Asexual (and Autistic!) Representation: Everything's Gonna Be Okay
Everything's Gonna Be Okay came on our radar in the same way Sex Education did: A singular scene that the Ace community kept sharing. Unlike Sex Education, however, this show became a fast favorite of ours for it's nuanced take on both asexual and autistic representation.
- Everything’s Gonna Be Okay
- Everything’s Gonna Be Okay Season 2, Episode 4 | Matilda and Drea Get Back Together | Freeform
- Everything’s Gonna Be Okay Season 2, Episode 6 | Drea's Plan Goes Wrong | Freeform
- Everything’s Gonna Be Okay | Season 2 Finale: Matilda & Drea's Wedding | Freeform
- Josh Thomas, Kayla Cromer, Maeve Press & Adam Faison On Freeform’s “Everything's Gonna Be Okay”
- Lillian Carrier from “Everything’s gonna be Okay” brings her Service dog Luke to the studio!
- Josh Thomas Discovered That He’s Autistic At 33 & Twitter Helped Him Figure It Out
- Gender and sexuality in autism, explained
- Trans Pathways: the mental health experiences and care pathways of trans young people. Summary of results
- Brief Report: Gender Identity Differences in Autistic Adults: Associations with Perceptual and Socio-cognitive Profiles
- Revisiting the Link: Evidence of the Rates of Autism in Studies of Gender Diverse Individuals
Courtney: Hello everyone and [lightly singing] welcome back to the pod. My name is Courtney. I’m here with my spouse Royce. Together, we are The Ace Couple. And I’ve got a little case of the sillies today, because we are going to be talking about my new favorite TV show, and that is Everything’s Gonna Be Okay. Let me give you a little bit of backstory. Here’s why we watch this show. And we came into it – two seasons were already recorded and published. It actually got canceled after two seasons, so that is all we have to go off of. So we came in a little late to the game, and solely because various asexual places on the internet were praising the asexual representation in the show. More specifically, I saw people talking about one specific scene. So that was enough for me to say, “Hey, let’s look into this and see if it’s any good.” But considering the fact that I saw the same screenshot of the same characters, I saw gifs of the same character, people referencing a specific scene over and over and over again, I honestly did not have high hopes at all. I thought we were going to have another situation like we did with Sex Education, which, if you’ve been a listener of our podcast long enough, you know we weren’t too fond of Sex Education. It was quite tokenistic and just downright not [emphatically] good enough. So I fully thought this was going to be another situation like that. But I am so thankful to say that that was not the case. I loved this show, not only for the asexual representation. There was, hands down, the best autistic representation I’ve seen on TV to date. And it was just generally a very good show. It was heartwarming. There were moments where I was literally crying from both sadness and happiness, and I was laughing out loud. I had the full range of emotions watching this show. So I’m very excited to talk about it here today. Royce, where do we even start?
Royce: Probably with the pilot? I mean, are we talking about topics in a particular order? Or are we just going through the series? I agree with you that I think that the asexual representation was well done. I am kind of surprised that given the amount of air time that this character has – she was a prominent character in the series – that that one, individual scene was what was repeated so frequently.
Courtney: Because there’s more to it than just that one scene!
Royce: Right. There’s plenty to pull from. I also had the same feelings as you did, that this was easily the best autistic rep that I’ve seen, particularly because a couple of the most central characters are somewhere on autistic spectrum, and they’re in different areas of the autistic spectrum. And that’s actually called attention to and discussed.
Courtney: Mhm. Mhm.
Royce: Outside of all that, I was thinking about this, and there’s plenty of drama or conflict that comes from relationships in this series.
Courtney: Which we usually don’t like.
Royce: But I think that this cast and this series had better discussions out of any media that we tend to see in relationships.
Royce: To attempt to resolve those issues.
Courtney: Yes, I agree. Absolutely. So yeah, I’m really excited to get into this. So I guess, yeah, let’s start at what the plot is that’s built up in the pilot, so if anyone out there has not seen this, they at least know what in the heck we’re talking about. So the creator of the show is an Australian comedian who we had not heard of before this show. But I absolutely loved the show he made, I loved his performance, so I’m definitely curious to look up more about him from this point forward. But his name is Josh Thomas and he plays the character of Nicholas. Nicholas is a gay man. He’s young, 20-something, and we open with a scene of him meeting a man at a bar and just sort of dumping his childhood trauma on this man in between makeout sessions [laughs], where he’s just sort of going off about how his father left when they were young and his mother drinks a lot now. And his father had this whole new family in America and ended up having two children, one of whom is autistic. And just sort of talking about – well, I guess I already said it – the childhood trauma [laughs] of having a parent leave you and create another family, in this case, halfway across the world. That father and those half sisters are who he is visiting – that is why he is in America – and he is scheduled to go back to Australia the next day.
Courtney: But plans change when his father confesses to him that he has late-stage pancreatic cancer and has not very much time to live. And they have some very difficult conversations about wills and estates and, “Your half-sisters are still minors. Who is going to take care of them?” Because we also learn, at this point, that their mother died when they were young. So he is doing the single father thing to these two young ladies. And it’s just a great episode. I think they handle terminal illness very well and the grief and the discomfort that comes with all of that. But in the end, of course, Nicholas says yes. “I mean, I love my sisters. Of course I will stay here and I will take care of them.” So he is now their guardian. His sisters are both teenagers. There’s Matilda – she is his autistic half-sister who is 17 years old at the opening of the series – and the younger sister Genevieve, who is 14. And then, of course, we also have Nicholas’s new boyfriend, Alex, who, much to his surprise, ends up actually becoming a boyfriend when they thought this was a more casual hookup because he’s going back to Australia. [laughs]
Royce: Yeah, apparently, the childhood trauma didn’t scare him away. Neither did Brand New Boyfriend’s father surprising him with tales of imminent death.
Courtney: Exactly! That’s a keeper if I ever heard of one [laughs]. And yes, there were really hilarious moments interwoven with really devastating and emotional moments. I was also watching this first episode, and while Nicholas was talking about his father and his autistic half-sister, and just the way he was interacting with other people in the world, there was half a second where I was sitting there and I was like, “Is he autistic too, and he just doesn’t know it yet?” And we’re gonna put a pin in that, for a moment.
Courtney: So we do not get the asexual representation right off the bat. So I suppose first, let’s talk about the autistic representation we get with this character of Matilda. The actress is Kayla Cromer. And [laughs] anytime I see an autistic character on TV or movies, the first thing I do is look up the actor to see if they themselves are also autistic. And this is the first time I ever saw that she is in fact on the autism spectrum! Hooray! There’s a good reason for that. It’s because she is the first autistic actress to have a starring role in television in history, period. When did this first come out? I mean, it’s 2022 now. When did this air? This aired in 2020. 2020! That seems so late. Why? Why. And we’ve watched a couple of things that have had autistic portrayals that have been kind of uncomfortable to watch. What was that show that we started watching and only got in two or three episodes before I was like, “Mm-mm.”
