Asexual Representation: Evan Waxman from High Maintenance

Today we discuss the adorable Jewish magician who served as a surprisingly early and surprisingly good example of Asexual representation on the web-turned-TV-series High Maintenance.


Courtney: Hello everyone and welcome back. My name is Courtney. I am here with my spouse, Royce, and together we are The Ace Couple. And today the Ace Couple is going to play: How Long Can We Talk About A Thing Before Courtney’s Voice Is Non-Existent Again?

Royce: It’s been a week.

Courtney: It’s been a week. I was violently ill, completely lost my voice for several days. It’s back enough that we’re sitting in front of a microphone, whether we like it or not. But I’m excited about today’s topic though, because we had an exceptionally Ace Christmas this year, didn’t we? Let’s see– So it fell on a Monday, right?

Royce: Yeah, a lot of holidays this year were on Mondays.

Courtney: A lot of holidays were on a Monday. And we don’t tend to do anything in particular for Christmas, just as it is. But Mondays are our all ace D&D nights, and most of those folks also don’t do anything in particular for Christmas. We have, like, one player who has a decent relationship with their parents and goes back home for holidays…? So that’s weird. We were down one player but everyone else was like, “Yep, I got nothing else going on that night.” Which was pretty cool because we got to take a little bit of a break from our long running Out Of The Abyss campaign that you and I co-DM. I got to solo-DM and you got to be a player for a little one-shot.

Royce: Yeah, that doesn’t happen very often anymore.

Courtney: No, it doesn’t. But we picked up Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel, as a book, and every chapter could be its own standalone adventure. So I was like, “Well, we’ve got a little bit of time where we’re down a player, let’s just do a quick, silly, lighthearted little side quest.” And it was really nice. For all of you D&D players out there, that particular book has an entirely BIPOC, like, I was going to say cast as if they’re actors, I guess. Writers and artists. Lots of characters, NPCs of color. And just a very lush, interesting world that’s different from your typical D&D campaign. Especially if you go back 10, 20, 30 years. That’ll get increasingly more problematic the further back you go. So that’s a little step of progress.

Courtney: It also ended up accidentally being kind of an ace-vibey sort of adventure too. Because it was very food-centric. There were some desserts involved. There were silly little fey creatures involved that were wreaking havoc in the name of destroying a wedding. It was good times, very good times. But that was not the only thing that we did over our– I guess this was kind of more of a three-day span. It was like Christmas Eve, Christmas, the day after, where those of you who have been with us for a while and listened to a lot of our episodes may know– we’ve just been calling them our QPR friend, is that the podcast official title for this person in our lives?

Royce: I believe so. Sometimes you do or do not say former.

Courtney: Gotcha. So yes, QPR friend was my QP from before Royce. In fact, she’s the reason I met Royce, the reason I live in Kansas City, the reason there is an Ace Couple podcast. And we have just not been able to see enough of them lately because this whole pandemic thing has been happening for years, and it just keeps going. But around the holidays things are a little slow at work, they were able to distance for a couple weeks, so like, we just had like several solid days where we could see each other in person without masks. It was lovely. We put together a murder mystery puzzle. [laughs]

Royce: Mostly successfully.

Courtney: Somewhat successfully. But they had also watched a little show called High Maintenance, which we had not ever watched yet. But I had been getting some messages saying, “Oh my gosh, this show has the most adorable ace character. Have you seen it? Do you know this character?” And I was like, “I haven’t watched this actually!” I feel like this is a show that I have seen on more obscure lists of ace rep. It’s not like the big ones that you tend to see when you’re searching for it. Obviously we’ve got BoJack Horseman, we’ve got Big Mouth, the character Elijah in Big Mouth, but then you’ve got kind of the more obscure ones that not everyone knows about. But if you search long enough, either on, like, Wikipedia pages or Reddit forums or AVEN forums, whatever ace space of your choice, you’ll probably run into this on a list somewhere.

Royce: Yeah, I had never heard of High Maintenance before this was brought to our attention, but it’s been around for a while. It was originally a sort of short runtime web series on Vimeo, just hosted on Vimeo, and that ran in small cycles of a few episodes between late 2012 and early 2015. And then there’s a gap of I guess, a year. A year after that it got picked up by HBO and they did sort of standard length episodes a total of 34 of them from 2016 to 2020.

Courtney: So where does that actually stand in, like, the ace rep timeline? Because 2016, it’s obviously not nearly as old as like the dreaded House episode, but had the season of BoJack where Todd came out as ace, come out by that point? I feel like maybe not yet.

Royce: So the infamous House episode Better Half aired on January 3rd, 2012.

Courtney: Yeah.

Royce: The first episode to prominently have Evan in it is the episode Elijah, which was released on April 20th, 2013, so a little over a year later.

Courtney: Okay.

Royce: Season three of BoJack Horseman was released in mid 2016.

Courtney: Gotcha. So yeah, for being like a year after the Dreaded House episode– Like this is, I think, more groundbreaking than I’ve ever seen it get credit for…? So maybe let’s fix that today. Let’s talk about this a little more. Because, as I said, I’ve seen this on lists before, so I know it’s not completely unknown or completely obscure, but I haven’t seen it really super hyped or appreciated in the same way I’ve seen other shows like BoJack, even Everything’s Gonna Be Okay, we saw that getting hyped up a lot before we ever watched it ourselves.

Royce: And I think some of that notoriety is sort of gated by the type of show and where they air, where they’re produced from, because Everything’s Going To Be Okay was Australian…?

Courtney: Was it actually Australian or was it just written by an Australian?

Royce: No, you’re right, it is actually considered American media. The writer and star and creator and everything was an Australian comedian.

Courtney: Yeah.

Royce: But it did air on Freeform, which was a streaming service I had never heard of before we watched that show on it.

Courtney: Gotcha.

Royce: In terms of BoJack. I mean Bojack was on Netflix, but it was gated by the animation style, throwing people.

Courtney: Yeah. But then, even more recently than any of these examples, we have Heartbreak High, which is actually Australian, and also on Netflix. But this is kind of a goofy case, since it started as a web series and then became a real series, a standard series.

Royce: It got at least enough attention or in front of the right people to become picked up by a major network, yeah.

Courtney: Yeah.

Royce: Which– The shows here are episodic in nature. The main character that everything in the series sort of revolves around is a person who’s just known as The Guy.

Courtney: [circumspect air] The guy.

Royce: Who is a weed dealer, and all of these episodes focus on one or more interactions with clients of his. Like, they will have something going on and at some point during that process The Guy will show up. He’s the through plot binding all of these characters together, and you will see some recurring characters, some characters that have had some major episodes themselves kind of showing up in the background of other episodes.

Courtney: Yeah, it’s really cool because– Like, the character we’re going to talk about today, his name is Evan, so we’ve seen him prominently in three different episodes, but he might make a small cameo here and there in a couple other episodes that focus more on someone else. And it focuses enough on the individual people that you get something really deep and profound about their lives, or at least this period of their lives, without really going too heavy on exposition, without having to overly rely on dialogue or teaching. There’s a lot of gray area, a lot of things that they don’t specify, a lot of things that they don’t name. Which really works for me in this show, because they treat kind of everything the same way across the board, but you’re still able to get like the heart and the spirit and the emotion behind these situations, even if you don’t have all the details.

Courtney: Like if there’s someone who is trying weed for the first time because she’s sick, they might not say, “Oh, this woman has cancer,” or this woman, you know, is terminal or is just going through chemo, we don’t know. We just know someone is sick and she’s trying weed for the first time. And so that’s kind of like– they leave enough gray details so that they can focus on the very human moments and the very human interactions that people have with their friends, with their family, with their weed dealer. Sometimes the very intimate moments that he just accidentally is party to or witness to, because he’s there at the right time in the right place. And so I just think the format is very unique and very cool in that regard. And overall, we did – across these few days hanging out – we watched several other episodes that weren’t Evan specific, and it is pretty well-rounded, queer friendly show overall. We saw a variety of different types of queer people.

