"Riverdale," the popular television show based on Archie comics, returned to the CW on Jan 24. Netflix summarizes the show thusly: “While navigating the troubled waters of sex, romance, school and family, teen Archie and his gang become entangled in a dark Riverdale mystery.”
While the cast of the comic and of the show remain similar, some meaningful identities changed in translation from comic to television show. One major change from comic to show is the erasure of Jughead Jones’ asexuality. This erasure harms the LGBT+ community by perpetuating common misconceptions and by removing much-needed representation for asexual people.
Asexuality is a sexual identity where an individual feels little to no sexual attraction, according to the Asexual Visibility & Education Network (AVEN). Jughead Jones, in the comics, shows little interest in dating or fornicating with people of any gender. His friend also explicitly states that Jughead is asexual in Jughead #4. However, the kiss between Jughead and Betty in episode 6 “Faster, Pussycats! Kill! Kill!” dashed any hopes the asexual community may have had for representation.
“I was very excited when I found out that they were going to make it because I thought that it would be good representation," said Reagan Scott, a junior psychology major. "But then at the end of the season, not only did he have a girlfriend, but they also showed them hooking up.”
The erasure of Jughead’s asexuality deeply affects the asexual community because there is little to no positive representation of asexual people in media. Media “‘symbolically annihilates asexuality, misrepresenting it as a lack of social skills or as a physical or mental disability rather than a legitimate sexual orientation,” wrote Benjamin Marks of the University of Iowa. “For most of its history, a lack of sexual desire has been pathologized as a medical disorder or illness, or conversely praised as a religious virtue like abstinence.”
Media can dehumanize or delegitimatize asexuality as a sexual identity. The representation the asexual communities receives promotes the idea that little to no sexual attraction correlates with a medical emergency, such as in the episode of House titled “Better Half." Asexual people are misrepresented as lying or confused, such as in "The Olivia Experiment," or that asexuality is simply a barrier to overcome to have sex, such as in "Sirens."
Jughead represented positive asexual representation that the community desperately needs and wants, and erasing Jughead’s asexuality in "Riverdale" reinforces the idea that larger society views asexual people as inferior.
“Media itself especially in America is very sexualized, even commercials have women posing for sex appeal to sell their products. And I think that media does treat sex and sexual characters as kind of the goal for humans," Scott said. "I think that it would just be nice to take a step back from that and realize that that’s not everybody’s prerogative."
Erasing Jughead’s asexuality in Riverdale dismisses an opportunity for asexual people to see themselves as normal teenagers in high school, a representation direly needed. Therefore, Riverdale producers should stay true to Jughead’s comic persona and allow him to be asexual.