Tag Archives: agony aunt

Is This Your Story? aka Could This Be YOU? (1976-1977)

Sample images

ITYS1.jpg

ITYS2.jpg

(artist: John Richardson)

Publication: 16 October 1976-22(?) January 1977

Artists: Various, including John Richardson and Richard Neillands

Writer: Unknown

“Is This Your Story?”, also known as “Could This be YOU?”, was one of Jinty’s more unusual, if short-lived features. It was a true-life feature, and each week it would run a complete story that was based on common problems among girls. But unlike the teen magazines, it was not based on letters that readers had sent in where they recount their real-life experiences or outline a problem. The stories were composites of common real-life problems.

The title “Is This Your Story?” was meant to be a touching strip that strike a chord with readers, hence the underline under “Your”. Later the title “Could This Be YOU?” was used. Would any of the readers have encountered a situation similar to the one in the story? If so, they would see themselves in that story. If not, it might be a situation they were familiar with or a warning if they did encounter one.

The first episode concerned a girl named Peggy who rejects her new dog because she still grieving for her beloved Punch (maybe her parents bought the new dog too soon). The new dog is miserable at not getting her love and on the very verge of being sent to the kennels when Peggy takes a liking to it at the very last minute. This one was probably inspired by the then-running “Stefa’s Heart of Stone” where Stefa Giles refuses to love anybody and turns into a block of ice after her best friend dies.

Other problems the series tackled included a girl called beanpole, little sisters always tagging along, getting jealous when a brother finds a girlfriend, and resenting a new stepfather. Common enough problems that many readers could identify with one way or another.

Sometimes the stories were told by the girls themselves. One case is Shirley, who feels her parents are treating her like a baby when they say she is trying to grow up too quickly. Shirley sneaks off to a night on the town to show her parents that she is old enough to do it. But she runs into trouble and a night of terror before her local bus driver comes to the rescue. Afterwards she tells us that her parents were right. And they were pretty sporting parents too, in not giving a Shirley a row for what she did. Instead, they say they understand, having been young themselves (and probably had the same trouble with their parents!).

Some of the stories showed real insight into human psychology by more drawing on reality than patronising moralising. For example, Freda’s problem (above) is telling lies. This is not because she is deceitful by nature but because it is a habit she has gotten into. But then she tells one lie too many (she had to slip up sometime) and in danger of facing serious trouble at school. And we get another lesson into the bargain – don’t try smoking!

In another story, Claire impresses all her friends because she is always so stylishly dressed, and no outfit is the same. But in reality Claire helps herself to her sisters’ clothes to make that impression because she is dissatisfied with her own. And Georgie’s problem is that she flies off the handle too readily and often finds herself hurting people’s feelings very badly. She always apologises and really means it, but she thinks she cannot control her temper. The class sends her to Coventry for a day to teach her that she can and must control it. Afterwards, Georgie does make serious efforts to keep her temper. It is not easy, but she finds she is much nicer now.

Of course, each story always ends happily, with solutions being found to the various problems. Some of those solutions sound a bit improbable and even drastic. For example, Claire’s sisters punish her by locking up their wardrobes and hers, so she is forced to go to school in her mother’s dress. It is too big for her of course and gives everyone a laugh. The whole story comes out, but instead of teasing her over it for days on end, the girls are understanding and help Claire out with expanding her own wardrobe. They must be some classmates you don’t see every day. Freda, the habitual liar, is extremely lucky to have a teacher in a million with Miss Birdlace (above). In real life, she would be far more likely to find herself hauled up before the head and get a rocket the size of a megaton.

Towards December, “Is This Your Story?” did not appear in some issues, and it began to take on the feel of a filler story than a regular feature. Was it not as popular as Jinty hoped? Was there not enough room for it in some issues? Or did the editor indeed start using it as a filler feature rather than a regular feature? Indeed, it only had a two-page spread which made it easier to use for that purpose.

“Is This Your Story?” was the second (and last) of Jinty’s strips to foray into the world of the agony aunt and real life problems; the first had been the short-lived “Jenny – Good  or Bad Friend?” in 1974, where Jenny tells the story of how her friendship broke up and the editor questions her along the way, and readers to make up their own minds at the end. The Jenny formula was not repeated, which suggests it did not work out. “Is This Your Story?” was more substantial, but it did not last long either. Perhaps Jinty found that real-life problem based strips were better left to teen magazines and she should stick to problem pages.

