Last June, Content Assistant Jules wrote a spotlight on two main characters from Freeform’s Everything’s Gonna Be Okay, Matilda and Drea. At the time, only the first season of the show had aired. Based on the evidence provided and an interview with the creator, all signs pointed to the two identifying as pansexual. In the year since, season 2 has aired, and the show made a point to clarify how each of them identifies. At the beginning of the season, Matilda emphatically announces that she is not sexually attracted to women and actually breaks up with Drea. However, a few episodes later, the two get back together and by the end of the season, the two actually end up married.
But how does this work? Well, season 2 fleshed out Drea much more and gave her the opportunity to develop as a character outside of her relationship with Matilda. Shortly after their breakup, as Matilda realizes she’s not sexually attracted to women, Drea realizes she’s not sexually attracted to anyone. But she still loves Matilda and agrees that they can keep being girlfriends and Matilda can have relations with different men as long as she still loves her.
They explicitly name her sexuality in the next episode, “California Banana Slugs.” Matilda invites a 26-year-old named Ian over for sex, y’know, as one does. Matilda’s family is concerned for Drea, but she says she doesn’t mind and that she’s not interested. She states that she identifies as homoromantic asexual. And that’s a big deal.
It’s rare for asexuality to be explicitly acknowledged in media as a valid sexuality. As the lack of sexual attraction, “asexual” is a label most writers avoid giving their characters, because they see it as a limitation for possible future stories. As such, any characters who don’t have sex just haven’t had sex. They’re virgins, or abstinent, or incels, anything other than the supposed impossibility that a character could just not experience sexual attraction. That’s why it was so exciting to not only hear Drea say she doesn’t want to have sex, but that she explicitly identifies as asexual.
Within Everything’s Gonna Be Okay, the show addresses the misconceptions and misunderstandings of asexuality. Later in the same episode, Matilda’s older brother Nicholas confesses he’s having a hard time wrapping his head around it. He tells Drea that he researched asexuality and that he kept looking for explanations, but all he could find was that it means a person doesn’t want to have sex. And Drea confirms that that’s about it. Nicholas validates her identity, and then goes on to say he doesn’t get it because for him, sex and love are so intertwined. Drea expands on the definition, saying she feels the same romantic feelings, but sex just isn’t involved. She just wants to be near people and hear them talking.
It’s not uncommon when explaining asexuality to hear, “But you just haven’t tried it yet!” and other such phrases that mostly boil down to a society that is so defined by sex and sexual relations. The idea that someone could just not want to have sex is seen as wrong, and some shows like House M.D. go so far as to have entire episode plots about disproving the existence of asexuality. But with Drea’s character, they realized they had an opportunity to portray asexuality in a way that wasn’t mocked, but understood and even celebrated.
In a recent interview with Nerds and Beyond, Lillian Carrier, who plays Drea, was asked about this development to Drea’s character. “My twin sister is asexual,” she replied. “It means a lot to her, so it means a lot to me. She has talked about how there is no representation of asexuality anywhere which made it so hard to figure out her sexuality. She is excited for an asexual autistic character to be on screen for maybe the first time. I am so grateful to be part of bringing Drea to life.”
Though its literal definition is the lack of sexual attraction, to say that people who identify as asexual are lacking in anyway is just missing the point. As Drea points out in the show, she feels the same intimacy and emotions with Matilda that others feel with their partners, she just doesn’t need sex to be involved. The more characters like Drea are shown as normal, or rather accepted, on television and in media, hopefully the more normalized asexuality will be in real life.
You can watch Everything’s Gonna Be Okay on Hulu or the Freeform app.