What GLAAD Got Wrong About Asexual Representation
GLAAD made a big mistake in their Where We Are on TV report for the 2022-23 season. Depending on where you look, GLAAD claims there were either 8 or 6 asexual characters on TV but a deeper dive reveals that there were actually far less than that...
- Where We Are on TV Report – 2022-2023
- How Chucky Is Secretly The Most Inclusive Horror Show On TV
- "Def Played Fei as an ace" screenshot
Courtney: Hello everyone, welcome back to The Ace Couple podcast. My name is Courtney. I am here with my spouse, Royce, and together we are – you guessed it – the Ace Couple. And one thing we do a lot on this show is talk about asexual representation in the media, whether it’s good, whether it’s bad, whether it’s ugly, and just what we’d like to see more of. And just recently, it came to our attention that GLAAD has released their annual “Where We Are On TV” report. This was their 27th annual report where they have been tracking the LGBTQ+ characters on TV. And the plus has a bit of a caveat, because for the 27 years they’ve been doing this, I think, asexual and non-binary representation has really only been counted for, like, the last seven. But it seems each year they’re trying to grow and expand. Either counting new identities, or counting new platforms. Because they haven’t been counting Netflix as TV, for as long as Netflix has been streaming. So Netflix got added. In fact, Todd from BoJack Horseman on Netflix was one of the prime reasons they started counting asexual representation, period.
Courtney: But for those of you who do not know, GLAAD stands for Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. So they are a queer organization. And they know, just like we know, that representation matters. Being able to see someone who has a similar identity or experience to you is incredibly valuable for queer people who typically aren’t getting proper well-rounded sex education in school, may not have words or vocabulary for our experience if you haven’t seen someone else emulate that first, or use those words first. So this is a very important report and I’m glad they do it. I’m glad that GLAAD does this. But we noticed something a little weird on their report this year.
Royce: A few things a little weird.
Courtney: A few things a little weird. So I think we’re going to call this episode, “What GLAAD got wrong.” What GLAAD got wrong about asexual representation. And you know, the kind of funny thing is we started getting so confused and perplexed by the things we were seeing, coming out of this report, that we kind of dropped everything while preparing to post an episode where we were talking about asexual representation in the show Heartbreak High, which made it into this report. So as we’re trying to get this ready for early Wednesday morning release, we’re seeing contradictory information coming out of this report, specifically pertaining to the ace rep. So, we went on a bit of a tangent, and that episode came out late as a result, but now we have a whole new episode to talk about this specific report.
Courtney: So, initially I started seeing some tweets and some articles covering GLAAD’s findings. So I had to go through a couple of different steps before we pulled up the official report. But in these articles, in these tweets, they’re specifically saying GLAAD is highlighting the lack of asexual representation in media, because there were only eight asexual characters counted. Now I assumed, right off the bat based on those numbers, that they were really only talking about western media or English language media. Things that you could easily access via legal means in the US. Because there are a lot more instances of ace rep in Asian-made media. We found lots of, like, in anime, manga– manga wouldn’t count because this is just television. But we’ve also covered Koisenu Futari, which is a live action that has two really brilliant aroace characters. So I assumed they were not going to be in this report.
Courtney: Based on that assumption, I was trying to count in my head, like, how many am I aware of? And what ones have just slipped past us, somehow. And so, we immediately thought: Cash from Heartbreak High, Abbi Singh from The Imperfects, and then the character Elijah from Big Mouth. And other than that, I couldn’t really think of anything else that I thought would make it into their report.
Royce: Yeah, because some of the other ones we have covered were not current characters, still being written into new media, as of this year.
Courtney: Correct. So all these articles I was reading breaking this down, sort of giving– giving the cliff notes, the gist, the numbers, the figures… kept saying eight asexual characters. And I was saying, “Where? Wh– What eight [laughs] What eight are you counting?” Because I’m not going to say it’s impossible that something has slipped past us. But since we started this podcast, and since we started talking about representation–
Royce: Usually people let us know.
Courtney: People let us know! Shows we never would have thought about, or heard of, or considered watching, people will ask us to watch. We get tagged on Twitter. We get DMs. We get emails. We get comments. Like, people will tell us if there’s even a strong headcanon that isn’t confirmed, people will tell us these days. So I was like, “Wow, where are these hidden gems?” So I found the actual official report from GLAAD. And right off the bat, there is a letter from the office of the CEO, Sarah Kate Ellis. And a line from that letter says, “Another oft underrepresented group also saw significant increase this year. GLAAD counted eight asexual characters, up two from the previous year.” So they’re saying this year they counted eight, last year they counted six. And they’re saying, yeah, they’re still underrepresented, but we saw an increase. And now I’m skeptical. Because I don’t actually think there was an increase. A lot of the really, really good ace characters we’ve enjoyed are no longer on ongoing shows.
Courtney: But here’s the weird thing, once we started digging into it– Because we want– we wanted to know who these eight characters are. ’Cause, do we need to cover this? Do we need to watch these things? On page 5 of the report, it states that, [reading] “Of the 596 characters counted across all three platforms, 210 were gay men, 180 were lesbians, 149 were bisexual plus–” I assume by ‘bisexual plus’ they also include, like, pan as a spectrum.
Royce: That’s my assumption. Yeah.
Courtney: [continues reading] “25 were queer, 14 were straight trans characters, 12 had an undetermined sexual orientation, and 6 (1%) were asexual.” So, okay. There’s now a discrepancy.
