We're finally talking about the "AroAce" character in Hazbin Hotel...

Is Alastor the Radio Demon good Aromantic and/or Asexual representation? And, for that matter, is his orientation even canon and obvious to the average viewer? We have THOUGHTS.

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Courtney: Hello, everyone, and welcome to Hell. My name is Courtney. I’m here with my spouse, Royce. And together, we are The Ace Couple. And today, we are finally talking about Hazbin Hotel. I’m weirdly nervous to talk about this [laughs] and I’ll tell you why.

Courtney: So, when we first started this podcast, by far and away, the sort of topic we got requested the most — tons of people contacting us, saying, “Please talk about Ace rep in the media.” Ace rep in the media — that was, like, the number one ask. And sometimes those asks would come along with specific — like, “Can you review this specific thing?”

Courtney: And at a certain point, we got several requests asking us to review Hazbin Hotel. It was not a thing we had ever watched. I had vaguely heard the name around. I assumed it was a fully-fledged web series. But at the time we got these initial requests, it was just a single, like 30-some-minute pilot episode that was posted to YouTube and that was it. But we went and we watched it at the time, and there just wasn’t anything to talk about. [laughs] There was not enough there. So we sort of wrote it off, disregarded it. But ever since, people will still say there is a canon Ace character in Hazbin Hotel. Some would take it a step further and say a canon AroAce character in Hazbin Hotel. Without looking it up, I would have had no idea who this character was.

Courtney: But now, very recently, an entire first season has been picked up by… Was it on Amazon Prime?

Royce: Yeah, that’s right.

Courtney: So now we have a little more to talk about.

Royce: An additional eight episodes were released there.

Courtney: Gotcha. So there are nine total, including the original one posted to YouTube. Now I will say, right off the bat, watching the first season, overall, I think it is a very cute show. For the most part, I actually really enjoyed it. And I want to be abundantly clear about that, because there are going to be some criticisms.

Courtney: And just a brief dipping my toes into the online discourse surrounding this series and this show and its creator and all the characters and everything possibly associated with it: I’m terrified of this fandom. I thought the Vampire Chronicles fandom were bad when I would get slammed every time I publicly dared to mention that Anne Rice’s vampires don’t have sex [laughs], or if I would mention how much The Vampire Chronicles meant to me when I read it as a young Ace Courtney. Man, people get really, really vicious. This isn’t exactly the same situation I saw in this fandom, but there are elements of it, and it’s complicated, and I’ve been seeing the opposite of it, and the… It’s a lot. [laughs] It is a big, wide world of fandom out there.

Courtney: And I will tell you, right off the bat, I tried. I tried to become as knowledgeable as I possibly could about this character and this show. And between all the platforms the Twitters, the Tumblrs, the YouTube explainers, the YouTube drama channels, it’s too much! If you haven’t been here the whole time, if you weren’t there when this discourse started, it’s not worth it.

Royce: Well, even then, levels of canon and variety of fandom — if you go to the Wikipedia page for Hazbin Hotel, there’s an entire section on fandom, which is interesting, because I don’t normally see that very often. At the time of this Wikipedia update, it says that there are over 7,000 writings on the series on AO3, Archive Of Our Own, as well as thousands of fan comics and fan dubs. When I went to AO3 just this morning and searched “Hazbin Hotel,” it actually came up with over 15,000 hits.

Courtney: Whew!

Royce: I don’t know if all of those are accurate. It looks like there may have been some that came up in the search result that had nothing to do with it. I couldn’t exactly tell, short of reading all of them, which, given the rate that things are being written, might not be humanly possible.

Courtney: Yeah, don’t! [laughs]

Royce: [laughing] I wasn’t going to. I was just saying, I don’t know if you can consume all of a fandom. And there’s also — there is Helluva Boss, which is the spinoff series that aired not long after the YouTube pilot, I believe.

Courtney: Which we have not watched. The alleged Aspec character in question is not in that show. Is that right?

Royce: I have not seen any indication that they are in that show.

Courtney: Okay.

Royce: But yeah, the YouTube pilot aired in late 2019. Helluva Boss began airing in late 2020, and then we had a significant gap until now, when the actual first season of Hazbin Hotel aired. And so that has given plenty of time for people to write their own stories.

Courtney: Gotcha. So, while we are going to be talking about this today and what we know, quick disclaimer — and I will put links, as usual, in the show notes so you can read about this yourself to make your own choice — I cannot in good conscience recommend that right now, either before or immediately after listening to this episode, you go and sign up for Amazon Prime so you can watch the show. Because pretty recently, on January 5th, the Palestinian BDS National Committee — Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions — has sort of expanded their original target consumer boycotts. Before it would be, you know, don’t purchase things from these select companies, these specific targets: your HPs, your Pumas, Sodastream, Texaco, among a few others. And at first, they were saying, “Keep it to these. These are our target ones. Don’t get too big so that it’s unsustainable. We really want to put pressure where it’s due.”

Courtney: More recently, however, they have released a list of pressure targets, which are not exactly the same category as consumer boycott targets, so it’s a slightly different recommendation than just “Do not buy anything from these companies right now.” Those include Amazon. Amazon, Google, AirBnB, Disney, to name a few. And the pressure targets — while it says, “This includes boycotts when reasonable alternatives exist,” they’re also actively calling for pressure campaigns against these targets in the form of lobbying, peaceful disruptions, and social media pressure. Again, link in the show notes for that so you can read up on this further.

Courtney: In the meantime, the pilot is still there on YouTube. If you want to follow our journey and just watch the pilot first, not knowing who this Ace or AroAce character is, and just watch it for yourself and see if you can figure it out, go for it, but you’ll probably be as confused as we were.

Courtney: This was a very fascinating foray into the fandom surrounding this character, because I would say that in terms of what we are given for on-screen representation, this is just, like, a hair better than the Owl House situation with Lilith, but it’s honestly very similar. So, if you have not listened to our episode on The Owl House with Lilith, you can check that out too, where our main thesis on that is we like The Owl House, we like the character Lilith, they do not show the fact that she is AroAce on the show itself. It was confirmed completely off-screen in a random charity livestream that the creator did, and a vast majority of people who are fans of the show are never going to watch that and never have watched it. And, quite frankly, we deserve better.

Courtney: And I even recall thinking about The Owl House is a pretty openly queer show for a cartoon that is geared at a much younger demographic than Hazbin Hotel is. They show two teenage girls in a relationship, one of whom comes out as bisexual and shows bisexual flags, and there are other pride flags represented in the background at various points. And in a show where they are showing so explicitly all these other identities, why are we settling for the AroAce character being the one that was just confirmed offstream in a random bonus episode livestream ages ago? I don’t like it. I don’t like it. Going into Hazbin Hotel, it’s really similar. It’s a similar kind of situation we’re dealing with, although maybe, arguably, a little bit better than that.

Courtney: So, Royce, are you able to give us just, like… What’s a good way to summarize what the show is for someone who hasn’t seen it?

Royce: Well, the show picks up in Hell immediately after a massive… I believe they call it a cleanse or a purge. I think the terminology around this may have differed slightly between the pilot and the actual series. But a force of angels had just come down to Hell recently to slaughter a lot of the demons present there, a lot of these souls present there. And that is one of the societal or social antagonizing forces here is this sort of ongoing battle between Heaven and Hell, where the demons are being regularly culled because Heaven sees them as a threat.

Royce: And in this, we have the main character, Charlie, who is Lucifer’s daughter, the Princess of Hell. And she is, like, pulled out of a Disney movie and plopped into this one —

[Courtney laughs]

Royce: — and is very, very out of place, very…

Courtney: Wholesome.

Royce: — musical princess sort of character, who is one of the few beings in the main cast, possibly in the show entirely, that is just very against sort of the standard behavior that we see amongst all of the other denizens of Hell.

Courtney: Yeah. And when you say “demons,” like, we have your Lucifer and Lucifer’s daughter, who was born here, and there are some more ancient evils that seem to not be mortal souls, but you also have people who were just humans and came to Hell after dying sort of in the same place.

Royce: It wasn’t immediately clear to me if every soul that is in Hell was also considered to be a demon or if there was a distinction between the two.

Courtney: Mmm.

Royce: Because everyone does look a bit different than they would have in life anyway.

Courtney: Yeah.

Royce: So it wasn’t immediately clear how big of a transformative process there is or what the origins were of these sort of higher order immortal demons were, because, I mean, obviously you have Lucifer, who, in the canon, is a fallen angel, and you have other ancient entities as well.

Courtney: And they’re all humanoid, but some are more human-looking than others.

Royce: And it’s pretty common for a number of characters to take on the form of some sort of, you know, humanoid/animal combination, too.

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: But in the midst of all this, Charlie is trying to find a way to rehabilitate the souls in Hell instead of going through this violent cull every year, and this is how the hotel is founded and started. And she’s wanting to bring residents in to rehabilitate them.

Courtney: Yeah. There was almost an element of it, which I didn’t articulate while we were watching, because — this is going to be a future episode. I saw all of you lodging your formal complaints cheekily in the comments when I mentioned that every time someone complains about me talking about The Vampire Chronicles, I will release another episode. I saw those, like, [laughing] “I would like to lodge my complaint,” so it’ll be coming. But there was almost an element of this where I was like, “This is very Memnoch the Devil,” which I think is the next book in the series —

Royce: Okay.

Courtney: — that we will talk about, because it is a, like, yes, we have a Heaven, we have a Hell, we have the God, and we have the Luciferesque character. But in Memnoch the Devil, there’s sort of a… the devil is working toward the same end goal as God? Like, the devil would like more people to have access to Heaven. So there was almost an element of it where I was like, “Oh, that’s a little…” Like, we have Charlie here who’s like, “Well, instead of all these angels coming down and murdering all my people, what if we just make them good and show that people can improve and people make progress, and then they can get into Heaven and just go up there instead of being killed down here?” Which also gave me an element of The Good Place, which we haven’t talked at length on this podcast either, but I definitely want to do a Good Place episode, because there are some very just Ace vibe moments in that show that I love. So there are definitely tropes at play here that I really appreciate and have appreciated in other forms of media as well.

Courtney: And you sort of get the same Good Place element too, where it’s like, you throw a bunch of people together, living in close proximity to one another, who wouldn’t ordinarily choose to do that on their own, because now you have this hotel of sinners. They call the people in Hell “sinners.” So they’re like, “Oh, well, if we can have a hotel for the sinners and we can rehabilitate them…” These are often very violent, sometimes crass people. These are, you know, these are moral degenerates, and they don’t shy away from that in the show. They have some really awful, vile language and the way they talk to each other, especially early on, in a way that, contextually, I think works for me a little better than I have seen it in some other TV shows. Because I certainly don’t mind profanity, and I certainly don’t mind immoral characters, but sometimes I don’t like when there’s too much gray area in the media. Like, are you condoning this? Is the show I’m watching condoning this behavior? And I think this one walks the line really really well.

Courtney: But in the pilot, for example, we have Charlie trying to go on, like, local news media to pitch the idea of her hotel and spread the word and advertise it and ask for residents to come and check in. And these television hosts are terrible. And they’re terrible to each other, and they’re terrible to their guests. And this is one of our first introductions to, like, this is just how people down here talk to each other, where I think on, like, a teleprompter, they’re like, “We’re bringing you the latest news in murder, sex, and weather.” [laughs] And someone mentions, like, “Oh, we’ve got a hotspot.” And this just awful guy, this news anchor, he’s like, “I’d like to nail her hotspot.” So there’s a lot of sexual innuendo. But then you got this woman countering, saying, like, “You’re a limp-dick asshole,” like, live on air. So this is very normal behavior. She pours a pot of hot coffee in his lap, and she’s like, “Maybe I should say a no-dick asshole!” It’s like, oh goodness! So, welcome to Hell. Charlie is the princess of Hell, but she clearly is not vibing with the average resident here.