Royce: Was that Atypical?
Courtney: Oh, yes! That is what it was called. Yeah, we started watching Atypical on the recommendation that yes, the main character is autistic, I was curious. And it had a couple of moments that seemed pretty accurate. But I was also just feeling increasingly more uncomfortable while I was watching it and I was like, [uncomfortably] “There’s something not quite right about this.”
Royce: From what I remember, it felt to me like they were using the inability to notice social cues as a means to basically do cringe comedy –
Royce: – where the autistic character was doing things that were very socially inappropriate.
Courtney: Yeah. Yeah. Yes. And I mean, yeah, don’t get me wrong – I didn’t stick that show out, so I don’t know if it improved from the first couple episodes. But I kind of learned all I needed to know when we looked up that actor and he’s like, “Oh, yeah. He’s not autistic.” [laughs] So it’s really awful. We need to stop casting allistic people as [laughs] autistic spectrum characters. If you are not hip to this lingo, allistic is the opposite of autistic. You also might hear neurotypical versus neurodiverse or neurodivergent, which is of course where I’m sure they got this title, “Atypical,” pretty self-explanatory there. But we… Ohhh. Then there was that Sia movie. [laughs]
Royce: Oh, I didn’t watch that one.
Courtney: [painfully] Ohhh.
Royce: I remember you discussing it a little bit.
Courtney: Did you hear me screaming from the other room, because oh, it was painful.
Royce: Yes, and I vaguely remember discussing it with you afterwards, but it’s been a while.
Courtney: Yeah, that was painful. Sia made a movie called Music. I was 100% confident before watching it that it was going to be awful, which is why we, [singsong] ummm… acquired it by means that didn’t, you know, monetarily support anyone.
Royce: As you do.
Courtney: As you do. [laughs] Which was a good call, because it was horrendous. Maddie Ziegler, a [laughs] famously not-autistic dancer, played the character named Music, who is an autistic girl, nonverbal. It was… it was a lot. It was so bad. And there was so much sensory overload in that movie too. It would break into these music videos where, you know, Music – the girl’s name is Music – would, you know, put on her headphones and go into her own world, and her own world would be bright and colorful and loud and flashy, and lots of people moving, lots of people dancing. It was not good. And I can’t even begrudge Maddie Ziegler, because she was very young when she was casted for this role. But Sia should have known better. Everyone else involved in this movie should have known better. I’m not going to turn this whole episode into a rant session about that movie, but those are examples of not good autistic representation that we get.
Courtney: So to find out that this actress, Kayla Cromer, is in fact, autistic herself – you can just tell. If you have autism, if someone you love has autism, you can just feel that it is better representation. Because she is still an actress, she is still acting, but there is an authenticity to it because she’s bringing firsthand experience to the table. And that was really what they were going for. The show creator has said in interviews that they, right off the bat, decided that, “We are going to cast an autistic actress. We are going to put the casting call out saying we are looking for actors with autism.” And then he talked to the autistic actors on set. He consulted with them. He took their advice into consideration. He would even use facets of their own personal experience and integrate that into the characters and into the script. And it really reads that way, in a way that I have not seen with autistic portrayal on television before. So I was already really ecstatic. But what was really interesting about what they did with this character was her sexuality. Because she is an autistic 17-year-old. She is also allosexual. She is not the ace character in the show. But she watches a lot of movies, and she has an older brother, who is now her guardian, who is a gay man who is quite open about sexuality. And a combination of all those things, she she has sort of integrated the concept of being sex-positive into her personality, but she doesn’t have experience. So she wants that experience, and, as the character would say, “My sexuality is budding.” And they kind of even use that to tackle some really kind of uncomfortable gray areas.
Royce: They did. Because Nicholas gets into a very difficult situation because Matilda does go to a party and approach someone and have sex with them. And he has to ride this line of, “An 18-year-old boy just had sex with my 17-year-old sister. She says it was consensual.” And he has to ride this line of, “Does she have the autonomy to make this decision? Or was this the case of someone taking advantage of her?”
Courtney: Yeah, and that’s a very difficult thing too, because it’s not just a question of the autism, because I’d be really upset if they were focusing way too hard on that – like “an autistic person cannot consent” because that would be straight up harmful.
Royce: It was also at a party with a lot of alcohol involved.
Courtney: Yes, so she had consumed alcohol, and she had also kind of just had her heart broken by a boy that she had a crush on, who… He was not overtly leading her on, but it is fair to say that she was misreading the situation a little bit and thought that there might be something between them. And when he quite gently lets her down, she really, really gets upset. So she is crying and she is drunk, and she kind of came to this party with the intention of having sex. And the person she did have sex with was 18. So, 18 and 17 is inherently a gray area because legally, definitionally, that is statutory rape. But it’s also maybe only the difference of a couple of months.
Royce: Yeah, they’re in the same grade at school.
Courtney: Yes. So there are a lot of… it’s gray on top of gray [laughs] here, because yes, she’s the one who approaches him and was like, “I would like to have sex with you now. I have a condom. Do you need one?” [laughs], so…
Royce: Right. But the story that Nicholas ends up hearing is, “Slightly older guy had sex with my drunk sister at a party and then told her to not tell anyone about it.”
Courtney: Yeah. Yeah. And I think every character with the knowledge that they had of the situation reacted appropriately, which is why this was such an interesting scene to see play out. Because Matilda was here being like, “I was not taken advantage of. I asked him and I wanted it. Why won’t anyone believe me?” But other people are only getting the worst possible reading of the situation. And it’s already gray because of everything we mentioned. So of course, older brother’s also going to be protective. Younger sister is also going to be protective.
Royce: Yeah, that’s how we got into this situation. She ran up to Older Jock Guy and punched him in the abs and hurt her hand.
Courtney: [laughs] She’s so tiny!
Royce: And so she’s about to get suspended for hurting herself punching someone.
Royce: And that’s why Nicholas is in the situation in the first place.
Courtney: Yeah. Yeah. So, it was quite an interesting scene. Because I was also almost waiting for them to mess up and ride too closely on the line of, “She cannot consent because she’s autistic.” And they approached that line, but I don’t think they crossed it. It was very unique in just the entire handling of the situation.
Royce: What happened, I think, was that Nicholas’s inclination was to not believe that she could have made this decision under those circumstances, but then whenever he would actually talk to Matilda, he would have to walk that back.
Royce: And so you see him struggle and then eventually yield that his sister can make her own decisions.
Courtney: Yeah, because then she’d straight up ask him and say, “This is actually what happened from my perspective. Did I get taken advantage of or not?” And then he’d have to be sitting there, like, “I don’t know, and I don’t think I can tell you that. [Courtney laughs] That’s not my call to make.” So, you can like – the discomfort from this character is palpable in that situation. But now, I mean, Matilda had sex. She is feeling good about it. She’s very analytical. She’s like, “Yes, that was acceptable. I think if we practice, we could be even better. [Courtney laughs] I think we’ve got a lot of room to grow.” And of course that jock guy is not – that’s not gonna happen again – but she’s like, “The doors are open. I am now a sexual being.” So she approaches not one, but two other autistic classmates and just straight-up asks to have a threesome with them. [laughs]
Royce: And they are both like, “Okay?” And also very uncomfortable.