Royce: Where did the eight come from?
Courtney: After combing this report, the only time ‘eight’ is mentioned is in that CEOs letter. So I don’t know how the CEO got eight. I was willing to say it’s a typo, but the word ‘eight’ is actually spelled out. So whoever typed this actually thought there were eight characters, it wasn’t just you hit the number eight instead of six. But the report itself, in the body, says there are six asexual characters. So okay, we counted three, GLAAD is saying there’s six. How do we account for that?
Royce: So searching through the presentation, which luckily has been OCR-ed, you can just Ctrl+F find through it. That was helpful.
Courtney: Oh yeah. Just Ctrl+F ‘asexual’ and see for themselves every time they use that word what they’re saying.
Royce: One thing that I find a little frustrating and kind of confusing, because they did all this research, they put together this 50-page presentation–
Courtney: Summary, yeah.
Royce: Summary. Where’s the raw data? And is that published? I looked around for it. I just want to see a list of all nearly 600 characters, and their orientation and their show. Just–
Courtney: Oh yeah…
Royce: Like where’s the actual data? Because four asexual characters are mentioned by name in this presentation.
Royce: The other two out of the six, we had to infer.
Courtney: Yeah. Well, here’s the weird thing, because they definitely have more information somewhere that is not available to us. Because in the report, the CEO is saying eight, the body of the report, the text there, is saying six, and they go through and they say, “You know, here’s what we found on broadcast television. Here’s what we found on cable. Here’s what we found on streaming sites.” So they found that there are zero asexual characters counted on broadcast television, for the 2022 and 2023 season. But then we got to the summary of cable findings and we were baffled, we were floored. [laughs] Because it said there are two asexual characters counted on cable: twins Glen and Glenda, from Syfy’s Chucky.
Royce: So, there’s a lot to unpack here. [Courtney bursts out laughing] One, that there is a TV series that had already aired for two seasons based off of the Child’s Play franchise, which– The first three Child’s Play movies I watched when I was very little, so– and then I dropped off. I had no idea, one, that there was a two-season TV series or that they were done with seven movies now. If you ignore the pretty much across the board panned remake.
Courtney: I’d never seen any of those movies. When I– when I was a kid, I loved horror movies, but I didn’t really have anyone who would get them for me or watch them with me. So really, the only horror movie I watched, like, with parents, with family, was watching The Shining with my mom. I remember doing that a lot, repeatedly. That was a movie I watched to the point of being able to memorize the entire script because my mom was a big Stephen King fan and read the novels. So, therefore, she liked the movie. But my mom never had an interest in just seeking out horror movies. So, even going to, like, the Blockbuster, I’d be like, “Hey, mom, can we rent this horror movie?” And she’d be like, “No, I don’t want to watch that.” And, you know, our– our movie rental budget at the Blockbuster wasn’t enormous. So we had to pick and choose something we would– we would both like. So, even though I wanted to watch, like, the Chucky movies and things, I just never really did.
Courtney: And by the time I was, like, a teenager and able to rent my own movies, and watch my own movies on my own, by that point I didn’t understand the concept of, like, comedy horror. And I was like, “Well that– that movie sounds cheesy, like, a killer doll? Really? And– and look at what it looks like. That sounds cheesy.” Like I wanted something to chill me to my very core. I wanted to be horrified. And I never was. Scary movies are never scary enough for me, even if they’re honestly trying to instill terror into you. So I’ve recently found a newfound appreciation for comedy horror. [laughs] But also the Syfy channel… I don’t remember the last time I’ve watched anything on the Syfy channel. But yeah, that was the most surprising thing because, now at this point, we’re like, nobody was going to tell us there were two asexual characters on Chucky? And also no one was going to tell us that that show even exists? [laughs] We’d never heard of it before.
Royce: So of the six in the report, the other four come in under streaming. Saying that all four asexual characters appear on Netflix, specifically.
Courtney: Yeah, it’s kind of weird that one of our, still to this day, like, favorite ace characters was on a Netflix original, and now Netflix seems to be the only place producing new asexual characters. Even if they’re far more minor and not as well fleshed out, or as yet to be fleshed out. But they do state that those four characters that are asexual are all on Netflix. They only mention in the text, “Netflix releases new series Heartbreak High this year, which features an LGBTQ ensemble, including non-binary character, Darren, lesbian and autistic character, Quinni, asexual character, Cash, and more.” So they mention Cash by name. So we know that he’s being counted here. But they also mention Elijah from Big Mouth by name. They say, quote, “The most recent season a Big Mouth introduced Elijah, a young Black teen, who is coming to terms with being asexual.”
Courtney: So they mention those two by name and that’s it. So of the six – or [blows raspberry] eight, if you’re reading the talking points – they only mention four by name. Two from Chucky, Glen and Glenda, and then Cash and Elijah. So we’re filling in the blanks, and we’re saying, well, we know Abbi from The Imperfects was on Netflix for this season. So she’s the next one. But that makes five. I can’t find a way to get to six, and I definitely can’t find a way to get to 8. But now here’s where, if they’ve got incorrect or skewed data, it’s going to be affecting other areas.
Courtney: Because once they get to talking about non-binary characters, they say there are 25 non-binary characters in total, eight of whom are queer, six are bi+, two who are asexual, one who is gay, and eight who have been– who have undetermined sexual orientations. So we came to learn that the two non-binary ones that they’re counting as asexual are Glen and Glenda from Chucky, so now the data for non-binary characters is questionable. Because we’ve been looking into this but our saga continued with just trying to find at least a six– a sixth character. Who could this possibly be, since they aren’t mentioning it by name.
