This is part of a series on tropes in webcomics with ace characters. To link or follow this series, please use the “ace webcomic tropes” tag on this blog.
Sometimes the only way you know a character is asexual is because the creator says so. When that happens, what do you call it?
When a creator makes a statement about an ambiguous aspect of canon, TV Tropes calls it the “Word of God“. TV Tropes also lists “Word of Gay” as referring to those times when the Word of God is specifically saying that a certain character is gay. Thus, when a creator says a character is ace, I’m calling that “Word of Ace”.
The most famous example of Word of Gay is when J. K. Rowling said that Albus Dumbledore was gay. While many people were happy to hear that a beloved character had been gay all along, it also raised many questions. First, is the author’s interpretation necessarily authoritative? After all, the author is just another reader, albeit the first one. Second, why couldn’t Rowling show this aspect of Dumbledore in the text itself?
Many people have complained about Rowling’s statement, because it seems a poor excuse for queer representation. Some people have even called it “queerbaiting”, meaning that it’s an attempt to appeal to fans of queer fiction, without giving them real queer representation.
When it comes to the Word of Ace, however, we tend to have lower standards. We’ll take any ace representation we can find, even if it’s only by Word of Ace.
There are also many situations where it may be difficult to unambiguously convey that a character is ace within a story. Perhaps the ace character doesn’t understand their own experience, or doesn’t have the words to describe it. Perhaps the author just doesn’t want to have an Ace Explanation scene. In a way, the Word of Ace actually widens the set of ace experiences that can be portrayed in fiction.
There are also a few wrinkles added by the webcomic medium. Most webcomics are works in progress, and perhaps the aceness of a character will eventually become relevant, but hasn’t yet. Advertising ace representation upfront may encourage readers to stick around in hopes that it will eventually appear in the story. It’s also common for artists to mention that characters are aro/ace on their cast pages, or in illustrated Q&A sessions, which might or might not be regarded as part of the comic text.
In principle, I am not bothered by comics where characters are only known to be aro or ace by the author’s say-so. However, in practice, I mostly find these comics via listings, and there is an ever-present risk that a webcomic under the aro/ace tag doesn’t actually have any aro/ace representation. I just can’t tell until I read the whole webcomic, including the parts yet to be completed.
1. How satisfied are you with Word of Ace? Do you feel it is enough to count as representation?
2. What kinds of ace or aro experiences do you think would be difficult to portray without some sort of Word of Ace or Aro to clarify it?
3. What are some of the motivations you think creators might have for using Word of Ace? Is there a difference between creators who are ace themselves, and creators who aren’t ace?