Ace Media Analysis & Meta-commentary

A compilation of links to ace readings, analysis, and discussion of fiction and fan communities, including essays about interpreting individual characters as ace, evaluating canon portrayals of asexuality, and identifying ace-related themes. If you have suggestions on what to add, please link them in the comments!

[Crossposted to Pillowfort. Rebloggable on Tumblr. Preview image created from a photo by Teslariu Mihai.]

General Observations & Ideas

Interpreting Individual Characters as Ace

Evaluating Canonically-Ace Characters

Identifying Ace-Related Narrative Themes


19 responses to “Ace Media Analysis & Meta-commentary

  • Blue Ice-Tea

    Oh, and I have to plug this post about Luke Skywalker, because I love it so much!
    Original version: https://elizabeth-hoot.livejournal.com/89060.html
    Pictures version: https://anghraine.tumblr.com/post/42741370300/ace-manifesto-luke-skywalker

  • Blue Ice-Tea

    Don’t know how you feel about self-promotion, but here’s my very long essay about Scully from The X-Files, which includes discussion of asexual resonances in her character:
    https://realmofasexualpossibility.wordpress.com/2019/02/23/to-dana-scully-on-her-55th-birthday/

    Also, here’s another Star Wars one, this time about Rey (would fall under “Narrative Themes”):
    http://eleven-thirtyeight.com/2019/06/rey-awakens-an-interpretation-of-the-journey-to-adulthood/

    You got any criteria for what you want to include? ‘Cause I could probably think of a lot more.

    • Coyote

      Thanks! Added those too. Like the subheadings say, they can be about general observations and ideas about asexuality in fiction or fandoms, interpreting characters as ace, evaluating characters who are canonically ace, or identifying ace-related themes. I think it also should be something I can in good faith recommend, and preferably something long-form (at least a few paragraphs or so). Right now I think my first choice would be more about evaluating canon aces, since that’s the smallest section (and I know that stuff is out there; I just don’t have it on hand) — but any category is welcome.

  • sildarmillion

    I don’t have a Pillowfort account, so commenting here about your Simon/Kaylee (Firefly) post. I had written a post to express my frustration with Joss Whedon pairings here: https://sildarmillionsays.wordpress.com/2020/12/24/when-aces-feel-like-aliens-the-case-of-joss-whedon/

    I had wanted to write about Simon/Kaylee, but I didn’t find the right way to express my feelings. And I feel very happy to find your analysis of it! Reading it felt very comforting because all my friends seemed to think the pairing was cute while I kind of viscerally hated it and couldn’t find the words to express it.

    Also, since you welcome suggestions, I might have some stuff that may be relevant:

    1. I wrote about what an ace reading of Jane Austen could be like (but unfortunately didn’t have the time to do a close reading and in-depth analysis); the main takeaway of the piece is that I just realized that I enjoyed her work because I don’t think they’re particularly erotonormative. While I didn’t know what that meant of entailed back when I read Austen, I found myself less uncomfortable with her works compared to some other authors. https://sildarmillionsays.wordpress.com/2021/09/25/asexuality-in-jane-austen/

    2. This is a tag for a series of posts I wrote in which I examine movies from my personal ace fangirl perspective: https://sildarmillionsays.wordpress.com/tag/one-true-aspec-pairing/

    Not sure if these fit with the theme, but figured it couldn’t hurt to share. :) And also, this is a really great list and I look forward to coming back to read more of these!

    • Coyote

      Hey there, thanks for the links. Just so you know, the Simon/Kaylee post is also available on AO3. (Also, if you’re even 10% interested in getting a PF key, let me know. I have literally hundreds of the things.)

      For the Jane Austen post, I’d be willing to add that one to the list if you’d do me a favor and add a warning to the post about discussion of age gaps/pedophilia (just because it comes up; I know you offered a different interpretation though).