Courtney: So I went to GLAAD’s own website to see their own brief, like, bulleted summary of what they found that wasn’t from a third-party writing a news report on it. And in their bullet point, they say there were eight asexual characters counted in this report. So there’s that number eight again. And I’m pretty sure this is the bullet point that most people are using when they’re writing articles about this, without looking into the actual study. [reading] “An increase from last year’s two. Those characters appear on Chucky, Big Mouth, Heartbreak High, The Imperfects, and The Umbrella Academy.” So now they’re saying eight asexual characters in these five shows. And Umbrella Academy? Pardon, we watched that and saw nothing. So now we’re going, “Hold up. What did we miss?” At least based on that we got confirmation that our filling in the blanks with Abbi from The Imperfects was correct, because they mentioned The Imperfects here, although not in the study. But the Umbrella Academy was a– was a weird one for us. So, I just googled to see what other people are saying. I googled: the umbrella academy asexual. And you know what? That didn’t help at all. Because I just got Tumblr posts, and Reddit posts. And just forums of people asking whether or not Five could be asexual. And Five is an old man in the body of a teenager…?
Royce: Pretty much. Yeah.
Courtney: Who time travels, and his brain has gotten a little bit muddy from all the time traveling. Like, at one point– Okay, I just remembered this, so now I’m even– Now I have even more questions about the people who think that he could be asexual. Wasn’t he like talking to a mannequin at some point and like thought he was in love with a mannequin?
Royce: That sounds familiar, it’s been a long time.
Courtney: So old man with kind of muddy brain from time traveling in the body of a child [laughs] who’s in love with a mannequin that no one else can talk to, and seems to just be a completely inanimate object, and everyone’s like, “Yep, that guy’s asexual.” Ah! A-ha. [laughs] Yeah, this is one of those weird ones where I just don’t like the speculation. I just don’t like it. So this Reddit post from a deleted user now, from three years ago, says “Five is asexual? What are your thoughts? Just a thought I had during my recent re-watch. I mean, he’s in love with a mannequin head, first of all. [laugh] But just for the partner part, he was only with Delores (who’s the mannequin head) all of those years to have some sort of love and companionship. Not a sexual relationship.” See, someone’s like, “Loving relationship without sex, that sounds like asexual.” But I’m like, that sounds like Wilson the volleyball. [bursts out laughing] Like this is a Castaway kind of a situation.
Royce: Yeah, that seems a lot more fitting. It’s a– it’s a trauma relationship.
Courtney: Yeah. They go on to say, “He’s never shown interest in anything sexual, second of all. Klaus, a sibling, brought up, ‘You must be horny as hell after all those years’ in episode two, and Five doesn’t acknowledge this comment.” He’s also mentally a lot older than Klaus by this point because of all the time travel.
Royce: He is, and he seems to be the one who is most tired of everyone else’s shit. Because–
Courtney: Yeah, he’s a grumpy old man in the body of a kid!
Royce: The world just, like, keeps ending around them.
Courtney: Yes, yes! [continues reading] “You could say, he’s just a kid and that’s why, but he’s not. He’s in his fifties. I suppose you could also say he’s too focused on the apocalypse, and never really had time to care about any of that over the years. (Also, he’s a bit crazy.) So, anyways, just a thought.” And I mean, the comments are a range of things. People are like, “Yeah, this is weird to speculate, I don’t like it.” Some people are like, “Yeah, that is personally my headcanon.” Well, this comment says, “I personally headcanon him that way. Klaus when coming up with the backstory of being Five’s dad says the sex was amazing and Five’s response was, ‘What a disturbing glimpse into that thing you call a brain cell.’ Or that thing you call a brain. And it definitely feels like a sex repulsed ace sort of thing to say.” I don’t know! I didn’t read it as ace, because of the circumstances. Grumpy old man–
Courtney: –in the body of a teenager. Also like, a sibling making up being your dad also implies, like, having sex with his mother.
Courtney: As like, being grown up with– as– as siblings. Like, adopted siblings, but still siblings. So like, that’s– I don’t think the disturbing glimpse comment was just because of sex.
Courtney: So– so, I don’t see it that way. And the thing is, at this point, going through all these comments whether or not people think yes he is, no he’s not, “It would be nice, but I don’t think so,” kind of the middle of the road things, to me, for a GLAAD report, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. It– it shouldn’t count if there’s this much speculation and we’re grasping at straws. Because the point is what is actually represented on TV, so that we aren’t grasping at straws. What is actually there in front of us. But I thought this surely can’t be. Surely GLAAD is not counting Five as asexual because of this. Surely! But upon even more digging, we found Fei Hargreeves, who is a new character from the most recent season. Because timelines got all fucky. And now, there’s a whole new cast of these, like– How would you explain it for someone who hasn’t seen it? Kids with superpowers who are all born at exactly the same time?
Courtney: There’s a whole new cast of them that didn’t exist in the previous timeline.
Royce: They’re adults now.
Courtney: They’re adults now.
Royce: They were found and raised by this organization to be superheroes, basically.
