Last year when I blogged about asexuality, I talked about how much representation we do and don’t have in the media, and how the portrayals could potentially and actually do affect the asexual community.
I used Sheldon Cooper, Sherlock Holmes and Lady Gaga as examples, because those at the time were probably the most visible to a mass audience and fan base. A year on, and, well, hmm… Let’s start with Sheldon, shall we?
Sheldon Cooper is a fictional character from The Big Bang Theory. Now, I’ve not seen the show since before the last time I blogged about this exact same thing. I saw up to where Amy came into it, and Sheldon kept stating that she wasn’t his girlfriend, she was a friend who was a girl. Sounds ridiculous, but can make all the difference in the asexual community.
It was never explicitly said that Sheldon was asexual. The closest we got was when his friends talked about “His Deal”, meaning what he was ~into~, gender inclination wise, and his best friend Leonard said he didn’t think he had a “Deal”, implying asexuality. But it was enough to go on for the time being, because it’s the closest a show had got to saying “This character is asexual”.
The thing is, and this is where it gets a bit muddy, asexuals do have relationships. Asexuals have sexual relationships, even. But a year on, they have Sheldon in a relationship with a character who isn’t asexual and any changes in the nature of their relationships seem to be played for laughs. It’s no longer just a question of whether this character is asexual or not, it’s a question of how many of this characters oddities affect his romantic life. As I’ve said, I’ve not seen the episodes, but if TV Tropes are anything to go by, he’s getting more and more romantically and sexually involved with his now more-of-a-girlfriend-than-just-a-friend and is more likely just repressing that side because, well, in-show reasons are probably down to scientific reasons. Hygiene, cleanliness, waste of time when he could be figuring out the higgs-boson particle.
Out of show, though, in Meta Land, it’s probably just to make fun of the character by saying “Oh look how weird he is”.
It leaves those of us who are asexual and don’t have sex and so on and so forth in the dark with a bit of a sour taste in our mouths. Now, of course, he could be demisexual, he could be a grey-A, his sexuality could have changed due to sexuality being fluid. But this isn’t reality, this is Chuck Lorre land where things aren’t that complex. It wouldn’t surprise me if Sheldon having sex was treated as a phenomenal event as he finally transcends from Wierdsville into Normal Land.
I was never too happy with Sheldon being a portrayal of an asexual in the first place, just because of the way they treated it as a part of his quirks and characteristics. It was like the icing on the cake. But it was better than nothing. Now if people were to use him as an example of an asexual, I don’t think many asexuals would be happy about it.
Next up is Sherlock Holmes. Now, given the time and era that the stories were originally written in, it was also never said outright whether the character was asexual, just that he had no interest in relationships. There probably wasn’t even a word back then for asexuality, they barely understood homosexuality, so the description leaves a gap for people to fill. It might mean he had his heart broken pre-canon and it left him disinterested in trying again, it could mean he wasn’t interested in relationships but used, erm, women of service if you get my drift. It could mean anything if you didn’t want to go for the flat, straight forward meaning of the words “not interested”. The lack of a known and defined term isn’t proof that he wasn’t asexual.
Nobody can say for sure, but there’s plenty of reason to believe ACD was trying to portray a man who didn’t care about sexual relationships with men or women, only the work and his enemies and of course, his dearest friend John Watson.
There’s also plenty to go on in the canon to suggest he’s gay. Maybe he’s not interested in relationships because homosexuality was a punishable crime during that time. You look for something and you’ll find it in some nook or cranny of one of the stories. Is it likely that Conan-Doyle intended to write a gay romance story incidental to a detective series? Again, there’s enough there to suggest yes as there is enough there to say that’s a ludicrous suggestion.
Last time, I talked about the BBC modernisation of the stories, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. There were many reasons to believe that the BBC version was portraying an asexual Sherlock. Even after series two aired. The problem is, of course, are the writers.
They’ve written scenes that imply he’s asexual. The awkward dinner at Angelo’s with the awkward “married to my work” conversation being the first that comes to mind (which I also mentioned last time), followed with the un-aired pilot’s version of that scene where it’s made even more clear that he doesn’t do relationships. Even the Irene Adler episode, which was turned into a story about a dominatrix blackmailing people to save her own life.
