I’ve written before about the Korra finale, about how my elation at Korra and Mako not getting back together turned into my stomach bottoming out when Korra and Asami held hands, that I immediately felt guilty about being upset by something that would be groundbreaking for so many people, that I wrestled with whether I was allowed to feel upset that the ever-increasing hope of Aang’s successor finishing her show single was suddenly dashed. And I decided that I was allowed to feel upset, and I decided that I was allowed to talk about being upset, but only if I paired this with being explicit about how important it is that Korra and Asami held hands and stared into each other’s eyes, how important it is to me and to my friends and to strangers across the world that there is canon bi rep. There was zero possibility that Korra was aro and yet I had built up this hope that she could be happily single for the final episode because that is all I can ever hope for on television and that is fucked up.
But you know what? If in the comics Korra and Asami weren’t together, if the cartoon canon were changed and they had never held hands, they had never stared into one another’s eyes in a direct mirror of the wedding scene, if they were platonic besties? I would not be happy with that. I would not celebrate that. I would not call that a victory for female friendship rep. I would not say “isn’t the fluidity and journey of sexuality so important?” I would not tell women who are attracted to women that they should be happy about this. I would not tell them to shut up, I would not tell them “but this Korra is not that Korra”, I would not refuse to hear and boost their concerns, I would not write articles about how wonderful and important and nuanced this female platonic-only friendship is to me and to everyone without even mentioning that this is queer erasure and that this has hurt others. I would not go “fuck you got mine” at the erasure of a character’s canon queerness.
And you know what? If Jughead in Riverdale turns out to be aromantic and allosexual I won’t proclaim that a victory for aros. I won’t call that a win. I won’t tell aces that their pain at being erased doesn’t matter because fuck you got mine. And if Jughead in Riverdale turns out to be aroace but touch-hungry and romance-hungry, that’s not a victory either.
If a canon demiace character’s adaptation was probably not going to be demi but might possibly be asexual, I wouldn’t say that was amazing, I wouldn’t say that was a great stride for ace rep, I wouldn’t hope really hard that they be asexual instead of demi, I wouldn’t talk over demis who were talking about this, I wouldn’t fuck you maybe hopefully getting mine, I wouldn’t write an article about this without devoting space to the demi erasure, I wouldn’t tell people to shut up and be excited for/with me, I wouldn’t encourage people to celebrate that this character was never ever going to have sex or express sexual interest/desire in someone ever.
If a canon Asian polyamorous non-binary character’s adaptation was canon non-binary but not polyamorous or Asian I wouldn’t laud this as a success. I wouldn’t celebrate marginalised identities being ranked and severed so as not to upset an average audience, I wouldn’t accept “but think of my personal rep over what has been established as canon” as an acceptable breadcrumb or compromise.
So why are people, allos and ace alloros both, so happy to accept the erasure of Jughead’s aromanticism, touch-aversion, unwillingness to kiss or date? Why are they so quick to forget us, why are they so quick to erase our erasure, why are they so quick to elevate his asexuality over his aromanticism, why are they so quick to accept the hetwashing of a canon queer character when maintaining his asexuality is so important to them, when they would never go “well fuck you got mine” about a gay character being straightwashed?
Especially when no other characters have had their identities and orientations changed. Why is it okay to take away romance-averse aro rep, touch-averse rep, when all the allonormative, heteronormative characters get to stay the same? Why is asexuality more important than aromanticism? Why is asexuality more palatable than aromanticism and why is it considered grand not to fight against that kind of opinion? Why is “this is wonderful!” instead of “this isn’t good enough! this isn’t the character at all!” acceptable in this situation? Why is “I am very excited about this” instead of “I might be excited about this but a lot of people are hurting and their opinions equal mine and you need to read their opinions as well as mine” acceptable in this situation? Why is “I feel kinda bad for you but fuck you got mine I’m not going to do a single thing to help you in your time of need” acceptable in this situation? Why is “I’m going to use this hashtag and totally ignore and shit on the first identity listed in it even though it’s an integral and canon part of this character in his long history” acceptable in this situation? Why is ripping away the only prominent and first positively portrayed canon acearo averse rep on television acceptable in this situation? Why is celebrating this queer erasure okay? Why is expecting aros to shut up and stop harshing your squee okay?
I have never read the Archie comics. I would have dropped everything in my life and started watching Riverdale to see a character like me positively portrayed for the first time in my entire life. I would have cried thinking about how important this would be to young acearos. I would have forced my friends to suffer through picspam and excited flailing and endless “it’s me, it’s someone like me, on TV, and they’re not the villain, they’re not an alien, they’re not a robot, they’re not treated like they need fixing, it’s someone like me and they’re happy and proud to be like me and their friends like them and and and”. I would have had something safe and wonderful and affirming to return to after every single other TV show that has ever existed erases or demonises me.
But instead I’m being told to be happy that a guy kissed a girl. Instead I’m being hit with allonormative statements about how good it is to touch people and to kiss people, how being close to someone automatically means romantic feelings and actions, how I do not and have never mattered, how people do not want to see aros like me on the television, how people do not want to see aros like me on the internet. Instead I’m angry and I’m sad and I still don’t know when I will ever see an acearo on TV and I don’t know what the worth in talking about this is because you people don’t care because yet another plotline about a guy kissing and dating a girl is more interesting and acceptable and relatable than a single character who’s acearo and not into kissing or dating and who is human and humane and wonderful and just wants to eat a burger.
I know there’ll be outrage if/when it’s revealed that this Jughead isn’t asexual. Far, far more outrage and caring than him not being aromantic and averse.
(Not sure how #RaphaelRepresents is going to go on the aro side of things at this point.)