Courtney: And there were even some very cool moments too. Where it’s like, the fact that something is unspoken it sort of forces the audience to say, “Well, this isn’t the important detail. What I am seeing and what is being presented is the important detail.” Like a queer couple at a party with the rest of their queer friend group, like, announcing that they’re going to have a child. And it’s like they don’t say how. They don’t go into, like, “How can you have a child? Is it adoption? Is one of you actually having it?” They don’t mess with those details because they just let you experience the happiness and joy that everybody is sharing with this couple. But then you also get the, “Oh, but now they’re moving out of the city. They’re going to be farther away from us, things are going to be different.” So there’s like a little bit of grief that comes after the joy, and so it lets you care about the emotions.

Courtney: But even though a lot of the finer details of these emotions aren’t always labeled, they did very specifically and repeatedly label Evan’s asexuality. They did say the word, which I really appreciate, for 2013. 2013 is in that weird gray area where I feel like it really was not that long ago, but it was actually more than 10 years ago.

Courtney: So let’s go in order of his appearances. You said Elijah’s the first episode?

Royce: Of the three episodes that have a lot of Evan present, yes.

Courtney: So the episode starts with Evan running in a group of people talking specifically to one woman. We don’t really know the nature of their relationship. This show isn’t one to sort of set expectations ahead of time like that. But we don’t see her again after this. He just invites her to his family’s Seder because Passover is coming up. And his mother is also in a separate area, in a separate scene, sort of you know, griping about this coming up. And the woman she’s talking to is like, “Oh, are your kids gonna be inviting people?” And she’s like, “What about Evan? Is he married?” And his mother gives just a very, like, flat, disappointed no. And the woman that Evan invited too turns him down because apparently his sister is just not a very good person. She’s like, “Last time I met your sister she was awful to me, so I think I will pass.”

Courtney: And then it jumps to Seder where the family’s all gathered around a table. But this awful sister in question has sort of recommended a, like, private chef, someone to cater their feast, who also– just awful, terrible dude. He’s coming in like so overconfident and probably not Jewish himself. That was definitely the vibe I was getting from him, which would make the things he was saying just like all that more offensive. Because he’s like, “Oh well, this night is gonna be different from all other nights because you don’t have to worry about the food. I got this, I’m cooking for you.”

Courtney: And it’s like, “Oh, that’s not great.” But he also, like, he put bacon in the matzah and the family, like, smelled it and they were like, “Is there bacon in this? It is Passover. What is wrong with this guy?” And a couple of the family members even, like, pull him off to the side at one point and confront him and ask if there is in fact bacon in it. And he’s like, “Oh, what a shanda! Nobody told me that there were any dietary restrictions.” It’s like, [sighs] “Oh, my guy.” So they’re setting this guy up to be also terrible, and isn’t he actually the one who ended up calling the guy this episode?

Royce: Yeah, he calls the guy over after being prompted.

Courtney: Was that by the sister?

Royce: Yeah.

Courtney: The sister was like, “Let’s get high.” So he and the sister want to get high. He calls the guy. But meanwhile, while they’re waiting for the weed to arrive, several of the family members start fighting horribly, just absolutely going at each other’s throats for a variety of reasons. And there’s like one small boy, one child, who’s there, and Evan is like the only adult present who is trying to keep everyone together and make everyone be on their best behavior. And when that’s not working, he tries to, like, lighten the mood by doing magic tricks. He’s so precious. He like– People are yelling across the table and this little boy sitting in the chair is just looking at all these people yelling and he just goes, “Achoo!” And there’s a bouquet of, like, feather flowers in his hands and he goes, “Flowers!” Just out of nowhere, trying to lighten the mood.

Courtney: And it’s so sweet, but his mother hates it. His mother yells at him and is like, “Oh, this hocus pocus crap, this is why you’re not married.” And then he outright says, “No, I’m not married because I’m asexual.” And we were like, “Ah! The word! The word was said, good, first tick.” And also we already have such a complicated family dynamic around him that isn’t just, “I exist as a character to teach you, the audience, that asexuality is a thing.” And I gotta say, it actually was so fun to watch this with QPR friend because we got to hear all of their thoughts and feelings about this character as someone who is not asexual. And then we got to share, sort of, our viewings of the character as people who very much are. Because you’re always gonna watch and view something a little bit different if you have a personal connection to it. But also I have wicked a-dar at this point.

Courtney: So the moment he pulls out his guitar and the family starts singing while he’s playing music, I instantly saw the “I Heart Cake” stickers on his instrument. I was again like the Leonardo DiCaprio meme. I was like, “There! I found it.” And you know, little moments like that are very cool. I like when, even though the average viewer, the average allosexual viewer, might not pick up on those things, it kinda tells me as an ace audience member that they either have gone the extra mile to do the research and try to understand the community a little better, or someone on the staff might be ace or be very close to someone who is ace, and so moments like that are really special.

Courtney: That’s what I really liked about the final season of Sex Education, where the character of O was wearing an ace ring, the black ring on the middle finger, every single episode, from the very first scene we ever saw her in. And we know that there was an ace in the writer’s room there. And that is how those extra little moments can come to be. And once he already does have his guitar out, after the whole family sings a song, there’s like a moment of levity where everybody is participating in this song and seems to be having a good time. But of course they go right back to fighting again. So he starts playing his guitar again and singing a little song, just saying like please stop fighting.

Royce: “You’re ruining the whole night.”

Courtney: Mm-hmm. But then, as they’re going through the night and as they’re going through their meal and the ritual, as they’re teaching the young boy, they have this kid, kind of, lead and they say, “Okay, now we’re gonna go to the front door, we’re going to open the door for Elijah.” But The Guy is, like, just walking up to their steps as they open the door, so he’s just like, “Oh hello.” And there– there’s a bit of confusion there, because Evan actually is a client of The Guy, but he didn’t call him. So for a moment he’s like, “Oh no, did I, did I butt dial you? What? What happened here?” He’s like, “No, actually someone else called me.” So there’s just, like, a really awkward, uncomfortable moment where they’re trying to sort this out here. And this poor kid ends up walking away and going upstairs, and opening a door and walking in on this sister performing lewd acts on two men.

Royce: One of whom is the caterer we don’t like.

Courtney: One of whom is the caterer we don’t like. And this kid, like, screams. And so all the adults, except for Evan, go like, rushing up to take care of him. And so it’s like just Evan and The Guy [laughs] standing by the front door. And since they clearly know each other, the guy’s like, “Oh, you got any new magic tricks?” And Evan’s like, “Boy, do I?” And he, like, snaps his fingers and some, like, flame shoots out of his hands. And the guy’s just like, “Oh, you are very talented.” And he seems genuinely so delighted to see this close up magic.

Royce: It was very quick too. It was a very quick, unexpected little explosion of flame that honestly wasn’t that far away from either of their faces. So I get why they were surprised. But yeah, The Guy is just very present and calm and genuine and just seems to like having a good time with people. So– so his interaction with Evan throughout the series is usually pretty pleasant.

Courtney: He’s very supportive of a lot of people.

Royce: Which I kind of assumed is where the title of the series came from. This weed dealer has a lot of high maintenance clients, people who are always going through something, and he is – while going through the motions of showing up and providing them with something – is also just kind of hanging out with them and kind of helping them through whatever is going on in their life.

Courtney: I also noticed an episode where someone had him listed in his phone as Maintenance.

Royce: Right– Oh!

Courtney: Like as if they were calling the maintenance guy.

Royce: That makes more sense! Or that that makes sense in addition.

Courtney: It could go both ways.

Royce: That is a more deliberate, “What kind of maintenance? The high kind.”

Courtney: The high kind. [laughs lightly] But of course watching this knowing that it is a bit of an older series, and watching this as the first episode that had a very prominent Evan in it, I of course wanted to know the timeline. Like, where did this fit in amongst the other bits of ace rep we’ve covered? It is another point to lots of ace guys on television as a medium.

