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♡ Fitzsimmons ♡

TeenVogue "'Riverdale's' Asexual Erasure Can Be Harmful"

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http://www.teenvogue.com/story/riverdales-asexual-erasure-can-be-harmful

 

'Riverdale's' Asexual Erasure Can Be Harmful

"When the opportunity to so clearly outline asexuality on-screen, choosing to avoid that path in the adaptation can have harmful consequences."

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Jonno RevancheAPR 14, 2017 7:48PM EDT
 
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If you haven’t seen Cole Sprouse’s responses to questions in his recent AMA, you might have also missed some of the commentary from fans of the series who feel dissatisfied with his answers about the character Jughead, who he plays in the series Riverdale.

When so many of the last Archie issues have given a frame of reference and obvious definition to Jughead’s asexuality, Cole Sprouse’s comments about this in the AMA are vague at best, disappointing at worse. He dances around the question of asexuality, justifying it to himself in the way hollywood-ites often do — it’s not the right time, the context of the adaptation changes the way the characters have shifted, that “Riverdale is a new universe” and storylines need to adapt to television. Even Cole’s comments that “as an actor (he) can only lend so much” is dubious when white actors usually have no issue co-opting stories outside their experience to deny more marginalized actors film parts and roles.

The lack of explicitly and openly asexual characters in the media means that the need for these stories on TV is even more urgent, given the kind of self-worth issues that so many asexual teens face, and it even makes this seem like this was a purposeful erasure. When the opportunity to so clearly outline asexuality on-screen, or to offer an example of aromantic life is given so precisely, choosing to avoid that path in the adaptation can have harmful consequences.

This avoidance is made so clear when Cole commented in the AMA that “Betty and Jughead's coupling are a great example of such an informed decision (to update the character.)” – which sounds a lot like saying “we made the mindful decision of erasing the character’s queerness so it could be more relatable to straight, non-asexual viewers.” In the comics, Jughead’s asexuality has essentially become “canon” – a term used to refer to the legitimacy of events/characteristics within the main universe endorsed, and verified by the creator of that universe. So why is Jughead’s depiction, and specifically Cole Sprouse’s take on Jughead, inadequate? Throughout the majority of Archie's run, he has been fiercely vocal about not liking woman, not having crushes, not being 'a romantic', or not “liking other people in that way.” This isn’t just an offhandedly referenced part of his personality – it defines the way he engages with others and seeks relationships in general, and is part of his appeal as a character.

“Allosexual” is a term frequently used in asexual circles to define someone who is not asexual. The discrimination against asexual people may be different from the specific discrimination allosexual LGBTQ people face, but similar structures dehumanize them and affect their self-esteem, social mobility and community acceptance. Asexual people are still treated as “not human” because they do not satisfy the requirements of “normal people”, which is to say, valuing others based on their sexual attractiveness. This whole frame of reference is missing in Cole Sprouse’s portrayal of Jughead. When Sprouse inferred in the AMA that sexual alignment/lack of it is irrelevant because he is just “human” is dangerously close to equating humanity with allosexuality, and dismissing any other sexual identities.

While there is already conversation and acceptance surrounding many forms of relationships — open ones, queer ones, and even the nuance of pansexuality — the range of asexuality is still not very well understood by the general public. This may be because what asexuality truly refers to is not clear to some people. And to a good deal of people, they still subscribe to a belief that the options are either (a) a relationship or (b) the absence of a relationship. We don’t have a language for the more complicated reasons we might not seek out certain partnerships or encounters.

Teen Vogue spoke to author Vivienne Cass, who defines asexuality as “the consistent lack of sexual interest, sexual arousal and/or sexual desire experience over a persistent period of time.” Young people who fall into the asexual spectrum need to know that their experiences aren’t a problem and Cole's comments — that the asexuality hasn’t been included because Jughead is 15 — reinforce this myth. Cass notes that “this leads those who don’t feel sexual at some time in their lives to thinking they are abnormal. As a result, they may try to hide it from others or pretend they are very sexual.”

While it would be validating for people to see asexuality represented in the mainstream, those identities are shied away from and deprioritized in shows like Riverdale. While this starts with the writers, it’s still is a responsibility of actors to represent and respect their character.