  • Linkspam: October 26th, 2021 | The Asexual Agenda

    […] coyote compiled a bunch of links on ace media analysis and meta-commentary. […]

  • Blue Ice-Tea

    I used to be able to access your “When She Loved Me” post, but now I’m getting a “You aren’t permitted to view this page due to privacy settings” message. That’s distressing, not only because I like the post but because I was planning to cite it in my upcoming CoA post.

    • Coyote

      Oh, sorry about that. I had to flip on concealed mode, which affects who can access my posts, in order to inhibit this one guy who doesn’t know what to do with his life besides spam. It’s kind of a long story; I won’t get into it. At the moment, if you want to be able to load the post, I’d need to follow you on PF, and I’m also planning to crosspost it to AO3 in the spring, but hopefully the need for concealment will be temporary. I’m glad you’re interested in that post, though! Do you need access to it in order to write your post, or were you just checking to make sure the link works?

      • Blue Ice-Tea

        Oh, okay. That sounds like a crummy situation for you. :(

        My post is all done, so I don’t need access to you article any more. I don’t actually discuss it in any depth, but I do borrow an idea from you, and I wanted to be able to link the article so people could see the idea in a different context. I don’t have a Pillowfort account, and even if I did it wouldn’t serve that purpose. For now I’ve put the link in but only people with PF accounts will be able to actually see your article. If you repost it on a more accessible platform, please let me know and I will link to that instead.

      • Blue Ice-Tea

        Could you tell me the url for the Przybylo article on “Asexual Resonances”? I’ve realised I should probably include a link to it.

  • Blue Ice-Tea

    I had thoughts about your Oz essay, and I thought I’d share here. I can’t access the essay any more, of course, but maybe that’s just as well, as it will force me to stick to a few basic observations. ;)

    First, I appreciate a lot of your commentary about Oz’s exit from the show. I had issues with the whole Veruca storyline too, and I agree that the other characters treated Oz unfairly.

    It might also be worth mentioning that I really liked Oz! I think from his introduction mid-Season 2 to his exit mid-Season 4 he was my favourite character of the series!

    I’ll admit, though, it never occurred to me to think of Oz as an ace-spectrum character. To be fair, when Buffy was originally on I’d never heard of asexuality. But even viewed in retrospect, Oz wasn’t one of the characters I’d have pointed at and said, “Maybe ace?” To me he came off as… sexual enough.

    Reading your argument, I can see how Oz comes off as ace compared to the other characters. Then again, is that more about how Oz is ace or about how the other characters are hyper-sexualised? If I think back to my own high school experience, most of the guys I knew were more like Oz than Xander. I mean, they might have thought like Xander; they might have been really sex-crazed inside their own heads. But, in practice, Oz’s respectful, gentle, non-pushy style seems much more in line with how I saw my male friends behave.

    (Though, to be fair, I didn’t date most of those guys. If I had, maybe I would have seen a different side of them.)

    Maybe that feeds into a larger discussion of how T.V. can warp our impressions. I started watching Buffy in Grade 8 and thought, “Oh, that’s how high schoolers behave!” Then I got to high school, and realised it was nothing like that. Similarly, Oz may come off as sex-averse or sex-neutral compared to his castmates, but if you took him out of the show and into real life, he’d probably seem normal. (Or still weird, but not on a sexual level.)

    So, building on your Toy Story 2 post and the CoA post I just published (https://acefilmreviews.wordpress.com/2021/11/17/viewing-aceness-canons-headcanons-and-icons/), I would be more likely to call Oz an allosexual character with asexual resonances. Partly because he does show an interest in sex (he’s the only one of the kids who’s explicitly not a virgin at the beginning of the series) but also because I think an allo interpretation of Oz actually allows for a more powerful critique of erotonormativity.

    If we read Oz as ace, then it becomes easy to dismiss Oz’s sexual reticence as a product of his asexuality. But I would say this “reticence” consists mostly in exercising some judgement and showing some consideration for his partner’s feelings. That shouldn’t be considered strange, or chalked up to a specific sexual orientation. Really, it should be considered perfectly normal, baseline behaviour.