Courtney: [laughs] Yes. So, that was… Because the thing is, they also kind of worked out – because Nicholas couldn’t quite tell her whether or not the previous situation was okay or not, but also kind of explained to her that, “I can’t give you black and white rules on some of these things.” Which is what she was really – she’s like, “Tell me the rules. If I know the rules, I can follow them.” And he was like, “Babe. I can’t tell you. Like, this isn’t black and white.” So they kind of worked out a system where she was like, “Well, why don’t I consult you before I’m about to have sex with someone and [Courtney laughs] you can tell me if this is an acceptable arrangement?” And they kind of just go with that for lack of a better option. So she’s just, “Hello, older brother. Yes, I am inviting two classmates over and we are going to have a threesome. Is that all right?” [laughs] And even though he’s uncomfortable, she’s like, “I thought we were sex-positive in this house.” And he’s like, “Well, we are! [nervously groans].” So I think it was the right amount of gray area and discomfort and comedy for it to work. I can see so many situations where that would have gone so bad, just all of this, everything we’re talking about, but for me, it worked. So she invites a boy and a girl over. Don’t remember the boy’s name because he was a much, much more minor character, but he was very quickly like, “No. No, I’m not. I’m out.”
Royce: He was shown to have feelings for her, I believe in the pilot.
Courtney: He did ask her out, and she turned him down.
Royce: And it seemed like her turning him down was a thing that happened frequently and consistently. Like she got asked a lot. And he came along, and it came up to that moment, and he had to leave the room.
Courtney: Yes. Because yes, I think it was like, “Okay, how do we start?” And Matilda here is just like, “Yes, I am hosting. I am leading this party.” And she’s like, “Well, I thought we would begin with oral sex,” just very matter-of-fact. And she’s like, “Why don’t you take your shirt off?” And he goes to take his shirt off, but then immediately puts it back on and was like, “No, I’m sorry,” and leaves the room. And he’s like, “You two have fun.” [laughs]
Royce: Yeah, but then he walks out into the kitchen to Nicholas and Boyfriend, like, making out on the kitchen counter and is just like…
Courtney: Poor thing! I felt just so bad for him.
Royce: Just paralyzed.
Courtney: Honestly, I probably would have done exactly the same thing he did. Because he – yes, he walks out into the kitchen. [laughs] Nicholas and his boyfriend are making out on the countertop. So he just backs up into the hallway again between the closed door of the bedroom and between the kitchen, and he just sits down [laughs] and just stays quiet and doesn’t move. And it’s like, honestly, when I was his age, that’s probably exactly what I would have done. I would like to think that at this point in my life, I am sex-positive enough, I’ve got enough social skills and humor to gracefully navigate such a situation.
Royce: What is graceful navigation of such a situation?
Royce: Is it walking into the room and pretending like it’s no big deal? Or making everyone uncomfortable? Or exiting the building?
Courtney: Well, um…
Royce: ’Cause that’s what I’d do. I’d walk outside.
Courtney: Yeah, you would just leave. I really like making people feel uncomfortable, within reason. [laughs]
Royce: What – so –
Courtney: I like being weird to people.
Royce: So this wouldn’t have worked for our character in the story. But two gay men were making out, and he just left one threesome, and he could have been like, “Well, that one didn’t work for me. How about I join you two?”
Courtney: [laughing] “Maybe this one! Two girls didn’t work, but two boys… Hmm…” No, absolutely not! He’s still in high school. How dare you? [laughs] No, as much as I’d like to say I’d be able to be funny, play it off, I would be incredibly uncomfortable in this very sexually charged house. [laughs] So, poor thing. So it is Matilda and her other guest, who is named Drea. Drea’s someone we’ve seen a couple of times. Up until this point, she was a more minor character. But from this point on… They actually had a little scene there, which – if you ignore the fact that this poor boy is just cowering outside of the door – it’s actually kind of sweet because their conversation is very what it needed to be for a sexual situation with a new person. Because they were talking about, “This is what I need,” in a way that I think is very natural for a lot of autistic people, but also not very natural for a lot of other people [laughs]. Because Drea, for example, has hyposensitivity, which is a massively decreased sensitivity to sensory input. So when Matilda is touching her, even if they’re just hugging or if they’re just kissing, she says, “I need a lot of pressure.” And so it shows Matilda navigating that and, you know, squeezing her really tight. And I just think that’s a really nice touch, because hyposensitivity is something that a lot of people with autism have. But that’s a really good way to not only add that extra layer of a common component of autism, but also to use it in the “Here is a healthy boundary-setting expectation” conversation.
Royce: Right. As I mentioned, this show showed a lot of aspects of healthy relationships that we don’t often see, in this first encounter, they spoke of needs and expectations right off the bat.
Courtney: Yes. Drea also has a service dog. And here is the very, very cool part of that. The actress playing Drea is Lillian Carrier. She is also autistic. That is her real life service dog. And she had actually auditioned for the part of Matilda for the very first pilot. And she went into the audition with her service dog, because he comes with her everywhere, and the casting director, the show creator, really, really liked it and were maybe even considering, you know, “Could our lead character Matilda have a service dog?” And although she did not end up getting the part, Josh Thomas called her and said, “If this goes to series, I am going to write a character for you, and she is also going to be autistic, and she is going to also have a service dog.” And that’s what happened! And it’s great. Everything about this is wonderful. Because I really need writers to integrate more real life experience into their scripts. And the only way to do that is to hire those people with those experiences for those roles and talk to those people, hire consultants. And here’s the really, really lovely thing now, because what’s better than one autistic character? Two autistic characters! Because autism is also a spectrum. In fact, if we’re speaking purely diagnostically, from like a DSM standpoint, you might occasionally see people shorthand the diagnosis to ASD, meaning autism spectrum disorder. But while we’re speaking about it here, we personally are just going to say “the autism spectrum.” And even though there are a lot of underlying autism characteristics that do share a lot of similarities, there are a range of traits and they can manifest in vastly different ways in different people. So if you have two autistic characters, that is going to be a much more rich experience for the audience to learn about autism, because Drea and Matilda do not all have exactly the same autistic traits. Drea is the only one who mentions hyposensitivity, for example. She also just off-handed mentioned several other things, like Crohn’s disease at one point. And so you start to see a little more of the spectrum because you have two different experiences to draw from.