Courtney: Yeah. So Fei Hargreeves is brand-new. They get into this new timeline and they’re like, “Wait, our dad doesn’t recognize us.” Because in this timeline he adopted totally unrelated kids, with different powers. And Fei is a new character who becomes a nemesis, like they’re fighting her. She doesn’t have eyes, but she can kind of see through these birds that she controls, that kind of just, like, pop out of her back sometimes and can kind of go back into her. So I guess they’re some sort of extension of herself, but they manifest as birds.
Courtney: And we found an LGBTQIA+ characters Wiki that says Fei is asexual. And… First of all, I might be misremembering– Because I thought season 1 of the Umbrella Academy was great. Season 2, I thought, wasn’t quite as great. And then season 3, I loved Victor and what they did with Elliott Page’s character, but most of the plot was starting to lose me. Because Elliot Page had starred in The Umbrella Academy before coming out as a trans man, so in the most recent season they were like, “Let’s work with that. Let’s make your current character also trans and work that into the plotline.” And I thought that was done really well, I thought it was very cool. I was very excited to see how they were going to do that after he came out. But most of the plot was– it wasn’t gripping me as much as that very first season, so. But– So, correct me if I’m wrong, didn’t Fei Hargreeves die? Isn’t she gone now? So we’re never going to get more of her unless they pull more shenanigans to bring her back…?
Royce: Yeah, I think she died near the end of the season. But there has been so much time travel going on in the series that I don’t know if you could consider anyone’s death permanent.
Courtney: Is this death going to stick? [laughs] So the thing is, I don’t remember her making any comments that could be read as ace. She wasn’t really in any situations or conversations where it could have come up, because she was also a rival. So she wasn’t really having these like, big in-depth conversations with the main cast for the most part.
Royce: Yeah, she was mostly just threatening a couple of the main characters with crows.
Courtney: Yeah! Sending crows after them. I remember one scene where she was, like, ribbing someone for hearing them have sex in the next room. Because she’s like, “Er, we share a wall and your bed squeaks.” But it was very much kind of like, mocking that person was the tone. And so I don’t think you can take anything from that. But we were like, “Alright, where is this?” So then I– then I start googling “Fei Hargreeves asexual,” and there aren’t any official news articles. But I found a couple of excited fans saying things like, “Ace Fei is canon, we won.” Implying that there was a fandom who was headcanoning her as ace, wanted her to be ace, started talking about and making fan art of her being ace. And then got excited when it was, quote, “confirmed” when it was, quote, “canon”.
Courtney: We got to have a serious conversation about that word, canon, guys. I found the screenshot. First of all, this was the actress who played Fei on an Instagram story. You know, the ones that are only available for 24 hours tops and then disappear. Now, the internet is forever, especially if you’re an actress in a popular show, so someone screen grabbed it. But it’s literally the actress saying, “Def played Fei as an ace. Wasn’t written in the character description. But it felt right. In case you had a hunch.” And then referenced an artist who apparently made fan art of Fei with a pride flag. So, absolutely not.
Courtney: Apparently the producer of the show shared that Instagram story. But now people who really like this character, and really like the idea of this character being ace, are saying that she was confirmed as being ace by the actress and the producer. No.
Courtney: You’re allowed to like it. You’re allowed to like it, and want it, and headcanon it. That’s fine. But now, I still don’t know, was this the character they were talking about in the GLAAD report? We don’t know!
Royce: Yeah, I want to see GLAAD’s actual raw data. Like their breakdown. Because the thing is it seems like that is the character that is missing. But Fei actually appears in the report under the section of characters with disabilities, and asexuality is not listed next to her character.
Courtney: Is another orientation listed?
Courtney: I bet that’s the one they’re talking about then.
Royce: All they say is– All they mention is ‘blind’.
Courtney: Which is, which is weird for me. I had complicated feelings about Fei. Because she doesn’t have eyes. She wears dark, black sunglasses. And any situation where she takes her sunglasses off, it’s just like skin over where her eyes would be. Like there aren’t even empty eye sockets. It’s just– She just has skin there. And I looked up at one point, I was like, “Did they get a blind actress to play Fei?” And they did not. The actress is sighted, which I kind of have issues with. But then there was a fight scene where someone said, like, “You fight pretty good for someone who’s blind,” and she just said, “Who says I’m blind.” And then you see vision through one of her crow’s that’s flying around and you see, like, an aerial view of what’s going on. So I don’t like calling her blind for that reason. Because she herself doesn’t call herself blind. And she very clearly does have vision through her birds. And then that made me think, well, okay, maybe that’s a little better that they didn’t get a blind actress. But even if they were saying she has vision through her birds, I think it would have been cool and better to get a blind actress to do that. I think it could have been really cool, but they didn’t.
Courtney: And the GLAAD report, by the way, I believe only had 27 disabled characters, so not a lot. So, if that’s our confirmation that they’re using Fei as a queer character, they’re counting her as being asexual because the actress said, “It wasn’t in the character description, but I played her as ace.” First of all, what is playing someone as ace? If this actress is not ace and she’s like, “Oh yeah, I played her as an ace.” What– What does that mean? That’s meaningless! That is absolutely meaningless. Like, what does it mean to play a character as gay, if a straight actor on a TV show, where a character is not stated as being gay, is like, “Oh yeah, I played this character as gay.” What does that mean?! [laughs] It is truly meaningless. And saying, “Oh, I def played her as an ace,” on an Instagram story no less. Like this wasn’t even a big, like, widely publicized interview even. So it’s only the hardcore fans, it’s only the people doing headcanons that are seeing this as any form of legitimate. So, since she appears under the disability section, and I can find no other stated orientation for her whatsoever, that’s who they’re talking about.