Courtney: But there was also, like… Overall, the show is very queer. And so I don’t mind it when this horrible news anchor comes to, like, greet Charlie before they bring her on and will not shake her hand because “I don’t touch the gays; I have standards.” I was cackling, and then I was immediately feeling guilty that I was cackling [laughs], but that’s how we know, right there in the pilot, right off the bat, Charlie’s queer. We know that. And it wasn’t even someone just using “gay” as an insult, because, I mean, we know — goodness knows — people have been called “gay” as a slur who aren’t gay. But then we meet Charlie’s partner. She has a partner who is a woman, who is in every single episode of this, and they’re working together on this hotel: Vaggie, as we call her.

Courtney: And they do, overall, do a good job of showing just, like, a morally repugnant character that you hate, who is terrible to people, and then finding a way to have them enter this little friendship group — dare I say, found family — and getting to connect with others and starting to grow, and then you start to see the more sympathetic sides of them. And one of those characters is Angel Dust, who is a porn star — I assume exclusively gay porn star. I think we only see him filming gay scenes and, outside of work, hitting only on the men in the show.

Royce: That sounds right. That wasn’t one thing [laughing] that I thought to take notes of.

Courtney: Well, he… And here’s the thing, too. Because some of the, like you said, people who were humans on earth don’t look like themselves in Hell. They have taken on other forms to varying extents. And so there is an element of race that is sometimes weirdly ambiguous and sometimes called out more explicitly than others, at least hinted at. Because there was an element when this Angel Dust character — which, at first, hated the guy. Horrible guy. But he’s the first resident of the Hazbin Hotel, and at first he very clearly isn’t taking it seriously. He’s just like, “Oh, I got a free place to crash? Awesome.” So very unserious about the situation. And he tells Vaggie at one point, like, “Oh, don’t get your taco in a twist.” And, like, those lines like that, I was just sitting here going, like, “Ugh. I hate that guy.”

Courtney: But Vaggie counters with, “Are you trying to be racist or sexist?” And so I was like, “Alright, so now, there’s a race thing here.” So I wouldn’t have known that by looking at her, because she’s got, what, like, white hair and gray skin and a yellow eye. She’s missing one eye that has a big X over it, which is an interesting art style choice, because she also wears bangs over her missing eye, but you also have this big red X, just, like, hovering over her bangs. So even though she’s covering her missing eye, you know she is missing one, which was an interesting choice, I think.

Royce: It was intentionally drawn in a way that wouldn’t layer in reality.

Courtney: Yes. [laughs]

Royce: [laughing] Which happens sometimes, yeah.

Courtney: Yes. So it’s like, alright, so this could be sexist or racist. So, alright, presumably you’re Latina, vaguely unspecified. But then we do at later points hear her, like, muttering in Spanish under her breath, on a few different occasions. So, like, we have that much as confirmation for Vaggie.

Courtney: But, like, when Angel Dust says this and she asked that question, his response is like, “Whatever pisses you off the most!” So there are a lot of people down here that are just, like, being offensive for the sake of it. So a lot of very crass language for that reason, which is also why I say: geared toward an older demographic than The Owl House.

Courtney: So, during this news broadcast where Charlie is sharing her new hotel with the world, we have this very menacing figure in the audience just smiling and looming in the shadows, who is also the only one who isn’t reacting like, “What the Hell is this nonsense?!” Like, nobody is intrigued by this hotel. And he goes and knocks on the door at one point. And Charlie opens the door and just, like, look of terror, slams the door and goes up to her girlfriend, Vaggie, and is like, “Uh, Vaggie, the Radio Demon is at the door. What do we do?” So, we know that this is an infamous character, even though this is our first introduction to him. And I will be real: in the pilot, this is the star of the show. It was so clear to me that this is the best character. This is the most intriguing character. I love him very much. I really, really do. Turns out, this is our Aspec character in question.

Royce: Yeah, and Alastor stands out due to some of the things we mentioned. A lot of the beings present in Hell are very different physically for some reason or another, but Alastor behaves in ways that are different. He will sometimes slip into a shadow and just appear in other places. His voice often has, like, an old-timey radio…

Courtney: He’s got, like, a filter over his voice that makes it sound like he’s on an old radio.

Royce: Yeah.

Courtney: But he also speaks in, like, [demonstrating the accent] a trans-Atlantic accent [regular voice] with this filter over his voice, so he’s a very dramatic character.

Royce: A lot of his words and phrases and the way that he carries himself are also very time-period-fixed.

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: Which is interesting, because there are presumably beings here that are thousands of years old that still behave and speak [laughing] in a modern tone.

Courtney: Yeah.

Royce: Like, he’s the only one who really does this.

Courtney: He is very, like, straight out of 1920s Louisiana, very Southern, very, very of that era. He likes jazz, he likes jambalaya, but he’s also — for being such a nefarious demon, he is such a gentleman so much of the time. He is always smiling. Sometimes, the smile looks a little more wicked than others [laughs]. He even has a, like, “You’re never fully dressed without a smile” kind of a line at one point. And he’s got a nice, fancy suit on. He’s got, like, a cane or a staff that he walks around with, that has an old-timey microphone on the end of it, too. And he wants to help with the hotel, for motives that we’re still a little bit unsure of.

Royce: Yeah, his reasons — I would say his true reasons haven’t been fully explored or explained, even through the end of Season 1. He mentions to Charlie that he is here helping out of sheer absolute boredom and that this is an investment in his own entertainment.

Courtney: Yes.

Royce: But there’s more going on here.

Courtney: Mhm. And we get a little bit of the backstory of how he was a mortal soul, but once he appeared in Hell, he started taking down all of these… What did they call the demons who have, like, a position of authority?

Royce: Overlords.

Courtney: Overlords.

Royce: And a number of the overlords sort of control areas of Hell.

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: Like, they’re powerful enough that they… I don’t know what the actual governing structure of Hell is, if one even exists, but there are sort of very powerful demons lording over areas of it.

Courtney: Mhm. And he just apparently started taking down some overlords and broadcasting it on the radio.

Royce: Which is something here that is abnormal. The reason why a lot of people are so afraid of him is because they have no idea how this was even possible — for someone who newly came to Hell to have the strength to do something like this.

Courtney: Mhm. And I gotta just say, there is something about this genre of character that is obviously very appealing to a lot of people, because he is many people’s favorite character in this show, but also specifically appealing to me. There’s, like, this usually quietly nefarious but will occasionally unleash their power when it’s necessary entity who just poses day-to-day like a proper gentleman. There is something about that genre of character that I, like, absolutely love. I mean, years and years ago, I would have said, like, Sebastian from Black Butler being on this genre of character. There’s something so appealing about this.

Courtney: And we get to see a little bit of his power, because even though Charlie is clearly terrified when he’s knocking at their door, he waltzes in, and he’s, for the most part, pretty charming. Everyone’s questioning his motives and why he’s here, but he’s not outright rude to them, he’s not cursing like all these other characters are. If he ever is aggressive in conversation, it’s more passive-aggressive. But occasionally his face will just, like, change and warp, and will get really creepy, just for a line. So you know he’s still clearly unsettling. It’s not like his reputation is overblown or anything. And we get a little taste of his full power when someone comes to attack him. What is little Snakeboy’s name? I don’t even remember, but I love him.

Royce: Sir Pentious.

Courtney: Sir Pentious! Someone just shows up in this big, like, hovering war machine with all these little minions that look like Humpty Dumpties. And he’s… Like, he gives the impression — I don’t know the exact line, but right off the bat, you get the impression that this is, like, a recurring antagonist in Alastor the Radio Demon’s life. Because he’ll be like, “Ah, Alastor, we meet again!” And Alastor’s just like, “I’m sorry, have we met?” [laughs] So this is someone who’s repeatedly trying to attack him, and Alastor’s just like, “You are nothing to me. I don’t even have memories of you, you are so insignificant in my life.”

Courtney: And he makes quick work of this giant floating death machine with, like, guns and bombs and lasers and shit. Like, Alastor just basically, what, opens up a portal of tentacles under it, and just these tentacles grab the machine and just start wrecking it as his eyes get all freaky, and he’s grinning from ear to ear while this is happening. Hardly raising a finger does he need to do to wreak this havoc. So, we know, scary dude, don’t get on his bad side. And then, yeah, immediately after doing that, he’s like, “Ah, I’m starving. Who could go for some jambalaya?” [laughs] Like, day in the life, I suppose.

Courtney: But yeah, for the pilot episode, being told there’s a canon Ace character in this, the closest thing we got, which I refuse to see as evidence, is once Alastor walks into this hotel and he’s meeting everyone, he goes up to Angel Dust, the porn star, and is like, “Oh, and what do you have to offer to this establishment?” And Angel Dust is like, “I can suck your dick.” And Alastor just says, “Ha! No,” and walks on and moves to the next thing and talks to the next person. That is it.

Royce: In the pilot. Yeah.

Courtney: That is it. So, yeah, naturally we watch this pilot. And then we’re googling, like, “Who’s the Ace character in Hazbin Hotel?” And everyone’s like, “Alastor the Radio Demon!” And I was like, well, he is a good character, but turning down an offer of a blowjob [laughs] does not Ace rep make. So perhaps you can see why, when we initially got a flood of requests to cover this character, we didn’t have enough to say about him. [laughs]

Courtney: So I don’t know, Royce, how do we want to do this? Do we want to go through the show as we see it on-screen first and then talk about all of the bonus content, confirmed offscreen things?

Royce: Yeah, I think so. I think going through Season 1 will give us a good foundation to work off of. It’s also… Something to keep in mind is that — sometimes this varies based off of IP, but oftentimes, there are layers or tiers of what is considered canon.

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: And in most cases, the actual, central, published material is considered the highest order, sometimes with statements directly from the creators going underneath that — at least when they don’t openly conflict, because that happens all the time.

Courtney: Mmm.

Royce: And then, like, supplementary material or spin-off material, which, in this case, I don’t believe Alastor appears in Helluva Boss whatsoever. But that’s something we keep in mind.

Courtney: And we did get deeper. I had you read the webcomic that featured Alastor. Like, we did do research. I did look up things the creator has said. So we will get into all of that for any of you who have been more engaged in the fandom. But as for the show itself, Episode 1…

Royce: Episode 1 is a partial rehash of the pilot.

Courtney: Yeah. It’s different because Alastor is already here, he’s already in the hotel, so we don’t get that dramatic reveal of him, but you do sort of have a new description of why he’s here and how he’s evil. You get a new framing of the angels who come down and exterminate the demons. So they do rehash the, like, important world-building elements that are gonna play a factor.

Courtney: But Alastor is so committed to the radio. He’s, like, trying to help them advertise the hotel, and they want to put on like television advertisements, but Alastor deplores the television. And in the initial ad, he even says like, “Oh, do you like blood, violence and depravity of a sexual nature? Well, then, come down to the hotel,” and mentions Charlie as the creator of this, like, “Oh, and join her as she tries to work through her daddy issues by fixing you!” [laughs] which is very, very good, because we also — we have gotten elements, both in the pilot before this and in the first episode of the eight-episode season, Charlie’s not on good terms with either of her parents. She’s got a mother named Lilith, who has been missing for seven years and just hasn’t talked to Charlie in seven years. She’s also clearly doesn’t have a good relationship with Lucifer and hasn’t talked to him for a bit.

Courtney: But she does learn, in, like, a tense conversation — because she starts talking to Lucifer again and tells him about the hotel and her dreams. And through her father’s connection, she was able to sort of set up a meeting with the angels, because she wants to pitch this to them, like, “I can help you. I can help rehabilitate these sinners, and then we can send them to you once they’re rehabilitated.”