Courtney: And [singsong] here’s the best part: they become girlfriends! And that – I guess I haven’t looked this up, but I have to imagine that is the first autistic queer couple on TV. I don’t watch a lot of TV, but I feel like if there was another queer autistic couple, I would have heard about it somewhere. Like, it would have to be. And if it’s not, it’s at least the first one where the characters are actually portrayed by autistic actors. So we love this. And then we really get to start exploring this couple a little bit deeper, in new and unexpected ways! So of course this aired in 2020, so they filmed it well before then. But when they got renewed for a second season, now it is pandemic time. And they actually did integrate that into the show. They had social distancing. They had, you know, just going wild in the house, haven’t been out anywhere, haven’t seen anybody. And you also have Matilda, who is very much just locked away in her room. She hasn’t come out. She isn’t talking to anybody. A lot of this seems to be depression. She’s actually a very talented pianist and had hopes of going to Juilliard for her music, but later learned that she was not able to cope with living in New York on her own. So the entire family sort of assumes that that is the only reason she’s distancing herself from everyone and sort of lashing out if they try to come in and pull her out and thinking she’s just sort of in a funk after not being able to go to school. But when her younger sister starts looking on her laptop, she sees a whole bunch of Google questions that are things along the lines of like, “How do I know if I’m a lesbian?” And apparently, there are a lot of questions along these lines. And when she finally does see Drea again, her girlfriend who she has ghosted for several weeks at this point also, she still maintains the, like, social distancing, “We are not going to touch, we’re not coming close to each other.” And so everyone’s noticing, “Is that kind of weird? It’s the first time you’ve seen your girlfriend in a long time.” So all of this social distancing combined with the Google results, the family starts to think, “Oh, no, maybe our sister is straight.”
Royce: Tragedy! Disaster!
Courtney: “Oh, no, we have a straight in the family. Whatever will we do?” So they decide to have a conversation with her, because at this point they’re thinking, “Poor Drea is a lesbian who’s in a relationship with a straight girl and she doesn’t know.” And they were also coming at it from the very allosexual lens of, “If you are not sexually attracted to your partner, you need to break up with her. You have an obligation to break up with her. Because obviously, you are just stringing her along otherwise.” And they have this conversation with her. And she’s not happy, but she kind of accepts their word for it and says, “This is what I need to do.”
Courtney: So Matilda invites Drea over to break up with her. And Drea seems a little upset and says, “Okay, I should go.” But Matilda at that point just apologizes and says, “I’m sorry that I’m not attracted to women.” And this here is the one scene that I see referenced every time, so I thought this was going to be the one singular scene. But Drea says, “It’s not your fault. And by the way, I don’t think I’m attracted to anybody. I think I might be asexual.” And at first Matilda is confused and says, you know, “What do you mean by that?” And Drea explains that all of the previous times that they have had sex was only enjoyable for her in the sense that it was a way for the two of them to be close, but she also adds the caveat of, “I didn’t feel any closer to you having sex as I do when we just hug or when I watch you practice your piano,” which I think is very, very good. Because I mean, if you’ve been online for half a second as an out asexual, you have no doubt seen people express the idea that asexuals do not have sex, and while some don’t, others might. And that right there is one perfectly reasonable reason why some asexuals might. So I love that they drew attention to that and gave her the space to express why she did and how she actually feels about it.
Courtney: And so, as Matilda’s kind of parsing this out, she says, “Well, so that means I don’t want to have sex with you. And you don’t want to have sex with me.” And Drea’s just like, “Yeah, exactly.” [laughs] And it’s kind of this cute little moment while they’re just trying to individually think about what this actually means, practically. So Drea, who clearly does not want to break up – and technically Matilda doesn’t either, she was kind of talked into it by her family – but Drea says, you know, “Would you still want to be my girlfriend if you could have sex with other people?” And Matilda basically just says, “Yeah, I cannot think of anything better than that. If I can be with you romantically, but I can continue to have casual and safe sex with a whole bunch of men, that would be perfect. That’s all I want out of life.” [laughs] She’s very excited about this prospect. And Drea is excited too. She starts giggling and she’s like, “Me neither. This sounds great.” So then they decide that they’re both girlfriends again. And even though that scene in isolation is so short, I think they kind of hit every nail on the head that they needed to.
Royce: Well, they’ve just confirmed that Drea is asexual, and they’ve alluded to Matilda being either bi or panromantic heterosexual, and they navigated it in a way that their relationship can still function.
Courtney: Yes, because they even do, I believe, at one point, use the term “homoromantic asexual” when Drea’s explaining her experience to someone else at a later time. And, you know, I don’t see any reason why Matilda can’t be homoromantic heterosexual. Did they actually show her having romantic feelings toward someone who is not a woman at any point?
Royce: That’s true. I guess when the season opens, she is seen attempting to court a couple of guys, but it isn’t explicitly mentioned if there are romantic feelings involved, or if she was going purely based off of aesthetics.
Courtney: Off of her budding sexuality! So that’s absolutely great. And they also work out this situation where… mmm, help me out with the words here. It’s not polyamory in the sense that they are dating other people, because their agreement is that it is casual sex with other people, no romance involved.
Royce: I think you would just call that an open relationship.
Courtney: Open relationship.
Royce: I believe they discuss matters beforehand. We only see one attempt happen on screen and it gets very uncomfortable for Nicholas –
Courtney: [laughs] Yes.
Royce: – but goes through. And we hear that it continues after the fact but we don’t see as much of it.
Courtney: Right. Right, which is also very interesting because she is still living at home. Nicholas is still her guardian. And what they’ve kind of worked out is that Drea is to be in the house. And so she is present, but just not part of what’s happening. She’s, like, off in the living room while those two are in the bedroom. So that gives Drea and Nicholas some time to just start talking together too. And Nicholas doesn’t really understand. He’s like, “Aren’t you jealous?” And she even admits, “Yeah, I am jealous, but I don’t think jealousy is a very useful emotion, and I would rather be with her and deal with this jealousy sometimes than not be with her at all,” basically is what that conversation boiled down to. So I also liked that they added that component to it, because people have varying capacities for open relationships. And sometimes that does come with messy, muddy feelings, and they even touched on that a little bit. They also had this moment where… I couldn’t decide if I was upset about it or not, but after she hooked up with a guy and he left, they had predetermined a cleansing ritual that they were going to do.
Royce: Yeah! She immediately took a shower and then burned some incense, and they, like –
Courtney: Oh, it was not incense. They full on had sage.
Courtney: That’s the part where I was like, “Oh, no, they are not like smudging the heterosexual sex out of her.” [laughs] Ugh, that was the one part where I was trying to suss it out, too. Because I was like, “I don’t like showing the appropriation of burning sage as a cleansing thing in all of these white people right now.” And I wasn’t as mad at it as I could have been only because, yeah, the sad thing is, it was very realistic. That doesn’t make it better, but it was realistic, because Drea’s character had also expressed interest in, you know, metaphysical things, spiritual things. She had books teaching about tarot reading and chakras and just a variety of different ritualistic things. And so it seemed in line with her character to do. I would also 100% not expect a high school teenage white autistic girl to know the full racial ramifications or implications of that. So I was like, “I don’t want to be mad at a teenager doing this for that reason.” And then part of me was like, “Where’s the adult that’s correcting this behavior?” But then I was like, “Nicholas is Australian. And he’s constantly alluding to the fact that like, ‘I’m not from this country. I don’t know your laws. I don’t know this tax implication.’” And [laughs] I was like, “Would someone in Australia even know about like indigenous American practices?”
