Asexual & Autistic Representation: Ca$h & Quinni from Heartbreak High

Heartbreak High is a little Mean Girls, a little Euphoria, and a little Sex Education. It also brought us a wonderful Autistic character and an okay Asexual one. We talk about our thoughts on the show including the good, the bad, and the painstaking.


Courtney: Hello, everyone, and welcome back to The Ace Couple podcast. My name’s Courtney. I’m here with my spouse, Royce. And today’s episode is long overdue, long, long, long overdue, for we are finally talking about Heartbreak High.

Royce: When did we originally watch Heartbreak High? It came out last September.

Courtney: We watched it very shortly after it first came out, because the number of people who tagged us or emailed us or sent us DMs saying “Please review this” was wild. So we’re like, “Wow, there’s something here! We gotta get on that.” And so we watched it very early on and just didn’t record an episode about it. Why? What is wrong with us?

Royce: Yeah, it was on our list for a while. I think other things came up and we just never got around to it.

Courtney: And then I forgot the entire plot. So we [laughs] had to watch it all over again. Pretty pathetic.

Royce: At least the second time, we could kind of put it on while we were doing other things.

Courtney: Oh yeah, we fully just put it on in the background while we were working and tried to binge it in the span of two days. Because we didn’t like it the first time around very much. In fact, Royce, I’m pretty sure you fell asleep repeatedly while we were trying to watch it.

Royce: There were a couple of episodes or pieces of episodes that I just completely missed for one reason or another and I was like, “Oh, that’ll be fine. Courtney will catch me up on the details.”

Courtney: Joke’s on us. I don’t know if it was the fact that my attention was split the second time or if we can chalk it up to the mere exposure effect, but it was less bad the second time through, I think.

Royce: I don’t remember anything that was, like, overtly bad, but it was a… it’s a genre that I think we’ve both gotten a bit tired of.

Courtney: We are tired of the genre, yes. We’ll talk about the things that we liked and the things that we didn’t like and the things that I never want to see again in my life, otherwise I’m going to gouge my own eyes out. So I guess let’s just get into it, huh? [laughs]

Royce: Before we do, I will say, I pulled up a couple of things to reference as we’re going through this, and one article I pulled up near the beginning does say, “It’s a bit like Euphoria and a lot like Sex Education.” Both are shows that we have reviewed.

Courtney: Oh, and I said both of those things when we were just discussing it, you and I, without even pulling up any articles. There were definitely some Sex Education moments. They were definitely some Euphoria moments. I feel like there’s even a third show that I mentioned that had elements of, but now I can’t think of what that was. Oh, it was a movie – meets Mean Girls. There were a few Mean Girls tropes in there. It was like, take the tropes from Mean Girls, but make it Euphoria meets Sex Education, in Australia. That’s about all you need to know.

Courtney: Well, and to be fair, the first time we watched it through, we did the thing we always try to do, every time someone tells us, “Hey, there’s an Ace character in here.” This is… usually, when people are bringing us these shows, they say, “This is good Ace rep.” We don’t always agree – [laughing] see our Sex Education episode, for example – but we try to go in without knowing who the Ace character is. We try to go in how a more casual or allo viewer might be going in, not really expecting the Ace rep, so we can sort of see naturally how it develops, without knowing, like, [intensely] “That’s the character! We’re gonna watch that character.”

Royce: I cheated about three episodes in.

Courtney: [laughing] Did you?

Royce: Yeah.

Courtney: [laughing] ’Cause three episodes in, it wasn’t clear.

Royce: Right.

Courtney: I did not do that the first time. Maybe that’s why the second time was a little less… a little less insufferable to me, because I actually knew what I was trying to look for. So, Royce, start us off. I know on our second watchthrough, you took some notes so that we don’t forget anything again, [laughing] since this is apparently a very forgettable show to us.

Royce: I did take some notes, but I mostly took notes that were centered around a character that I wanted to discuss.

Courtney: Mmm.

Royce: Less on –

Courtney: Not the Ace one, oddly enough.

Royce: Not the Ace one. Although I do have a few notes there, too. I didn’t take general plot notes, but I have pulled up a couple of things to try to refresh our memory of the show we just watched for the second time, like, a week ago.

Courtney: There are two good characters in this show, and they are the Autistic teenage girl and not the Ace character, but the grandmother [laughing] of the Ace character. I loved her. Most of the other characters… [sighs] I just can’t. I can’t too much.

Royce: So, how do you want to do this? Because we could very briefly just kind of go over the plot. Because, honestly I don’t think the… The through-plot of the show I don’t think is very important. The interactions with some of the characters are worth discussing more.

Royce: But the crux of the entire show – like, the first episode starts out with two close friends who have been maintaining this wall of connections: that they’ve seen, that they’ve observed, some that aren’t necessarily always accurate, things that they’ve heard in rumors, things that they’ve theorized. And they’ve drawn this huge map that they call the “incest map,” which is all of the interconnected relationships between their peers.

Courtney: Which was kind of interesting that it was called the “incest map.” Because growing up in South Dakota, there were, you know, small enough pockets of communities that a lot of people would just end up dating each other, and you’d end up, you know, dating your ex’s ex, dating your friend’s ex, and the word or the phrase for that phenomenon, at the time, was “Midwest incest.” So.

Royce: Oh really.

Courtney: Yeah.

Royce: I hadn’t heard that one.

Courtney: Uh-huh.

Royce: But that was – my school was quite a bit smaller than yours, but that phenomenon did still happen within cliques, but particularly within the, like, band circle.

Courtney: Yeah, I mean, sexually active band geeks, if we’re going back to Mean Girls, is a trope. But this was mostly, like, post-high school, where, you know, young adults would say, like, “Oh, that Midwest incest.” Because you get out and you start trying to date the people that you didn’t go to school with, you try to meet the new people, but then you realize they all know the same people anyway, somehow, some way or another.

Courtney: So it was very Mean Girls, because there’s this “incest map” that, for some reason, they’re just, like, writing on the wall of, like, a back corridor in the school.

Royce: Wasn’t it an abandoned building? Like, a building that didn’t get much traffic?

Courtney: Yeah, it wasn’t getting much traffic, so it was sort of like, I don’t know, secret clubhouse. But why? Someone’s going to find that eventually.

Royce: Yeah, it was pretty brazen.

Courtney: And this is why I thought it was sort of Mean Girls trope-y. Because, right in the first episode, all hell breaks loose because this map gets discovered. So the principal is calling this, like, you know, emergency assembly. The teachers are trying to put out fires and figure out what to do about this situation. And then everyone’s actually, like, getting their eyes on the map. So everyone’s like, “You did what with whom?” And it’s very, like, Regina George distributes the Burn Book pages across the school for the sake of causing problems. Like, that’s kind of the energy, right out of the gate.

Courtney: But also I just – I immediately hate these girls. [laughs] Because… I mean, I get that they’re teenagers. And part of the conflict is that one of them has broken off the friendship abruptly, and the other one does not know what happened and can’t figure out why her best friend has completely changed. So there’s this weird tension there. But like, I immediately have lost so much sympathy I might have otherwise had for these friends in this relationship by nature of the fact that they are obsessing over the sex lives of other people. And this is a show that is trying very hard to be very queer-friendly and queer-inclusive. So a lot of the relationships on the map were queer relationships. And they even specified, like, the individual sex acts that these other classmates of theirs have done. Like, “Oh, was this vaginal penetration? Was this anal penetration? Was this hand stuff? Was this mou–” And that’s, like, that is so fundamentally disturbing that I already – I’m like, “You get whatever is coming to you. Because, how dare.” And someone even says in the first episode, like, “You outed people with that map.” Like, there were people who were not out in the open about whatever their orientation was.

Courtney: And it’s like, yeah! We should be livid about this. But the show really glosses over it very quickly. For the very first episode, everyone’s really mad at one of these two friends who basically took the fall for both of them. And, like, they call her “map bitch.” Which, yeah, that’s a very high school thing. I can buy that.

Royce: It does just kind of fade, though.

Courtney: So many of the things fade. And it’s like, I don’t know if [laughing] Australian teenagers are more forgiving than US teenagers. I don’t know if it’s Gen Z is more forgiving than previous generations. But so many of the conflicts that are just an episode long and then fade are things that, like, I think back to when I was in high school and that would sit with you for the rest of your high school career. You would be an outcast for the entirety of your high school career! And these are all just like, “Oh, well, this is just today’s problem. This will be gone tomorrow and there will be a new one in its place.”

Royce: I expect that is just the nature of episodic television. Gotta get a new plotline in.

Courtney: Yeah. Well, you said something [laughs] while we were watching it the second time through, which was very true. Because we have had a gripe with other types of media – like, more action types of media – that have, like, an issue doing power escalation.

Royce: Oh yeah, that’s something that really bothers me. And maybe it’s something that I’ve seen played out too much. As someone who, like, grew up on the Dragon Ball Z type shit –

[Courtney laughs]

Royce: – where you get tired of, “Oh, a bigger, badder enemy comes in and then everyone just magically rises to the occasion.” Like, I need an explanation now, and I need it to make sense. Why are things changing? Why are they escalating?

Courtney: Yeah, well, even, like, Stranger Things did that. It’s like, “Oh, well, we fought the Demogorgon. Now, what’s next? Oh, the Mind Flayer, that’s next. Okay, now what? Uh, Vecna?” [laughs] As actual D&D players, we also know a little more about the original game and the original characters that they deviated from tremendously.

Royce: They got their CR ratings mixed up a little.

Courtney: [laughs] Yes. But with a show like this, and we could argue the same with Euphoria – this is like one of the Euphoria elements of it – they do, like, trauma escalation. ’Cause they’re starting bad. Like, your best friend in the world left you. You’re in trouble at school. Everyone at school hates you. How do we one-up that? And then the third episode, how do we one-up that? And it just gets to a point where you’re almost desensitized to these things that are supposed to be so bad and impactful. And I don’t think it has to be that way, because there are plenty of shows that have traumatic themes that really, really hit me on a personal level that I think is done in a way that is emotionally impactful. But with a show like this, where it’s just, like, teenage sex show, escalating trauma… Yeah, it just doesn’t. It doesn’t. [laughs]

Royce: Well, a lot of it, too – there isn’t a whole lot of build to it. It’s like, what is the social issue of the day that we’re going to cover on this week’s episode? Or two, if there are – I mean, there is a fairly decent-sized cast of characters, so you have multiple plotlines running. But that first initial thing that you mentioned with the – I guess you would consider the two primary characters, their friendship breaking up, that isn’t resolved until the last episode of the season. And it’s just kind of an unknown throughout, while other issues are happening.

Courtney: Yes. So one of the sort of tropes that is also, I think, kind of Mean Girls-esque is that, aside from one teacher who’s supposed to be, like, the competent one who’s actually trying to help, there’s a principal who is just so out-of-touch, who doesn’t know how to provide proper sex education, is, like, also a little bit racist. And, like, her entire character is kind of just, like, cringe comedy in a way that doesn’t work at all for me. [laughs]

Courtney: Like, the teacher who’s supposed to be the competent one is a Black woman named Jojo, and she just, like, starts rapping at her when they’re one-on-one. She’s like, “Yo, yo, Jojo.” And I’m like, “Stop! [laughs] What are you doing?”

