Published: June & Pixie 31 March to 14 July 1973
Artist: Audrey Fawley
Reprints/translations: None known
Liz Green is a very bossy, pushy girl, especially when she gets bright ideas about helping someone. She barges right in with her “help” without a by-your-leave or do-you-mind and won’t stop until she gets her way – which she almost invariably does, she’s such a steamroller. In Beadle Street where she lives, she is notorious for it. She gets herself into constant trouble with the residents who chase her off for her unwarranted interference. But Liz never learns. As far as she is concerned, she is just trying to help and people just don’t listen because they don’t take take her seriously. Nora, Liz’s best friend, tells Liz her day will come. Nora will come to regret her words.
Before we go on, Nora is Liz’s voice of reason, but it’s a voice that constantly falls on deaf ears against the bulldozer Liz. Nora comes from the long tradition of the good friend in girls’ comics who sticks by the protagonist, no matter what crap the protagonist gives her and drives her to distraction. She takes in quite a bit already with her bossy friend and her bright ideas, but, as you might have guessed, it’s all about to amplify to levels Nora never expected.
It starts when Liz and Nora are researching for a history project and discover the long-forgotten bylaw 381, which says that anyone living on the site where the old beadle’s house once stood can claim the rights and responsibilities of the beadle. After Liz determines her house stands on that site, there is no stopping Miss Bossyboots from enacting that bylaw to style herself as the new beadle, and Boss of Beadle Street. Everyone will have to do what she says now, and doing everything her way will all be for their own good and they will thank her for it.
The residents of Beadle Street just about turn into a lynch mob when they see what bright idea Liz is hatching with them under the bylaw. But the mayor says it’s the law, Liz is within her rights, and they have to obey. He slyly adds that Liz also has the responsibility of solving everyone’s problems as beadle. He appears to be calculating that this will soon have Liz so fed up she will give up being a beadle.
But he has miscalculated. Liz solving residents’ problems goes surprisingly well and she begins to win them over to her side. She sorts out the street tearaway Tony Atkins, which his parents never tried to do and is good at solving neighbourhood disputes. These successes impress the council, the residents begin to take to their beadle, and her fame is growing as a celebrity.
However, as Liz is such a bossyboots, it’s all to easy for it all to go to her head – and it does. Liz is soon acting arrogantly towards Nora and even her own mother. She also neglects her friendship with Nora because the demands of sorting problems is making her too busy for that, and all she cares about is beading Beadle Street.
When Liz goes power mad, the good she does is soon outweighed by the bad. Liz acts like a dictator, imposing unfair rules on the residents, which she posts up for them to see, and fines those who don’t obey.
1: Everyone must walk on the left in the street.
2: When meeting the Boss, doff your cap. If you don’t have one, bow or curtsey. When Nora protests against this rule, Liz forces her to sweep the street while wearing a sign that says: “I have disobeyed the boss. I must sweep this street in punishment. Let everyone learn from me!”
3: Every dog must be leashed. Every dog must have a weekly bath. Every dog must have a daily half-hour walk and brush-down afterwards. The Boss is conducting rigorous inspections to make sure this rule is kept, and fines people who fail to do so, regardless of excuse (now what does she do with the money from those fines, anyway?). The people hit back at this rule by lumbering Liz with a litter of eight puppies and say she must obey her own rules in looking after them.
Yes, revenge and backlash are striking back at Liz. On another occasion, it happens when Liz unwisely makes Tony highwayman at an ambitious street costume party. Tony takes advantage to wreak havoc and Liz gets into big trouble.
But the backlash is too small and piecemeal to make a real dent in Liz’s power. And Liz’s swollen beadle head continues to grow. She actually starts dressing up as a beadle and patrols the street in her beadle costume. This makes her even more of a celebrity and curiosity, and tourists take photos of her. She uses the money from this for more beadle mania, and this time she really goes overboard. She buys beadle runner and beadle servant outfits for Nora and Mum and browbeats them in her usual manner, plus threats of fines, until they agree to wear them. Even worse, she bosses them into painting the house a gaudy gold, which she thinks befits the beadle’s house. Surely even Mr Bumble would be mortified! Liz treats Mum (now forced to do housework in the servant’s outfit) and Nora like slaves, giving them constant orders and having them at her beck and call all the time. What the hell is next – is the Beadle going to bring back the workhouse or something?
