Asexuality is rarely acknowledged and perhaps the least understood concept in the intricate and long winded discourse of gender and sexuality. In recent times, the LGBTQ+ community has been given a spotlight by mainstream media. We find ourselves with a handful of portrayals of the queer community and while some are inspirational, others are merely a failing plot device. LGBTQ+ representation in mainstream media seems to always be at polar extremes, never quite reaching the middle ground. Instead it turns to lean towards either blatant flanderization or media erasure.
There exists a dichotomy between asexuality and aromanticism; the common misconception is that the two terms are mutually inclusive. A fact to be stressed upon is that asexuality isn’t celibacy or abstinence because of religious reasons or bad relationships. It is the lack of sexual attraction towards people. Likewise, aromantic people aren’t incapable of love itself, rather aromanticism it marked by a lack of romantic interest in people. Some of us might get swept with a wave of nostalgia when we hear of Archie Comics.
In a franchise created back in the forties, it features a character called Jughead Jones and his distinct lack of interest in romantic relationships with girls, which ironically leads girls to pursue him. He considers dating a waste of money that could be well spent on burgers instead. His lack of interest in women led some to think the character had misogynistic tendencies but that couldn’t be further from the truth. After countless implications alluding to Jughead’s sexual orientation, he was canonically confirmed as an asexual character in the stories of Chip Zdarsky. In the television spinoff, Riverdale, he is depicted to be in a relationship with Betty Cooper, stripping away a part of the character’s personality to sell the show to the teenage demographic. It doesn’t come as a surprise though from a show that relies heavily on the hypersexualization of it’s characters. Understandably, the writers’ to distort the franchise decision left many asexual people disheartened.
Cole Sprouse, who plays Jughead in Riverdale has also expressed desire to see the character’s sexuality explored. At the same time, he considers Jughead an aromantic character, “a thing different (from asexuality) but deserves attention as well.” Another asexual fiction character is Lord Varys from Game of Thrones who expressed in season four his lack of desire for men and women.
Bojack Horseman’s well defined character Todd Chavez, on the other hand can be considered the finest representation on an asexual character in popular media. Asexuals are neither gay nor straight and Todd admits in the finale of season three, “I might be nothing.” He is later confirmed asexual alloromantic in an emotional coming out scene. His story arc in the following season continues to highlight the difference between asexuality and aromanticism. The sheer contrast between the depictions Jughead and Todd in their respective shows leaves us with a bitter taste in our mouths. After all, for a person in the LGBTQ+ community, seeing someone go through something they did, even a fictional character, might lead to consolation and self acceptance. We live in a society that pushes us to engage in relationships, markets intimacy as the golden ticket to happiness. These characters do more than just tell a tale, they help those that are lost, stuck in a world they can’t understand, those that are force fed “normalcy” with a silver spoon. You can’t change the world overnight, but just know that asexuality and aromanticism exist and are normal. Television might take the longest route to arrive at that conclusion but we’ll all get there eventually.