We are not the same – on Raphael, Jughead and Aro/Ace representation

Jughead Jones is a character from the Archie comics who has been coded as aromantic asexual for decades. Last year, he was finally made asexual in canon, and though the word “aromantic” is never used, it’s pretty clear he’s aro as well (the writer who made him ace in the comics already confirmed via Twitter that he is aro too). So: Jughead Jones is aromantic asexual.

Raphael Santiago is a minor character from The Mortal Instruments series. After the ending of the series, the writer, Cassandra Clare, confirmed via Twitter that he was in fact aromantic and asexual. Since it’s post-it/Word of God rep, it has problems, but it’s canon: Raphael Santiago is aromantic asexual.

Still with me? Good. Here’s where things get ugly.

Riverdale, a TV show based on the Archie comics, premiered a few weeks ago and Jughead wasn’t aromantic or asexual in it. In fact, he kissed a girl in the last episode, when the Jughead from the comics, the romance repulsed guy who disliked being touched, would never have done so. Hot takes popped up everywhere to say that hey, it wasn’t that bad, because he could still be ace, right? Ace people can kiss! And date! So why couldn’t Jughead kiss and date, too? Weren’t us, the mean aroaces, being too harsh, too angry, and actually hurting aces with our strict definitions of asexuality? (Never mind that we never defined asexuality, only Jughead’s aroaceness).

The worst offender was the writer of an article defending Jughead and Betty’s kiss, a panromantic ace I shall not name, who not only erased the fact that Jughead was aro but who complained to the aromantic aces and allies who called them out that they, too, needed representation. After all, ace rep was ace rep, and we have none! So why couldn’t Jughead kiss some girls and be an heteromantic ace in peace? Why did we have to complain about his aromanticism being erased? Why, when he could still be ace? Ace people date and kiss, remember? It still could be representation!

Why, indeed?

Something similar is happening with Raphael. Admittedly, Shadowhunters, the TV show based on Clare’s books, went where Riverdale didn’t dare. Raphael doesn’t say he’s asexual, but he says on the last episode that he doesn’t like sex and refuses to kiss Isabelle. The showrunner actually uses the word in a interview, but no mention is made of his aromanticism, and for reasons I explained in this thread, I don’t believe they will make him a canon aromantic person. Still, many alloromantic aces have been going around calling it a win, and while I don’t blame them for being happy, I do have issues with calling this kind of erasure a win of any kind.

Two aromantic asexuals being pushed to being only asexual, and these people ask why we are angry? Why, if it’d still be ace rep? Why, if it’d be a “win”?

These people, these alloromantic aces, don’t understand one thing: we are not the same.

We are not the same.

We just aren’t. My experience as an aromantic asexual person is different from yours as an alloromantic asexual person. It just is. It’s different to grow up feeling no attraction at all, or little to no attraction – it’s a different kind of dehumanization, of demonization, of otherization, of discrimination. Aromantic asexuals are considered less human. We just are. If my word on this isn’t enough, then stop and ask yourself why these shows and people are so hellbent on excluding me – and on including you.

Why? What is it about aromanticism that makes showrunners pretend we don’t exist and fellow aces turn their faces when we say we do? What’s so bad about saying no to love that an aromantic asexual character is allowed to say he doesn’t like sex on TV, but not to say he doesn’t like romance? What is the difference? Why is it here where everyone draws the line? Why is it okay to not feel sexual attraction in this case, but not okay to not feel romantic attraction?

I will tell you why. I’m not available to anyone. Neither is Raphael and Jughead, and lots and lots of aroaces, some of us not even as queerplatonic partners. There aren’t love stories to be told about us or sold about us. If Jughead and Raphael are made ace and aro, their ships sink, unless their fans are okay with queerplatonic relationships and most aren’t. For many people, for most people, if you take the romance out of someone, that someone loses its meaning, its interesting aspect. That’s how focused on romance our society is. Ships can survive without sex, but in a society so focused in romance that it can’t even comprehend queerplatonic relationships, they can’t survive without romantic love.

There is also the little matter of we aroaces being considered too weird, too different. Cis allo straight people can’t relate to us the way they can relate to you, alloromantic aces. After all, romance is universal, right? Except it isn’t. And if we are in the picture, we are reminding everyone of that, and some people just don’t like that, don’t like us.

