Aromantic, Asexual Representation? The Owl House

We watched The Owl House because the internet told us there was great AroAce rep. But there...wasn't? The show was cute and undeniably queer. But we should praise it for what's actually shown as opposed to what was “confirmed” off screen.


Courtney: Hello everyone, and welcome back to the podcast. My name is Courtney, I’m here with Royce, and together we are The Ace Couple. And today we are talking about what has to be the queerest cartoon we have ever seen in our lives. And that is The Owl House. Now, straight away, right off the bat, there is a lot to love about this little cartoon. We– We just watched all of it very recently and it was pretty delightful. We– we enjoyed watching it as child-free grown adults watching a cartoon which is mostly geared towards kids. It was a good time and we were glad to see a lot of the representation that we did see in it. I didn’t know much about what to expect going in, but I had seen only vague mentions of it, in and around the online ace community.

Courtney: And I’m sure fans of the show are going to be, I don’t know, maybe a little upset when I say this, but I knew so little about it that I kind of had it associated with another show that I’ve only seen very vague things about. Now keep in mind I am invested in no fandom. I have never been invested in any fandoms. Just personality-wise fandoms don’t work for me. If they work for you, that’s great. But not being engaged at all in fandom discourse, not being the target demographic for either of these shows… I honestly had no idea what the difference was between The Owl House and Steven Universe. I don’t know why in my head I associated them with one another, but they’re both cartoons that are meant to have some level of queer representation. And I had heard vague mentions of there being an ace character in both of them.

Courtney: So, without seeing much or hearing many things, and without, like, researching it and digging in to see what it was, I kind of thought of them interchangeably. That said, we have not seen Steven Universe, if it is worthwhile and we should see it tweet at us and let us know. But we did finally dive into The Owl House. So that is the one we are going to talk about today. So it is worth noting right away that The Owl House is produced by Disney. I assumed it actually aired on the Disney Channel, or was it just directly to the streaming service?

Royce: According to the Wikipedia page it looks like it actually aired on Disney Channel.

Courtney: Okay. So yeah, that has to be the… has to be the queerest show geared towards children on network television, I don’t know. Maybe there are some new ones that are even queerer, but–

Royce: Just doing a quick search, you mentioned Steven Universe, it probably holds that role. We’re just not familiar with it.

Courtney: Okay. Maybe–

Royce: It came–

Courtney: Maybe that’ll be our next one.

Royce: It came first and is a lot longer.

Courtney: Ah...

Royce: I believe it’s finished, completed. If I’m seeing this correctly… Yes, it’s done. But it’s five full seasons with 160 episodes.

Courtney: Wow.

Royce: Whereas The Owl House has 40 right now.

Courtney: Well, so that’s– that’s quite a thing too. Because Disney canceled The Owl House early. And that’s highly suspicious. [emphasis] Highly suspicious. Because essentially, they ordered a second season for it, from what I understand, before the first season even aired. So they had a lot of confidence in this story, in the show creator, Dana Terrace. Right off the bat two seasons. But then, from what I understand, there was meant to be a third season, like the show creators had every reason to believe that there was going to be a third season. But then they canceled it out from under them and a third season was almost not going to happen at all, period…? But there was some kind of negotiation that must have happened because there’s going to be, like, not a full season but some– I don’t know, what’s the deal with that? Like, special episodes?

Royce: There’re going to be three episodes that are of a different runtime length than the usual 30-minute episodes.

Courtney: Gotcha. So those are yet to be released, which is very odd because these are pretty long seasons. So having just three episodes serving as the stand-in for a third season is very strange.

Royce: It’s more like– given three– I think there’s supposed to be three 45-minute episodes so it’s more like, “Hey, we cut off your series. Here’s basically the equivalent of a movie length time to wrap everything up.”

Courtney: Tie up the loose ends. So what that all came down to– because I think if you’re a listener of our podcast you’re probably at least vaguely aware of Disney’s issues when it comes to the LGBTQIA+ community. They are not, you know, they’re not the best allies, are they? They’re really– they’ve got some growing to do. But from everything we can tell, what it came down to with this show was that there was one guy, just one dude, who was like, “This doesn’t really fit the Disney brand.” And just like that, that one guy in a position of power– Might have just outright been the CEO. We don’t know. Just a dude. Waved his hand and had it canceled. So we don’t love that. Because it actually is a very cute show. I thought it was precious. I thought it could have gone on much longer. I think there was a lot more that they could have continued to build and expand upon it.

Royce: That is something about it. We picked this show up because we wanted to talk about it because we had heard some of the rep and not knowing– knowing that it was supposed to be a children show, but not knowing exactly what kind of children show, it was a pleasant surprise. I guess, one thing there is a true plot. Season two pays a lot more attention to that. There seemed to be quite a bit more fluff in season one, like episodes that pose a problem in the beginning of the episode that’s resolved by the end of the episode that doesn’t really move the story along very much.

Courtney: It’s kind of like a hybrid show. It’s partially serialized, in that sense.

Royce: I think that– From what I’ve been reading, I think that the creator had to negotiate a bit more on some of the content in the first season, and season two ended up being more like what they had intended for the show. And I think that’s why–

Courtney: You can kind of tell. You can kind of tell.

Royce: –there was more plot there. Another thing I have noticed that I’ve been thinking about is how some kids’ shows read or feel older than some shows that, like, occupy the same network and time slot. And part of that is, I think, the writing style, the comedy style many times. But also I think that the rating system has a blind spot for horror, particularly like body horror, like weird things. Because I was thinking back to shows that I watched when I was younger and Invader Zim was one that stuck out as very different in its time slot.

Courtney: Yes…!

Royce: And it also had weirdness. Like the aliens were weird. There was a lot of body horror and stuff in there that could have been seen as particularly gruesome or gory in some cases, but it just kind of floated under the radar because it wasn’t–

Courtney: ’Cause it’s a cartoon!

Royce: It’s a cartoon and–

Courtney: And it’s silly!

Royce: And it wasn’t explicitly, like, sexual and there wasn’t cursing. And that and gratuitous violence is really where the things start getting aged up.

