The TV industry has worked to broaden LGBT+ representation on televisions, but asexual characters are still few and far in between.
It’s no secret that the spectrum of gender identity and sexual orientation is severely underrepresented and under-explored in pop culture. GLAAD publishes a report on representation in TV every year, and it wasn’t until the 2017-2018 season that the media monitoring organisation was able to count asexual regular or recurring characters on TV (Raphael on Shadowhunters and Todd on BoJack Horseman).
In 2016, it was confirmed that Jughead, the crown-wearing character in Archie Comics, is asexual. Unfortunately, that didn’t translate to the TV adaption of the comic, Riverdale. Actor Cole Sprouse, who plays Jughead in the series, said in 2017 he would “keep fighting” for the character to be acknowledged as asexual in the future.
It can be difficult not seeing yourself represented on TV, but there are a handful of examples – some better than others – that have aired over the years. In celebration of Ace Week 2021, it’s time to revisit some of them.
Todd Chavez – BoJack Horseman
BoJack Horseman has arguably one of TV’s most high-profile representations of asexuality with the wacky and loveable Todd (Aaron Paul). Todd’s sexuality developed organically alongside the show’s developing storyline.
The character’s asexuality was first alluded to in the third season finale when he admitted to his then-girlfriend that he isn’t gay or straight, but instead “might be nothing”.
Todd’s sexuality was later confirmed in season four when he admitted to his friend BoJack (Will Arnett) that he didn’t “think [he’s] allowed to be in love” before coming out as asexual in a heartwarming moment. He went on to learn more about his newfound identity throughout the season and attended asexual meet-ups, where he made friends and discovered more about the community.
Todd is the most recent asexual character to appear on a major TV series at the time, however GLAAD noted in its most recent 2020-2021 report that there is one “lesbian asexual character” expected in an upcoming Freeform show.
Valentina “Voodoo” Dunacci – Sirens
Sirens was a USA network show about emergency medical technicians (EMTs) that lasted for two seasons between 2014 and 2015. It featured an openly asexual recurring character, Voodoo.
She was the focus of a major storyline which saw her form a close bond with fellow EMT Brian, who was hopelessly in love with her.
At one point, Brian told Voodoo that he was “kind of asexual” because he hadn’t had sex since his last relationship broke down. But Voodoo shut down Brian’s idea of what asexuality means.
“See that’s the difference between us, you can’t get laid – I don’t want to,” she declared.
He then tried to argue that Voodoo’s asexuality was “just a phase” – which she denied – and compared being asexual to not liking olives. Voodoo dismissed him by saying the only thing she hates more than sex is “talking about how I don’t like it”.
Poppy – Huge
The short-lived 2010 ABC Family series followed the lives of seven teens and the staff at a weight-loss camp.
Among them was asexual camp counsellor Poppy (Zoe Jarman). In one scene, Poppy sat down with her fellow counsellor George to watch an angst-filled film when she admitted she couldn’t “imagine being like that – so intensely passionate about another person”.
George asked Poppy if she meant being in love, but she said it was a feeling she attributed to “anything” because she identified as asexual.
“It’s just how I am,” she explained. “I always waiting to feel feelings that everyone else talked about, but I just never got there.”
Raphael Santiago – Shadowhunters
Supernatural drama Shadowhunters introduced audiences and fans to many LGBT+ characters, including asexual vampire Raphael (David Castro).
Raphael admitted his feelings for Isabelle “Izzy” Lightwood (Emeraude Toubia) – a warrior who defends the supernatural and human worlds in New York – in the second season.
In an intimate moment, he declared he hadn’t felt “this way about anyone in a long, long time”. When she pressed him to kiss her, he proclaimed his feelings weren’t “like that” before admitting he’s “just not interested in sex”.
Izzy questioned if his transformation into a vampire “made [him] his way”, but he said he had “always been like this”.
According to GLAAD, Raphael was the only asexual character on cable TV in the 2017-18 season, while BoJack Horseman‘s Todd was the only asexual character on a streaming service in the same time period.
Lord Varys – Game of Thrones
In 2014, Game of Thrones confirmed Lord Varys (Conleth Hill), a prominent character in the series, was asexual. Varys was a eunuch, espionage expert and skilled manipulator in royal courts.
The show went out of its way to not conflate asexuality with being a eunuch as Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) had a relationship and eventually had sex with another character.
Varys’ identity was explored in a surprisingly open conversation with Oberyn Martell (Pedro Pascal). Oberyn asked the spymaster if he was attracted to the same sex “before”, but Varys just shook his head and admitted he wasn’t “interested in girls either”.
Oberyn semeed shocked by Varys’ response, saying: “Everybody is interested in something”. However, Varys said he’s “very glad to have no part in it” because he has seen “what desire does to people, what it’s done to this country”.
Liv Flaherty – Emmerdale
Emmerdale has led the way in UK asexual representation with character Liv (Isobel Steele).
Liv began to struggle with her sexuality in 2017 when her best friend Gabby Thomas (Rosie Bentham) commented that she didn’t seem into boys. She eventually opened up to Belle Dingle (Eden Taylor-Draper), sharing that she isn’t attracted to boys or girls andhinting she might be asexual.
Liv eventually opened up about her asexuality to her brother Aaron Dingle (Danny Miller) in 2019 after he ruined her date with her friend, Jacob Gallagher (Joe-Warren Plant). Aaron felt like he was looking out for his sibling, but Liv explained there was nothing sexual between her and Jacob because he understood she’s asexual.
“I don’t have sexual feelings for people, and that’s alright,” she said. “You can still have romantic feelings and be attracted to people, just not physically.”