Royce: It was really awkward. A lot of scenes with that principal were really awkward. Because she also took the very conservative route to trying to create a sex education curriculum.

Courtney: Yeah.

Royce: And to try to punish all of the students for basically what came out with this map.

Courtney: Yeah. So everyone who’s on the map gets put involuntarily into a new class, which.. it was like, “Sexual literacy…”

Royce: “Tutorial.”

Courtney: “Tutorial.” Which begs the question for me – because of course, the students, right off the bat, is like, “Oh, so we’re sluts?” [laughs] So that’s the joke, is that they’re in SLT [pronounced “slut”] class. How, I want to know – and since there is a lot of just, like, Australian slang in here that is not normal to my American ears to hear – how often is the word “tutorial” actually, like, in a high school-level class? Like, is that actually a pretty common word to use for high school classes, or was that a really ham-fisted way of trying to get the SLT acronym to work? [laughs]

Courtney: And then you have, like, the first class or two of this SLT class which is also very, like, Mean Girls PE teacher who’s like, “Don’t have sex. If you have sex, you will die. [laughs] You will get STDs.” They don’t take it to that extreme, but they do have, like, really awkward, like, “Oh, right, go pick three people’s hands to shake. Now go shake more people’s hands. All right, this person, you have chlamydia. Now everybody has chlamydia.” Like, oh, okay. Thank you for that helpful visual.

Courtney: And so that’s sort of where the Sex Education tropes start coming in, right? Because the Sex Education show is like, “We aren’t getting proper sex education in school, so we’re getting it through other means,” and kind of trying to almost demonstrate more proper sex education than what the schools are teaching. But I also don’t know if that works in this show. Because even the moments where you have the competent teacher, Jojo, who’s actually trying to make a difference, who’s actually trying to give good instruction, the audience doesn’t actually get any proper takeaway from it. It’s very, very surface-level sex education, even when it’s supposed to be the good sex education. So it’s like, I don’t know what the show’s trying to do. [laughs] Are you actually trying to give proper sex education or not? You don’t have to, but it’s almost like they’re trying to make it seem like they are, when really it’s not really much of anything.

Courtney: And in many cases, I also sort of have… I sort of have the same gripe with some of the social issues that they talked about. Because sometimes I can’t tell if the show is actually in favor of social justice themes or if they’re kind of making fun of them. Tonally, there’s something very weird that seems like they’re going back and forth on it sometimes.

Royce: Do you remember any examples? Because they did try to, like, I guess, shotgun approach. They threw together a lot of different things and some got more attention than others. And this is a… at least, the main cast is pretty diverse. Very queer.

Courtney: Mhm. Yeah, I mean, there were a few things that stick out. So, there were some cases where it seemed like every, like, social justice character was made to be the annoying one, which is kind of a trope in media. Like, the character who cares about social justice is the annoying one. They’re the one that you don’t want to hang out with. They’re, you know, they’re preachy. They’re, you know, all these things. And to a certain extent, I mean – dare I bring up the TERF books, like, even… It didn’t make it into the movies. But think about Harry Potter with Hermione trying to, like, liberate the house elves and everyone just shrugged it off as like, “You’re wasting your time, and you’re also being really annoying about this.” So it’s like, that is a big common theme, which, if you’re actually trying to lend any credibility to these social justice issues, we have to figure out a way to write a character that isn’t insufferable, [laughs] right?

Courtney: And so I don’t expect every character to have the same morals on a show. So I’m not saying that everyone needs to be, like, morally aligned with one another. But I do want to know, after watching an entire season of a show, where the show sits on things. Because it doesn’t seem completely neutral, but it doesn’t seem completely in favor of things either. And I don’t know if it’s just the writing. I don’t know if it’s because it’s so weird tonally for me.

Courtney: But Quinni, the Autistic character – which we’re going to talk about – at one point, another character says the word “idiot.” And she just says, like, “Okay, first of all ‘idiot’ is ableist language,” and then doesn’t explain it. The character she’s saying it to doesn’t respond to it at all. They don’t… nothing goes anywhere with that one line, and they use the word “idiot” in dialogue several other times later with different characters, and it’s just sort of never addressed again. So, it’s like, the character in the scene didn’t seem to care about Quinni saying this. Quinni never says anything about it ever again. And it never gets brought up in a different way or in different contexts or explained to the average viewer – who probably doesn’t even know that “idiot” is an ableist word, because most people don’t.

Royce: If I remember that line correctly, it was delivered pretty quickly and pretty softly, and then the dialogue just moved on.

Courtney: Yeah. Exactly. Right off the bat. And the thing is, you could have done more with that line if you’re going to put it in. Because later on, during a big sort of climactic scene, where the character who was originally told that “idiot” is ableist language and just ignored it is, like, getting really fired up, really angry, she’s with another student that she’s ticked off at. And the school janitor or some security officer or something is, like, locking them in a room and being like, “Hey, I got them.” And he, on the radio, is like, “Oh, I got the ringleader and the idiot.” And it’s like, okay, now you have an adult calling a teenager an idiot, and I don’t like that under any circumstances, but it could have been almost like character development if in the first episode or two, an Autistic character says, like, “First of all, that’s ableist language,” and she shrugs it off and ignores it for a while. Maybe she hears something again a second time and builds her understanding a little bit. But then, like, the third time the word “idiot” comes out, she’s, like, yelling at this guy from inside a locked room, being like, “Hey, ‘idiot’ is ableist language.” That could almost be funny, and it could almost be character development. But they didn’t do anything of the sort. So it’s like, I don’t know.

Courtney: And the girl that Quinni actually goes on to date for a while is, like, the social justice character. She is a lesbian. She is in the environmental club. Like… And she’s just so insufferable most of the time. [laughing] And in this show, where it’s like, “Are these kids actually sexually literate or not?” is also another thing that I want the show to actually explain. Because the kids in the SLT class are constantly saying, like, [slightly whiny tone] “We know all these things. We know. We’re feminists, and we use protection, and blah blah blah.” But then you see these kids making bad decisions outside of it. And it’s like, are they just lying or are they not self-aware? But then you have this lesbian character who’s like, [holier-than-thou tone] “I read The Ethical Slut when I was, like, 6 years old.” And it’s like, ugh, oh my God. [laughs] Oh my God. [laughs]

Courtney: And that’s why I also, I also… It’s like, I don’t know what the show is trying to do, other than have teenage sex show with trauma escalation. Because I don’t see it taking actual moral stances, most of the time, or it’s a little wishy-washy on it. And then when it comes to the actual sex education things that it’s showing on screen, there were times where we, as fully grown adults [laughing] who didn’t have a very robust sex education curriculum as kids – we were, like, needing to Google things, because we were like, “Is that correct? [laughs] Is that right?” There’s, like, an STI scare. Do you remember which one it was? Someone tested positive for something.

Royce: Oh, I think we were looking up the actual transmission rates for chlamydia.

Courtney: It was chlamydia. Okay. ’Cause yeah, so, someone tested positive for chlamydia. And then she’s, like, trying to figure out how to tell all the sexual partners she’s been with. And the way she’s rehearsing it, she’s like, “Hey, I have chlamydia, which means you do too!” Or “Hey, I tested positive, so that means you’re probably also positive.” And I was like, “You know what, my sex education never actually taught me, like, the percentage chance of contracting an STI if you do have a sexual relationship with someone who’s positive.” So we are, like, googling the percentage chance. And it’s technically – like, it was far less than half. So the way they were setting it up was like, “You almost definitely have this now.”

Royce: Yeah. And so there are kind of two things, because there was one ongoing sexual partner, and then there was – the two of them had a one-time threesome with another person.

[Courtney laughs]

Royce: And so that’s where this conversation was coming from. But it wasn’t clear how the STI got introduced to the group in the first place. But Harper was the first one to figure this out, was the one who, I believe, went into the doctor for maybe a UTI or something like that –

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: – and found out that they had chlamydia and then needed to tell the other two involved. But instead of them going and independently getting tested, it just shows the three of them, like, splitting a package of medication.

Courtney: Yeah. Harper just, like, brings them each a pack of pills. And it’s like, maybe that is a lot easier to do in Australia than it is here, but also, did they get tested, or did you just assume that they have it? [laughs] So that’s what it’s like. You’re not even giving us sex education, even though the show is heavily revolved around that theme, because we as fully grown adults are googling shit. [laughs] It’s like, pick a side. Are you doing sex education or not?

Courtney: Which, I don’t know if we’ll need to circle back or if that’s mostly all we have to say about the threesome, but there was this really weird moment where… When we were watching the Interview with the Vampire show, I saw people online saying that that show depicted the first threesome in television history. And I was like, “Heartbreak High did it a couple months ago. [laughs] What are you talking about? Clearly, you are not well-versed on the teenage sex shows.”

Royce: I’m confused by that statement, “the first threesome in television history.”

Courtney: I feel like people make broad sweeping statements like that without actually researching it.

Royce: Yeah.

Courtney: And it’s just like, “Oh, it’s the first one I happened to see.”

Royce: I mean, what kind of television history are you referring to? Are you referring to general broadcast, too? Like… Because yeah, I mean, I would have to do some googling, but like, seriously, nothing that came on, like, HBO or Showtime or something 15 years ago had depicted one?

Courtney: What happens… I’m going to have to be really careful with this google search. [sounds of typing] “First threesome on television in history.” Ah! “A brief history of threesomes on reality TV.” [laughs]

Royce: Reality TV. Okay.

[Courtney laughs]

Royce: Apparently, there is a British TV series named Threesome.

Courtney: Oh, well, there you have it. Oh, “Days of Our Lives features first threesome sex scene in show’s 57-year history,” and that was in 2022, but that’s also just in that show. But that was also decidedly before Interview with the Vampire. So yeah, that one had me scratching my head. And I mean, honestly, when Heartbreak High first came out, I was seeing other Aces online say that “Heartbreak High brought us the first male Asexual character in TV history.” And I was like, “That’s not true either! [laughs] Stop making these claims! How dare you do that to Todd Chavez, for one. And even if you are, for some reason, discounting animation, then how dare you do that to Takahashi from Koisenu Futari, who is our favorite AroAce boy, such a precious sweetheart, way better than Cash.”

Courtney: I know there are a lot of Cash stans out there, and I’m probably going to upset them. I don’t think Cash is an awful, awful, horrible character. I do not think so. As far as the actual Ace rep on the show, I thought it was perfectly passable. But man, the people who are like, “Cash! I love him! He’s such a good character!” and “Hooray, we have such a good Ace character.” I’m like… [groans].

Royce: So, I guess, let’s talk about Cash. Cash – or Doug, Douglas is his actual name –

Courtney: His name is Douglas?! [laughs]

Royce: Yeah. So, this is where… This is one of a couple of things that I think we should talk about during this episode where, as someone who is not very familiar with Australia, there were a few things that threw me off.

Courtney: Mmm.

Royce: Because apparently, there is a sort of delinquent culture trend, stereotype, whatever you want to call it –

Courtney: Ah, the eshays.

Royce: The eshays or the adlays. Which –

Courtney: Adlays! Oh, that’s Pig Latin, isn’t it?

Royce: So is eshay.

Courtney: Oh, no!

Royce: For sesh, yeah.

Courtney: The whole time they were saying “eshay,” it never even occurred to me that that was Pig Latin. [laughs]

Royce: So, that’s the thing that threw me off. Because as an American that grew up in the time period that I did, there are two things that I definitely do not associate with delinquency, and those are Pig Latin and fanny packs.

