EDITOR’S NOTE: This article contains spoilers for BoJack Horseman season 4.
In the first episode of the season, we see more between Todd and Emily, his friend from Season 3 who previously tried to start a sexual relationship with him. Emily calls Todd “asexual,” but Todd says he doesn’t like labels. But by episode 3, “Hooray! Todd Episode!,” Todd is finally willing to accept that sometimes labels make things easier. He embraces his new identity as asexual, comes out to BoJack and shows up at an asexual meetup.
After the Season 3 finale, Aaron Paul, who voices Todd, told The New York Times his character was the first asexual (“ace”) character on TV. This isn’t entirely true, however. Sirens, a USA Network show about paramedics, featured an openly asexual recurring character, Voodoo. In a 2014 episode of Game of Thrones, Varys came out as asexual as well.
Other TV characters are thought to be ace without being officially declared such. In The Golden Girls, Rose said she never thought about sex before she was married. She also said she didn’t really understand sexual desire prior to losing her virginity.
Likewise, Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory was widely considered by fans to be asexual. Unfortunately that changed when the character had sex on-screen. (It should be stated, however, that Sheldon isn’t a great illustration of asexuality — his reluctance to have sex may have more to do with the character’s deep-seated misogyny.)
But Todd may be the first main character on a series to be openly asexual. And, as we see in the new season’s last episode, he may be ace but it looks like he’s also hetero-romantic. After he shows off his new business plan to Yolanda Buenaventura (played by Natalie Morales), an axolotl woman from the Better Business Bureau, she then asks if he’d like to go on a date. Todd says he’s asexual, and she replies that she knew that — she is, too.
(And if you’re wondering how she knew Todd was ace, you can see her at the bar at the asexual meetup.)
Admittedly, there’s a ‘very special episode’ vibe to the “Todd comes out” storyline. Characters at the asexual meetup explain the basic tenets of asexuality to Todd (and, by extension, the audience). Watching characters explain that asexual people can get married too comes off a little clunky.
Watching the scenes, you wonder if there are any ace people in the writer’s room. Though important, it does feel a little clinical, and there doesn’t seem to be much actual insight into what it means to be asexual. Still, BoJack Horseman has done something similar to early TV episodes handling homosexuality as something other than a punchline. As in the many shows of the 1970s tackling the topic, there’s a need to teach the audience what homosexuality/asexuality is, and that it’s undeserving of stigma.
Given that Riverdale famously backed off on Jughead’s asexuality, it’s nice to see TV making its early steps in accepting asexuality. While so far BoJack hasn’t been perfect in handling Todd’s coming out, it’s still an important moment in television. Hopefully a moment that will lead to more ace characters with a bit more nuance.