If you’re a fan of the Archie comics or the TV adaptation Riverdale, you probably have an opinion or two regarding Jughead and his sexuality. It’s a topic that has been much talked about and a topic that, given recent developments, has garnered a lot of attention and a handful of controversy.
In the most-recent episode of The CW drama, the mystery surrounding the character’s sexuality -- is he asexual? Aromantic? Straight? Gay? Bi? -- was finally answered, much to some fan’s disappointment, with a simple kiss with Betty which he initiated. This narrative diverts from the recently announced narrative of the comics, in which he is asexual, a sexuality that lacks representation in almost all aspects of media.
Following the premiere of “Chapter Six: Faster, Pussycats! Kill! Kill!,” on March 2, Cole Sprouse, who portrays the comicbook character's TV counterpart, took to the internet to weigh in on the controversy.
“I think, first and foremost, this conversation deserves more time than something that we can quickly do here. There are two forms of representation Jughead has received over time," Sprouse stated. "In Zdarsky’s Jughead, he’s asexual. That’s the only Jughead where he is asexual. He’s aromantic in the digests, which is a different thing but deserves attention as well.
But what I found when I was really diving in -- because once we started putting Jughead and Betty together, I started doing research to see if that was a narrative that even existed in the digests, and it turns out it is. It’s a narrative that’s existed for a long time. There are a handful of digests in which Jughead would say things like, ‘Oh, Betty, if I did like women, I guarantee you would be the one I would marry outright. You are the best person around.’ He would say these things that are really romantic and cute with an appreciation for Betty and I think it’s become clear to me now that Roberto [Aguirre-Sacasa] has taken off with that trend.
While I think that representation is needed, this Jughead is not that Jughead. This Jughead is not Zdarsky’s Jughead and this Jughead is not the aromantic Jughead. This Jughead is a person who is looking for a kind of deeper companionship with a person like Betty and Betty ends up being this super nurturing, caring, care-taking person that with Jughead’s screwed-up past they end up diving into each other and it ends up being a beautiful thing.
How are people going to respond? Truthfully, they’re probably going to be quite incendiary about it at first. Do I think that’s ill-placed? No. Do I think they should give it a shot? Yeah, I do, because I think now — after filming thirteen episodes — it makes sense to me and, if it makes sense to me as the person who’s dumping so much time and especially so much argumentation into trying to represent Jughead correctly, if it makes sense to me, it will make sense to other people as well.”
What fuels the fire of this controversy and the anger and disappointment that many fans have felt given the reveal of Jughead’s sexuality is the lack of representation of LGBTQ+ characters on TV. With his sexuality being canonically asexual in the comics, fans had hope that that would follow his on-screen counterpart, especially considering that Sprouse himself had stated that he wished to portray that aspect. The controversy is rooted in the continuing fight for representation, a fight that has been gaining momentum.
But Cole Sprouse makes many valid points. Riverdale’s Jughead is not Zdarsky’s, and, while they may share many similarities, the two are not one in the same, just like the comics and the TV show are not one in the same.