Courtney: [laughs] Or the word “lad.” [laughs]

Royce: True, true. We don’t say that over here very often, but –

Courtney: And when we do, it’s very soft.

Royce: I see the usage of Pig Latin as something that’s sort of inherently childish, because that’s kind of where I heard it, as just something fun.

Courtney: On the playground. Like, the first three people on the playground who learned what Pig Latin was were, like, super cool until everyone else figured out the trick, and then it’s not cool anymore and we’re moving on.

Royce: Right. But, pulling from Wikipedia a bit here, “eshay” appears to derive from “sesh,” or, you know, cannabis usage. Cash is a part of a gang that does sell drugs. So, checks out. And the sort of stereotype of this group is hyper-masculine, inclined to violent crimes, sort of things, which happens in the show. But yeah, the fashion of sportswear and fanny packs threw me off a little bit.

Courtney: [laughs] That is one thing that I’ll also say. I believe when we covered Sex Education, I made fun of certain British insults, because to my American ears, they just sound very silly and soft and have no punch at all. There were definitely some bits of Australian slang that it’s like, “That just sounds silly.” [laughs] Like, what did they call, like, ditching school? They were like, “Oh, we’re whacking”? “We’re whacking off” or something.

Royce: I don’t remember that one. Possibly.

Courtney: Or is that stealing? There were two that were kind of similar. Stealing something and ditching School were both very similar words. Oh yeah, I think “whacking” was stealing, but they wagged school. “Let’s wag.”

Courtney: So on the note of Cash and the eshays, where shall we begin with him? Because he’s our Ace character. We don’t know that until nearly the end of the show.

Royce: That’s what I was trying to think. Because they never actually articulated what Cash’s orientation explicitly was. We’re left to infer it because it’s something that Cash is working through trying to figure out. But from what we can see, Cash is a gay Asexual person.

Courtney: Yeah.

Royce: And most of this is seen through their relationship with Darren –

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: – who is a…

Courtney: Black, nonbinary, queer…

Royce: Yes.

Courtney: “Yes.” [laughs]

Royce: Yes.

Courtney: End. End description.

Royce: You filled in some things while I was double-checking. But yes, Darren is very sexually active.

Courtney: Very sexually active.

Royce: And so, getting into their relationship… I think there are a few different ways to display or to talk about Asexuality, and I don’t think that one is worse than another. Because you have cases where… well, in all queer depiction, where someone comes out and everything is sunshine and roses and they have supportive friends, and it’s all happy and nice. And that’s great, but it’s also unrealistic for a lot of people. It doesn’t match a lot of people’s real life experiences. On the other side of things you have the opposite, where someone comes out and is met with bigotry and hostility.

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: Which is a bit more along the lines of what we see here. And then you also have some cases where someone comes out or their orientation or identity is mentioned, and it’s just not a big deal.

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: It’s just like – it’s not even a part of the plot, it’s just acknowledged that this is their identity and we move on, kind of a thing. And we’ve seen differences here and there. In this case, Darren and Cash are in a relationship. And Darren is getting really frustrated because they want to have sex. And there’s a couple points – Darren is talking with a couple of their friends, and they say something along the lines of, “I’m getting mixed signals from Cash. He only wants to kiss.” And so, one of the friends says, “Well, maybe he just wants to take things slow.”

Courtney: Ugh.

Royce: And Darren says, “Only serial killers take things slow.”

Courtney: Ugh!

Royce: Later on in that same episode, I think, they try to sort of nudge things along by taking a nude photo and sending it. And later on, like, Cash gets the photo and is receptive to it and is trying to figure out, “How do I take a photo?”

[Courtney laughs]

Royce: “How do I send one of these?” And there’s a scene where they’re just, like, trying to take an image in front of the mirror, and it’s very awkward. It’s clear that they’re, like –

Courtney: Forcing it.

Royce: They’re forcing it. They’re not really sure to some extent, like, what even – ”How do I do this? What even is appealing? How did they get this photo?” Which –

Courtney: Which, they had help. [laughs]

Royce: They had help. It was a whole production –

Courtney: Like, two different girlfriends, costume, wardrobe. [laughs]

Royce: It was funny, too, because Cash is like, “I don’t even know how – like, how did you take this? It looks professional.” And, I don’t know, Darren, under their breath, was like, “Oh, that was, like, barely any effort at all. That’s, like, that’s nothing.”

Courtney: Lies.

Royce: But –

Courtney: The thing about Darren… Darren and Quinni as friends are everything to me.

Royce: They’re great.

Courtney: They’re very precious. They are great. Darren is a wonderful friend to Quinni. I don’t think I like the way Darren treats anyone other than Quinni. [laughs]

Royce: Yeah.

Courtney: Like, anytime Darren’s interacting with anyone who’s not Quinni, it’s like, I… Go back to Quinni. I like you better with her.

Royce: During that scene with Cash, the awkwardness sort of passes, and they’re actually talking about it, about why Cash didn’t respond to the nude because they were so nervous about trying to take one themselves. And Cash says, “I’ve never taken a nude before.” And Darren says, “Maybe you really are a serial killer.”

Courtney: Oh my gosh, yes! And it’s like, it’s so odd. Because, yes, the serial killer thing is something that a lot of Aces have heard, a lot of Aros have heard, but this seems, like, way, way too far. [laughs] Like, this is someone who is so hypersexual that they’re assigning serial killer behavior to someone who wants to take it slow? Which is also – like, again, you’re going back to the sex education and they’re talking about consent and people who have different boundaries. And it’s like, agh!

Royce: I do think that the show ends up portraying this on Cash’s side. It sheds, you know, Cash’s situation in a sympathetic light.

Courtney: Yes.

Royce: I think they could have done more. But this sort of – this scene that we’ve been discussing this ends up turning into a fight, where Cash is trying to find the words to explain and says something to the effect of, like, “I’m just not wired that way.”

Courtney: Yeah.

Royce: And it’s treated as…

Courtney: “I’m not built like you.”

Royce: It’s treated as a sort of self-hating repression instead of them actually, you know, talking about Asexuality. Because this is not something that… Darren clearly does not know of or understand Asexuality.

Courtney: Yeah.

Royce: And there’s a line there that, like, ends this scene, where, like, very emotionally, Darren says, “I think there might be something really wrong with you. Go use somebody else to figure it out.”

Courtney: Yeah. Yeah. Because Darren definitely pulls the, like, “Oh, you’re just a self-hating gay. You are just, you know, halfway in the closet. You’re gay and you don’t want to admit it.” And it’s like, that’s also a thing that a lot of Aces have heard, regardless of whether or not they have any sort of, you know, homoromantic orientation or anything in that realm. So I think – in terms of accuracy, I think they are hitting a lot of things that Aces can relate to and have likely heard before if they are out.

Royce: I think this is a situation that will resonate with some people who are Ace.

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: If we compare it to, like, say, the quick soapbox seen in Sex Education, I understand that a lot of people found that very promising or fulfilling, but it was also very forced and unnatural.

Courtney: Yes.

Royce: Whereas I think this was… It was traumatic, but it was also, I think, a very real experience for a lot of people.

Courtney: Well, it put it in context. It wasn’t just, “You are Asexual, and here’s what it means, and you are valid,” and the Ace goes, “Great! Thanks! Bye!”

Royce: And then disappears from the cast.

Courtney: This is, you’re putting the Asexual character in an actual relationship. You are having them interact with other people and seeing how other people respond to them. And so in that sense, what they did was good. I don’t think anything that they did in terms of showing the Ace arc was bad, by any means. But you’re definitely right that they needed to do more.

Royce: Which, I don’t know what the plans are for the series. I know that after that scene, there is a little bit of conversation between Cash and Darren where they’re both clearly upset and they’re, I think, a bit hesitant. I don’t know if, if there is a second season, if there will be room for them to actually have a conversation and try to talk things out. Because it just erupted into a big argument in this season.

Courtney: Well, here’s why they needed to do more. Because the last big conversation that Darren and Cash have… After – there was an argument, and, you know, Darren storms off, Cash is literally crying, like, in a hallway. So you’re seeing this very vulnerable, terrible, emotional moment for Cash. Later on, Darren comes to see Cash. And without using the word “Asexual,” the conversation they have, I was like, “I don’t dislike the conversation, but where is it coming from? Where was this growth? Where was this education?” Because we just did not see it.

Courtney: Because Darren, all of a sudden, just seems to get it and just shows up at Cash’s place and says, “Hey, I figured out your superpower.” And says something about, like, “Oh, I can…” I think he even uses the word “invisible.” Like, “Oh, why you’re invisible in this situation,” or… And this conversation is one of understanding where Darren’s like, “I get you now, and I see – and this is okay. And we can work with this.” And it’s a beautiful scene, but it’s like, how did you arrive at this? There was nothing. Like, you were calling Darren a serial killer. You were calling, you were calling… No, Darren was calling Cash – calling him a serial killer, saying, you know, “Go use someone else. You’re clearly messed up,” saying, you know, “You’re just repressed and figure your shit out.” And then all of a sudden, with no explanation, Darren’s just like, “I get it now, and I’m accepting.” Like, what?

Royce: There is –

Courtney: Where was that growth? Where did this come from?

Royce: Yeah, it sounds like there was some off-screen googling, and it would have helped to show a little bit of that. Because it wasn’t fully explained, I think, to the audience.

Courtney: No. It came out of nowhere. The conversation itself was good, but we needed to see how you got from point A to point C. So, that’s where I say, like, even within the context of this season, they needed to do more, especially considering how freaking long some of the sex and/or making out scenes are in this show.

Royce: Oh, the second time I feel like you had to step out of the room.

Courtney: I literally left the room. So here’s the thing. Here’s the thing. There’s a lot of sex scene discourse right now. [laughs] There is a lot of sex scene discourse about “Is it good? Is it bad? Does it have a reason?” And some people are taking it so far as to say we should ban it, but most of the time, they’re just bad. And the thing is… Oh, and some people are starting to bring in, like, “At what point is this pornography?” And people will bring out the definition of “pornography,” saying, “Oh, well, it’s designed to titillate.”

Courtney: And it’s like, ugh. First of all, I’m tired. I’m so tired of seeing so many teenagers have so much sex on television. I know some teenagers are sexually active. I get it. We see too much of it, but more so than seeing it, I’m tired of hearing it.

Royce: That’s the thing I was going to say. It’s –

Courtney: [louder] I’m tired of hearing it.

Royce: It’s not the sex scene.

Courtney: It’s the mouth sounds.

Royce: It’s the mouth sounds.

Courtney: It’s the… I have a bone to pick with the audio director, like, the… Who is the sound guy who is micing these scenes? Because in shows like this, in the Euphorias, in the Heartbreak Highs, there are some scenes where people are talking so low that I’m struggling to pick up the actual dialogue and the words they’re saying because they are poorly mic’d, and the camera angles are trying to be so artistic that it makes it difficult to actually get a boom in the shot, and the audio quality overall is just going so far down on so much media lately. And yet, I can hear every drop of saliva moving between their mouths as they are making out. It is like they have taken a lavalier mic and just, like, taped it under their tongues. What are you doing? It should not sound like these teenagers are swapping saliva inside my brain! [laughs] It makes me want to break my ankles. It is so bad.

