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Have You Seen Any Asexual Characters In Your Favourite TV Shows? Me Neither!

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Television has a way of depicting characters that are “relatable”.

The relatable trope in Western media is usually represented by a white, cis-het man, with more than half of his sense of humour based on misogyny and queerphobia. Of course, a “softer” side of such a man is depicted as well, making him a subject of sympathy and love for the audience.

Joey and Chandler (played by Matt Le Blanc and Matthew Perry respectively)—lovable morons, or misogynistic men-children, or both? Representational image. Photo credit:

Think Chandler from the famous TV show “FRIENDS”. It doesn’t take much effort for a writer to create a problematic character who also puts the audience at ease.

To watch such content is to conveniently normalise the idea that the only story worth watching is that of cis-het people. This might be one of the reasons why an identity like asexuality has not found its way to mainstream media, yet.

Bojack Horseman Did A Fine Job

A writer can only bring authenticity to their work by making sure that whatever they are writing does not fall prey to whatever “sells” in the market… After all, the media industry intends to profit from keeping its audience deluded in narratives that only provide solace to the ones who are already comfortable.

Some shows, however, have tried to break barriers like these by employing genuine “relatability” and not the kind that is usually manufactured by the media.

With a diverse variety of characters, Netflix’s “Bojack Horseman” is a good example of a show like this. One of the main characters is “Todd”, an asexual person who comes into his own throughout the course of the show.

Todd, a character from the show “Bojack Horseman” came out as asexual in a 2017 episode. Here, he is showing off his profile on a dating app meant for asexual people. Representational image. Photo credit: Film Daily.

Bojack Horseman has depicted asexuality on screen pretty holistically. From the time Todd wasn’t sure of his asexuality in “That Went Well”, to him finally feeling comfortable about using the term “asexual” for himself in “Hooray! Todd Episode!”, the show managed to capture the entire process of someone figuring out sexuality, beautifully.

Just because Todd is asexual, doesn’t mean the show reduced him to his lack of sexual attraction to others. He goes on to date many people in the show: allosexuals and asexuals, both. He also realises his passion for childcare and becomes his friend Princess’ Carolyn’s nanny.

Where Does Indian Media Stand?

When it comes to asexuality, its representation in the media has been extremely less, so much that many people don’t even know that the A in LGBTQIA+ stands for asexuality.

More so in India, where conservatism around sex is blatantly highlighted on screens and ironically, asexuality is invisibilised. And of course, the sharp difference between the both is never discussed.

Yes, the Indian version of the relatable characters is quite typical too, presumably an upper caste, rich man with conventional good looks. Complimentary to this would be a plot where he is trying to find himself, spiritually, in his own isolated existence.

Obviously, he has a heteronormative relationship with a girl, which only aids his own growth and nothing else. 

Something almost every Indian millennial or gen Z person will have noticed is the sharp discomfort that arises in our homes and families, whenever some idea depicted on TV is unfamiliar to them.

For instance, a film where a woman has a keen interest in exploring her sexual self. Paradoxically, a film where she has no interest in exploring her sexual self would also be seen as odd.

The Humane Struggle Of Finding Yourself

Of course, revolutions don’t happen on TV screens, but even a small effort into the representation of the diverse identities can help both, individuals who associate with these identities and those who don’t, to understand themselves and the world around them better.

In pop culture, the idea of “sex” is either too glamourised or too stigmatised. Hence, asexuality hasn’t found the place it must rightfully claim.

Struggles aren’t meant to be just showcased, but showcasing them has an ability that cannot be replaced: of appealing to the individual in a way that no other medium can; of initiating a dialogue about these struggles, with the hope that it gains recognition.

Activists like Meghna Mehra, the first asexual student leader studying at Delhi University, speak up so that perhaps someone at the other end of the country wondering about their asexuality, can begin to understand themselves a little better.

Meghna Mehra, the first asexual student leader of India. Representational image. Photo credit: @comrade_meghna, Instagram.

How Do We Proceed From Here?

When we as the audience constantly stay aware and critical of the ideas we are being subjected to, it is only then can we hope to make our spaces truly inclusive and diverse, be it in popular culture or our very own neighbourhoods.

We need to view realities beyond our own lives and recognise diversity, which is much more colourful than the dullness of the “black and white” characters we have been programmed to relate to.

Maybe, it is time we move beyond Kabir from Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani and Chandler from FRIENDS, and offer the screen to the ones we haven’t heard from, in a while.

Perhaps, we can talk about Jughead, from Archie Comics, whose asexual identity was erased in a Netflix show based on the comic: “Riverdale”?

Featured image is for representational purposes only.

Note: The author is part of the current batch of the Writer’s Training Program

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        A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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