With no fanfare or warning, an important piece of Murray household history was quietly mothballed Sunday when two beloved Archie Digests were removed from the downstairs bathroom.
The artefacts were displaced by Ross Murray, the household’s co-founder and resident curator, whose job it also is to clean the toilets once a week.
“It was time,” said Mr. Murray. “Those books promoted an outdated hetero-normative social view that both objectified women and promoted unrealistic beauty standards while perpetuating patriarchal gender roles. Plus they were all wiggly from the shower steam.”
The digests were on permanent display for many years on a shelf above the toilet next to the Q-Tips and a basket of half-used hotel soaps. Previously, however, they had been featured in the temporary exhibit, “Things Left On the Toilet Paper Dispenser Shaped Like a Tiny Outhouse” (2014), and also in the earlier conceptual work, “Stop Leaving Books On the Floor for People to Trip Over,” (2009-2018).
While one digest – a B&V Friends Double Digest – was dated only from 2013, the second Archie’s Double Digest No. 169 was published as far back as 2006 and is believed to have been deposited in the downstairs bathroom a short time later. This latter volume was on temporary loan to the upstairs bathroom from 2008 to 2010 before being returned with some water damage.
The exact origins of these two artefacts are unknown, though one theory suggests they were tossed onto a grocery store checkout when a household parent wasn’t looking and then, you know, once they discovered it, they couldn’t put it back because then they’d look like a heel in front of the cashier who they play volleyball with, plus it’s a small town and it’s only, what, five bucks?
Today, the two volumes are evaluated to be worth upwards of zero dollars and zero cents.
Once beloved enough to prompt the frequent cry, “Are you doing anything in there or are you just reading Archies?”, in recent years the digests have fallen out of favour, what with the shift from paper-based plumbing-centric distractions towards digital-format washroom diversions.
In addition, apparently there is now a live-action Archie series that involves sex and murder and somehow Jughead is hot?
With none of the household children remaining at home fulltime, unrealistic tales of drama-free casual dating went unread, as had the exploits of teenage witches and their talking cats, and of course Archie, both normal size and Little. And yet the digests remained there next to the tube of Polysporin (2001; expired), which says something about their sentimental value as well as Mr. Murray’s cleaning skills.
Despite the current disinterest in Weatherbeethan sagas, the digests’ removal from the downstairs bathroom did raise concern, as news quickly spread to the former household children because Dad sent a group text. “I know there’s been a lot to process this past year,” he wrote, “but I wanted to let you know that I’ve removed the Archies from the downstairs bathroom.”
“Big move,” eldest daughter Emily stoically replied.
“Wow,” said middle daughter Katie, without having the decency to temper the ambiguity of said “wow” with some kind of emoji.
“Don’t throw them out,” said son James, who’s not big on change.
Perhaps too emotionally stricken to text an “OMG” or even a “B&V,” youngest daughter Abby did not reply. So this writer has made up words for her instead:
“The household has no respect for our cultural heritage or bathroom reading material,” she didn’t say. “Even before I could read, the Riverdalean antics of Reggie, Big Ethel, et al revealed to me that I was clearly a Betty with Veronica aspirations.”
She did not continue: “I had hoped that one day I would be able to share this glimpse into the human condition with my own daughter so that she too could learn to manipulate boys and be manipulated in turn. Now I’ll have no option but have her watch ‘Friends’ instead.”
Mr. Murray noted that, while the Archies had been removed from the bathroom, they had been placed in a secure location, namely on the living room book shelf with the old Calvin & Hobbes books and Mr. Murray’s own journals of adolescent-era cartoons that, honestly, showed real promise back in the day.
“This is the Murray household,” he said. “Nothing gets thrown away. Plus, there’s still a Double Digest in the upstairs bathroom, and that one’s from 2002.”
Asked if that digest would be retired as well, Mr. Murray promised he would get to it.