Courtney: When it started this second time through – and mind you, we’re both working. We have this on in the background. So Royce is, like, up with a laptop. I am hunched over in my studio making a fancy doily out of human hair. And the moment this scene started, I’m like, “Quick, get to a stopping point so I can drop this.” Set my project down. I left the room because I couldn’t handle it, and I knew it was coming. I can’t stand those mouth sounds! I walked all the way to the kitchen. I’m like, “I’m just gonna grab a snack. I’m gonna get a banana.” I walked in the kitchen, I ate a freaking banana. I came back into my studio, and it’s still going on! [laughs] It is still happening! So I had to turn right back around and walk out again. Oh my God! It’s so… [laughing] why does the kissing need to be that loud?

Royce: So about that misophonia.

Courtney: No! It’s – listen. Also, here’s another thing. Here’s another thing. So we have Quinni, right? We have this Autistic character who – as far as the Autism rep. I thought it was very good, and we’ll get into that here in a minute. But they try to demonstrate situations where she’s getting overstimulated, where she’s getting anxious, where she’s hearing every single little sound way too heavily. And so, they very specifically make all these sounds very loud and very sort of jarring to watch with the camera angles and whatnot, to demonstrate, like, how hard this is for her to deal with these things. And yet in the exact same show, they’re like, “Let’s make it insufferable for any neurodivergent person to actually watch these sex scenes, because we are going to just crank the volume up to 11.” I hate it. I hate it so much. They need to stop.

Courtney: And especially in a show where there are some scenes where I’m like, “What did he just say?” [laughs] Like, I don’t want to have to turn on subtitles, but maybe I do. And I don’t think it’s just me. I think that micing for that scene was bad. But they sure got every single sound for every single sex scene. And they always do. And I can’t handle it. It needs to stop.

Courtney: We need to add this in the sex scene discourse. All the people who are like, “Do sex scenes matter? Should we have them?” Should we have them mic’d the way we do? Should we hear every single mouth sound? That’s the conversation we need to have. If you can cut out all the mouth sounds, I will be more forgiving of sex scenes. [laughs] I still won’t like them, but maybe I can forgive them a little better.

Royce: Was that the end of the Cash topic?

Courtney: Gosh, I don’t know, was it? [laughs] Well, so the thing is, Ace rep alone: not bad. Definitely needed more. They skirted over some details that I think would have been not only important for the sake of the representation and for the sake of the allos who are watching this show who are maybe, you know, learning for the first time how to be an ally and how to learn about Asexuality. Would have been nice if they dropped the word. It was fairly obvious, so I don’t think there’s much deniability there, unlike some other shows, where it’s like, there’s clear plausible deniability here. So even that wasn’t too bad.

Courtney: But all the people who are just like, “Cash, my boy, my baby, my precious, can do no wrong, wonderful, wonderful soul”... I get falling into the wrong crowd, and I get growing, and I get doing better, and I get being in very difficult situations when you do fall in with a dangerous crowd. Those things I can forgive. But all the people out there who think Cash can do no wrong: he was literally an accessory to kidnapping a girl. And everyone forgives him that because he technically helped the girl get away later. But I think we’re brushing over that a little too much. [laughs] Like, he and his gang kidnapped a girl! And everyone’s like, “Oh, but it’s okay” ’cause he, like, didn’t do anything to stop it in the first place.” That girl has trauma now! That girl thought she was going to get sexually assaulted and/or murdered that night. She had her hair ripped out as she tried to escape. And it was just like, Cash unlocked the door while they were filling up for gas.

Royce: That was all. Yeah, she –

Courtney: That’s all he did.

Royce: She hit –

Courtney: And everyone’s like, “My hero.” No.

Royce: Yeah. He unlocked the door, and she hit the other person in the car in the face, and jumped out of the car and ran. And that was it. Because the rest of the gang was chasing her through a field for a while.

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: And she made it out. But that was the only thing Cash did as the driver.

Courtney: Yeah. Yeah. And as she was trying to run away, the guy who was still in the backseat grabbed her by the hair, and it was a huge chunk of hair that just got ripped out. And I call shenanigans on that. Hair is so strong that if you have that much hair in your fist, it’s not just going to rip out. Like, you’re actually going to be able to hold that person down before all of that hair is getting ripped out at the same time. It’s the same kind of, like… It’s the same reason why if you sit on a single nail, it’s going to pierce your skin and it’s gonna hurt, but if you lay down on a bed of nails, the weight is all distributed and it’s just fine and dandy. Like, hair is so, so strong. And nobody – so few people realize how strong hair is that especially when you have a whole fistful like that, it’s like – I work with hair that’s already cut off the head. I am taking, like, say, 80 strands of hair, and I am affixing them to heavily weighted bobbins so that I can weave with them. That hair is not breaking. If all of that hair is still in the scalp, it is not all going to pull out. It’s why you can pull out a single hair easily, but not not a whole fist of hair. So that one bothered me. [laughs]

Courtney: But Cash ends up getting arrested for it at the end. He basically turns himself in so that, hopefully, the other guys involved can also get caught. And it’s this, like, big emotional scene, and everyone’s like, “Yeah, good guy Cash.” And it’s like, I don’t know. [laughs] I’m not saying he’s bad Ace rep just because he’s done some bad things, but I am going to say he’s just a bad character who needs more development. I think he’s started his development. Maybe, maybe eventually he can be redeemed. But as as someone who was kidnapped by a gang of guys via car as a teenager at about the same age as this girl was, I don’t have any sympathy [laughs] for guys who kidnap teenage girls! He’s also 18, right? He’s, like, the only…

Royce: He is. He got held back a year.

Courtney: Yeah, he got held back a year. Because people even asked him, like, “Why didn’t you just drop out? Why did you come back to school?” So he’s also like… Yeah, I don’t know. He’s still in high school, but he’s very much an adult who is kidnapping a minor girl.

Royce: I think in terms of widespread media literacy, a lot of people want to take a character who has some amount of, you know, sympathetic plotline and just forget any potential grievances, any gray areas.

Courtney: Which, we can’t do that. We need to admit that he is very morally gray. Very gray character, that Cash. And, you know, I would be just less upset about the discourse if people just acknowledged the moral grayness of it. [laughs] But so many are like, “He’s the best. He can do no wrong.” Like, no. No. Ace people can suck too.

Royce: Okay, so this episode is getting a little long. And I do want to talk more about Quinn. But real quick, I have a few other notes that I want to just get through, like, rapid fire. In terms of, like, sexuality being discussed and Ace themes, there are a couple points that just hit kind of oddly. Like, the main character, Amerie, is trying to get over some, like, heartbreak sort of situations. And Darren says, “Best way to get over someone is to get under someone else.”

Courtney: Eww.

Royce: Amerie decides, “I’m just not gonna think about sex. I’m just going to put myself in situations where I am not thinking about sex ever.” And someone around, I think it’s Quinn, who says, “How do you just stop thinking about sex?”

Courtney: [laughing] Yeah! Which, that’s the odd thing. Because if you think about it from, you know, the Ace rep perspective, like, clearly not all Aces are sex-repulsed, but I would say, on average, there’s probably a higher percentage of Ace people that do have gripes with all the sex scenes than there are allo people percentage. So, you’re putting an Ace character in the show that has all these sex scenes and all this very sexually charged content and all these very sexually charged comments like that. And then you also have this Autistic character who’s having these sensory issues, and you make those sex scenes an incredibly bad sensory experience all around. So all the Autistic Aces – at least the ones who are like me – are just gonna suffer through watching the show for a few scenes of Ace rep. [laughs]

Royce: So, before going through the Autistic rep, the other character I want to bring up is Malakai.

Courtney: Mmm! Mhm.

Royce: Because Malakai is one of the primary characters in the cast.

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: And is Indigenous Australian.

Courtney: That was very interesting the first time through. Because when I saw him on screen, I was pretty sure he was Aboriginal, but then he referred to himself as Black, and that was something that took me off guard as an American who was quite ignorant to that culture.

Royce: That threw me off for a bit as well. Because from what I’ve read, “Black” does refer more to Indigenous populations, in Australia, than African. And I believe there has been some changing in the language to differentiate those two groups. But what was used in this show was the term “Black.”

Courtney: Yes. And I hope that other people watching it who had the same moment I did – where I was like, “I don’t know where that’s coming from” – I hope other people did what I did and googled it. Because I actually found a couple of great articles that helped explain this, because the show itself did not explain it. I don’t think it necessarily needs to, because the characters there [laughing] probably know a lot more about this culture than I do on the other half of the world.

Courtney: But I will actually add some links in the show notes to some of the articles that I read, because I want everybody who also did not know about this to read more about it. But I was seeing “Black” in some of these articles spelled “Blak.” But I just got to reading about the history and, you know, why Aboriginal Australians are called “Black,” where that history comes from, why that is the culture. And I found it to be a very interesting read, because I was quite ignorant, I will admit.

Royce: Do you have anything specific to talk about there? I thought it was really interesting to show an Indigenous experience that I am unfamiliar with. Because most of what I see is, you know, from an American lens. But there is a case of police brutality in the show.

Courtney: There was, which… not a surprise whatsoever to me in America. I was like, “That looks familiar.”

Royce: Yeah.

Courtney: Apparently that’s the same [laughing] in other countries.

Royce: There are also a few scenes where Malakai is… Malakai is new to this school, I believe.

Courtney: Yeah, it was his first day and he got assigned to SLT because the racist principal mistook him for a different Black student. [laughs]

Royce: Which, the principal is Indigenous herself.

Courtney: Is she?

Royce: Yeah. Was he mistaken by another teacher?

Courtney: It might have been. I don’t know who was in charge of compiling the SLTs list.

Royce: I remember the scene you’re talking about. I don’t know if it was another teacher, though. Because I think one of the other characters is like, “That’s really racist. What’s going on?” And Malakai just sort of brushes it off in what felt like an “Oh, this is Tuesday” sort of moment.

Courtney: Mmm. Mhm. Yeah.

Royce: But there are some group situations where Malakai is in sort of an awkward or pressured social situation, and other Indigenous people who don’t particularly know him very well go out of their way to try to help him through it.

Courtney: I thought that was great. In fact, I wanted more of it.

Royce: Yeah. Like –

Courtney: Those scenes of that, like, you know, community, like, looking out for your own was really, really beautiful. And they clearly had a connection culturally that other people in the school just did not have and weren’t able to reach him on that level. And considering the fact that I did, as an American, have to google, like, “Why are they using the word ‘Black’ here? Where does that come from?” because that’s not my association with that word, I wanted to see more of Malakai, and I wanted to see more of this relationship. But what actually ended up happening in practice – they sort of, like, whisked him away and he was just kind of absent from the story for a little bit while he went to go heal.

Royce: He literally went off into the bush.

Courtney: Literally! Yeah. And it was like… alright, but [laughing] I was enjoying his story more than all these teenagers having sex.

Royce: And that was something that came about near the end of Season 1, after there’s all of this sort of relationship drama going on. That was kind of his Season 1 story.

Courtney: Yeah. Well, let me also… Because the night that he did experience that police brutality – I want to talk about how weird that night was. Like, up until the police brutality, the fact that he did get singled out by a cop and got attacked was, like, the most believable aspect of that entire night for me.