Advertisements

Jenny – Good or Bad Friend? (1974)

Sample image

Image

Publication: 6(?) July 1974 – 17 August 1974
Artist: Unknown
Writer: Unknown

Summary

“This is the story of a friendship between Jenny and Laura and how it broke up. Jenny tells the story while the editor questions her – and you, readers, must decide in the end who was to blame”.

Jenny tells us how she and Laura have been friends ever since they were little. It has been an exclusive friendship between the two, with no other friends. Then Laura befriends another girl, Carol. Jenny, who has been long used to having Laura to herself, is understandably upset and resents the third party. The trouble is how she reacts. She blames Carol, accusing her of stealing her friend with bribes. Jenny then starts playing nasty tricks on Carol, such as sabotaging her efforts to win a swimming race (afterwards justifying it to the querying editor that she did it so Laura would win) and even on Laura, such as hiding her tennis shoes, in her efforts to come between Carol and Laura. Accusations and counter-accusations lead to arguments between Carol and Laura and Laura and Jenny. But things always get patched up and no breakups either way. But Jenny gets ever more furious and sees no wrong in what she is doing: “Carol’s trying to pinch my best friend, so anything’s fair!”

It all comes to a head when Laura’s birthday comes up. Jenny is furious when Carol’s present (a real gold bracelet) outdoes hers and believes Carol did it on purpose. Not to be outdone, she hires a conjurer for Laura’s party. Carol realises this and confronts Jenny, who replies, “Laura’s my friend, so she does not need presents from you!” But it backfires when Jenny finds she did not understand that the £2 she paid the conjurer was meant to be a deposit, not the full fee, and another £3 is required. Carol graciously offers to pay the money. But Jenny is far from grateful – she accuses Carol of making her look a fool and hits her. It is then that Laura breaks up with Jenny, saying it is because she has changed.

A very tearful Jenny tells us that she just wanted her friend back and never wanted any other friend but Laura, because Laura was the best friend she had ever had. She asks if it was her fault and if so, where did she go wrong?

So now is the time for readers to decide? Strangely, the editor offers no facility for readers to express their opinions. Instead, the editor offers her own opinion, which reads:

“I can imagine how Jenny felt. For so long there had been just her and Laura; they had grown up together, been together since they were tots. Then along comes Carol – and Jenny resented her. Which, perhaps, was quite natural. But where Jenny went wrong was to allow Carol to spoil her own relationship with Laura. Laura was right, Jenny did change. She played mean tricks and she lied and cheated … and all because she wouldn’t share Laura with another girl.

“Poor Jenny! I think she was wrong, but I feel sorry for her … and I hope that, one day, she and Laura will make it up.”

Thoughts

Serials about friendships turning sour because of jealousy, or protagonists telling their own stories is nothing new in girls’ comics. But what is new, perhaps even unique, is the agony aunt take on it. Readers are invited to not only read and enjoy the story, but also participate in it, with assurances of their being the jury at the end of the story. So it must have been a let-down at the end when in the end there is nothing anywhere – not even an invite to the letters page – for readers to express their judgements on who is to blame. Instead, the editor presents her own opinion. But what still catches your attention is the constant breaking of the Fourth Wall as the editor keeps questioning Jenny (in black speech balloons) and Jenny giving her replies.

This is certainly a different take on the modes of storytelling in a girls’ serial. But this was the only time it ever appeared in Jinty. To the best of my knowledge it never appeared elsewhere. Perhaps it was an experiment that did not prove as successful as hoped? Maybe it was too moralising and preachy for readers’ tastes? Or was it just meant to be a one-page filler?

Even more to the point, why did this format appear at all? Perhaps the editor was experimenting. After all, Jinty was still new, and must have been open to innovative and fresh ideas. Or was it reprinted from elsewhere as a stop gap while Jinty was setting up other things in her line-up? Ah, the things we may never know without interviews.

Incidentally, Jinty‘s foray into the world of the agony aunt did not end with this story. Later she would run a problem page, and also a series called “Is This Your Story?“, where she would portray stories about problems and lessons that readers might relate to. In one story, a twelve-year-old thinks her parents are treating her like a baby, but eventually realises she was trying to grow up too fast. In another, a girl has developed a bad habit of telling lies. But inevitably she gets caught out in a lie and now fears expulsion.