Royce: And we’re also seeing no other hint of anyone in the show that it could be instead.
Courtney: No. So now we have an actress who’s not blind playing a character that GLAAD is saying is blind. And we have a character– we have an actress, who’s presumably not ace, who’s saying she’s playing this character as ace… I should look up if that actress has stated her orientation, because I guess I shouldn’t assume. But even in that instance, I’m in favor of ace actors, like, getting work and jobs, and being real-life representation, as this is a real-life ace person. But that doesn’t mean all your characters are ace either. Well, I don’t know where they got this information, but on lezwatch.tv Britne Oldford is listed as a cisgender heterosexual woman.
Royce: I also saw ‘straight’ listed on another website that I did not have a lot of confidence on. It’s– it seems like this actress doesn’t have a ton of public information so, that may be assumed.
Courtney: So, like, based on that I reject Fei as being included in this report at all, period.
Courtney: Altogether. [laughs] A…ltogether. So that, from the count, if we’re saying that they’re counting Glen and Glenda on Chucky, Elijah on Big Mouth, Cash on Heartbreak High, Abbi from The Imperfects, and then Fei from The Umbrella Academy, that’s the six. So that’s probably the six that they’re referring to, period. And that eight came out of nowhere.
Royce: Yeah. That– that ‘eight’ must have just missed their editorial process. That seems like a mistake.
Courtney: The ‘eight’ seems to come only from the letter of the CEO, but I think people are reading that letter instead of the full report, and that made it into GLAAD’s bullet points, which is now making it into all of the subsequent news articles.
Royce: And that eight was also accompanied by, “it is up two from last year.” Although the eight is incorrect, so…
Royce: They actually got six last year, and six this year.
Courtney: Mm-hmm. However, I don’t think Fei counts, so let’s– let’s knock that down to five, shall we? And we were like, gosh, what’s the deal with this Glen and Glenda on Chucky? So we went to watch it immediately. [laughs] And I gotta just say, Glen and Glenda are non-binary, they are twins, they both use they/them pronouns. I loved that. I loved the way they did the non-binary representation for them. I thought it was good. I liked it. Not a word about sexual orientation… anywhere. Anywhere!
Courtney: We watched every episode they were in, and the only moment that there could have almost, maybe, been a one-off line that someone could have taken and used, they didn’t even use that opportunity. Because they’re– their mother was talking to them, one of them, I think it was Glenda this time.
Courtney: Their mother was talking to Glenda and there is a very serious, like, “Oh, we need to talk.” And– and the– the mother was just saying, like, “Oh, what’s going on? Oh, are you pregnant? Because I have always wanted to be a grandmother. I thought I’d be a good grandmother.” And Glenda’s response was not to say anything that could be misconstrued as ace. Not I’m not sexually active, I’m not having sex, I’m not having that kind of sex, or like ew, gross, nothing like that. They just latched onto the ‘I want to be a grandma’ comment and said, “Mom can you please stop making everything about you.” That was it. They’re never shown in a relationship, and that’s not enough evidence to say that they’re ace, I’m sorry! I love them, I would love if they were canonically ace, but they just aren’t. They just aren’t. So, that would make it three.
Royce: That would make it three. And I’d also like to point out that half of the GLAAD report suspected asexual characters are– we have one person who’s also being listed as having disability and we have two people who were originally in the bodies of dolls.
Royce: They are in human bodies for the vast majority of the Chucky TV series, but that may draw upon the sort of ignorant asexual stereotypes where, like, historically, if someone was listed as not being in a relationship it was because of some circumstance.
Courtney: Right. Which, that would even be– I don’t think GLAAD was using Five, but for the people headcanoning Five, they’re like, “Oh, well, given circumstance…”
Royce: Right. Either because child body or because of the psychological trauma of having, like, lived throughout this experience, it was something that caused the behavior instead of their natural orientation, you know?
Courtney: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. Which– that isn’t to say that aces, like, can’t become ace at certain point, because we know that sexuality is fluid and that can and does happen in real life, and that is fine. But when it’s not stated on screen, when the character is not stated as being ace, and people are literally grasping at straws and trying to use that and pull that out as like it is the trauma, it is the fact that–
Royce: It’s something that can happen in real life, to real people, but it’s not good representation in the current era, at least, on television and movies.
Courtney: Yeah, and it’s still not stated. If they stated and owned it, if they were like, “Yes, this person is asexual because of trauma.” And that’s a real thing, and it’s valid. And that would be a bold stance to make on TV at this point in time. And I’d be into it if they didn’t actually tiptoe around it, or shy away from it. But they don’t! Because it’s not stated. And I was even trying to find, like, where does this Glen and Glenda asexual come from. So I did my little google thing, ‘Glen Glenda asexual’. And oddly enough one of the first results that come up is on AVEN, and this is from 2017, someone watching The Seed of Chucky. So, one of the movies– which the series– Like, all the movies are canon in this series. The series is basically a sequel to all the movies.
Courtney: And poster on AVEN says, “So I was watching The Seed of Chucky the other day and realized that Glen, Chucky and Tiffany’s child, also known as Glenda, is gender fluid.” And was talking about how cool that is, “For gender fluidity to be shown in media is a great thing to break binary stereotypes and all. Also Glen/Glenda’s mom, Tiffany, is pretty supportive of them. So it was really funny and cool. Anyone know of any other gender non-conforming characters in media?”