Courtney: So, we have Amerie, Darren, and Quinni, who are all kind of getting ready to go to a gay bar. Darren is planning on entering one of the categories in the Ball for the first time. And I’m like, “I need to google real quick what the drinking age in Australia is, but I’m pretty sure [laughing] you’re pulling shenanigans to get in here.” But while they’re getting ready, Cash shows up, and so does Malakai. So they just sort of get brought along. Darren’s like, “Do you want something gay to wear? Here, let’s makeover. Come along with us.”

Courtney: So I’m like, “Alright.” Darren’s actually entering the competition, bringing their two best friends right now, and these other two that just showed up. And he’s, you know – and they’re, you know, with Cash anyway. So it’s like, alright, bringing Cash along – which, as far as we know right now, Cash is just gay, and that’s the end of that story, ’cause we haven’t, you know, seen the nuances of that yet. So it’s like, alright, sure that makes sense. And it’s like, well, as far as we know, Malakai is straight. But, you know, he is with Amerie, and Amerie’s – so, alright, fine, fine, fine.

Courtney: But then, they show up [laughs] to this very queer event at a very adult bar. And then you also have, like, the lesbian social justice character, who at the time is dating Quinni, but they didn’t show up together. They’re just, like, across the room. And [uncertain] okay… so, okay. The lesbian shows up at the gay bar. Alright, I suppose that’s fine. But then, like, all of the bully, jock bro, like, sports, blond, tall, buff, like, jerkwads who, as far as we know, are also straight and are the ones who are kind of like saying misogynistic things in the SLTs class are also there? Why? Why? [laughs]

Courtney: And Cash is the only one here that we’re aware of that’s even 18 right now. Everyone else is underage. [laughs] So… and I’m not even saying that nobody underage can never get into a bar. I famously had my 16th birthday party in a bar. It was a surprise party that they threw for me, and the bar totally knew everything about that. But I had already hung out there for a while, but I was a good kid. I didn’t drink. I just hung out at the bar a lot and… [laughs] It’s fine. So I know that it can happen. But all of them? Absolutely all of the teenagers are at the bar? And not just the bar, they’re at the Ball? Even the ones who are, like, [laughing] straight misogynists? Why? I don’t get it! [laughs] Explain this to me.

Royce: Well, you also had a couple of bits of commentary on the Ball itself.

Courtney: I mean, yeah, I did have some, uh… I had some notes. First of all, Darren enters the, like, “All white” category not wearing a single shred of white. And Darren does a little… [laughs] I almost want to call it noguing, but I’m trying to be kind because, you know, they are queer. It’s their very first time at the Ball. So instead of being like, “You’re outright noguing, you don’t know anything about this culture,” I almost want to say, like, “This is your very first, like, dipping your toe into this culture as, you know, a little, you know, baby gay.” But like, Darren goes up and does their thing and, like, basically gets almost all 10s. It’s like, 10s, 10s. Nope, actually, not 10s across the board.

Courtney: And I don’t… first of all, you’re not wearing white, my friend. What are you doing? Follow the category. But also, even the people who are like, “You know, you’re not wearing white, but I’m gonna give you a 10”: why? This is not a game. This is Ballroom. And this was, like, baby’s first duck walk. [laughs] This is, like – it was not an Immaculate performance. It was… [laughs] it was just unrealistic. It was no. And then the one judge doesn’t give them a 10, and everyone’s, like, in an uproar. And it’s like, “Sorry, that’s Ballroom, you’ll get over it.” It’s like, yeah, that’s Ballroom, you’ll get over it. Why did the other judges give them a 10? [laughs] Absolutely not!

Royce: Oh, there was also the introduction to the Ballroom scene.

Courtney: And that’s another thing! [laughs] This is just “Courtney rants day” apparently. So, the emcee of the Ball gets up and welcomes everybody and says, “Ladies and gentlethems.” With how much everyone we saw in the Ace community talking about how much they loved the show when it first came out and how great the Ace rep is, I do not ever again want to see a single damn person come for me for saying “Ladies and gentlethems.” ’Cause that is literally how they introduced the Ball in this show.

Courtney: And I swear to you – I have not spoken about this yet, because it at the time, it was like, if we talk about this, it’s going to get more attention than it deserves. [laughs] But this was over a year ago now, at this point. It was after The New York Times bought Wordle, because everyone was so worried that New York Times was going to put Wordle behind a paywall, and this fun thing that everybody’s been doing every single day is gonna, you know, be pay-to-play now.

Courtney: And Royce, you are a programmer. You are a videogame programmer by degree. And Wordle is, from what I understand, very simple. [laughs] So you’re like, “Do I just need to make you a Wordle, just in case?” So you just went boop-boop-boop, programming, type type, here’s a Wordle!” You’re very impressive. [laughs] And this was, like, 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. It is late at night. We are just being silly. You’re putting a laptop in front of me. And out of nowhere – I don’t know how you pulled this number out – you just said, “Do you want me to make you an 11-letter Wordle?”

Royce: Oh, well, part of making a word game is downloading a dictionary of all the possible words, so that you can pull words from it. And I looked at it and said, “Oh hey, there are a fair number of words in the English language, in this dictionary, that get to these lengths.”

[Courtney laughs]

Royce: “We can actually reasonably do a 13-letter Wordle.”

Courtney: Well, and at this time – still to this day, actually, she says, as she flips her hair – I have never lost a Wordle. I was doing Wordle every day, and I never lost. And then someone made a Swedish knockoff of Wordle, and so I started doing the Swedish Wordle, and I never lost a Swedish Wordle – even though I didn’t know all of the words that I was guessing, [laughs] so I was pretty pleased with that. And then people came up with, like, the Quordle with the four different Wordles simultaneously, and I never lost one of those either.

Courtney: So I was like, “Alright, I’m game. I’m ready for a new challenge. Sure. Make me an 11-letter Wordle.” And so you went boop-boop-boop, type, program. “Here you go. 11-letter Wordle.” [laughs] And I was like, “Oof, okay.” So I sat down and I was, like, “Reminiscing.” And the only letters I got right were I, N, G. And I was like, “Crap.” [laughs] “This is gonna be a challenge.”

Courtney: And at this moment, it occurs to me, maybe this is just a cute, funny, silly little thing that our Twitter followers might like to know that this is just how we are in our free time. Royce makes Courtney an 11-letter Wordle, and we sit down and giggle about it over a laptop in bed. So, I posted, like, a screenshot of my first guess. And I was just like, “Oh God, save me. Royce made me an 11-letter Wordle. Send help.” Just being silly. And then my second guess screenshot – and I’m adding alt text to everything, because we do that when we make Twitter posts.

Courtney: And I eventually won, because I’m still undefeated in any Wordle, even 11-letter Wordle. [laughs] And so, when I won – and I saw there were a couple of people who were, like, following along, ’cause there were a couple people who went and clicked, like, as I made new posts on this thread. So I was like, “Alright, the people are hooked. They need to know how this ends.” And when I won I just said, “Ladies and gentlethems, I am a Wordle God.”

Courtney: And by this point, it is, like, nearly 4:00 a.m. We’re tired. I go to bed. We both go to bed. And in the morning, we have woken up to a storm of hate on Twitter. And I was like, “Oh no, what happened?” I was absolutely floored. But first of all, someone, like, quote retweeted that and said, “Imagine saying ‘Ladies and gentlemen’ as a queer person in the year 2022. Clowns.” And I was like, “Okay, they just misread it.” Because I said “Ladies and gentlethems.” Like, I don’t remember the last time I have earnestly said “ladies and gentlemen.” [laughs] Because I, pre-pandemic, performed at a drag club, I went to drag shows, I was a part of my local queer community. Lots of people said “Ladies and gentlethems.” The Golden Gays of NYC say “Ladies and gentlethems” when they open their shows. Like, this is not just a me thing. This is a very, you know, drag scene, queer club kind of a thing. And here we see it, in the show, introducing a Ball. Like, come now.

Courtney: And so I thought, “Okay, well, simple misunderstanding. They didn’t see that I in fact said ‘gentlethems.’” So I commented, trying to be helpful. And I was like, “Oh, I actually said ‘gentlethems.’ I didn’t say ‘gentlemen.’” And then people started piling on, saying “That’s almost worse. ‘Ladies and gentlethems’ does not include me and my experience. It doesn’t include me, who is a nonbinary person who doesn’t use they/them pronouns.”

Courtney: And then… Here’s where I stopped getting, like, frantic and paranoid and started getting just a little annoyed. Because then there were definitely young white queer folks who were then coming to me saying, “I would literally rather be called a slur than see you say the phrase ‘ladies and gentlethems.’” And I was like, “Well, that tells me that you’ve never been called a slur.” I have had a cop call me a “prairie n-word” while illegally searching my car, and I would never say I would rather be called a slur than just about anything.

Courtney: But then it got to a point where everyone’s like, “Oh, The Ace Couple is exorsexist.” And that was the word everyone was using. And I will admit, we had to google that word. And Royce, I believe you had an opinion of that word.

Royce: Yeah, it shouldn’t be a word, is my opinion. Words based off of binary operations… they’re not good words.

[Courtney laughs]

Royce: Let’s just not.

Courtney: You say that as a nonbinary programmer.

Royce: Correct.

Courtney: You had to explain to me where the “exor” even came from. I was like, “Exorsexist, that’s a word. I haven’t run into yet.” So I’m googling it, and I found, like, a queer Wiki that was like, “Sexist against nonbinary genders.” And I was like, “How did you get that from ‘ladies and gentlethems,’ first of all?”

Royce: Yeah. I did like how, when we are explaining this story to a few friends – two of them who had at least done enough programming to understand what binary operands are – as soon as I mentioned, like, it was a bitwise or binary operand, both of them audibly groaned.

Courtney: Ahh. Well, and the thing is, like, do I think people can be sexist against nonbinary genders? Of course. Both of us are different types of nonbinary in this relationship. So most of our friends either don’t have a gender or they have too many genders. [laughs] Most of our friends. And I was literally in a weekly show every single week performing at the drag club, and I heard lots of people say “Ladies and gentlethems,” and none of the nonbinary people that I am in real life community with have ever disliked it. If anything, they’re like, “Yes! This is the only place in the world I can go where people are going to respect they/them pronouns and are going to respect my nonbinary identity.”

Courtney: And so I was just baffled. Because I was like, “Clearly, I have found a culture, a corner of the internet, that is so far removed from my experience.” And it was really troubling. But then people use that – like, they’re getting their hooks in there, like, “Oh, The Ace Couple are exorsexist. They are bigots against nonbinary people.” And I was like – I saw people repeating that removed from the original post. So I was like, “Oh boy. Oh boy. How far is this going to get?”

Courtney: And then people are like, “I’m not surprised The Ace Couple are exorsexist because they’re also ableists.” [laughing] And I was like, “Where did that come from?” And then all these people being like, “I didn’t know The Ace Couple were ableist! What’s that story?” And people were like, “I’ll DM you.” And I’m like, “What are you…? What is going on? What is going on?” [laughs] I’m not gonna claim I’ve gotten every single thing perfect ever. But, like, we’ve been on the Accessibility Board for the International Asexuality Conference because we care about accessibility. Royce, you professionally work with web accessibility. We have given free web accessibility audits to other Ace people to try to make their websites better. I am disabled and have faced real, in-person discrimination for having non-accessible spaces. And, like, I’ve spoken in articles about the intersection of Asexuality and disability. I worked with Asexual Outreach and Ace Week to create Disabled Ace Day. Like, this is a thing I do.