We are not the same.

I don’t care that aces can date and have sex and kiss girls or boys or nb people. Not when it comes to Jughead Jones and Raphael Santiago. Because it doesn’t matter. You, ace person who date and have sex and kiss girls, are not the ace person being represented by them. They are not here to represent all of us. They are what they are: aromantic and asexual. In Jughead’s case, romance repulsed and touch averse. Probably in Raphael’s, too. They represent some of us, not all of us, and when you push for them to represent those they are not, you saying which of us are more important, which of us deserve so much more attention and rep that you’d go as far as trample canon to give them that which isn’t theirs by right. You are so desperate for rep that you don’t care about the message you’re sending to aromantic asexual people – that it’s okay to nod and agree that we are too fucking weird and unnatural to be on TV as long as you get your precious asexual rep.

And you think that’s okay, you’re an arophobic piece of shit.

It’s important to notice which rep it’s being given in the place of aromantic asexual rep, and that is heteromantic asexual rep, the most palatable ace rep of all. Think about that. Think about why aromantic ace rep is stolen to be given to the most palatable to the cis allo straight audience. I’ve already told you why in this very post. It’s all about scoring diversity points while keeping safe with the audience they don’t want to piss off – and if that doesn’t make you mad, well, then what will?

We all deserve rep. But pushing for your rep when the canon rep is not yours is not the way to do it.

Again, we are not the same.

And our differences matter.

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22 thoughts on “We are not the same – on Raphael, Jughead and Aro/Ace representation

  1. Emm

    I think Riverdale is a lot guiltier here than Shadowhunters. Shadowhunters should have kept Raphael aromantic. But at least they did make him asexual to the point of not wanting to kiss, a risk in our sex obsessed society. Riverdale couldn’t even be bothered to do that, and Jughead’s aromanticism has been established a much longer time and far more blatant than Raphael’s. (I’ll admit, Jughead has always shown hetero leanings from time to time, and there is a long tradition of Jughead chasing girls in all the Archie tv shows, going as far back as the sixties. But in both comics and on tv it usually sucked and the fans always complain about how out of character it feels.) I agree with you about a panromantic ace being out of line speaking for aroaces, not to mention silly since the reason Zdarsky decided Jughead was asexual is because he’s always been aromantic. I tried to leave a comment on that article but some technical glitch wouldn’t let me.

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    1. I actually don’t agree with this, because Shadowhunters’ showrunners are not making Raphael asexual because they care about ace people or because they think it’s important to represent us. They just think it’s a nice twist in Izzy’s storyline. It’s more hurtful, even – because they literally have no excuse. If they made him ace, they could’ve made him aro, but they did not, because they don’t care about accurately representing marginalized groups. They just want their diversity cookies, and lots of people are tripping over themselves to give them those.

      Liked by 4 people

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  3. Emm

    Whatever their reasons for making Raphael asexual, and I’m sure diversity points are a huge part at least, I think you nailed the reasons they didn’t make him aro in your essay, that the general public finds romantic aces more relatable, shippable, etc. So in trying to balance diversity and attract shipper fans, they chose to make him romantic ace. I wish they hadn’t, but I don’t agree it’s more hurtful than doing nothing like Riverdale. I feel like they are the ones who really have no excuse, given all the support that their show (and aromantic Jughead of the comics) got, before the Betty/Jughead scenes. And it doesn’t sound like they’re even going to make Jughead any kind of asexual. If Shadowhunters tries to backpedal on Raphael’s asexuality, of course that would change everything, otherwise I do give them some credit. I also still think Raphael should be aromantic though, and we fans should push for it.

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      1. Emm

        Then you think it would have been better if Shadowhunters had made Raphael heterosexual, like Riverdale made Jughead?

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    1. From what I hear Raphael isn’t even undeniably alloromantic either. I’d much rather have CANON EXPLICIT ACE ON TV and plausibly ambiguous aromantic/-spec than “he’s straight in this version”.

      Honestly, I’d rather have tv!Raphael than book!Raphael; WoG-aroace, canonically single and dead. At least they did something.