Courtney: So while Charlie’s away, everyone else at the hotel is trying to get this ad going, and that includes Alastor, who hates the television. He’s like, “The only proper medium to express oneself is the radio.” [laughs] We have Angel Dust, who’s trying to pitch himself like, “Sex sells. Like, use me! I’m a famous porn star and I’m staying here, and I’ll have the horniest demons [laughing] knocking down your door.” And then we have these two new, I guess, employees of the hotel that Alastor just forces to work here. He says, like, “I’m gonna call in some favors,” but they clearly don’t seem to have much of a choice in the matter.

Royce: And even in the pilot, Alastor is seen trying to make a deal with Charlie. And this deal has, like, glowing magical energy going around it. And other people around Charlie are like, “Do not make this deal.”

Courtney: “Don’t make a deal with the Radio Demon!” Yeah. So, presumably, these are people who have made a deal with him in the past. We’ve got this tiny, short little thing named Niffty, who is wild. I love her. She’s… She’s chaotic. But she’s the housekeeper now, I guess? She cleans. She’s also very blood-crazed.

Royce: Yes. That’s a good description.

Courtney: One single eye. What is the bartender’s name? I love him, too.

Royce: Husk.

Courtney: Husk. I love Husk. So when Husk gets, like, teleported here with no forewarning, he was clearly at a poker table — he’s got, like, chips in front of him, he’s mid-bet — and he gets pulled into this hotel all of a sudden, and it’s like, “Alright, you’re the bartender now.”

Royce: Husk, which I believe is short for Husker, used to be an overlord himself.

Courtney: Mmm.

Royce: And I believe this was just one of the souls that ran into Alastor while Alastor was growing in power.

Courtney: Mhm. And we start getting, throughout the series, progressively more information on what these deals could entail, by context clues for other people who have made deals. And it gets scary. But I like Husk, I really do. We don’t see enough of him for me to like him in the first couple of episodes, but later on, he really comes through.

Royce: To a certain extent, he serves as the straight man in the middle of a lot of very chaotic characters.

Courtney: Yes. There is… You know, I also love a no-nonsense bartender trope [laughs], so he fits well in this motley crew. And while they’re trying to make this ad, Alastor had given them this, like, teeny-tiny little camcorder to try to shoot it on. And as soon as someone tries to, like, put him on camera, he’s like, “Don’t you dare. This face was made for radio.” And his face gets all creepy and distorted as he’s saying that again, and his eyes turn into, like, radio dials. So he is, like, very committed to the radio. [laughs]

Royce: We do find out in one of these episodes that there is a television demon —

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: — that is not as powerful as Alastor and is a continual antagonist of his.

Courtney: Yeah. So, it’s vague. I don’t know if we’ll learn more in a second season. I have heard that it’s been picked up for a second season, so we will have more, but I don’t know if this is… How much — like, to what percentage is this “He just loves the radio as a medium” to “He loathes television as a medium” to “He has personal beef with this television demon”? I don’t know what percentages play a factor here, but could be any mix of the three.

Courtney: And we get another Sir Pentious attack at the end of this episode. And they do the same thing. He’s like, “Ah, Alastor, I’ve caught you at last!” Um, which was almost giving me, like… What are some examples of recurring villain attacks a protagonist? Like, it’s very Team Rocket of him. [laughs]

Royce: It’s such a common trope that I’m… There’s so much noise, I can’t pinpoint anything. But in any sort of long-running series where there are, like, superheroes or people who have powers, you kind of have that bumbling antagonist that isn’t as big of a threat as whoever the big villain of the day is, who Just comes up every now and then.

Courtney: Yeah. Like, they’re never going to win, but they keep showing up. That’s very Sir Pentious vibes. And once again, Alastor is like, “Do I know you?” And people are like, “He literally just attacked us last week!” And he’s like, “Mmm, doesn’t ring a bell.” [laughs]

Courtney: But this time, even though Alastor again makes quick work of him — he is no match for Alastor, and seemingly never will be — Sir Pentious does manage to, like, rip off a teeny-tiny patch of fabric from Alastor’s coat. And Alastor is so menacing as he says, “Well, now you ruined my coat. Now I’ll be sure to remember you.” [laughing] And it’s like, holy shit! And it’s quite good. It’s quite good.

Courtney: And, you know, these nefarious gentlemanly types — like, that is the vibe that if I had a drag king persona [laughs], that that would be the vibe. Old-timey and menacing. Very Jarvis. But then, as the series progresses, Sir Pentious actually becomes a resident of the hotel — at first, with an ulterior motive: he has been sent by this television demon. And it’s a group of, like, three villainous characters working together. They call them The Vees because they all have a V in their name. I couldn’t tell you all of them right off the top of my head.

Royce: Vox, Velvette, and Valentino.

Courtney: Oh, good! You have them.

Royce: They don’t end up becoming particularly large characters in this short, eight-episode season, because they —

Courtney: They’re present. They’re watching things. And Valentino has more of a connection to Angel Dust in particular.

Royce: That’s true. I forgot about that connection. Valentino is prominent, but the television demon is not the major antagonistic force of this season.

Courtney: Mhm. Yeah. Valentino owns Angel Dust’s soul. Angel has made a deal with Valentino, and when we learn that he has made a deal, we see that there is a signed contract, and Valentino is able to just, like, at will, produce these green glowing chains around his neck or his wrist and, like, pull him around with it. But he’s very much, like, the pimp sort of character. Like, he is this porn producer. He is the one who films all these videos and tells Angel Dust, like, what he’s doing, makes his work schedule. If Angel ever crosses him and makes him angry, he’s like, “Alright, now we’re going to go even harder, even more guys, even longer hours,” and will just, like… very obviously abusive punishment.

Courtney: And we also, at some point, have Angel getting all these voicemails and text messages, because for some reason, they do have cell phones. They can have modern technology if they want to, I guess? Not Alastor, though. And when Angel’s really down one day, on his bed at the end of the night, he’s just going through these voicemails from Valentino, and it’s very abusive relationship vibes. Because you’ll have him just, like, yelling and saying the most horrible things and calling Angel names, and then the next email will be like, “Oh, I’m sorry, baby, I didn’t mean it,” and, like, going back and forth like that, over and over again. And that’s when you really start feeling for Angel, because you’ll see these moments where you see him in this abusive situation, and he’ll, like, be quietly shedding tears alone in his room.

Courtney: But in Episode 2, we really start to see, like, Sir Pentious has come to live here. Originally, he’s trying to record everyone and get the inside intel into this hotel to report back to The Vees. But he’s trying to play this part. And Charlie’s, like, getting started on lesson plans for rehabilitating these sinners. And she writes this, like, horrible play. She writes these skits and gives everyone lines to, like, roleplay. And I thought this line was just funny. Because we have Sir Pentious — who, if you can’t tell by his name, he’s a little snake guy with a fabulous hat — and he’s reading his lines, and he he ends a conversation by going, “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to not have sexual intercourse before marriage!”

Courtney: And, I mean, that’s just objectively a funny line, but also it really had me wondering what the actual laws of Heaven are in this universe. Like, they’re clearly taking Christian themes by, like, the Lucifer and a Heaven and a Hell. So, like, we have that. But they’ve also changed the lore a bit. Like, turns out, Lilith was actually the first woman that was made along with Adam, but Lilith ended up with Lucifer, and then Eve was Adam’s second wife. Don’t know what’s up with that. Is Adam missing two ribs? Was Lilith made from whole cloth and her own autonomous person, but then God was like, “Well, I’m out of human-making materials, gotta improvise,” and Eve was made out of a rib? Who is the rib-stealer here? How many ribs have been stolen? [laughs] Callback to — I don’t even know what episode that was. One of our acephobic articles we covered calling women “rib-stealers.”

Royce: That was Episode 42. It was an article from The Spectator called “Playing the Ace card.”

Courtney: Mmm, that’s right. But that, like, line of questioning — like, “What are the rules? What do they have to do to rehabilitate them?” — was something I had as a viewer, but that actually becomes a question they’re asking themselves later in the series. Som I was glad to see that it wasn’t just super vague and that there is an in-lore reason why we don’t really know.

Courtney: But we do see Adam when Charlie has set up this meeting with the angels, because Adam, the first man, has a very strong leadership role in this cleansing of the demons. And he’s awful. He is no better than any of the super rude, cruel, crass demons that we’ve seen in Hell. Like, he even, at one point, told someone to call him “Dick master.” Like, he’s the worst kind of frat bro. Someone asked him to sign something, and he’s like, “I fucking love putting my name on shit!” Like, he’s terrible. And someone’s like, “Oh, we need to address our biggest problem.” And he’s like, “Oh, yeah, herpes is a bitch.” And it’s like, nobody was talking about herpes, Adam. So, he sucks. And so that really gets you wondering, like, what is the difference between Heaven and Hell here, really, when it seems like 99% of creatures in either place just straight up suck.

Courtney: Episode 3 — I didn’t have a whole lot of notes, but we see Charlie doing more lessons, and she’s trying to teach people about trust, and they’re doing, like, a trust fall exercise. And Angel Dust brings in, like, a bunch of kinky people and, like, fetish gear and all this stuff. And he just says, like, “Nothing requires more trust than BDSM,” which I can’t dispute. Well played, Angel Dust.

Royce: So, what the show is building towards is this conflict between Heaven and Hell. An extermination had just happened previously, when it happened pretty recently, before the start of the series, and it’s suspected that another one is going to happen in a year. That is the time frame that they’re on. Heaven moves up their schedule by six months. And a lot of the people present, including an entire, like, boardroom of overlords, are starting to panic, and Alastor is a part of this. In Episode 3, Alastor ends up taking a couple of Sir Pentious’s Egg Bois to the meeting to help gather a little intel, but goes into this boardroom meeting to discuss things with some other overlords, and it is discovered that an angel was killed, which no one really thought was possible, including the angels themselves. One of the overlords was responsible for this, and, you know, understands their weakness.

Royce: And so, throughout the sort of remaining episodes, aside from some other character- and lore-building stuff — there is an episode dedicated heavily to Angel Dust and Valentino — but the underlying plot is them building up for this conflict during the next extermination. During this time, as you mentioned, Charlie, with a bit of help from Lucifer, goes up to Heaven and speaks with the angels there. And they are… One, they are confused when prompted what exactly needs to be done for a soul to enter Heaven or for a soul from Hell to be rehabilitated. The rules seem somewhat arbitrary, and the angels — many of them just seem vicious and cruel —

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: — particularly… Adam, in particular, who is, like, leading this extermination force.

Courtney: He’s the worst. He’s the worst.

Royce: And with Charlie going up there and trying to broker some sort of peace, she ends up with a target on her back. And they’re like, “During the next extermination, we’re coming to your hotel first.” But throughout this period, we see the main cast of characters sort of doing whatever they can, finding whatever information they can, preparing for this conflict. During this time, Alastor introduces Charlie to a few friends, acquaintances, I don’t really know the relation — people that Alastor knows and frequents. Charlie’s taken to an area of Hell where a lot of cannibals live to meet someone named Rosie, who has known Alastor for quite some time now. And this is mostly to recruit the town full of cannibals for the upcoming battle by convincing the overlord who lives there. But in the process there, we get, I think, what is generally seen as the most overt Ace line in the entire media franchise, would you say?

Courtney: I’d argue the only one. [laughs]

Royce: Yeah.

Courtney: Maybe.

Royce: During the nine episodes, the pilot included, we have a few instances of Alastor overtly just saying, “No,” like very bluntly, to some sort of sexual thing or an innuendo of some kind, or, like, just looking very confused when someone says something about that, taking extra time to think.