Courtney: And now all of a sudden, we are ableists and we’re also exorsexists and we’re trash and no one should deal with us. And it’s like, we were just being silly, funny, little couple-y people playing an 11-letter Wordle, and I thought it would be cute and fun to put online. And now we’re just bigots in every sense of the word. [laughs] So I was like, “Alright, I guess we don’t get to have fun on Twitter anymore.”

Courtney: And then to see some of those same people praise Heartbreak High for being a great show that has great Ace rep on. I’m like, “Oh… [growls]” [laughs] And we literally have someone introducing the Ball saying “Ladies and gentlethems.” Oh, it was infuriating!

Courtney: And this is why, I mean, we’ve stopped posting more casual, silly day-to-day things on Twitter. It’s because of this same group of people. Because there was another time where, like, California, like, legally classified fish as bees [laughs] for some kind of, like environment – or, no, bees were fish. They classified bees as fish so that they could be under some sort of environmental protection bit of legislation somehow. And we just thought it was very silly, very funny. We were having a conversation with our friends Aces Playing At Attraction on Twitch, and we just popped in and started telling them about how bees are legally fish now, just having a silly time.

Courtney: And Royce, you decided to just make a silly meme. You found, like, the goofiest picture of a fish you could possibly find and just said, like, “Save the bees.” And I thought it was so funny, so I went to post it on Twitter and I went to tag @At_Aces because we were just talking to them about this. And I added the alt text, as I always do, because we do actually care about accessibility. And very quickly – I stepped away from my phone for a few seconds, and I came back, and all of a sudden: “The Ace Couple, who claim to care about disabilities, are using their alt text to be bigoted against people with Down syndrome.” And I was like, “What… the actual hell?” I was again baffled.

Courtney: I have someone who, instead of just trying to flame us and talk about how horrible and problematic we are because of this – we did have one person who was trying to be, like, nice and helpful and be like, “Hey, in case you didn’t know, just so.” But I also didn’t agree with their… At least, not the information they put forward. Because this was someone who is clearly a lot younger than we are.

Courtney: The issue at hand was that I used the word “Derpy” to describe what this fish looked like, because the fish had a look that I could only describe as “derpy.” I thought that was a very vivid word that gives you the exact idea of, like, what this fish was doing. But someone said the word “derpy” was coined in, like, pretty recently, like, 2012 or 2013, and it was used to be bigoted against people with Down syndrome. And I was like, “First of all, that word is older than that. [laughs] I don’t know where you got that, but I was around when that word was being used before then. Way before then.”

Courtney: So I don’t know. And that was one of those situations where I feel like that’s a word that probably could be used very ableist, if you do use that word specifically to someone who has a disability, someone who has, say, a facial difference. Like, those are things where it’s like, you are using that word in a bigoted way, and that’s my opinion on that. But if I’m calling a cartoon fish “Derpy,” I don’t think – I’m willing to evolve my train of thought on that if I’m presented with other information, but so far the information I’ve been presented with is not accurate and does not line up to what I’ve known this word to be.

Courtney: But it’s just the lack of grace that people have. Like, I at least appreciate the one person, who, even though they were giving information where I was like, “That’s not true. I don’t know how old you are, but this word is older than 10 years. [laughing] It was not created 10 years ago.” I at least appreciated them being like, “Hey, in case you didn’t know, like, I know you didn’t mean this nefariously, but I thought you might like to know.” As opposed to these same people who had flamed us for being exorsexist and ableist and “How dare you use ‘ladies and gentlethems’; I’d rather be called a slur.” It’s like, ugh, there’s so little grace. There’s so little grace. And there’s no desire to let people learn and grow.

Courtney: And it’s like, this only really happens when we’re just being silly and trying to make a joke on Twitter. So it’s like, alright, I guess we just have to be serious and angry and social justice-y and “Here’s our new episode” and that’s it. Because apparently there’s a group of people who watches us like a hawk and will use absolutely anything to say that we’re specifically ableist against people with Down syndrome and we’re using our alt text to do it. “Those fiends,” as if we calculated it. We knew exactly what we were doing.

Courtney: So back to the show… [laughs]

Royce: Takeaway there: don’t believe everything you read online. A lot of it’s taken out of context and often in bad faith.

Courtney: Mmm. Yes.

Royce: But anyway, this episode is getting really long, and we still have one character to talk about.

Courtney: Quinni!

Royce: And so, I want to talk about how Quinn is portrayed in this series, because I think that her character is one of the closest onscreen representations that I have seen to how I feel my own social anxiety manifest. I think that from a personality standpoint, Quinn and I are very different. But the ways that social anxiety specifically are represented in the show feel very close to reality to me, more so than what I’ve seen presented in other shows, like Everything’s Going to Be Okay.

Courtney: I don’t know, Royce, I think the heart and star sparkly stickers on the cheek could be a look for you.

Royce: I don’t know about that.

Courtney: I think you should try it.

Royce: So, in one of the earlier scenes, I believe this is in Episode 2, Quinn goes on their first date with Sasha. Sasha is the lesbian character that we mentioned earlier.

Courtney: Who read The Ethical Slut when she was six. [laughs]

Royce: Quinn gets there early, or at least earlier than Sasha does. It isn’t explicitly mentioned. But if Quinn is anything like I am, it was probably precisely at the agreed-upon time, if not a few minutes before.

Courtney: I think what happened – I think they showed up together, but she, like, rushed off to the bathroom or something, and she like, “Go find a seat.”

Royce: Nooo.

Courtney: No?

Royce: She showed up late.

Courtney: Ohhh, okay.

Royce: And then, because – because Quinn is clearly uncomfortable standing in the corner of a crowded, noisy restaurant, waiting for Sasha to arrive, and once Sasha gets there, she then immediately runs off to the bathroom, leaving –

Courtney: Ahh, that’s right. That’s right.

Royce: Which leaves Quinn alone to find a place to sit. And there are a lot of subtle things that happen in this scene that I don’t know if everyone else would have picked up on. But there’s this one – there’s this need to try to find a place that is out of everyone’s way while you’re waiting. Like, this feeling that you need to try to be as small and unobtrusive as possible.

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: Quinn’s kind of standing back away near the entrance, back to the wall, trying to stay out of all of it. And then there’s this sort of feeling of comfort or relief when the person you’re waiting on finally arrives, and it’s someone who is familiar with this area. Sasha is the one that picked the restaurant. It’s like, okay, at this point, the other person can take over and get everything figured out, and that anxiety just drops a little bit, because you can go into sort of passenger mode. You don’t have to be the one making the decisions anymore.

Royce: And then there’s this abrupt shock where you just started to relax, and now it’s like, you’re left to your own devices again. So as soon as Sasha leaves, Quinn is now standing in the middle of a busy room, getting, like, nudged aside by people walking back and forth, clearly flustered. Asks a waiter, like, how to get a table. And the waiter just goes, “Oh, just sit wherever you’d like.” So now it’s, you’ve been removed from your safe place near the wall.

[Courtney laughs]

Royce: You’ve been left alone again, and there are people everywhere. And now you have to figure things out. And that felt very familiar. But decision made, table found. The show displays the impact that this had with a blurring of vision and a ringing or, like, buzzing in the ear in the audio, which you sort of mentioned a little bit earlier. Suddenly, everything in the surrounding area is a lot more pronounced than it had been beforehand, at the beginning of the scene. Everything was clear then.

Royce: And that’s really important for people to understand. Like, stress and anxiety aren’t constant, and they compound. So, things that might not be a big deal at least – or at least are able to be managed in a normal situation can escalate. They can be very difficult to handle if that base level of anxiety has been elevated. So while it was uncomfortable at the beginning of the scene, Quinn was handling it all. But then due to that disruption, due to the other person being late, due to, you know, things being disrupted, now, it’s hard to focus. Now, the environment is super loud. It’s difficult to understand what Sasha is actually saying. In the clip that we’re seeing, her words are kind of like coming in and out. Other conversations are drifting in. You hear the sound of utensils scraping against plates, of loud chewing, of all of these other things just kind of coming in and, like, overwhelming the situation. And it’s breaking up the dialogue.

Royce: And so, I’ve had experiences where I’ve told people before that I have trouble hearing people in loud environments, like at bars. And they always go, “Oh yeah, it’s loud in there. It can be hard sometimes.” And it’s like, no, no, you don’t get it. I’ve been in groups with you. We were at the same bar. You were still able to understand what people were saying at the table. Like, there’s something different going on here. There’s something that you don’t really understand.

Courtney: Well, you also do get, like, superhuman hearing. Like, pre-pandemic, when we would have a party, or we’d have a board game night, or we’d have a lot of people around, you could hear the faintest knock at the door from downstairs, when everyone’s loud, everyone’s talking, everyone’s drinking. And people have commented on that. Like, “How have you heard that?” And it’s like, you can hear something so subtle and faint like that, that most people are not hearing, and yet you also have this sort of disconnect with the, you know, dialogue with another person.

Royce: So yeah, I thought that scene was portrayed really well. The date doesn’t go very well, because it got off on the wrong foot, and now Quinn is overwhelmed and is having trouble keeping up with conversation, understanding what’s going on – or, like, actually hearing what’s being said. It’s very hard to participate in conversation at that point. And so the date doesn’t go very well. And she’s upset about it afterwards.

Royce: And we see a scene later with Amerie and Darren and Quinn in a bathroom. And at one point, Amerie goes to try to console Quinn, and immediately, like, moves in for physical contact, which is, you know, that’s very common for a lot of people. But for me, when I’m really anxious, any physical contact, even something really small, can feel constraining. Like even if I wasn’t actively trying to move around, it feels like I’m being held in place now, and I suddenly – I need to move. I need to get up and move around. And it’s kind of hard to describe, but it’s like time sort of slows down and my brain just hyperfixates on the physical sensation of the physical contact.

Royce: And while this is happening – this is very quick; I don’t know, again, I don’t know how many people actually caught this – but Amerie moves forward, and there’s this very quick reaction where Darren’s like, “Oh oh oh oh, no touching the Quinni,” and like, kind of gets in between the two of them and moves Amerie back.

Courtney: That is where I love Darren! Darren is such a good friend to Quinni and is so attentive to her needs and knows what she needs in situations like this. And it’s like, ugh, I love that Darren.

Royce: So Quinn and Sasha’s relationship is one of the more significant, like, consistent plotlines throughout the show. And Sasha just really doesn’t handle neurodivergence very well.

Courtney: No.

Royce: Because immediately, there’s a conflict after the date, where Sasha is very confrontational about what happened there. Like, “What’s going on here?” And can you remember – I didn’t take note of exactly what was said, but there’s a moment where Quinn kind of very bluntly says, you know, “I’m Autistic.”

Courtney: Yeah. Yeah. And Sasha’s response to it was weird to me. Because first, the initial response was something that I think a lot of high-masking Autists will recognize, where Sasha’s like, “Oh but I’ve known Autistic people before, and you’re not like that. Like, you’re too emotionally intelligent for that.” So you get that, like, there’s the ableism and there’s the “You clearly don’t actually understand Autism as a spectrum” kind of a thing.