Courtney: Yeah, and that’s– that’s interesting that you say that because there were a couple of characters and a couple of lines in The Owl House that did seem kind of reminiscent of some Invader Zim moments to me. And I – given the age of the Creator – I wouldn’t be surprised if that was a show that they watched growing up too. And like, if you think about something like Invader Zim, it got a big cult following to the point– Like, I don’t know, can you still go into a Hot Topic and is there still just, like, a wall of Invader Zim merchandise or is that so antiquated now that that’s not even a thing? [laughs] But I picture the Hot Topic in my home town mall and it’s like 50% Invader Zim merchandise. That’s my association. So like, teenagers who were older than the target demographic we’re still just, like, proudly displaying their, like, Zim/GIR hoodies and things. So The Owl House is a very different show, but there were a couple of moments where I was like, “That kind of– that kind of reminded me of those older shows.”

Royce: Do we want to get into the premise of the show because we haven’t yet.

Courtney: We should, let’s do that now. I want to start by just talking about my reaction to the pilot episode. Because watching the pilot episode, I was like, “Oh dang!” Like I– I’m actually– I’m listening. “I came in with no expectations but now that I’m here, I see you.” So I was very surprised, from the pilot episode. And I do think season two overall was better than season one. Because there were some moments in season one where I was like, “Eh, it’s getting into just like a serialized cartoon,” and I didn’t love every single episode the same way I loved this pilot. But we’re immediately introduced to a girl named Luz. Do we know exactly how old she is? I kept going back and forth as to whether or not she was supposed to be in middle school or high-school age.

Royce: She is fourteen.

Courtney: Okay. So right on the line. Could be eighth grade, could be ninth grade. And Luz is a bit of an odd one, isn’t she? A bit of a weirdo. In fact, the show opens with her, like, in the principal’s office for causing some sort of disturbance in the school, and apparently this is something that happens pretty regularly for her. And it shows just like a montage of all these weird things she’s done. Like when performing a school production of Romeo and Juliet, she had like these full-on, like, gore and gushing blood on the ending scene. Like she was pumping out just, like, fake red blood all over and freak people out. Or she was making like rogue taxidermy, like a rogue taxidermy griffin, that also had spiders in it. And just definitely has some unusual interest for someone her age and is really into fantasy stories, fantasy novels. But because she’s causing such a disturbance in school her mother decides to send her to, like, a three-month long summer camp, which sounds very long. Very, very long. And I’m not sure exactly what this summer camp is supposed to be, but it’s called, like, “think inside the box” and it just seems completely dull. Very boring.

Royce: It was “Reality Check Summer Camp.”

Courtney: Oh, reality check!

Royce: Think inside the box is the tagline.

Courtney: Of course. So, kids who have imaginations get sent here to become normaler, it seems. And as you might expect, Luz doesn’t want to go. But lucky for her she doesn’t have to, because an owl steals a bag of her things and she follows it to a portal where she gets dumped into a place called The Boiling Isles. And she is immediately met with a woman named Eda, The Owl Lady, who seems to just go into the human realm to loot things and sell them as, you know, bizarre human artifacts to the people who live in this realm. And it turns out the owl who stole Luz’s book – it was a book about a witch that she really liked – the owl is actually, like, part of this witch’s staff. They have these very neat staffs that are wooden and they all have like an animal figurine at the top of it that kind of comes to life sometimes and other times it’s just a staff.

Royce: Which, that is an interesting way to do the whole sentient artifact thing that is present in some media. Often times there’s a, say, a magical sword that actually has intelligence. Or if you think back actually to the Harry Potter Universe, the wand chooses the wizard.

Courtney: Oh my goodness. There were so many– There were so many things that were also reminiscent of Harry Potter but in, like, a more loving and inclusive way. [laughs] And you could tell, like, there were even a couple of, like, outright Harry Potter, like, sly jokes. So the show was like a little self aware that some of these things were drawn from– So it’s almost also, in that sense, a different way to do, like, your patronus, like these staffs with these animal carvings were called palismen. So, instead of like, “Oh, what is your Patronus?” Like, “Oh, what is your palisman?” Kind of had the same vibe, which is also good because there’s this whole thing with this, you know, the misunderstanding and the cultural appropriation of, like, spirit animals. Like, white people who just really like an animal and they’re like, “Oh, this animal is my spirit animal.” Not great, don’t love it.

Courtney: But the thing is, for so many years, before, like, the last few years, when more and more people have become aware of all of J.K. Rowling’s issues – which we’re not going to go into all of today, because we do not have the time, but if you know, you know – Patronuses kind of like became the alternative that a ton of people were saying. Like, “If you’re white, don’t say you have a spirit animal. Instead you can say, this animal is my Patronus.” Like that was the alternative that was being recommended to cultural appropriation was, “instead of appropriating the culture and saying spirit animal, just say it’s your Patronus.” Which is so wild to me because, in hindsight looking back to that period of time, that’s also implying that just everyone knows and likes and understands Harry Potter. And I get it, it was– it is, it was and still is unfortunately a cultural juggernaut. It’s huge. You probably know some things about it even if you never watched the movies or read the book, so you probably know some things. But like, that is so weird. That is so weird that that was a thing that happened.

Royce: I had never heard of Patronus being used as a substitute in a conversation.

Courtney: Oh my gosh. Yes, I have. I heard it so often. So I wonder how all those folks are doing. How are they doing today? What’s– what’s the alternative to Petronus? So, let’s back up that little– Let’s back up that little tangent now. So we’re introduced to Eda, The Owl Lady, and she’s going through these human artifacts. And there are some just funny little lines, like she pulls out a massive diamond ring she’s like, “Oh, this is useless,” and pulling out all these other things that seem incredibly valuable and like a smartphone and she’s like, “This is useless,” and chucking it. But then she gets, like, a novelty pair of, like, googly eyes that are popping out of the glasses frames, and she’s like, “This! This is gonna make me rich!” And they’re– they’re clearly misunderstanding what some of these human artifacts are. There’s, like, a small portable television that she doesn’t know how to turn on, so she’s like, “This is just a black box that reflects nothing but emptiness.” And Luz, being a human, is like, “Oh, yeah it actually does more than that. Let me show you how to turn this thing on.”