Courtney: Well, and the thing about that is, like, we came into this knowing that Alastor is the Ace character, because we’d looked it up after watching the pilot a couple years ago. But if we went fully into the full series without knowing who the Ace character is — which is usually how we try to watch media, because we want to know if it’s actually obvious to a casual observer — I easily could have pegged other characters as having the Ace vibes, if I was trying to, like, where’s-Waldo who’s the Ace character. Because there are instances where, like, Angel’s showing everyone a porno he was in at the hotel, and, like, nobody’s having a good time. Everyone wants it turned off. Like, Charlie looks like she’s about to throw up. Vaggie, at one point, like, tells him to stop being so horny. The bartender rejects advances all the time, especially from Angel Dust.

Courtney: And the bartender, being kind of poker- and card-themed… Like, the entire show is very red and black. That’s a huge overarching color scheme for a lot of characters. But he’s, like, red, white, and black. He’s got, like, hearts on his ear. When we first see him, he’s in a poker context. And, like, Angel Dust will be hitting on him at the bar, and he’s like, “That’s never gonna work on me.” And, like, I kind of want him to be Ace too, but he’s not the alleged Ace character. But if I was just watching this show knowing that someone said there’s an Ace character, for a while I’d be like, “Oh, maybe it’s him! I don’t know.”

Courtney: ’Cause even, like, showing the porn, Alastor was the only one who didn’t look super uncomfortable. He was just smiling like he always smiles. Like, there are situations when other people seem uncomfortable by sexual things, and Alastor — like, maybe you could say he looks oblivious, but he doesn’t have, like, the outright “I am repulsed by this” like other people do, which is interesting. And not to say that every Ace character needs to be repulsed! Of course not. But when things are so vague and gray and unspoken in representation, there needs to be more something.

Royce: And Alastor’s character, too, doesn’t have a lot of, I guess, out of that character reactions.

Courtney: Yeah, exactly.

Royce: And generally the ones that we see are him getting angry.

Courtney: Yeah. Well, you know, even Charlie, Princess of Hell, plopped right out of a Disney movie, like you said — like, she’s so sweet and innocent, and she wrote that line about “I’m off to not have sexual intercourse before marriage,” which also begs the question: she’s been in a relationship with Vaggie I think they say for three years, at one point. Are they not sexually active? Could we not have had an Ace lesbian? I don’t know. They live together. They work together. We see them kiss onscreen at least once, if not more.

Courtney: But Charlie goes to visit, like, Angel Dust’s porn set, at one point, trying to get him out of work, as pulling her, like, “I’m the Princess of Hell! Listen to me!” for the first time, when she doesn’t pull around very often, but other people encourage her to embrace her power. And she’s on this porn set and she’s like, “This is a lot.” And she’s like, “It feels a little violent. Maybe I could pitch some scenes that would be, I don’t know, a little more wholesome.” So she’s not against the concept of pornography or having porn stars, but she’s like, “I don’t know, this is a lot. Can we tone it down a little?” [laughs] So, like, all these lines — we’re getting more, arguably, from other people than from Alastor, in terms of lines like that.

Royce: This line in Episode 7 with Rosie. Alastor is bringing Charlie to meet Rosie, who is the overlord of Cannibal Town, and she says, “Oh, who’s this you brought with you? Come on now, Alastor. Come now, Alastor. She’s much too young for you.” And then she rolls her eyes and says, “Just kidding, I know you’re an ace in the hole.” And Alastor says, “A what now?”

Courtney: “A what now?” [laughs]

Royce: And then Rosie just continues on with the conversation, not acknowledging that.

Courtney: Like, he has no idea what that means. And, like, the word “Ace” is there, but it’s also used in a pun. Like, “ace in the hole” is a phrase that is not an Asexual-exclusive phrase. And that’s really hard. Because for the most part, like… When we had The Imperfects, for example, the Ace character in that show, Abby, she says, like, “Oh well, this is hard and this is complicated if you’re Ace, and I’m Ace.” And, like, that was her coming out, and she used the word “Ace.” I’m super okay with using “Ace” in that context because there isn’t as much gray area. This one is weird, because this is the one scene where everyone’s like, “It is canon and it is on-screen.” Um… I don’t know! I don’t know. Because my general rule of thumb for, like, “Is this handled well?” is try to substitute it with any other sexual orientation and see if it still flies, or are you treating the Ace rep differently? Or this line about Aces — is it being treated differently than if it were, you know, a gay person or a lesbian? Like, if you say, for example, like, “Well, of course someone who has no soul is gonna be Asexual.” Like, if you substitute that — “Well, of course someone who has no soul is gay” — like, all of a sudden you know that that is a hate crime.

Courtney: So, yeah. But the thing is, first of all, Rosie is also a little old-timey. She’s fabulous. She’s got, like ,this old Edwardian hat, just wide-brimmed. The way she dresses is actually a little older in era than the way Alastor dresses. Which is interesting, because people will say and make the assertion that, like, “Oh well, Alastor doesn’t know the word ‘Ace,’ because that wasn’t a word that was being used from his time period, and he’s stuck in the past, and he’s just an old man.” Rosie also seems to be old. I don’t know, maybe she just keeps up with the times better. But fabulous hats in Hell. I would fit in well there, I would think. [laughs] Rosie and I would be friends, even though she’s a cannibal.

Courtney: But “ace in the hole,” and then someone saying “What now?” I had to think long and hard about, because on the one hand it came after, like, “She’s way too young for you,” and then “I know you’re an ace in the hole” was what is negating the previous joke about someone being too young for you. So I was trying to decide if that’s good enough. However, “ace” does have more than one meeting. It doesn’t just mean Asexual. You need the context for it to mean Asexual.

Courtney: And it’s hard to find an example of that with other orientations, save for “gay” could also mean happy. We know that gay being happy is a much more antiquated use of that word. Strong majority of people are not just using that word to be “happy” anymore. So I started thinking of the song “I Feel Pretty.” So, like, the line is, “I feel pretty and witty and gay.” And that lyric is a little bit older; the context for that word is a little bit older. And amongst older characters in a show where people are in old-timey clothes, if someone said, like, “Oh, you’re pretty and witty and gay,” are we going to automatically assume that “gay” means, like, homosexual in that case? I don’t know. This is my line of thought I went down.

Courtney: But also, I will fully admit, sometimes dialogue in this show goes quickly. You often learn a lot of information really quickly. People could deliver their lines very, very fast. And I almost missed this line.

Royce: Yeah, I caught it and I had to point it out.

Courtney: And Royce was like, “Oh, did you catch that?” And I was like, “What? No!” And so I had to rewind to hear, like, “Oh, I know you’re an ace in the hole.” And so I was like, “Oh, okay.” I mean, I’m glad you pointed that out to me. If I was sitting here watching this on my own, I would have just missed that line. Because that is the one line. That is it.

Royce: It stuck out to me. It was very fast. It is a little vague. Going into this knowing Alastor’s intended orientation and the fact that this isn’t, you know, an old friend, along with, like you said, the mention to Charlie there and the fact that this show has a lot of innuendo to it already.

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: I took that to mean “not interested in relationships,” in whatever intended meaning that was, given the scene. But if we’re talking about overt, unmissable representation, I suspect a lot of people, a lot of casual viewers, did not catch that.

Courtney: Yeah. And the thing is, too, like, I also… On one hand, I think “ace in the hole” is a great phrase for, like, a closeted Asexual. [laughing] I would not be mad if that caught on. But Alastor, the one in question who is supposedly Ace, had no idea what that meant. And I don’t mind an oblivious character. I don’t even mind historical fiction where the word isn’t used. But we’ve talked about other examples like that. We talked to Carly Heath, for example, about the novel The Reckless Kind. The word “Asexual” was not used. However, this character’s hopes and desires and feelings were not vague. It was not just a single scene; it was repeatedly mentioned in different ways on different pages throughout the book. So there wasn’t any question how this character felt, even without using the word.

Courtney: And that’s something that I think could have really benefited Alastor here. We needed more examples of that. If he’s not gonna use the word, if he’s oblivious to his own orientation, we need more situations where it’s being thrown in her face. I want at least a rule of three here. Like, normally, the rule of three is, for comedy, like, you have the joke once, you take the joke a step further the second time, and then the third time, you have a massive either escalation or subversion of the original joke to just drive home the comedy and surprise people with the same thing one last time. I almost need that for any representation where you aren’t saying the word. If it’s a context where the word isn’t going to fit the dialogue or the script, for whatever reason, I think you need to show us at least three different times where it is unquestionable each time, and in different scenarios. And I would not say that we got that from Alastor.

Courtney: And that’s why I even say, too, like, the bartender character almost gave me more of that than Alastor did. Because, aside from that one line — “I know you’re an ace in the hole,” and he goes, “a what now?” and then they cut to the next thing very quickly, so they don’t give us time to sit with that. The bartender rejected Angel’s advances outright, said, “That is never going to work on me.” He talks about, like, “Angel, you’re pushing my boundaries.” They talk about boundaries. He even calls him out on his sexuality often being an act, saying, like, “You’re putting on an act. The way you’re performing this, I know it’s not actually you.”

Royce: And part of this — a lot of Alastor’s role in this media is part of this mystery as how he came to be and how the forces of Hell are working. Alastor is far and away the most powerful being in their inner circle and is much more involved with the greater lore in the series, whereas a lot of Husk’s airtime is specifically getting closer to Angel Dust.

Courtney: Yeah. And, I mean, he’s got some great lines, too, just as a good character. Like, he follows Angel outside of the hotel to a bar to sort of keep tabs on him, at one point, and when Angel’s, like, rough, down on his luck, having a horrible time, he comes out and he’s like, “It seems like you need a bartender to talk to.” And I thought that was such a good line! I loved it.

Courtney: And he does sort of get Angel to fess up and be like, “This persona I’m putting on, like, this is who I need to be.” And, like we said, he has this contract with Valentino. But we also see — seeing how horribly abusive that situation is, we don’t see it as outright on-screen, but we know that Husk has also signed a contract with Alastor. We see Alastor pull out the chains on him, at one point. So, like, that’s frightening. We don’t know what the terms of that were. There’s something evil going on there.

Courtney: But we also know that Alastor has some sort of secret something that he is beholden to someone else, and it’s very vague. It’s the mystery. Like, Alastor is the character that we are not supposed to know as much about. And he is also said to have just, like, disappeared for the last seven years. So he has just reappeared, and people haven’t seen him in a while. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that seven years is what Charlie says has been the length of time she hasn’t been able to contact her mother, Lilith. So, don’t know what happened seven years ago or how or if that’s connected, but there’s definitely more plot to explore and more character to uncover with Alastor, as, you know, the mysterious one.

Courtney: But also… so, like, I can see why so many Aces just do like the show, because even amongst all the innuendo, even the characters who are not Ace are often like, “That’s a little much” [laughs] to the overtly sexual situations. Vaggie, for instance, has changed the pronunciation of her name. We learn when they go to Heaven that she used to be an angel. She was on this, like, extermination army and used to exterminate these demons, but then got sort of kicked out and cast down when she didn’t want to slay a demon that appeared to be a child, someone young and very defenseless, and that’s when the angels removed her eye. So we get that backstory. But, like, when she meets Adam, Adam is like, “Yeah, I named you after the best thing ever!” And her original name, we find out, was pronounced Vaggie [pronounced with a j sound]. And, oh my god, why! And she obviously hates that.

Courtney: When they’re packing to go to Heaven, they even have little pride stickers on their luggage. There’s a sticker that says “pride” and there’s a sticker that has a rainbow on it. So that was also kind of like, oh, Owl House, we see some pride flags in the distance. We didn’t see any Ace flags in the distance or any Aro flags in the distance. Sir Pentious is just very awkward around sex and sexual things. Like, he was the one in that play who said, “I’m off to not have sexual intercourse before marriage!” But he does get quite infatuated with another character, an old friend of Angel Dust. And when they’re out at a club, the way he tries to, like, flirt with her is very bumbling, kind of innocent. Like, he tries to buy her a shot, and when she’s like, “Oh, why?” and he’s like, “Oh, it’s ’cause I’m buying shots for everybody!”