Royce: White ace guy. Yeah, that is– That is a lot of it.

Courtney: But I think this might be the only Jewish ace character I’ve seen on TV, and that’s fantastic.

Royce: Yeah, I feel like I would need to see a list. I mean, there are clearly some aces and media that portray a conservative religious experience that is predominantly Christian, and then there are a lot of characters that I don’t recall religion really being present in their character stories.

Courtney: Right. But like, even– even Big Mouth, which we’ve talked about recently, like Elijah was the Christian character in that show when most of the main cast were Jewish, but the ace character was Christian. And I mean we have Abby Singh in The Imperfects. But yeah, for the most part– And I got to thinking a little bit about Crazy Ex-Girlfriend during this episode because I was trying to think, like, are there any other Jewish ace characters on TV that I’ve seen? And definitely not in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. [laughs] However, we have considered doing an episode on that show because even though there isn’t a prominent ace or aro character, there is sort of a subversion of certain tropes and there’s even one song where they sing about like an asexual utopia, which I actually find kind of funny. So there are things to discuss there.

Courtney: But we’ve talked about Crazy Ex-Girlfriend with Michele whom we’ve interviewed, Michele Kirichanskaya, who is also the author of ‘Ace Notes: Tips and Tricks on Existing in an Allo World’. Actually, right before I had read that book, we watched Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and had, like, just finished the series. And I was so glad that I did because they actually write about some moments in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend in the book, like the song, like, Sacks of Yellow Fat, for talking about, like, big boobs, like that was mentioned in the book Ace Notes. And I was so glad because we were late to the party watching that TV show, but I just happened to finish it before reading that book, so that was fabulous. But in that book and even on articles before publishing the book, Michele has written several things about Jewish ace identity, which I think are fabulous. But that’s an example of, like, here is a real life person sharing their lived experience, which is a very vital type of representation. It is a different type of representation to what we’re seeing in fiction characters, what we’re watching on our TV shows, and both are necessary. Both are very, very important. So I was just happy to see like a little more Jewish ace rep.

Courtney: And I also started thinking a little bit about Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, because there were some moments while the family was arguing and like going at each other, where there were some words used or some just sort of depictions of a not particularly supportive family that there were also elements of in the show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. And while I have seen some arguments that there are some– like, this could be a negative stereotype by reinforcing it, I also do know people who feel very seen by it because they do have family dynamics like that. So I am very clearly not Jewish, so I by no means have the final say on it, but even just watching a family’s Seder on a TV show, you don’t see that very often. You really don’t.

Royce: And that was about it for the episode Elijah. A lot of these web series episodes– they were not a fixed length, but many of them were 10-15 minutes. The next one comes about a year and a half later in their runtime, near the end of the web series. It is the episode Genghis, which appeared in late 2014.

Courtney: This one was probably my least favorite of the three main ones with Elijah, but it still wasn’t bad. And they doubled down on the asexuality but showed it in a different context.

Royce: Yeah, it was kind of a bummer episode compared to a lot of the other ones. Which, even when dealing with tough topics, the characters often got some kind of comfort or resolution out of them.

Courtney: It was a bummer. I mean it shows him right at the top of the episode working somewhere unspecified.

Royce: Yeah, it isn’t explicitly mentioned what he does for work, but his regular 9-5 job, it shows him in an office in like, a little– I think he’s actually sitting on a ball in front of a computer desk, like it’s one of those offices.

Courtney: Looking at a pair of boobs.

Royce: Yeah, he has two monitors up with some Adobe products, presumably touching up images. They looked like models, I assume. We were kind of guessing he was doing some touch-ups for a magazine or something like that.

Courtney: Yeah, it wasn’t nudity, but it was definitely women in lingerie. So whether it was actually pornography– probably not, it could have just been modeling lingerie. It could have been a fashion magazine. It could have been a variety of things, we don’t know. But he does not seem happy to be looking at boobs and touching them up. And in fact he’s kind of sitting there rubbing his eyes, going cross-eyed. He’s shown to be pretty sociable, or at least someone who wants to be sociable. So even when he’s leaving the office he tries to say goodbye to everyone else and everyone just ignores him. So he seems so miserable in this office. But when he’s outside of the office, it shows these very joyful montages of him practicing his magic, practicing juggling. It shows him doing back handsprings outside in the park and watching cartoons.

Royce: Well, some of it is joyous. He was alone in most of these and when he was, like, busking, like practicing magic having a hat in front of him on the subway platform, not many people are around. And when someone does come up to give him a tip, he jerked the hat back. And I couldn’t tell if he stumbled and that was an accident or if he was trying to be playful, but the person just wasn’t very fond of that and just walked off with their money.

Courtney: Aw…

Royce: So he isn’t happy where he is and a lot of his social interactions are not going well.

Courtney: [Agrees] But then one day, he’s riding the subway, and he buys a snack from a teen who’s there shouting out like, “Buy these things to keep me off the streets and to keep me from selling drugs.” And he immediately grabs his wallet and is like, “Yeah, give me some fruit snacks.” And right behind this teenager’s head is a poster for a teaching training program. And there’s a quote that’s like, “I’ve learned as much from my students as they’ve learned from me.” And he sees that and he sort of smiles and gets inspired. So he signs up for this program and quits his job, editing lingerie photos, I guess. And there are a lot of moments in this episode that are ableist and or racist, so it’s not going to be particularly fun to talk about. Like at one point someone actually just says like the r-slur. And it’s a guy who is supposed to be teaching disabled students who says that. So not that good.

Royce: He’s also in the same program that Evan is in, with the intention of teaching disabled students.

Courtney: Which, like– That– They say Special Ed. I know that’s still common vernacular and a lot of people will say, but they even, like– They have teachers, they have adults in this program, who, like, in the course of this episode, will say Spec Ed, and they’ll be like, “Oh, this isn’t a Spec Ed class.” So like, definitely antiquated language. But in the show itself it’s not presented as a good thing. It’s not presented as if these adults are in the right or these teachers are doing the right thing, or even the people in charge of the program teaching the teachers how to teach. It even shows them being just complete out of touch jerks. So, it’s– some of it is difficult to hear and difficult to see, but the show doesn’t give it a pass. So I’ll allow it.

Courtney: And I did have to ask too. Because while we were watching this with QPR friend, we’d get a couple bits of commentary like, “Oh, that’s also like one of The Guy’s clients. And there’s another episode about that person here and there.” So we’d get these little side comments. And so I knew the guy who’s also in this program, supposedly meant to teach him how to confront his biases against disabled people so that he can teach students. And like he just casually, like, drops the r-slur. Like that was one moment where I had to be like, “Please tell me that he– He- he sucks, right? Like his episode, that’s just him where we learn more about him, he is just a jerk, right? He is an asshole.” And I believe the answer was like, “Oh yeah, this guy actually just is a jerk.” But the clips are kind of interspersed of Evan showing up on his first day as a teaching fellow. So he’s like an assistant to the main teacher and he’s all gung-ho, he’s excited, he’s bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and he’s like, “Oh, I saw that we have like dozens of students in this class and we don’t even have enough chairs. Do you want me to go find more chairs?”

Royce: Yeah, it was like one regular sized classroom with 20 desks or so and 60 some students on the list.

Courtney: Yeah, and the teacher’s just like, “Nah, most of them aren’t going to show up anyway, like don’t bother.”

Royce: Administration already knows about it.

Courtney: And he was like, “Well, do you want me to review the students’ IEPs?” They’re individualized education plans. And she just looks so confused. She’s like, “What? This isn’t a Spec-ed class.” Like what are you talking about? And you’re right, it wasn’t. It was actually just a classroom of predominantly Black students taught by a really salty, cynical white teacher. So there’s this super uncomfortable, like, wow, this program that’s exclusively talking to these prospective teachers about disability, they are not actually teaching them anything about the communities that they actually are teaching. And I think part of that is the point. Because they have former teaching fellows come in to talk to them and they’re so jaded, just awfully jaded, saying, “Oh well, you know, it’s more about discipline than the lesson plan. Discipline’s number one, it’s the most important thing.” And Evan, trying to be optimistic, is like, “Can you share some examples of when you’ve been able to, you know, impact a student’s life?” And like nobody could give an answer. It was awful.

