Television shows have struggled with some negative media attention every time they try to make some major adjustment to a character’s sexuality. Like remember what happened on the first season of NBC’s Heroes when a character played by Thomas Dekker came out as not gay?
Oh, and we shouldn’t even mention how much George Takei didn’t like that Star Trek: Beyond made his original character Sulu gay.
Well, it hasn’t even premiered yet, but it seems The CW’s dark retelling of the comic series Archie is suffering from some sexuality-changing controversy involving a key character: Jughead.
Archie’s best friend is portrayed by Cole Sprouse in Riverdale, a role Sprouse earned the same day the comics themselves finally revealed Jughead Jones’ sexuality: He’s asexual. Meaning he’s really not interested in men or women.
Yet, Riverdale is not respecting that change, and Sprouse told Hollywood Life he’s not happy that he’ll be playing a bit of a womanizer in the new series.
“Jughead will have romances with women … and burgers. I come from an educational environment that really praises, as do I, the forms of representation that are otherwise lacking in our public media. But at the end of the day, I still had to do my job.”
In the comics, although asexuality was not really a known thing when the Archie strip started in 1939, Jughead always showed little interest in anything romantic, and instead seemed to have a pure love only for hamburgers. It was something the comics didn’t fully identify until 2015 when the comics were relaunched with a bit more of a modern feel.
Riverdale was developed by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, best known for his work on the Fox series Glee as well as HBO’s Big Love and another short-lived high-profile series for the cable channel, the gay-themed Looking.
However, Aguirre-Sacasa made it clear from the beginning that while we are seeing the characters from Archie, Riverdale will certainly be different than what people might expect. Fox originally was attached to produce the show, but passed before the series went to pilot, and The CW picked it up instead.
Sprouse says he’s been fighting behind the scenes – as much as a young actor can just starting out – to return Jughead to his asexual roots. But he also hopes that maybe because television audiences might not be that familiar with asexuality, there’s a chance viewers might have a chance to see Jughead grow into acceptance of who he is.
“I think there’s still a lot of room in Riverdale for that. Asexuality is not one of those things in my research that is so understood at face value, and I think maybe the development of that narrative could also be something very interesting and very unique, and still resonate with people, and not step on anyone’s toes.
“I think sexuality, especially, is one of those fluid things where oftentimes we find who we are through certain things that happen in our lives.”
Sprouse, by the way, has been a part of filmmaking since as far back as he can remember. He and twin brother Dylan Sprouse first appeared in the 1999 Adam Sandler film Big Daddy when they were barely in elementary school. They later starred in the Disney channel series The Suite Life of Zack & Cody.
Although the Sprouse brothers took a break from acting to attend New York University in 2010, both said they wanted to return to the work when school was done. And Cody Sprouse, at least, appears to be doing that with what could very well be a ground-breaking series for The CW.
Riverdale also stars K.J. Apa as Archie Andrews, Camila Mendes as Veronica Lodge, and Lili Reinhart as Betty Cooper.
Riverdale premieres on The CW on Jan. 26.
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