Royce: That is Cherri Bomb. And the two of them are the first sign of major conflict in the pilot. When Sir Pentius is in that big war machine, he’s fighting with Cherri Bomb, and they have, like, an ongoing rivalry.

Courtney: And now he has a crush on her! But their clubs have sex rooms, I guess. And so he comes up and he’s like, “I see this club has a sex room, so I was wondering if you want to do a sex with me.” And when she was like, “Uh, why?” He’s like, “Uhhh, because I’m doing sex with everyone here!” and everyone cheers. So, like, that was the second joke in the comedy rule of three here: he doesn’t know how to flirt, so he’s getting himself in situations he doesn’t want to be in. And then later on Angel Dust, like, goes up to Cherri Bomb and is like, “You know, you could totally tap that.” And she’s like, “Oh, don’t be gross.” And considering he’s a snake, this is just very, very funny to me. Angel just casually drops, like, “Besides, I hear he’s got two dicks!” [laughs] And Cherri Bomb just goes, “Huh.”

Courtney: I also just like the way Sir Pentious emotes his eyes. His eyes are so expressive. If he’s crying — or when a cat crawls up on his lap, and he just starts, like, making the, like, “Aww,” like, little uwu face, it’s very cute. I like the way he is drawn. And his hat also has an eye on it, and his hat eye also emotes. So I don’t know if that’s actually literally a part of his body or if it just mirrors what his actual eyes are doing, but it’s cute. I like it.

Courtney: But yeah, I mean, at the end of it, they definitely do the found family thing. We have Husk, who says, like, “Oh, I’m not going anywhere. I just got used to you guys. And besides, I ain’t finding any new drinking buddies.” We all know how important the drinking buddies are. We have lines like, “These sinners are my family!”

Courtney: And even Alastor, at the very end… I mean, there is a big scene where the angels come down from Heaven again to attack the hotel first, specifically, but by combination of the earlier meeting that Alastor attended where he learned that an angel had been killed, they find a way to fight them, and they’re ready for the battle. So they even do, like, the night before the battle kind of a trope where they’re all just commiserating. But once they’ve driven the angels away, even Alastor is, like, watching everyone happy and celebrating from a balcony and says, “Ah, it’s been a surprising thrill to witness these wayward souls find connection. Almost makes one sentimental. An enjoyable collective to be around. I admit one could get accustomed,” so.

Courtney: And he’s just saying that to the little vicious one, who’s also hilarious and has a lot of really hilarious lines. Like, they hand her a dagger right before the battle and they’re like, “If you see an angel, stab it,” and she immediately, like, hones in on Angel Dust, their friend, the porn star, and she’s like, stab, stab, stab! [laughing] And they’re like, “Wait, no! Not that angel!”

Courtney: But he’s such a widely beloved character. And I think some of the mystique has to do with it, his mannerisms, his power. He is a unique character. So I’ve heard one or two people be like, “Oh, of course, they made the Ace character the most evil one. That’s a negative stereotype.”

Royce: [laughing] He’s not the most evil one.

Courtney: He’s also widely beloved. And I love a good villain character. Villains are often the most compelling one. Right now, he’s some sort of antihero with a lot of backstory we have yet to uncover. And, considering how widely beloved he is, I don’t care if he is evil and cruel and a literal demon. I really don’t. Especially amongst all these other evil and cruel literal demons. So that is not my gripe. I like to have well-liked Ace characters. That doesn’t mean they have to be good-aligned. I just want the audience to be like, “That is a great character.”

Courtney: But let’s talk about why, long before that “ace in the hole” line ever aired, people were like, “This is a canon AroAce character.” And I will say, too — because, despite my better judgment, we joined Tumblr [laughs]. And when I logged into Tumblr to inform everyone that we got Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week recognized in the state of Kansas by way of a government proclamation, I started seeing a lot of posts and discourse that I generally agreed with. But it took many posts of scrolling through to realize what prompted this round of discourse.

Courtney: And a lot of these posts were saying things like, “There’s a lot of aphobia in fandom,” which I agree with. I have seen that in a lot of different fandoms. I have seen people… They were basically saying that there are allo people who are making fanart or writing fanfiction of AroAce characters in very explicitly romantic and/or sexual situations. And these allo creators of this art, once getting called out on it — saying, “Hey, don’t erase that this character is AroAce” — will say, like, “Oh, but it’s a spectrum.” Like, “Aromanticism is a spectrum, Asexuality is a spectrum,” and “But some Aces do have sex!” and “Some Aces like it!” and “But Aros can be in relationships!”

Courtney: And so, the heart of the matter that people were saying was, if there is a character where not having sex or not being in a relationship is an important part of their orientation, we have so few of those characters actually that it feels disrespectful for you to completely ignore that, to put them in one of those situations. And people were saying, like, “Yes, while it is true that there is a spectrum, and real-life people do operate like this, we have so little rep. Please just let us have the things that we have. And the way you’re doing it is not sensitive to real world Aces and allos.” And it does happen in the real world where actual Ace and Aro people are disbelieved, or they are… you know, I don’t think anyone should ever ship real-life people, but that happens with celebrities — like, real-life people who exist, and I think it’s very weird. So when I was seeing these out of context, I was like, “Yeah, I do agree with these posts, for the most part.”

Courtney: But then I realized they were talking about Hazbin Hotel. At least, that’s how it started. And I started seeing more posts that were actually tagging, like, “Alastor Hazbin Hotel.” And so apparently, there has just been a slew of people writing smut about Alastor, making fanart of him in sexual situations, shipping him romantically with other characters. And there were people going so far as to say, “He is a sex-repulsed Asexual. He is a romance-repulsed Aromantic. He is so far on the side of the spectrum, he does not want any of it at all whatsoever, and you are fundamentally disrespecting that part of his identity by doing all of this and that.”

Courtney: And at this point I’m like, “Where did you get Aro from?” Genuinely, where? Where is it that he is a canon AroAce and it is on-screen and explicitly stated? Because, first of all, at least — I guess, at least we have the meager “ace in the hole line.” Where did you get Aromantic? Where? Show me. And, like, I’m not saying that it seems right or correct that Alastor should be romantically or sexually related to someone, because I don’t get those vibes from him. I really don’t.

Royce: You’re saying that nothing was explicitly stated. And it would also be harmful or incorrect to assume a default.

Courtney: It would. And the thing is, like, if I were a casual viewer of the show, who is someone who engages in fandom on that level, who makes fanart, who writes on AO3, there was nothing in the show to say that he’s Aromantic. So especially if it’s like, “I’m just putting him in a relationship with another character, even if it’s a sexless one,” and then people are like, “But you’re erasing Aros,” I would genuinely…

Courtney: Like, if someone were to take Todd Chavez and make a bunch of sexual fanart of him, that would make me really uncomfortable. Because I know that kind of person. I know that kind of character in the real world. Like, someone would be very uncomfortable on that place in the Ace spectrum to know that people are making sexual things of them. And part of that is me just, like, having an abundance of empathy for fictional characters. So, I sometimes have to walk it back a little bit and be like, “You’re not literally hurting that character, because that character does not exist.” But it is a wide world out there, and I will never begrudge a real-life Ace person feeling hurt by seeing that. Because so many of us know what it’s like to have our own identities invalidated, that when we get these meager scraps of representation on television and then so many people just disregard it, I know I see where that real-life hurt comes from.

Courtney: And it’s almost kind of, like… It’s like free speech, right? Like, if someone offends someone, and someone’s like, “Oh, well, it’s free speech,” and think of how everyone’s like, “Oh, you’re too woke.” Like, we hear stuff like that all the time — in political discourse especially. And people will claim, like, “Oh, freedom of speech, I can say whatever I want.” And it’s like, yeah, but you hurt people when you say things. So, freedom of speech is not necessarily freedom from consequences. Now, this isn’t as immediately impactful in everyday life as politics, but when people double down so hard like, “My fanfiction isn’t hurting anyone,” or taking this Ace character and making a really sexual something of them — yeah, that’s free speech. You have a right to do that. There are gonna be real-life people who are hurt by that. It’s gonna happen. And you’re going to have to accept that if you put this out somewhere publicly online, you are going to hurt people. [laughs] So it’s like freedom to do it and not technically literally hurting anyone… It’s just not the same.

Courtney: But, yeah, on the other hand, in this situation there is so much gray area and vagueness. There is so much here that I’m almost thinking people are going way too far in one direction on Alastor in the fandom discourse right now. Because, literally, I’ve seen multiple people say, “He is romance-repulsed Aromantic. He is sex-repulsed Asexual. He has never been in a relationship and never wants to be.” It’s like, now you’re writing fanfiction. You don’t know any of that. [laughs]

Courtney: So, I mean, that in mind, that in mind, let’s talk about the bonus content. Very similar to Lilith, actually, in way of how some of this came out. And thank you so much to Suitable4Vegetarians — that’s the number four — on Reddit under r/HazbinHotel three years ago, who broke down, at that point in time, for International Asexuality Day, why Alastor is canon Aromantic Asexual. And I will link this in the show notes as well if you want to see all of it. But there are links here, some of which aren’t valid links anymore.

Courtney: But number one: in 2018, a drawing that the creator Vivzie uploaded to Twitter for National Coming Out Day. This has Angel Dust and Alastor and Charlie. Above Alastor’s head is a little skull that is colored like the Asexual pride flag. Above Angel’s head is a heart that is colored like the rainbow pride flag. And above Charlie’s head is a heart that is colored like the bisexual pride flag. And Alastor and Angel look confused. They’re looking up at these things hovering over their head. And Alastor just says, “What do these colors mean?” And Angel says, “Don’t know, maybe that you like meat?” And Charlie’s not saying anything. She’s just there in the middle looking cute. The caption on this says, “Angel and Alastor are old men who don’t understand anything anymore. I hope everyone on this National Coming Out Day 2018 stays safe and stays proud.” According to this post, “This seems to be the first time Viv confirmed Alastor’s being Ace online.”

Courtney: And I don’t know, maybe I’m just old and cynical [laughs], but I would have never seen this on Twitter in 2018. So many people wouldn’t have. This was only when the pilot was out. And, not only that, but lots of animators will make cartoons of their characters with various pride flags for things like Pride Month and Coming Out Day. How often have we seen, like, the Bob’s Burgers crew make, like, the Belcher family with lots of different pride flags in the background? And that audience is not like, “Oh, there is a bi flag behind Gene Belcher. That means that Gene is bi.” Like, people pretty much think that Bob is bisexual, but he’s made lines in the cartoon that’s like, “I’m straight. I mean, I’m mostly straight. I mean, you’re out of my league” to, like, guys. So, I’d argue, we have more evidence for Bob Belcher being bi than we have of Alastor being Ace. [laughs] It’s a much longer-running show, though, and a different kind of show.

Royce: And in terms of quality of representation, not having it as a part of the main franchise, having it in a Tweet, is different. This is something that wouldn’t fly with more visible orientations or identities.

Courtney: Yeah. Like, people are still mad at the “Dumbledore is gay” thing from JK Rowling. And, I mean, we have so much more to be mad at JK Rowling about. But I can’t say any more; otherwise, this will be an eight-hour episode of me ranting, so maybe another time. So, like, why are we accepting this for Ace representation? Truly, I want to know why we accept the bare minimum.

Courtney: But this wasn’t the only thing. According to the post, “Viv had offhandedly mentioned Alastor being Ace in several of the later art streams, but the next bigger discussion of it came from the recent Q&A with Viv, as well as several cast members, hosted December, 2020.” And there’s a link to this YouTube video with a timestamp of 1 hour, 3 minutes, and 13 seconds. Which, again, I don’t watch art streams ever. I would not have seen this. A lot of people would not have seen this.