Royce: Yeah, a couple of them start to flounder a little bit, as if they– as if it had been a long time since a question like that had even been in their minds.

Courtney: Yeah. And then it– I mean, it shows Evan back in the classroom and this teacher was– when he’s finally like, “Well, if I can’t get more chairs, if there aren’t, you know, education plans to review, what can I do?” And she’s like, “You’re in charge of the bathroom pass.” He’s like, “What? That’s it?” But yeah, it shows this teacher clearly she hates her job. The students hate being here. Nobody’s really learning anything. And there’s, like, definitely a moment where this white teacher, like, kind of puts on a blaccent to, like, yell at the students when they start getting loud and a little rowdy. And it’s like, ooh… There are some uncomfortable moments there, but there are moments of truth within that discomfort that it’s like, I think this is the story you’re actually trying to tell, so I’m gonna sit with that. But oh man. Then– then you see that scene with the disability comfort zone when they’re teaching all of these teachers.

Royce: We had to pause this scene to read the chart a couple of times.

Courtney: Horrendous!

Royce: It’s a very uncomfortable scene and it’s not even all that long.

Courtney: No. It’s like– They’re in an auditorium with projector, and you can tell the guy giving this presentation has already started filling this out based on everybody’s answers. But it starts with, like, “All right, who would go to third base with a quadriplegic?” And it’s like, [baffled] pardon me, what did you just say? And then like three people raise their hand or so. And so he’s like marking time, like, “Okay, three.” And then you zoom out and you see this chart and, from left to right, on the bottom it starts with like would you make eye contact with this person, would you have a conversation with this person, would you hug this person, would you kiss this person, would you be in a relationship with this– And it just– It goes from like, would you exist in proximity with this person as a stranger, up until like would you have children with this person? Would you live and grow old with this person? So they’re also kind of doing, like, the relationship escalator thing from left to right.

Royce: Yeah, the X axis is what you described. It is what would be considered to be a deeper relationship. But even some of the earlier ones felt kind of weird to me because they had, like, eye contact, shake hands, hug and be friends with.

Courtney: Yeah.

Royce: And some of the orders there felt a little weird to me. But there’s definitely trying to take a depth of human interaction and make it numerical for the purpose of making a graph, essentially.

Courtney: Yeah, meanwhile, on the Y axis, it starts with things that are usually less visible for disabilities, so it would start with–

Royce: Low vision was the first one.

Courtney: It would start with low vision, it might be after that someone who’s deaf, but then it would be like people using mobility aids. It would be like with a wheelchair user, with someone who is quadriplegic, and then it would be like someone who has facial deformities. I think– Did they have an amputee followed by a double amputee? I think they did.

Royce: They did, yeah.

Courtney: And ended with, like, Down syndrome. And you see that he’s already started filling this out and, like, almost everyone in the class said yes to the first couple. Like, “Yeah, I’d shake hands with someone who’s blind, but I don’t know if I’d–” Like, everyone going down the road got like a few– fewer people every time and it was just so uncomfortable. And then–

Royce: This is being tallied in the auditorium by counting raised hands too.

Courtney: Literally. Like he is asking. He’s like, “All right, next up?” And they’re starting on a third base with– Oh my gosh, it’s so uncomfortable. But then the aforementioned jerk who dropped the r-slur raises hand and is like, “What’s even the point of this?” And like Evan’s sitting next to him, and Evan’s not even– doesn’t even talk during this scene, but he asks the presenter, “Why are we doing this?” And I kid you not– Mind you, all of these teaching fellows, or at least Evan, at least some of them, are actually just teaching majority Black classrooms, not even students with disabilities. He just says, “We need to examine our own prejudices before we work in a classroom with victims of discrimination.” That was his answer. And then he’s like, “All right, who would go all the way with someone with quadripl–” [whispers] Oh my god. And only one person raises her hand. It’s deeply upsetting! I wish my voice could be louder to convey how deeply upset I am today. [laughs]

Courtney: And so, despite Evan sort of seeing all of these very jaded teachers going through these very weird training programs, he’s still very earnest. He’s still trying to reach these kids somehow, but he also doesn’t really have an active role in the classroom yet anyway. But there’s a moment he’s just passing out– I don’t know if it’s a quiz or if it’s just a worksheet, but he’s passing out papers to the kids, and one of the boys in class is just like, “Well, I don’t have a pencil. How am I supposed to do the work if I don’t have a pencil?” And, being Evan, he sets down his stack of papers and does a little sleight of hand magic trick to make it look like he pulled a pencil out of his nose and goes to hand it to the boy. But this teenage boy was not impressed by it and he was like, “Man, I hope you didn’t have that up your ass.” And Evan was really discouraged by that. He thought the student was really gonna like his magic trick and he was like, “Come on, man, it’s just a magic trick.”

Courtney: But then from the front of the class, the teacher’s like, “Don’t give the students pencils, they know they’re supposed to bring their own.” And so he gets scolded for trying to give the kid a pencil, which just again goes back to the discipline before education. It’s more important to teach the kids a lesson than it is to actually make sure that they learn something. So it’s a super vicious cycle because clearly these kids have been let down by the jaded teachers. But the kids also really start bullying Evan, who comes in as someone who is one of the few people who really wants to make a difference and really cares about this job and wants to do well. So it was a vicious cycle. And after that scene you start to see him actually get really demoralized and sort of question, maybe internally, why he’s doing this. And so after school one day he calls The Guy to get his weed fix. For what kind of maintenance?

Royce: The high kind?

Courtney: The high kind. [chuckles] And while The Guy’s out on deliveries, he actually passes by a pair standing outside of an apartment on a sidewalk speaking sign language to one another. And this was kind of an interesting example of how the show does try to subtly draw parallels between the themes. Because we clearly see how this training, this alleged training for disabled students, is horrible. We see the innate bigotry built into it. We see the jaded teachers. We see the kind of people who are coming into this line of work and not all of them are pure of intention. But we see this Deaf couple and it shows us the subtitles, so we see what conversation they’re having, and it’s not specifically related to anything we’ve seen yet, but it’s just another example of a very human moment. Because the woman here looks like she’s practically on the verge of tears. She’s talking about how today’s been absolutely humiliating and through context clues we can kind of glean she’s probably going to Yale, she’s probably studying to be an actress.

Courtney: She had some kind of monologue she was performing for, I don’t know, a class or an audition, who knows. And she was like, “It was so embarrassing. They were just staring at me.” And the guy he’s talking to is like, “Seriously fuck them. You are a great actress, you know, fuck all that Yale drama.” And she’s like, “I thought that this monologue was a good choice. I really wanted to do this. Maybe I should have gone with something safer.” And he was even saying, like, “Maybe the interpreter made a mistake, maybe someone was misinterpreting you.” And so he’s just trying to comfort her and being like, “Fuck them, you’re great.” Giving her affirmations while she’s on the verge of tears. And we just see this so subtly, while The Guy is going to deliver weed to other people. And it just sort of, I guess, is a subtle and important way to show that bigotry against disabled people isn’t what was even trying to be taught in this class. And there are methods for going about it like, would you be friends with, would you have sex with, like would you marry? It’s just not it.

Courtney: That’s not what it is. And we don’t get all the details. So we don’t know everything about this monologue or everything about why people were just staring at her, but we can infer from context clues that maybe there was a bit of discrimination there. Maybe people– maybe she’s the only Deaf student or Deaf auditioner who was present and everyone was wondering why she was even in the room. Like there are elements of ableism that can contribute to this, but the feelings, the emotions, the being embarrassed, the being humiliated, having a friend or a partner trying to console you, these are very human emotions that we can relate to on a lot of levels, even if the details are different. And I like that the show doesn’t have to be so on the nose with its parallels between these sort of fractured scenes in order for them to paint a full picture in the unique way that this show does. And then we get a bald bear.