Royce: Which she turns it on by pulling some batteries out of a bowl labeled “Human candy.”

Courtney: [laughs]

Royce: And putting them in the TV.

Courtney: Yes. So they– they don’t understand some of the human artifacts, but we very quickly learn – and we’re seeing this world, it is very weird – there are humanoid creatures that are very, very high fantasy, very, very unusual. We’re seeing some things like griffin’s actually are real. But then we also learned that Eda, The Owl Lady, is a wanted criminal. There are, like, wanted posters of her all over the place. And this, like, town guard fellow spots her in this big open marketplace and tries to take her in, but Eda grabs Luz and flies away on her palisman, which is kind of like a magical staff, kind of like a Patronus-animal, kind of also, like, a flying broomstick. It kind of does it all, doesn’t it?

Royce: Familiar is the word I’d use.

Courtney: Familiar! That’s a good one.

Royce: Because many witches have these palismen.

Courtney: That’s a good one. Yes. And the show is called The Owl House because that is where Eda lives. She lives in the Owl House. She is the Owl Lady. She has an Owl House. And I– let me just say, I related so heavily to Eda in this first episode and, and moments throughout the entire series, but like, especially this first episode, because when she brings Luz to the Owl House, she’s like, “Oh, this is where I hide from the trials of everyday, modern life, and from the cops. And also from ex-boyfriends.” [laughs] I was like, “Oh, relatable!” And here, we’re introduced to King, who is the– the cutest, most precious little evil boy. He’s– Well, we don’t really know what he is for pretty much all of the series until right at the end of season two. But he’s a– he’s a cute little demon guy. He’s kind of like a puppy, but he’s got like a skull on his head, almost like a Cubone. Just occurred to me he’s kind of like a Cubone, isn’t he? Very, like, cute, small puppy-boy vibes, and juxtaposed with this personality of, like, a dictator. And he’s like, “You will bow down to me!” And some of the things he said was kind of where I was occasionally getting some Invader Zim vibes with– with some of his lines.

Courtney: And we learned that King has lost his crown. He has a crown and he says this crown– This crown gives him his powers and helps him rule over his subjects, and it has been confiscated and is being held behind a barrier that for some reason, only humans can traverse. So Eda says, “Well, we have a human now. Let’s go get your crown back.” And so they have to go to this prison complex which they call the Conformatorium, where Luz learns that the people being held in the Conformatorium aren’t dangerous criminals, they’re just all weirdos. For example, one of them practices the ancient art of fanfiction. So they’re all kind of just social outcasts, like Luz, who are being held in this Conformatorium prison.

Courtney: So, when Luz has this revelation, of course, she resolves to help these poor people escape because they don’t deserve to be here. But first things first, they have to get King’s crown back. So, she traverses this barrier and at this, just like a heap of confiscated items, contraband, she finds, like, literally a Burger King crown. It was like the same shape and everything except it says Burger Queen. So she finds a Burger Queen crown. She’s like, “Wait, is that…?” And they get out and give it back to King. And King is so happy and now he has his powers back. He is a ruler once again. And he grabs a little bunny rabbit and – this is just one of the most memorable lines – he’s like, “You there, minion! I shall call you Francois and you shall be a minion in my Army of Darkness!” Or something like that. And it’s like, “Oh, Francois, just a little stuffed bunny, rabbit.” And Francois makes a couple other appearances throughout the show.

Courtney: And so Luz kind of turns to Eda and is like, “That crown doesn’t actually give him any powers, does it?” And she’s like, “No.” And she’s like, “Look Luz, we are weirdos and we weirdos have to stick together. And if that silly little crown makes King happy then it’s important to me because it’s important to him.” And it was just a very sweet little moment. It’s like, oh, very like, right off the bat, they’re hitting you really hard with the found family kind of sentiment, and it was just very sweet. But that moment doesn’t last too long because the guard comes along and decapitates Eda, which kind of goes back to what you were saying, Royce, where it’s like, “It’s fine because it’s a cartoon.” And she also– this– this moment was so good to me in particular, because she gets decapitated and there’s a moment where they do a fake out where she looks, like, really dead, like tongue sticking out, but then she goes, “Ow! I hate when that happens!” And Luz has caught her head now and so this poor human girl is like, “Are you okay?” And The Owl Lady just says, “Yeah, it just happens when you get older.” And this poor girl is like, “Does it?!” [laughs] She’s just mortified.

Courtney: And I guess earlier in the episode, Eda’s hand also had, like, fallen off and she’s like, “Oh, that happens sometimes.” And listen as someone with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, whose joints just like regularly dislocate, sometimes even my neck, sometimes I need a neck brace because I can’t hold up my own head. It’s like, that’s– that’s really relatable. Sometimes that just happens. [laughs] Like, “Yeah, ow, it sucks when that happens, it hurts but yeah, it also just happens.” So I was like, “Wow!” And also the line of, “I hide from all of my boyfriends.” I was like, “Oh… Maybe I am just Eda, The Owl Lady.” And that boyfriends thing got even funnier. Because now this guard, who came and cut her head off, actually, like, has a moment where he professes his love to her, and like, bends down on knee with a bouquet of flowers and is like, “You have resisted all of my advances. And I have been chasing you, and you have escaped every time and that’s just made you more alluring to me.” And like, Luz the fourteen-year-old is like, “I hate everything you’re saying right now.” And I was just cracking up, it was very good.

Courtney: And these moments like– Yeah, it was very silly and cartoonized, But it’s also… there was this very kind of like if you think about it too hard, a very coercive, like, heavy moment. Because this guard brings someone in who captures King and he is– he grabs the 14 year old, and it’s like holding her up in the air and he’s like, “Oh, I knew if we stole this crown that you would come here. And this was a trap the whole time.” And he’s like, “Now answer. Will you go out with me? It’s not as if you can exactly say no right now, because I have all of your friends captured.” Yeah... That’s really kind of upsetting. It’s– it’s kind of a mature theme. But it’s also watching it as an adult, I’m like, I have absolutely known people exactly like this guard.