Courtney: But thank goodness this beautiful poster actually transcribed it out for us too. “Gabriel Brown, Alastor’s singing voice actor, asked, ‘Is he canonically Asexual? I’m really curious about that.’ To which Viv, the show creator, replied, ‘Yes, canonically, Alastor is Asexual.’ Gabriel Brown responded with a very authentic ‘I love that! I feel like they don’t get enough representation. That’s really awesome.’” This was in 2020, before the series even came out, so we’re just talking about the pilot, and — was the webcomic out at that point? Maybe a webcomic.

Royce: The webcomic for Alastor came out in October of 2020. There was nothing about Alastor’s orientation in it. It was basically Alastor walking around town, going about his day, with a lot of random townsgoers being aware of who he was and running off scared, and then he came across a butcher who was preying on one of the clients there and ate him, and that was pretty much it.

Courtney: Okay! So, yeah. So, also, I love that “I feel like [emphasizing] they don’t get enough representation.” So this is not an Ace person. They are being excited on our behalf that the creator decided this character is Ace but didn’t actually show it to us yet in the firsthand material. [laughs] I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t like it.

Courtney: Continuing on: “After which, Mick pointed out that it was funny Alastor was such a sexual icon in the fandom. Viv piggybacked on that and said, ‘I always try to be very coy — not about his orientation, because I don’t feel like I want to be coy about that for any of the characters — but for his romantic aspect, because I don’t want to crush dreams. But there is a canon direction for that too.’” What the fuck? Are we… Aros, are we going to accept that?

Royce: So that’s…

Courtney: How is that not queer-baiting?

Royce: That is the exact definition of queer-baiting — having a canon orientation and not revealing it so that people can —

Courtney: — make their fanart, have their wish fulfillment.

Royce: Yes. That is queer-baiting.

Courtney: Yes! And, like, if the canon direction is indeed Aro, which a lot of people are saying it is, why are we proud of that? Why are we proud that this is the AroAce representation? We have finally, at long last, an AroAce character. Watch Koisenu Futari, I beg. [laughs] I beg! Because I also saw so often in the fandom — and maybe this is younger folks, maybe this is people who just really have not watched a lot of TV or haven’t intentionally sought out Ace characters and just stumbled upon Hazbin Hotel. But whatever the case is, I see so many people be like, “This is one of the only characters we have. It’s so nice to finally have an Ace character.” Who, again, is a guy. I have to point it out. So many people say [laughs] there aren’t enough Ace men in media. And there aren’t enough Aces in general in media, but in television — specifically television, live action and animation — there are more men than women, and even fewer nonbinary characters. So, like, if this is your first [tentatively] canon Ace character, this is going to be special to you for the rest of your life, and that is okay, and I don’t want to take that away. But please, please, understand that there is a wider world out there. There is more. We have had so many episodes on our show alone talking about different examples of Ace rep. It’s out there.

Courtney: But I was so flabbergasted to see, not only on this livestream in 2020, a cast member not even knowing if this character is Ace and asking the creator, and the character being like, “Yeah, definitely!” and then being like, “There is a canon direction for his romantic orientation, but I don’t want to crush dreams, so I’m not going to say.” Awful. Awful! That would not fly! If you had, like, a flamboyant character that had, like, stereotypically gay mannerisms but never was involved in a relationship at all, and someone was like, “Is this character gay?” and you’re like, “Well, I don’t want to say, because I don’t want to crush any dreams and I want to let the fandoms have their fanart and their fanfiction,” like, that’s queer-baiting. It’s not different just because we’re talking about Aeros and Aces now. It’s not. It’s exactly the same thing.

Courtney: “The MC interrupted after the group exchanged a few jokes to say, ’So there have been some people in the chat, and who have tweeted me directly, who have said, ‘Thank you so much for making Alastor Ace, because it’s nice to feel like I’m represented in media.’ So for every broken heart of someone who’s like, ‘Man, I really want to date Alastor,’ there’s a lot of people who are Asexual, or who don’t know what Asexual is, who might go, ‘Oh, that’s exactly how I feel, thank you for helping me figure it all out.’”

Courtney: “Viv continued: ’Well, I don’t have any control over the fanbase, and I’m so glad to see them having fun, but I do feel like people need to be a little more respectful of Alastor’s canon character, on behalf of the people who identify with him. I think it’s a little unfair to act like everyone needs to get on your page, when they’re just trying to enjoy the representation that they’re given, or just the character as he is. And that said, I’m trying to be very respectful of the canon character information that might spoil a little fun, but, that said, the fun can be respectful, you know? Like, the fun had with pairing and shipping can be respectful to the character and the character’s identity. And this goes for Charlie and Vaggie as well, because they’re the other characters I see it happen a lot with. And Charlie is canonically bisexual” — which I don’t think we see in the show. I think that’s, again, just that piece of art I mentioned on Twitter from 2018 with the bi flag.

Royce: Yeah, I don’t remember at least that being called attention to in the nine episodes that we have so far.

Courtney: Mhm. Which, that’s one of the things, like, in terms of fandom, if we have like two women together, if it’s not explicitly stated, and there’s a bisexual real-world person who’s like, “I resonate with this character, I think this character is bisexual,” and everyone’s like, “No, this character is a lesbian,” but it hasn’t been stated either way, I think it is disrespectful to the real-life bisexual person to be like, “This can’t possibly be true.”

Royce: Yeah. You can’t assume just based off of an existing relationship without any other discussion going on.

Courtney: And I feel the same way about Asexuality. If we have a character who isn’t stated to be Ace but clearly does not have any interest in, like, relationships or sex, whatever it is, I still personally want it to be obvious if we’re going to call it good representation. But if an Ace person is like, “I resonate with this character so much. I feel like this character could be Ace,” then there’s very often a phenomenon that happens in fandom, where people are like, “This character can’t be Ace! There’s no possible way!” And they’ll start sending, like, actual hate to Ace people for resonating with the character. And that is also aphobic! Like, it’s the same with bisexual characters. Like, don’t get viscerally angry and send hate at people for something that isn’t even explicitly stated.

Courtney: And I can’t be a hypocrite. I have to say the same thing. If someone’s making fanart of Alastor being in a relationship with someone, and let’s say it’s a work of fanfiction, they put Alastor with… I don’t know, who do they want to put Alastor with? Cannibal woman, maybe?

Royce: Yeah, it would probably be Rosie or Mimzy, who are two characters from Alastor’s past. Alastor knew Mimzy in life.

Courtney: So, let’s say — and she was designed, like, very flapper girl, so she was very ’20s again. Like, let’s say someone made an AO3 post putting those two characters together in a romantic relationship, and maybe they still kept Asexual, and they’re like, “Well, Alastor’s Asexual, and this is a mixed-orientation relationship with someone who’s allosexual, but he is romantically in love with them.” If someone then came and is like, “You are disrespecting the fact that he is canon Aromantic,” I’d be like, “Uh, is he, though?” [laughing] Because the character kind of explicitly stated that she’s not going to lay it out for us. And Aros deserve better!

Courtney: I was, honestly… I’ve been doing the same thing with Isaac from Heartstopper. At the end of the last season, he picked up a book called Ace, a real-world book by Angela Chen, and he hugged it. He had his little Heartstopper moment. And everyone’s like, “He’s canon AroAce.” And the only thing we can find about him actually being AroAce, at this point in time — and I do anticipate they’ll explore this further in the next season, so, pending more information, I suppose — what we’ve seen right now, beginning to end, we don’t know that. We’ve seen Alice Oseman say on Twitter — like, responding to someone who said, “This character gives me AroAce vibes,” and Alice Oseman said, “Yeah, the AroAce vibes were intentional.” So now everyone’s like, “Canon AroAce!” And it’s like, we haven’t seen the Aro yet.

Courtney: And we shouldn’t let creators get away with that. We can’t. I’m sure they will explore it more, because Alice Oseman themself is AroAce, so I’m sure the Aromanticism will come. But this character in Hazbin Hotel — who, as far as I know, Viv is not even Aro or Ace, and if I’m wrong with that, please correct me. But are we really going to be okay with that? We shouldn’t. We deserve more. We deserve better.

Courtney: Then we have a link in a timestamp, a YouTube video for 28 minutes and 20 seconds, although this video is now unavailable. So again, thank goodness to this hero who transcribed it for us. Otherwise, we couldn’t even watch this video anymore. A creator who Viv met in college and helped develop the characters with her — Faustisse, I think, perhaps might be how this is pronounced; I can’t open up the video to see if they say their own name, to confirm pronunciation, because the video’s gone — seems to have been inking the Alastor comic. Which, as you confirmed, Royce, did not say anything about Aro- or Ace-ness or even hint at it whatsoever. So this is someone inking this comic and was apparently telling angry fans to simmer down when they started to send her angry messages for discussing Alastor being Aromantic as well as Asexual. Which, like, again, yes, don’t do that.

Courtney: But after confirming Alastor as Aromantic Asexual in a previous stream, she had this to say about it: “The fact is that this is canon: Alastor is Aromantic Asexual. That’s what he is. That’s what he proudly is. Vivienne has been adamant that’s what he is. I know he’s that, I know she said that.” So, this is the first time we’ve heard “Aromantic.” It’s someone who knows the creator and was inking the comic. The creator did not say Aromantic. So, the creator — behind closed doors, presumably — is telling, like, her inner circle, like, “Yeah, he’s an AroAce,” but not showing it to us.

Courtney: Later down, even said, “So, no, he is an Aromantic Asexual. He has no interest in it. A lot of people got very mad that I said he was not interested, they got really upset. The thing is, I know, from personal experiences, that him being Asexual means a lot to some people. There is very little Aromantic/Asexual representation in media, and most of the time it’s bad. But actual enjoyable, main-staple, non-tropey characters being Asexual, that means something. So no, I’m not going to apologize for ‘canonizing’ what’s always been canon.” Maybe this is a hot take, but I don’t think bonus content from the creator’s mouth is the height of canon to aspire to. If the creator wants us to know this about this character and wants it to be well known, show it to us in the source material, I beg of you. Do not make it gray. Do not beat around the bush. Make it obvious.

Courtney: Later in the stream, she “declined to confirm if Alastor has ever had sex or not, saying she wouldn’t want to arbitrarily decide something like that for him and that she doesn’t spend a lot of time thinking about ‘whether or not Alastor has boned.’” Which, I think that’s fair. But also, I’ve seen people be like, “He has never had sex before and he never wants to!” And I was like, “That’s not canon. Nothing about this is canon.” This isn’t even secondarily canon where a creator or a comic-inker is talking about it.

Courtney: So, I guess, all this to say — and one of the most important points that I just want to drive home is: put it in the text. You can tell people separately, you know, “Be respectful with your ships, and be respectful to the people who identify as Ace when you’re having fun in your fandom and whatever.” But with the overabundance of aphobia in fandom spaces online, there will be a toxic environment. And I just think, therefore, if you truly do want people to respect the characters’ orientations as well as the real-world people who identify with them, you must present it in the source material without a shadow of a doubt. Because aphobes will take any bit of doubt and they will run with it. If there is any gray area, they will latch onto it. And if you put it very specifically in the text, aphobic people… they’ll still be mad at the creator for creating that character, but then there at least isn’t this constant battle amongst the fans about what is and is not canon and what is and is not problematic.

Courtney: And, especially — to me, this is the really important facet — in a show where you treat other orientations differently. Like, we see and we talk about gay sex in this show. We see and we talk about queer love in this show. So why is it the AroAce character who has so much gray area that needs to be confirmed offscreen separately, privately, by the creator? I don’t think that’s okay.