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      1. He IS alloromantic. It’s not ambiguous.
        Here’s proof:
        “Izzy told Raphael (David Castro) that she was done with him but are we done with that potential coupling? I hope not!
        Slavkin: We’re not done with them. From the book, we always knew Raphael was asexual, and that was something that we thought was really interesting that Izzy would meet a guy that she had feelings for, and then in the finale; he would say, I’m not interested in sex. We want to explore a little bit more of that moving forward. But they’re intertwined for a little bit longer. Not so much based on their addiction, but in real feelings for each other.” (https://www.tvinsider.com/132607/shadowhunters-midseason-finale-recap-malec-slavkin-swimmer/)
        And here: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/C6gIrWCXMAEUXp1.jpg (lost the article link, but that’s the showrunner talking).
        Honestly, it BLOWS my mind that you read a post on why it’s not okay to erase aro rep even if the ace rep is confirmed because it HURTS PEOPLE and still came here to say you don’t care. Enjoy your arophobic ace rep.

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  4. I missed the bit on social media where they got upset about aroaces “trying to take rep” from aces. Like… where do they get off?! They literally erased the aroace rep! Just…. 😡

    I’m really sorry you and other aroace people are having to deal with erasure at this level. (I know it’s common, but that doesn’t make it okay.) 😔

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  5. I, personally, am aroace and have been very vocally upset about some alloromantic ace’s reactions to Jughead’s erased asexuality/aromanticism. I… am not upset about Raphael. Actually the opposite. Granted, I read and fell in love with the newer Jughead comics and watched Riverdale up to the episode with the kiss, and I have never read The Mortal Instruments (tbh I don’t want to) and I just began watching Shadowhunters and haven’t gotten to the new episode yet, so my general knowledge of/attachment to Shadowhunters is significantly less than Jughead/Riverdale.

    That being said, I think there is a huge difference between taking a character with decades of rich, canon storylines that paint him as a confidently touch-averse aromantic asexual and totally ignoring that completely, versus taking a side character whose sexuality is never explored in-canon (but the author made one tweet saying that she headcanons him as an aromantic asexual) and exploring that character’s sexuality in a way that makes him canonically ace for the first time, but does not necessarily make him aromantic.

    I do see your point about the possibility of the writers choosing not to make him aromantic because they see that as a story not worth telling. I do think that is an issue. I think it is the same issue that the writers of Jughead had, and is something to keep talking about and watching out for, but Raphael is not canon aroace in the books. Cassandra Clare’s tweet specifically says that it is her headcanon (which is a weird thing for an author to say, but I digress). When I was… discussing… Jughead’s erased aromanticism (in addition to the erased asexuality) with a certain panromantic ace, I said that I would celebrate when there is alloro ace representation, and fight for that when it is erased also. I can’t get upset about Raphael not being aromantic and honestly tell myself that I am not doing the same exact thing they did.

    Both aroaces and alloro aces need to make sure we are not getting upset that ace characters are not like us just for the sake of them being like us. There is so little ace rep that it can be hard not to do this–but we need to fight for there to be more characters who are ace in a variety of ways instead of fighting for characters who are already ace to be ace in a different way. The presence of alloromantic aces is not inherently threatening to aroaces, and vice versa, but we are treating it that way. I know there was a little baiting that Raphael might be aromantic, which is an issue, but I really just want to celebrate his character being ace, even if he is not aro. Maybe that is because I am tired, but it is how I feel.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re entitled to your own feelings, obviously. I, for one, will never even consider a character who was stated as aroace by the author (yes, even if only in tweets and “headcanons”) as alloromantic asexual. This is not me, an aroace, seeing alloro aces as a threat – this is me seeing a character who was never *not* like me being given to them just because the showrunners are arophobic (and liars, since one of them said Raphael was asexual in the books and that’s where they got the idea from, which we all know it’s a damn lie). I’m attached to this character. He might be a minor character, but he’s the only latinx aroace char I know of and his presence was what made me reread these books and give a chance to the show. The erasure of his aromanticism hurts me because it didn’t need to happen. If they made him ace, they could have made him aro. The source for his aromanticism and asexuality is the same, so why not?

      We are not “battling” alloro aces for this rep. It is ours already. It’s never been *theirs*. Aroace Raphael has been a thing since CC talked about it, aroace fans have been tweeting and talking about it since the show was first released, asking if it would be canon, pushing for it to be canon just like Jughead fans are doing now, but now they are supposed to just smile and hand him off to alloro aces because an arophobic showrunner thought we too weird to be on TV? Because we need more ace rep so it’s okay to pick and choose which parts of a character’s identity gets to be canon? What about aro rep? It’s totally fine to just ditch it because alloro aces want rep? Please.