Courtney: And this was under a thread entitled ‘Gender fluidity in media movie/TV’. So nobody is even saying here on AVEN that they’re headcanoning them as ace. And here’s the weird thing, at that period of time there was a single doll body that sometimes went by Glen and sometimes went by Glenda. So people were thinking, okay this is, you know, a gender-fluid kind of a situation. But now we know that there were two souls in this doll.
Royce: They were sort of swapping control.
Courtney: And one preferred to go by Glen and one preferred to go by Glenda, but they are both non-binary. And I thought that was cool, because when these souls got put into human bodies, for the TV show that we just watched, we have these twins played by the same actor, who is also non-binary. The twin who’s going by Glenda, which is the more stereotypically feminine name, is the one who has a bit more of a masculine appearance, has nearly shaved head, very short hair. The one who goes by Glen, has very, very long hair. And I think that’s cool! I like it, I like them. I really, really do.
Courtney: And the thing is, this TV show, Chucky is, like, so surprisingly queer. Like it’s very, very queer and I even found a Screen Rant article from 2021 about how Chucky is secretly the most inclusive horror show on TV. And this author says that some are beginning to suspect that a character named Junior might actually be asexual. Well, Junior is only in the first season, he doesn’t return to the second season, and we saw nothing to imply that, at all, whatsoever.
Courtney: So we've got to stop with this speculating on the characters because most of them don’t come to fruition. And some of them will get erroneously put into the GLAAD report. Super, super weird. And there were even some really great moments in Chucky for, like, just general queer representation. This murder doll found a gay teenager, whose dad was not supportive, whose dad was abusive. And this murder doll is like, “Well, I have a queer kid, you know.” And this little gay boy is like, “Oh, really? And you’re cool with that?” He’s like, “Well, yeah! I’m not a monster!” We were rolling! That was funny. That was so good.
Courtney: And there was even– So, Glen and Glenda’s mom is also a murderess, and she has many lovers often at the same time. And there was a situation where someone got murdered in the house, she’s worried about her kids, and none of the other lovers who are all in the house know about each other. They all think that, like, they’re the only one for her.
Courtney: So they’re coming to her, like, one after another, in this bedroom, like, trying to have sex with her, but she’s trying to do other things. So, even though she’s very sexual, she’s just like– it was a very funny sequence. Like a guy comes in and, like, grabs her head and is like, “Why don’t you blow me?” And she just, like, crawls on her hands and knees through his legs and was like, “No, thank you, not right now.” [laughs] And so– And– And I– I turned to you, Royce, after we saw that and I was like, honestly I want an asexual character to have a funny sequence like this. Because it was funny! But it was a sexual character who just wasn’t interested in it right then. And it’s like we could do so much better.
Courtney: And the thing is, unlike Fei, there doesn’t seem to be a sizable camp of people who are even headcanoning Glen and Glenda as ace. Who, by the end of the series, are now – maybe I shouldn’t say for spoilers in case any of you want to watch – they’re going by different names now, but Glen and Glenda is what people know about most.
Royce: When I did a little bit of searching, I couldn’t find anything on them at all about asexuality.
Courtney: No, all I found was actually a cruel comment where someone on the Chucky subreddit just said, “What is your general opinion on Glen and Glenda?” Nine months ago. And someone made a really, like, mean-spirited comments, saying, “Glenda/Glen isn’t even trans. He is multiple personalities in an asexual doll.” And it’s like… that’s the only time I’ve seen anyone use the word asexual online in relation to Glen and Glenda. And it’s a mean comment! [laughs] So, what the heck GLAAD? How? So I actually looked into their methodology, because I was like, why does this count for you? And the thing is, given their own parameters that they are stating on this, these should not count. Some of these should not. First of all, the time frame is for the 2022 to 2023 season, counts are based on original scripted series premiering or expected to premiere a new season between June 1st, 2022 and May 31st, 2023. So there was even a period of time where I was like: is there something that’s set to premiere next month that GLAAD has been told there’s going to be an asexual character, but they’re not allowed to publish what it is yet, because it hasn’t gone public? That could have been a possibility, but I don’t think it is because we found our six.
Royce: And of the shows we’ve mentioned, none of them have new seasons coming out within that time frame.
Courtney: Right, yes. Because Chucky has been renewed for a third season, but it’s projected to start in autumn around, like, Halloween season. Umbrella Academy has been renewed for a new season but we don’t have a release date yet, they are still filming I saw, so they’re definitely not going to be premiering by then.
Royce: We also know that the missing two out of the six were on Netflix specifically.
Courtney: Yes. And so that was another thing. It’s like, well, is Fei going to make a reappearance and are they actually going to explore asexuality on screen? It’s like, well, not in the time frame that they’re stating. And honestly, like, at this point I think if you’re going to– as an actress and then as the producer who re-shared that Instagram story, I think if you’re going to do that at that point, you are obligated to actually show it on screen after that fact. I think you have to. Otherwise that is the definition of queerbaiting. Like you have to now bring Fei Hargreeves back for the next season after killing her, find some reason to bring her back. You’ve– The show’s done it before, I guess. And actually say the word or give us a scene that is so undeniably asexual that we can get behind it. Because otherwise why? What’s the point? You’re getting people excited for no reason.