Courtney: Now, there has been a much more recent — and this was since the series was released. There was a Hazbin Hotel live Q&A with the cast where the voice actor for Alastor in the eight-episode series had some really good lines. And from my limited contact with this person, he seems like a good guy, he seems like a good ally. But he said in this livestream, and I quote, “So Alastor is known as sort of canonically being Asexual and Aromantic, AroAce. That hasn’t come up in the show, obviously, but the conversation is that.’ And someone said, ‘How can he be Asexual when he does so many cute little gay poses?’ And I said, ‘You don’t have to fuck to be fab.’ And some of our Ace fans have taken that and run with it.”

Courtney: And honestly, that’s a great quote. I love that. “You don’t have to fuck to be fab.” Great. Brilliant. I love that. I love the clapback from the voice actor. And, to Amir’s credit as well, he seems to be taking his time, after the series release, to be on social media sharing good Aro and/or Ace resources. So, I think he is probably a good ally. And I think that’s exactly what actors should do if they find themselves in a situation where they are playing a character from a marginalized identity that they do not share.

Courtney: But it is, to me, just really interesting and kind of telling that he still agrees that this character is canonically Asexual and Aromantic, and that’s kind of what the conversation is, but he also acknowledges that it has not come up in the show. So, the voice actor who recorded that scene of “‘I know you’re an ace in a hole.’ ‘A what now?’” doesn’t consider that to be actually exploring the AroAce identity in the show. So I think it’s kind of weird for fans to get [laughing] overly excited about it for that reason. Like, at best, this tells me that the “ace in the hole” line was simply meant to be, like, an easter egg for the hardcore Asexual fans who are already in the know from all this bonus material over the past few years. And while easter eggs and inside jokes for the community can be cute in the right context, it’s not the same as good on-screen representation.

Courtney: And I want to talk about the importance of this, too, by numbers. Like, the Hazbin Hotel pilot right now on YouTube, as of the time we’re recording this, has over a hundred million views. That’s a lot of people. And for years after that pilot alone, people were still saying, “This character is canonically Ace,” or maybe even, “This character is canonically AroAce.” Imagine if they made that explicit on-screen in that pilot for a hundred million people to watch it — as opposed to the Hazbin Hotel pilot cast live panel three years ago, which seems to be the first time that the creator said aloud, “Yes, he is Ace,” but denied saying a romantic orientation. That has 1.5 million views, and it was a couple-hour-long video, so you know that a good amount of those didn’t actually watch all of it anyway. The inking stream where he was mentioned by a friend and a collaborator of the creator that he was canonically AroAce — we don’t even know how many views that got. Presumably a lot less. But the video is now taken down, and I can’t reference it again.

Courtney: And I still can’t get over the fact that, according to the transcription that I found on Reddit of this video, they said, “He is proudly that,” in regards to his AroAceness. And it’s like, is he?

Royce: It seems like, from what we’ve seen in the show, he isn’t aware of the concept.

Courtney: Yeah! He is shown to not even know what it means. Which doesn’t mean that he’s not. Lots of people just don’t know that it is an option or they don’t have the right vocabulary. But is he proudly AroAce, or… I don’t know, is the creator just proud to give the audience very surface-level hints at the fact that he might be, while espousing caninosity in interviews that not nearly as many people are going to watch, that isn’t even accessible to the full, wider audience? It sounds more like the latter. Even in that very first piece of art, he’s like, “What do these colors mean?” He doesn’t know. Not even in the bonus material does he know!

Courtney: And also, as opposed to the Hazbin Hotel live Q&A cast, where the voice actor Amir said the quotes I just gave previously, that was released about three weeks ago. As of the time we’re recording it, it has about a million views. Again, it’s a very long video. A good chunk of those million views didn’t watch it all, although that conversation did come up a lot earlier in the video than the other Q&A, because that one’s — like, they didn’t even talk about him being Ace until well after the hour mark.

Courtney: But the actual series, the eight-episode series released on Amazon Prime — I couldn’t find the actual numbers for how many people viewed those episodes, but I am seeing lots of headlines that are saying that it reportedly beat a streaming record on Amazon Prime. And Amazon is saying, like, “Yes, this has smashed records. This is our, you know, biggest animated series release.” And I think streaming sites in general are just really bad about actually reporting real viewership numbers, though, and Amazon doesn’t seem to be any different in that regard, as far as I can tell.

Courtney: So, all this to say, though: there will be a season two. I hope there is more. I liked so much about the show, just as it is. As frustrated as I am that people are so adamant that this is really good, very canon AroAce representation, the show, the characters, the plotlines — it’s very gripping, and I want to see it through. In the season finale, we saw so many new twists that I want to see expanded on.

Courtney: But as far as the rep, I honestly don’t think I have high hopes that it will be explored in any more detail. Firstly, because fans are already praising them up and down for the barest of minimums, and Viv herself said that she’s being coy about his romantic orientation. So I just don’t think I trust that they are gonna go any further with it. I’m still gonna watch Season 2, because I think it’s a good show, I think it’s cute, I do actually like it.

Courtney: But as opposed to, say, Heartstopper, where I think they’re gonna do a more fleshed-out Ace and probably also Aro plotline for that character, Isaac, in the upcoming season, but I know the creator is AroAce. I know some of their other work. There is a novel called Loveless featuring an AroAce character. There is a novel called Radio Silence, which has a Demisexual character — let alone other characters from the original Heartstopper comics who also have Aspec identities that haven’t been explored in the TV show yet. So I just know that that creator is someone who has done more fleshed-out characters before. I have more hope. So I’m like, “Yeah, another season’s coming. There’ll probably be more.”

Courtney: I don’t know if I can trust that for Hasbin Hotel. Do you? Like, do you actually think in Season 2 they’re going to give me the confidence that every viewer of the source material is gonna be like, “Yeah, he is AroAce without a doubt”?

Royce: I think we always have this discussion, and I don’t think… If we were to put odds on it, generally speaking, it doesn’t come to fruition.

Courtney: Mhm. Mhm. So, I mean, we’ll see, we’ll stay tuned. But I just — I also don’t understand so many fandoms. I have trouble engaging in fandoms. I genuinely do. And I think part of it has to do… You know, in our last week’s episode, I mentioned that I’ve never identified as someone who has heroes or someone that I, like, look up to, and I think it’s kind of the same thing with fandoms. Like, I don’t personally get invested in these communities. And this is not meant to discredit any people who really find value from it. But I think when sharing interests with other people, I would rather share an interest with someone who has never engaged in the material before. Like, if I have a show that I really like and I find out someone’s never seen it, oh, I want to show you the show! I want to help introduce you to this. And then I want you to also tell me the things you’re passionate about that I’ve never heard of before. Whereas, like, mutually geeking out with people I don’t know personally about a shared interest is just something that’s never appealed to me personally. But add to that the extreme levels of toxicity and aphobia that comes with so many fandoms.

Courtney: But even when I am a fan of something, I just don’t tend to actively seek more and try to lap up, like, every bit of scrap and lore and everything about the creators and everything about the actors, Like, maybe if I liked a book, I will watch the film adaptation when it comes out. I might watch adaptations. But as far as bonus materials, extra comics — not usually as often. But especially not the creators just talking about it. It just doesn’t appeal to me.

Courtney: And I used to be even so much way worse about this. I used to not know any actors’ names. Even if it’s someone I have seen in several movies, I don’t know that person’s name, I just recognize their face. And I never used to know the names of any band members. I’d listen to so many bands, and I knew the band’s name, but I didn’t know who the frontman was, I didn’t know the name of the guitar player or the drummer. And honestly, it was a much simpler time. [laughing] Sometimes I feel like I know too much now and that it is only to my own detriment.

Courtney: Which can be really really hard when I want to be an educated consumer of the materials I’m paying for, the attention I’m giving. And I definitely don’t want, like, wildly problematic and abusive people to have massively powerful levels of influence. But at the same time, [laughs] there was a moment of pause I had when trying to determine whether or not we should talk about this show at all, because in the very little bit of wading into fandom discourse just to — I just wanted to get my finger on the pulse of what people are talking about. I just want to know: do people generally accept this character as AroAce? How do they feel about it? Things like that. And I saw so many vague allusions to controversies featuring the creator of this show. But after, like, an hour of researching to see if this person actually is horribly problematic, I couldn’t find much that was really solid and so bad that I’m like, “No, we shouldn’t even give any more attention to this thing.” Because some of these things were about older works. Like, apparently there was another comic or show or something — like Zoo-something.

Royce: ZooPhobia.

Courtney: I don’t know what was problematic about that, but some people say there were problematic things about it. [laughs]

Royce: That’s actually where Alastor’s character originates from.

Courtney: Oh, really.

Royce: I did a very quick search while we were sitting here recording and saw a broken link for the comic, so I don’t know if it’s even still up or if it’s been mirrored anywhere. I didn’t search hard enough to find out. But apparently, it ran for long enough that there were some characters that were introduced and then scrapped instead of becoming a larger part of the plot. And Alastor, in a similar but not identical appearance to how he is presented in Hazbin Hotel, was a deer demon in this IP, and that character concept was sort of a loose combination of two other prior scrapped character concepts, one of which was a sort of Lovecraftian Eldritch Horror being that mainly manifested as a red and black deer.

Courtney: Mmm.

Royce: And so you look to that, the Alastor in ZooPhobia was a cannibal who feed on other deer, so some of those characteristics have been brought with the character concept into Hazbin Hotel.

Courtney: So, that’s actually really interesting to know, and that’s going to be more good context for some of the things I’m about to mention. Because I was like, “I can’t dig into every work this creator has ever done.” [laughs] I don’t have the time or desire to do that. But some of these controversies were more vague than others. Some people were saying different and conflicting things. Some of these controversies were over 10 years old, and I don’t feel like things should be held over someone’s head forever. And some were as simple as, like, “Oh, everyone’s mad because they recasted the voice actors from the pilot when they got a deal with Amazon Prime.” And it’s like, that just seems like something that happens in media [laughs], so. People, like, calling the creator problematic for that… like, some of it seemed immediately, on the surface level, to just be a stretch.

Courtney: And other things I was seeing, it’s like, I don’t know if these are made up or not, or if these are really old, or if this was something that someone made up, or if this is something that was said on one of these numerous multi-hour livestreams that I am not going to sit through and watch all of them [laughs]. And some seemed frivolous. Some were, like, entire posts or entire videos debunking all these controversies. “People just don’t like this creator, and I’m going to debunk all of these controversies.” And it was just all too much.

Courtney: And, like, honestly, please, please, fandom people, do me a favor, and if there are actually very problematic people, please don’t water down or muddy the real harm that may have been done by a creator by piling on every single tiny little nitpick you can possibly think of. Because for those of us who are not as online, who haven’t been as present in these particular niche spaces, it doesn’t actually help to educate us at all. I spent so much time being like, “There must be a reason why so many people think this is so problematic, but I can’t get to the heart of it, because there is just so much trash to wade through.” [laughs] And, for that matter, like, try not to water down genuine discourse about representation with opinions about identities that you don’t hold. Like, boosting voices for people who do hold those identities I think is so much better.

Courtney: Because some things that I did find that I just, truthfully, did not have enough time to explore in-depth before recording this. So, if there is anyone out there who has had your finger on the pulse for a long time and you think this creator is the most problematic person in the world and you know all the receipts for why that is, I’d ask, just, like, please don’t hold it against me. I tried. There is so much out there. And it’s not even like, online, we’re playing a game of telephone where, like, the next person exaggerates something, the next person gets something a little bit wrong. This is like, these are branching, interweaving, multiple conversations [laughing] of telephone happening at once. It’s really quite absurd for someone who hasn’t been here to watch it play out for years.