Before Liz gets the chance, the residents decide enough is enough and this time they really get together to make a stand. Everyone, including Mum and Nora, empties out of Beadle Street, leaving Liz on her own and nobody to boss around. And they won’t come back as long as Liz stays beadle.
This stance certainly has its effect. It isn’t long before Liz is feeling lonely, miserable, and scared at night. She is also hungry and cold because Mum turned off the gas. It has her ready to give in by the time Nora comes to check up on her, but she is too proud to publicly resign as beadle for that reason because it would mean loss of face.
Nora suggests re-checking the bylaw to see if there is an “out” clause that would enable Liz to quit the beadle job gracefully. They soon find there is one. In fact, if Liz’s enemies had checked the bylaw they could have used it themselves to stop her. A resident may put in an application for cancellation of the beadleship, but the council must hold a vote on it. As Liz can’t put in an application for the cancellation of her own beadleship, she dons a disguise to do so.
You would think the Beadle Street residents would be only too happy to vote to strike Liz down as beadle, but there is a most surprising U-turn from one of the residents, Mrs MacFish. Forgetting what drove her out of Beadle Street, Mrs MacFish starts a campaign to keep Liz as beadle. And Mrs MacFish is such an orator that she soon has the other residents forgetting the bad things and remembering the silver lining, such as Liz the Beadle generating extra custom for the store. So, to make sure everyone votes against her, Liz declares more of those unpopular rules she will impose on Beadle Street.
Liz is quite relieved to not be beadle anymore, just an ordinary girl again. She throws a party to celebrate and renews her friendship with Nora. She is still a big bossyboots though; it’s too much in her nature for her to change there, and she hasn’t really learned not to be such a bulldozer. So when Nora stumbles across “Ye Ancient Right of King of Beadle Street”, she doesn’t say a word to Liz, and hopes that law will stay hidden and forgotten about!
There have been plenty of stories on the evils of “grownups know best”, with what they think they know best being imposed by methods that range from the just plain misguided and narrow to the subversive and even downright abusive. But the message is always that it is totally wrong and choice and free will must not be trampled on in the name of discipline, perfection or whatever. “Dracula’s Daughter“, “Children of Stepford” and “Slave of the Clock” are classic examples.
But here the premise is turned inside out with “kids know best”, which is quite a twist. Liz Green, a mere kid, is just as sincere and adamant that she knows as best as the grown-up meddlers in stories like the ones mentioned above. Yet she turns out to be no better than they are. Although she has her good qualities, most notably in sorting problems, her bossiness and narrow-mindedness in always believing she knows best makes her totally unfit for the job of beadle, especially when she becomes increasingly power mad and her rules and orders become increasingly outrageous and unbearable. Like her grown-up counterparts in “grownups know best” she started out with a degree of well meaning to her intentions, but her intentions became increasingly dark and corrupted as power went to her head. She either has to be brought down entirely or made to wake up in some way.
This time the adults are the ones made to suffer, right alongside the kids. Even Liz’s mother is made to suffer. Mum should give her daughter a jolly good spanking, but Liz always gets her way with Mum because she’s so forceful, and her father, being dead, is not there to have a say, or a belt with him.
It’s not too much of a surprise that Liz does not change all that much in the end; one has gotten the feeling she’s just plain bossy by nature and won’t ever change. Being on her own deflates her power and she finally wants to give up being beadle and go back to the way she was. But she has not really learned her lesson. Although she is pleased to be an ordinary girl again, she does not wake up to how horrible she’s been or really apologise to anyone, and clearly should not be trusted with power.
When reading this story, one is reminded of the words of another (in)famous fictional beadle: “The law is an ass!” Too right, especially if the law is antiquated, has no place in modern society. It should have been struck out years ago and could cause serious, even ridiculous problems if reenacted because the need for that law has long since disappeared.