Ashly Burch’s Contribution to LGBTQ+ Representation

Four of Ashly Burch’s roles, all of which are canon LGBTQ characters

Recently, Ashly Burch, a well-recognized voice actress, singer, and writer, came out as pan and queer. Taking into account this development, I decided to examine some of her past roles and offer my thoughts on her contributions.

On July 1st, Ashly Burch came out as pan and queer, saying she is “old fashioned pansexuals”. She added that this is not a shock because half the characters she plays are “members of the rainbow fam” and added more in a longer thread.

Burch has added herself to the list of other LGBTQ+ voice actors who have voiced LGBTQ+ characters in media. There’s Anna Akana, a bisexual actress of Japanese and Filipino descent. She recently voiced Sasha Waybright in Amphibia and Daisy in Magical Girl Friendship Squad. Both characters are bisexual.

A non-binary actor, Iris Menas, has voiced non-binary characters in various Disney series. Ian-Jones Quartey, a bisexual creator, has voiced various characters, including Radicles “Rad” in his series, OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes. Abbi Jacobson, a bisexual actress, voiced a bisexual princess named Bean in Disenchantment. She also voiced a lesbian woman named Katie Mitchell in The Mitchells Vs. the Machines.

In many ways, Burch is definitely a queer icon. Apart from her video game voice roles, live-action roles, commercial roles, and dubbing roles, there are five roles that stand out to me. This article focuses on those roles and their significance in LGBTQ+ representation.

Ash in Hey Ash Whatcha Playin’

Ashly Burch with her beauties
Ashly with her beauties in Season 1 – Finale Part 1 of Hey Ash Whatcha Playin’

In May 2008, the series Hey Ash Whatcha Playin’ first premiered on Destructoid. It would garner tens of millions of views. The series used surreal humor and sibling rivalry with her brother Anthony. Each episode focused on video games, and their themes, trends, and societal impacts. In 2011, the series began airing on YouTube. Papa Burch, Burch’s actual father, and Ashley “Leigh” Davis, who becomes Anthony’s girlfriend, also appear. Guest stars include Burch’s mother and many others.

Many episodes had queer themes. One implies that Burch had sex with sex workers. In another, she says things can be “really gay” when everything becomes male genitalia. The icing on the cake was when she struggled with the homophobia exhibited by Orson Scott Card, whose ideas inspired the game, Shadow Complex.

In the show’s second season, Anthony had gay sex through a message board. Ashly asked her dad for help with “lady problems” (i.e. liking a lot of women). Some episodes had Ashly joking about how brains are “gay” and defending her brother as a person who doesn’t bash gay people. Others included dildos, Papa Burch coming up with imagined gay scenarios, or defense of female characters.

One episode stands out from the lot, the one where Ashly says she likes pretty girls and runs away when she sees a girl she likes. Later episodes have Ash loving a female villain-of-sorts or portray her losing her cool when people use the word “lesbians”.

Enid in OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes

Ashly Burch's character, Enid, and Red Action
Enid (left) and Red Action (right) in an episode of OK K.O.!

Burch is known for her role as Enid Mettle in this action-adventure-comedy animated series by Ian Jones-Quartey, Rebecca Sugar’s husband. In the series, Enid is a bisexual woman previously in a relationship with Radicles “Rad”. She is later Red Action’s girlfriend.

Enid has a key role in OK K.O.! as a witch and a ninja all in one. She also fights villains and works at Gar’s Bodega. Burch has voiced Enid in almost all her appearances apart from the original pilot. She has been the subject of much fan art and over 700 fan fics.

Somewhat like Enid is Lainey in Loud House, who Burch also voiced. Lainey is dating another character, a woman named Alice. Unlike OK K.O.!, Lainey only appears in two episodes. In the former series, she becomes very romantic with Red Action, a lesbian character voiced by actress, comedian, and model Kali Hawk.

Ash in Final Space

Evra and Ashly Burch's character, Ash
Evra (left) and Ash (right) in an episode of Final Space

Burch is less known for her role as Ash Graven, who has the same first name as her. In the series, Ash is a humanoid alien who strikes up a romance with Evra (Jasmin Savoy Brown), a genderless being, in the Season 3 episode “Forgiveness”. They sit together in a romantic moment, watching lights that resemble the aurora borealis.

Before this, she says she hates a man named Jordan Hammerstein with all her guts. This hints that she is a lesbian rather than  “ambiguously bi,” as I noted in my review of the series. In that review, I noted a podcast where show creator Olan Rogers confirmed Ash as an LGBTQ character. At the time, Rogers said he would expand the relationship between Evra and Ash if he had another season.