Royce: Most Americans don’t.
Courtney: Ahhh! So there was that. [laughs] So could they have done a better ritual? Yes. But I think the concept of, like, a cleansing ritual after the sex is a hilarious concept. I would have 100% been on board if they just took it in a different direction or made their own from scratch, that didn’t draw from another culture, you know? But yeah. So I love that Drea became a more prominent character after the asexual conversation. It was not a one-and-done situation like Florence from Sex Education, like she just disappeared into the ether because she did her little PSA. This is a real character who’s being incorporated into the family. We are seeing different layers of hers. We’re seeing this as an important relationship dynamic. So, kudos, kudos, kudos.
Courtney: I also, at this point, I was like, “Could it be that this actress playing Drea is both autistic and asexual? Could could my dreams have come true that we have an asexual character portrayed by an asexual person?” And no… asterisk. I found an interview where she has a twin sister who is asexual, and [laughs] that’s better than not knowing about asexuality at all before the show. I mean, when I looked up an interview with the actor who played Florence, she was like, “Playing this character really opened my eyes to the different corners of the spectrum of sexuality,” and it’s like, “That sounds an awful lot like you didn’t even know that asexuality was a thing, my dear.” So at least she has someone in her life, very, very close – they literally shared a womb together, [laughs] they are twin sisters, and has grown up with her sister and has like a personal stake in doing good representation. So I 100% cannot be mad about that. So yeah, I just… I love so many things about this show. I love the autistic representation, the asexual representation, and the fact that Drea as a character just becomes more and more important and more and more integrated into the story for the remainder of the series, since they cut it off after two.
Courtney: There are a couple of other nice little additions to the show that are really refreshing to see but just aren’t as prominent as these other things. Alex, the boyfriend, for example, has a Deaf father. So his entire family is conversational in American Sign Language, and it shows them signing with each other. But here is the one thing that after only seeing screenshots and gifts from that one scene where Drea comes out as asexual. Here’s what I was not expecting to see – and I don’t know if people were just holding back because spoilers or if they just didn’t watch that far before they ran to the internet to post. But why did I not know that Drea and Matilda end up getting married?! They get married! Matilda proposes to her. She says yes. They have a gorgeous wedding. It is so good. It is so good! I had no idea. That surprised me.
Royce: Is that the only example of an ace wedding you are aware of in media?
Royce: Well, I guess there is a character in BoJack Horseman, where Todd is speaking to an asexual married couple.
Royce: But that is a very brief, like –
Courtney: Yeah, it doesn’t show a wedding.
Courtney: It shows a married couple who are only named because they shoehorn in the name real quick in a couple of conversations, but.
Royce: Right. They were there to help explain to Todd, and therefore the audience, sort of the ins and outs of the ace spectrum and what is possible for him as an asexual. And they note that their wedding is nautical-themed, and that’s about it.
Courtney: Is that like an ace thing?
Royce: No, man. They just like boats.
Courtney: [laughs] So, it was so good. And, I mean, let me tell you, there was a lot of concern amongst their family members – because of course, Drea’s parents also become characters. They are, you know, the one driving them to see each other. They begin to have regular conversations with Nicholas.
Royce: And the major concern among all the parental figures are, “Where does this go? Can they be in a relationship like this together? What does that look like?”
Courtney: Also, just the fact they’re young. I think that’s the primary concern for a lot of them.
Royce: “They are both 18. Are they jumping into this too quickly? Is this a mistake?” That sort of thing?
Royce: The two women do have an experiment where they go to a cabin out a little ways away from everyone else and have a night or a couple of nights alone, where they basically trial run –
Courtney: Being independent together.
Royce: being independent. Which has its issues, but is a growing moment.
Courtney: It was a growing moment! It was actually so sweet and kind of broke my heart because oh, poor Drea. A few things go wrong – like things are going awry left and right – and Drea just has this really heartfelt moment where she sinks down to the floor and she confesses that she wanted to do this trip for Matilda and wanted to prove to her that she could still be a good girlfriend, and that a lot of her desire to prove herself in this way came from being self-conscious about the fact that they do not have sex, they don’t do some things that other couples do. “And since we don’t do those other couple things, I wanted to prove to you that I can still be a good girlfriend, even though we don’t.” And I’m like, “Oh, Drea!” Oh, it had my heart. And so they do have a very sweet moment. And they begin to pull it back together, and Matilda reconfirms to her that she isn’t going to leave her because they don’t have sex. Which is also such a good way to incorporate the autism and the asexuality and just the self-consciousness of feeling like you aren’t enough for a partner. Which I think people from all over the spectrum of everything – sexuality, neurotypical-ness – like I think everybody can relate to that on some level. And the way they just seamlessly integrated all together into this really great moment is very clever writing.
Courtney: I also should say, before we get into how beautiful the wedding is [laughs] – from what we’ve talked about so far about how the teenagers are exploring their budding sexualities, it might seem a little off the wall because we have Matilda, who is like, “Great. I had sex, now I’m ready for a threesome,” which is a little extreme, but I actually want to walk that back for half a second and give the show kudos for actually being pretty damn realistic in the way teenagers actually talk about sex and sexuality. Because you also have the younger sister, who, for the purposes of this episode, we haven’t talked about a lot, but…
Royce: She is the most heteronormative person in the main cast.
Courtney: [laughs] Yes.
Royce: And is often the stabilizing factor amongst the other people.
Royce: Because Matilda is a… I believe she describes herself as “high-functioning autistic.”
Courtney: She does, which, I don’t love that they –
Royce: Is that a dated term?
Courtney: Yeah. Yeah. So I’m glad you brought that up, because that’s another situation where, for the sake of the audience, I’m not jazzed about it; for the sake of the character, who is just 17, it makes sense that she has heard that in her life and is now saying it and repeating it for herself. Because she does at one point say “I’m high functioning” as a way of saying, like, “Yes, I can do this.” “High-functioning” is kind of a… it’s – don’t – just don’t. So yeah. Yeah. But to just – real fast, and then we’ll get back to the main point here – the way that the younger sister, who is the the most neurotypical, the most heterosexual, she has a group of girlfriends, and they’re 14-year-old girls. And they have very realistic conversations about, like, what sexually charged 14-year-old girls talk about. Because I recall being an asexual 14-year-old girl, being in the room while those conversations were happening and being like, “I… don’t understand.” [laughs] But yeah, it’s awkward at times and uncomfortable. But whereas other teenage sex shows, like, show these incredibly sexually confident, modelesque teenagers who are going at each other all the time and experimenting with kink and getting lingerie and like… not being realistic teenage sex experiences at all, this has –
Royce: Yeah, they cast and write for young adults in their late teens or early 20s. And then just call them teens.
Royce: Because for some reason, high school students are a more common or acceptable TV character than college students.