Courtney: But then Quinni clearly has, like, the reaction that I would expect, that I think most people would expect, where she’s just like, “You know what? Forget it.” Like, she’s just like, “Alright. You’re gonna be that way, huh?” But then Sasha – the line seemed so forced and it’s like, this doesn’t sound like something a real person would say. This sounds like something an infographic would tell you is, like, how you should respond to something that then Twitter will flame for not sounding like a real human. Because then she’s like, “Clearly, I need to do some more research.” [laughs] And, I don’t know, it fell a little flat for me after the initial, like, bit of being dismissive and not understanding Autism, then it was like, “I promise, I will do better, and I will do research.” And it’s like, [weary] okay. It read like a PR statement. [laughs]

Royce: And so they do end up kind of talking things through and working things out well enough to continue past that first date. And there are a few other scenes that I want to go through. Because, like, knowing this, Sasha at least tries to be considerate of Quinn’s sensitivities, but takes it to a point of, like, overprotectiveness. Like, instead of trusting that Quinn will just tell them, like, when something is up, Sasha is actually, like, trying to preempt or decide beforehand what would or would not work for them. And it’s clear she doesn’t really get it, which I think is pretty common. I think any time a group of people tries to speak on behalf of another group, like, it’s a mis-intentioned allyship sort of thing.

Courtney: Mmm. Yeah.

Royce: But there are cases where Sasha, like, doesn’t even invite them to a bar because Sasha just decided, “Oh, this would be too stimulating.”

Courtney: Oh, well, yeah, when they were all, for some reason, every single underage teenager, even the straight ones, are at this Ball, like, Sasha’s in a stall doing hard drugs, and she’s like, “Oh, well, Quinni, you don’t want this.” And Quinni’s like, “How do you know? You didn’t even ask me.”

Royce: Yeah. And more than that, she actually answers “no” on her behalf, saying, “This might interfere with your medication.”

Courtney: Yeah.

Royce: And so it’s at that point – I used the term “overprotective” earlier, but now that we’re talking through it, it’s infantilizing.

Courtney: Yes. Yeah. That’s that’s the word. I’m sure someone like Sasha would think they’re just being protective, but.

Royce: Yeah, like mis-intentioned allyship again.

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: But it’s coming from a place of ignorance.

Courtney: Yeah.

Royce: But going on from that, there was another scene that really resonated with me. Because Quinn is going to this event with her favorite author. It’s a book signing and a reading of a new upcoming book. And they are super excited about it. They’ve been planning for it for a long time. They have the schedule well made out and rehearsed up and down and all of that. And that’s something – I do need schedules when I’m going places. I do need to have that thought ahead beforehand, like, timetables make me anxious. I don’t need to prepare as much as Quinn did, but I get it.

[Courtney laughs]

Royce: And of course, Sasha learns about this event and learns that it’s very important and kind of invites themself along. And I could tell there’s this, like – there are these couple of moments of hesitation of, like, “I already have this worked out. I already have the plan. It’s done. And now there is a change to the plan, and changes to the plan are scary. Those are uncomfortable.” But Quinn goes along with it, and the two of them go on the bus ride over there – which, at one point, Sasha sort of comments, like, “Why are we leaving so early? Why do we need this much time?” like, in a sort of judgy way. Like, “Why are you planning this far ahead? Why do we need to stick this strictly to a timetable?” sort of thing.

Royce: But they get on the bus and they start going there. And everything’s pretty good. And then Sasha sees, “Oh, we’re near this gelato place that’s really good. We should just pop in there and get something real quick.” And, like, I felt the panic –

[Courtney laughs]

Royce: – in Quinn’s expression. Because –

Courtney: You’re like, “No, don’t go to the gelato place!”

Royce: Don’t deviate from the plan!

Courtney: It’s a trap! [laughs]

Royce: And like, there’s a little bit of a pause in their speaking pattern, and I know exactly what was going through their head, which was the internal conflict of, like, “No, this is not what I agreed to. This is not what was planned. We already agreed what we are going to do. We’re going to go to the place. No deviations,” and then the other side of it being like, “Well, maybe it’ll be fine. Maybe I should just try to relax. Maybe I should just go along with it, and it’ll work its way out. Like, they’ll be considerate. They’ll understand that this is important, and they will just… It’ll be fine. Don’t worry about it.”

Royce: And so, that’s another thing that I want to try to describe. I’ve been around people who don’t adhere to schedules, or who are just fine changing up plans at a moment’s notice or without a heads up or whatever. And this is the thing that’s really… This is the thing that’s often so hard to articulate, is it’s not just the time. It’s not that I’m upset that I’m never getting those 10 or 20 minutes back. It’s not that I don’t like this new person that you suddenly decided to bring along or this new place we’re apparently going to now. It’s that this event – I had already prepared for what this event was, and I had finally, like, reconciled all of this stress with it, and now it’s all thrown off and new stresses come in. And like I said in the earlier scene, once you start getting some stress into that situation, it just piles on until everything else that can possibly be a little bit wrong is now amplified.

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: And it snowballs very very quickly. And so of course, they stop at the gelato place. And it’s immediately clear that Sasha is not on the same page, because they get in there, and Sasha starts to order and then turns to Quinn and asks them what they want. And, well, what Quinn really wants is to not be in the gelato place, to be back on the bus, to be going along with the plan. [laughs] Like, they didn’t ask to be here. They didn’t want anything. And so, they decline. And then, of course, the very social, queer community-involved lesbian woman here runs into an old friend at the gelato place and gets on a huge conversation. And I know that feeling.

[Both laugh]

Royce: It’s like, “Oh, I made a mistake. I should have trusted the part of me that was like, ‘We’re not deviating from the plan.’ That part was correct. That part is always correct.”

[Courtney laughs]

Royce: It’s assuming that the people that I’m with understand how important this is – that was the mistake. Because now everything is going wrong. I’m going to be late. I’m going to miss this thing that I was excited for.

Royce: And I think around that time, Quinn actually gets a text from one of their friends, who is at the event and is ready and is excited.

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: But after that detour, they’re back on the bus. And the friend from the gelato place has joined them in. So now, Quinn is sitting in between the two of them who are both talking. And all of the sensory overload stuff starts to creep in, just like in the restaurant, because everything has been thrown off again. What was a good, happy, exciting day is now just stress and anxiety.

Royce: And it gets to the point where Quinn actually has to pull out their noise-canceling headphones and put them on to block it all out and try to recenter. And, yeah, at that point. There’s actually a comment where new friend is, like, asking Sasha, “Hey, like, is she okay?” And Sasha’s like, “Oh yeah, she’s a bit on the spectrum. Don’t worry about it.” And then just keeps talking instead of trying to –

Courtney: Check in with her, yeah.

Royce: Yeah.

Courtney: Which is a stark opposition to Darren, when, you know, Quinni goes and finds them in the bathroom and Darren’s like, “We live in this bathroom now. There is nothing outside of this bathroom.” [laughs] And is also, like, bodyguarding, so no one touches her.

Royce: And then, the conclusion to that whole event is they get there and Quinn’s finally amongst people who are also interested in the same thing and is very excited and is happy to be there, and Sasha just completely checks out, doesn’t participate, is on their phone the whole time. There’s a point where Quinn gets an autograph and takes a picture with the author and looks back over their shoulder for someone to take a picture, and Sasha’s just, like, out of the picture, not even paying attention, so they have to, like, pull in a stranger to be a part of this moment. And as they’re leaving, they get into a fight, because Sasha’s –

Courtney: – being a jerk. [laughs]

Royce: Yeah! Like, very obviously upset, was not happy to be there at all, even though they invited themself. They said something to the effect of, like, “I did this for you.”

Courtney: Yeah, and, like, “This isn’t exactly my idea of fun.”

Royce: Right.

Courtney: “But here I am, and now you won’t even go to this party with me after.” [laughs]

Royce: Yeah. And there are a couple of lines where she says, “I just want to be a normal teenager.”

Courtney: Ahh. Uh-huh.

Royce: And when Quinn starts to say something against that, Sasha says, “Don’t pull the Autism card on me right now.”

Courtney: Yeah! Because Quinn is like, “Oh, so I’m not normal enough for you?” She’s like, “Don’t pull the Autism card!” It’s like, oh my gosh! Like, before, you were just ignorant but seeming to try and at least telling yourself that you had her best interests in mind. But now you’re just outright being hostile out in the open. Oh, it was so upsetting. Because yeah, Quinni, at this point, is like, “Alright, I did what I came for, and I don’t think I can handle anything else, and I think I want to go home.” And Sasha’s like, “But let’s go to a party!” It’s like, you could have gone to the party on your own the whole time. That was an option.

Royce: Yeah. All of that felt very real to me. And it felt… the reason why I wanted to discuss it was the silences, the small bits of body languages, I think, stood out to me as much as some of the conversations.

Courtney: Mhm. Which, it was very interesting, because I do think she was probably the most relatable Autistic character for, especially you, but even for me as well. I think she aligned a little closer to you, but there were definitely some things where I’m like, “Okay, I see where you’re going with that. I feel that for sure.” Because there still is just very little proper Autistic representation on TV too. I mean, wasn’t it when we were reviewing Everything’s Going to Be Okay that it’s like, this is the first Autistic actress to be cast as an Autistic person? It’s like –

Royce: In a main role? Yeah.

Courtney: Like, what year is this? [laughing] Goodness. I believe I read the actress playing Quinn is also Autistic. Was that correct?

Royce: Yes. That is correct. Autism and ADHD.

Courtney: Yeah. Because as a result of that night and everything that sort of went to hell with that, Quinni ends up going nonverbal for a temporary period of time. And that’s when we see her for, like, the next, I don’t know how long it was in universe, but the next day or two where she’s not speaking to anyone, she’s wearing her noise-canceling headphones, she’s doing a lot of just, like, drawing or writing in a notebook. And I thought that was neat. Because I don’t think we often see representation of someone who fluctuates between verbal and nonverbal in that way.

Courtney: But then, of course, she’s nonverbal during, you know, the big Sex Education-esque “We’re the sex school” protest. [laughs] Because okay, so, yeah, so there’s another Mean Girls moment that fed into another Sex Education moment. Because someone accused Jojo, the more competent teacher of SLTs, of having sex with Amerie.

Royce: Oh yeah, that kind of came out of nowhere.

Courtney: And that was also like, alright, hello Mean Girls. “This teenager’s having sex with Coach Carr. This teacher is selling drugs.” [laughs] Like, and now, there has to be a big investigation, and students are being questioned. And this teacher’s entire life and career is at stake now. But instead of someone coming clean, it’s like, “Alright, time to have the big sexually-charged protest. Quick, go –” How did they get so many penis balloons in, [laughing] like, a day’s notice? They locked themselves in the principal’s office with, like, penis balloons – the sort of really obnoxious things that you’d see, like, the worst bachelorette party ever that shows up at the gay bar occasionally, like… [laughs]

Royce: Either a local store got a lot of business that day or someone was stocked up for moments exactly like this.

Courtney: Oh my gosh. Yeah. So they lock themselves in the school and they’re like, “We’re the SLTs. And we’re the SLTs for Jojo, and we’re not coming out until she’s our teacher again.” And it’s like, that’s so… like, way too similar to the Sex Education, like, “We’re the sex school,” make this big demonstration with all these big, flashy, like, phallic images. [laughing] It was terrible!