Royce: But then also cue all of the jokes about how the last breakup was even worse than this situation.

Courtney: Right! Yeah! King was like, “Oh, you think he’s bad? You should have seen her last boyfriend.” [laughs] And just the allusions to the fact that she has multiple, like, horribly abusive exes and that this is like a recurring pattern, I really hoped that we were going to see a bunch of these ex-boyfriends. I had really hoped that this was going to be, like, a recurring theme throughout the show that one of her ex-boyfriend’s would pop up and be like the villain of that episode. And, unfortunately, that did not happen. I thought it was going to be great and I thought that would be a really good setup for it. But they managed to fend off his advances. They managed to free all the prisoners. All’s well that ends well, as they say. And Luz decides to stay in The Owl House, instead of returning to the human world to go to camp. She’s just going to pretend and tell her mom that she is at camp this whole time, when really, she’s in another dimension. And she wants to learn how to be a witch because what fourteen-year-old girl doesn’t wish they could escape to a magical realm and learn how to be a witch.

Courtney: So, very much enjoyed a lot of elements of that. I did notice that there were a couple of like, more cartoonish moments that didn’t quite land for me. Some of the comedic timing of some of those bits didn’t always work. Like, I saw the cartoon trope, I saw what they were going for. But to me, I think, the most powerful element of the storytelling was amongst the relationship between the characters. And obviously for as much as I enjoyed that pilot and for as much as we did like a lot of elements of it watching through the entire two seasons, I was kind of floored that I had not actually heard more about this in more detail and that I had to pick it up through very vague whispers. Because with the fantasy elements of it, with it being technically geared towards children, as a demographic, but having some elements that are relatable enough and, you know, cute and funny enough that it’s accessible enough for adults to also watch… Like, why isn’t that exactly the kind of thing that Disney tries to do?

Courtney: And the fact that it has these magic elements and this learning magic, and this sort of wish fulfillment of being someone who doesn’t really belong and doesn’t really fit in, but you’re able to travel to this Fantasy Realm and find a place where you belong… It has so many brilliant elements that I was just like, “Why?” Because the– honestly, if we weren’t doing this podcast, I probably wouldn’t have even tried to watch it. Because I heard vague whispers that there was a cartoon that had an ace character and that’s about it. That is all I knew about this going in. And the funniest part to me is it didn’t really even have an ace character! [laughs] I guess I’m gonna get mad about that. I’m– Listen, I’m not that mad because there was a lot of very explicitly queer representation that was handled really, really well, and are things that should be celebrated, but was there an aroace character like I was promised there would be? Eeh, let’s talk about that.

Courtney: So the aroace character was supposed to be Eda, The Owl Lady’s sister. And a big conflict, and a big reason why Eda is a wanted criminal is because she refuses to join a coven. And their current, like, Emperor... Is that what they call him? The leader of this realm has decreed that all witches need to join a coven that is dedicated to a specific type of magic. There’s like a healing magic coven, there’s like a plant magic coven. And once you join a coven, you’re basically only able to practice that type of magic. And Eda, The Owl Lady being the, you know, punk non-conformist that she is, was like, “Screw that! I want all of my magic, I want to be the most powerful witch in this realm. I’m not joining a coven.” So she doesn’t, she doesn’t join a coven. Turns out the only witches who are able to practice more than this one specific type of magic belong to the very prestigious Emperor’s coven. But then you have to work directly for the Emperor doing whatever, probably shady nefarious business he sends you on.

Courtney: And so Eda’s sister joined the Emperor’s coven and she has now been tasked with capturing her sister and forcing her to join the Emperor’s coven. So when we first meet her, she is very much the villain and she becomes a recurring villain, who is on this quest to capture her own sister. And while she’s a villain, we don’t get a lot of her backstory. We don’t get a lot of her personality, but we do at a certain point, get an indication that the reason why she wants so badly to get Eda to join the Emperor’s coven is because the Emperor has agreed to cure Eda of a curse that she has. And the curse I also find very, very interesting, because it’s the reason why they call her The Owl Lady. She kind of turns into this, like, owl beast occasionally and loses control of herself, and she needs to drink a special potion to try to keep the symptoms of that under control.

Courtney: And it is just, like, very chronic illness-y, it’s very disability-ish. There are even moments where they’ll say, like, “Oh, the curse gets stronger if I’m really stressed out and overworked.” And watching it from that perspective was really, really interesting. Especially since the very first episode, when her body is literally falling apart at the joints, I was like, “Yep, that’s relatable!” So, you start to get these glimpses that, yeah, even though she’s the villain she has good intentions. And she ends up ultimately sort of in a very dramatic moment sacrificing her own powers in order to share the curse with her sister. So they both take a little bit of the curse and it’s not quite as bad as if just one of them had it. And they both essentially lose the ability to do their magic in traditional ways, which was also very interesting to watch from a disability standpoint, because then they have this whole arc of “We can’t do things the way we used to able to. So we need to learn different ways of approaching life.”

Courtney: And that was really neat! And it was especially really neat because we have Luz, the human who can’t just innately do magic because she doesn’t have the proper organ that witches do, that their magic comes out of their bodies from. But she manages to learn a more archaic form of magic using runes that she can draw in order to conjure forth the magic that is in this land, which I also must say – as far as magic fantasy stories geared towards children – this is probably the most, like, detailed well-thought-out magic system that I have ever seen. Because most magic media for kids is like, “Magic just exists and it is that way.” And you don’t really know why or how, it just is. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I thought it was so cool that in this show, they explained the magic and where it came from and to an extent, like, how it works and different ways of doing it.

Courtney: So, I found that very neat. But this character, and now– [sighs] Royce, do you remember her name? Can you give me her–? I am so bad at names. We watched two seasons of this show recently and I can’t think of her name.

Royce: Lilith.