Varied media portrayals of under-represented experiences can demystify and illuminate. If we want more nuanced understandings of asexuality, it’s up to shows like Riverdale to provide nuanced representations of their character, instead of pushing a narrative that erases asexuality.

 

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While I agree that erasing Jughead's aroace-ness is harmful, I don't agree that Cole is screwing up in his answers. He's been hired by a show to play a role, he probably had to sign a contract to not talk poorly about said show (plus, it's just not smart to bad mouth your bosses on the internet), and his job is act out the part the writers have given him. He has done what he can to keep Jughead's portrayal as accurate as he can and when the writers didn't go with aroace Jughead, he did what he could to keep it in discussions and talk them around to giving Jughead the journey to discovering his asexuality (even if his aromanticism is pretty much out the window.)

 

The show started out saying Jughead was going to be a typical heterosexual male and that was that. Now they are at least discussing making him discover his asexuality. That's huge! That's a big turn around for the writers. They are actually going to consider making him asexual when before the straight up said that he was going to be, well, straight.

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I hope they at least do a better job than that rotten episode of "House" that was on TV a few years back...

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On 28/04/2017 at 2:59 AM, thylacine said:

I hope they at least do a better job than that rotten episode of "House" that was on TV a few years back...

That in itself was upsetting as the episode was written by an Asexual writer and the ending was changed by the director to be more 'accessable' <-- I smell prejudice

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On 24/04/2017 at 3:31 AM, KendraPM said:

The show started out saying Jughead was going to be a typical heterosexual male and that was that. Now they are at least discussing making him discover his asexuality. That's huge! That's a big turn around for the writers.

Though it's a shame this wasn't the idea from the start, I feel that this would help Ace teens even more than a character who was Ace throughout; like someone discovering themselves and learning to accept it, a great role model

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14 hours ago, SamwiseLovesLife said:

That in itself was upsetting as the episode was written by an Asexual writer and the ending was changed by the director to be more 'accessable' <-- I smell prejudice

Really? I didn't know that. I never saw that episode, and refused to look it up after I learned the ending. They've handles several more sensitive issues quite well I've felt - I remember the episode where the married couple found out they were half-siblings, that was handled wonderfully - but the fact that they went the wrong way with a sexuality was just harsh.

 

14 hours ago, SamwiseLovesLife said:

Though it's a shame this wasn't the idea from the start, I feel that this would help Ace teens even more than a character who was Ace throughout; like someone discovering themselves and learning to accept it, a great role model

Yeah, it is a shame. I love the idea of them doing a subplot of Juggie discovering his asexuality, and will throw a mini party if they do, but the fact that they started out so anti-asexual/aromantic makes me want to thump them on the head. I'm looking at the bright side, the fact that the writers are considering it speaks well for them. It means they are open to adapting and learning, which is awesome! I won't hold it against them for their first thoughts on changing Jughead into a straight male if they are willing to adapt, learn, realize their mistakes, and then try and fix them. I will hold it against them if they keep pulling a "it's not interesting if Jughead is asexual" bs they kept saying in the beginning.

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On 4/22/2017 at 7:10 AM, ♡ Fitzsimmons ♡ said:

Even Cole’s comments that “as an actor (he) can only lend so much” is dubious when white actors usually have no issue co-opting stories outside their experience to deny more marginalized actors film parts and roles. 

Geez this article is biased...  Being white does not give you the ability to overturn any stubborn decisions of directors... And the quote "as an actor (he) can only lend so much" is taken out of context.  That quote is actually referencing how Cole Sprouse has been rather vocal not only to the directors, but to the public about how he wishes for Jughead to be asexual to the point that he is intentionally making Jughead act like an asexual so that transition to this orientation is easier.  If it weren't for Cole, there wouldn't even be talk within the production of whether or not to make Jughead asexual.

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On 2017-5-10 at 6:18 AM, SamwiseLovesLife said:

That in itself was upsetting as the episode was written by an Asexual writer and the ending was changed by the director to be more 'accessable' <-- I smell prejudice

I didn't know this. I remember I tweeted her angrily about it years ago and she was so remorseful. Man I feel like a douche now.

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1 hour ago, Saesha said:

I remember I tweeted her angrily about it years ago and she was so remorseful.

It's a tough situation all round :/ I cringe how it ended up being portrayed though..

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