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Wednesday, February 10, 2016 

Jughead's new writers prove themselves more jug-headed than their subject

One of the current writers for Archie is characterizing the co-star with the goofy crown as asexual. As if that's such a big deal. He says:
"My view of Jughead is, over the 75 years [of his existence] there have been sporadic moments where he has dabbled in the ladies, but historically he has been portrayed as asexual," Zdarsky said at an "Archie"-themed panel at NYCC. "They just didn't have a label for it, so they just called him a woman-hater. But he's not a misogynist -- he just watches his cohorts lose their minds with hormones. People have asked me if there is going to be a romance if I'm writing Jughead, because I'm very romantic, and the answer is no, because there is enough of that in Archie. I think something like asexuality is underrepresented, and since we have a character who was asexual before people had the word for it, I'm continuing to write him that way."
They've all reached new levels of absurdity. Is there even such a thing as asexuality? Realistically speaking, I would think hardly, so we know this doesn't speak for the realism they think exists. It's more like an excuse to avoid character development and stick Jughead in the role of a cypher.

And if he has been depicted with girlfriends in the past (Big Ethel, January McAndrews, and a few others), how can he truly be asexual? He certainly was seen taking to some of the girls he did based on their shared love of food. But what I'd really like to know is where he got the idea anybody called Jughead Jones a "woman-hater"? I certainly never did, so I can only assume Chip Zdarsky made that up.
"There are people out there, and they come up to me in conventions, because I work on another book that involves sexuality ['Sex Criminals'], and that's one of the questions we get all the time. [There are] a lot of asexual readers, and they want representation," he continued. "We want to put out a book in which people that aren't necessarily represented enough in media can see themselves reflected in it in a positive way, so if you have an opportunity presented on a silver platter like Jughead, really, I feel like your responsibility is to go with that and serve that underrepresented reader."

"It seems like his take was always it's a waste of money to go on dates, not so much that like he hated women. Because he always hung out with Betty. They were always friends," added Henderson.
The man would make a better career as a comedian. Just what proof does he have that there's a gazillion asexual humans out there jumping up and down demanding representation?

And this brings us to the leading mistake Zdarsky and artist Erica Henderson have made: neither they nor the press sources covering this non-event have asked if the past tales with Jughead were slapdash, and if the writers screwed up with their characterization (or lack thereof). Catch News gave a bit of history, and said:
Archie Comics tried to get Jughead to date several women for years, but none of them stuck around. From Big Ethel, to January McAndrews, to Debbie who shared his love for food. Following Archie's footsteps, he later dated Debbie and Joani simultaneously.
No, I don't think that wording describes it well. That should be "tried to depict", or gave writers the task of conceiving stories where he'd date the above. However, they also say:
Until all of it came crashing down as readers protested, as did the essence of what Jughead's character was all about. Give or take a few other random dates, Archie Comics came out with eight issues where the major plot was Jughead's various love interests. But the running theme throughout his dating history has been his reluctance to actually be the women.
If any readers objected, they don't know how big an error they made, and what it led to in modern times. And, the likely juveniles they speak of failed to consider how the direction they took, rendering Jughead a peculiar cypher who cares more about food than girls per se, could've been a bad idea. At the least, they shouldn't have opposed any writer who wanted to give Jughead - or any cast member, for that matter - the direction they thought could have some juice to it. Maybe this whole topic sheds some light on what went wrong with Archie, and how modern writers are exploiting these mistakes rather than improving upon them.

Just like superheroes, even Archie cast members shouldn't be held hostage to bizarre notions of what writers with questionable credentials think they should be depicted as.

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Well, as I recall, Jughead was usually portrayed, not necessarily as a woman-hater, but as generally uninterested in girls and dating. Of course, with long-running series, and with a lot of different writers and editors over the years, there are bound to be occasional inconsistencies in characterization.

When token gay character Kevin Keller was created, my first thought was, "At least they created a new character instead of changing an existing one." And, with Jughead's track record, it might have been easy to out him as gay. My memories of the strip are a little fuzzy after almost five decades, but I seem to remember Ethel constantly flirting with Jughead, and him trying to avoid her.

Some people are asexual. Not everyone likes football, not everyone likes horror movies, not everyone likes pizza, and not everyone likes sex. It's only a problem if the asexual person is in a relationship with a partner who wants more than platonic friendship.

That said, I doubt if asexual people are forming a militant activist organization and demanding "representation" in pop culture.

And, Archie comics used to be aimed at preteen kids who were really too young to fully grasp the concept of sexual orientation, anyway.

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