Courtney: Lilith. Lilith! So Lilith is supposedly aroace. And don’t get me wrong, I love Lilith, after she loses her powers and after she has to learn a new way to approach magic. And she kind of ends up moving into the Owl House for a while, so we see a lot of Lilith and Eda together, and she has this very special friendship with Eda’s house demon, which is, I guess, how the Owl House gets its name. There’s like an owl – this is impossible to explain for anyone who hasn’t seen the show – there’s like an owl-worm door [laughs] named Hooty.

Royce: He is normally attached to a little circular spot on the door, yes.

Courtney: And he’s so weird. He’s an odd thing, for a lot of reasons.

Royce: He is odd amongst all of the oddities that exist in this other realm.

Courtney: The oddest of them all that Hooty. [laughs] And he’s kind of presented for a lot of, like, the first half of the show as kind of, like, a mild annoyance. Even if he’s trying to help he’s not really helping, kind of inserting himself into conversations that people don’t necessarily want him being a part of. And got to a point where I started almost feeling a little bad for Hooty. I was like, “Aw, nobody likes Hooty…” But when Lilith moves into the Owl House, she and Hooty end up forming this beautiful friendship. I love it so much. They give each other nicknames. It’s just disgusting how cute it is. I love it. And like, Hooty finally has a friend now! And so that was all very cute. When we learn more about her personally, she’s very, like, academically minded, she’s very interested in history and studying.

Royce: I just realized looking up the voice actress for Lilith that she also voiced Chloe’s mom in the Life Is Strange game.

Courtney: Oh!! You know, I thought her voice sounded familiar but I couldn’t quite place it. Eda, The Owl Lady is voiced by Beatrice Horseman, BoJack Horseman’s mom. So that was really jarring to get used to after a while. And I thought Lilith also sounded familiar but it wasn’t as obvious to me where I had heard that voice before. So yeah, Lilith overall, really good character but as far as aceness, or aroness, is concerned nothing was shown on screen. Nothing was on camera. And that is disappointing from a show where a lot of things were shown very explicitly on camera in ways that I don’t usually see in cartoons or children’s media at all. Because I understand that on the one hand it can seem like a challenge to write asexuality in a show where sex is not on the table as a discussion point, because obviously in children’s media you can still have gay characters but you’re not talking about gay sex. And with asexuality unless you are explicitly tying in aromanticism as well, and you’re explaining like, “I– I’m just not interested in people, period.” Obviously, it’s a gross oversimplification, but it can pose a writing challenge.

Courtney: And I was under the impression that this character is meant to be aroace. And it could be. It could be that this was meant to be explored further in the third season. And I understand that they got canceled, and it got cut short, and that is a shame, but I didn’t see it. And– and with other things they have set up, I think there were definitely ways to show and talk about this, because Eda has made allusions to her like problematic ex-boyfriends. We saw someone very aggressively pursuing her romantically in, like, abusive ways. So that element is there. We have explored both of these sisters through flashbacks as well, so we could get more of their relationship history. So, there are lots of different storytelling devices that are already being used that could have easily been sort of an entryway to talk about a character who had no interest in any kind of romance, no interest in a relationship of that kind.

Courtney: And there weren’t even any one-off comments that you could pick up and be like, “Wait a minute!” I can’t think of anything she said, like, “Oh, you know, you have all these ex-boyfriends but I was just never interested in that.” Like, that could be a single line in a single episode where someone could take and be like, “Let’s explore that further.” But there really weren’t any lines like that. After watching the show and trying to just search a little more about it, I did see definitely some fans of the show who are aroace who were talking about how “I love having this aroace character, and I can relate to her so much, because I also really like history or I also really like reading. I like this, that, the other thing.” So they found personality traits of hers resonated with them, but personality traits are not a sexual orientation or romantic orientation.

Royce: Yeah, it was kind of the same issue that I had with Isaac, from Heartstopper.

Courtney: Mmm.

Royce: Where there’s a character who, at times, was shown to be fairly introverted or wasn’t with the group, would decline on hanging out sometimes or would have a book open while amongst other people, and some people in the ace community said, “Hey, I’ve done things like that too.” And then from the basis of that similarity also went to “That must mean, same sexual orientation.”

Courtney: Yeah.

Royce: Which in this case, this is another character who thus far has not had any on-screen confirmation, much like Lilith has also been confirmed outside of episodes.

Courtney: Yes! Because there were definitely– The only reason why we– And we talked about this back in our Heartstopper episode, the only reason why we knew that Isaac as of now is confirmed by the creator outside of the show to be aroace, is kind of because someone on Twitter said, like, “Is anyone else picking up the aroace vibes from this character?” And Alice Oseman, the creator of the novels, then show, was like, “The vibes are intentional.” Like, “Yes, it is true.” But I have to remain skeptical about those vibes because being a bookworm does not mean you are aroace, being introverted does not mean you are aroace. And there are introverted, bookworm aroaces, absolutely. And you can still see similar traits in yourself as another character, but that’s kind of like the– Whenever you take personality traits to be an indicator of sexuality, then, to me, that very much seems like you’re getting dangerously close to deeming a group to be a monolith.

Royce: Or you’re– you’re stereotyping. And the thing is asexuality is so undernoted and underrepresented that we don’t really have behavioral stereotypes. Like if you think about portrayals of gay characters in media, particularly gay men, there are oftentimes visible cues that we see as a part of Gay Culture, that could show that before an actual relationship is shown. But, like, the ace community doesn’t really have that built up.

Courtney: Not nearly to the same extent, no. And I don’t know what that says that there were aroaces who are saying, “I’m picking up aroace vibes,” based on these other personality traits, but like, is that where we’re headed? Where being introverted and nerdy is kind of like going to become the personality trait stereotype in media? Because I don’t love that. So, yeah, I– I don’t know, I don’t know. So I like Lilith, I– I’d be lying if I said there weren’t, like, moments where I could relate to Lilith. She had this moment of, like, really geeking out over, like, historical elements of architecture on old houses and I was like, “Yeah that’s– that is personally relatable to me.” But that is a historical interest, that’s an academic interest that to me has nothing to do with sexual or romantic orientation. So I didn’t see anything about her that would confirm that on screen. And [sighs] So that’s– I liked the show, I really did. I don’t want to seem like I’m complaining about the show, but I guess I am complaining about the framing. Because the only reason why I heard about this show at all was, “There’s an aroace character in this children show.” I was like, “Well, I haven’t seen an aroace character in a children show before. Let’s see how they’re doing that.” And they kind of haven’t yet, maybe they will, but they haven’t yet.

