When Archie Comics' Jughead came out as asexual last year in his new solo-series, the decades-old character struck a major victory for representation of a growing community that's been largely misunderstood.
In addition to creating one of the first high-profile asexual characters in mainstream comics, Jughead's announcement also made for an interesting development for the CW's upcoming Riverdale TV show, loosely based on the newly modernized Archie comics: If the comics Jughead was asexual, it stood to reason that his television counterpart might be as well.
In a recently published interview with Comic Book Resources, though, the actor who plays Jughead in Riverdale, Cole Sprouse, said that while he personally would have been open to exploring Jughead's asexuality, that wasn't the particular version of the character that the CW envisioned for him.
“To me, that’s kind of unfortunate, to be quite honest. I think there’s a lot of room for growth in that, and I think that kind of representation is quite interesting, and I think it’s needed, frankly,” Sprouse said. “But this is also one of those things where it’s only really been canon in a single iteration of the Archie universe."
Sprouse went on to reason that while Jughead's newly realized asexuality has been cause for much attention to the character in recent months, focusing specifically on that part of his identity effectively erases the some 75 years of Jughead history that the CW team has to pull from for its incarnation of him.
"[Jughead's asexuality] is not in the digest, it’s not in any of the previous ones, and now it’s kind of become the lynchpin of his character, which I also don’t know if that’s right, specifically,” Sprouse said. “But I don’t have that kind of control as an actor, to be quite honest."
I've reached out to the CW for further comment and will update if I hear back.
While Sprouse is right that there's far more of Jughead's history that didn't see him as asexual, there's a point to be made that the CW's missing the perfect opportunity to do a lot of good for the asexual community.
In addition to the fact that asexual people are often stigmatized for "failing" to experience sexuality the way that others do, they often face the critique that they are merely gay, bi, or straight people who simply haven't found the right person yet.
Introducing Jughead as sexual in Riverdale's premiere next week, only to develop him as asexual down the line, is an option that does reflect the realities of some. But that choice would come at a time when Riverdale's target audience (of people who didn't grow up with the old Archie comics) could be more than open to a new take on Jughead. There's a good chance that the CW's young demographic has very little (if any) recollection of who Jughead's been in the past, so why not just lead with his new, asexual self and and make Riverdale that much more inclusive?