    Instead of interrogating Oz and asking why he acts the way he does, I would rather interrogate the other characters’ behaviour. Why does Oz say “no” to sex with Willow? *Flip!* Why does Willow assume that something must be wrong every time her boyfriend doesn’t want to have sex??? I would say it’s less an issue of Oz being an ace character on a show full of allos and more an issue of Oz being a regular allo character on a show rife with toxic erotonormativity. That would allow Oz to be a representation for how erotonormativity hurts not only aces, but also allosexuals.

    Sorry, I’m not trying to crush your headcanon, or anything. We can all interpret characters how we like! I just wanted to explain why I prefer not to view Oz as ace-spectrum, and why I think reading him as allosexual might actually be very useful, even from an ace perspective.

    • Coyote

      I’m surprised at what kind of high school experience you must’ve had to describe your classmates as “gentle,” but hey, I’m glad for you on that. Taking the show as a whole… I can’t really tell to what extent Joss Whedon was depicting how he thinks things really are vs. exaggerating for comedy. A mix of both, I guess. Regardless of whether Oz’s behavior is “normal,” the show doesn’t treat it that way.

      I hope the ace reading in that post doesn’t come off as dismissive — and I don’t think of Oz’s reticence as a “product” of asexuality.* It’s the other way around. Ace resonances are produced by that reticence, especially given how he’s otherized for it by characters like Willow, Buffy, Devon, and Cordelia. And really, I don’t think his consideration becomes any less meaningful that way, since anyone standing up to that kind of pressure is its own kind of novelty.

      *Note I’m inclined to read Oz more as gray-asexual, not asexual, so that blurring of traits associated with asexuality and allosexuality is a part of my interpretation.

      • Blue Ice-Tea

        “I’m surprised at what kind of high school experience you must’ve had to describe your classmates as ‘gentle,’ but hey, I’m glad for you on that.”

        Heh. Yeah, to be fair I hung out mostly with what might be called the “geek” or “nerd” crowds; the people in other groups may have been different. Also, several (though by no means most) of my male friends would eventually come out as some kind of queer, which probably played a role in how they interacted with girls. And, as mentioned, I didn’t have much first hand experience of them in dating relationships.

        “I hope the ace reading in that post doesn’t come off as dismissive

        Oh, I don’t think you’re being dismissive. I’m just worried that someone – particularly an allosexual person – reading your post might be. This ties into broader concerns that I have and that I’ve alluded to more than once on my blog about the way asexuality is perceived in relation to wider society. The ideal is for asexuality to be used to critique sexual norms and highlight ways they’re oppressive. But the danger is that instead asexuality becomes a convenient box into which everyone who doesn’t conform to the norm gets dumped – removing them from our understanding of “normal” society and allowing the norms to become even more entrenched.

        “…I don’t think of Oz’s reticence as a ‘product’ of asexuality. It’s the other way around. Ace resonances are produced by that reticence, especially given how he’s otherized for it by [other characters].”

        Right. I’m with you on that, and totally comfortable seeing Oz as a site of “asexual resonances” regardless of how we understand his sexuality.

      • Blue Ice-Tea

        “Hmm. So a hypothetical reader might figure, ‘okay, so if a person turns down sex, you’re saying that’s an ace thing’?”

        Essentially, yes. I’d hope they wouldn’t, but… I do worry.

        Thanks for the links. This passage, in particular, is similar to what I’m getting at:

        “[I]f you only depict X experience in fiction if it is clearly labelled, might this cause people to go ‘oh, it’s bad that I’m like this, because it’s okay for X people to be like this because they’re X, but I’m not X, so in me it must still be unacceptable’; or for people to go ‘this trait would be acceptable in my acquaintance if they were X, but they haven’t told me they’re X, so it’s okay to think they’re weird and make fun of them.’ … Instead of depicting people who deviate from the norm to teach people that some people are innately born deviant from the norm and that’s okay because they can’t help it, why don’t we challenge the idea of a norm at all?”

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