Courtney: Yeah. And I’ve got a lot of issues with some of those teen sex shows, [laughs] but… I mean, this show doesn’t do that, even though teen sex is a topic. It’s more realistic because it’s got a 14-year-old girl who’s like, “I just looked at my butthole in the mirror yesterday. Did you know they looked like that?” And then everyone’s like, “Wait, what?” [laughs] And so that’s actually something I can buy that 14-year-old girls are sitting around [laughs] talking about, at least the risque ones or the ones who are like, “Ooh, let’s get a little saucy tonight, and…”
Royce: “And compare who has hair and if that’s normal.”
Courtney: Yes, things of that nature. Or, like, “Ooh, I got this really hot boy’s number. [furtively] Should we ask him if he’ll send a dick pic?” And then one’s like, “Oh, no, he asked me for a nude. What do I do? Well, I’m not going to send a nude.” “Find one on the internet.” And they’re both together scrolling through the internet, and they’re like, “What’s a vagina that’s not mine, but I could realistically see it being mine, like he’s not going to think it’s a fake.” And then they’re like, “Look at all the vaginas. What do they all – They all look so different!” [laughs]
Royce: Wasn’t there a discussion of what the room favorite vagina was? “Like, what’s the best vagina that we can send?”
Courtney: [laughs] Yeah! So, it’s awkward, and since everyone’s figuring it out, you’re having these awkward conversations with other people who are also figuring it out. So it’s much more realistic. And they don’t have these full-on sex scenes with the teenagers. Even the scene with Drea and Matilda when they, you know, go to have sex, they kind of do a cutaway. Like they showed them laying down into the bed and then they cut to another character. So you’re not just watching them have sex for five minutes.
Royce: Yeah, I think there’s nothing explicit in this show, period, with any of the characters.
Courtney: Yeah, so kudos to that show [laughs] for being realistic in those ways that increasingly I’m seeing is a rarity in shows that have characters in this demographic. But, I mean, that might be a good segue, because we mentioned the younger sister is the straightest but also the most neurotypical in the family. Remember at the beginning of this episode when I was looking at the character of Nicholas and I was like, “Is he autistic? [laughs] I think he might be autistic.” Hey, surprise! He’s autistic!
Royce: And by “he” you mean both the character and the actor, who is also the writer for the show?
Courtney: Yes, everybody’s autistic and we love that for them! Yeah. Yeah, so he – I mean, he stars in it, he writes for it, he serves as the showrunner, producer. He very much seems to be the show. Josh Thomas – Joshua Thomas is his name. And yes, he actually, in real life, got diagnosed with autism in 2021. So presumably, as an extension of him having this experience, as being diagnosed as an adult, incorporated that into the show. His character then is also diagnosed. And the way that happens is very, very interesting. Because it’s actually right after Matilda proposes to Drea. That kind of starts his journey. Because everyone’s a little uncomfortable. Everyone still kind of thinks they’re a little bit too young to do this, but they’re also at a point where they can’t just say no, because she is 18, she can make her own decisions. And there’s even a very sweet moment where, as the older brother, he takes her to a security deposit box that has some of her deceased mother’s belongings that, of course, their deceased father handed to him to give to them when the time is right. And one of them includes her mother’s wedding band or her engagement ring – I think they said wedding ring, but it was diamondy and sparkly, it wasn’t just a band. And he basically handed it to her as a means of hoping maybe it would talk her out of it by saying, “This, you know, is your family history, and if you really think that Drea’s the one to join our family and be a part of that history, if you think she deserves this ring, then you can have it.” And that fully convinces Matilda. She’s like, “I wanted to marry her before, but now I know. Yes, this is – you convinced me even more.” But she keeps the ring too. She’s like, “Actually, I think this ring looks better on me, and we’ll get a different one for Drea.” [laughs] Which I also just thought was very funny. I was almost waiting for them to say that Drea didn’t want a wedding ring because she does have her sensory issues.
Royce: There was a scene – I forget exactly what they were doing, but they were going through Matilda trying to get her to change clothes, and there was a series of, “I can’t wear this because it feels like this to me” or “This is uncomfortable” or “This isn’t tight enough.”
Courtney: Mhm. Yeah, she wears very tight clothing, so she didn’t want to wear a pretty frilly dress. And so I didn’t know how jewelry was going to incorporate into that, but that didn’t end up being an issue. But at any rate, Matilda proposes and Drea says yes. And at that moment, the boyfriend, Alex, has kind of a crisis of, “Oh, no, I can’t do this anymore, because I think we are inevitably heading toward a breakup. And if we are still in this relationship come wedding time, someone’s going to invite me into the picture and say, ‘Alex, get over here. You’re part of the family too,’ and then I’ll be in those pictures even though I know I shouldn’t be. And then, in 10 years from now, people are going to look at those pictures and be like, ‘Who’s that weird guy?’” And he’s like, “I can’t have that,” and kind of just breaks up with him right then and there. But this came as a tremendous shock to Nicholas because Nicholas did not realize that Alex was starting to be unhappy in the relationship. And I think they described it as being like, “We’re in two different movies.” And Nicholas is stunned. He doesn’t really know how he has felt like everything is fine and everything’s great, and they weren’t on the same page after all.
Royce: And this has been consistently shown throughout the series, that Nicholas doesn’t seem to fully comprehend what is going on with Alex or doesn’t know how to resolve conflicts in a way that is…
Royce: – satisfactory to Alex.
Courtney: Yeah. Yeah. So this isn’t new. They don’t spring it out of nowhere. You saw some of the issues they were having, but it also wasn’t so, so bad at this point that you were like, “100% they’re going to break up right now.” But I can kind of see how the pressure of, like, “Oh, we’re adding a new member of the family in” is gonna set those alarm bells off a little higher. And it’s actually – and I thought this was a nice touch – it’s actually Drea’s mother, who, of course, has now raised an autistic child who is now 18 and now about to get married, who walks in on Nicholas, who is distraught, on the floor, unhappy, doesn’t really know why what just happened happened. And she’s the first one to say, “It seems to me that you are autistic.” And at first he rejects it outright. He’s like, “Of course I’m not autistic. My sister is autistic. And I’m not like my sister.”
Courtney: And that led to what is maybe my favorite line, where the youngest sister kind of gets brought into this conversation. And at first, she is like, “No, you can’t be autistic. I’ve lived with Matilda my whole life and I know what autism is.” But then she starts doing some research. And she starts actually reading about the full spectrum of autism and finds a little online test for adult autism. And she goes through and tries to pretend to be him and answer the way that she has observed him responding to things, and the test comes back very clear, and is like “Yeah, you are almost certainly autistic and you should maybe see someone to get a diagnosis formally.” And her line to him, when she tries to convince him to take this test and go see somebody and consider this because this might actually be a thing – she says, “I thought I knew everything about autism but it turns out I just knew everything about Matilda.” And oh, that was so beautiful. That was beautiful.