Royce: And this is probably just because we hear about these shows through the ace community, so of course that is what reverberates. But a better reason to pick up the show, I guess, would be the other queer representation.

Courtney: Yes!

Royce: Their handling of non-binary gender identity.

Courtney: Yes! There were a lot of really good rep moments that I didn’t know was going to be there at all, based on things I had heard. Probably my favorite was one of Eda’s ex’s, named Raine, who was just allowed to exist as someone who uses they/them pronouns and it wasn’t this big teaching moment. It wasn’t like you had a lot of exposition explaining that this person’s non-binary or they’re agender or they’re neither a man or a woman. There wasn’t any need for that because from the moment this character was introduced to us, it was just everyone around them was using they/them pronouns. We have not heard any other pronoun used for them. There wasn’t a moment where someone, you know, accidentally slips up. There wasn’t a moment of someone misgendering them as a means of using that as a teachable moment. There was none of that. It was just, “This is Raine. They are Eda’s ex.” And it seems from everything we’ve been told it was the only ex– like it was the only ex-partner situation that Eda had that doesn’t seem, like, awful. [laughs] Because we’re seeing flashbacks and this actually looks like it was a pretty healthy relationship.

Royce: This was the one exception, yeah.

Courtney: This, yes. Raine was the one exception to all of the tragic exes. Raine is kind of like the one that got away, to an extent. And it is sort of explained that Eda’s curse, which is very easily read as a disability, as a chronic illness, really got in the way of her being able to maintain relationships for a while when she hadn’t learned how to coexist with it yet. So their breakup was sad and unfortunate, but it wasn’t like this horribly, traumatic, abusive reason that this separation had happened. So I just think that is so neat! I think it is so neat, especially when you consider that this is geared toward children. Because, you know, when we were younger, there is this, like, [dramatically] “Ah! A gay couple, how am I going to explain this to my children?” And then you’d be like– Like, “You know, how some people are a husband and a wife, well, these people are a husband and a husband.” And a kid would just be like, “Okay.” And then people would be like, “Kids are so receptive to new information. Kids don’t have hatred inside of them yet that Society has taught them.” Like, “Kids are great and they’ll get it.” Like, “You don’t have to worry about ‘how will my kid understand’.” Like, kids just do.

Courtney: And when we were younger it was like the gay couple. And now I feel like the gay couple has become a lot more normalized in media. We’ve seen it in a variety of ways. It’s been many years, we’ve been starting to see it now. We of course have a long way to go. Like we haven’t had a gay Disney princess, for example. Like, again, Disney is not great on those things but like, any level of non-binary representation, we have so much further to go. And the other examples I can think of, of having this non-binary representation, it’s always been geared towards an older audience, first of all, and it’s always had to have this teaching moment. This, like, “Let’s break out the dictionary and teach you what this means before we can get into learning the actual personality traits of the individual characters.” So to go right to the source in children’s material and just present it as, “This is just how it is, and it is just normal. We’re not gonna make it a big deal.” Kind of rocks. I love it. I really, really liked it. I liked that character. I liked their relationship with Eda. I thought that was super, super cool.

Courtney: But then there’s also Luz. Because Luz starts meeting some witches her own age. She goes to a magic school at a certain point, so she starts developing her own, like, peer group. And with Luz– So we only see her have an interest in another girl. If I’m not mistaken, the creator of the show has said that Luz is bi. In the show we only see this manifest in liking a girl. And the way that plays out was very explicit, there wasn’t any coding in sight. It was actually– we see, sort of the full spectrum of this relationship develop. Because there’s like a ‘friends to lovers’ trope, there’s like an ‘enemies to lovers’ trope. This was like ‘enemies to friends to lovers’. Because it’s sort of the popular girl, who’s really powerful and she comes from a wealthy family, and sort of looks down on other people. And so, she is very much like a school antagonist who ends up having a lot of character development and becoming a friend, and then [emphatically] a girlfriend. And the way that happened was very cool because you see them as friends for a while before you start getting the hints of, “Oh, there’s more to it than this.” Because it’s actually– here I go being bad at names again, who– what is her name?

Royce: Amity?

Courtney: Amity! Yes, Amity. Amity at one point just starts blushing profusely if Luz, you know, says something or… it’s that, like, romantic tension that just pops up and starts developing over time. And as a cartoon, it worked really well because the blushing was far from subtle. It wasn’t just a facial expression that could be interpreted in a variety of ways, depending on who you are and how you’re reading the situation. It’s like full, “My face is beat red, now,” kind of a thing. And you started seeing that pop up a couple of different times, so it’s like, “Oh…” And then you start seeing her acting more awkward, and now that the blushing has started. So it’s like, “Oh, she’s developing feelings for her!” And then at a certain point, we start seeing Luz blushing too, mirroring that. And we’re like, “Ah, fascinating.” But it goes all the way. We saw an on-screen teenage kiss between two girls on a cartoon geared towards children. And that is new to me.

Courtney: That is not something we would have seen on TV when we were kids. So that was amazing! It’s amazing. I love that! I love that representation. I love– I love the they/them pronouns representation. It’s very, very good. It’s very much trying to normalize a variety of queer identities. And we did see some things from non-central characters. Like, they had sort of a prom episode but their prom isn’t like our prom. In fact it’s– Grom is what they called it, but just kind of a dance, but not really. Like we saw what appeared to be two boys dancing together in the background. One of the characters has two gay dads, which at this point is kind of a trope, because they don’t really get their own personalities it’s just kind of like, “Oh, that character has two gay dads.” Which I think is forgivable, considering the rest of the rep that there are other queer, like, very fleshed-out characters. It would absolutely be a cop-out if there were not more fleshed-out characters.