Many might say that, due to the chemistry and the nakedness and Sherlock’s interaction with her, and the way John treated Sherlock’s interaction with her. that he felt something for her. He certainly gained some respect for her, even if it wasn’t really how it went in the canon, but even if he did care for her on some level, caring doesn’t automatically mean a sexual interest. Maybe to sexuals, but not to asexuals, and that’s the problem. That’s the very nature of asexuality, caring for people without a hint of a sexual connection.
Personally, I don’t see it. She was a clever person who got into a bad situation who gave Sherlock the run around, but I can’t see him being interested in her beyond a case the same way I can’t see him being interested in Moriarty beyond a case. He didn’t do anything to encourage her interest, and as we know from one scene, he didn’t even reply to her texts.
I think there was more in that episode to further the asexual possibility, or the gay rumours, than there was for romantic interest in Irene Adler.
But then the writers say “Oh, well, you know, we didn’t intend for that to be the case. He is a sexual person, but he’s too busy to be interested in it.” and interviews that suggest that asexuality might just be a bit too weird for Sherlock Holmes.
Well, I know plenty of asexuals who say that exact thing. Yeah, they could have sex if they wanted to, but there’s better things to be dong. It, for them, is exactly what makes them asexual. I’m a bit offended by this brush off, when scholars and literary fanatics have plenty of source material out there that suggest that is also exactly what makes Sherlock Holmes asexual, and that the only reason we don’t know for sure is because ACD never said. (And we’ve come full circle)
Don’t get me wrong, I adore Cumberbatch and his acting, but he has a hell of a case of verbal diarrhoea, and Moffat can be just downright offensive with his opinions of the asexual community.
Unfortunately, like I said in my first post this week, more visibility has led to a lot more anti-asexual comments thrown around. I still think Sherlock Holmes, in most formations, comes across as asexual. Maybe not aromantic, but definitely, in my eyes, asexual. Even if Gatiss, Moffat, Thompson and Cumberbatch don’t agree, I hope they’ll remain just as respectful as the canon not to screw with it too much in the third series and aim for a romantic interest for Sherlock. It was never in the books, and Moffat and Gatiss are Canon fanboys, so there’s hope. But there’s also an audience to please and there’s plenty of people hoping for romance between Sherlock and Molly…
Sherlock Holmes of the Elementary series, however, apparently made it very clear that he was not asexual. I won’t go on to comment as I haven’t seen it for myself, also I don’t want a comparison between the two versions of Modern!Sherlock to take over.
I think the worst hit to the asexual community this year was probably the episode of House. I’ve not seen the episode because I gave up on House a few years ago, but I know the outrage it caused.
This was the first time Asexuality was brought up on a hit television show that hits a very wide audience across the world. It would have been the first many people will have even heard of asexuality. Television shows, whether they mean to or not, do help shape some people’s opinions about things. They’d already seen the effect it had on the medical profession, whether it was people self-diagnosing themselves with conditions they’d seen on the show and being wrong, sometimes being right, or influencing the level of standards patients expected from their doctors. Even some research facilities reported a demand for tests and equipment that worked the way they do on the show and actually aiming to create/recreate them (the same way Star Trek invented CDs).
Given all of that, which they are aware of, you’d think it would have aimed to treat it with respect, but no.
The asexual characters were disbelieved, mocked and then proven to not be asexual, just as House had said all along. It showed asexuality to be caused by a brain tumour, and his wife just lied to make him happy. It furthered the opinion that people can’t possibly know they’re not interested in sex until they can try it properly, it furthered the opinion that asexuality was something to cure and most importantly, it portrayed asexual people as not really existing.
Now, people say it’s just television. No one in their right mind would believe or take anything away from that episode, but I am telling you as a member of the asexual community that it did have an effect. It validated all those people who don’t believe in asexuality, and I know it because I’ve seen comments that say so.
And worse, when people of the asexual community complained and demanded an apology, the response from the general public was “I don’t know why they’re so upset.”
If that was any other minority, there’d be outrage in the general public too. But no, because asexuality still isn’t understood, this portrayal was allowed and worse, accepted.
No apology can reverse that.
So, who do we have left who may or may not be asexual in the mass media, hitting a wide audience?
Well, Lady Gaga’s suspiciously quiet as of late but at least she hasn’t announced she’s no longer asexual.
Castiel, the angel from Supernatural is apparently asexual. He’s an angel. I don’t know much about the show, but it is a big hit so that definitely counts if it’s true. There’s not much else out there.
There’s plenty around in the small corners of the internet but as for reaching the masses? We’re once again left wanting.
Thank you for reading!