Courtney: It’s really… I don’t know. Overall, I think I’ve even more so convinced myself that this is just Mean Girls plot points set into a Sex Education-esque high school, with an attempt at Euphoria-esque trauma escalation, but more of a focus on the sex than the drugs.

Courtney: And we mentioned earlier about how things just get brushed over, and I just – I don’t get it. Because first of all, there’s, you know, the high schoolers, and high schoolers being cruel to each other. Like, she’s only called “map bitch.” for an episode, she’s only not invited to the parties for an episode, and then that gets brushed over.

Courtney: But then there are some, like, serious, serious questions posed where they posed the question of, “Was this ethical? Was this consensual?” et cetera, but then just leave it hanging and don’t actually explore that very much. The threesome scene that we were talking about, where first of all, we’re, like, googling, like, what are the chances they actually did get chlamydia, [laughing] you know? So first of all, you’re not actually teaching us that, so I don’t know why this focus on sex education when it’s really just the facade of sex education. That was between Harper and the guy she’s seeing at that time, who’s someone that Amerie has been in love with forever, apparently, and then Malakai. And this was the night that he got assaulted by a police officer. And when they find out – because of course, this comes out – someone just up and says, like, “Harper had sex with two guys.” And so, everyone finds out. And someone brings up the fact, like, “Wait, you slept with Malakai right after he got assaulted by a police officer? Like, that’s probably not great.” [laughs]

Royce: Yeah, it’s Sasha and one of Sasha’s friend, who’s like, “That wasn’t okay. Like, that wasn’t a situation that everyone involved could have consented to.” Because it was also… It was not only, like, a physically and emotionally traumatizing moment. It was also right after that big party Ballroom scene where people were drinking.

Courtney: Yeah. And the thing is, here’s why tonally, it’s so weird to me: because so much of this just seems kind of preachy. Like, they will say, “That was bad,” but they don’t actually follow it up with any, like, meaningful consequences or any exploration of, like, why this was bad or what the aftermath is. Because really, the biggest consequence to that threesome was, “Oh, no, she tested positive for chlamydia, and now she has to tell these two guys that she’s positive for chlamydia and bring the medication.” And it’s like, are we just gonna drop the consent question here? [laughing] Like, we’re just not going to actually explore that.

Courtney: And… I don’t know. I mean, that was one thing that I really really liked about BoJack Horseman. And we did two episodes about it because we had much to say – and that was even mostly just about Todd as a character, not even the show in general. But there’s a lot of trauma in that show. And BoJack is very morally gray, but the thing is, they don’t let you forget that. Like, anytime you might start to gain sympathy for BoJack Horseman, they dredge up an old consequence to something that’s like, “Oh yeah, that was incredibly fucked up.” And he does actually end up getting consequences throughout his life for all the fucked up shit he did in the past.

Courtney: And, yeah, you can argue that that’s hard to do in a single season, but it feels preachy if you’re just telling us and not showing us or developing it, even if it’s things I agree with, even if it’s like, “I agree that was probably not, you know, a consensually sound situation.” I can logically agree with it, but the way you’re presenting it to us feels… [sighs] you know what I’m saying?

Royce: So, you mentioned earlier that you don’t know what the show’s trying to do. And I feel like we made the same comment with Euphoria. I think that, to a certain extent, we said, like – particularly the latter seasons of Sex Education, it’s like, what are you – what’s the point? I think that this show sort of shotguns in a bunch of disconnected things that they could talk about, that could be important to talk about. And because it’s run for one season, they’ve thrown a bunch of ideas at the wall and haven’t really fleshed many of them out very well.

Courtney: Exactly! They’re really just throwing, like, social justice spaghetti at the wall. [laughs] And a lot of it ends up coming off preachy. A lot of it ends up coming off almost naggy, because you’re giving a lot of these lines to very unlikable characters and not actually doing any, like, meaningful followthrough with the themes. And I hate that. [laughs] Because I want to agree with some of the themes that are there.

Courtney: And, you know, this girl also, as a teenager gets… You know, the entire school is told that she had a threesome with these two guys, and for some reason, that doesn’t stick with her very long. Like, nobody seems to care. And I get that they’re going for, like, you know, sex-positive Gen Z, lesbian, who read The Ethical Slut at age 6. I think that’s even when she says it. She’s like, “I don’t care that you had a threesome.” Like, “I don’t care if this is a polyamory thing. Like, I read The Ethical Slut when I was six.” Gaah. Like, pardon: you’re telling me there’s not a single kid in this high school that is going to make her life miserable for sleeping with two guys? When I was in high school, if someone knew that you slept with two guys separately, they’d be calling you a slut – in a derogatory sense, not in a “Yas, Queen” sense.

Courtney: So I’m like, I just… And then someone says, “Maybe you shouldn’t have done that with Malakai on that particular night.” And they don’t explore that. And yet, she gets chlamydia. Okay, that seems kind of unrelated – and a really easy fix, because it’s just like, “Alright, we’re in Australia, and we just have medication, and here, I will just give you all the pills. Here you go.” That got sorted out really quickly, wrapped up in a nice little bow, so that’s not even a lingering consequence. But–

Royce: It’s also just, where’s the transmission map? Where did it come from?

Courtney: I don’t know.

Royce: Like, I don’t think Malakai was really very shown to be very sexually active.

Courtney: It was probably the other guy–

Royce: It was probably the other guy, but he isn’t shown, like, engaging in other relationships. [laughing]

Courtney: Yeah.

Royce: Unless he just had it for a while.

Courtney: Well then, he starts getting weird. Like, he feels weird about the fact that they had this threesome. And so now he sort of tells off Harper, and he’s like, “Oh, well, you wanted it too much, and it kind of ruins it for me seeing you want to have sex with that other guy.” And so, she has, like, this moment where she confronts him at an assembly with a microphone, like, in front of the rest of the school. And it’s like, I can’t tell if you’re trying to make this like a revenge, good for her kind of a thing. Because she’s like, “Oh, I will not apologize for embracing my sexuality. And you’re gonna, you know, break up with me or feel differently about me because I enjoyed myself? Because I enjoyed having sex? Like, how dare you! Aren’t you a feminist?” And it’s like, what are you doing? Like – [laughs]

Royce: That whole scene felt very fanservice-y. Because –

Courtney: Very weird.

Royce: That situation had consent and boundary red flags all over it.

Courtney: Yes! [laughs] And what do we do with that? Aside from giving her a little, like, tap on the wrist being like, “You shouldn’t have done that.” It’s like, alright, now she gets chlamydia, but also her boyfriend’s weird, but she’s gonna tell him off in front of the whole school, because now this is an issue of feminism. It’s like, why? [laughs] What are you doing? It’s… ugh, the tone. I can’t describe to you [laughing] how weird it is for me. And I don’t understand why it’s so weird for me, but not to so many other people watching it.

Courtney: So, yeah, I think they tried to do too much. I think the best thing they probably did was the Autistic representation with Quinni. I did like the way they handled Darren’s identity. Because we’ve seen a couple of things where it’s like, okay, someone comes out as nonbinary and no one gets it, so it’s this big, like, PSA education thing, or you get the people who are like, “That’s just how it is. That’s fine.” With Darren, you had – like, all of the teenagers got it, and the teenagers weren’t misgendering them, but, like, Darren’s parents were struggling and would slip into he. And, like, Darren, at one point, had, like, an air horn, and if a parent said he, he would be like, “Air horn. They! They!” [laughs]

Royce: It was good to see –

Courtney: And I thought that was funny. [laughs]

Royce: It was good to see a gradient there, because the students – it was normal.

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: The teachers were fine, for the most part.

Courtney: They tried, but it was like, “Let’s have a gendered class today. Boys over here, girls over there. Darren, you can go wherever you want.”

Royce: Yeah. Right. It –

Courtney: And Darren’s like, [sarcastically] “Oh, great.”

Royce: Yeah.

Courtney: [sarcastically] “This is gonna be great.”

Royce: And then it was only really with the parents that it was clearly like, “There’s a problem here that they’re trying to work through.”

Courtney: Yeah. So I thought – as far as Darren’s queer identity, I think that was good. And then I just wanted more of the other things that weren’t bad, but needed more. I wanted more Malakai, just all-around. I wanted more of his Indigeneity. I wanted more exploration of his relationship with other characters, because I feel like of all the core characters, he was the most separate, most of the time. He was kind of on the outskirts a lot. And I feel like they could have incorporated him and his relationships with people better. And I also just wanted more, like, more about his healing process, his trauma process – like, how he responded, you know, the next day, the next week, the next month after this, you know, sexual encounter with these two other people. I wanted more.

Courtney: And then I wanted more of Cash’s development as an Ace. Because what was there was good, but there were missing pieces. [laughs] And you had time. You could have fleshed that out more, and they didn’t. So I think there were some missed opportunities there for that reason.

Courtney: But then, so many other things were just a wash for me. It’s like, I don’t like this plot. I don’t like that line. I don’t like the fucking mouth sounds. [laughs] You all – you have to, if you’re listening on YouTube, make a comment, if you follow us on Twitter, like, tweet at us. I have to know if I’m the only one. I can’t be the only one who’s upset by the mouth sounds. Makeout sex scenes didn’t always used to be this loud or moist. [laughs] Like, this is getting worse. It’s an epidemic, and it needs to be crushed, and we need to talk about it.

Courtney: But yeah, overall, I think they just didn’t do consequences well. And in a show where people are making these many questionable choices, you need to do it better, I think.

Courtney: So, those are our thoughts. If you watched Heartbreak High, please let us know what you thought. I imagine… Do we know if it’s been picked up for a Season 2?

Royce: I don’t know, but it won enough awards that I would be surprised if it didn’t.

Courtney: Well, then, I imagine we will probably watch a Season 2 if and when it happens, if nothing else to see where the development goes with Cash.

Royce: Oh, actually, Chloe Hayden’s portrayal of Quinn won an Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts award –

Courtney: Oh, good!

Royce: – for Audience Choice, Best Actress.

Courtney: That’s great. I’d agree with that. I think – like I said, the two characters I liked were Quinni and Cash’s grandma, which – we didn’t talk about Cash’s grandma. There’s really not much to say about her, except she is just a no-nonsense old lady. She takes Cash and Darren out at one point after they start seeing each other and introduces them to, like, her old gay friend. And so, she’s, like, very cool with queer identity and even trying to put these queer teenagers in a place where they have, like, an elder to look up to. So she’s, like, very cool there. But she’s also, like, ready and willing to lie to the cops as they come to her house. She’ll be like, “No, he’s not here, and you’re not getting in my house without a warrant.” [laughs] So, like, I love her. I love her.

Courtney: So, on that note, that will be all for us today. We will see you all again next week, same time, same place. And everyone, remember to be on the lookout: I’m going to be putting together a formal protest to remove all of the mouth sounds from sex scenes on television. I will put on my protest organizer hat, and there will be no inflatable penises there. But this is an issue that really needs your support. [laughs] I’m serious. It should not feel like someone has casted the Hunger of Hadar on me when I’m watching television at any point – which is, by the way, the most unfortunate spell in D&D, [laughing] for all of you non-D&D players out there. Worst spell. 0 out of 10.

Royce: Okay, it’s been two hours. We have to go now. Bye.

Courtney: Bye!