Courtney: So, the only things I found where it’s like, “Yeah, I would want to know more about this if it was more easily accessible” comes back to you saying that Alastor had a previous iteration as like a deer demon, because some of the other things I’ve seen revolve around Alastor. I saw so many people say that he is canonically mixed race Creole. And that was another one where I was like, “You use the word ‘canonically.’” [laughs] He has Creole vibes. I would buy Creole. He definitely has Southern vibes. He definitely has, like, Louisiana, New Orleans vibes at least. But mixed race what? Mixed race what? I saw some people saying, “Black and white.” I saw some people saying “Black and Indigenous.” And I was like, “Well, now I just saw two completely separate things, and neither of those were stated in the actual material I watched!” So where did this come from? And, like, did someone just make this up and other people are running with it? I saw wiki pages that said he’s mixed race Creole. Who put that on the wiki page? And, it’s like, if that was stated, if the creator said in a livestream somewhere at one point, “Alastor is mixed race Creole,” I’m not going to find that. I’m not going to look for it. I’m not going to seek it out. Most people are not.

Courtney: So I saw people, like, praising the creator also for, like, “Oh, good representation for a mixed race Creole character!” And it’s like, is he? [laughs] Is he that? Especially when we have, like Louis from the latest adaptation of Interview with the Vampire, the TV show. Like, that is a much more fleshed-out Creole character, I think. And that one has a really weird relationship to its source material and Ace identity as well, because the new adaptation removed any Ace — or at the very least, sexless — element of that character, which I’m not pleased about. But they did improve on the character in other ways. Because the character was originally a racist white man. They made him a Black Creole man and handled the facets of his identity pretty well, where they didn’t just cast a Black actor but treat the character exactly the same. No, they changed elements of his backstory and his family history to make it feel like a more realistic Black character from that time and place. So while they mess some things up in the adaptation, they also improved on other things, so it’s a real mixed bag there.

Courtney: I saw some Tweets talking about, like, “Oh, the abundance of diversity in this show! This show has a Latina lesbian and a mixed race Creole AroAce and an Asian woman.” And I was like, “Wait, who?” Do you know who the Asian woman is? I don’t know what character they were talking about, but it was a Tweet just, like, rattling off all the different races and ethnicities that there were, and some of them, I was like, “I don’t even know who you’re talking about, and you didn’t tell me in the Tweet either.”

Royce: No, but I wonder — I was just looking at the cast earlier, and Niffty was voiced by a half Japanese voice actress.

Courtney: Okay.

Royce: And I wonder in how many cases the ethnicity of the in-world character is matched to the voice talent.

Courtney: Amir is not mixed race Creole [laughs] as the voice actor of Alastor. I can tell you that. So, yeah, like, that was a weird one. And so, that was another one where it’s like, I don’t have the time or energy to look this up, but did the creator on a livestream say, “Yes, this character is Asian?” Did someone just look at a voice actor and say that? Or was it a super fast one-off line that hinted at something that I missed, because sometimes the dialogue just comes quickly?

Courtney: Because at least with Vaggie, you have the taco comment — like, “Oh, is that supposed to be racist?” So now I know that saying “taco” derogatorily at her could be a racist thing and not just a sexist thing. And then you also back that up by having her occasionally slip into Spanish. So we know there’s something to that character. But if there was an Asian reference to another character, I don’t think it was backed up as often as we got from Vaggie, because I missed it if it was there.

Courtney: But, to Alastor’s claim of being mixed race Creole — which I don’t even know if that came from the creator or not, or if that just sprang from the fandom somewhere — two of the things that I saw some people criticizing it for: sometimes, when he grins very wickedly and sort of dips a little more into demon mode and his face gets a little distorted and maybe he’s doing some magic, he’ll get these, like, little symbols behind him that just pop up for a second. And some, but not all, of those symbols are Voodoo symbols.

Courtney: And on a surface level, like, yeah, he’s giving Southern, New Orleans vibes. So there are some people in the fandom discourse saying, like, “He was a practitioner and follower of Voodoo in life, so of course that would follow over into death.” But then I saw, like, not all of these symbols are even Voodoo symbols. Like, actual Voodoo symbols got put next to non-Voodoo symbols. So people were saying that’s just basically coopting the aesthetic and that’s not actually trying to represent Voodoo as a religion and as a practice. And then there was a criticism of, you know, Voodoo has historically been seen as, like, evil witchcraft and very villainized and very demonized, and a lot of that mindset does stem from white supremacy.

Courtney: And so I can see some of those criticisms. And when I say, like — please don’t water this down with opinions if you don’t come from these groups. Because I was trying to find actual people who follow Voodoo as a religion — specifically New Orleans or Louisiana Voodoo, because that is different from Haitian Vodou. I at least know a little bit about the historical context of Louisiana Voodoo being sort of an amalgamation of Haitian Vodou and incorporating elements of Catholicism and other influences, and just sort of the history and culture and time and place that led to that iteration. But I saw some people saying, “The only people who are mad about this Voodoo depiction are white people who don’t follow Voodoo and don’t know a damn thing about it.” Because it is a closed practice, too. It’s a closed religion. It’s not like Christianity, where if you show up in a church and say, like, “Here I am, I’ve accepted Jesus into my life,” everyone will be like, “Yes! We got another one.” Like, that’s not how that works. [laughs]

Courtney: So, from what I can tell, the few voices I was able to find, mixed opinions. Some people said, like, “I didn’t see anything problematic about it. Maybe it’s a little trashy, but it’s not wildly terrible.” And then I saw some people saying, like, “Yeah, this was not a great depiction, because we have this horrible demon and these symbols are showing up when he’s doing evil acts.” But you also said the word “Eldritch” earlier, Royce, and some of his powers do see much more an Eldritch influence. Because, like, he’ll open a portal in the ground and tentacles will come up, and so that’s also a very different visual. So I can see where some of those criticisms are coming from. Some people were making the assertion that people are making it too big of a deal than it is.

Courtney: But the last one was another where I was like, “This would be something I had a much stronger opinion of if I could verify if this came from the creator or if someone just said this and people ran with it and played telephone all over the fandom with it.” Someone made the assertion that Alastor was based off of a creature whose name I’m not going to say, but it starts with a W, and a lot of white people in a modern context would recognize this name and think, “Oh, that’s just a cryptid. I’ve read about this in horror novels. I’ve seen about this in horror movies or short films or series online.” But it is a creature that is from Indigenous North American Algonquin-speaking people, who — you will primarily hear from them that you are not supposed to even say the word of this creature. You shouldn’t type it out online. If people do type it out online, they normally censor at least one, if not all, of the vowels. And I simultaneously saw someone saying, “This is just a little too close for comfort, because he’s kind of a deer creature” — this creature is often depicted with antlers, if not outright, a deer skull, face and head — “and he’s a cannibal.”

Courtney: And when I read that I was like, is he a cannibal? Because he’s friends with the cannibals and he knows the cannibals. But Alastor actually eating in the TV show? What I remembered most was Vaggie came into his room, and he had magically modified his room to have an entire forest inside it in the back, and he just had this little round dining table set up with a deer carcass on top of it, and he was just having a lovely little outdoor fine dining experience for himself, with, like, a knife and fork, eating from this full-on deer carcass. And I was like, “Well, I saw him eating a deer and being friends with the cannibals, but do I remember him actually eating people?”

Royce: I feel like there were occasions when the mass of tentacles that would come up when he was in full combat mode, you’d hear like a slurping or a burping sound once the battle had fallen and there were just pieces of people all around.

Courtney: Well, that’s not him, because he gets done with the battle and he’s like, “Let’s have some jambalaya! I’m hungry!” [laughs]

Royce: I’d have to rewatch the scene. I got the feeling that they were a little connected.

Courtney: Mmm.

Royce: I think that that scene is the only instance in the nine episodes we see that are explicit. In the webcomic, he goes to a butcher specifically asking for venison and then ends up overtly devouring the butcher himself —

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: — and saying, “Well, this doesn’t taste as good as the venison I wanted.”

Courtney: So we at least have that. So there is that depiction.

Royce: And going back to the character’s origins in Zootopia, it appears —

Courtney: Zootopia? [laughs]

Royce: Not Zootopia. In ZooPhobia — very different IP.

Courtney: [laughs] Very different, yes.

Royce: Alastor was, from what I read, a cannibal who consumed other deer.

Courtney: Which, as someone who was a human on earth, who is now a deer demon, is that cannibalism to eat other deer? I don’t know. But, so, the thing is —

Royce: Or to eat other demons.

Courtney: Right. So that argument I was seeing, with someone saying, “This is just a little too close for comfort — that he has antlers, he’s this deer demon, and he’s a cannibal — clearly he was inspired by this.” And then, now, you’re telling me that, you know, he was inspired from earlier characters in different works. So maybe there was a big series of things that eventually led up to this character being the way he is.

Courtney: I saw someone say — and I couldn’t find the livestream, whether it was an art stream or Q&A or something — where someone asked if Alastor was supposed to be this character. And they said the creator said something along the lines of, like, “Not specifically, but he does have some elements of that creature,” and I don’t know if that is enough to say, like, “Oh, the creator was actually inspired by this creature to make Alastor the way he is,” Or if Alastor came to be, and then someone else was like, “Hey, this kind of seems like this other thing,” and maybe the creator was like, “Yeah, I can see some similarities.” I didn’t get enough context to know. I really did not. So those are things that may be worth researching more.

Courtney: But I think that is a really good segue into — especially if you don’t know what creature I’m talking about. I’m going to give you a resource here, and then you can do further research on your own. I would like to… Because we have so many problems — I have so many problems. You don’t. You are widely beloved by the masses. I have problems logging off of episodes and signing off and ending. So, and I also want to boost more Ace and Aro creators, and we started quite some time ago the MarketplACE for Aro and Ace small businesses. We have this database always available on our website. You can go to it, you can sort through it, you can even use some search tags if you’re looking for a specific type of item, and we’ve got well over 100 shops on this market, and we have an abundance of talent here. And ever since we started it, I would periodically just shout out some of these creators on our social media account. But I’m not going to be on social media as often, so I think we should start ending episodes with a MarketplACE vendor of the day. We can shout out a person we really love, someone we have shopped from or has artwork we’ve admired, and we can put all the links, as usual, in the show notes, so other people can go check them out too.

Courtney: And it just so happens we have a MarketplACE vendor called Mushki Arts who has original comics and art by a Two-Spirit mixed Indigenous Ace. This creator is also nonbinary, trans, disabled, Aromantic. And we have purchased a couple of small comics zines from this creator. I purchased one that is about Aspec identity called We Are Not Broken. I thought that was a lovely one. But there is one called Some Call Me The… the creature that starts with a W that I’m not going to say aloud. And it’s beautiful artwork, but it also tells sort of the story — not only of the lore and beliefs of this creature, but it touches on a bit of the appropriation by non-Indigenous people for what this creature is sort of become and warped into, and I think it’s quite lovely. And, as an Indigenous and Two-Spirit AroAce here, these are the kind of voices we should be listening to when we’re trying to learn about creatures like this or beliefs like this.

Courtney: And… so, even though those are the two that we have purchased, you know, Mushki Arts used to have a Ko-fi account where you could actually buy, like, physical comics and zines, so we have those physical ones. As far as I can tell the Ko-fi account doesn’t seem to be active anymore, but I’ll put a link to their website. You can see their Webtoons and Tapas. You can read some of these on here for free. You can also join their Patreon. Just really lovely work that we have enjoyed. An artist and MarketplACE vendor we have personally shopped from, and I think you should check them all out.

Courtney: So let me know what you think about the featured MarketplACE vendor of the day. I’m excited. I think this is a great way to showcase more Aro and Ace small business owners and, as always, it’s gonna take a long time to get through here. We’re coming up on, like, 150 shops, so it’s going to be a long time before we can get to everyone. So definitely don’t wait. You can head over to the MarketplACE at any time you want to shop for anything for yourself, gifts for others. And if you yourself are an Aro and/or Ace small business owner, you can also find a form to fill out if you would like to be considered to be added to our MarketplACE.

Courtney: So that’s all I’ve got! Take it away, Royce. [laughs]

Royce: Goodbye everyone.