Royce: It’d also be kind of odd if a character in this very queer show didn’t have same-sex parents. So, like it had to happen somewhere.

Courtney: Yeah. So– it’s– I’m not mad about it used in this way.

Royce: The parents just aren’t the focus of the story either, like there’s one set of parents and then it’s Eda and Lilith, and then pretty much all just kids.

Courtney: Well, we learned a couple of things about some other adults to a lesser extent than we saw the kids’ storylines play out. But…

Royce: Yeah, I was talking about screen time. It’s really just Eda, Lilith and Amity’s parents. And not really too many other adults aside from the antagonists.

Courtney: Yeah, definitely not many.

Royce: Which, Amity’s parents are kind of riding that line of antagonists.

Courtney: Right, yeah. So that was pretty cool and even though Amaty’s parents were antagonists, they weren’t antagonist because they were like homophobic either. Because the mom was not happy with her liking Luz.

Royce: They are antagonists because they are capitalists.

Courtney: [laughs] They– Yes! [laughs] That’s– that’s true, that’s true! [laughs] But yeah because the– I believe it was Amaty’s mother was like, not happy with Amity going out with Luz, and was like, “I don’t want you seeing that human girl anymore.” Like, “We’ll find a different girl for you to like.” So it wasn’t like, “I don’t want you to be in a relationship with a girl.” It’s like, “I don’t want you in a relationship with [emphasis] this girl.” Like, “There are better girls for you.” So they never had the opportunity to, like, be bigoted. So it was very– a very normalizing show, in that sense. Which we love, we need more of that. It’s good! And as far as like Luz’s bisexuality, I don’t know. There wasn’t much of that on screen either. Of course, if someone is only shown in one relationship with one person, there’s no way that you can possibly know that that is the only type of person that they would be open to having a relationship with. So there’s always like a chance of bisexuality, biromanticism in there. But really the closest I can think of, I think Luz at one point when she started school was like, “Oh, maybe I’ll meet an upperclassman.” And like she didn’t say, “Maybe I’ll meet a boy. Maybe I’ll meet a girl.” She didn’t say, “Maybe I’ll meet a boy or a girl.” She just said upperclassmen which is a gender-neutral term. So yeah. That wasn’t explored in depth but the creator, Dana Terrace, is bisexual, is that correct that I read that?

Royce: Yes, that’s true. And Amity’s voice actress is pansexual.

Courtney: Okay. So yeah, there was a lot to praise in the representation department for the show. Because truly we have Raine’s character, we have Luz and Amity, we have other more casual characters in the background, we even have some level of allegory for chronic illness and disability. Luz is also Dominican, so we hear her occasionally dropping into Spanish talking to her mother. There’s even kind of a cute moment where Amity is trying to learn some Spanish for Luz, but the only resource she has to seeing any words from this language is a cookbook that one of Luz’s witch friends– What is his name now? Gus? Is that it? Did I remember a name for once in this episode?

Royce: Yeah, it’s Gus.

Courtney: So Gus is, like, obsessed with humans. He was like the president of a human fan club kind of a thing. So he fancies himself an armchair academic of Human Affairs. So he had a human cookbook that was in Spanish that he lent to Amity, so she could try to learn. And she ended up like calling Luz a sweet potato, and thinking it was a term of endearment, and that became an ongoing thing. Like Luz started calling her sweet potato right back. So now that was just a cute little bit of silliness. And for how good a lot of those elements were I’m baffled I didn’t hear about how good any of those elements were, like, really, really baffled.

Courtney: So yeah, to get back to the aroace thing. It’s hard to judge considering that the show got canceled prematurely. And you can tell it got canceled prematurely because they actually ended season two on a major cliffhanger. So that’s probably what they’re going to wrap up within their special episodes. And I– with only three, needing to wrap up all the things they probably need to wrap up to give it any semblance of a satisfying conclusion, they’re probably not going to dig much further into new aspects of existing characters. Maybe, I don’t know. So it very well could be that they had every intention of exploring this further with Lilith. So this is by no means like, “I am mad at the creator of the show.” I’m not, I just don’t want anybody coming into the show solely because there is, supposedly, aroace representation. Because you’re not really gonna see it.

Courtney: It’s more– more a headcanon than anything right now. And some people are really into headcanons and can be a very good comforting thing for some people. I personally don’t understand headcanons much. But the way this became a talking point, the way I was eventually introduced to this was because the creator of the show and, I believe a secondary person who also worked on the show, had stated that she is aroace, but this was not in an easy place to find. It wasn’t in the context of the show. Especially if it’s geared towards children. The children watching the show are not going to get this information. I believe it was just like on a twitch stream and I tried to find it and I couldn’t even find it anymore.

Courtney: So it’s not even as if you can go back and watch the video where this was mentioned. Which is very much something we have talked about before where, for the purposes of mainstream representation, the way it is currently, the way it stands, it kind of just serves as extra content for super fans. It’s not literally information that’s behind a paywall, but it’s essentially like, if you were to sign up to a creator’s Patreon because you love what they do so much, and you just want a little more, you want a little extra content, you want bonus content, that is just for the subscribers. This is the kind of the vibes that this gives me. Because just watching the show, you would never know.

Royce: I actually found the– a recording.

Courtney: Did you?

Royce: It was originally on Twitch.

Courtney: Okay.

Royce: It has been uploaded to YouTube.

Courtney: Okay. So we’ll probably have to drop that because I actually– I didn’t find the video. I think I found the Twitch channel it was originally streamed to, and didn’t see a way to re-watch it. So I kind of gave up there, but I did see someone on the aromantic subreddit had sort of transcribed it, and typed out what it was.

Royce: Oh, okay.