Royce: And then we get a bald bear. After that scene it cuts to The Guy and Evan towards the end of their deal. They’ve already smoked a bit and they’re looking at a laptop. The Guy really wanted to show Evan this.

Courtney: And the actor who plays Evan, I think, has some of my favorite interactions with The Guy. I think the way that he plays getting high, and he plays just sort of silly, giggly, having a good time, joking around with The Guy is just some of the most wholesome little interactions. And acting intoxicated can be really difficult. Even if you’re just playing drunk. Most people who aren’t highly trained actors, if someone says like, “Pretend to be drunk,” people will probably go so sloppy and over the top that it’s not really funny, it’s kind of uncomfortable to watch, it’s not even super realistic. Because in a lot of ways when you’re either drunk or high, a lot of people will try to act as if they’re not drunk or high. So they’ll be like, aware, maybe I’m slurring my speech or maybe I’m getting giggly or maybe this, that or the other thing, and they’ll try intentionally to suppress it. And it can be really hard to act being one thing while pretending not to be that thing. It’s a very, very fine line to balance. So I always try to equate acting high to acting drunk. There are some similar challenges in some ways. But I think Evan just really hits the nail on the head because he’s still Evan, but he’s just a little bit goofier, a little bit gigglier, and he’s very cute and very sweet. Because they’re just looking at a picture of a bald bear and The Guy’s like, “I just wanted to show you this,” and he is just having the best time looking at this silly picture of a bear with no hair.

Courtney: And I think you’ll just have to watch some of the show to get an idea of what I’m talking about. But the actual dialogue that is in the show, especially dialogue and scenes with The Guy, are very realistic. Like it’s not perfectly edited dialogue to make people seem cooler or sillier or weirder. There are sort of slips of the tongue or lightly weird grammar that might have come out the wrong way a little bit that is actually very reminiscent of real conversations, and I get a lot of that with Evan and The Guy and I love it. Like what was the line? When they’re looking at this bald bear, he’s like, joking about what the face looks like and the color of the eyes and he says something so goofy. It’s like that didn’t really make sense, but in the moment when you’re just cackling with your friend about this silly animal picture, that’s exactly what someone would say. It’s like, “Oh, the color goes right back into him,” like just laughing and trying to motion on the face, like showing you what the color is doing. So just cute little moments like that.

Courtney: But as The Guy’s about to leave, Evan says, like, “If you weren’t doing this, if you weren’t the weed guy, what would you be doing?” And he says, “Well, I always thought I’d be a teacher.” And he says his dad was a teacher and all of his students loved him, and that he’d bring in, like, costumes and props to school to try to make learning fun. And you, like, see this moment of revelation in Evan’s face, like, “A-ha! Passion rekindled, I’m gonna try this.” And so, with a renewed sense of purpose, the next scene is him in the classroom and he’s trying to teach a class dressed in a costume, putting on a voice, being theatrical. I can’t be theatrical today, apparently, my goodness. I hope this isn’t horribly grating for you all to listen to. I promise this is the best I’ve sounded in four days.

Courtney: But despite the fact that he is really trying to make this lesson interesting, the students are not having it. They think it’s corny, they think it’s weird, they’re like, “What is going on?” And they start heckling him and a couple of them start calling him gay, like as an insult. Which probably was a thing for teenagers in 2013. It feels a lot more like early to mid-2000s for me, but I believe that in 2013 people were still using gay as an insult. But he actually stops them there and outright says, “I’m not gay, I’m an asexual, and that is something that I’m proud of. That is an important part of me.” And he tells them that they do not have the right to make someone feel like their sexuality or lack of sexuality is a disability. And then he sort of stumble-restarts and says, “Not that even having a disability is a problem.” So there’s that moment where he hears what he said was wrong, corrects himself, but he clearly was not prepared to have that conversation with exactly the right words at exactly that moment.

Courtney: The one thing I wish– because, as a disabled-ace person who has done a lot of work in and around this intersection of asexuality and disability, I know how strong the overlap can be between ableism and acephobia, and I know how, at times, there have been asexual people very quick to try to distance themselves from any and all disability because of the medicalized stigma that can come with our orientation. So me watching this, I have all those gaps filled in. I know exactly what he’s talking about when he says, “You don’t have a right to treat this like a disability.” I do wish they had something, just one smaller scene somewhere in there, that could have connected the dots on that, just like a little bit better for people who don’t necessarily know that. Because obviously the conversation of disability is a lot more prominent in this episode and they sort of showed us the really ableist classes that they were taking with the horrible teachers and the inappropriate way about trying to check your own biases. So we saw that and then we got to see the snippet of someone else’s life with that sign language conversation, so that at least started connecting the dots. That’s like, “I guess this is a real life disabled person.” The way you’re talking about disabled people is a fiction that comes from your own internalized ableism.

Courtney: But there really wasn’t a moment that I think had treated asexuality like a disability in this or in any other episode. I mean, we know his family has an issue with it, we know these students are using gay as an insult, but I kind of wish there was something, even if it was still subtle – like a lot of the ways that the show operates – that could have been something more like even the very common, like, ‘broken’ comment that a lot of asexual people either get externally or sometimes feel on the inside. Like, “Am I broken?” Like that is– even if one of the students in that moment he’s like, “I’m asexual.” If someone’s like, “What are you broken?” Or like if there was something to connect that, I would have liked it a little bit better.

Courtney: But then I think it also shows a couple of Evans cracks in his own vulnerability, because obviously he’s very sensitive to this. He wants the students to know that this isn’t something to be ashamed of and that he is proud of this. But he also notices, he’s like, “Don’t treat this like it’s a disability. Oh, wait a second. It’s not great to treat disabled people like they’re wrong or that they deserve to be mocked. That’s also bad.” So it shows like a little bit of a crack in his armor, even though he isn’t as, like, overtly bigoted as the other guy that was in his class. I think showing the little flaws that even well-intentioned people can have is something also that the show does really good, because we also see that in the next episode we’re going to talk about with an intimacy coordinator he starts talking to.

Courtney: But that whole display in the classroom did not go over very well. He gets reprimanded for, first of all, for bringing your sexuality into the classroom, and he was trying to defend, he’s like, “Well, I’m actually asexual, so by definition I was not bringing sexuality into the classroom,” which I thought was a little funny. But he also did like his little pyrotechnic magic trick during his demonstration. And they were also like, “You can’t have explosives in the classroom!” But out on break at some point, either before class, maybe at lunch, I don’t know. Evan’s out talking to this jerk– I don’t actually know his name so I guess we’re just calling him the jerk. But when they’re like, going back through the hallway and some of the students see them sneaking around the two of them, they start making fun of them again and saying like, “Oh, I bet these two were sucking each other’s dicks.” And then one of them catches that and he’s like, “Or they were not sucking each other’s lack of dicks.” Zero out of ten on the creativity there. But that really struck a nerve for Evan. Because I was not prepared for him to fully explode on this kid and tell this teenager to go fuck himself. But that happened. And then he, like, runs away to a pretty much abandoned hallway, just empty space, and like, throws his bag down and just like, crumbles on the floor and curls up and just starts sobbing.

Courtney: And in the final scene they are back in the classroom and the primary teacher is trying to teach something very monotone, very slow and boring. And a very perky, bubbly woman comes in and was like, “Oh, it’s time for the mandatory nutrition class, didn’t they tell you?” And the teacher’s like, “[scoffs] Nope, had no idea about that. But whatever, have at it.” And this woman, when she comes in, like, I’m ready for her to fully be eaten alive because she’s like, “You can call me Mrs B.” And she’s like, “We’re gonna talk about some super cool fruits and vegetables.” So is like, oh no, this will not go well for her. But she wants to start with an icebreaker and she has the class play Two Truths And A Lie. So she has everyone write down their two truths and their lie. And she asks Evan to start and is like, “Why don’t you go first?” And so he stands up in front of the class, all the light gone from his eyes, and he says, “Number one, I miss making a lot of money every week,” from his job that it seemed he absolutely hated, but now we know must have paid well. “Two, I’m more selfish than I thought I was. And three, I still think teaching in Brooklyn is a good idea.”