Courtney: So, that’s our time frame. According to GLAAD, under their methodology, page 4 of the report, they are only counting, you know, primetime cable television, and certain streaming sites. So of the streaming sites that they currently count, Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix are the only ones that they counted prior to this year. But this year, they added Apple TV+, Disney+, HBO Max, Peacock, and Paramount+. So now they have eight streaming sites that they’re counting. And they only count regular and recurring characters on programs that premiered between those dates. So if there is a single one-off character that comes in for one episode and says, “I’m asexual,” and they are not recurring, they will not count it.
Royce: So the Sex Education character would not have counted in that year.
Courtney: I think if they really wanted to, they could have swung it, because she did technically show up again, because she was in the school play.
Royce: Okay, that’s–
Courtney: So like–
Royce: That’s pretty loose on recurring.
Courtney: It is loose, it is loose. But I think if they’re counting Fei Hargreeves as asexual this year, in this year’s report… Even like Glen and Glenda also nothing, nothing.
Royce: I don’t think in a previous season they counted the character on the Owl House who is confirmed off-screen.
Courtney: Quote, “confirmed” off-screen. So yeah, they’re playing really fast and loose with what they’re counting. But based on their methodology, here’s what they say: “Character’s sexual orientations are determined based on the specific label a character uses on screen.” If that’s true – which it is not – then even Cash from Heartbreak High would not count, because they never said asexual or ace on-screen at all. Now, I think he’d still count. I think he still counts for ace rep.
Royce: The scene that Cash was in- was unambiguous enough, given the circumstances of Cash working through the processes and trying to figure out their own orientation.
Courtney: Yeah. So I think it counts. And there were a couple of different scenes that it wasn’t just a one-off, like, “Oh, I’m not interested right now.” Like it was building up to it. So I do think he counts. But based on what they’re saying here, there was not a label used on-screen. And yet, how is Glen and Glenda there? How is Fei there? There was no label used on-screen for Fei. And there wasn’t even an unambiguous scene for Fei like there was for Cash.
Courtney: But then they say, “For series which have not yet aired–” So let’s say some things set to premiere in April and the network has told GLAAD these are the queer characters that are going to be in this show. [reading] “For series, which have not yet aired, the characters sexual orientations are determined by what has been confirmed by content providers and/or creators in official promotional material for the series.” I’m gonna say an Instagram story by an actress is not official promotional material.
Courtney: So by their own parameters, even though we say there were three asexual characters in a show premiering during that period of time, we would be okay with three. But based on their own parameters it sounds like there should only be two: Elijah on Big Mouth said the word asexual, Abbi Singh in The Imperfects said the word asexual. That would only be two.
Courtney: Why are they inflating the numbers when they’re saying, like, “Oh, there’s a severe lack of representation, we need more.” Why are they inflating the numbers? And what other orientations have they played really fast and loose with what characters count? Because at least, at least the ace characters are few enough in number and we have our eyes on ace representation anyway, that we could fill in the blanks that weren’t stated on the report. But like, I’m not going to do that for, you know, almost 200 lesbian characters. Because we don’t have the full list, so we don’t know all the characters they’re counting.
Royce: That’s the thing though. If they fully opened up their methodology and we saw just a list of everyone, there are enough people online with enough time on their hands to go through and nitpick that list.
Courtney: Yes. I mean you could argue that’s what we’re doing, is nitpicking the list.
Royce: But with six of them instead of 600.
Courtney: Right! Right, right. And the thing is, we already saw most of these, because we have our eyes on ace rep. We know what’s going on because it’s so few in numbers. So, when Glen and Glenda from Chucky comes out of nowhere, and hits us like a truck, because we didn’t even know that this was a TV series… Like yeah, we’re going to be curious and look into that. We watched all of Chucky and there was no ace rep. And yet, those are two of the characters that were mentioned by name in the report. So, what?!
Courtney: I am– I’m very, very confused. I’m very disappointed. I would be more willing to forgive the error of the CEO saying there are eight characters when the report itself says six. I’d be more willing to dismiss that as an error if I agreed with the six that they stated. Because then I could just be out here and saying, “Hey everyone the bullet points are saying they’re eight, but they’re only six. Go to this page of the report, it says there are only six. That’s your answer, that’s the real number.” But it’s so much more complicated than that. They made our work so much harder. Which also means that their numbers are probably off. Because now they’re saying, you know, 1% of characters are asexual. It’s like less than that.
Royce: Also, I mean we have an odd sample size because we investigated six characters with a widely misunderstood orientation.
Royce: But that, still, half of the characters we investigated were incorrect.
Royce: So, what’s the rest of the report?
Courtney: What’s– Yeah, exactly. What is the rest of the report? And that’s why– that’s why I wanted to look into their methodology, because part of me thought maybe they didn’t have anyone watching these shows – which for the entire queer spectrum – this is like way too many shows for just one or a small few people to look through and assess. So I could forgive them, if they didn’t have someone watch every single one of these shows. And I thought, maybe, just maybe, Netflix went to GLAAD and said, “We have these many asexual characters on our platform. These are the shows there on.” And maybe Netflix was fudging things. Because the thing is, at this point, these networks know that GLAAD does this. And they know that not only does GLAAD put out these official reports, there are news articles about queer representation and what GLAAD has found. And then GLAAD on their own website will, occasionally, do like, “Here are our favorite asexual characters on TV right now.” “Here are our favorite gay and lesbian characters.” Like, they will put out articles like that. So it would behoove the networks to get on this list. And the thing is Netflix doesn’t even have to try that hard, because they don’t have to inflate the numbers if no other streaming site has any ace characters at all, period. But I thought maybe this is it. It’s just the network saying, “Hey GLAAD, these are ace characters.” Maybe– And then I thought, well, that’s weird for Syfy to say, “Here’s the queerest show that we have. Here’s the queerest horror show that’s around right now.” And for them to just like pump up different orientations that aren’t even there…? I thought that would be weird and Syfy probably isn’t doing that, so.
