Growing representation of bisexuality in cinema and television

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It’s 2021 and the film industry is just starting to accept the need to represent more diverse groups of people. In terms of race, gender and sexuality, there is a lot of work to be done to provide a more visible and holistic view of sexual orientation. One group that is consistently overlooked in movies and television is the bisexual and bisexual-plus community. In USC Annenberg’s 2020 report, researchers found that there were only eight bisexual characters in the 1,200 Best Movies of 2018 and only three in the Best Movies of 2019.

Misconceptions about bisexuality, including the idea that bisexual individuals are “confused” or that they “must” choose “to be only homosexual or heterosexual”, may explain the lack of representation of these groups in the community. screen. According to media professor Dr. Nora Madison. Historically, bixsexual characters have been portrayed as bad or morally wrong, such as Frank Underwood in Card castle. The Washington Post identifies that in these storylines for bisexual characters, “sexual fluidity equals moral fluidity. In this regard, sexuality is not seen as an identity, but rather as a personality trait. The same article later points out that “when there are relatively few portrayals of bisexuals, the portrayal and integrity of each bisexual character carries more weight … This perpetuates negative stereotypes about bisexuals. “

In the past, some TV characters have exhibited biphobic behavior as well. Sex and the cityCarrie Bradshaw protagonist once said, “I’m not even sure bisexuality exists. I think it’s just a stopover on the way to Gaytown. Liz Lemon from 30 Rock said similar sentences, such as: “There is no bisexual. It’s just something that was invented in the 90s so that they could sell more hair products. Instead of amplifying the voices of the bisexual community through accurate portrayal in fictional narratives, comments like these, especially when spoken by well-known TV characters, end up belittling and denying the bisexual experience.

Harmful representations of bisexuality on screens limit the ability of young viewers to identify movie and television characters as role models. In some cases, when characters begin to observe a bisexual orientation, engaging in a bisexual relationship is often a sidebar in their character’s plot, instead of a goal. For example, in a 2018 Vox article, author Caroline Framke said that “growing up, seeing someone on my television considering the idea that they might not be strictly heterosexual usually ended in two ways: they Would “experiment” with someone of the same sex to conclude that they were straight, otherwise they would come out as gay. Letting them exist somewhere in between was rarely, if ever, presented as a viable option. “

Now, there are more bisexual characters on screen that provide an honest glimpse into the bisexual spectrum. Brooklyn nine-nine‘s Rosa, played by bisexual actress Stephanie Beatriz, Joan the Virginit’s Petra, Madam Secretaryit’s Kat, and crazy ex-girlfriend‘s Darryl, are just a few well-known bisexual TV characters. The longest-serving regular bisexual character of the season is Callie Torres of Grey’s Anatomy, played by the same actress who plays Kat in Madam Secretary, Sara Ramirez. Characters like Callie continually validate and recognize bisexual identity to Grey’s Anatomy Fans.

Maria San Filippo, author of The B word: bisexuality in contemporary cinema and television, applauded the recent increase in bisexual portrayal on television, saying, “Bisexual characters are now central and recurring rather than peripheral or one-off characters introduced for ‘very special episodes’ during sweep week.” However, one challenge that persists in San Filippo’s eyes is that, “Unless a character explicitly identifies as bisexual, we tend to assume that someone is straight or gay depending on their current partner – something. something that real bisexuals also face “.

Yet San Filippo maintains that there is still a lack of bisexual characters and male bisexual relationships. In his book, San Filippo explains how the industry tends to favor “bromance” relationships rather than budding relationships between two bisexual male characters unless they have explicitly identified as homosexual. During the 2017-18 television season, LGBTQ + rights organization GLAAD noted that there were only 17 more regular or recurring bisexual male characters, compared to 75 more bisexual female characters.

The industry has taken note of these oversights and tried to address them by stepping up efforts to reveal that male and female characters who identify as bisexual are meaningful to character identities (see Darryl from crazy ex girlfriendsong “Gettin ‘Bi”). This distinction is significant, because bisexual relationships were often misinterpreted as mere “flirtations” or “distractions” from a character’s heterosexuality. In Framke’s words, past stories often suggested that “every story of bi, pan, or queer sex is just a temporary stopover on the way to a more palatable monosexual destination.”

Sexuality is a specter, and it’s time for the industry to consider its need to develop storylines around more diverse and under-represented populations. Dr Madison insists that a broader representation would have positive impacts on all viewers, stating: “The more people are exposed to a variety of sexualities, especially in positive or affirmative contexts, the more opportunities individuals have to understand their own identity and to broaden their views about others.”

In a 2015 Rolling Stone article, author Eliel Cruz explained the urgent need for positive bisexual portrayal on television and in film, when he said that this type of visibility “gives a face to a community that would otherwise not be seen, and this is something that we cannot put off any longer.


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