Courtney: And one of the students in the back is like, “Oh, the last one’s a lie.” And he’s like, “Yep, you’re right.” And one of the students just yells at him and says, “That’s messed up.” And again, just like dull eyes, mostly blank expression, at least the joy has gone from his face. He just says, “I know Keisha.” And that’s the end of that episode. And it’s crushing. It is absolutely crushing. Because I’m also like– There were moments where I was like, Evan, you cannot talk to the kids like that. I don’t care if they’re saying you’re not sucking each other’s lack of dicks. You can’t tell a teenager to go fuck himself. You’re the adult here. So there were moments where I was like don’t succumb to the jaded ways of all of the teachers who are telling you that all these kids are a lost cause. But then at the same time you see him just break down and sobbing in a hallway and it’s like he’s got baggage. We don’t know all the details of this baggage, but it’s there and he at least has self-awareness to say, like, “I am more selfish than I thought I was. I am not actually cut out to do this thing that I was excited about,” and he knows how fucked up it is that he is now not even wanting to be here, doesn’t think it’s a good idea. So yeah, real mixed bag, that episode.

Royce: And after that we have a pretty decent gap before we get another very Evan-heavy episode, because that was still in the web series. Then it gets picked up for sort of standard half hour length episodes on HBO. And it isn’t until the last season that we get the episode Trick where Evan goes on a date with an intimacy coordinator. And so the first part of this episode, before we get around to Evan, just deals with showing us a few examples of, I guess you could say, the challenges of intimacy. We open on a person in their apartment who’s just called a sex worker, and the interaction there is a bit awkward. As they get into it a little bit, trying to figure out what they’re going to do, at one point the sex worker himself mentions that he’s kind of new to this.

Courtney: Oh yeah, that’s super apparent. And he’s, like, got anxiety about it. He’s like, “Do you use the site really often? Why did you pick me? Have you ever picked an actual porn star?” And the guy who hired him is like, “Yeah, I’ve done both.” And he’s like, “Oh well, now that I know a porn star has been here now…” And he’s like, “Oh, buddy, first day on the job.” What did they call what his service was? Because he wanted like– Did they call it like the boyfriend experience or–?

Royce: Yeah, that’s what he said.

Courtney: Yeah, so the boyfriend experience was what he hired this time.

Royce: But it was pretty clear that the two of them at least had a different understanding of what that meant, or what it would manifest as, and the interaction ends up feeling pretty awkward all around.

Courtney: Yeah.

Royce: And after that we cut to a scene where we are on some sort of film set and the actors are going over what’s going to happen in this upcoming scene. And during all of this, Kim, the intimacy coordinator, is present in the room, sort of guiding the two actors present on how they should stand, where to put their hands, who is going to initiate action on the scene, if they’re moving back and forth, trying to make sure that any boundaries that exist are respected and that everyone knows what they’re doing. And there’s– we see a variety of these situations, with her on the job going through a few different scenes here and there. There are a couple of times where one of the actors wants to put something of their own into the script and they cut over to the director and other film staff sitting watching the scene, who generally seem to have no detailed opinions about what’s going on.

Courtney: It does a little bit of a montage of her job, like there’s a moment where she comes in, like, sets a pillow under the knees of someone who’s like sitting on her knees, or she’ll bring some extra tape for someone who has, like, a modesty panel that’s starting to fall off, or something.

Royce: And it’s actually on one of these film sets where she runs into Evan.

Courtney: Because he’s just randomly gotten hired to be like a magician doing sleight of hand in the background of a scene.

Royce: Yeah, I think he said something about doing up close magic in the background, because you know that makes sense.

Courtney: Yeah, and it’s really kind of funny, kind of sad too. Because they meet at the craft services table. But Evan’s like, “Oh, I’m not even hungry, I just feel like I’m in everybody’s way everywhere else.” Like, aw.

Royce: And they first hit it off because Evan notices something that she has on her, that is– it was what? Steven Universe?

Courtney: They start geeking out about Steven Universe. Which we still have not watched. But I am 99% sure there is a character that a lot of people, at least, headcanon as ace. I am not convinced before I watch it that that is actually canon, but we’ll get to it someday.

Royce: I think one or both of them is, like, “A younger family member started watching it and I got sucked into it and now I just watch it on my own, without them.”

Courtney: Yeah, and a lot of like, “I keep telling my friends to watch it but they never do.” Well, sounds like you deserve better friends. So they’re nerds. They’re very cute. But it is really funny because when she explains what her job is on set, Evan just goes, “Wow, I didn’t realize intimacy could be coordinated!” And so they end up actually going out to lunch together and the very self-conscious sex worker from the original scene is their waiter at this restaurant. And so he starts asking questions about her job and how you coordinate intimacy. And she says boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. To which he responds, “Do you do Seders?” And she’s like, “Mh! What’s the story there?” And he kind of says, “Oh well, my family fights a lot.” And he kind of says, “I don’t think my family really respects me,” which is very sad.

Courtney: But I thought that her describing her job as an on-set intimacy coordinator was maybe the only way I could stomach a direct explanation of consent and boundaries. Because otherwise, this would have been really corny if someone wasn’t talking about, “This is literally my job in the context of sexy ins on movies and TV.” If someone was just on a TV show talking about how important it is to have consent and boundaries? Kind of boring, not what I watch television for. But she’s like getting really excited about her job and explaining what her job is and he’s finding it interesting. He didn’t even know this was a job before. So that was, I think, their loophole for getting around exposition on consent. And pretty important for what happens later in the episode. But one line she says during this is, you know, someone’s not comfortable with being touched here or doing that act, “We’ll find a different way to tell the story.” And I like that because, even though they didn’t say that, later on at the end of the episode, that quote kept resonating with me at the end. So put a pin in that one.

Courtney: She also says that she has a background in trauma therapy and that that has helped her get into this line of work. And the two of them together they’re just really cute. They’re very funny. They’ve got this new relationship quirky silliness that isn’t necessarily in an over the top rom-com kind of way, but it is pretty realistic. He tries to do, like, a magic trick at this lunch that does not go well.

Royce: I thought that was the intent. I thought it was intentionally goofy because he-.

Courtney: Well, it would have had to be.

Royce: He slips a card underneath her water glass, which means that this is a trick with no force, which means he has a one in 52 chance of actually getting the card right. So I think he knew going into it that this is going to be the wrong card. It’s not going to be the one she says. But the joke is actually, “Oh, I didn’t do the magic trick you expected, but slipping that card under your glass of water was still pretty impressive, right?”

Courtney: Yeah, because he said, “Just think of a card, any card.” Oh my gosh, I think it was the three of clubs too. Is that the card that’s on Penn Jillette’s grave? Oh my gosh, google that. Google it teller. Actually, I think it’s a shared grave. I think it’s both of them, Penn and Teller.

Royce: So that is surprisingly difficult to search for. But I am seeing that the three of clubs, there is a heavy emphasis on that in Penn and Teller shows, you see the three of clubs frequently, so I’m pretty sure that is the one on the tombstone.

Courtney: Yeah, I’m pretty sure they bought a headstone for themselves, Penn and Teller, that has the three of clubs on it. Oh, that wasn’t hard to search for at all. What did you search? I just searched Penn and Teller grave and went to pictures and there’s a bunch of pictures of it.

Royce: Oh, pictures worked better. [Courtney laughs] That’s why.

Courtney: But yeah, Kim’s like, “I wanted it to be my card so badly.” And he’s like, “But it’s still pretty cool that I got it under there, huh?” But then they leave the restaurant and he’s like, “Do you want to keep hanging out?” And she’s like, “Yes.” And he’s like, “Do you smoke weed?” And she said yes. And so he’s like, “All right, do you want to come back to my house to do that?” And she said yes.