Courtney: Because even though we already had two prominent established autistic characters who did have some similarities, some differences, operated in slightly different ways with slightly different identities, that’s still not going to show you everything. And I think that one line right there is so powerful. Because that’s also the trap that you get into online where there are like parents of autism, who – a parent who has raised an autistic child might try to engage with actual autistic communities online, and put themselves out as, you know, some kind of expert because “I raised an autistic child, so I know and I get it.” And being close to someone and loving someone with autism is not the same as being an expert, because it can manifest in so many different ways. So just being able to admit that “I am an expert in this person that I love and have lived with my whole life, not their diagnosis” – beautiful. But yeah, Royce, do you have anything to add? Because you were pretty vocal during the scene when they were going through the test. I think there were some things you thought were particularly interesting.
Royce: Well, we in our own lives have had these recurring situations over the past few years, where some behavioral thing has come up and one of us has mentioned it, and the other has been, like, “Really? You do that?”
Royce: And then the other one will say, “Yeah. Doesn’t everyone do that?” And their response will be –
Royce: “No, I don’t do that. I’ve never heard of anyone ever in the history of humanity doing that.” [Courtney laughs] And there’s this one line where Nicholas is taking this test, and he’s clearly a bit defensive. He doesn’t really like the fact that he’s taking this test. I think he’s kind of like – I think he sees it coming, but he’s not willing to accept it yet.
Courtney: He feels personally attacked by some of the questions. [laughs]
Royce: Yes. And there’s one question that’s like, “Are you captivated by running water?” And he’s like, “Why, yes, everyone loves a brook or a waterfall, like, isn’t everyone?”
Courtney: Don’t you love a good brook? [laughs]
Royce: And I thought that exploration was really interesting because we have been there.
Royce: Because I’ve never been captivated by running water. But just the situation – that he was so convinced that the human condition was just to be captivated by water and that’s just how it is – was very familiar.
Courtney: Well, and the thing is, I mean, of course, it’s this way with autism because there are so many people who either never get diagnosed with autism or they get diagnosed as an adult, very late. And when you live your entire life with a different set of rules, operating on a different system than everyone else’s, but you don’t have the language, you don’t have anyone explaining to you what the difference is, you just take for granted that this is just how things are. And the same happens, by the way, with physical disabilities. Take it from me, someone who has lived my entire life with a physical disability. And the word “disabled” did not so much as run across anyone’s lips until I was actually an adult. Like, I just assumed all of my really weird symptoms were completely normal, even though in hindsight, I was in elementary school when I had a doctor who was writing me a note being like – getting me out of gym class, saying, “You shouldn’t be jogging, you should be jumping or jump roping, but no, it’s probably just growing pains.” It’s always that if you don’t have an actual diagnosis, someone will try to rationalize it as something that’s totally normal. So, yeah, so, so many things in my life, whether it be the way my brain operates, or the way my body functions, I waited a comically long time before I realized, “Oh, that’s weird, huh?” [laughs] So, it was really interesting to watch that. I can only imagine that that’s a very relatable scene for people who have been diagnosed as an adult or people who might be speculating – maybe you haven’t gotten a diagnosis yet, but you’re learning a lot more about autism or you’re learning a lot more about ADHD and you’re thinking, “Hmm, that kind of sounds like me.”
Royce: My big one recently was at this point, there were a couple of key factors where I was pretty confident that I had self-diagnosed myself as dyslexic.
Courtney: We are pro self-diagnosis around here.
Royce: And it came from a variety of factors. Like I had observed a couple of things, and then actually studying User Experience, learning about reading abilities – I was actually trying to redesign something at work, and I started looking up studies on how people actually read, where I was actually introduced to the broader diagnoses of the dyslexic umbrella where I thought, “Okay, that fits.” But then more recently, I found that a common sign of having dyslexia is not being able to tie your shoes as a kid. And that was the first time I had ever read that. And 100% –
Courtney: You were like, “Oh, that me!” [laughs]
Royce: The only person in my kindergarten class who could not tie their shoes. That was supposed to be graduating kindergarten criteria, but I slipped past it and didn’t learn how to do it for another I-don’t-know-how-many years.
Courtney: And now you have, like – everything makes sense now.
Courtney: Yeah, self-diagnosis. I mean, I know there are people who say, like, [mock whiny] “Google isn’t a substitute for a medical degree,” and there will be doctors who are telling you, like, “Don’t go on WebMD, go to a doctor.” As someone who has a rare syndrome and rare diagnoses, I wouldn’t have half of the formal on-paper diagnosis-is-es that I have if I didn’t self-diagnose first. And it’s not just a matter of, you know, trolling WebMD. If you’re on WebMD or Wikipedia and something is speaking to you, seek out other people in that community. And then if you start reading their stories and engaging, maybe asking some questions, and then it’s seeming to fit more and more, you have a really strong self-diagnosis on your hands. And [strained] at least in our medical system in the US, sometimes, that’s the way to go. So, yeah, it was very interesting to see that.
Courtney: And I don’t know if this comedian-slash-actor-showrunner – if this just blindsided him and came out of the blue. I don’t know if there was an autistic person in his life who was telling him, “Hey, maybe you are.” Or maybe he’s kind of speculated for a few years. Maybe it’s been in the back of his head as “I kind of tick some of these boxes, huh? That’s interesting.” Because I’ve also kind of seen that for some people, there’s kind of a, “‘All of my best friends are autistic’ to ‘Oh wait, I’m autistic too’ pipeline.” So I don’t know if that was the kind of situation. But I thought it was so interesting that I pegged him as autistic in the very first episode and it wasn’t until near the end of the second season that both the actor and the character get diagnosed with autism. Called it.
Courtney: So now, let’s see if I can explain the wedding scene without crying again. I cried so many tears. It was very, very sweet. They end up going through with the wedding. Matilda’s wearing this gorgeous, big, puffy, flowy, more traditional wedding gown with a big veil. Drea’s wearing a really nice white bridal suit, and you can kind of tell she still has compression sleeves underneath that are poking out into her gloves. And their ceremony is just so beautiful. It is so beautiful. They actually have the autistic boy from their class who they invited to the threesome officiating, which I thought was really, really neat, as a way to tie him back in, because we hadn’t actually seen him for a while. We didn’t see a lot of new characters or a lot of recurring characters in the second season because they were doing the quarantine line.
Courtney: But they have this moment where they turn to their family and they say, “Because of the fact that we’re both autistic, we have had you, as members of our family, really heavily involved in our relationship, sometimes a little more than we’ve been comfortable with or we’ve wanted, so I hope you don’t mind but we’ve decided to keep our vows private, between us.” And then Matilda lifts her big puffy veil over Drea’s head, and they’re just in this big net of a veil talking to themselves with their little vow cards. And they have two really, really talented opera singers who come and stand up and start singing an opera song so that no one can hear them whispering under the veil, and the song is so beautiful. And it keeps cutting back and forth. It will cut to them inside the veil, where you could hear a few words of them saying just really, really sweet things. And then it will cut to the audience where it’ll be like the parents or the siblings crying but you can’t hear actually what they’re saying. And it cuts back and forth, and Courtney’s sobbing the whole time [laughs]. It was so sweet. It was so sweet.
