Ace Date is a 12 minute short comedy film by Kali Thomas. I was provided with a review copy back in July 2022, and wrote this review at the time, but delayed publication because I wasn’t sure where it was available. Ace Date is now available in Roku OnWatch TV, and it’s also in Outfest’s OutMuseum Ace of Hearts short film collection. You can also watch the official trailer.
Ace Date depicts Sydney, an ace woman, going on a blind date with Adam. Sydney is not enthusiastic about blind dates, or dating at all, for that matter, but she was pushed into it by her friend Rachel. The date is ambiguously bad, not because it’s bad bad, but because Sydney obviously doesn’t want to be there, so what did you expect?
Here are three things that were perfect about this film:
The failed allo savior
Rachel is a (presumably) allo friend who sets out to help her ace friend, and it falls spectacularly flat. While Rachel knows that Sydney is ace, and that she doesn’t like blind dates, she still sets them up. And what’s particularly funny–although the film never directly points it out–is that Rachel preps Adam with a bunch of information about Sydney, apparently without ever making sure Adam is okay with the ace thing.
I like this, because it reminds me of the the allo savior trope, in which an allo character to help an ace character out, most commonly by being the first person to explain asexuality to them. This is perplexing, because in real life, it’s far more common for ace people to be the source of information (both to other ace people and to allo people). And wouldn’t it be more interesting to see the allo savior fail, generating conflict and possibly juicy drama?
The imperfect explanation
There comes a time in every ace story where they need to explain what asexuality is. Well, not every story, it depends on the audience, and maybe we’re all tired of our stories being interrupted by these very important messages. (That’s what TV used to say when they broke for commercial, and now I’m wondering if I’m dating myself, no pun intended.)
Ace Date does something interesting with the explanation: Sydney blathers. She doesn’t say anything incorrect, but she says too much too fast, and doesn’t know how to focus on what’s most relevant to the context. I don’t know how helpful that explanation was to viewers who needed one, but as a (perhaps unwilling) connoisseur of fictional explanations of asexuality, it felt appropriate to her character. It shows her nervous energy, her relative newness to the concept of asexuality, her discomfort within the blind date context. I feel attacked; I have blathered like that.
What even is a date?
Of course, the main focus of Ace Date is not on subverting common tropes, but dating. What is dating, why does anyone like it, and how can it work for aces?
I’m not necessarily the guy with all the answers, but I can share at least some of the wisdom I’ve gained with age and experience. Dating is socializing with the mutual understanding that a relationship is a possibility (or a reality). If you’re not sure if dating is X, Y, or Z, then the answer is that a date involves more than one person, and therefore, even if it is X to one person, it may be Y to another person and they just have to deal. You shouldn’t date people if you don’t want to, it is not in fact a nice thing to do even if it seems like it will make your date feel better. Or for that matter, to make the misguided friend who set you up on the date feel better.
Ace Date doesn’t say any of that out loud, but seems to understand dating much better than most romances. Sydney doesn’t want to be on this date. And rather than getting swept off her feet as conventional narrative logic would dictate, it turns out that a date you don’t want… is a date that you don’t want. Sydney expresses confusion about dating, and explicitly draws attention towards the misaligned expectations. The misaligned expectations are what dating is.
So there you have it. Ace Date is a short film that made me smile for far longer than its run time.
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I haven’t seen the film, but it’s interesting you connected the situation with the meddling stranger to the allo savior trope. My experience with/understanding of it is a person who helps the ace friend accept their asexuality, and setting up someone on a blind date they don’t want seems like the more garden variety meddling a well-meaning friend who didn’t get it would do. Is it framed in the story that Rachel is trying to help Sydney with an expressed goal or something like that and does a bad job of it? Because I have to admit, I’m not very amused by her antics thus far 😂
No, I think your reading is probably more faithful to the text than mine!
Alas! Because now that you’ve raised the possibility, I really do want to see it…