Royce: But we have no real way of knowing without analysis of the underlying data.
Courtney: Right. We have no way of knowing. And also, by their own methodology, that means they are lying about their methodology. Because it says, “Character sexual orientations are determined based on the specific label a character uses on screen.” That takes it down to two. And they’re only saying they’re taking the networks word for it in official promotional material for the series. And only if it has not aired yet as of the time the report comes out. None of those have I seen for any of these. Because otherwise, if we googled, like, “Fei Hargreeves asexual”, we’d be seeing a news report saying Fei Hargreaves is going to make a return on season four of The Umbrella Academy going to explore ace identity. Like, we would see an article if it was official promotional material, right? And it’s just– [sighs] I don’t know. It’s a little disappointing with how often we do get fed these crumbs of representation.
Courtney: You mentioned the Owl House character, Lilith. People in the fandom are going to say that Lilith is canonical aroace, but we did an entire episode about her and she is not. That is a very queer show with a lot of explicitly stated identities and Lilith is not ever stated on screen as being aro or ace. And yet we are told, as the Ace community, like, this is your rep. And it’s just not. And we know how little representation there is for us, and our community on TV. And this is why GLAAD does this report, to highlight how little rep there is. And yet the official report that comes out every single year that’s supposed to highlight how little we have seems to be artificially inflating the numbers. Because, honestly, like eight asexual characters still doesn’t sound great, but if they followed their own methodology and they said there are only two ace characters on TV, that’s a lot more jarring. That is a lot more jarring! And of those two, one is on a show that got canceled, that’s even worse. Because The Imperfects got canceled, there isn’t going to be another season of that. Big Mouth I understand has been renewed, so there is going to be more of that character in the future.
Courtney: So like that’s the real story here. There are at most three. At most three, and only two of them are probably going to be explored further. That’s it. That’s the story here that GLAAD should be sharing. That’s what we should be seeing in news articles right now.
Courtney: So, I don’t know. We’ll– we’ll see. I– I’m halfway tempted to write up my own little report summary and send it to GLAAD. They do say that everything in the report is true to the best of their knowledge, but that it’s subject to change based on what happens throughout the series, or what doesn’t happen. So, I wonder if anyone pointed out to you– pointed out to them, that first of all, the number eight is what’s getting shared in all of the talking points, even your own report doesn’t say that. But also based on your own methodology, these don’t count. We checked. And I don’t know, perhaps there is a way to request, like you were saying, the raw data. What– what is the list? What are the characters? I don’t know if that’s something they'd ever share with us, but maybe we can at least get the report adjusted, and a little more correct at least.
Royce: Yeah. And I understand that there may be some characters in this report that they are legally obligated to not share because the airing season is not over yet, there’s a couple of more months. [Courtney agrees] But once that passes, what would be the reason to hold on to that information?
Courtney: I even went back to some previous years to see how they’ve handled the wording of the report for characters that hadn’t aired yet, but were going to. And they even stated like there is to be another character on this platform that we are obligated not to share, or cannot currently be named. So they have stated, like, there’s a character but we can’t share it with you. And the– it’s– nothing’s worded like this now either. So it’s certainly not the case for ace identity. It could be for others easily. It could be for others because, you know, spoiler alerts.
Courtney: And here’s why it’s so disappointing, GLAAD themselves say that they use the findings of the Where We Are On TV report to “create change within the television industry, using it as a tool to advocate for greater diversity of representation of LGBTQ characters on television.” That is a noble goal. I’m glad they do that. They’ve got to fix their numbers.
Courtney: If they’re already saying eight is far too few asexual characters, what if we told them there are only two or three based on their own methodology? Like get on it. We need more. And I suppose that’s also another good opportunity to state that we can’t, as such an underrepresented community, rely on TV. We can’t rely on cable broadcast television. We can’t rely on Netflix and other streaming sites. Because they are probably the slowest industry to actually get the representation out there. If you just want to see yourself represented in media, there are so many YA novels that are especially coming out within the last couple years that have ace rep. It is out there. We have books, we have graphic novels, we have comics, we have – still not nearly enough in video games – but we do have some in video games also. And that’s why we try to cover some of those things as well.
Courtney: We’ve covered so many TV characters, but we tried to also say, “Here are books, here are video games.” Because we need to look to other mediums that have a more indie presence, where individual ace people can say, “I want to create something,” and they can make it happen. It is so much harder, there are so many gatekeepers in the television industry that even when there are aces out there with a hope and a dream and a story to tell, even if they get it out there, it’s gonna take time. It takes so much time before it makes it to TV. So, that’s something we’ve got to keep in mind as we continue advocating for more representation.
Courtney: So that is going to be all for us for today. Please make sure to let us know what you think of these characters. Do you agree with our assessment that some of them that made it into the report just don’t count? Give us a comment on YouTube or tweet at us, and we will see you all next time.