Before we begin, this meta seeks to point out how much room for interpretation this show offers us when it comes to Axl Heck’s sexuality. We aren’t attempting to predict anything but, if the show was to take this turn then we certainly would not complain.
First, it seems ever so slightly relevant to point out some facts about his most recent and most serious relationship. Devin Levin is an extreme tomboy, super sporty, not very feminine at all. In fact, she is so far removed from the “stereotypical girly girl” that Axl was initially repulsed by her. This is a classic example of hetero-normative conditioning, where it isn’t okay for a boy to be attracted to masculine qualities. The fact that Devin is beautiful when she makes an effort to be so is the bridge that allows Axl to connect to an otherwise off limits individual.
Later, once they are dating, he is the one that wants a romantic, overly sweet couple’s celebration of Valentine’s day and when she renounces the holiday he is pleased yet goes out of his way to make the day sweet and special anyway.
The relevance of all of this:
An athlete breaking out of his comfort zone of girly girls to date a fellow tom boyish athlete could have easily pushed Axl over some other boundaries as far as hetero-normative assumptions go. Also: Axl was definitely the girl in that relationship.
Now for the real evidence:
In this episode, Sue tells Devin that Axl loves her enough to marry her one day and Devin breaks up with him, but they end up talking about it and decide to continue dating but also see other people, too. Axl’s response to this is his response to anything Devin does or says: first confusion, followed by happy agreement. Axl asks, “are you sure you’re not a guy?” and then proclaims, “I swear to God if I didn’t want to marry you, i’d marry you.”
Thanks to Devin, Axl is now in a position to explore his sexuality. He is basically even required to do so, since that is 100% the reasoning behind Devin’s request for an open relationship. What we see happen after this leaves much to the imagination.
“Homecoming II: Tailgate”
Axl is sick as a dog (as can happen when stress/heartbreak weakens the body).
First appearance of hippie Sean, offering open mindedness and personal evolution from the norm.
Axl had a meltdown in a bar, crying openly and declaring that he has no idea what he is even doing with his life or what he even wants his life to be.
Hippie Sean is there for him in a big way.
“Film Friends and Fruit Pies”
When he makes his boss laugh, the older man playfully gives him a shove on the chest and invites him into his office. Later we learn this same man took Axl to dinner, let him eat and drink whatever he wanted with no thought to the expense, called him charming and asked him to call him Jack, “so Jack he shall be called.”
Axl is free to take up any offer he gets, and perhaps this was his first gay offer. Does he take it? Probably not. But Axl has now been forced to consider it. It is even easy to imagine that the entire episode is how he exercises his sexuality as a tool, allowing mild flirtation in order to advance. When Jack says he can have his job one day, Axl realizes that unless he earns the position honestly, he would have no idea how to do the job right. An episode of growth all the way around–professionally and sexually.
Further proof are the love handles. Axl is eating more (which he does when he is stressed) and when Frankie points out that he is gaining love handles, he freaks out about it very diva like and runs to his room to hide. School and Workplace advancement is obviously not his only concern; he is still interested in looking good for potential partners.
“Hecks At A Movie:”
Axl’s first kiss was with a boy, literally in a closet.
Sean is willing to discuss what they have learned, but Axl is in clear denial. He has gone from idly considering experimentation with strangers to having stone cold experience with someone he is really close to, an experience he has held close to his heart as an important milestone. This would certainly throw off anyone.
We see Axl behaving very maternally as he freaks out about losing Kenny.
He is so much like Frankie in this episode. Love it. According to Frankie, he was a mama’s boy as a child, and we have seen Axl growing closer to her again. They bitch about work and share ice cream.
Frankie wants to know who Axl has been dating–but interestingly, the writers don’t give us an answer.
Axl confesses that he loves Sue and wishes he could be more like her. Where has all this introspection come from?
Down to the wire, Axl has always shown love for Sue, but this episode was different somehow. Maybe some recent thinking has made him want to be closer to his sister on a real and mature level?
Sue calls out what we have already seen: that Axl is home more than usual.
Sue confronts him about how emotionally crippled he is and by episode’s end he makes an obvious effort to change.
“A Donahue Vacation”
Here we see him exercising his right to explore his sexuality with other women…with little success.
Okay so he confesses to Brick that he recently saw Devin with a guy and it messed him up, but it’s easy to think maybe his game has been rocked by more than one thing.
“I cant go back to school and say i hung out with my parents for spring break!” interestingly, his drive to hook up with girls is a side effect of being on vacation. Prior to the trip, he seemed perfectly content to hang out with Frankie on the couch….with Sean evidently hanging out on his couch next door….
Axl’s plan is to hang out with Sean, “playing jerk not a jerk.” Hippie Sean has other plans and grates on Axl’s nerves enough that he declares he wants to punch him in the face.
Axl curls up in Sue’s bed with very little explanation.
Again, when stressed, the body can suffer fatigue. Considering that in the very next episode we learn Axl doesn’t want to play football anymore, we know that there is a lot happening for him personally during this time. This is the peek of his crisis. He just wants to sleep and make it all go away.
He states out loud that he has little interest in wooing a pretty girl, though he does not doubt he could should he choose to do so.
Axl wants to quit football so much that he does his own research into alternatives for tuition.
Axl is lazy as hell and irresponsible. He’s growing up, but these steps toward adulthood are usually fueled by something.
He wants to explore other options, and hang out with his friends more, and have fun.
The writers pointed out to us that AXL HAS MORE OF A DANCER’S BODY. Not to say that all dancing men are gay, but the focus of that joke is that Axl is a little guy in a big guy world…
Axl is physically intimidated by the huge freshmen. Taco, especially, seems to disturb Axl. Perhaps he is attracted to Taco. Or perhaps Taco is attracted to him and he likes it and now, all of the sudden, he needs more time for friends and fun to explore his sexuality, in a real very serious way.
So, in conclusion:
Devin broke his heart but it wasn’t until he learned that his first kiss was Sean that he really started going into a tailspin. This is because until that moment, Devin was the only girl he cared for so it didn’t matter that he had a “hall pass”. Then, suddenly, he found the option to date male friends, whom he could/does care about greatly.
Without a shadow of a doubt, Axl has been under an extreme amount of stress. The source of that stress has so far been canonically explained as the result of two things. 1.) pressure to do well in both classes he cares about, and a sport he does not care about, and 2.) a recent, confusing break up with an awesome girl who pushed him to explore his sexuality around the same time he learned he has kissed his best friend in a dark closet.
Without a constant spotlight on his movements and activities, we the audience are granted ample room to interpret his personal journey.
We Donaheck shippers believe that Axl Heck is bisexual. His vanity and flare for drama highlight the stereotypical “gay side” of his character, as does his maternal instincts and natural closeness to his mother.