From comic books to Netflix film, The Archies have 6 money lessons to teach the savvy investor

From comic books to Netflix film, The Archies have 6 money lessons to teach the savvy investor

But you know The Archies have come a long way from being comic books we read as kids because Shah Rukh Khan wore an Archies tee at a special screening of the film The Archies (a dream come true for every merchandiser out there!) because his daughter Suhana Khan plays Veronica Lodge in the film directed by Zoya Akhtar and Ryan Brophy. The film is out on Netflix on December 7, 2023.

You’d be surprised at the money lessons you can learn from this film set in 1963/4.

First, the story. Veronica Lodge (Suhana Khan) is back in Riverdale after having travelled abroad and is throwing all her friends a big party. Betty, Jughead, Reggie, Dilton, Moose (and Midge) and many more are there, but the star is Archie. You realise that you’ve wandered into a musical. Before you groan, Betty (Khushi Kapoor) has told you that most of them now have part time jobs. 

Soon we discover that the happy place that Riverdale was is going through gentrification. Mr. Lodge (Veronica’s rich dad, played really well by Alyy Khan) is in cahoots with a greedy councilman Mr Dawson (Vinay Pathak) to not only get the long standing shops to shut business to make way for businesses owned by Mr. Lodge’s big business. Mr Lodge even wants to build a big hotel in the central green space of the town. Will Archie and his friends manage to save their town from gentrification? 

What are things worth saving for?

Riverdale is populated by Anglo Indians (a clever way to retain the original names of characters and place the story in India). And this little town has a tradition. When their kids reach the age of five, the family plants a tree in his name. The trees are planted in the Green Park in the centre of their picturesque town. 

A lovely tradition, you say? You are right. We need to plant as many trees as we can. But the money lesson you learn from this tradition? A reminder to begin saving for your kids. Remember piggy banks or clay ‘gullaks’ you had as children? You can open a savings account for your children so that your savings will grow as your children do. In fact, you can make long-term investments that will give you returns that you can use for their higher education. Just like the trees are worth saving, your children too can benefit…

“You all got part time jobs, why?”

Veronica Lodge is a rich brat, and when Betty tells her that all her friends have got part time jobs, she is puzzled. Why would her friends need jobs? Jughead (well done, Mihir Ahuja) buses tables at Pop Tates, Archie (Agastya Nanda) is a tour guide for his father’s travel agency, Ethel works her magic at Pam’s salon, Betty works at her dad’s bookshop, and Reggie pitches ideas for columns at his father Ricky Mantle’s Gazette. It was good to see Luke Kenny play the editor/ publisher of a newspaper. But better still to watch Reggie come across as the real hero of the film (more about him later) by shining light on a problem that no one is expecting. In fact, his father says, ‘Bring me facts, boy, not conspiracies.’

Young people today need to learn to work for a living, no matter what they choose to do. Part time jobs teach them the value of money. A lesson worth knowing, no? 

Ambition is good. And making mistakes is part of adulting

Ethel (played by Dot) is a fabulous hairdresser. Everyone in Riverdale knows that, and Pam (Delnaaz Irani in a small but lovely role) says that Ethel is her salon’s biggest asset. But when a brand new salon with fancy, shiny gadgets opens across the street, it is natural that Ethel gets seduced by the opportunity to work for better pay at a fancier salon. Pam is sad to lose her biggest asset, but when Ethel has a nasty experience with the management of the new ‘Cuts and Curls’ salon, Pam welcomes her back.

Ethel realises that the new salon might be shiny, but the proprietress doesn’t care about the townsfolk. Everything is only about money. 

So many investors get seduced by shiny new financial instruments (seen how people invested in brand new Bitcoin-like payment networks that promised big and suffered), leaving the tried and tested methods of making money faster. Most of us don’t get second chances like Ethel. So be prudent, and stick with the familiar and the kind ways.

Change is inevitable. How ready are you?

The big developers like Mr. Lodge and his minions are in cahoots with the bribed councilmen and women and are buying up all the shops so that Lodge Plaza can be built, and even the central Green Park can be demolished to make way for a big hotel. The promise of more tourists, a better life is promised…

When you’re investing, you too are bombarded with shiny brochures that promise better returns and make your own life look shabby in comparison. You need to figure out why some schemes are being pushed aggressively at you and not others. You need to see if you change the way you invest will help you long-term or just fizzle out.

As Betty’s dad quotes William Faulkner to tell Betty to not worry about losing his bookshop and giving in to gentrification: You cannot swim for new horizons until you have the courage to lose sight of the shores.

It’s an optimist’s view of an investor’s life. But not all of us can burn our boats and plunge into something new that is uncertain. Invest with caution or you might drown. On the other hand, if you have done adequate risk assessment, then go ahead and take that plunge. 

Each character has virtues and weaknesses!

“What is ‘oblivious’?” Moose asks. Ethel knows she needs to apologise to Pam. Betty trusts in her friendship with Veronica more even though she loves Archie. Veronica may be a poor little rich girl but she has the courage to ask her father and faces the bitter truth (she sells her fancy clothes to save the Green Park). Reggie knows the power of his words and shines as the story progresses. He is the best-written character in the film. His sensitivity as a writer also is shown when he shows us that he has observed Dilton and promises to keep the secret. Jughead is not afraid to tell his Archie home truths: You don’t need two hearts (Archie has confessed that he wants two because he loves both Veronica and Betty), you need a brain.

As an investor, you cannot be like Moose, oblivious to things happening around you. Veronica too needs to learn to see the reality of her father’s business. Be an informed investor. Ethel will remind us to tame our ambitions. Everyone needs to be like Reggie. Informed, curious and observant. The song in the film: Everything is political, is a stark reminder to all of us. We must be informed about not just financial instruments, but also government attitudes to your investment life. Are rules and policies conducive to investing, or are you going to be taxed heavily because the government operates on a different frequency than yours… Jughead’s advice is good: get yourself a brain!

‘There’s good and bad in your lunchbox…’

Betty and Veronica have a Christmas morning reunion. And we realise that Betty has not lost faith in her friendship with Veronica even though the boys have misunderstood her. And yes, add to this we have the loveliest, the best, the most believable party scene when everyone has a sing-song at Archie’s parents’ 25th wedding anniversary. The song, ‘O Lily, if life were plum pudding, you’d be sugar and spice/ O Micheal, if life were plum pudding, you’d be the sweetest surprise!’ offers us an invaluable money lesson.

Betty is telling us that we have to take the bad and the good when we invest because the markets fluctuate. And there’s no need to panic because you’re in it for the long term. Plus if we are expecting our investing life to be like a plum pudding, then you are often treated to a sweet surprise and at other times you have to deal with the spice!

Amongst the youngsters who brought the comic book to life, Vedang Raina who plays Reggie is the most impressive. So is the fabulous period setting, costumes and the cleanest resolution to the problem Riverdale gentrification might bring. It starts slow and you might baulk at a musical (I did), but the story catches speed and becomes a decent one-time watch.    

Manisha Lakhe is a poet, film critic, traveller, founder of Caferati — an online writer’s forum, hosts Mumbai’s oldest open mic, and teaches advertising, films and communication. She can be reached on Twitter at @manishalakhe.            



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Published: 09 Dec 2023, 10:35 AM IST

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