Courtney: And on the way she sees a nun walking and for some reason gets really excited about this. I don’t know why, but she’s like, “I love a nun in New York.” And she, like, tries to say hi to the nun. And the nun just, like, ignores her. She’s like, “Did I just find a rude nun?”

Courtney: And they go back to his house. He’s got a lot of, like, magic memorabilia and stuff there, and a lot of board games. They, of course, call The Guy to get their weed. And while he’s there, he grabs his ropes to do the pretty standard rope trick. And they’re just being silly, they’re being giggly. He does the trick successfully, where it looks like they’re all cut into different pieces, and then he does some slight hand and now they’re all the same length and they just start like intentionally having silly over the top reactions. So they’re like, “Ah!!” They’re like screaming, and I can’t do this at all today. But Evan turns to The Guy and he’s like, “You made me scream at her.” And those little Evan moments are so precious, I love them.

Courtney: But after the guy leaves, the two of them start putting together a puzzle and she pretty suggestively says, like, “So is this what you do to all the girls? Bring them back to do a puzzle?” And he sort of takes the hint, and comes out right and says, “You should know that I’m asexual.” And she goes, “Oh, you are?” And he said, “I know, I should have told you earlier.” And she looks upset and confused, and she just says, “How asexual?” And he says completely. And she’s like, “It is a spectrum.” And he’s like, “Yeah, it is a spectrum, but I am completely asexual.” And she’s like, “I’m confused, I thought we were on a date.” And he confirms that, yes, this is a date, or he hopes that it’s a date. She goes, “So that means you’re not aromantic.” And he’s like, “Oh, okay, you know the words, good. We’re not starting from square one.” He’s got like a bit of a moment of relief that she knows this. But also her demeanor completely changes as soon as he said that. So it is kind of an awkward conversation to stumble through. And what he ends up saying in response to not aromantic, completely asexual, I do want this to be a date, he says, “I am not technically a virgin but I do abstain and that’s important to me.” And he kind of asked her if that would be okay, and she says yes, but she doesn’t sound convincing.

Courtney: And I will say, for all of the examples we’ve seen in media television specifically of an asexual person attempting to start a mixed orientation relationship with an allosexual person, this is one of the better ones. We talked recently about Elijah on Big Mouth, and although it did highlight some of the issues that could come of it, some of those issues were also my worst nightmare as an ace dating allo people once upon a time. A lot of other aces watched that and felt uncomfortable about just the sexuality being imposed on someone else, or the thoughts that the allosexual person was having revolving around the ace person. And then we had well, you know, I didn’t hate BoJack, I mean obviously we really liked Todd, and Todd did have sort of an attempt at rekindling an old relationship with an allosexual ex and she was pretty supportive. It was just something that she decided was not going to be something that she was going to try unless– and she brought up the spectrum too, she’s like, “Some asexuals do have sex, could ya maybe?” And that wasn’t something that was going to work for Todd, so I really didn’t mind that at all.

Courtney: But this one shows the rockiness, but also ends on a very encouraging note within this broader conversation about the importance of consent and boundaries. And I gotta say, Evan seems like a great partner for anyone to have. Because she wanted to say hi to a nun, for some reason she loves nuns, she was horribly upset when the nun would not say hi to her. So the next day he sends her a video where he has two nuns next to him, and he’s asking them to say hi to her into the camera, and these nuns say hi. and he ends it with like, “I waited outside of a convent for so long for nice nuns to come along so they could say hi to you.” And it’s like that’s such a silly but thoughtful thing.

Courtney: And so the final scene–

Courtney: And here’s where I think it’s so interesting that they had an asexual character with an allosexual intimacy coordinator here. Because– Just like I said in the last episode, where there still might be a little bit of internalized ableism in Evan and that shows through a little bit, we now have an intimacy coordinator who has a background in trauma therapy, who also makes a mistake and isn’t perfect at navigating things.

Courtney: And so they are going to dinner. They’re at a bar waiting for a table to open up. And she comes in, and right away she goes and just, like, touches his leg with both hands and he immediately recoils. And he apologizes. And he stands up and he just leaves. He leaves the restaurant, he exits the front door and takes a few steps down the sidewalk and just pauses. And he does come back a minute later. And he’s, of course, like he’s apologizing, he’s saying, “I’m sorry, I don’t know why I did that.” And even though that was his natural reaction to that happening, he’s also still blaming himself and he calls it stupid. He says that was stupid, I don’t know why I did that.

Royce: To which Kim says that’s a line for you.

Courtney: Yeah. And he says, “Well, it has been in the past.” And this is when she realizes, “Okay, in my line of work we talk about every single thing. Can I touch you here? Are you comfortable doing this? And yet here I am now starting a relationship with a person who has informed me that he’s asexual and I have just taken for granted that what’s a normal, probably more casual gesture for me, like touching someone’s leg, brushing their knee, this is not something I have actually articulated. I have not cleared this with him.”

Courtney: So she starts asking questions and she looks a little bit concerned. She asks, “Well, do you hug?” And he said not typically. And she says, “I wanna be respectful,” but she’s kind of saying it questioningly. She’s almost got, like, tears in her eyes. And he tells her, “I like you a lot, but I understand if you don’t want– if this isn’t for–” And he trails off his sentence a couple times, like he just can’t quite say it. But he’s very much implying like, “I get it if you can’t be with someone like me.” Or I get it if you can’t be with an asexual person. And instead of finishing the sentence he trails off and then says, “I’m really lonely.” It’s like, [painfully] oh… Oh, it kills me, it hurts. And she says, “You know, we’re not gonna get into this now, but sex has not been a great part of my life. However – she goes on to say – if you can’t hold me, if we can’t hug, if you can’t hold my hand…” Eh, she doesn’t say it, but she basically says like that’s gonna be a problem for me. I need these things. And she said, “It doesn’t have to be right now. I can be patient, but do you think that’s something you can do?” And in response to this, there was just– I don’t know how to explain why this is so ace vibes, but it’s incredibly ace vibes in a way that I don’t think I can fully articulate to an allo. [laughs lightly] He– without saying anything, he grabs her wrist, like, her hand palm up, and he pulls the inside of her wrist up and he kisses the inside of her wrist tenderly, and then he bites it. Royce, why is that so ace? [laughs] Why are we like this? [laughs]

Royce: Is that ace or is that neurodivergent?

Courtney: Okay, rude. [laughs]

Royce: I’m losing track of things. [Courtney laughs] But I feel like you brought an article to my attention at one point in time that was discussing, like, biting habits. And it’s been a while so I can’t remember it well enough to correlate it but–

Courtney: Yeah, I don’t even remember this. What is that?

Royce: For next time.

Courtney: For next time. Biting: is it ace? Or is it autism? Or maybe ADHD. OCD? Who knows? I might have the trifecta. But the thing is– The thing is, I don’t know what is more comfortable for me, and other aces – I am not the only one, I’ve had conversations with other aces – where biting just seems better than kissing. Like lips may be okay, tongue may be not okay. Teeth? Yeah, why not? [chuckles] There’s– I don’t know. Surely not all of us, but it seems to me, for biting being a thing that is so often seen as a very, very sexual thing, there are a lot of aces that would rather bite someone than make out with them, and I don’t know.

Courtney: It was an endearing moment to watch, but it was also like, I don’t know why I get it, Evan, but I do. Maybe it’s Anne Rice’s fault. Maybe that’s more evidence to Anne Rice’s asexual vampires. Because, you know, bite the wrist, drink the blood from the wrist. It’s very ace vampire of him.

Courtney: So the things that I find very interesting about this is that he clearly had a visceral reaction to being touched on the leg, one that surprised her.

