now that she's received her free cosmetics, jewelry, food samples, recipe booklets, shampoo, nail polish, and perfume-- in other words, all society had to offer a young girl at the time.
Note that the company is called "Gandalf Products". Ha ha. NEERRRRRRDS. Don't send away to that address, BTW. I'm pretty sure they're not around anymore.
As a side note, my brother sent away for that booklet many years ago, and you know? You really COULD get lots of great stuff for free!
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