Ash is only one of the many LGBTQ characters in the series, although the others are recurring characters rather than protagonists. Unlike Enid, she becomes an antagonist, and villain, akin to Cassandra “Cass” (Eden Espinosa) in Tangled. She is a character as complex as Cass while both are exploited by someone else who plays on her trauma triggers.

Rutile Twins in Steven Universe

Ashly Burch's Rutile Twins leads the way
Rutile Twins (right) brings Lars and Steven to the Prime Kindergarten where Off Colors are hiding out in their debut episode.

In a little-known role, Burch voiced a non-binary Gem fusion named Rutile Twins in Steven Universe. She later said she was “extremely honored” to be on the show. Unlike the other characters she voiced, these characters are non-binary women, as are all Gems as Rebecca Sugar confirmed in a 2018 article. So that makes this character unique beyond any others mentioned in her resume.

In an interesting trivia, since Burch voices both components of the character, they have the same voice, but with different tones. The same is the case for the Amethysts, all voiced by Michaela Dietz, or all the Rubies voiced by Charlyne Yi. Real-life rutiles are said to help with the stabilization of emotions and relationships. They reportedly evoke romantic feelings and aid with handling past trauma.

The Rutile Twins are outcasts who are part of a group of Gems ostracized by society, the Off Colors. These Twins later join Lars Barriga, and the other Off Colors, traveling through space, and living on Earth. In Steven Universe Future, the Off Colors graduate from Steven’s school for Gems, known as Little Homeschool.

Molly in The Ghost and Molly McGee

Ashly Burch's Molly is confused, tries finger guns
Andrea (left) and Molly (right) in the “Andrea Song Takeover

Burch voices a lead character named Molly McGee. Unlike her other roles, Molly is half-Thai and half-Irish, like Burch in real life. The series incorporates Thai culture into storylines and helps educate viewers about Thai culture. 

In The Ghost and Molly McGee, Molly befriends a ghost named Scratch after moving to the Midwestern town of Brighton with her father, mother, and brother. Also appearing in the series is Molly’s grandmother. She meets many friends there. This includes a Latine and Jewish girl named Libby Stein-Torres (Lara Jill Miller). She also has a geeky friend Sheela (Aparna Nancherla) and a sweet pink-haired friend, Kat (Eden Riegel).

Although Molly is not a canon queer character, some fans have shipped her with her frenemy, Andrea Davenport (Jules Medcraft), with their ship being Mollandrea. Others have shipped her with Libby Stein-Torres, with their ship called Mollibby. This ship has been denied by Bob Roth, a show creator, who said that LGBTQ representation unfolds naturally in the series.

Closing Thoughts

There are many other characters Burch has voiced or played since her career began in 2007. She voiced Josette Grey in Blackford Manor and Tiny Ghost in Chainsaw Richard. She offered her voice as Lila Twinklepipes in Pig Goat Banana Cricket, Meadow Springs in Trolls: The Beat Goes On!, and Miss Pauling in Expiration Date, along with others in Over the Garden Wall and We Bare Bears. 

She is further known for voicing Bun Bun and Breezy in Adventure Time, Ridley in Glitch Techs, and Cass Wizard in Bee and PuppyCat. Recently, she played Rachel in Mythic Quest who is in a relationship with a Black woman named Dana (Imani Hakim).

Many of these roles aren’t canon LGBTQ+ characters. However, since Burch came out as pan and queer, this could lead to new interpretations of these characters. Burch was also a writer for “Shadows at the Gates”, the fourth episode of The Legend of Vox Machina, a mature animated series filled with LGBTQ+ characters and based on the Critical Role podcast.

In the end, Ashly Burch will likely continue to voice queer characters, working with other such actors to continue improving queer representation in media.

Author: Burkely Hermann

Burkely is an indexer of declassified documents by day and a fan fic writer by night. He recently earned a MLIS with a concentration in Digital Curation from the University of Maryland. He currently voraciously watches animated series and reads too many webcomics to count on Webtoon. He loves swimming, hiking, and searching his family roots in his spare time.

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1 thought on “Ashly Burch’s Contribution to LGBTQ+ Representation

  1. Ashly also played a few queer guest characters on the Critical Role webshow over the years, which she created for herself instead of being cast for a role that was written by someone else. (Critical Role is an actual-play tabletop RPG show, i.e. essentially long-form improv theatre. You can listen to the podcast version if that’s the only way you can manage the 3-5 hour long episodes, but the primary way to consume this show is the live-stream on Twitch or the free-to-watch videos archived on Youtube.)

    A list of Ashly’s appearances on Critical Role, if you want to find the specific episodes:
    (If I recall correctly, only Dren and Keg were explicitly queer and pretend-flirting with some of the female regular players. For the other characters, the issue of sexual orientation just never came up.)

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