‘Riverdale’: Jughead’s Sexuality on the TV Series Has Comic Fans Split
When Riverdale was first announced, some fans of the original comic were skeptical. A live-action version of a classic cartoon was weird enough, but the fact that the CW’s version of the story would be considerably more mature and much, much darker made it a true risk. The risk is one that paid off as the show is now in its fifth season, and there’s even a rumored spinoff in the works. While the show has been a success beyond most expectations, there’s one element that has split fans. Riverdale obviously made a lot of changes to the original in order to make it fit the new format, but should they have left Jughead’s sexuality alone?
Jughead is a major character in both the comics and the show
In the comics, Jughead is best friends with protagonist Archie. He’s known for his sarcastic sense of humor and marching to the beat of his own drum. As a quirky guy, Jughead is frequently the target of jokes from his peers, but he typically takes them in stride. Food drives him, and he’s constantly eating. His persona is so pronounced that Vulture called him “one of the most distinctively idiosyncratic characters in the history of American comics.”
In the show, Jughead is portrayed by actor Cole Sprouse. While much of the show is surprisingly in line with the comics, there have certainly been some liberties taken with Jughead’s character. This portrayal is much broodier than the original, and the quirks — such as the constant need for food — are far less obvious.
Jughead’s sexuality has been altered for the show
One major difference between the Jughead of the comics and that of the show is the character’s relationship with women. The comics version of Jughead is seen as repulsed by girls and the dating world. In fact, many are convinced that the character is asexual. As CBR reports, Jughead was ahead of his time: “They just didn’t have a label for it, so they called him a misogynist. But he’s not a misogynist. He just watches his cohorts lose their minds on hormones.” This explanation came from Chip Zdarsky, who has written for the comics. He’s made Jughead’s asexuality a factual part of the plot.
Cole Sprouse has lobbied for his character to follow in comic Jughead’s footsteps and be portrayed as asexual as well, but the writers had other ideas. In the show, as ScreenRant reports, he’s dated Betty — something that would feel completely wrong in the comics.
Fans have mixed feelings about Jughead’s portrayal
A complex Reddit thread on the topic of Jughead’s sexuality has demonstrated that fans are torn about the portrayal. The original poster takes issue with the assumption that Jughead is, indeed, asexual to begin with. Noting that different authors can write a character differently, the post explains, “There are plenty of different explanations of his sexuality,” before pointing to the fact that even Zdarsky admits some of the iterations of Jughead have been interested in girls over the years.
Another commenter chimed in, “I totally agree with you. Jughead, in the 80+ years of Archie comics, has been written every which way. So which way should be canon???”
Still, for fans who wanted to see that representation of asexuality on the screen, the move wasn’t welcome: “I was really excited for asexual Jughead (being asexual) and it meant a lot to me. Jughead and Betty are incredibly cute, but it does feel pretty hurtful that so soon after the revelation in the comics, the big-deal TV adapt[ation] tossed that out.”
One commenter kept it quite simple by highlighting that regardless of which interpretation was correct, “Ace Jughead would have been a more interesting character than Straight Jughead.”