The comics corner of the internet recently flipped when it was revealed in Jughead #4, written by Chip Zdarsky and drawn by Erica Henderson, that Jughead is asexual. Two WWAC Staffers, Ginnis Tonik, who cut her comics teeth on Archie comics, and Desiree Rodriguez, a relative newbie to the Archie-verse, sat down to talk about Jughead, his sexual identity, and representation in media.
Ginnis: So, Jughead’s asexual, huh? What are your first thoughts, Desiree? For someone unfamiliar with the Archieverse, why does this matter to you?
Desiree: As someone who identifies as demisexual it meant a lot to see a mainstream, legacy type character come out as asexual. Particularly in such an undramatic manner. It’s just stated, not as a joke, not with anyone questioning Jughead, it was just a fact. Something that everyone seemed to know and acknowledge about Jughead. Which was really great to read; the overall normalcy that Jughead’s asexuality was treated with was very refreshing.
Gin: Originally, Jughead was framed as a “woman-hater” (which was treated more like girls, ick, than adult misogyny) and that eventually manifested as a sense of he’s just not interested. Reading Archie comics in the 90s, this is the Jughead I knew. I do recall a push for him to start dating, and some readings of Jughead as a closeted gay guy who pined after his best friend. But, I think Jughead as asexual is not only great for representation, but it just makes so much sense for the character.
Desiree: I prefer a Jughead as asexual over a closeted gay guy who’s pining after his straight best friend. The latter is just an overtired and moderately offensive stereotype. I’m happy to hear that he’s developed beyond “ew, girls” to openly asexual.
Gin: What do you think overall this can show people about asexuality?
Desiree: Depends on how his sexuality will be handled from here on out in the series. I hope this doesn’t mean Jughead will never have romantic relationships. Being asexual doesn’t mean he’s inherently aromantic. Plenty of asexual and demisexual individuals have happy, healthy romantic relationships. So I’m still hoping for a romantic subplot in Jughead’s future. I’d love to see an asexual character in a happy romantic relationship, as it would show sex isn’t necessary in a romantic relationship.
Gin: I don’t know, I kind of like the absence of romantic subplots for at least one of the characters. There’s enough of that with Archie!
Desiree: I agree that we could use less romantic subplots, but we can just downplay the hetreosexual romances as oppose to not having potentially queer romances. I would be a little bothered if Jughead, because he’s asexual, doesn’t have any romantic storylines in his series run. Again, asexual doesn’t mean aromantic, it doesn’t mean Jughead can’t meet someone—male, female, non-binary—and fall in love. It’d be an interesting and different romance to read.
Gin: When I look at that way, you may have swayed me from my no-romances for Jughead stance. Since, you didn’t grow up reading Archie, what is your impression of Jughead from reading the comic?
Desiree: He’s a funny guy. His mindset is so out there and that really fits with Chip Zdarsky’s style of writing. I could see Jughead in an issue of Kaptara. That being said, the pirate bits of the story were a little jarring for me. I think I’d need to get more of a handle on Jughead as a character. Other than weirdness, the ability to recruit people to follow him, and conspiracy theories that may or may not be true, I’m not sure who he is.
Gin: I love the zany daydreams. There’s always been an element of magical realism to Archie, which I imagine is being ditched with the reboot attempting to be a little more realistic, so I am glad we are getting it via Jughead. Unsurprisingly, Zdarsky is the creator for the job. I like how he has jumped onto Jughead’s resistance to authority and made it radical, rather than just a quirk or laziness.
With Jughead now being asexual as comics canon, it seems contradictory that the CW show is claiming him a heartthrob. What are your thoughts on that?
Desiree: I can’t see CW having an asexual character on their network given their investment in love shapes and sex. All their shows have lots of sex and romantic entanglements. It’s one of the tropes of CW shows, sex, love triangles, multiple relationships in one season, changing partners every season, look at Arrow. Oliver has dated nearly every single female that’s crossed his path, save for him mother. Sara, Laurel, now even Felicity, and all in different seasons of the show. One Tree Hill had multiple love triangles and prided itself on teen sex and drama, as did Gossip Girl.
With Jughead being promoted as a “heartthrob” I can’t see him not having multiple relationships with women (because CW also isn’t big on queer characters either) over however long the show lasts, which is extremely bothersome. I wouldn’t mind if Jughead was heartthrob who was still asexual (though his character doesn’t come off as a “heartthrob” to me at all) and didn’t respond to the attention he gets.
Gin: I suppose that is true—how much of our media when we are teenagers and pre-teens is about romantic relationships? I know I read that sort of stuff voraciously as a kid—I mean I was into broody vampire boys before there was ever a Buffy! But, it just seems like such a missed opportunity not to tap into something that seems incredibly adverse to societal perceptions of teenagers.
Desiree: Sex and romance are a part of our lives, whether we’re single, dating, engaged, divorced, straight, bisexual, asexual, whatever. We live in a society that values sex and romance. It’s just the lack of imagination and avoidance of realism that goes into building these romances on television and movies that bugs—that, and the overall heteronormative relationships we’re constantly bombarded with. I’d be cool with the CW show having Jughead in a romance relationship, but not one that erases his now canon asexuality. Also, I just really dislike the over sexualization of teenagers on TV.