EDIT 1/20/2017: if after reading this post you get pissed off, have questions or other things you’d like to say to me, please read this.
while at work, i was scrolling through my Twitter timeline and noticed a bunch of tweets by people who are upset about recent news about how the popular Archie character Jughead, who is canonically asexual, will be portrayed on CW’s “Riverdale”. that is, that Jughead “will have romances with women and, of course, burgers”. people are responding to this by tweeting things like “keep Jughead #asexual” at the show’s Twitter account and saying how they’re not going to watch the show because of #asexual #erasure. curious, i checked out the article that i initially thought was at the root of these tweets and was astounded by what i actually found in the article. i quickly added my frustrated 2 cents about how aces were responding to the article to the #asexual hashtag before going back to work.
now, off work and looking into the whole “Riverdale Jughead not asexual” thing further, i’ve found that the interview with Cole Sprouse has generated numerous articles around the net all talking about the same thing: how “Jughead won’t be asexual”, but don’t worry! because Cole Sprouse “revealed he fought for Jughead to be asexual in Riverdale” and he “isn’t giving up” for a “hugely important reason”. the Gizmodo article, which was the first article that i saw, takes the cake, though, with its sensationalist
“TV’s Jughead Won’t Be Canon, Will Want Sex” headline and i feel like Gizmodo’s headline is reflective of one of the things that’s frustrating me so much about this whole thing. i feel like the problem is (at least) two-fold, but it’s the response from fellow aces that frustrates and disappoints me the most, as always.
on one hand we have the actor, Cole Sprouse, fighting to have the character he plays portrayed in a way that is true to the original character in the comics. that’s great! i’m all for keeping TV / movie renditions of characters true to canon, keeping as much about the character as possible true to how the original creator(s) wrote them. please do keep Jughead asexual!
but wait. Jughead isn’t going to be asexual in Riverdale? why?
in his interview, Sprouse said “Jughead will have romances with women … and burgers.”
oh….. okay? Jughead’s interest in women will be arguably out of character. and?
“I think there’s still a lot of room in Riverdale for that [though]. Asexuality is not one of those things in my research that is so understood at face value and I think maybe the development of that narrative could also be something very interesting and very unique and still resonate with people, and not step on anyone’s toes. I think sexuality especially is one of those fluid things where often times we find who we are through certain things that happen in our lives…”
….mmmmk. so clearly Sprouse is under the impression that Jughead “having romances” with women (and burgers) does not jive with the portrayal of Jughead in the comics, which again is arguably true, but he then makes the leap of logic that Jugehead “having romances” (seriously, what the hell this actually even means we don’t actually know) means he is not asexual in Riverdale.
…and seemingly everyone, many aces included, are jumping onto this nonsensical bandwagon with him. meanwhile i’m just sitting here like… no???
not only that, everyone’s so strapped into that bandwagon, fighting for the ace representation that we all want Jughead, that i have yet to see commentary from aces on the other things that Sprouse said. you know, the “I think sexuality especially is one of those fluid things where often times we find who we are through certain things that happen in our lives…” after which he went on to add “If season one is one of those events or something like that needs to happen in season one for Jughead to eventually realize that kind of narrative, I’d love to play with that too.” i’m not going to directly comment on that here either, but that brings me to my next point.
how the fight for asexual representation in the media is often no more than a fight for the representation of a particular asexual narrative in the media.
as hinted at earlier, Gizmode’s sensationalist headline about Jughead wanting sex is so far removed from what Sprouse actually said that it’s ridiculous, but Gizmode isn’t the only one running with the sex thing and how it supposedly runs counter to a character being asexual. while the annoying conflation of romance with sex can, imho, be found at the heart of how people (aces included) are responding to this whole thing, it’s not what frustrates and annoys me the most.
sure, Jughead showing romantic (or sexual) interest in women may be out of character for him, but that’s not even what everyone’s making noise about. people are specifically fighting to “keep Jughead #asexual”, even though aces can “have romances”– in every possible sense of the word– with women (or anyone else) and still be asexual. given that, what is it that people are really fighting for?
the “One True Asexual Narrative”, that’s what.
and once again, whether people are consciously aware of it or not, the fight for that specific narrative is being had at the cost of asexual representation that deviates from that narrative.
why must Jughead be uninterested in “having romances” with anyone, confined to only “having romances” with burgers, in order to be considered “true” asexual representation…? why is it that any character in the media that is thought to be asexual, be it canon or not, instantly has their asexuality mourned as lost, erased, stolen for the sake of someone else’s representation the second they get into a relationship with another character, the second they make the slightest hint at or interest in behavior deemed to be “sexual”, etc etc. real life asexuals can do and do do all of these things and are still asexual, and yet characters in the media can’t or they’re not asexual (anymore).
there is such a lack of ace representation in the media that people fight tooth and nail for any character that they feel they can claim beyond the shadow of a doubt is asexual, but the character that always gets fought for like this is almost always the same: no interest in relationships of any kind. no interest in sex. has never had sex. zero “sex appeal”– whatever that even means. no hint of sex or romance anything. white, often female. able-bodied, neurotypical. totally ”””normal”””, etc.
what about the aces who would see themselves portrayed in an asexual Jughead who “has romances” with women and burgers? who also see their own asexuality being erased or called into question by the very same people arguing that Jughead’s has been?
not one thought paid to them or the media representation that they also lack, just like the rest of us.
i’m so tired of some members of the ace community fighting for portrayal of one specific narrative of asexuality in the media to the detriment of others. it’s happened before numerous times and it will happen again, but i wish it wouldn’t.
fight to keep Jughead true to his portrayal in the comics, if that’s what you want.
stop making this deviance from that portrayal reason to question his (a)sexuality.