Courtney: And coming from a background of trauma therapy and intimacy coordination, she was able to reel it back. She was able to– She apologized, she realized that this was the line and then tried to figure out what the other lines were. Where are the points here? And she articulated at least a little bit about why she could be okay in a relationship without sex. But she did say these are some things that I do need and asked if that’s something that might eventually happen or not, to which he bit her. And I don’t– I can’t explain it, I can’t, but there’s something there. This must be studied. And even in the subtleties of we don’t know her whole history, but it’s probably safe to assume there’s some amount of sexual trauma in her history, based on the things we know, with Evan we also don’t know. But we saw a very, very knee-jerk reaction to what most people would think is a pretty casual touch, and we heard him say earlier in the episode that he’s not technically a virgin. That ‘technically’ could be saying a lot.

Courtney: There are a number of ways that this could go, but in a show like this they don’t say the details, so some of it is up for our interpretation. We could infer that this is someone who has a history of sexual assault. It could be someone who is just naturally a very touch averse person. Royce, you also mentioned neurodivergence. I think there’s a case to be made that Evan could be. I could see that being a popular headcanon. But there’s also another experience that many aces have had, and aces have within our own community, had conversations about it. But it can sometimes be difficult to talk about in a broader sense.

Courtney: Where here we have someone who seems to be touch averse. Whether or not that’s a result of trauma, we don’t know, wouldn’t matter either way, because this is who he is, here and now and that needs to be respected. But he also said the line so somberly, “I’m so lonely,” and he clearly wants a relationship. But in a past episode, the first one we saw him in with his family, he said, “The reason I’m not married is because I’m asexual.” But now we know that he is interested in relationships. He is not aromantic. He is trying to date Kim. Presumably he has tried to date others. So it could be that he’s been in relationships with people where being asexual was a big problem for him or a big problem for them rather, it’s not his problem.

Courtney: And there are some aces who have at some point in their lives engaged in a sexual activity in a way that they haven’t necessarily wanted it. It hasn’t come from an internal desire or an internal curiosity or a will to experiment or anything like that, but out of a place of fear that they might be broken or a fear that someone might leave them, or fear of being alone, or just general societal pressures, and these little things that you see and hear throughout your entire life that tells you that asexuality is not right.

Courtney: And so, even if it isn’t their partner who is forcing or coercing the interaction, there’s sort of a broader societal stigma that can get internalized. And I’ve heard some aces– I don’t love the phrase or the word, because the implications are muddy, but it’s hard to talk about and we don’t have perfect vocabulary for it. I’ve heard some aces call it self-assault or self-coercion, where they’re saying I did technically consent to the partner I was engaging in this activity in, but it still felt wrong, it still felt bad, it still was not something I wanted to do. And there can still be a very real trauma that can result from that. And since there aren’t a lot of conversations about it, I imagine that that’s maybe one of the possible past histories that this guy has that maybe the average viewer hasn’t even considered as an option, especially with Kim’s story, with all roads sort of pointing to she probably has some sexual trauma. It might be natural to try to parallel that and say, well, he does too, and maybe that is.

Courtney: Maybe the intent behind this was to show here are two people that do have a history of trauma. One is asexual, one is allosexual. Because there is kind of the stigma of like, “Oh, you’re not asexual, you’re just traumatized.” Which, in much the same way as disability can and has led ace people to try to distance from any and all histories of trauma, whereas some ace people do think that they are asexual because of their trauma. And I don’t think it is anybody’s business to tell them that they are wrong or that is not how the orientation works, or it can’t be, or– “Well, because you’re ace because of trauma, that’s the kind of asexuality that can and should be cured, because if you can pick allosexual, you should always pick allosexual.” There’s so much internalized asexuality in all of those internalized– Did I just say there’s internalized asexuality? I lost track of all of my words. There’s so much internalized acephobia in those arguments, and I’ve heard them repeated by some gatekeepers within the asexual community as well. So that’s something we really need to be mindful of and confront our own biases when it comes to this.

Courtney: But considering the fact that this show has a history of not specifying all the details down to a T and leaving some of the vague area for these human complexities that all the characters have, I’m pretty satisfied with that telling, and I don’t mind that gray area. I think everything that needed to be said for the story they were telling was said, and I just kept thinking back to, “We find a different way to tell the story.” And that could be true for the implications of their relationship. It could be true for the implications of any real world relationship. Find a different way to tell the story. Not every story is going to be exactly the same or follow the same plot. So for them this may look like perhaps a long-term, even happy relationship that is without sex. But the allosexual person in this relationship has identified, “I just want to be held and hugged and I want to hold hands,” and maybe that is somewhere where he is willing to meet that in the middle. Which– I also think that that’s pretty cool. Because we haven’t seen it as much depicted in media, but when we have real world conversations about how to negotiate intimacy in a mixed orientation relationship like this, there are some spaces–

Courtney: I’ve read Reddit forums, I think I’ve even seen Wiki How’s that are like, “How to have a relationship with an asexual person.” And one of the bullet points is like: determine a minimum number of times to have sex per week, and it’s like, pardon me? That is not going to work for every asexual in a relationship. And it has often at times felt like it is the asexual person that needs to compromise more, that needs to bend more, who needs to come more toward a performance of allosexuality, than the allosexual person needing to also make some concessions. And I think the overarching implication there is that, well, allosexuality is the default. That’s what most people are, that’s the – quote – normal way to be. So of course, the asexual person is going to be the one to compromise and that is messed up. So I love seeing a story where there are challenges, it’s a rocky start, she’s even really taken off guard when he says he’s asexual, but they have these conversations and she is able to make concessions while still asking for– not even necessarily all of her wants, but she’s able to ask for all of her needs and the fact that it ends on a really positive note. I think it’s great.

Courtney: Where can the people watch High Maintenance if they so choose?

Royce: I believe this series is only owned and distributed through HBO, but I believe that there are lots of services out there that have, like, HBO Max add-ons. So really, any way you can get to or connect to HBO should work. Aside from that, I don’t believe the webisodes that were originally on Vimeo are still there. When we were looking around, I think HBO was the only place we saw.

Courtney: There was one other episode where Evan was in it, he just wasn’t a central plot point in it. And it was called Finger Butt [breathy laughs] because Evan for some reason figured out that if you bend your finger in exactly the right way, it looks like a butt and a pair of legs. And it just shows him goofing around showing this to a friend. But then that friend shows a friend and all of a sudden a bunch of people are doing this who have never even met him. So it just shows him being a major trend sender– trend setter, first of all. But it also– I mean, story of my life, I’m sitting here trying to recreate the Finger Butt while we’re watching this and I’m like I see how they did it, but my fingers are not in proportion to do this correctly. Like half of my finger is way longer than the other half, just like how my legs are so much longer than my torso would suggest they’d be. So like I can’t do it. So, yeah, he pops up just like a little bit here and there when he’s not a central plot point.

Courtney: I think my two big critiques, I mentioned one, I wanted a little bit more of a connection to the asexuality and disability, just for the folks who couldn’t fill in the gaps like I could as a viewer. My one other thing, I wanted just like another single Evan focused episode, where maybe he didn’t mention or talk about asexuality just because that was a very prominent thing that happened in all three of his big episodes. But they were to varying degrees also, and he was doing wildly different things in every episode. So I don’t think this is a textbook case of like asexuality is his personality. I don’t think that’s true, because it showed different contexts, different relationship dynamics, different interests, different jobs, different hobbies and, especially compared to other episodes of the show, like there aren’t main characters in this show.

Courtney: The one linchpin between all the episodes doesn’t even have a name. He’s just The Guy. He’s everyone’s dealer. So the way they treat him versus the way they treat other characters, versus the way they treat other queer characters, I think they really, really did him justice. And I’m impressed that as a character, he first popped up in 2013. Very impressive. All right, I’m going to swing the gavel. I’m going to say this was good ace rep. But then, Royce, you’re gonna need to end this episode because the fans demanded it. Did you see all the comments saying that you need to end more episodes now?

Royce: I don’t think that was a direct quote from our commenters.

Courtney: No, it’s a consensus. Everyone wants more Royce outros. So I’m going to say that Evan from High Maintenance is good ace rep. [hits gavel] Take it away, Royce.

Royce: Bye everyone.