Courtney: And to see this autistic, queer, lesbian, half asexual marriage, with an open clause to it, on a television show was really – I don’t use this word lightly, but it was groundbreaking. And it made me very happy. And then it ended with them taking wedding photos, and they called Alex over. Because Alex lived with them for a long time – like I think it was a year, about – lived with them for about a year. And so, Matilda’s really grown fond of him. She said, “Even if you two aren’t together anymore, I want you at the wedding. You’re still my friend.” And Matilda just calls him over and is like, “Alex, get in this photo.” [laughing] And Alex is like, “No. No, this is my worst fear. I can’t do this.” And she just starts screaming, “Alex. Get over here. I want you in these photos.” And so he, so uncomfortably, meanders over to the photos and becomes a part of them, which is a very funny touch, because this was the exact thing he was worried about. But now the season is over. It’s over – the whole series is. They’re not making any more. It got canceled. I want to yell at whoever canceled this, because now, we’ll never know if Alex and Nicholas are going to get back together. They had a conversation at the wedding where it hinted that Alex wanted to get back together.
Royce: That was settled actually. Nicholas said no.
Courtney: Yeah, Nicholas did say no. There was that conversation. However, I don’t know if they knew they were getting canceled or not when that season ended, but the way they have communicated historically, I think there was still room for more conversation. Because when Alex found out that he actually did get an autism diagnosis, Alex saw this as a very good sign. And he was like, “I am so proud of you for going and getting this diagnosis, and I’ve been thinking, maybe we should give this another shot.” And I think he used the phrase “working on yourself.” “I’m glad to see you’re working on yourself.” And Nicholas was like, “No, I’m not working on myself. I like myself. I’m not changing.” And he kind of just shut the conversation down there, where Alex was still trying to say, “I think I spoke wrong. Like, I didn’t mean that in the way you interpreted that,” kind of a back and forth. And then it was – Nicholas got pulled away really quick to the picture. So I don’t know if that was Nicolas being definitive, done for the rest of eternity, or if they might have had another conversation. But either way, I would have liked to see either them have more conversations or Nicholas try to adapt to being single for the first time since he’s been in America, because that could have also been interesting.
Courtney: And I wanted to see Drea and Matilda as a married couple. I would have loved to see more of that! They did show just a few snips of them preparing to get married and move out on their own. They got a house, and it showed them, you know, testing swatches of paint for color. And so they got their own place. They’re moving out. I mean, I guess I should mention that Nicholas’s dad was very, very wealthy and left them a lot of money, so they are not hurting for any of this, and that’s how they’re able to make that work. But yeah, it was a very good show. I’m glad that we got everything we got from it. I think it could have gone a little longer and still been very valuable, and they would have had new avenues to navigate, I think, but as it stands overall, A+ on the representation. I’m really thrilled with it. I wish I could watch it again for the first time.
Courtney: And while that’s the show, I do want to add a couple of notes about the autism and asexuality intersection. Because what I think they did was very clever, having one asexual autistic character and having one allosexual autistic character. Because I have been a disabled asexual woman online long enough to know that if they only had it one way or the other, a certain percentage of people would have been mad. Because if you have one autistic character who is asexual and that’s your only autistic representation, there will be a horde of people who will be saying, “That is a harmful stereotype and autistic people can and do have healthy and fulfilling sex lives.” And a lot of that comes back to the same thing we’ve talked about on this podcast before, where a lot of disabled people are infantilized. And in cases with a diagnosis like autism, a lot of people who are not autistic start speculating about things like consent, like what this show kind of started to approach, and determining on behalf of someone else that they do not have the ability to consent. Horrible. Very harmful. And although asexuality is not inherently at odds with that line of thinking, because it is its own orientation in and of itself, there are some people who will take it that way. So, there are always going to be people who want to see sexual autistic people or sexual disabled people with another diagnosis.
Courtney: However, if you only have one autistic character and she is hypersexual, there actually are a lot of autistic asexual people, a lot of them. And I want to touch on this a little bit, because while it is still grossly under-studied, there have been some studies about sexual diversity in autistic people. And without any hard numbers that I’m able to share right now, the most recent belief is that asexuality is overrepresented in the autistic community compared to the entirety of the population. And that’s not just asexuality; that is actually all manner of gender and sexual variance. For example, a study of autistic adults in the Netherlands identified that about 15% of autistic adults identify as trans or nonbinary, compared to 5% of adults in the general broader population. In 2018, a study in the United States found that 11.4% of autistic adults said that they wished to be the gender opposite of what they had been assigned at birth, compared with just 3-5% of the general population who said the same thing. Whereas in Australia, a 2018 survey of transgender adolescents and young adults found that 22.5% of them had been diagnosed with autism, compared with the overall 2.5% of all Australians. So numbers are kind of all over the board, but in terms of gender diversity – and of course, gender is not the same as sexual orientation, but still very much included in our LGBTQIA+ umbrella – there are experts who estimate that potentially up to 25.5% of gender-diverse people are autistic. And I often hear people who are in the autism community say things like, “Many people who are autistic do not experience gender in the same way that the average allistic person does.”
Courtney: Now when it does come to sexuality: sexuality, just like gender diversity, does seem to have more variance within the autism population, with one study claiming that only 30% of autistic people identify as heterosexual, compared to 70% of the entire population. So you’re going from a majority of all people are straight, but when you just separate autistic people, a majority actually are not. And finally, I have for you a 2020 study, comprising 247 autistic women reported that about half identified as cisgender, but only 8% reported being exclusively heterosexual. So, even though we do not have quite as many studies homing in on asexuality as an intersection with autism, it can easily be extrapolated that if there is just a broader diversity of gender experiences and sexualities that, of course, asexuality would also factor in there. So I don’t know the numbers. Maybe there is a recent study I haven’t seen yet. But when the old refrain is, “1% of the population is asexual,” you can probably bet that if you take the asexual – you can probably bet that if you take the autistic population, it’s gonna be more than 1%. So, I do think that’s interesting and I do want more studies on this, and I do want more discussion around this. I don’t want people to see it as a trope or a stereotype, but just another integral part of these intersectional experiences.
Courtney: So all in all, we thought it was a great show. We had fun with it. I definitely recommend looking it up. It aired on Freeform, which, I must admit, I had never heard of Freeform until I looked up this show, but it also looks like you can stream it on Hulu these days. We certainly talked about a lot of it, but there’s also just a lot more. It is witty. It is funny. It is very well-written. And I hope we see more representation like this, both for asexuality and for autism. And now that we finally have some autistic actresses in these roles, let’s more of that, please. And my my only plea now is that we please start to get asexual actors and actresses into some of these asexual roles, and that we continue – just more, just more please. [laughs] That’s all I want. Just more. But I think we have thoroughly talked your ear off, so we will end it right there. And we will talk at you all next time. Goodbye.