Courtney: So, it was Dana Terrace on the ‘Be Gay Do Witchcraft CHARITY DRAWATHON!’ livestream, which is brilliant. And again, for a charity livestream, that kind of is bonus content, like a Telethon. Like, give people more content so that we can raise money for charity. But there was essentially an audio recording of a letter from Lilith, where she did say kind of the things we mentioned earlier, where we didn’t see any of this in the show proper. But the recording of this letter says, [reading] “Oh, my heart is full. Full after hearing that Luz and Amity finally managed to reveal their feelings to each other! [sighs] If only it were that simple as an adult. Someone– [clears throat] Well, bought me a bouquet of spiders the other day. My mother was… interested, she– she just wants to see me happy, and my co-workers were interested, especially after I turned down their offer to create an “Incinerdate” profile. But I… am not so interested. I don’t think I ever have been. Hmm... I have much to think about. So I let her down as best I could. The bouquet was lovely though, very delicious! Anyway I must sign off. My mother says she received another bouquet for me, this time filled with rat-eyes, and I must prepare to let down yet another suitor. But… but I will keep the eyes of course.” So, I like that. I like that letter. And that’s exactly the kind of thing that I would see as being, like, an entry way into having a full-blown aroace character on a cartoon, is to give these indications of like, “Oh, I have all these suitors, but I’ve never really been interested in that. And I have– I have to let her down.”

Royce: Right. It just didn’t make it into an actual episode.

Courtney: Yes.

Royce: Even though, I mean that was extra content in the format of some of the things on the episodes, because she and Hooty did exchange letters.

Courtney: Yes! So it’s disappointing that it didn’t make it into the episode, and I don’t know why. I don’t know if this was future content that was supposed to be in an episode, were there to be a season three, proper. I don’t know if it was written into an episode and got cut out for some reason. If it did, then I’m even more mad that people are praising that this character is aroace, because it sounds like she was supposed to be, but they cut that. And I don’t know, I don’t know. I– I would be curious, now we should watch that. Now that we know that there is a recording of that. We’ll put the recording in the show notes so you can all watch that with us. So, I don’t know if they explain further, like, what that recording was from, or did they just write it specifically for this event? Like, “Well, we need some extra content for this charity event, so let’s, you know, write and record a letter that wasn’t in the show.” In which case my, you know, Patreon bonus content analogy is perfect. It’s just bonus content. So yeah, that’s kind of where we’re at. I would love to see that explored even a little bit in the three special episodes that are forthcoming. I– That would be really, really cool. I’m not going to keep my hopes terribly high.

Royce: I suspect they have so much to wrap up, and so little time that no attention is going to go anywhere else.

Courtney: Yeah. Yeah. So it is what it is. It’s disappointing. Because like, just that letter alone, it would have meant so much to so many people to be able to see that. And think about being a child and seeing a show where, you know, romance is still very normalized, it’s still being shown in a lot of different ways, but you’re seeing all the different ways these relationships can be. You’re seeing two teenage girls, you’re seeing a middle-aged witch and her non-binary ex who are kind of rekindling, at least a friendship, if not more. But then to also have a character who’s like, “I’m really happy for those people, but it’s not for me.” Just to have that demonstration of all the different ways that you can be, in a show that normalizes all these different identities, I think has the potential to be so powerful. And that’s why I’m disappointed it’s not there. And it’s actually really interesting because when was the show actually airing?

Royce: Season one aired in January of 2020.

Courtney: Okay, and when was season two? When did it wrap?

Royce: The last episode was in May of 2022.

Courtney: Okay, so May of 2022. So when this was confirmed– and I don’t know, I don’t know that there’s a better way to say confirmed, but I also don’t like the word confirmed because confirmed sounds so final and absolute. And if someone says, like, “It was confirmed by the creator that this character is X Y and Z.” That sounds so definitive, and like it means something. And maybe– maybe it does, maybe I’m just way too cynical. But to me, you shouldn’t have to search to find the representation. It should be obvious. If it is good representation I think it should be obvious. But it was– it was confirmed by Dana Terrace that Lilith was aromantic on that livestream we mentioned, which was March 13th of 2022. So that was technically a couple of months before the show ended.

Courtney: So, if I were actively a fan while this was going on – and I was such a big fan that I was following Dana Terrace and I was watching this livestream – I would be prepared to see that on-screen. I would have been like, “Oh, they’re going to show this before the season is out.” This is you know a taste of something that’s to come. And I’d be really stoked and then I’d be disappointed if it didn’t actually make it into the real show. So I think I would still be disappointed even if I were a fan on that level. And it was only a few days later on March 18th, that Cissy Jones, the voice actress who plays Lilith, apparently also on a livestream confirmed her to be asexual.

Courtney: So, one person saying aromantic, one person saying asexual, both happening on livestreams a couple of months before the show ended. Just seems so fragmented and so watered down, compared to all of the other rep that this very same show is giving us. So, that’s why I don’t like to treat this representation as being equal. Because if we’re saying, well, the creator saying this is basically as good as it being on the screen, then it’s like, why does the aroace character get this treatment? But the gay characters don’t, the bisexual character doesn’t, the non-binary character doesn’t. Like, why is it the aroace character that doesn’t get anything spoken of, no plot line, no allusions to it, doesn’t have it explored at all. Like that’s why I don’t want to give it credit on the same level.

Courtney: So all in all, I do like the character. I do like the show. I think the show is worth watching for other representation reasons, but I could not in good conscience recommend this show as aroace rep. I just– I just couldn’t. Which is a bit of a shame. Got a lot of good things going on but aroace rep is not one of them. I am very happy that children’s media is getting more LGBT-friendly. I want to see more of that. But yeah, it is truly a shame that we also just won’t know what could have been and what additional possibilities the show had in store, because Disney just canceled it. Or more specifically one single dude in Disney canceled it. And like, what do you want to bet that they canceled it because it got a little too queer? That’s way too likely. It’s probable. So we’ll have to see. We are excited for the– these special episodes to come out. We’re going to watch it when they do. I don’t have my hopes too high that they will actually explore Lilith’s orientation any further, but if they do that would be awful cool. So on that note, we will leave you there for today. Please do the things. Give us those likes, comments, subscribes, follows, ratings, reviews. I don’t know what platform you’re listening to us on. We’re in all kinds of places so you know the things you need to do. Just do the things. And we’ll talk to you all next week. Goodbye!