If you weren’t a fan of the Archie Comics, you might not know that in many of the comics, Jughead actually identifies as asexual and aromantic.
So when Jughead started dating Betty, many fans were understandably outraged. It was a prime opportunity to showcase an asexual character in a big-budget teen show, something that is long-overdue.
The Riverdale producers had a chance to give us a beautiful asexual character and even, perhaps, an asexual coming out story, but they couldn’t even wait a full season before pairing Jughead up with Betty.
While we’ve made some strides in LGBTQ representation (particularly on teen shows), asexuality is still essentially ignored by pop culture. The only mainstream ace character on TV is Todd from BoJack Horseman. And while they did a great job with his storyline, he’s still, well, only a cartoon.
According to Cole Sprouse (aka Jughead himself), he fought hard to make his character true to the comics. In a Reddit AMA back a few years ago, he told fans,
“Of course, I haven’t stopped the dialogue. I’m sure I’m quite the pest. Can’t spoil too much, unfortunately, but this topic was one of the first I discussed with [Riverdale creator] Roberto before this season started.”
And even though Bughead (Jughead x Betty) has been a huge part of the show and Bughead shippers are totally devoted to the couple, both Sprouse and the show’s creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa have insinuated that Jughead is just finding his way and *may* embrace his asexuality…. eventually.
Cole told Teen Vogue,
“The entirety of season 1 sets the pace for a character’s narrative arc. Because of the fluidity of sexuality and how oftentimes a person discovers who they are after a series of events – like those told in our origin stories – this is an ongoing conversation.”
This is basically the same sentiment that Aguirre-Sacasa echoed in an interview with MTV,
“I think all of the kids are discovering themselves, and a big part of that is discovering their sexuality, their sexual selves. Rather than have everything fully formed — for instance, we’re not going to start with Archie’s band or Jughead’s asexuality or any of the things that have become canon — those are all stops on the way to the journey until the show catches up to 75 years of Archie history.”
Portraying Jughead’s sexuality as a story of discovery is not only valid but could be a better way of addressing the issue, especially since we now understand that asexuality is a spectrum. Jughead could still very well be ace and still love Betty. In this case, he’d most likely demisexual, which, according to GLAAD, means that he would “not experience attraction to an individual until a significant emotional bond has formed.”
So even if Jughead does end up identifying as asexual, it won’t mean that his relationship with Betty wasn’t real. There are many different subsets of asexuality and being asexual doesn’t automatically mean you don’t experience romantic love or even, in some cases, sexual attraction to a select number of individuals.
Of course, this is probably all naive, wishful thinking. The writers have given no indication that they plan on taking this route with Jughead and all of the interviews referenced in this article happened years ago. But until asexual representation and acknowledgment gets its due, hoping is pretty much all I can do.
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Feature Photo: Riverdale / Facebook