      If alloro aces don’t like it, they can give up on Raphael too, since his asexuality isn’t in the books either. If they are gonna believe he’s ace, they gotta believe he’s aro as well.

      When an alloro ace char gets erased, I’ll be screaming at the top of my lungs about how hurtful and acephobic it is, and when an alloro ace char gets confirmed, I’ll celebrate it with my fellow aces. This is not the case. This was *never* the case. Raphael is not aroace in the books, but he is aroace – where else would the showrunners get the idea he’s ace from? From their own minds and will to portray diverse characters? lol

      And why doesn’t anyone question other author’s “””headcanons””” like they do Cassandra Clare’s when it comes to Raphael? Why not question the fact that, I don’t know, Dumbledore is gay? It isn’t in the books, right? So if the HP movies are ever remade and they make him bi, I guess it will be fine? There will be no outrage about how they would be erasing his sexuality or anything like that, because again, not in the books, right? Again, please.

      I don’t want every ace character ever to be aro like me. I’m not a spoiled brat. I want aroace characters to keep being aroace characters. No amount of whining coming from some alloromantic aces about how they too deserve rep will convince me that it’s okay to make aroace characters alloro aces. Not even Jesus himself would be capable of doing that. So miss me with this one.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. J K Rowling says Dumbledore is gay. C Claire says she ‘thinks of’ Raphael as aroace, that it’s her ‘headcanon’. Quotation marks are quotes.

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      2. Dear, where do you think Shadowhunters got the idea that Raphael is ace? Why would they keep him ace, but not aro, if CC’s “headcanon” is that he’s both? Simple: arophobia.
        Now, why would you desperately try to convince anyone that it’s okay to erase his aromanticism? Simple again: arophobia.
        Idc if you are aromantic or not, but you are trying so hard and being so pathetic about it that’s impossible to deny.
        And, please, stop embarrassing yourself. An author, by definition and especially after they tell the world about it, can’t have headcanons. It’s canon. Try again.

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    2. While I understand your point that contradicting “Post-it” representation is different than contradiction in-text canon, I disagree with several of your points here.

      First, SH simply doesn’t have decades of canon to contradict the way Archie comics do. It hasn’t been around anywhere near as long. Does that mean its canon is somehow less valid? I certainly don’t think so.

      The idea that “Post-it” representation is less valid that in-text canon is exactly the problem with that kind of representation in the first place. But if it doesn’t even inform future variants of the character, literally what is even the point of it at all?

      What the SH show did is not invent an asexual character out of new cloth. It didn’t give us asexual representation where we didn’t have any. What we had was a very poorly-confirmed aroace character, which the showrunners decided to ignore because they couldn’t figure out how to write an interesting story with that.

      I must say, if Clare could figure it out, they should be able to as well. Of course, I’m also frustrated with Clare right now. If this is her interpretation of the character, she certainly shouldn’t be gushing over the show if they’re ignoring her intention.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Josie

    I agree with all of this, OP, you are a beautiful human being.

    Am I the only one here who finds this whole “Who did it worse, Riverdale or Shadowhunters???” incredibly tiring? Because they BOTH fucked up. There is no doing it “better” or “worse” if you erase a queer character’s identity. I mean. Yes, Shadowhunters went where other show’s didn’t but I have every confidence they will fuck this up in the future, and I am tired of lgbtqia+ rep being thrown at us in bits and pieces, and then people have the audacity to tell us to be satisfied when all we’re getting is scraps.

    Anyway. I am tired.

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    1. Thank you! And yeah, it IS extremely tiring because that’s so not the point (of this post or of the conversation in general). Erasing a queer character’s identity is always bad, it doesn’t matter if they confirm one thing only.
      I have no doubts they will fuck it up. The showrunner seems to think Raphael’s asexuality is just an obstacle in his relationship with Isabelle. I’m tired as well.

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  8. Arianna

    I’ve been trying to say this for weeks on my blog, after seeing a particularly bothersome post on Tumblr by an alloro ace about how they deserved this and aroace rep was easier to write. This is very well written and excellent points on aromantic media representation.

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